Monday, April 30, 2012

I've been taken to court by a debt collector. Now what?

Let's assume for a minute that the debt collector has sent you papers with an actual court date.

Is it real?  The court date, I mean, or just a ploy to get you to pay the collector?

It could be both.  First, contact the district court listed on the papers.  They'll be able to tell you if the debt collector sent you to court (at a future date) or not.  If they have, do not skip it.  And, trust me, going before a judge is no big deal.  It's a lot like answering a traffic ticket.  The judge will ask you to affirm if the debt is yours.  If it is, there's no reason to fight it at this stage in front of a judge.  Fight it out with the collector.  The judge is not going to care one way or another if you settle.

Either prior to the court date or after, contact the debt collector to offer a settlement (if you are able to).  Don't let them scare you into having you pay them before you pay your house or car payment.

Also, never EVER give them access to your bank account information.  Also, it's not advisable to give them any personal information, like employer name, etc.  This just makes it easier to garnish your wages.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be adviseable to seek legal counsel**

Friday, April 27, 2012

2 Quick Ways to Save a Few Bucks

There are two surefire ways of cutting a few bucks from your monthly budget, and they both have to do with your cable bill.

Either cut cable entirely . . . or downgrade from the premium channels to a more economical package.

An entrepreneur friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that he had taken some of the channels off the TV.  Despite his childrens' displeasure, the money saved him enough in his budget to keep up with the essentials, like food, house, and basic utilities.

You may think this is crazy, and that you couldn't live without your precious television.  Try keeping the TV off for a day or two and see what more you can accomplish.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What topics would you like to see covered here?

I'm keeping this post short, as I would like to see some reader feedback on what topics you'd like to see covered here.  It can either be new ones or expanding old ones.

You can either comment on this blog post or e-mail me at

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Settle with a debt collection agency, if you can

Most of the time, it's better to settle with a debt collection agency rather than letting them take you all the way to wage garnishment.

But the biggest factor in this is . . . you need the money first.  Typically, debt collection agencies will settle 25-40% on a debt (but not all the time).  Take the total owed and figure this amount.  If you're able to save this amount do it.  Then, call them.


And again.

And again.

It's going to take a lot more than one phone call or letter to accomplish this . . . so you'll have to be persistent.  Because, it's always better to settle than force them to garnish your wages.  Check with state's Attorney General's Office on the maximum amount allowed.  As of this writing, in Minnesota, this amount is no more than 25% of your gross wages.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be adviseable to seek legal counsel**

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

If the debt is yours, what to do next with the debt collection agency?

After determining the debt is yours, you may do one of a few things: ignore it or contact them.

I don't recommend ignoring them, for it could force a lawsuit, which is not a fun thing to go through.  In contacting them, you may either call them or mail them a letter.

Be persistent when working with collection agencies.  Typically, if you don't have the money to completely pay off a debt, you may settle for 20-40% of the total.  This would also have to be done as a lump sum, so if you're able to save for it, try this method to settle an account.

If you're not able to, take a deep breath . . . and hang up the phone.  They can't throw you in debtor's prison.  They may garnish your wages, but it takes a lot of effort on their part, and time.  They will not go away.  Even if you haven't heard from them in six months, they can still sue you.

Be persistent.  Know what the laws say, what they can and can't do.  Bottom line: don't ignore them.  Try to work a deal out.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be adviseable to seek legal counsel**

Monday, April 23, 2012

What to do first if you're served papers from a debt collection agency?

What would you do if you were served papers from a debt collection agency?

First and foremost, determine is the debt is yours.  Most of you are not naive and know if something is yours or not.  However, if there is any question on whether or not the debt is yours, the collection agency needs to provide this proof to you.  You can go about this is two basic ways: call them or send a certified letter (with return receipt to prove they received the correspondence).  If they call you (or vice versa), be prepared for a fight because, despite the legal ramifications in regards to federal law, they may try to bully you into disclosing personal bank account or employment information.  You may give them the last four numbers of your social security number, and if it's different that may stop it.  Years ago, I had a legal firm contact me in regards to an old telephone bill.  The person had the same name as myself, and the only way to clear it up was to give them the last four numbers of my SSN.  Done deal.  No more calls from that joint.

This same advice could be given if you are just contacted via phone by a collection agency.  Make sure to get their name, number, and the account in question.

