Saturday, May 22, 2010

Starting Point

Where to start, where to start...

Well, I live at Disney World, so I could collect 100 fast passes and sell them on eBay for $100... No kidding. People actually pay top dollar for expired fast passes. I tried collecting them once, but it was too much of a hassle. Besides, since I didn't really want to go out of my way, I ended up with a whole bunch of fast passes to the Norway ride and the Winnie the Pooh ride and that was about it. I threw them away. Well, maybe I'll try again.

I decide to start with my garage. I have some Franklin Planner storage binders that have been getting on my nerves ever since I decided to stop using Franklin Planners or, as my ex Dan puts it, ever since I “left the cult”.

We homeschool, and in the state of Florida you are required to keep a written record of instruction and books read contemporaneously with instruction. Franklin Planners seemed perfect for that because of the extra blank page that went with every day. But as the years went by, I found that I had occasional bursts of excellent record keeping that would last for a few weeks, interspersed with many months of blank pages. I actually kept blank pages for years past in the unlikely event I ever got audited; I would have had two weeks to go back and make it up.

But I'm over it. My eldest is at a local magnet school now, and my youngest is doing all of her schooling on-line at Florida Virtual School. Besides, even if I did get audited and The State discovered my shoddy record keeping, I would get a year to pull it together. So, if I ever have to, I'll get efficient then. Besides, I found that meticulous record keeping really interferes with homeschooling. The more time you waste on organizational nonsense, the less time you spend on actual schoolwork.

So I'm over it. I'm going to sell these storage binders! My “$100 200 times” quest coincides with another current obsession: decluttering. Ever since I read an article on hoarding, I fear that I am in the beginning stages of becoming a hoarder. But I don't really think I'm a hoarder as much as I just can't seem to get it together to get my house clean and make it through my magazine piles. I mean, if my magazine piles count as hoarding, then the hairballs and dust on my living room floor should count, too. I don't think I'm a hoarder. Yet. I think I'm just inefficient and tired. But I'm not taking any chances!

So I post the Franklin Planner storage binders in the “Sell” forum on my town's website. I live in Celebration, the town that Disney built right on the property. And we have our own website. So I post the binders there, even though I've never managed to sell anything on the “Sell” forum. It's a long shot, but it's less of a pain than taking photos and dealing with eBay.

Then I decide to see if there is anything to this “Sell Your Gold” craze that seems to be sweeping the country, since gold is at an all-time high. I sift through my jewelry collection. I'm a really boring jewelry-wearer. All I ever wear is this pair of pearl earrings that I've probably had for twenty years or more.

But my mother had a long-time boyfriend who dabbled in jewelry and my mother was always really into jewelry (still is), so for every birthday and Christmas for many years, I got jewelry. Also, my former mother-in-law, an avid QVC shopper, has sent me jewelry for every occasion ever since Dan and I got married... And she still does, even though we've been divorced nearly eight years! I've assured her that I will save everything for her two granddaughters.

So I sort through my jewelry. Everything I really like or that might be worth any real money, I keep at home. That, along with the junk jewelry, is about two-thirds of my collection. I put the rest in a Target bag. Then I hit the silver silverware. Over thirty years ago, my grandmother started a silverware set for me. She bought me one piece at a time. I have all kinds of soup spoons and butter knives and salad forks, but not one complete set. After I got married, I tried to find out how much it would cost to complete my silverware set, only to discover that it would be cheaper to buy an entire set ($1500) than to purchase the missing pieces. So I did nothing.

My grandmother died nearly two years ago at the ripe old age of 94. She was a Nazi til the day she died. I don't mean that in a mean, descriptive way. I mean, she was really a Nazi. This is a very difficult thing to deal with. How do you like your grandma, knowing she has the most reprehensible possible politics? I don't even like to think about it. Too hard to wrap my head around.

Anyway, so I take all of my stuff to the local jewelry store. I promised myself that I would sell nothing on that trip, only get prices. Gold was at $1209 an ounce. Turns out that silver was only at $19 an ounce.

