How much would you pay to escape the tundra?

50 shades MA

By popular demand (one request), I will skip to the end of my proposed list of “Spring Cleaning, Winter-style” topics and go straight to cheap vacations out of the wasteland.  Because, you know, winter sucks at this point.

So I present you with the very best prices that the internet has to offer today, which are surprisingly really low.  So low it’s like that Flo Rida song.  (I even clicked on a supposed $28/night hotel deal on Groupon, but definitely do not recommend going there.)  Check out some legit items:

http://www.groupon.com/deals/ga-club-tesoro-at-wyndham-cabo-san-lucas-resort-5

$300 for 4 nights in Cabo?  This is a crazy world we live in.  All you’d need to do is find good airfare.

https://vacations.jetblue.com/service/show_hotel_details.cfm?is_landing_page=true&room_gds=local&hotel_code=526&area1_display=BOS&date1=05/11/2015&date2=05/14/2015&area1=BOS&area2=FLL&promotions=1&intcmp=jbgadest

I can honestly, but shamefully, say I have paid this much just in airfare to return home to the 305 for Thanksgiving.  I can tell you Fort Lauderdale is nice and much quieter than Miami if that is your thing.  I think this was the best overall Getaway deal on Jetblue, but there were a bunch of other deals to other destinations in FL, Jamaica, and the Dominican.  This batch of deals just started today.

http://www.jetblue.com/deals/once-upon-a-springtime/

Jetblue also decided to start a 2-day sale this morning, just as I went to publish this post.  It is all coming up Millhouse!  My pick from this list would be DC for $84.  Good luck with blackout dates!

Beyond Groupon imagery and internet bait-and-switches, I could provide the following classic frugal recommendations:

  • Drop in annoyingly on family and friends in warmer climes; claim weather asylum while you lounge all over the couch and eat their snacks.
  • Screw multi-day trips, ain’t nobody got time for that!  If you’re just sore and tired you could do a spa thing locally.  Get a questionable massage (“it moved!”), or go hang out in one of these salt caves.  Then drink lots of beer.  Because you just did a spa thing.
  • Go for places that aren’t so typically spring-breaky to avoid the squeeze.  Instead of islands and beaches, you could go bare your bits in Las Vegas or Texas.

One thing I will not tell you is to “embrace the beauty of snow!”  If you like to ski/snowboard, fine.  If you are over it and wonder what it would be like to walk around barefoot or take off your hat, I don’t blame you.

Overall this winter has taught me that 2/24 is not the time to start planning.  Possibly the better way is to plan these “tundra escape” trips back in October, and hope to hell that you do not get snowed out and spend your vacation days sitting on the floor in Logan airport.   I am headed to Texas next month, but it is to get in some early season cycling.  Presumably the winter wasteland insanity will have worn off by then.

What is your wasteland escape plan?  And how much would you pay to accomplish this?  I am looking at about $600 for my Austin trip, which is roughly the sum to which I have grown accustomed any time you have to get on a plane.  But this is an area in which I bet other people are much more clever…

Images from https://www.facebook.com/MassachusettsMemes?pnref=story

Spring Cleaning, Winter-style

My dad flew all over the world during his career, and had a saying about long, international flights: you can read a book, get drunk, pass out, read another book, and there will still be 5 more hours left…

If you live anywhere in New England, you probably know why I have been thinking about this joke lately.  Winter is our international flight, and it is not over yet.  I’m pretty sure we’ve all played in the snow, shoveled the snow, cursed the snow, baked baked goods, shoveled more, worked from home, lumbered to work with half as many lanes and twice the time, and stared at more snow falling.  In total defeat.  Some of us even got to turn livestock into domesticated pets.  We’re stuck at home, so may as well make the best of things there.

chicken spa

P.S. Chickens were not meant to live with us.  Or anywhere near us.  The most luxurious garage condo just makes them long for the comforts of the coop.