According to the Federal Fair Debt Practices Act, through the Federal Trade Commission, they can only call you between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm YOUR TIME, not theirs.  Here's a link to a PDF publication on's site.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be adviseable to seek legal counsel**

Friday, April 20, 2012

These magazines didn't sell for me on eBay

While growing up, I had acquired quite a collection of National Geographic magazines.  I even had the leather slipcases for them, and had a separate one for the maps.

Did they sell?

I only sold one set, and I had to cut the price down so much it wasn't even worth it.

Sure, if I had National Geographic magazines from 50 or so years ago, those were selling on eBay but I didn't have any that far back.

The same goes with my collection of Outdoor Life magazines.  Unless they were decades and decades old, nobody wanted them.  Those, I ended up throwing out and weren't worth the hassle of relisting and relisting on eBay.

Research what you have to sell.  You'd be surprised with what sell and what doesn't.

Keep in mind, what sells or doesn't sell today may change in a year or so.  Be patient.

And if you find a niche, like I did with my heavy metal T-shirts and magazines, focus your energies on that and keep duplicating your efforts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Certain magazines are easy to sell on eBay.

Magazines.  Preferably old ones.  My best shot were rock and roll/hard rock/heavy metal magazines.  I collected quite a number of them in high school and my early college years--classics like Metal Edge and Hit Parader to name a few.  Make sure all of the appropriate posters are intact (of, if they're not, make sure to list it correctly and they are not intact.)

The condition of the magazines is a must-know for most buyers.  If the bindings are loose or the corners are bent, make sure to list it that way.  Even take pictures, as proof.

These magazines were the best for me, and the average price I sold them were around $12--but there was a few I sold for much more.  I've sold magazines internationally too, from France, Germany, even Japan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For shipping on eBay, I highly recommend this method

I know most people aren't huge fans of the post office, but when it comes to shipping packages, I've found that shipping through the United States Postal Service is the best way to go.

Sure, there's FedEx and UPS too, but the USPS is (for the most part) the most economical.

For one, I highly recommend their Priority Mail Flat Rate for shipping most packages.  First, for a small fee, you can track it and even e-mail it to your customer for proof of shipping.  Also, if you have some bulkier items or even for simply ease of calculating shipping costs, the USPS Flat Rate shipping is a dream.

As the commercial says, "If it fits, it ships."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Want a cheaper groom's ring? Ask. Then prepare to walk away.

Almost fifteen years ago, my wife and I were searching around for a wedding band for myself--we already picked up her wedding ring, so we just needed to pick up mine.

We frequented a store in the mall.  Our budget was very tight, and to say we were stone broke was probably an understatement.  Determined to find the cheapest one we could find, the jewelry clerk showed us dozens and dozens of them, all ranging in price from $200-300.

Way out of our price range.

We asked if we could see ones that were cheaper.

Then, I clearly remember looking over at my soon-to-be wife and saying, "Well, let's go to another store.  We have to find something cheaper."

By a sudden stroke of luck, the clerk pulled out a tray of rings from a cabinet underneath the display case.  I pointed at one of the simple bands and asked how much."

"Twenty-five dollars."


It pays to ask.

It also pays to walk away.

The following advise (and much, much more) can be found in my new ebook.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The skinny of the roll

Searching for "are rolls of toilet paper getting smaller" recently brought up over 600K choices on Google, so it isn't just me.

Toilet paper rolls seem to be getting smaller.

And not any cheaper.

Here's an article where someone dug into this a bit.

It's a very interesting read.

What do I do?

Once again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but watch the sales and don't be loyal to one single brand.  Because we, the consumers, are not stupid.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My semi-beloved flip-phone

I have a flip-phone.

I've had it for a number of years now, and the cell phone provider keeps bugging me to upgrade.

Here's the kicker: depending on the model I get, I may have to increase the data charges to accomodate the new phone.  This also depends on whether or not I get a smartphone.  I wouldn't mind having a Droid (on my definite wishlist) but I'll have to research it a bit more.

Don't blindly upgrade your cell phone just because you can get the latest and greatest gizmo.  Chances are the cell phone provider is going to stick you with another two-year committment.  Personally, I'm happy with my provider, for the most part.

But I still have to read the fine print.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Want a deal? Try this out.

Want a deal?

Ask for one.

You'd be surprised at how many workers don't know the sales going on with their company.  Ordering a pizza at a pizza joint?  Ask for their specials.  Even call on the three or four (or more) in your area to see which one has the best deal.

