Things I Learned From Selling On eBay and Facebook Marketplace That You Can Apply to Almost Anything.

I’ve been happily selling on eBay for over a year now. Of course, the grass is always greener, so recently I decided to follow a friends suggestion (more like constant prompting) and try my hand on Facebook Marketplace. Within the blink of an eye I sold two things that we had laying around the house—a sled and a small side table—each for $15.

I was, well, sold.

Suddenly, the sun seemed a bit brighter and I was seeing small ‘saleables’ everywhere. Despite my eagerness, however, I held myself a bit in check because I’d learned from eBay that it’s pretty easy to get crazy excited and then find yourself in a mad mess. Like, how do you get rid of four bulky printers that you picked up for free? But, before I go off on a tangent, let me just start…

No. 1

No. 1

Start Small. By this, I mean literally and figuratively. I’ve learned the hard way that starting big is great if you’re really energetic, extremely gung-ho, or simply have a lot of time on your hands, but for most people the best thing to do is start small and get those first few attempts really, really, right.

I began with Facebook Marketplace by selling a small side table that I had owned and used for a number of years. It was lightweight and easy to clean and I knew all of its flaws since I’d owned it for so long. I scrubbed it down and let it dry in the sun. Then I moved it around to find the best place to take a photo. It turned out that my driveway, in front of my garage door, was the best spot. My daughter and I (she’s our tech-savvy 11-year-old) decided to try posting the entire ad just using my cellphone—this was also something new. My computer has gotten a bit slow and cranky in the past year and I wanted to streamline the process—I use the phone for photographs, so why not just attempt the whole process that way?

By focusing on one easy-to-move table I was able to concentrate on taking the photos and uploading a decent ad. You can see that if I were lining myself up with a lot of heavy items that took up space and required constant moving it could get really confusing—or even worse, I could have got into some bad habits and made a lot of mistakes. Think if I had moved a large desk to the backyard only to find out that the water heater does not make the best backdrop? If you start small you’ll avoid a lot of beginner errors that may sour you to the whole process. Plus you’ll save your back.

For the same reason, I also suggest—whether you’re selling on eBay or any other platform–to start with something physically manageable, easy to move, and/or something easy to ship if you’re mailing it out. If you get the processes down pat in the beginning, you’ll handle larger, more challenging items in stride.

A little over a month ago I sold a Ronco Rotisserie oven on eBay. This thing was massive. The shipping alone was close to $50 and it took me over an hour to wrap the parts and box it up so that nothing broke along the way. I had to drive the package to the next town over for shipping which took another half hour each way. Luckily the sale was worth it, but if all of that had occurred when I first started selling I probably would have been a quivering mess.

But the story gets even crazier because a week or so later, the buyer emailed me to let me know the oven was missing an important part. Oh, no! I had no idea because this had not been mine to begin with. Still, I’d been selling a while and was determined to solve the problem. I quickly looked on eBay for the part and noted the price and gave my buyer a refund for more than double that. I wrote an apology to them, letting them know that I did see that they could purchase the part on eBay and that I was giving them a refund so they could adequately pay for a new part and an additional amount for the inconvenience. I still made a small profit and in the end, the buyer got a heck of a deal. Best of all, they wrote very nice feedback, thanking me for my generous resolution. I hope they’re eating rotisserie as we speak!

If that had happened to me in the beginning I know I would have probably given up selling with the assumption that eBay was one big giant racket. I wouldn’t have had the benefit of success behind me and I would have concluded that other sellers had ”some special skill” that I didn’t.

So, trust me—you’ve got all the skills you need, just take one step at a time and start small.

No. 2

Have a Plan. I began selling my own things on Facebook Marketplace so it wasn’t hard for me to breeze past the ”planning portion” of the endeavor. Still, in the back of my mind, I wanted to sell ”other stuff.” I spent a couple of weeks mulling it over—I was so happy selling on eBay that I wanted to expand. My dad used to clean and sell used appliances. Those memories stuck with me and I knew I wanted to sell furniture. I decided to focus on small furniture items that I could carry in the trunk of my Honda Accord. I liked the idea of tables with drawers or bookshelves—things that are small but versatile. Though I wanted to go full swing and maybe redo the furniture by sanding it and painting it, I decided that it would be better to start simply by selling items as-is and use that as a selling point—there are a lot of people who want to paint something themselves and give it their own special touch. Not to mention, that I found it extremely difficult to decide on a color that would appeal to the greatest number of people!

