The Stigma of Direct Marketing

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After having my first child in 2005, I became a stay-at-home Mom.  For the first few months, I was busy with my little girl.  But, after falling into a rather predictable schedule, I became antsy and started looking for a hobby.  That’s when I found candle making.  It was therapeutic and I was actually really good at it.  After perfecting them, I decided to try and sell them.  I even went so far as to rent out a booth at a craft fair to try and sell them.  And, even though I didn’t sell very many the first time around, I was instantly hooked on running a business.

About a year later, I had to accept the fact that candle making and toddlers do not mix.  My little girl was becoming more of a handful and I had less and less time to actually make the candles.  When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew I needed to either give up the candle business or find another way to keep it going.

I never thought of joining a direct marketing company.  That is, until that moment I realized it was the perfect alternative to giving up my business.  I had heard all of the usual stigmas surrounding direct marketing/direct sales/multi level marketing companies.  Most of them stemmed from people that had a bad experience with pushy distributors/consultants that only cared about making money.  But, when I went searching for a company I could trust, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  I found women, and men, that actually used the product or service they were selling.  I found passionate people that loved the social part of their business just as much as the product they represented.  I found quality products with great reviews and a fan base.  I found a family!

I finally settled on a candle company I could believe in and hit the ground running.  I did shows, fundraisers, and connected with people online.  I bought candles for myself and my family and friends.  They were great candles and I wanted to share them!  I built a team of my own and trained them to just let the product speak for itself.  And it did!  I was doing well, and my team was doing well.  But, as time went on and family life consumed more of my time, the business took a back seat.  I no longer had the time or energy to put into my business and it slowly started to close shop.  I stopped ordering candles for customers and handed over all of my inventory and leads to one of my team members.

Although my team continued to build their own businesses, after a while I stopped getting candles for myself.  I had lost my passion for the product.  I stepped down as team leader and decided to focus on just being a wife and a mother for a while.

Yes, it’s true that many distributors and consultants for direct marketing companies will quit.  But, I’d like to look at it more like moving on instead of quitting.  I learned a lot during my time as a candle business owner.  I learned how to connect with people, generate leads, build a basic website, and how to run a successful fundraiser (I even ran a successful fundraiser in New York from my home in Wisconsin!)  I learned about marketing and social networking.  But, most importantly, I learned how great it felt to build something that was mine.  I learned that hard work can get you places you’ve never been before.  I learned that direct sales companies are a great way to empower people to share their passion, make friends, and become financially independent if they play their cards right.

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How to Get Free Food from the Grocery Store

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Getting free food from the grocery store only takes about an hour of planning each week.  It’s a great way for us moms to contribute a bit to the family finances.  So, instead of just feeling like I’m always the one spending money, I can know that I’m doing my best to save the most on food.

 

5 Simple Steps to Getting Free Groceries

  1. Shop at a grocery store that has double coupon days and then plan to go shopping on those days
  2. Save the grocery store insert and in-store coupons that you get in the mail each week
  3. Look at all of the sales and specials and find manufacturers coupons to match the items that are on sale
  4. Take the sale price and subtract in-store coupons and doubled manufacturers coupons to get your final price
  5. Decide whether or not the end price is worth the purchase and add it to your shopping list

If you don’t have much time, but you’re curious about what some of the free items could be at your local grocery store, you can get a list at Money Saving Mom.  You can even sign up for their e-mail list that will keep you updated on the latest coupon match-ups for the week.  The lists aren’t always complete, but it’s a good place to start.  I usually find more products than what they have listed.

To find manufacturers coupons, you can look through your Sunday paper and/or find printable coupons online through Coupons.com, Save.com, ShopatHome.com, CouponNetwork.com, and through various social media and product sites.  You can always do a search for the specific coupon you’re looking for.

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A Better Cash Back Program

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So, I’ve been doing some research on the cost of diapers and decided that I would organize my findings on blogger.  I’ve been doing this for about a month now and have found some great websites in the process of finding the best prices on diapers.  Until recently, I had been using Ebates as my preferred cash back website.  And, although I still use that website on occasion, I’ve found another cash back website that yields higher cash back (at most of the major retailers.)  This has been very beneficial considering the holiday season and the online Christmas shopping I’ve been doing.

