February 15, 2018

Making Some Quick Cash (and Tax Refund Plans!)

As most of us parents know, kids grow like weeds. It seems like we buy them clothes and two weeks later, the clothes are too small. Right?!

This past year, my kids have shot up like rockets. This first picture is from May 2017. The second picture is from January 2018. A nine month difference!

Noah needed some new shoes a couple weeks ago, and we went to the running store. You know what size shoe he wears now? ELEVEN. (The running store had their 2017 models on clearance, so he got a pair of Brooks for $58! They were normally $120. I was pretty excited about that.)

Anyway, Eli has grown just as quickly. The boys wear the same size clothes, which is convenient, except they each have completely different styles. Last summer, I went through their closets and pulled out all of the stuff that was too small for them, and bagged it up to take to Goodwill.

Except it just sat in my garage, because I am terrible at remembering to do stuff like that.

This month, I realized that I haven't saved much of my allowance at all lately. I have been treating Jerry and/or the kids to things here and there, and when I looked in my envelope, I had less than $100. I was used to having at least $300 or so.

I started thinking of ways I could make some cash, and I remembered the Buy & Sell page on Facebook that I belong to. It's basically a page where people who live locally can list items to sell, and then people can make arrangements to buy it. Unlike E-bay, there is no fee.

The first thing I thought of was the bag of clothes in the garage. I decided to go through them and pick out the nicer things to group into lots (based on size) and list them on the Facebook page. It took a couple of hours, but I washed and sorted the clothes and took pictures of everything. I listed two lots--one for boys' size medium (10/12) and another for boys' size large (14/16).

I wasn't looking to make a ton of money on them--I figured anything at all would be better than just giving them to Goodwill. I listed the larger lot (the size medium clothes) for $65, and the lot of large clothes for $35.

I sold them both within 24 hours! I arranged to meet the buyers in a public parking lot--one the following day, and one the day after that. And just like that, I had $100 cash.

A lot of people sell clothing items individually, but that just seems like much more work than it's worth. I prefer to group a bunch of things together and just deal with one buyer for the whole lot.

Now, I've been looking through my stuff to find other things to try and sell. I wish I had starting doing this a long time ago--we've donated or thrown out a ton of stuff over the years! Anyway, if you have things lying around that you don't want, you may want to check into a local Buy & Sell page. There are tons of them on Facebook.

My friend Andrea (the Andrea from the film From Fat to Finish Line, not my local friend Andrea) invited me, Caitlin (from Boston), and Bonnie (from Virginia) to visit her for a girls weekend in Kansas City in May. We had such a fun girls weekend at my house in 2016 that I thought it was a great idea to get together again!

Andrea, Bonnie, and me (Caitlin had to leave early, before we got a pic of all of us.)

I looked at flights, and found one for 21,000 SkyMiles... and lo and behold, I happened to have 22,000 SkyMiles in my account. So, I booked a ticket, which only cost me $11.20 (for taxes)--I love getting tickets using my SkyMiles! And now I have a fun trip to look forward to. I haven't seen Bonnie or Andrea in a long time, and I can't wait to catch up.

If you are interested in learning about the Delta SkyMiles American Express card, you can read this post. I LOVE my card! (I am not affiliated with them in any way... I just happen to use the card and fly for free frequently. If you are interested in applying for one, I would be thrilled if you would use this referral link! I believe we both get bonus SkyMiles if you do.)

For Valentine's Day yesterday, Jerry and I had a hot date with our tax guy. (If you're local to the Monroe area, his name is Bobby Zimmerman, at Mathewson's Tax Service in Carleton, and he's amazing! He's been doing our taxes for three years now, and has been super helpful. He also does financial planning, so I think Jerry and I will go see him when we get our debt paid off.)

We're getting a large tax return again this year, which is always exciting--$4800! We usually like to use this money for a family vacation and/or home improvements. On our list this year:

Our Boston family vacation:

- Flights (I used SkyMiles, so the flights cost a total of $44.80--the taxes--for all four of us)
- Hotels (for six nights, it'll be a total of $936 including taxes and fees)
- GoBoston cards (cards that cover the entrance fees for a ton of different things to do--$424--these are already paid for)
- Rental car ($95) and gas (roughly $100)
- Spending money (Undetermined, but we'll just need money for food; the GoBoston cards cover the activities that we plan on doing)
Total is about $1600 (but a little under $500 is already paid for) + spending money

Home improvements/repairs:

- A new front porch. The one we have is very old and warped, and needs to go. So while we're at it, we'd like to make a bigger one so we can put chairs on it. The scenery is so pretty, and it would be nice to enjoy it more often. I usually just sit on the steps. This will be roughly $1000 for the materials (Jerry and my brothers can do the labor).

- A new gas range (if you remember, our oven died in the summer). We've been using this countertop oven, and I actually really like it! It preheats in about two minutes, and we can fit almost everything in there that we could put in the regular oven. I've made everything from casseroles to toasted sandwiches to pies in it. But, it's probably time we replace the range. We don't need or want anything fancy, and the gas ranges I priced out were roughly $400-500.