Without realizing it, I was forming a plan. Since I was going to focus on Curb Alert finds, I wasn’t running amok by spending my own money and I’d decided that if I couldn’t sell an item, I would be able to put it out for free—or in the worst case scenario, break it down and put it in the trash.

Additionally, since I was dealing in exclusively small furniture, it would be easy to store things in my garage or on the side of my house for a month or so—long enough to try to sell it or move it along if it doesn’t find a new owner.

I’d run the idea through my mind and there was now a memorable well-worn trail there. It was basically the beginning of a map of the job territory. I had also learned from selling on eBay that, while it is good to be highly optimistic about your new business, it’s also a fact that not all things sell and some things sit around for a while before a buyer comes along. I certainly didn’t want to become known as the neighborhood junk lady.

Your plan needs to be complete. You need to know how your going to get items, how you’re going to photograph, list, store, sell, and keep track of your income for tax purposes. Moreover, it’s important to have a plan set in place for each item before it gets put into the trunk of your car. What are you going to do if it doesn’t sell and how long are you going to give it the benefit of the doubt if you don’t get any bites? Some items are different than others. Picking up a refrigerator is going to be more of a commitment than grabbing a bunch of books. You’ll have to take this into account and spend a contemplative moment before you impulsively load up.

Planning ahead and creating a process for handling each step streamlines your business. You won’t pick up everything to sell and you won’t waste time waffling about whether or not you ”should try that new thing.” You’ll find yourself making less mistakes, having more time, and enjoying yourself more.

No. 3

Strategize. It’s one thing to plan, it’s another to plan your planning—I call that strategizing.

Strategizing your business is creating a plan or process for scaling up. It is a plan for how you want to proceed once you reach your goals. You may have heard of the term metacognition which is defined as the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. Strategizing your business is similar. It involves a knowledge of your current business structure, your goals, and a step-by-step process for creating new goals as you achieve the old ones.

If you have a good sense of your business as it is now, you’ll be able to decide how, and if, you will expand.

Selling on Facebook Marketplace gave me a really good sense of how I wanted to move forward. In truth, because there were so many boundaries on what I sold (size, cost, weight, etc.) I quickly fell into a very specific niche. Part of me wanted to spread into refinishing furniture, but overall, I realized that this is not my skill set, nor does it fit in with my more casual and less detail-oriented personality. I was quickly able to let that notion go. I liked telling people in the description of each item what I think could be done with a piece. Doing the work myself would have put on the pressure and the more I sold, the more I realized how nervous I would be if someone was coming to pick up something I had determined was ‘finished.’ I know I would have seen every flaw rather than felt a pride in my work.

Once I determined the ”physical” structure or foundation of my business, I realized how much fun I was having. To put it lightly, I was obsessed. I realized that I wanted to keep this up, to keep searching for ”finds” and to include this in my reselling business plan that had just been eBay up until a month ago.

But, that’s not all.

I realized that I was not losing interest in reselling and I could see from how quickly things sold that were definite possibilities out there.

This gave me pause.

I decided to look into other selling venues and as my earnings increased, I started to tentatively make financial goals. As I worked away, I could begin to predict what might happen if I sold on other outlets, such as Poshmark and Mercari, or increased my inventory.

Finally, I began to see that I needed a daily structure—I couldn’t just think about selling all day. I have two kids, a husband and 3 dogs. I wanted to be able to drop things for a few hours a day and walk the dogs, catch up on other tasks, play with my kids, or even just read a book for a while. This all takes strategizing.

The thought finally occurred to me: it’s probably a good idea to take a day off to plan. Most of us resist taking time off, especially to (pffft, what?) plan. The idea here though is that you strategize. You’re thinking ahead—what do you want from your business? What are your goals and what steps do you need to take to reach the next goal? I think it’s worth it to think about how much you’d like to earn weekly, monthly, and yearly. On the other hand, if you’re just in it for a little extra income and for the fun of it, you may find that a more relaxed attitude is a better approach.