You could even use this technique with buying cars.  Ask for a deal.  Don't give the car salesman a price you'd accept, because that is exactly the price they'll get it to.  Even if you tell him/her that you can afford a certain monthly dollars amount, they'll twist and turn a loan to fit your budget--for the most part, that is.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's wrong with left-overs?

Take your lunch to work.

Have left-overs.

There's nothing wrong with it.  I've done it for years.

If you're living on a shoestring budget, you'll need to think of creative ways of cutting costs and beefing up your income.

One way is to bring your lunch to work, whether it's left-overs or even a PB & J sandwich.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making a list . . . checking it twice

Before you head out to the store, be like Santa.


Take your list, check it twice.  Do you really need all of the items on the list?  What else could be added?

You'd be surprised how much impulse buying will cost you, if you're not careful.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Be a list-maker

Get in the habit of writing down what you need ahead of time.

Just ran out of milk.  Write it down.

Running low on peanut butter.  Write it down.

We're having hamburgers Saturday and we have no ketchup.  Write it down.

Did I say to write it down?  I did, didn't it?

Armed with your list, then charge out to the store and get what you need.

And no more.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's official!

On April 4th, last week, I finally completed my first ebook.

It is titled Mr. Shoestring's 99 Ways to have a memorable wedding on a shoestring, which is available through Amazon in their Kindle Store.

I've learned a lot about self-publishing these past two months (a far cry from calling myself an expert though), yet there is still so much to learn.  I hope you enjoy it.

Connect with me and tell me what you think.

Know of anyone getting married?  I strongly urge you to tell them about it.  It's only $.99 and it's packed with a lot of tips on planning a wedding on a budget.

Friday, April 6, 2012

If you're selling on eBay, treat it like a business

Once you sell something on eBay and your customer paid for it, whatever you do, don't sit on the item for days on end before shipping.

Treat your eBay (or Craigslist) business like a business.

How would you like your items shipped?

Ship it right away.

Because if you don't, you'd be surprised at how quick someone is to comment on poor service.

I'm happy to say, even though it's been a few years since I've sold stuff on eBay, my rating is 100%.  Not that I haven't had a few hiccups, but those were all attributed to either a misunderstanding or a delay in shipping (with the shipper, not me), and I always corrected it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psst! You can buy stuff on eBay or Craigslist too!

In all the excitement about selling on eBay, I forgot the flipside to that: buying.

If you're in need of something, shop around and don't forget about eBay or Craigslist.

Be careful.

Not everyone on these websites are legit.  Review their online ratings, and make sure you understand all of the fees involved.  Years ago, I was looking at buying computers on eBay and I noticed someone was selling them for $.99.  Holy cow!  Here's the kicker: the shipping was around $200.  Ouch!

Read the fine print.

Shop around.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What could you sell on eBay?

Do you have any collections you wish to part with?  Or anything you don't need anymore and would like to turn it into cash?

If so, consider selling on eBay (or Craigslist--although, I admit, I've never sold anything on Craigslist so my knowledge of Craigslist is limited).

The first thing I'd do is find out what similar items are selling for.

Items you think will sell well may not.  I have plenty of stuff from when I was a kid that I thought would sell well but never did.

For example, growing up I had a rather large collection of National Geographic magazines, complete with the leather vinyl slipcases.

They didn't sell.

I take that back, I did sell one years worth, but the money I got wasn't worth it, in my opinion, so I turned my efforts elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What else I sold in eBay

In the previous blog, I mentioned how I sold piles and piles of hard rock T-shirts.

I also had quite the collection of rock magazines from the late 80's and early 90's.

Those also sold quite well.  I even shipped some out to various countries, such as Japan, France, Germany, and even Canada.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What I sold in eBay

Growing up in the 80's, I loved the hard rock hair bands.

Poison, Guns N' Roses, Warrant, Skid Row, Tesla, Motley Crue, Cinderella, White Lion . . . the list goes on and on.

Needless to say, I also had a pile of rock T-shirts.

I sold them all, and made quite a bit of money doing so.

I once sold two Motley Crue shirts, from their Dr. Feelgood tour: one for $30 and the other for $60.  For a shirt!

I definitely found a niche.

Hmmm . . . thinking about it now makes me want to frequent a few garage sales . . . never know what I may find.