Many of the top retailers are on this new cash back website that I use.  It’s completely free to join and completely free when you redeem your cash back.  You simply search for an online retailer, click the “Get Cashback Now” button, and it will automatically record your visit and purchase.  You will then receive a notification via e-mail with information about your cash back.  I’ve only been using it since the beginning of November and I’ve already earned $15 cash back.  It can really add up over time.

Interested in signing up?  Don’t forget, it’s completely free to join and free to redeem your cash back.  

Right now, you can get 12% cash back at Drugstore.com.  You can also get 6% cash back at Kohls, 5% back at Walmart, and 6% back at Target.  There are many many more online retailers to choose from.

In an effort to maintain full disclosure, I would like to inform you that the following banner contains my referral link and I will receive up to $10 when you sign up and you receive cash back for online purchases.  If you also love the website, you can also receive $10 for referring your friends and family.  I will not receive anything for your referrals.  This is NOT a pyramid scheme or scam of any kind.  It is a real cash back program that rewards their users with cash back when they shop online through selected online retailers.

If you would like to get cash back for your online purchases, simply click on the banner below or go to TopCashBack.com.
Online Cashback

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How We Made Extra Money Using Craigslist, Ebay, and Rummage Sales

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I love looking on Craigslist at what people in my area are selling or trying to barter.  It can be a great place to find stuff you need, sell stuff that you don’t need, or resell something to make extra money.  Sometimes you can even find some good stuff for free that you can sell to make extra money!  This weekend, I will be listing a bunch of our stuff on Craigslist to make extra money.  We’re hoping to get enough money to replenish our emergency fund after we cleaned it out to buy a used van (more about that later.)

I would normally blog about Frugality on Fridays, but I’ve decided to combine topics today.  Topics will include Frugality, Fitness, and Fun.  And, they will all relate to making extra money with Craigslist somehow.  So, here we go…

Frugality

  • Make extra money by listing things you don’t need anymore on Craigslist.  Easy, right?  Just look around your house, take some pictures of the things you don’t need anymore, and post it on Craigslist for free!  Then, just wait for someone to call you, pay you, and pick it up. And, if there’s no one in your area that wants it, there’s sure to be someone out there in eBay Land that wants it.  We actually tried selling a Limited Edition Harley Davidson Leather Jacket on Craigslist, had someone come take a look at it, and they passed it up for $300.  Then, we listed it on eBay with a starting bid of $0.99 with no reserve.  The winning bidder paid $600!  So, we made twice as much money by listing it on eBay.
  • Save money when you purchase things on Craigslist.  Make sure you don’t pay the asking price by offering to pay cash at a lower price.  We bought our used mini van off of Craigslist just yesterday.  We offered them cash if they would knock off $600.  They agreed and we are now the proud owners of a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country that we paid only $2800 for.  Many people are more than willing to negotiate and come down on their asking price.  Just have the courage to ask and bring cash if you can.Garage Sale
  • Have a Rummage Sale and list it on Craigslist!  Some of my family will be having a rummage sale this weekend and I was more than willing to put an ad on Craiglist for them.  Why wouldn’t you put your rummage sale on Craigslist?  It’s free advertising!  Of course you’re going to list your rummage sale on Craigslist when it’s free!  Who’s going to pass up free advertising?

Fitness

  • So, I purchased a Malibu Pilates Chair with 3 Workout DVDs from a woman off of Craigslist for only $25!  It was still in the box!  Everything was still in the packaging.  It retails for around $500!  It will give you a great workout if you have a little extra space.  Sadly, I found that we don’t have a little extra space.  At least not any usable space.  Having 4 small children doesn’t really allow for personal space other than our bedroom.  If I were to set the chair up (which I did by the way) in my living room, my kids would think I had bought a jungle gym for them to play on in the house (which they did by the way.)  My two year old especially couldn’t keep his hands off of it.  So, back in the box it will go.  I’m still debating whether I should keep it or sell it and make some money off it.  I’m leaning toward selling it to make some extra money.
  • The Malibu Pilates Chair is a great exercise tool and would be great to have if I had my own workout room.  I’ve discovered, though, that I really only need a couple of 3 pound weights and an exercise mat to get a good workout.  I’m thinking that I’ll try making a couple hundred dollars off of the Malibu Pilates Chair and put that money toward my healthy food plan.  What is my healthy food plan you ask?  It’s simply that, a plan to eat healthy.  I plan… to eat healthy!  But, healthy food costs a lot more than empty calories.  So, we just have to make it a priority to eat healthy.  Which means, any money we can spare will go toward healthy eating.  It’s a work in progress.  Just put some of that “extra money” toward buying some cook books with gluten free and sugar free recipes.  I made the gluten free/sugar free chicken fingers last night and they were AWESOME!