And let’s face it: there’s no point doing any physical cleaning because we’ll be tracking in salt (not to mention other schmutz) for at least another couple of weeks.  So I figured it’s a good time to clean up the ol’ finances, which can also spruce up the home.  There’s always time to get drunk again later!

So I’ll be posting some ideas on:

  1. Cleaning up the 401K
  2. De-cluttering winter bills
  3. Not using misery as an excuse for sloppiness
  4. Planning a frugal, if temporary, escape

Is there anything else you’d want to hear about, between rounds of shoveling, IcyHot-ing your back, and playing cards?

If you are under 35, you are in the same “national net worth by age” bracket as Mark Zuckerberg…

Also it means you are a Millenial like so many arm-scarf knitters!  Which is more annoying?

While poking around trying to figure out something else about wealth demographics, I found this interesting and super depressing article on the Wall Street Journal which measured national median wealth by age group.  It noted that the median net worth under 35 is $10,400; the average is $75,500.  Toward the bottom it explained why the median is a more relevant measure than the average, which you might recall from school.  But this explanation will never let you forget it again:

Why is the average so much higher than the median? Take a simple example of three guys: Tom, Steve and Mark. Tom has a net worth of negative $10,000 due to outstanding student loans. Steve has a net worth of $10,000. Mark (let’s say his last name is Zuckerberg) has $33 billion. Their median net worth is $10,000. Their average is $11 billion. A few outliers (like Mr. Zuckerberg) can earn enormous amounts more than the median and drag the total up for everyone; conversely, it’s rather difficult to get yourselves millions of dollars in debt and drag the figure down.

So in most cases it makes more sense to compare yourself to the millions of people on your immediate left and right than to Mark Zuckerberg.

I like to think of it more as:

  • Do you have a net worth of at least $10,401?
    • Yes: cool, you’re in the Mark Zuckerberg club!
    • No: that’s ok, you’re in the company of 20 million other people under 35. 

Obviously the statistics in this article are an indication of the skewed wealth distribution, if the average is not much higher than the median.  But I am not about wealth distribution, I am about doing better with what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have or what someone else has.  You want 33 billion under 35, go invent a Facebook while you’re still in college.  There is always that option.  But if you want to improve your means realistically without thinking up a culture-defining invention, focus on the median and how to take prudent steps to surpass it.

So I joked at the beginning about being in the same bracket as Mark Zuckerberg, but actually I saw the whole statistic as motivating.  If you can pick yourself up out of debt and get over the goal line of $10,401 to be in the top half, what can’t you do?  Just by getting out of debt and putting together a bit of savings you leave millions of other people in the dust.  And if you are better off than so many other people, there must be power in that.

Bet you didn’t expect it to go that way did you!

From the WSJ: Consumers Hoard Gas Savings; Banks Experience “Shrinkage”

The Wall Street Journal informs us that people are saving the $10 extra they don’t need to spend on gas these days!

Basically the article says that the economy is better, blah blah blah, and we should, by all measures, be running out to spend money.  Because that is the foolhardy knee-jerk reaction exhibited by Americans at all other points in history when the economy went from calamitous to terrible.  But… we are not running out to the stores!  We are taking our $50 and saying “I can do something better with this than blow it immediately!”  People are paying down credit debt: a sign that the credit problem in this country has reached an all-time low.  It is like when druggie celebrities finally give up and turn themselves in to rehab.  But this is probably for the best.  Good for America!

Amazingly, banks are witnessing this turn of events with horror.  But this shouldn’t be so surprising: what is good for banks is bad for everyone else, and vice versa.  People paying down their credit debt naturally is bad for banks.  Discover Company actually “blamed lower gas prices for ‘lowering its growth rate.'”  Which I believe is financial talk for “I was in the pool!”  I anticipate lots of flashy credit card sign-on bonus offers arriving in the mail before too long.

