Monday, October 26, 2015

I Saved $2,158 Doing One Thing Most People Won't

The world is my garage sale.

I didn't believe it when Mrs. DisIndebted said it over a year ago. I don't even remember what made her say it. But she says it to me all the time, ever since. On at least a weekly basis, she reminds me that I am a garage saler or asks me how my garage sale went.

She isn't talking about an actual garage sale... or a yard sale, rummage sale, estate sale, or some other construct we all know of whereby one person's trash becomes another's treasure. She is talking about every transaction I make in life.

We are talking about everything: not just the usual haggle on a house or a used car.

Everything is negotiable.

So, where can you have a garage sale? You name it! As Americans we tend to treat the advertised price as gospel - but just about anywhere you transact business, you can negotiate better terms: financial, or otherwise. I think the best way to explain may be by example.

Let me tell you about some of my recent garage sales and the $2,158.10 that I saved or made in the last year by negotiating better terms.

I like shopping at a well known department store that peddles in designer goods for less. You probably shop there too. This summer I found a $20 pair of shorts I just had to have. They included a canvas belt that I didn't really want. Now it isn't like I could ask to de-compile the two. The belt wasn't for sale separately. However, the belt had a run in the canvas. It was damaged. I pointed this out at the check-out and asked for a discount. Sure enough, I got a 10% discount on shorts due to a flaw in a belt I threw away when I got home!

Total saved = $2.

I have always been a garage saler when it comes to used cars and our plan for the future is to continue to purchase only used cars. However, prior to determining that it was time to pay off all our debts, I was making payments on a used BMW that was getting along in miles. I was getting hit with quite a lot of 100,000 mile maintenance: new tires, suspension, belts, brakes, hoses, filters, you name it. I determined that in addition to my $205 monthly loan payments, I was spending an extra $200 a month (on average) for maintenance and repair, and this was adding to our debt. To achieve some sort of consistency in my auto expenses, I determined I would lease a vehicle with maintenance included. This came by way of a shiny new Rav4.

After some comparison shopping with the competitors (Honda and Nissan) I went with the Toyota because the dealer was willing to bargain with me. Now shame on me for thinking of this in terms of monthly payment rather than in the total cost of the lease. That is the best way to go and I will soon share a spreadsheet that I created to help determine a fair price for a leased vehicle. Regardless, I found myself in the realm of monthly costs.  He threw two offers at me in a night - around $240 a month for the entry level LE model. Still, I wanted the XLE for the sunroof and other luxuries. This, he said, would be close to $280 a month. I waited a few days and did more homework. When I returned, I offered him $205 a month for the XLE, having determined that this would put the dealer just over the break-even point. Being the end of the month, I hoped that this would be enough that they would bite just to meet their monthly numbers but the numbers must have been OK that month because he returned with a counter offer of $260 a month. Realizing that the dealer was going to insist on some sort of profit, I came back with a best and final offer of $220 a month. This time, I had the finance manager's attention. They countered with $230 a month. I took it. I was getting the XLE trim model for $50 a month less than the original quote and for less than the advertised "on sale" payment for the base model. Score.

Oh, and I got them to throw in lifetime free car washes for the new buggy and Mrs. Disindebted's too! Bonus.

Total saved on a 3 year lease = $1,800.

This was perhaps the most infamous garage sale in my history - and may have been the moment Mrs. DisIndebted dubbed me the king of all garage sales. We went to a BBQ joint that we like to frequent that is well known for their generous portions of high quality, smoky, meaty goodness. The waitress brought me my usual - a burnt butts sandwich: a bun piled high with the crispy ends of beef brisket, slathered in bistro sauce and smoky chipotle barbecue sauce. It is quite possibly the best meal of all time. Anyway, on this particular occasion the butts were less than piled. It was a disappointing mound of butts - not nearly the stuff I expect on my sandwich. Disappointed, I spoke up (much to Mrs. DisIndebted's chagrin) and said, "These usually have more butts. Can I have a little more please?" The waitress, to be fair, did seem a bit put off - but it's the kind of place where they won't let you serve unless you're covered in tattoos and attitude is definitely a part of the experience. Nonetheless, she returned with at least a quarter pound of butts on a plate. It was practically an entire serving in addition to the meat I already had. I thanked her, and of course tipped her generously (I'm cheap but I'm not a savage).