In the beginning, I was simply selling one item. But, as I leveled up to more items, I went so slowly that I didn’t really think beyond the excitement of finding out if something would sell. As I progressed, I reached little milestones—a dollar amount, for example, that was a bit of a surprise. At that point I had to think am I moving into this? Is this a possibility?

Perhaps most importantly, when you do take that day to strategize, think about what you need to do or create to make this fit in with the rest of your life. Don’t leave yourself out of it—make your breaks and enjoyment an integral part of your life plan.

No. 4

Keep Track of Your Numbers. This one is so easy to neglect in the beginning. You think that a few stamps, new ink for the printer, or the new cellphone you got to take photos with are unimportant. You’re caught up in the excitement of the moment and you just don’t keep track. Maybe you think to yourself, ”I’ll deal with it later.”

When later comes along you don’t remember the details.

Maybe you see that those tools you purchased, the paper you needed, everything you bought actually adds up. And, that’s how money works. it really does add up one penny at a time.

One of the worst things that can happen as you become happily successful is you get audited by the IRS.

My husband and I were audited when he started his commercial fishing business. He worked for about two years and I struggled to learn his bookkeeping. He didn’t have the time to sit down and explain each part or receipt to me and often I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare our taxes.

We did our taxes yearly and then one day, that awful letter came in the mail. It was such a blow. Running your own business is exciting, exhausting—and costly. You need to get all of the tax breaks that you can in order to survive. If you are not keeping accurate records you will have to recreate everything for the IRS. I had to do this for two and a half years of our business and it took weeks to get everything together into a cohesive document. Tension i our home was through the roof and of course, as the bookkeeper I felt personally responsible. I had two young kids in tow and not enough mental bandwidth—or time—to think through it all.

In the end, we somehow managed. Our taxes were accurate and we were not fined excessively. Later I was able to laugh at the whole ordeal—I started to tell people it was not big deal, but when the IRS is done with you, you’ve essentially gone through a Business 101 class.

Now I keep everything in binders. I’d like to get comfortable with spreadsheets and bookkeeping software, but I’m not there yet. I like the tactile feel of paper and I can picture handing my binders off to the IRS so they can make copies. One thing I really try not to do is put things off or assume I’ll remember something. I keep a notebook with notes for each check I write. I keep all receipts—I print them up when I buy online. Most importantly, I try to question each expenditure. Did I use have to drive to get something? Did I purchase a cleaner or tool that I am using for my business? These are all things that are deductible. Running a business can be quite costly—and it does not come with the security that a regular job does. Trying to earn an income without taking deductions is foolhardy at best.

Not all small businesses survive: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years.

Keeping track of your finances is the surest way to succeed.

No. 5

Take Risks. Ahhh…okay, it’s kinda cliche. But, really, where would we be without taking chances? Taking chances is what life is all about—without a forward momentum we cannot succeed.

I look back on my first eBay item: The Aquasana Water Filter. I remember how it sat on the high shelf of my desk and the day it sold. I was so excited. I can practically feel the dry plastic shrink wrap and the panic of ”now what do I do.”

But, that day—the day I picked up the filter and decided to take a chance and sell was important for me. It was happening at the end of a long depressing winter—one in which we were very low in funds and though we are not poor by any means, it frankly felt like we were. I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like having no control. Moreover, I didn’t believe that this was who I was–someone who traipsed along in life and allowed myself to feel lost. My image of myself was much stronger, much smarter, but that year had been a repeat of all the years before, only worse.

The first risk—a wispy thought in my head, ”just try it” was what led me out of that weak hole and into a whole world of excitement.

It took a few sales and lots of failures for me to learn the ropes, but by following the 5 steps outlined above, I was able to ratchet up slowly while taking challenges in stride. I know one thing though—without taking the chance, I’d be nowhere.

On that scary thought,

Have a Great Week!

Andrea

Passive Income Report November

I love my passive income, so each month it is a joy to add up the incremental ways I’m gaining on my finances just by the choices I’ve made.

So, without further ado, let me begin.

American Express

If you’ve been reading, you know that American Express is my favorite credit card. Each month I try to stay within my means, but no matter what, American Express surprises me with the rewards I accrue. The phenomenal 6% back on groceries is where this card really pays off for me. During November, I made a total of $115.58 in rewards.