I have some observations about this whole thing:

  • If you are seeing $60/month savings as the article’s statistic suggests, I feel sorry for you.  It sounds like you are driving around a lot, or have an overly large or highly gas-inefficient automoile.  Both of those situations seems undesirable to me.  I have seen about a $20/month reduction in gas costs myself, and drive 6 miles to work in a moderately sized Subaru.
  • The idea that $20 or $60 in a month would be a windfall is kind of shocking to me.  Although it sounds like the rest of America had the same reaction.  How much money would have to arrive at your doorstep before you would consider spending any of it lavishly?  For me that sum would be about $1,000.  So at my rate of monthly gas savings, the gas prices would need to stay low for about 4 years before I would get excited.
  • It is also really sad to expect that people would run out and spend an extra $50 in an economy like this.  I remember the Bush Stimulus and getting an actual large check in the mail around 2007.  The economy was doing well at the time, but I wasn’t, and I spent the money paying down debt.  But I could see that move stimulating commerce on the larger scale.  These days however, it is not surprising that people are stuffing bills under the mattress.  Consumer debt is higher than ever, and wages are historically stagnant.  Not to mention our economy is incredibly inflated with bond purchases, and people are losing confidence in our Treasury Notes and the stock market.  There is every reason to be nervous right now.

Anyway this article brought a smile to my face, with the triple punch of consumers being sensible, analysts being silly, and banks being sad.  Happy snow shoveling for everyone in the Northeast!

Answer: how much do you think a 5-day trip to the ICU costs?

Well my friends.. I was pleased/shocked/entertained to find that I received the following responses to this quiz, in ascending order:

  • $1
  • $43,157.58
  • $50,000
  • $50,000
  • $65,000
  • $130,000
  • $130,001
  • “over $100,000″
  • $112,000
  • $340,000
  • $300-$400K

So who won???

I suppose I am relieved to say that, well below both the median and mean values offered by my most esteemed friends, my total billed costs were….

$48,355.93.

And with the fascinating guess of $47,157.58, my good friend Jimmy won this challenge!  Jimmy how did you do it??  Did you hack into my health insurance online account?

But to all 11 of you, thanks for playing!

In all seriousness though, I should conclude from this exercise that at least in this example, healthcare costs are not as bad as we imagine them to be.  Or possibly, unfortunately, my costs were relatively not as bad as those experienced by you or people you know who have been in similar situations.  I hope that is not the case because this cost is staggering enough as it is.  But it is interesting to see that 9 of 11 people guessed higher, with 7 of these 9 guesses significantly higher. 

Whether you believe me or not, I had guessed about $30K before I saw the bills so the reality surprised me.  Though I’m not too worried because I hit my (still pretty high) out of pocket maximum of $2,500 and am off the hook for any bills after that.  So $30K or $48K or $350K is of no material difference to me.

Here is the source data to satisfy all your many curiosities.  Maybe it is an over-share, but I do not see any other way for average people to acquire solid healthcare cost data. 

Hospital bills with costs explained

The blue line is where I hit my 2014 deductible of $1,500, and the red line is where I hit the out of pocket max of $2,500.  I also re-coded the column called “Visited” from mumbo-jumbo to something understandable, for your pleasure.

As I looked through these bills, many of them make sense.  Before you get too hot and heavy about, for example, an ICU room costing $8,000/night, consider that no fewer than 4 medical professionals had to care for me nonstop.  Not to mention the slew of food ladies, custodial people, and front desk clerks that seemed to be genuinely needed to keep things running.  It all adds up – as you can see if you are used to costing up services as I do at work.  If you were to bill out just the 4 full-time medical folks at a blended rate of $85/hr for the 4 days * 24 hrs/day, you would have the $32K bill.  Of course the nurses and PAs were looking after 6 beds not just 1, but when you take into consideration all the other costs, I can’t really argue.

Clearly some medical services price-gouge (such as $2,600 for a 5-minute ambulance ride, lovely and expert though my ambulance ladies were).  And some are just unnecessary (such as the $300 heart ultrasound, which the ICU admitted they only ordered because the ultrasound specialist was in on her day off, even though they estimated my risk of heart problems as low).  But I couldn’t tell you what else all this should cost on the whole.