- The rest will either go into savings or we may knock another thing or two off of our list of home improvement projects.

I like deciding where all the money is going before we even get the return. It's nice to remember exactly what we spent the money on, instead of spending a little here and there and having nothing to show for it.

We've got some exciting stuff coming up! :)


  1. We decided to clean out the bookshelves in my daughter’s room last weekend, and I hauled off 2 big bags of children’s books to our local used bookstore tonight and made $39. It feels so productive! I need to do that with clothes too. I also usually just drop off at goodwill.

  2. You're going to be in KC?!? I grew up in a suburb of KC. It's only 2.5 hours from where I live now! How long will you be in town for?!?

  3. Another great way to make some cash is by having a job. Even working part-time would be worthwhile.

    1. This comment is pretty unnecessary. The goal of Katie's post was to share a way to earn a little extra money that most people overlook. Of course having a job will give you a paycheck. That's a no-brainer, and it's condescending of you to mention it. Everyone's situation in life is different, and not everyone in society needs to have a job, especially if they work in other ways, like by taking care of home chores/raising kids etc. Just saying... Anyways: Katie your awesome and I love your posts on little ways to save money!

    2. Thanks for the kind advice, Ethan, but I’m happy with the job I have. I feel very fortunate to earn an income from my blog—working from home has some nice perks! After I sit on my ass watching soaps and eating bonbons, of course.

      Thank you, Staci! I don’t regret being stay at home mom for a single second. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s nice whenever people support others’ choices. I appreciate it!

    3. Omg Katie, you crack me up! "watching soaps and eating bonbons" hahaha, you are the queen of sarcasm! I love it!

  4. We're doing some home improvement projects with our return too! Nothing too big. Taking down the hideous wallpaper (from the 80's I'm guessing) in our entryway and painting. And we're making a firepit area in our backyard. I can't wait! I love a good home improvement project! I hope you update us on your projects!

  5. This is a great post Katie! I too often took my kids stuff to Goodwill just to quickly get it out of the way. I like the “bundling” the nicer things.....the idea of posting/selling an item at a time is overwhelming. My daughter lives in Kansas City now and it is such a cool city! We love going to the Power and Light District....too much good food! We are visiting her next week for her birthday and going to the National WWI museum that is there. Love your posts!

  6. There is a sears outlet in Livonia, Taylor, Lansing, and Novi where you can get "Scratch and dent" models. You can see their inventory online and get some good deals that way. -A Michigander who just had to buy a new stove

  7. That's amazing that you can pay for your flights using miles. Do you have a credit card or something that you accumulate miles with? I'm a travel agent and I don't accumulate enough miles to pay for my flights. I don't travel as much as I would like, and this year we are going on 4 cruises, not one of them will require us to fly. Next year is a different story, I need to start earning miles! I wish I could have planned something fun with my tax refund. I invested a lot of money at the end of the year into my business and a lot of it went onto a credit card that had no interest for a year. I decided to just get it paid off because I can save $500 a month. I'm such a budget person, I get more joy from having no debt than anything else! I'm sure you understand that. :-)

    1. I use the Delta SkyMiles card--I wrote all about it here: http://www.runsforcookies.com/2017/11/zero-sum-budgeting.html
      I use the card for every possible thing that I can, and then I pay it off with our budgeted money every month. I can't WAIT to have no debt! Probably 2-3 more payments, and we'll get there. :)

  8. Shanon, American Express has a skymiles card that lets you rack up miles pretty easily.
    And Katie, it’s a silly pet peeve of mine, but you are getting a tax refund not a tax return.

  9. When you suffer from anxiety, one of the BEST things you can do for yourself is pay off debt and live well within your means. I'm sure your zero sum budget plan has helped relieve a lot of anxiety and stress. We are in a much better financial place now than we were a few years ago and life is a lot more fun now. Have fun in KC. We will be visiting there in the Fall for my hubbies 55th class reunion :)

  10. I spent most of my tax refund paying off a credit card that had gotten out of hand. It's a good feeling not to have that hanging over my head anymore! Now if you'll excuse me, I hear some bonbons calling my name as I'm sitting on my a$$ watching my soaps and collecting my SS check.

  11. As a tax professional myself, getting such a large refund is lending the IRS your money interest free. Jerry should look at his withholding. It always kills me when people use their tax refunds as a "savings gift". Your goal on your 1040 should be to owe/get 0.

    1. Someone explained it to me several years ago, and it made so much sense! I decided to try and work it out to where we wouldn't owe money or get a refund (as close as we could, anyway). Unfortunately, we screwed that up big time, and ended up owing money! We totally weren't prepared for that. So, we just err on the side of caution. Even though it's like giving the IRS a free loan, we feel better being cautious.

  12. I sell and buy clothing and items on VarageSale - it's a "virtual garage sale" and linked to FB. I think it's only available in certain areas though.
    Just FYI - parking in Boston is extremely expensive - like $65/day. You may want to look into that as it will quickly eat up some of your budget.

    1. I was shocked when I saw how expensive parking is in Boston! So, we decided to wait and get the rental car the morning we head up to Vermont... we'll either walk or use public transportation while we're in Boston :)


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