Author Topic: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.  (Read 4532 times)

ChrisM

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Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:58:46 AM »
I'm back with a new question after successfully moving from my expensive AT&T phone bill to Airvoice Wireless for $10 per month (for a savings of approx. $65 per month). 

I've been working on cleaning up my life, by focusing on cleaning up our stuff.  I've removed 6 small u-haul boxes worth of books (a couple hundred, I think) from our apartment so far.  I checked most of the books to see if they had resale value before selling them off, but most were listed for prices less than $3, so I donated them.

I'm curious, for people who have sold things to pay debt, how exactly did you make the decision to sell a particular item?

Most things are kind of easy to decide to sell, but others not so much.  Here's an example of one of my current struggles.

I'm an artist, but don't make money from my work (yet, but hopefully someday).  I'm working on becoming a better illustrator and I have a tablet I use to draw digitally.  It's an expensive tablet and it's paid for.  I have another tablet I use for budgeting, writing, communicating and general surfing while I'm in the house, which I use instead of a laptop (which I just sold).  It's not possible to work on my artwork on this second tablet, so each tablet has a use case.  I've tried using my art tablet for everything, but it's not going to fly because it's significantly larger and unwieldy if you aren't sitting down when using it. 

One of the biggest benefits of having the art tablet is I don't have to waste time cleaning up my charcoal pencils and my hands (I have "soon to be" 3 young kids) who might need me at any time.  Having the tablet allows me to put down my work and tend to them quickly if needed.  And it's frequently needed.  I do most of my work in the early morning, during naptimes, and then after bed.

I'm trying to decide if I should sell my expensive art tablet and use the funds to pay down debt.  The art tablet is a convenience and a want, but not a need.  It is useful in building my art side hustle quicker, but I'm having a hard time finding the Mustacian balance between needs and wants.  Of course, it's much cheaper to just use charcoal, paint, paper and canvas, but those things come with their negative impacts on our life (storage of completed works, time spent cleaning, smell of paints, etc).

What do you mustacians think?  Need more info? Have a simple solution?

SwordGuy

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2013, 10:19:45 AM »
You need to practice the art techniques that you intend to make money with.  Use the tools you need for that purpose.

lackofstache

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2013, 10:22:49 AM »
Don't get me started. I've got an exposure unit, drying rack, vacuum table, washout booth, flat files, light tables, about 50 screens and a boatload of paper & ink all over my garage and basement (I've been screen printing since 7th grade & have acquired this stuff slowly & cheaply). If I sold it all cheaply I could get $3-5K out of all of it, but it's not something I've been willing to give up yet. There's a part of me that won't throw away my ability to create, even if it has a cost. So far, I'm okay with that.

The benefit of your tablet is it allows you to create w/o taking up much space and is a one time expense where as ink, canvas, etc. all cost something per use. If it keeps you sane, don't give it up. Selling things is an odd proposition unless you'll never need the thing again. Selling today to pay down debt if you'll just buy it again once the debt is paid off seems silly to me, but YMMV.

impaire

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2013, 10:30:58 AM »
You need to practice the art techniques that you intend to make money with.  Use the tools you need for that purpose.
+1
Unless you're in a desperate financial situation, I wouldn't sell it from what you have said. I didn't have debts to pay off (other than mortgage) when I started mustachizing my life, but I sold or am in the process of selling things--they are more stuff like jewelry, a tablet I was using once in a blue moon, rarely-used kitchen equipment. The key for me was-if I could afford the stuff, how much pleasure and convenience was I deriving from it? You have in addition the fact that you'd like art to make you an income at some point, and this is a tool of your trade. Tools are investments.

Watchmaker

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2013, 10:35:54 AM »
How about focusing on how to making some money with your art, rather then selling off your tools?




ChrisM

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2013, 12:25:05 PM »
Thank you for the responses so far.  This was just what I needed to hear.  Sometimes we are just too close to situations and it can be hard to see clearly what the obvious answer is. 

At this point, our debt is not great and I would eventually need to reinvest in an art tablet.  I'm going to hold tight with what I have instead of selling it and move on to other things (to sell) that don't contribute to my Mustacian mission. 

Thank you again.

Argyle

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2013, 04:30:25 PM »
Don't sell off stuff you're using unless the situation is really desperate.

On the books, however -- I sell all books I'm never going to use again.  The lowest price I can sell them is 75 cents (on Half.com, which takes a smaller cut than Amazon), but they give you a certain amount for shipping and handling, and if you've assiduously saved old book envelopes and boxes, you'll make a profit of $1-2 on the s&h too.  So say 75 cents + $1.25 on shipping and handling, you get $2 per book.  For 100 books that's $200.  Now that's a handy sum -- I'm being paid to get rid of something I was getting rid of anyway!  It also helps that I bike past the post office regularly so I'm not making a special trip in a car to send any of them. 

That's the kind of model I go on when deciding whether to sell something.

OOBER

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2013, 05:33:07 AM »
This is just a 10,000 foot view since we don't know very much about your situation.

But, in addition to selling some unused items for one time profit, wouldn't it be more beneficial to focus on recurring expenses?

Looks like you already greatly reduced your phone bill.

You stated that you live in an apartment. Could you find a roomate? Move to a smaller apartment / more affordable neighborhood?

Do you subscribe to cable TV? Cancelling it could easily save you ~$100/month and you would probably get more art done as a result.

Could you take on some freelance paying art gigs?