FUN!

  • Isn’t it fun to go to rummage sales?  I just love looking through all of the junk until something catches my eye.  My husband and I mostly go looking for things that we can purchase for less than $50 and sell for over $100.  We did make a large purchase one time, though.  My husband found a Vintage Slingerland Drum Kit and paid $300 for it.  We turned around and sold it for $800.  That was the most we’ve ever made on a resale item.  And, the whole experience of buying it and finding out how much it was really worth was a lot of FUN!  It’s such a thrill!
  • When finding things on Craigslist, at rummage sales, and at thrift stores, it’s not really about making money.  Making extra money is a nice outcome.  But, for me, it’s mostly about FUN!  It’s fun to hunt for treasure!
  • Want to read some Mindless Banter about Rummage Sales?  Check out my husband’s blog post.  You’ll either laugh until you cry or be completely dumbfounded.
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Do We Need Two Cars?

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Crowded CarWe’re in a bit of a pickle right now.  Our second car is on its last leg… finally.  I mean, what did we expect?  It’s a 1993 Toyota Corolla and it has been in my family for years!  I think my oldest sister learned to drive in that car.  We’ll be ok though, right?  We don’t need more than one car. That is, if we don’t ever have to go anywhere as a family.  Our other car is a reliable 2004 Honda Civic that we purchased about 6 years ago in a moment of weakness.  We’re still paying for it, although not for much longer.  Everyone keeps telling us that we need a van, and I guess they’re right.  We are a family of 6 after all.  We need to be able to get to church on Sundays.  No question about that.  And, I’m definitely not going to be asking my parents to help us out every week.

So, I guess we’ll have to put our house hunting off a while longer in order to stay on track with our financial plans.  We just did some landscaping, which added a few thousand dollars onto our credit card balance.  So, we’re set to have all of our cards paid off by April of next year.  Once we have those paid off, we should be able to save for a down payment on a house.

It is very tempting, though, to just refinance and include all of our credit card debt in that.  But, we only pay 1.99% on $5000 of credit card debt at this point.  So, to refinance that balance into, let’s say, a 3.5% interest 30 yr mortgage would be stupid to say the least.  We just need to be patient and help each other stay on track.  It will all be worth it in about 5 years when we own a rental property (our current home) and have only our mortgage on our nice new home with plenty of space for our 4 children… make that 6 children in another 5 years.

Now we just have to find a van that is reliable and doesn’t cost more than $3500.  Good luck with that, right?  Maybe we can swing having just one vehicle?  Would it be worth it to sell the Honda for a few thousand dollars and get a van when my husband would have to take it to work every day?  There aren’t many fuel efficient vans out there to my knowledge.  What to do, what to do?

Option #1:  Sell the old car for $500 and buy a used van for $3500

  • Pros:  We would have two cars and a vehicle that our entire family would fit in
  • Cons:  We would have to buy the van on credit and would have to hold off on buying our second home

Option #2:  Sell both cars for $4500, buy a used van with cash, and use the bus for work

  • Pros:  We would have a larger vehicle that our entire family would fit in and we may end up with some extra cash
  • Cons:  All of that extra cash would go toward gas!  NOT fuel efficient at all.  Inconvenient to only have one vehicle.

Option #3:  Sell the old car for $500 and just keep other car

  • Pros:  We would have some extra cash and no additional debt
  • Cons:  We would not be able to go anywhere as a family and would only have one small vehicle

Are you in a similar situation?  Please share your vehicle woes and put in your two cents about the above options.  Which one will it be?  Option#1, 2, or 3?  Our fate rests in your hands!  Until we take it back into our hands of course.

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Rent Our House?

