What To Do With Old Cell Phones – Donate, Recycle, or Sell for Cash

I can think of 9 different cell phones that I have owned over the years. Granted, that may not seem like a lot to many of you who may get a new phone every 6 months or every year, but that’s how many phones I have bought/sold/traded in since 1996. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, there really wasn’t much of a market for used cell phones because the internet wasn’t as huge as it is today, so anyone who got rid of their phone usually just tossed it in the trash or recycled it if their community offered it. But today is a different story; there are cell phone recycling bins in almost every electronics store for phones which cannot be resold, and there are plenty of online avenues for making back some of your money on your purchase. This is especially true for smart phones like the iPhone, Blackberries and Android phones. These phones can have some incredibly high resale values, as was my experience selling my 1st generation iPhone. I sold it on eBay for more than I bought it for in the first place. Someone wanted an unlocked/out of contract iPhone to use either on ATT or T-Mobile, so they paid a pretty hefty amount for it – over $200. Considering I paid $199 for it in the first place, I would say I definitely got my money’s worth with that phone. I then rolled that money into my (then new) 3GS iPhone, saving me over $200 on that purchase. That was quite a score!

Besides eBay or Craigslist, which are the two most popular online classifieds, there are a bunch of options for selling your slightly used cell phone. Here are a few you may want to check out:

While websites offering you money for your cell phone might be the easiest way to sell your item, they probably won’t make you the most money. I still think eBay is the best place to sell items like this because when I look through what is for sale, I see what others are willing to pay for unlocked cell phones. It is often more than a new one would cost, meaning that the seller can usually make back all, if not more, than the money they originally spent.

For lower-end cell phones (i.e. not smart phones) that aren’t really worth too much cash anymore, the best thing to do when you are done with them is to donate them or properly recycle them. While your local Staples, Best Buy, or phone retailer usually has recycling bins you can drop your phone into, here are a few more options for you to look into:

Whatever you do, do not just toss your old cell phone into the trash. There are many toxic chemicals and parts that can leach into the ground over time, contaminating our water and food. Be sure to properly recycle and/or sell your phone so that either you can make some money back, help out someone in need, or at a minimum keep dangerous chemicals out of the environment.


Buying a Car with a Credit Card – Can You Do It?

I bought a car with a credit card. There, I said it, and now everyone can gasp for air as I explain how I bought my latest car with a credit card. I drive a Mini Cooper S, a used car that I bought for just under $19,000 earlier this year, after selling my Subaru Forester for a more city-ish car. After all, I didn’t really need a 4WD station wagon in Los Angeles, did I? But back to the topic at hand – buying an automobile with a credit card. It’s generally frowned upon to buy a car in this matter, because you are at the mercy of the credit card company in terms of your interest rates, monthly payments, fees and charges, and just a general sense of dread when one gets a credit card bill every month saying one owes $18,000 or so. Sure, you can get 0% cash advances or promotional APR’s to buy a car with, but what if you don’t pay off that balance when the interest rate reverts back to 23.9%? What if you miss a payment and the interest rate goes back up only one month into making payments? That wouldn’t be too fun, nor would it be too smart a move. That’s why we all generally take out auto loans direct from lenders, where we know up front just what the interest rate is, how much the monthly payment is, and when we will be done paying off the loan. But with a credit card, a lot of those variables can change at any moment. Unless…

You have the cash on hand to buy a car, but use a credit card anyway.

As most long-time readers of My Two Dollars probably know, I use my Chase Amtrak Rewards card for almost everything – monthly bills, the majority of general purchases, paying my taxes – because traveling by rail is my favorite way to travel back and forth to see family back east. Using this card for everything allows me to rack up the points to trade in for free rail train tickets, effectlvely making travel either free or dirt cheap. I use that card as much as humanly possible. So when it came time to buy my Mini Cooper, I got to thinking about whether or not I could use my credit card to buy the car. After all, I really only had 2 choices:

1. Get out a loan and make monthly payments.
2. Buy the car outright in cash.

I didn’t really want to have monthly payments anymore, especially since I had the cash on hand to pay for the car in full. But instead of whipping out a roll of hundreds to pay for the car, I asked if I could pay with my credit card, which has more than enough open credit to pay for such a purchase… and they said yes. So pay with the card I did.

That purchase earned me over 18,000 reward points.

Since it only takes 35,000 points to get a free ride (with private bedroom) across the entire country on Amtrak, this single purchase got me another 1/2 of a ticket, at no cost to me. As soon as the charge showed up on my credit card, I transferred the money from my ING account, and paid off the bill with cash. This idea is similar to what Jim at Bargaineering talks about in terms of buying coin money with a reward card to get the points, but on a little bit bigger scale. Not all car dealers/dealerships will let you do it, but I know someone else close to me who also bought their car this way, so it most definitely can be done. So if you have the cash to back up your purchase, I say most definitely buy your next car with a credit card if you are able. If you don’t have the cash on hand, I would avoid, at all cost, buying a card on a credit card. There are too many variables in play when you do that, and your payments and/or interest rate can change at any time.