Given what strikes us all as a really high overall cost ($48K), combined with the very large amount covered by insurance ($32K, considering United has received only $18K for me in premiums since I joined), combined with the artificially “low” feeling of the subsidized max of $2,500, I am left with this existential question of “what should healthcare really cost?”

The hospital people assured me that I probably would have died of hypoxia or organ shut-down or a variety of other side-effects related to pneumonia had I not gotten in there.  And I clearly do not have any other source of constant oxygen provided with a Bipap mask.  So if you assume they are correct, I suppose the cost of their services should be commensurate with the value of my life.  But that is way too high!  I am worth more than $48K.

Alternatively, if you really billed just the straight cost of the employees’ wages, materials, and equipment usage (and I’ll throw in upkeep and calibration), with a modest profit margin, I assume it would be way lower.  (Because as many of us know, many healthcare workers are not paid commensurate with their training and the criticality and severity of their working conditions.)  Maybe the price would be so low that people could actually afford to pay for it by themselves without the interventions of insurance.

So I assume that the final cost is a blend of true cost and a bit of “we saved your life” jazz, clearly subsdized by the Health Insurance Industry.  If the question is how much I think it is really worth to me, to have had access to life-saving technology that I needed (though without surgery or other procedures, to put it in perspective), I guess I would honestly answer with a number possibly higher than $2,500.  I don’t mind that the cost was capped there – lower would be better, but I do not really see how.

Does anybody get anything else out of this?  Is $2,500 too much to save your life?  Is a $48K bill too high even though insurance paid for $32K of it and rejected $14K of the cost?  Or is there a way to reduce all of these costs?  Would we be better off without health insurance?

Quiz: how much do you think an all expenses-included, 5-day trip to the ICU costs?

IMG_5871

If you’re tired of all your money and want to blow it away at a rate generally impossible, try getting too sick and rolling the dice!

But I am long over the pneumonia now and this is about how much things cost.  The person who guesses the total billed cost of this exotic vacation (closest but not to exceed) will receive something awesome from me!  Unless I don’t know you, but let’s face it: that is unlikely.  In the meantime I will give you some clues by way of lessons learned about winding up in the hospital:

  1. Don’t bother going to your regular doctor first.  When I woke up that morning, I knew I had to get to a doctor.  I did not think I needed to go to the hospital.  What they taught me at the hospital was that if you feel like you absolutely need to get to the doctor and it cannot wait, you probably need to go to the hospital instead.  And unfortunately for me, “care for a critically ill patient” is billed by my doctor’s office at the rate of $856/visit rather than the usual $250/visit.  If I had known all this I would not have bothered with that!
  2. Get to the right hospital the first time.  Only a hospital virgin like I would have the poor sense to allow myself to be sent to a little local hospital, only to find that I was in deeper shit than that and would need to go onto the larger regional hospital.  So instead of one ambulance rushing me to one hospital, two abulances rushed me to two hospitals.  More ambulances, more problems.  To the tune of $2700/ambulance!
  3. Avoid the ambulance if possible.  Most amulance companies are not covered as part of the United Healthcare HSA network.  However the urgent need for care and the typical trade-off that you will not be prioritized if you drive in make the ambulance seem imperative in some situations.  So, you know, it’s a trade-off.  But a dumb one.  What is insurance for if it does not cover all emergency services?!
  4. If you have to do all this, only do it until New Year’s Eve.  I learned that claims are processed based on the year in which the service was rendered, not the year in which the claim was processed.  Since my whole ordeal was 12/24 – 12/28, these costs were fortunately all billed to 2014.  I hit my out of pocket max for 2014, but that is probably better than having charges go against my 2015 deductible which I thought was the case.  So you need to wrap everything up and pull a Kill Bill on 12/31 if you do not want your next year’s deductible double-dipped.
  5. Obviously try not to let yourself get this sick!  A sick day or two and a normal visit to your doctor at the normal “before the shit hits the fan” rate of $250/visit is obviously worth avoiding all this insanity.  In my case, I made the mistake of thinking I was catching aother bug when really it was my same bug from November coming back for round two: thunderdome.