TAB Bank

I found out about the TAB bank Kasasa checking account while reading Kiplinger’s Magazine last year. I was initially hesitant to use an online bank, but at the time, they were offering an astounding 4% interest rate on your account of up to $20,000.00. I literally could not believe it was true.

Tentatively, I opened an account and slowly I started depositing money into my account. The bank account has a few requirements, such as a monthly deposit and 15 debit card transactions. I was so enamored of my American Express at the time that I couldn’t see the utility of another account—despite the interest rate. But, logically, I knew that I had to earn money on my savings as well as my spending. The money in this savings account has a job to begin with—this is money that I put away all year so that I can pay our property taxes and insurance, etc., at the end of the year.

In the beginning of this year, Tab Bank had a series of interest rate reductions. They now offer a much lower 2% rate, which is still nothing to scoff at, however, I have considered moving my money again if a higher interest rate finds me. For now, I’m pretty happy with TAB. This month I received $31.29 in interest.

Dividends

This month I received a total of $96.94 from dividends.

By stock, I received:

$6.28 from Verizon

$31.20 From AT&T

$4.30 From American Express

.30 From DIV ETF

$1.78 from Enterprise Products

$24.00 from Grand Plains Partners

$9.36 from Realty Income

$5.31 from Diversified Healthcare Trust

$4.85 from Unilever

$1.90 from LTC Properties Inc.

$7.66 from SPHD

November was not an epic month to buy stock because the prices were so high, but I did take a chance and purchased 15 shares of Pfizer when the news of a viable vaccine came out. I also bought 10 shares of Kohls, just on a hunch that Kohls may stick around—and continue paying out the amazing 7.3% dividend that I was able to capture.

Well, let’s tally before I go. So, all told I made a solid $243.81. I’m definitely excited by this and I hope that I can take that cash and continue to keep it growing.

Have a great week!

Andrea

Selling on eBay — The Best Gig in Town

It started with a YouTube video and a filter.

A little over a year ago, I took a chance and sold a filter on eBay. Little did I know it would become a passion, a source of income, and a life-altering endeavor.

I remember it vividly—it was the beginning of summer. My kids were home and the little town I live in was eerily quiet. A normal June day is socked in by fog, but on this day it was uncharacteristically warm and sunny. We had nothing to do, nowhere to be—time had finally slowed down and we were making the most of it by doing a lot of lounging.

That day, I remember seeing an add on Craigslist for a ”whole house” free pile. The occupants of the house were moving and they had pulled everything out to the yard. I loaded the kids into the car and we eagerly drove over.

My son immediately grabbed a couple of boxes of brand new nails. A filter, fully wrapped and unused, caught my eye. I’d just seen that video referencing ”parts of items.” I had no idea what the filter was used for. I grabbed it, feeling a bit guilty—I knew I would not use it, but I also knew that it would more than likely end up in the trash.

Since then, I’ve continued to grow and learn. I’ve tried to enjoy the process while pushing myself to sell more. My store is small but each month I try to commit just a bit more time to it.

I’ve really learned that this is something that goes full circle for me. I try to pick items that will likely end up in the landfill. Recycling is a huge motivating factor. Saving the money I earn through eBay is the other side of that coin—that money goes towards purchasing stock or at the very least my high-interest checking account.

I encourage everyone to try eBay—even if it is just to get rid of a few items that are weighing you down. Sending an object on to someone who really appreciates it is more than just financially rewarding!

if you’d like to visit my store, check it out here.

Have a Great Weekend,

Andrea

August Passive Income Report

There’s nothing like passive income—after all who doesn’t want to make money while they sleep?

In 2018 I began this journey intent on making my money work for me. Since then, I’ve learned it is well worth the effort to set up a system of spending that gives back in the most advantageous way to you. Some like to accrue travel points on their credit card but I’m all about cash. Each month I’d like to continue making more money passively and show you the small ways that you can also increase your income—it might seem like pennies at a time—but those pennies add up.

The term ‘passive income’ has a few slightly different definitions, but in my case, I am simply sticking to that income which comes from credit card cashback, interest, and dividends from stock. This is money that ”just comes to me” by way of how I’ve set up my spending and saving. Don’t get confused, however—this is not money that fell out of the sky—this money came after thorough research and some risk-taking.

