Whether your goal is to purge your home of stuff you no longer need or you want to raise some cash—or both—you have options.

You can sell your items on an auction website like eBay.com, list them in classifieds in a local newspaper or on craigslist.org, or give the stuff away. Or, you can create a killer garage sale that turns your cast-offs into cold, hard cash.

garage sale street signs

PLAN AHEAD. Give yourself more than a few weeks to get ready. Make sure the date you select is not conflicting with a holiday or community event. Check local laws regarding signage, restrictions and a requirement, if any, to get a permit.

GET ORGANIZED. It pays to put your stuff in order. Designate your sale area. If there are items in close proximity that are not for sale, cover or clearly mark them “Not for Sale.” Take the time to repair and clean your sale items and your sale area, too. Dirt, grime, chaos, and clutter will repel shoppers. A nicely ordered space will draw people who are ready, willing and able to buy.  Read more

In these high-tech times when text-messaging and email are the preferred method of written communication, it might not have even crossed your mind to ask this important question: Do I have to send a thank you note when someone gives me a gift?

In a word, yes. It’s right, it’s proper and it’s good for you. We may be frugal, but we’ve got class.

Thank You Notes

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It is not difficult, nor should it be time-consuming, to write a simple, heartfelt note of thanks in response to a gift or other act of kindness. Here are the elements of a well-written thank you note:

1 Greeting. Keep it simple. “Dear Aunt Mary…” works well. Or use another salutation that would roll easily off your tongue, like “Hi,” or “Greetings.” Read more

I don’t consider myself a complete stranger to high-priced gourmet fare. After all, I did enjoy a lovely $100-per-person meal once.

But even that experience in my semi-impressive culinary repertoire did not prepare me to handle gracefully the idea of a 10-course dinner with a price tag of $25,000 per person. And it wasn’t a political fundraiser. Just a fancy meal in an exotic location—Bangkok, Thailand.

Sure, this gastronomic extravaganza included the very best in Cristal champagne, foie gras, truffles, Kobe beef, Beluga caviar and Belon oysters, but come on! Twenty-five grand per person—a price that does not include tax or gratuity or airfare?

I don’t think I could do that even if I were so rich $25,000 would be mere pennies when compared to my vast net worth. There are some things I simply would not be able to get out of my mind like …

I could keep going with this, pointing out that $25,000 would cover the full cost to finish the basement at our house. Or paint the entire interior at least five times, but I’ll refrain.

And I’ll try not to get all worked up that the tax and tip alone for a party of two at the extravagant event in Bangkok would boost the tab by at least another $15,000.

Instead, I’m going to be grateful that I live in a country where we are free to do with our money as we please even if that means dropping a load on something as fleeting as a 10-course meal.

If you had $25,000 spare what would you do with it?

“I don’t do math—numbers give me a rash.” That’s a line I’ve used a lot, mostly because it’s true, but also because it gets me a laugh.

Truth be told, most of us stink when it comes to doing the math on the fly. That’s a problem because being hopeless with math makes us putty in the hands of retailers.

Why is it socially acceptable to say that we’re bad at math, but not to say we’re bad at reading? The truth is that it’s not okay to be hopeless with numbers. Here are three ways that our aversion to math costs us money:

The number 9. Amazingly, 65 percent of all retail prices end in the number 9. Unconsciously, we’re charmed into believing the item is a bargain.

Whenever you see a product priced at $29.99 or $9.99, the retailer is attempting to “charm” your brain by marking prices just below a round number. Because our brains are trained to read from left to right, the first digit is the one that sticks in our head and the number we use to decide if the “price is right.”

Both Steve Jobs, who came up with the 99-cent app, and the guy in California who founded the 99-Cents Only stores have made millions off this human quirk. Retailers use 9 on purpose to lure us into buying something because they know we’ll assume it’s been discounted.

This phenomenon is known as the left-digit effect and studies have shown that it absolutely works and has a big impact on our buying decisions. So whenever you see a price ending with a .99, get in the habit of rounding up, then decide if it’s a good deal.

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You’re worried that the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. It’s not like it’s still under warranty. You’ve had it for a long time and it wasn’t new when you got it.

You get an estimate for repair and discover it will cost $319 to get it back into tip-top shape.

Should you give this old, inefficient machine the heave-ho in favor of a new model that will use less electricity and water?

A new name-brand front-loader is on sale for $899 plus tax and delivery. Should you basically throw away $319 now for a temporary fix, or bite the bullet and buy the new one?

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I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed “frugal” was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under the cover of night.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did—and continue to learn—that is the path to building wealth on any income.

I’d say the most fun I’ve had learning the fine art of frugality has been in reading The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

Webster’s defines “frugal” as behavior characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. The opposite is “wasteful,” a lifestyle marked by lavish spending and hyperconsumption. Wealth has nothing to do with how much you earn, but what you do with it and how much you keep. Read more

A few weeks ago I got a wake-up call that wasn’t exactly intended for me. Our friends Matt and Sharlene got the call that his 92-year old aunt had died. As the executor of her estate, this did not catch them by surprise. The surprise came after a long flight when they opened the door to their late-aunt’s home.

As they described what they were facing in a home stuffed to the brim with stuff, vicariously I was right there with them—overwhelmed by the enormity of the accumulation of clutter. What to do? Where to start? At that moment in my heart (and now publicly) I renewed my pledge to my husband and children: To the very best of my ability and as God is my witness, I will never leave a mess for you to deal with.

Admittedly, I am a clutter bug and I know why. I believe that everything I own has value. That means I must keep it. The struggle is real. Those books I’ll never open again or my old mobile phone that won’t hold a charge—they have to be worth something to someone. Right?

Or how about that box of video games? They still look good even though we don’t have the game station that goes with them. And that computer monitor. Sure, it’s small-ish and old, but it still works (I think). I can’t throw it out. All those movie DVDs! They cost a lot of money. And on and on it goes from the garage to the basement—every room has the potential to become a clutter magnet.  Read more

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations going on in the U.S. And the growing debt. Who ever imagined that the word “trillion” would just roll off our tongues, not causing even a flinch. Too bad we can’t do much about it. The truth is that we are powerless.

But I have to say that it’s kinda’ fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I’d be wickedly effective as Governor of Colorado. Oh, the things I would do.

21933498 - state capitol of colorado, denver

First, I would abolish state income tax. The state would exist rather on fee-income. Coloradans would pay fees for the services they want and use.

I’d adopt a scorched-earth policy in going after government waste and abuse. I’d place a freeze on hiring while I cleared out off the “dead wood” and identified all areas of workplace redundancy within the state government.

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