So now with some facts handy, what do you think was the total cost of this exotic vacation?  Don’t forget the following separately billable items:

  • the 4 days and nights of intensive care
  • the X-ray (false negative)
  • the CT scan (useful)
  • the heart ultrasound (unnecessary)
  • the IV fluids and drugs once the CT scan identified pneumonia
  • the many IV lines they had to place while my veins got irritated (about 6)
  • the blood gas analysis
  • the various other drugs: inhaled steroids; anti-nausea drug and anxiety drug to counteract the effects of the inhaled steroids, various horse-sized vitamin pills
  • the ER visit at the first hospital

Good luck!

Today I bought $5000 of other peoples’ debt through Lending Club!

If you have been following Lending Club like I have, you would have noticed that it just became available to MA about 2 weeks ago.  Lending Club is a social lending microfinance company that is positioned to seriously disrupt traditional bank lending. 

They put borrowers directly in touch with investors and allow the investors to fund borrower loans with small, diversified “notes” per borrower.  Because individuals lend the money and are willing to accept the measured risk after diversification, there is no reason to charge borrowers an artifically high interest rate for total-loss insurance like traditional banks.  At the same time, this model allows investors to get in on the relatively lucrative consumer lending scene previously accessible only to banking corporations.  So with my $5000 I funded $25 for 200 different peoples’ loans, with an understanding that the small percentage of people who will definitely default still leaves me with a much better return than a savings account (or worse, cash, where it is now).  How cool is that!

Seriously, Lending Club has everything I like in an investment, and in a company in general:

  • diversification (both within this investment and as a supplement to my other investments in the stock market)
  • high interest rates
  • helping other indviduals
  • sticking it to the banks and their scheming ways

Mildly political statement: I understand that traditional banks are necessary and do some things very well.  However I also think that this model is an improvement for a certain slice of consumer lending which has always been punitive for borrowers: short-term credit pay-off or debt consolidation.  Additionally, it has bothered me for some time that banks have had a monopoly on securities and have so much power and influence that they are “too large to fail,” taking bailouts and changing nothing.  I am hoping that this emerging market will disrupt the system just enough that banks are forced to re-think their products and overall importance.

But now, onto the fun playing with money part!

I chose $5000 because LC recommends an investment of at least 200 notes to ensure adequate diversification to offset losses.  Many convincing colorful charts there.  So this investment has a bit of a steep barrier to entry and is not for the faint of heart.

Almost as if reading my mind, the account setup process (before you even commit any money) had this staggering statement to which you must agree:

LC statement

Actually I found it to be a highly ethical consideration and a clever way to pre-screen investors.  It makes you think twice without coming off as judgemental.  It warns you of the legal peril without sounding like a weasely disclaimer.  Baller.

Then I chose from one of the pre-blended allocations provided.  They rate the borrowers A-G (a descending credit-worthiness scale).  So one allocation was an A-B blend (low risk, low reward); one was a C-F blend (high risk, high reward), and a broad A-G blend (middle of the road).  Which one do you think I chose?  Crazy though I usually am, I went with middle of the road rather than bold and zesty.  But never total safety for me!!!  That much I can assure you.

And that is all I can report for now.  My deposit is still pending.  I set up auto-invest, so my cash will fund whichever loans come up in the associated allocation once the check clears.  But I hear there is another feature with which you can ask individual borrowers 1-2 questions and choose which loans to fund individually.  While I find that interesting, I don’t really have time, and figure it’s none of my business.  What I would find much more interesting would be the ability to send anonymous words of encouragement to borrowers – especially those past due – but who knows if they would even want that?  But I figure paying off debt is like running a road race – you happily take whatever cheers and water are directed at you.