DIVIDENDS

During the month of August, I received $89.69 in dividends. Below, along with each stock, I have the amount of dividend income I made in August, how many shares I own, and the total amount of money I have invested in the stock. I’ve had a stock account for many years, but it was not ”doing anything” because I was playing it safe by keeping all my money in the bank. Then I took the initiative to remove my savings from a CD in 2018 and put that money into the stock market. To say I was afraid is an understatement. But, no matter, the decision paid off. Just to give you an idea—I made somewhere around $20.00 per year with $20,000.00 invested in my CD. Here is what I made in one month with the stocks I purchased for a total investment of approximately $12,000.00.

Stock August Dividend Total Shares Money Invested

ATT (T) $31.20 60 shares $1800.00

Verizon(VZ) $6.15 10 shares $590.00

Green Plains Partners LP (GPP) $24.00 200 shares $1000.00

American Express (AXP) $4.30 10 shares $980.00

Realty Income (O) $9.34 40 shares $2300.00

Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) $5.31 531 shares $3200.00

LTC Properties Trust (LTC) $1.90 10 shares $470.00

Invesco Exchange S&P 500 (SPHD) $7.49 50 shares $1700.00

Most of these stocks are paid quarterly, but the REIT’s: ‘O’ stock, LTC, and SPHD are paid out monthly.

Bank Interest

After moving my money out of that miserable CD at my local brick-and-mortar bank, I started to notice banks with very high-interest rates. Definitely, you can get a higher percentage rate inside a good bank account than a CD. It is a huge misconception that a CD is the way to go. It’s like we are practically gaslighted into believing a bank account cannot pay us more—this is despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. Often, a high-interest bank account comes with some hoops to jump through, but I think it is worth the effort. I keep some cash in my neighborhood bank, but then I transfer money to my online bank where I get 2% interest. This month I received $33.37 in interest. I keep as much as I can in that bank until I need it for big expenditures like property taxes at the end of the year.

Credit Card Cashback

In my last post, I talked about my favorite credit card: The American Express Blue Card. The American Express Blue Card gives the following:

*6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
*6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
*3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more)
*1% Cash Back on other purchases
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

AmEx has additional benefits and perks—most notable being the $5.00 ”Small Shop” credit for spending $10.00 or more at approved small businesses (I had 4 of these for a total of $20.00 at the time of my bill. So with those credits and the regular cashback credits, my August total was $104.83. I should note, that this amount fell under half of July and half of August because my billing cycle ends mid-month. Also, the small shop credit benefit ended mid-Septemer.

Adding all three up, I earned a total of $227.89 in the month of August. Not bad, but I’ll keep tracking my expenses and looking for ways to not only increase my passive income—but also find ways to invest it in the future.

Have a Great Week!

Andrea

American Express: The BEST Credit Card

If you know me well, you know how much I love my American Express “Blue Cash Preferred” Credit Card. But, it just keeps getting better—through mid-September, American Express allows cardholders to sign up for ”small shop” credits for a maximum of $50.00 in credits. I didn’t really know how these would actually work until I looked at my account—and I’ve received four credits already.

It’s simple—sign up and receive $5.00 each time you shop at a designated ”small shop.” Now, before I get too excited, let me say I did have difficulty finding out exactly what stores or businesses were considered small in my area. In fact, I ended up losing time and so, because it was free I went ahead and signed up and used my card as I regularly do—which is probably a good approach, because you definitely don’t want to shop just to get the $5.00 credit—that would be missing the point.

I was pretty excited to see four credits equaling a total of $20.00 less than a month. Each credit was immediately applied to my card. Two of the credits came after visiting my dentist, and two were given after shopping at my local grocery store.

I was excited, but not completely surprised.

American Express is the best, after all.

The funny thing is that I don’t often see AmEx listed as a favorite when I research credit cards online. But, I’m here to tell you it is. In fact, you may consider yourself attached to cash, your debit card, or another credit card, but after I show you how great American Express is, you may be persuaded to apply.