Photo by Hugo90


24 Thrifty Tips for Frugal Spending – From the Readers

Recently, I ran a giveaway of the book “Be Thrifty: How To Live Better With Less” and asked those who wanted to enter to win to send their best frugal/thrifty tip in with their entry. Well, you guys certainly responded! And because the tips were so great, I wanted to assemble them in a post and make them available to all the regular readers and new visitors to the site. So without further ado, here is a collection of thrifty tips sent in by readers of My Two Dollars:

1. When you go grocery shopping, set a budget. If you fall under that budget, put the rest of the money in your savings.

2. The public library is the best value around for entertainment and info. By using interlibrary loan and downloadable audio books access to media is near unlimited.

3. While it may require more money up front, always remember you get what you pay for. Invest a few more dollars in a solid, well-made, warrantied or guaranteed, item.

4. Even if I bought something for next to nothing at the thrift store it’s not going to stay affordable if it’s dry clean only.

5. Embrace weekday meal monotony. I’m living single, so one pot of homemade soup or dish of casserole lasts me through the week. I can eat sometimes for $10 for five whole days.

6. I try to get everything I “need” through free local resources, such as freecycle and craigslist. The next step is checking garage sales, online lists and thrift stores. For many years now, I have not had to buy more than 10% of my “needs” and have saved a great deal of money.

7. Use a PDF printer to create PDFs rather than actually printing. I rarely use my inkjet printer, and have less papers around the house.

8. Let those close to you know that you like a bargain and free is even better. We are often the first call for people who are upgrading and

9. I use half the recommend amount of washing detergent.

10. My best tip is to reuse the back side of papers (school notes my kids bring home, misprints, papers coming into the home etc.)for my coupon printing.

11. My tip is what I do when I make biscuits and sausage gravy. After I make my biscuits, instead of just scraping the flour used to roll out my biscuit dough and throwing it away, I use it to thicken my gravy.

12. Friends are the best frugal tip… they can provide free entertainment, potlucks, exchange great books, exercise together, and more!

13. Take the time to take proper care of what you have. If you do proper maintenance/repairs items can last a long time.

14. Have something you need? Look it up on multiple sites to find the best deal, check out Craigslist or Freecycle, and if buying online, make sure to find which sites gives the most cash back, such as Ebates or Mr. Rebates.

15. I refill my foaming soap bottles with a squirt of liquid soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water.

16. I invested in a pressure canner, and now have soups canned up and ready to just heat and eat, which is VERY handy on those nights when there isn’t time to cook.

17. We make chili once a week and reuse it for the base to several other dishes (sauce for chicken with rice and spaghetti are two of our favorites).

18. Wear clothes twice before washing unless they have a stain or are otherwise obviously dirty. It saves the cost of water, laundry detergent, electricity for the washing machine, and allows the clothes to last longer.

19. I have not used anything but a solar clothes dryer (i.e. clothesline)for the last 16 years.

20. Rather than ask the question “Do I need it?” I try to ask the question “Can I do without it?” You can convince yourself that you “need” just about anything if you try hard enough.

21. Cut back on gift giving! Celebrate events with a meal, a phone call or a card instead of something you have to buy and the recipient has to find room for.

22. I regularly go through my stuff for things I haven’t used lately. I put the word out that I have something useful available for free, and it’s usually gone that day. I free up space in my house, less space in a landfill is used, and somebody saves some money.

23. Over the years, I have been slowly replacing plants/trees/bushes with something that produces something that is edible. I now have about 22 grape vines(wine/jelly).

24. I slice open my flattened toothpaste tubes and lotion bottles before throwing them away. (I do that too!)

Do you do any of these? Plan on trying any of them? Have anything to add to the list? Feel free to leave a comment and share with everyone!