Miss Growing Green

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2013, 08:55:25 AM »
Keep the tablet.  You should definitely keep the fancy one, and only consider selling the more portable one, if you were to sell one.  What could you get for it... a couple hundred bucks?  That's really a drop in the bucket for something you use on a regular basis. 

As for the books, I disagree with the commenter who said you should sell them on half.com or amazon for $2 a book... considering the time it would take to list them all and ship them all at different times as people paid at different times... not worth it in my opinion.  You are better off donating them and taking a tax receipt for a charitable donations deduction.  If you value each book around $5, and you said you have a couple hundred, that's a $1,000 deduction.  If you're in the lowest marginal tax bracket (15%), that's $300 cash back at tax time!  That's worse-case scenario too; you may be in a higher bracket.

I always take a quick picture of anything I donate (because I donate ALOT) to keep in case I get audited.

ChrisM

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2013, 09:01:19 AM »
This is just a 10,000 foot view since we don't know very much about your situation.

But, in addition to selling some unused items for one time profit, wouldn't it be more beneficial to focus on recurring expenses?

Looks like you already greatly reduced your phone bill.

You stated that you live in an apartment. Could you find a roomate? Move to a smaller apartment / more affordable neighborhood?

Do you subscribe to cable TV? Cancelling it could easily save you ~$100/month and you would probably get more art done as a result.

Could you take on some freelance paying art gigs?

I agree with you about focusing on recurring expenses and I have been doing that as well.

We live in a 2 family home that is owned by my in-laws.  It's a very nice setup for us and my in-laws because they get reliable tenants who pay their rent on time.  In general, we live in an expensive part of the country (just outside of Boston) so moving isn't really an option.  No matter what, we've found we can't rent anything decent for less than about $1800/month.  Anything less is a complete dump for a family (of almost 5).  The town we live in has a very good public school system as well and that plays into our decision to live here.

At some point, we'd like to buy this house because if we continue to rent at this rate, we'd likely break even in about 4 years.  Then we'd have a rental property.  I think that's the plan over the next 5 years.  Buying the house would reduce our rent from $1800 down to about $1100-1200/month.  We aren't in a position to do it yet.  Our debts are almost paid and once they are we'll be in full on savings mode.

We subscribe to a cable package and while cable internet is necessary because my wife works from home 1-2 days per week, the cable TV isn't necessary.  Having the cable TV and internet is actually the same price as having just internet.  I have reduced the bill by sharing the wifi with our in-laws, who pay half the bill.

As it is, I don't watch much TV.  During the week, I'll watch between 30-60 minutes while I eat dinner and then I turn it off and get to work.  On the weekends I don't watch it at all.

projekt

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2013, 09:02:26 AM »
To get a tax deduction in the US you need to be itemizing enough deductions to go over the standard deduction ($6,100 in 2013). Most renters will not have enough to hit that level. If you own a home and are paying mortgage interest, property taxes, etc., then you more easily hit it.

ChrisM

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2013, 09:04:04 AM »
Keep the tablet.  You should definitely keep the fancy one, and only consider selling the more portable one, if you were to sell one.  What could you get for it... a couple hundred bucks?  That's really a drop in the bucket for something you use on a regular basis. 

As for the books, I disagree with the commenter who said you should sell them on half.com or amazon for $2 a book... considering the time it would take to list them all and ship them all at different times as people paid at different times... not worth it in my opinion.  You are better off donating them and taking a tax receipt for a charitable donations deduction.  If you value each book around $5, and you said you have a couple hundred, that's a $1,000 deduction.  If you're in the lowest marginal tax bracket (15%), that's $300 cash back at tax time!  That's worse-case scenario too; you may be in a higher bracket.

I always take a quick picture of anything I donate (because I donate ALOT) to keep in case I get audited.

Thanks!  I viewed the book work the same as you.  I probably would have spent 40 hours between listing and shipping and having the hassle of storage/cluttering my studio.  Not worth it for $200!

The tax deduction is a great idea, I wish I had taken photos.  I'll look into the donation stuff a bit more and see if it's still possible to write that stuff off.

Miss Growing Green

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2013, 09:09:31 AM »
The photos aren't completely necessary... you might want to if you plan on getting rid of more in the future.  I am sure you could just go back to the shop and ask for a receipt if you didn't get one at the time.  Another thing you could do if that isn't an option, which is kind of "fudging" is donate one small thing to get a tax receipt, then write down all the books you donated on there. 

It is up to you, not the store/charity to document everything you donated and determine the value, so you've got some wiggle room there.

Good luck!

Argyle

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Re: Difficult decisions about selling stuff to pay debt.
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2013, 01:34:15 AM »
Because the OP said he (she?) had an apartment, I assumed that there was no mortgage and that therefore he was taking the standard deduction rather than itemizing taxes -- and that therefore taking the value of the books off income tax was not really going to be an option.  I'd also add that in the unlikely event that there's an audit, $5 is a lot for a used book.  The standard value last time I was in the biz was $2 for a hardcover, $1 for a paperback, assuming regular old non-valuable books.  One benefit of listing them on Half.com (which takes about 30 seconds, in my experience) is that the site shows what everyone else is selling the same titles for.  This allows you either to price low for quick sale, or lets you know when the value is high -- for instance one book I found which turned out to be going for $40 up.  I priced my copy at $38 and sold it pretty rapidly.  But if it's too much hassle, you can certainly get them off your hands by donating.