AmEx Blue Cash Preferred has a $95.00 yearly charge, but it’s worth every penny. When I signed on that charge was waived for the first year and I think I even received a $200.00 credit if I spent $1000.00 in 90 days. ( Currently AmEx is offering $250.00 back if you spend $1,000.00 within three months). This was not hard—I simply used the card for everything from fuel to groceries and everything in between. What sold me in the beginning? Let me count the ways:

*6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
*6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
*3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more)
*1% Cash Back on other purchases
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Okay, so let’s add it up. The 6% back on $6,000.00 is $360.00. So, just the grocery credit alone more than covers the yearly $95.00 fee.

Then, there’s the 3% back on fuel. I don’t drive much, so I’d say that I only make $3.00 to $5.00 per month using the card, but over a year that adds up to probably at least $60.00 and of course, if I travel, that leans closer to $100.00 or more per year.

Finally, I make 1% on everything else I purchase.

As of this writing I have earned $293.58 in reward money. I truly believe that your money should be making money and this is one way that you can collect funds that you can later invest.

American Express has a lot of other features such as their ‘Lowest Hotel Rate Guarantee’ and a free subscription to Shoprunner which gives you free 2-day shipping and returns to a host of online stores such as Peets Coffee. Using AmEx will provide you with additional protections including theft protection, car rental loss and damage insurance and return protection. They offer perks such as their current 10% back on Starbucks up to $5.00 incentive and the more useful, $10 back on $40 at Advance Auto Part.

One thing that I cannot neglect to comment on is the importance of using a credit card rather than a bank card. A bank card uses money that is available in your bank while a credit card is paid later—an advantage to you in the event that a purchase did not go as planned or, even worse, if your card is stolen. If you lose a credit card it is much easier to negotiate with a credit card company—before you pay your bill— than it is with your bank.

As for cash—stuff it under your mattress. Once you spend cash you have no backup, no real record, and definitely your money is not making money. But be warned, credit card companies make it very enticing to spend—so, use your card with a cash mindset to keep your financial choices working for you.

AmEx does have a really cool referral program: if you apply using the link below, I can get $100.00 in cash credit if you are approved, so I’ve included a referral link below.

Thanks, and have a great week!

Andrea

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

http://refer.amex.us/ANDREPOt0T?xl=cp15

Do I Really Want This?

Creating goals involves elimination. Why do we forget that? When I think about my goals, I immediately imagine long scrolls of lists and overwhelming amounts of work. I seldom ask myself specifically—do I really want this?

The first thing you absolutely must do while creating a goal structure is eliminate elements that aren’t necessary or interesting to you.

In my last post I mentioned my garden. I have a pretty large space to work in and I’ve always dreamed of a lush edible garden. This spring I had a jolt of excitement—and impulsive plant shopping. But then the zucchinis grew and the spaghetti squash spread. I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a squash eater. I do take the zucchinis and shred them for muffins so that works out. I’ve even gotten good about freezing the shreds for later use. The spaghetti squash is, I’m sure, delicious, but I’ve got so many of them.

Did I say I’m not much of a squash eater?

I know, I can give them to people but the point is: shouldn’t I be spending my time on things I actually want?

Now. Now, is a time like no other. With online ordering and information at our fingertips, we can learn about almost anything. We don’t have to settle for low brow goals that don’t fit who we are. We can focus on a few things that are truly interesting to us.

I recently noticed a photo of a friend on Facebook. He stood by a tree and he’d typed a simple caption: ”this year my goal is to learn to prune and maintain this tree.”

Reading his little post adjusted my focus. I could picture a binder filled with notes on just that—the care of his tree. It wasn’t too hard to imagine the addition of future trees and plants—all of which would most likely thrive using this straightforward plan. It didn’t hurt to know that this is one of my most productive and creative friends.

His post also reminded me that we do not have to have long, intimidating goals and that our goals should, like those trees, be pruned to their essentials. One tree that is well-cared for is tangible—and you’ll even have time left over to sit under it and enjoy it.

One Step at a Time: Expect Failure and Get Back on Track

Last night I pulled out a bag of red beans from the kitchen cabinet. Immediately I felt a sense of defeat.

You have to know that I love to garden and this year—during the coronaventure—I had a lot of extra time on my hands. Motivation was everywhere on social media—photos of lush greens, baskets full of fruits, newly raised beds, seemingly endless rows of cabbage, baby chicks, and, of course, I saw nothing but other people’s success. A lot of cute, pretty stuff and very little trials, tribulations, or outright failures.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus shutdown, toilet paper disappeared, along with rice and beans. Beans seemed like a logical choice for my future edible Garden of Eden.