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Should we rent our house out and buy a larger home?  Or, should we stay in the house and add more rooms in the basement?  Either way, we’ll be spending money.  If we buy another house, we’ll need money for a down payment and closing costs.  Plus, we’ll have to do some touch up work on our current home before we could rent it out.  If we added rooms in the basement, it would cost us just as much and it wouldn’t add much value to our house in todays market.

Right now, we’re leaning more toward buying a larger home and renting out our current home.  With the market and mortgage rates at a new low, this would obviously be a great time to buy.  It is not a good time to sell, however.  So, that is why renting our house seems to be our best option.  Plus, we wouldn’t just be breaking even on renting it out.  We’ve estimated a rental INCOME of around $200/month.

There is a third option of course.  It’s an option I don’t really like to think about.  It involves spending another winter couped up in an 1100 sq ft house with 6 people.  I would say that our health depends on us getting into a larger space BEFORE the winter colds and the dreaded flu hits.  It is a known fact that people get sick more often when they work or live in crowded conditions.  I would also like to put in an extra vote for my sanity.  We should definitely get into a larger space BEFORE winter.

In order to do that, we must first consider our buying power.  What can we afford?  Sadly, we do not have much of a down payment.  In fact, we don’t have ANY down payment.  So, we would have to put aside our surplus for a couple of months instead of paying down our debt like we had wanted to do.  We may even have to borrow part of the down payment from a family member.  YUCK!  I don’t like thinking about that.  But, that’s what family’s for, right?  Just kidding of course.  That’s why it makes me sick just thinking about borrowing money from family.  I don’t like owing anyone anything.  I would much rather be the one lending out the money.  I suppose if someone we trust just happened to have, o let’s say, an extra $10,000 just laying around, they wouldn’t mind earning something like 3% interest on that money.

Definitely something we’ll have to pray about.  In fact, I think I’ve been praying about this every day now for about a month.  I’m not sure if the Lord is answering my prayer now, but we are supposed to go look at a house this evening.  It is a little over our budget, but it’s a short sale.  So, maybe the bank will consider a lower offer.  Like $20,000 lower than the asking price.  Hmmmm, not so sure.  But, just looking can’t hurt, right?  I guess we’ll see.

 

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Debt Reduction Progress

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We paid off a credit card!!!!!!

The month of March was full of uncertainty.  My husband had just found out that he would be unemployed as of April 1st if he didn’t find a job by then.  So, we were hesitant to take our tax return and apply it to our debt reduction efforts.  We kept the $8000 in a savings account until he was hired by one of the premier marketing companies in Milwaukee.

Once he started his new job, we felt it was a good time to pay off one of the credit cards.  So, we’re excited to announce that we’ve paid off about $5000 more of our debt!!  Plus, we now have an emergency fund of $1500 and another $1500 set aside to do some landscaping this spring.  And, last but not least, our income has increased!!!!  So, we are now planning on applying at least $700 a month toward what is left of our credit card debt.  We should be “debt free” (not including our mortgage) by the end of the year!!!

We have two cards left to pay off.  One is still at a 0% APR until the end of August, so we will pay that one off first.  And, the other one is a fixed 1.99% for the life of the balance.  I will have mixed feelings about paying that 1.99%APR credit card off.  Once we pay off that balance, there will no longer be a 1.99%APR.  That credit card offer was a Godsend!  It came at the perfect time too.  I remember when we were considering buying a house and we couldn’t afford it because of our car payment.  Then, we got a balance transfer offer in the mail from our bank credit card.  The balance on our bank credit card was $0 at the time, so I could tell that they were trying to hold on to us as a customer/consumer.  They offered us 1.99%APR for the life of the balance with a transfer fee of 3%, which would end up making our transferred balance nearly $12,000!  Although our balance increased by about $300, the APR decreased along with our monthly minimum payment.  Our monthly payment decreased so much, actually, that we were able to qualify for a mortgage.  About a month later, my sister called to say that the house next door to her would be up for sale soon.  It was all perfect timing, so we made an offer on the house before it even went on the market.  The seller was eager to close and we got the house at a steal of a price.  So, even when the housing market crashed, we still came out of it with equity.

Through all of our financial ups and downs, I can see the Lord’s grace and guidance that has lead us to this point.  Praise the Lord!  Living debt free is just around the corner!

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