Our Spending Habits and Priorities Are Totally Screwed Up

A while back, I had an unplanned conversation with an old friend about the expense of sending kids to school. Not having children myself, I don’t have first-hand experience with the costs involved, but I am smart enough to know that it costs a lot to raise a child. In fact, that’s the number one thing I hear my friends talk about – just how much money it costs! But my conversation with my friend was about the cost of school supplies they needed to purchase per the teacher’s request, because the public school district couldn’t afford to supply the items the classroom needed. We weren’t talking a lot of money here; rather, we were probably talking about maybe $40-$50 in supplies, or just enough to have enough on hand for their kid and to help cover the costs for those who truly couldn’t afford to spend the money. My friends have enough money to spend $50 on school supplies, especially considering that their kids go to free (taxpayer supported) public school. And yet, here I was listening to them complain about having to buy supplies with statements like:

A. the taxes they already pay should cover it
B. the teacher shouldn’t need this much stuff
C. they shouldn’t have to help cover the poor kids

I was absolutely flabbergasted by their attitude about not only spending a pretty minute amount of money, but also that they were doing so over money needed for their child’s education. For a family who definitely has the money to spend, taking issue with buying a few dollars in school supplies for their own and some needy kids seems misguided. That could be the end of the story, and I still would have been sitting there with a gaping mouth, but it wasn’t, because the week before this conversation happened one of their FB status updates was…

“Just installed our new 50” flat-screen TV in the living room. Bring on Monday Night Football!”

I’m not kidding. It’s not that they spent the money on the TV that annoyed me, as I myself have a big flat-screen TV in my living room, and it was worth the money. It’s that just a week later they were taking issue with spending $50 on school supplies for their child’s education! They would rather either have the kids go without supplies or have the teacher making $25,000 per year buy the supplies for their kids than shell out a few bucks to help out the classroom.

It really seems to me that our priorities have gotten truly screwed up, and I don’t know how we can get them back in line. Conservatives are no longer fiscally conservative, Liberals are no longer socially liberal, and I have friends who value spending cash on a new flat-screen TV more than they value buying pencils for their children. Education used to be an important value we all shared, but now it’s the first thing cut when it’s time to chop up the budget. When I went to school, I had music, art, drama, woodworking, and assorted other classes, along with a daily recess and gym period. Now, lots of kids barely get a recess and have lost all the extracurricular activities that help to form what kind of adult they will become. And some parents don’t even want to chip in a few bucks to help out. Our priorities are so out of whack.

What are your opinions on this? Am I right to feel this way, or am I making this into something much bigger than it needs to be? When it comes to kids, I really think we should be making sure they get everything they need to be a success in life, even if we need to cut back on other things in life in order to do so. What do you think?


Beware of IRS Scam Emails for Tax Payments

The Internal Revenue Service will never contact you via email. Period. However, a very good scam artist will certainly try, and a good way for them to do so is to pretend to be the IRS in order to gain access to your banking information. In the past month, I have gotten three emails purporting to be from the IRS regarding a Federal tax payment having failed or been rejected. They look totally legit, if you don’t look carefully and not at the “Reply-To” address in the header, and I can see how many people would instantly click on the link in the email in order to rectify this failed payment. After all, no one wants to get in trouble with the IRS! This is what the latest email I received looked like:

Subject: Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010363182 is failed

Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 010375249 has been rejected.
Return Reason Code R21 – The identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid.
Please, check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section:

Link to click to supposedly pay your due taxes

In other way forward information to your accountant adviser.
EFTPS: The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System

PLEASE NOTE: Your tax payment is due regardless of EFTPS online availability. In case of an emergency, you can always make your tax payment by calling the EFTPS.

I was THIS close to clicking on the link without even thinking about it. But something stopped me – I don’t pay my Federal taxes via EFTPS! I pay all my due taxes, including quarterly estimated taxes, through Official Payments, which lets me use my credit card and earn reward points on the thousands I owe every three months. So that right there stopped me from clicking on the link. And because it felt like something was off, I checked out the email addresses in the header information. Sure enough, the “From” label was a real IRS address, but the “Reply-To” address was someone’s Yahoo account. Nice try, scammer! The email looked really official and legit, and I imagine tons of people went ahead and clicked on the links in their emails. And that’s why I am writing this post, to let you guys know about these emails going around.

I checked out the IRS website about scams and phishing attacks, which you can read right here. Here are few tidbits from the page:

The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Email scams often trick you into thinking you have a missing refund, are under criminal investigation, refers to a non-existent tax form, or asks for your credit card number.

The email probably contains links to Web sites or attachments. Do not click on those links or open any attachments. Those Web pages or attachments could contain malicious software or code designed to hijack your computer.

On those pages, they also asked me to forward the email to them at [email protected], so that they could have it on record and do some investigating, and I received an email back from them stating:

This is an automatic reply from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Online Fraud Detection and Prevention (OFDP) team. We have received your report of possible phishing or fraud. Although we review and investigate each email we receive, due to the number of incident complaints, we cannot guarantee a personal response to your message. Please note that the IRS does not contact individuals by email. Therefore, if you received an email claiming to be from the IRS it is a phishing attempt and should be reported to us.

So please, be aware that these emails are making the rounds and that the IRS will not contact you via email asking for any sort of information. Be sure to tell your friends!

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