I have developed a fondness for The Bean and I would love to grow long, twining plants of my own. I pictured lots of colorful beans clinking around in cute mason jars. I imagined my husband’s excited grin when I presented them to him. I could picture myself cooking them and I imagined how good they would taste.

So, I planted the beans I had, which was the small packet I got for free at the Seed Library inside my local library. They grew and grew, and then one day I noticed a pod. I let the pod grow a bit bigger and I picked it. I assumed that this was how beans were ‘done.’

But, au contrair. The bean pods I was picking were not the beans of my imagination. Inside the pod I found little puny beans that looked no bigger than a large pimple—hardly visible to the eye! Of course, I could not bring myself to find fault in my growing—or harvesting, as the culprit ultimately turned out to be—no, I decided that these tiny beans should be eaten raw.

Wrong again! Turns out the raw beans are toxic.

It’s enough to make you feel such defeat, that you flounder on the kitchen floor and decide to quit.

So where am I going with this?

The thing is, that we see other people, their photos, their success, and wonder why we are ”not there yet.” In a way, we hijack owr own experience and ruin the process from the start.

When I thought about it, I realized that in the beginning, I was full of optimistic excitement. I’m growing beans! I can do this! I had so much enthusiasm that I did not really learn how to care for or harvest the beans. It turns out that the beans have to grow on the plant much longer. They have to actually stay on the plant until they become dried out and the leaves of the plant turn yellow. All along, I was under the impression that I should be constantly picking the beans.

The bottom line was that I had not done my homework. I had gotten carried away into the ether of excitement. But, gardening, like most everything, takes knowledge—a lot more than we may realize when we begin. It also takes hard work and consistency—something we may know, but don’t want to acknowledge.

But, even more, my failure was just the beginning of my bean growing ‘journey.’ No, we do not see a lot of failure around us, but it exists—more than we know. If I had given up on my beans I would have not only allowed myself to succumb to failure, but I would not have learned anything at all.

Last time I wrote about ”why” I do what I do. I think it is important to have solid reasons for how you want to spend your time. Without a strong desire to accomplish a goal, the bottom tends to fall out and we are left with wasted time and energy. You know, do you really want to grow beans or are you just infatuated with the idea? We need that desire, but we also need to learn to check our expectations when we fail—and put in the energy to figure out how to get on track.

Once we have both of those ‘mindsets’ in place, we are ready to construct goals that are true and actionable.

Why I Do What I Do

As I drove out of the library parking lot yesterday, I saw a woman in a pretty VW Bug out of the corner of my eye. When I drove past, I could she her blond hair, tied up in a wild bun. Every nook and cranny of her car was filled to the brim.

You have to know that this area is a common resting spot for homeless people. The library, community center with an attached park, and a church are on a short cul-de-sac. Behind the library and opposite the church is a large open space—probably over 10 acres. The disenfranchised sleep and congregate in this somewhat ‘hidden’ area. There is plenty of parking space, particularly after hours. During the beginning months of the coronavirus, the county placed hand washing stations and toilets in the library parking lot for the homeless. I live in a small town and the number of homeless is not excessive or out of control. The issue is a constant topic but is more often approached from a genuine place of concern for these individuals than real worry for community safety.

No matter where you stand on the topic–one thing is clear: the coronavirus has exacerbated the homeless situation.

The woman in the car could be any of us.

Later in the day, I listened to professor Amna Akbar speaking about the ‘Cancel Rent Movement’ on NPR. According to Wikipedia, ”This movement advocates for the cancellation of rental payments and suspension of mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic.”

As someone who owns rental property, I was immediately alarmed. The rental income we make is a good and steady portion of our yearly income—success of a movement like this would affect my own finances. Yet, I’m torn—I understand that many people are struggling—and of course, I worry for the increasing number of homeless as this pandemic continues.

How do I sort this out?

Again, no matter your opinion on any of these subjects, the answer was loud and clear to me. We must assert ourselves into our own lives. We cannot stand around and wait for the next payment from the government. We must look ahead and plan.