Note that my restaurant garage sale-ing may be at its end, at least when Mrs. D is around. It is safe to say that she finds the practice embarrassing. I love her enough that I will spare her that discomfort in the future. But the next time I'm at Subway without her, you can bet that I will take the manager up on that comment he made last week about giving me a free sub. Who needs a $5 foot-long when you can get a $0 six-inch?

Total freebies in subs and burnt butts = $10.

AT A GARAGE SALE (obviously)
Yes - garage sale-ing happens at actual garage sales from time to time. I mentioned previously that I picked up a number of items individually advertised at $12. I only had $10 and I offered it for the entire bundle of goods. Offer accepted. Notably, among those goods was a Bengal's football jacket that I turned around and sold on eBay for $75. Not too shabby!

Total Profit (after eBay fees and shipping)  = $60.

Sometimes I don't even realize I'm having a garage sale. The other day, for example, we were at the library. As part of our newly found frugality, I suggested that it would be a cheap way to get our entertainment fix. I haven't used my card in some time (5 years) and I was shocked to discover that I owed $12.20 in fines. Without pause, and in the friendliest manner possible, I expressed that I was not sure what it could be for - and when the librarian read the list, they didn't seem like titles I had borrowed (apparently longer than I should have). Nonetheless, they were on my account and the $12.20 was my responsibility. I agreed to pay it but noted kindly that I did not remember any of them. When the librarian returned with my credit card and receipt, she let me know that she "split the difference" and only charged me $6.10 given the circumstances. A completely unintentional garage sale, but a successful one nonetheless.

Mind you, Mrs. DisIndebted was quite embarrassed that I was garage sale-ing the poor girl at the public library. But as it happens, we really made the librarian's night. We asked more questions about their programs and e-collection. The librarian was so thrilled to have a curious customer (she actually said so) that she spent another five minutes with us explaining all of the various resources and programs available to us. We walked out friends and I paid only half what I owed. Plus, we discovered a wealth of free resources for us to enjoy. Not bad!

Total Saved = $6.10 (plus an immeasurable heap of freebies).

Debts are obligations in my book. I know many people will use the bankruptcy laws and other means
to avoid these obligations, but I don't play like that. However, I am not above negotiating my debt. Recently, Mrs. DisIndebted and I began looking at homes and in the process, we decided that we should get our credit reports. Unfortunately, my credit report turned up two delinquent debts. I don't know how hard they tried to find me, but this was the first notice I had. One was a disputed amount that I thought was settled three years ago. This was with a large, well-known, cellular service provider. Can you hear me now? The other was with the local electric company. The cellular was an amount of around $300 comprised of $70 in service fees that they claimed I owed along with $230 in various late fees and penalties. The electric was $50 and it was the final bill on a property that my ex lived in. I was apathetic and never changed the name on the electric since she was still paying it. Unfortunately, she stiffed them on the final bill and it came back to haunt me now, five years later.

I determined that I needed to take care of these obligations, but I didn't think the price was fair and I didn't appreciate the harm to my credit score. Thus, I put my legal skills to work and drafted up some settlement agreements**. I offered pennies on the dollar as payment for my debts and requested, in return, that these vendors contact the credit bureaus and remove the derogatory items. It worked! I ended up paying $70 to the cellular provider - agreeing that I would make them whole for the service they claim they provided me. The electric company never responded to my settlement offer, but voluntarily removed the charges from the account and closed it. Both companies made good on contacting the credit bureaus, and I now have zero derogatory items. My credit score instantly jumped and we are on a much better path to a low interest rate on our loan. I can't calculate those savings - but I only paid $70 on $350 worth of debt.

Total Saved = $280.

These are just a few of the garage sales I have had in the past year. All told, I saved or made $2,158.10. The sticker price isn't gospel; it isn't sacred. Now get out there and do the same. The world is your garage sale!

What are some of your best garage sale stories, or tactics? Comment below or email me at

** If you have an issue with a derogatory credit item, I have posted a template settlement agreement and cover letter that may help you out. Use both of the following links to open these in Google Docs. You may then save a copy to your Google Docs (Click File > Make a Copy) or to your desktop (Click File > Download As). 

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid - I used to volunteer at the library to get my fines waived :) I think by the end, I had a $100 credit towards any future fines!