The secret to making extra money with eBay

Once upon a time, I decided it was high time I sell some of my stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Since it was just after the holidays, I decided to get the ball rolling with a new shirt I had just received for Christmas.

Even though it was cute, the shirt fit a little small for my taste. And even worse, the store it was purchased from was out of state, which meant no returns. So, after taking some pictures and crafting a snazzy description, onto eBay it went. Priced at $6, the shirt sold right away.

Off to a Good Start, Until...

Unfortunately, the buyer later wrote to say the shirt had a hole in it and demanded a refund. I asked for a picture and, when they wouldn't produce one, denied their request for their money back.

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More about...Side Hustles, Career

What is your just-getting-started story?

Unless you are born with a silver spoon, the journey toward financial independence will most likely be arduous. Even those who've reached the happy state of retirement have stories to tell about the ups and downs they experienced, their mistakes and triumphs, and what it really took to get there. And most of us -- especially those who regularly read this site -- are still in the midst of our own journey and trying to enjoy the ride as much as we can.

At the moment, that's exactly where my husband and I are. After 10 years of marriage and two kids together, we stay pretty busy figuring out ways to make our small online business grow, sticking relentlessly to our zero-sum budget, and saving a large percentage of our incomes. On the other hand, we still have plenty of years of saving and investing ahead of us. And while I'm truly thankful for the progress we've been making, I'm not in any hurry to get there, either.

Our humble beginnings

But we haven't always had our finances figured out like we do now. When my husband and I got married in 2005, I was working as a nanny for around $10 an hour. Meanwhile, he had just graduated from a mortuary science program and was ready to start his internship.

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More about...Uncategorized

Should you buy a home or invest?

The path toward retirement and financial independence usually involves buying a home and investing for retirement and the future. But, what if you had to choose?

William Cowie posed this question to me recently and asked which path I would take to financial independence if given the option. My answer: I would invest for the future and forgo the house in a New York minute. Let's look at why I think that makes sense.

Performance Over Time - 1940 to Present

Throughout history, housing prices have appreciated over time. Because of this, both real estate investors and homeowners have built wealth with ease by building equity in their homes and properties.

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More about...Investing, Home & Garden

How much do you spend on fireworks?

A few weeks ago, I received a flyer from a fireworks store that made me shake my head. "Spend $400 in one purchase and earn 40% off for the rest of the season," it read.

"What a bargain," I thought as I flung it toward the recycling bin. I mean, does anyone really spend $400 at the fireworks store?

Then I remembered that, yes, many people do. Not only are most of my neighbors fireworks fanatics, but dozens of people I know do it every year, including people in my own family.

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More about...Shopping

How we saved big with a balance transfer

When my husband and I started dating in 2004, he moved across the country to go back to school and live closer to me. Yep, much to our surprise {insert sarcasm here}, his bachelor's degree in theater arts hadn't helped him land his dream job. Therefore, he decided to do something different instead and chose to pursue a bachelor's degree in mortuary science.

As it is with any life-changing decision, this move had financial consequences. Still, leaving Chicago was mostly a good thing. Not only would he have a chance at a more lucrative career, but it also meant slowing down and abandoning an excruciatingly high cost of living. On the other hand, moving to Cincinnati to finish school meant taking on student loans which severely limited his income for two years.

The Cost of Maintaining Appearances

But we were still dating at the time, and you know what that means. Instead of telling me he couldn't afford it, my husband (then boyfriend) would take me out to dinner, to the movies, and to see or do basically anything I wanted.

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More about...Debt

10 amazing waterfront rentals for under $1,000 per week

It's getting to be summertime, and the living should be easy. But if you've ever priced out a week-long vacation, you already know what a shocking experience it can be. Even when you're frugal, the costs that come with domestic and international travel are inescapable and really add up quickly.

Not only are you on the hook for lodging at a hotel or resort typically, but you may also have to pay for airfare, a rental car, resort fees and travel-related taxes. And if you want to have any fun or eat, your expenses won't stop there. Add in the cost of park tickets, excursions, shows, and meals and you're ponying up a great deal of cash for your relaxing getaway.

Combined, all of these costs can take a heavy toll on the average American family's pocketbook. According to a recent study from American Express, an average vacation in 2013 cost approximately $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of four. That's a whole lot of money to spend for an annual trip, especially when you consider the fact that the median household income still sits at around $52,000 a year.

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More about...Travel

5 times to leave landscaping to the professionals

It's easy to become overwhelmed with the various costs that pop up when you're a homeowner. Things like furnace/AC Repair, having to put on a new roof, and annual maintenance can take a bite out of your savings account -- and leave you wondering why you ever stopped renting in the first place.

That's why it makes sense to save money and take care of certain home maintenance projects yourself. But, is that always the best idea?

Can I Quote You on That?

My husband and I sure thought so earlier this year. It all started when we got a quote for bed-edging, existing plant and grass removal, a pre-emergent treatment, ground-cover installation, and mulching in the front and back of our home.

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More about...Home & Garden, Frugality

How much to save for maternity leave

The United States policy on maternity leave can be a touchy subject among families, and especially women. Unlike all other wealthy countries, many of which mandate weeks and months of paid leave for natural and adoptive mothers and fathers, the U.S. mandates no such thing.

In fact, the last movement toward maternity fairness in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), included a provision mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. Twelve weeks doesn't sound so bad, but that unpaid part can sure sting.

Bundle of Bills?

We all know that babies are expensive, but it isn't just the cost of diapers that adds up. It's also the cost of maternity business attire while you continue to work, your health insurance deductible for the delivery, the cost of bottles and formula, and the crippling bills associated with quality healthcare once that baby is born. When you consider all of those expenses together, it becomes quite clear how easily having a baby can end up being a four- or five-figure investment.

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More about...Budgeting

How to deal with expensive friends

No matter what I do to prevent it, spring budget creep always seems to take hold this time of year. Sometimes it seems as if the dollars start flying out the door the second the temperature starts to rise. And although I budget for all of our known expenses, the extra expenditures still add up -- and hurt.

Part of our creep is a product of spring clean-up -- mulch, new plants and flowers, and vegetable garden start-up. But the rest? It's all social -- neighbors inviting us over for cookouts, dinners out and card parties. Warm weather stuff.

Still, as much as it pains me to beef up our entertainment budget in warmer months, there is a part of me that enjoys it. When we moved to a new town and neighborhood last year, we started our journey without any local friends. And as many of you know, it can sometimes be difficult to make real, true friends once you reach your 30s.

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More about...Frugality

How to save money on family vacations

Earlier this month, my little family of four embarked on a much-needed spring getaway to the Caribbean. I'm sure that doesn't sound frugal at all, but rest assured that it was. After a year of planning and a whole lot of strategizing, we were able to book that particular trip for what amounted to a boatload of hotel loyalty points, a bunch of airline miles, and around $700.

I know that isn't cheap by any means, but it was a good deal when you consider the fact that our trip price included round-trip airfare for four, a six-night hotel stay at an all-inclusive resort, transportation, and tips. Pretty sweet.

Still, this whole travel-with-kids-on-a-budget thing is getting infinitely more difficult. We used to be able to travel anytime -- off-peak, off-season, and last-minute. But now that my oldest daughter is in school, we are stuck planning our budget travel for the school breaks that take place during spring, fall, winter, and summer. Needless to say, the school schedule sure does throw a wrench into my plans.

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More about...Frugality, Travel