If you are interested in learning more about the LC process, Mr. Money Mustache has written about his LC journeys extensively with historical ROI records and other analysis.  And if you are super interested in investing yourself, feel free to let me know as LC offers a bonus to new members (you) who have been invited by current members (me).  I would be happy to hook you up!

Getting in on the credit card points scam

Unlike all these clever people I hear are using points to go on free vacations, I am actually allowing Bank of America to scam me.  They offered me a better points situation with a cash bonus for my card, then proceeded to ignore the bonus they owed me and closed my account due to “inactivity.”  It was really weird (not to mention annoying because of credit score implications), but I decided to let the account stay closed.  This was a cheap enough way for me to learn that BoA is tedious and terrible, and that I should earn my credit points somewhere else.  I have a big-ticket auto service coming up, so I should pick a card soon.

The two cards that come to mind are

  1. JetBlue AmEx
  2. Amazon Visa

Because I would like to travel more, and already use Amazon a lot.  These cards seem the most applicable and useful to my life.  But how do they stack up?

JetBlue

  • 70,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • $40/year annual fee after first year
  • 1 point per eligible purchase
  • One roundtrip from BOS to DEN for example is 22K points, yielding approximately 3 “free” trips based on 70K sign-on incentive

Amazon

  • $50 cash incentive on startup
  • No fees
  • 3%/2%/1% points structure (Amazon purchases = 3%), with 100 points = $1
  • The $800 I spent on Amazon in 2014 would come to 26 points or $0.26.  Womp womp.  $800 already sounds like a lot of money and I can’t see spending more than that just to make points.

Surprising, but it looks like JetBlue has better perks even with the $40 fee.  At least until the 3 trips from the sign-on bonus are up.  I can see why people do crop rotation with credit cards – unlike with crops, however, crop rotation with credit cards will scorch the land of your credit.

Do you have a reward points credit card that you like?  And do you use it to make “free” cash or for less tangible incentives like airline miles?

America experiences entrepreneurial impotence; can’t get anyone to make a pill for this

The Wall Street Journal just published an article about how under-30 business-owners are basically scarcer than ever.  Reflecting on my own experience, I thought “yeah, everyone’s totally poor in their twenties!”  I had absolutely no money with which to float a business, and too many loans to take on another one, not to mention no extra time after career-building work hours to build a side business to profitability.  I was scared just to get through to a safer time.  So I blew my chance to be an under-30 entrepreneur.  I assume most peoples’ 20s were like that.

But something else in the article got my attention too.  Someone from Harvard Business School said that new ideas and new businesses are part of “the vitality of this country.”  Which is troubling, when you think of contemporary under-30 entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  Where would we be without iPhones and Facebook?  And what might we miss out on in the future if would-be entrepreneurs are derailed by debt and fear?

Going a little farther back, I thought about Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie.  I have been watching a History Channel mini-series about “The Men Who Built America” featuring these among others.  Thomas Edison received 1,093 U.S. patents in his lifetime, of which the first, for an automatic ballot counter, was awarded when he was 22.  John D. Rockefeller opened his original oil refinery when he was 24 with seed money saved from his wages as a bookkeeper.  Andrew Carnegie made his first investment at age 20, which led to his vision to mass-produce steel to make skyscrapers.

Say what you will about these robber barons, but they were all from modest backgrounds – they all worked as children to supplement their families’ incomes, selling newspapers on trains, selling candy and potatoes, and working as a “bobbin boy” (changing spools of thread in a cotton mill), respectively.  And yet they all had the means to be able to embark on lucrative self-employment by age 30.

Which led me to the natural questions of: if America has been built significantly with the work and vision of young entrepreneurs from Edison to Zuckerberg, and young entrepreneurs are at a statistical all-time low, is America’s mojo going to dry up?  And if some of the greatest under-30 entrepreneurs of all time were from unimaginably poor immigrant and single-parent families, what is stopping us now?