I’ve been missing from this blog, hijacked by the news as it spins out of control, seeping into every dark corner of our current society. I don’t know what to make of it all—I’m pretty even and in the middle. I know that my individual life is vastly different from someone else’s experience. I’m just trying to find the truth somewhere. I listen to both sides of the political spectrum and both sides of often make sense to me. Then I catch what I would call ‘errors.’ Most incorrectness seems to come from ‘clickbait’ titles and a desire to push an agenda, or sweeping generalizations.

As the dust settles I am beginning to see clearly my own ”why.”

I’ve recaptured my goal.

I see it now. Without a vision of what we want to achieve, we tend to flounder. At the most extreme, we procrastinate and give up. A clear goal needs to be specific, but the before that, at the apex of your pyramid, so to speak, you need a clear reason behind your goal.

My reason is financial security. I don’t want a lot of money in the bank so that I can spend it on Prada or a new ‘Lambo’ (as my son calls it.) I’d like enough to pay for medical expenses if I need it. I want a healthy life in every way. All of this takes money. I’ve learned that it is hard to sleep at night if you are worried about money. There is a terror that comes with a low bank account that never seems to get higher—particularly if you are not employed in a regular, salaried job, particularly as your get older, particularly now, during an economic shutdown.

This new pandemic has changed the rules. We are now in the spin cycle and what was once a good career choice—dentist comes to mind—-may not be favorable at the moment. We can ask from our government, but we must also branch out and fend for ourselves. I visualize a tree with branches in all directions, reaching out to bring in nourishment.

I drove past that woman in her shiny, periwinkle-colored VW. Her hair, blond and highlighted—the kind that a salon had dipped their hands into and all of her things, crammed into every square inch of her car. She was young, younger than me. She could be anyone.

My reason is cemented: we must be prepared.

How I Finally Got Past ‘Payment Status Not Available.’

This a quickie update in reference to the post I wrote the other day that described my struggles getting information on the Stimulus Check. No matter how hard I tried, or how often I refreshed the IRS.gov website. I continued to get the error message, ‘Payment Status Not Available.’

I suspected that it was related to my taxes—and I assumed our accountant was in the middle of processing them. Turned out this was true. She finished them yesterday, I signed the documents via eDoc online, and low and behold I was able to get into the Get My Payment page of the IRS website.

Once inside, I could see it is a relatively simple form that asks for your AGI (adjusted gross income), the amount you owe or the refund you received. Then it asks for your bank routing number and account number. So GREAT!

Except, it found some inaccuracy—possibly our 2019 taxes were still moving along the pipeline. But, I did get a second message asking that I submit our 2018 tax information. Well, I didn’t have our 2018 taxe information because I’d given it to the accountant. And they’re very busy. And I didn’t want to bug them. I only needed two pieces of information–the AGI for that year and our refund amount, which had actually been rolled over to pay for our 2019 taxes.

So, earlier in the week, I had taken a little bit of time to ‘View my Account.‘ This is an option on the IRS.gov website that allows you to look at your previous payments and other IRS information. You have to set up a password and log in your basic information, address, name, social security number. I opened up the account in the hopes that I would not have to try to get through to my accountant and add to her workload. Inside your account there is an option to get a transcript. This is were you need to go. Right now, the only option is to view your transcript online. Luckily, my AGI was right there. I didn’t have to look for my refund amount because I had previously received an email from my old accountant that specified the amount.

With both bits of information in hand, I went back into Get My Payment and typed in the new numbers.

But, there was still a problem with the numbers and I could not proceed. UGH.

I tried a couple of more times as if the website would just give up because I was hounding it and then, it locked me out.

Of course.

Okay, so today I gave it a fresh start. Same answer. It asked for 2018 and then said that that did not match their information.

I thought about it for a minute. Then, in the section that asked the amount of my refund/payment, I put ‘0.’

Yes, zero.

I realized that, technically, we did not receive a refund because we rolled the money into the next year. So, literally we did not pay or get anything back.

Zero.

Suddenly, it came to life and said the money would be deposited to my checking account.

I stared at that sentence and the exit button below it, (which is, ironically, the same blue as the Get My Payment button) somewhat afraid to move.

But, then, I did, I pressed ‘Exit.’

I’ll keep you posted.

~~~Andrea

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