$353.17 for the silverware set. My grandmother must have paid ten times that much. Guilt won't allow me to sell that low. I was raised with the firm belief that you don't give away (let alone sell!) gifts. Hence the hoarder fears. That kind of attitude eventually really lends itself to crap accumulation. Like the cactus-shaped tortilla chip serving dish a friend once gave me. One of my kids saw it once and really liked it, so now I'm really torn. Get rid of it or save it for my child, who will then acquire really bad taste?

My wedding rings (yes, I still have them!), $39.38. A gold ring with a rose on it, $24.12. In fact, item after item came out as worth a mere fraction of what I would have thought. Necklaces and bracelets were tossed together into a 14K clump and weighed altogether. $450.16. Not bad, but I wasn't going to sell all of them!

There were only three items that really surprised me:

1)Turns out that the QVC jewelry from my former mother-in-law was really worth something. Who knew?

2)There was a small sheet of gold that I must have gotten from my mother's boyfriend. (“Cool! Can I have it?”) It was small, but Tiffany, the aptly-named jewelry store owner, tested it, and it was solid gold. $81.64.

3)There was an Austrian coin. Thin. Gold. Tiffany actually called someone, then immediately offered me $270.33 for the coin. When all was said and done, she got back to that coin and pressured me to “lock in the price”. That raised some red flags.

Back home, I researched my coin (also a gift from my grandmother) on the Internet. It was hard to find, but when I did, it was selling for $685. So much for trusting Tiffany.

I decided to spend a day or two thinking about it before selling any of my jewelry. Among other things, I wanted to show individual pieces to my girls before making any binding decisions.

In the meantime, I got two responses on my Franklin Planner storage binders! Who knew?! The first person asked me to call her. That involved actually picking up the phone and dialing, so I skipped to the second person. Her, I e-mailed. We quickly came to terms. I told her that I had around five or six storage binders and numerous colored pages and the like. We arrived at a price of $12 for everything I had.

So then I went to my garage and pulled out all of my old Franklin Planner stuff. It turned out that I had TEN old storage binders. I was now faced with a bit of a conundrum. If I sold my little sheet of gold for $81.64 and all of the Franklin stuff for $12, I would arrive at $93.64, just short of my first $100. But I had ten storage binders, when I'd told the buyer I had five or six... but I told her that I'd sell her everything I had... Moral dilemma.

I sank to the challenge. I called the other potential buyer and agreed to sell her four of the storage binders for $8. That would give me my first $100. And only at the cost of my soul. I had also decided to keep one of the binders and some of the papers, once I realized that there were extra address sheets.

The telephone buyer came first. She gave me $10 for four binders and told me to keep the change. This was working out well!

Then I sold the remaining binders and sheets I was parting with to my second buyer for $12. $22 already! I was well on my way to my first $100!

I headed back to the jewelry store with my little sheet of gold, two days after my initial visit. When Tiffany saw what I had brought back to sell, she actually laughed at me. I was liking her less and less.

Then she retested my little sheet of gold, proclaiming it was “policy” to retest every item once it had left the store. I guess that made sense. Only she tested it. And retested it. And re-retested it. And got opinions from two men who worked at the store. Then she pronounced it merely 18K gold instead of pure gold and announced that it was only worth $58 and change. The price of gold had also dropped slightly, so if it had been pure gold, it would have been worth around $79 that day.

Seeing my chagrin (I wasn't going to make my first $100 after all!), she wondered aloud what the problem was. It wasn't that much of a difference. Since when is 25% not a large difference? And since when do we just dismiss $20 as meaningless? Maybe that's what wrong with our economy.

I sold the gold sheet. She gave me an even $59. As I walked out of the store with my cash clutched in my hand, I contemplated karma. That's what I got for fudging on that Franklin Planner sale. I now had $81. I was $19 short.

(There was a great Dilbert comic once about karma. Dogbert said he didn't mind screwing people because he believed in karma. If he screwed someone, it must be because they had it coming!)

Then I went to Walgreens. I spent $38.77 on some mandatory eye meds. I tried not to think about it. Then I went home and ordered a pizza from Papa Johns and spent another $16, counting tip. I tried not to think about that, either.

But I kept my new-found riches separate from my spending. This is never going to work otherwise.

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