The WSJ article indicates that there is a correlation with the recent rise of educational debt.  I would agree from experience that debt is worse than just being poor, in terms of the possibility of entrepreneurship.  Because when you are in debt, you need to be making predictable money all the time.  And basically all the money is claimed before you can save it.  So until debt is done (and long after), you do not have the time or money to seed an effort of your own.  I could see the phenomenon of student loan debt freezing out young entrepreneurship on the large scale.

Worse than that, the under-30 range is the magic time when entrepreneurship makes sense.  Because you are otherwise useless with zero skills and have nothing to lose!  I was indebted from age 22 to 31.  Now even with (or because of) my senior-level, high-paying job, I would need at least 4 years of living expenses saved before I would feel comfortable considering a side venture.  Because my job is specialized and it would be hard to re-enter the workforce at my current level in case of failure.  I currently have 1 year of expenses saved and it would take me 2.5 years to save the rest.  By then I would be even less likely to do it, which is an example of why the problem extends beyond the under-30 demographic.

Entrepreneurship is actually the best reason I can think of to avoid debt in planning one’s education and career path.  The received wisdom that educational debt is a good investment is aging fast.  Any money spent on a degree has diminishing returns these days due to the lackluster job market and stagnant wages.  Given the unwelcoming job market graduates are flocking into, it makes no sense at all to rule out entrepreneurship because of debt acquired buying a seat at the alternate table.

I was never interested in entrepreneurship and did not consider my debt a bottleneck to a lifestyle I might like better.  But if I could give one piece of advice to high school kids, I would say that you don’t know yet what your dreams will be and don’t let debt close the door on them potentially.  I would recommend to school children to plan to have, say, $25K saved by college graduation or by age 25 so that roughly one year’s expenses would be available to support an entrepreneurial venture while one is still young enough to bounce back from possible failure.  I think kids these days owe themselves the opportunity to take that option.

Get Rich… Selling Your Stuff

Don’t ever get so old or soft that you forget to try Craigslist.

wpid-20141229_111129.jpg

12/29, 11:11am

wpid-20141230_103144.jpg

12/30, 10:32am

So Mr. Goodies and I bought new couches, which inherently is not wealth-making.  But that is a long story involving a certain pooch getting skunked and rubbing herself all over everything.  (We washed everything and it didn’t smell anymore, but we decided it’s time to move on.)

Anyway the new couches will arrive on 1/2, and we had to figure out what to do with these 14-year-old couches which belonged to the previous owners and at this point have suffered various pet damage including cat scratches and a dog butt dent.  Our first thought was to just give them away to charity, or haul them to the dump for a fee as a worst case scenario.  How does everyone else get rid of old, bulky furniture, we wondered?

This is because we’re just old enough that we forgot about Craigslist!  I don’t know about everyone else, but the combination of getting older and moving from the city to the suburbs has made me forget about CL.  So it was fortunate for us that the other two immediate options were not working out.

Options:

  1. Give away to charity: $0, but the soonest pickup date would be 1/14 and they may not accept upholstery with scratches which would leave us up the creek.
  2. Haul to dump: Cost of -$50, and we would need to borrow a buddy’s truck.  Worst option ever.
  3. Craigslist: Income of $20, and someone else hauls the furniture away in their truck!

We put up the couch set for $20 on CL because we could not see these being worth any real money, and just wanted to price them to move.  Within 24 hours a sturdy fellow with a tiny but technically feasible pickup truck arrived and gave us money to solve our problem.  Given that the most realistic alternative was the dump, we are counting this as net $70 income.

Looking back, we’re thinking we could have listed the set for $50 and round up our income to $100.  But the risk was not worth it.  I think this was a truly equitable negotiation, in which both parties solved their problems with minimal difficulty.  And the Goodies were reminded of the valuable lesson that you should never pay to do something that someone else is willing to pay you to do themselves!