What a Waste

Our community has bulk pick-up every week.  I know I’m lucky, as many communities have no bulk pick-up at all.  Heck, my Dad’s tony city has none so residents have to schlep it somewhere, which can be a real PITA.

This morning I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful wood bed at the end of someone’s driveway.  It looked to be in very good condition, and even if it wasn’t I’d have schlepped it home if I had the room to store it.

It’s truly amazing to me what people put by the curb.  Perfectly usable items, and occasionally they find their way off the curb and into my car.  Some I sell, and some I keep, but either way they aren’t taking up unnecessary space in a landfill.

Just because you don’t want to take the time or spend the money to repair something doesn’t mean it’s  trash.  Unless your dog peed on it or it’s smashed into a hundred pieces someone else can probably use it, and be thrilled to have it.

I understand wanting to get rid of unwanted items, I really do.  But  how much effort does it take to donate something?  A phone call will see the veterans, Salvation Army or one of a thousand church organiations come to your house and pick it up.  You can even get a tax deduction!

There’s also Craigslist, where you can sell your item and make a few dollars.  And Freecycle, where someone who thinks your trash is treasure will come and take it off your hands.  Both of these options take minimum effort, as it takes about two minutes to post a listing.  Yes there can be pitfalls to using these services, but even though I’ve been burned I still think they are very much worth utilizing…

And you can make someone’s life better or easier or prettier.

And you don’t have to schlep it to the curb.

And there will be more space in the landfills.

And my garage.

That Ain’t No Singer

Every Wednesday is bulk pickup day in my neighborhood. In the past I’ve been known to profit from my neighbors’ garbage. People throw away some seriously good stuff.

Lately, though, I’ve not even been looking. We are trying to downsize and declutter as we get ready to sell the house. We’re already overstuffed because of the items I’ve brought home that were from my Dad’s old house, things that he couldn’t bear to see leave the family. And Husband tends to get a little crazed when His Domain (aka the garage) gets cluttered.

All my good intentions flew South as I walked out of my house two mornings ago. There by the curb my next door neighbor had placed several items too good to resist. Items that should not be taking up space in a landfill. Items that should be used, or sold on Craigslist.

There was a perfectly good girl’s bike. There was a perfectly good dog crate.

And there was this:

Do you know what that is? Yes, it’s a sewing machine. But it’s not an ordinary sewing machine. It’s a HUSQVARNA VIKING Sewing machine. Selling for $800 and up.

And she was tossing it. A lovely, lovely woman who is obviously slightly insane.

My current Singer sewing machine has…issues. This one needs a new needle plate, but according to my neighbor it is in otherwise good condition.

I’m thinking Mama has a new sewing machine. But the other part of me is screaming, “SELL IT!”

The bike and the crate will definitely be sold. It makes Husband feel funny. He wonders if perhaps I should give the money to the neighbors; I don’t think that’s necessary – they were tossing it. Besides, a “Surprise! Here’s $30. I sold your garbage for you,” might not be received so nicely…

On the other hand, someone very close to me was once selling brand new $50 wood blinds from Home Depot, in an unopened box, at a garage sale for $5. They didn’t sell, so I fibbed and told her I’d take them, that a friend might buy them. I then hightailed it over to HD and returned them. She seemed pretty happy when I handed her the gift card, and I was very happy to do it…

I know what I’m going to do.  What would you do?

Thanks, Jerk

I’m still working to get the clutter out of my Dad’s old house, even as he’s already been in the new place for three weeks.

A local charity is coming by on Tuesday to pick up a truckload of items we don’t want or need.  They won’t take anything that’s not in saleable condition, so I needed to do something with the thirty-two (yes, 32) pieces of patio furniture that were too old, rusty, and/or dirty to sell, but were perfect for someone who wanted to put in a little elbow grease to restore them.

So, I placed an ad on Craigslist in their “Free” section offering a curb alert.  They could please come and take  what they wanted from the side deck, but please respect our property and don’t take anything not in the  place specified and don’t drive on the grass.

Today I asked my sister-in-law to do a drive-by to see what, if anything was left.  Some of the items were gone, but someone who apparently is not the Next Coming of Ghandi decided to dump a sodden old couch in the yard.

Really.

So, thanks, Jerk, for teaching me a lesson.

Anyone want a sodden green couch?  It’s free.  Just send me a copy of your drivers license and I’ll send you the address.

Better yet, let us deliver it.

Speaking of Dumpster Diving…

A neighbor of mine moved and left lots of perfectly good items by the curb.

I just made $40 selling some of her garbage on Craigslist.

Nothing edible, of course.

I’ve Finally Found the Line

What line, you ask?

My frugality line. The line that I will not cross to save money, or the environment, or whatever.

There’s lots of things I will do to save money. I’ll clip coupons. I’ll shop the sale racks. I’ll lather and rinse without repeating.

I’ll re-gift, I’ll make dinner by the ambient light from another room, I’ll let my roots get too long before a touch-up.

I’ll wait to call until after 9pm, re-use gift bows and the occasional ziplock bag.

I’ll even take perfectly good, usable things other people leave for the garbage truck. Once a neighbor left two very expensive baby play yards for the garbage man. I sold them on Craigslist and made $120.

What I will not do, under any circumstances, is take food someone else has thrown away and eat it. Blech.

I don’t care if it’s something as innocuous as cereal, in a still-sealed box. If food has been deemed garbage by someone else I will defer to their expertise. I will leave that to Seinfeld’s George (remember the eclair sitting on top of his host’s garbage?) and to the Freegans, whose penchant for dumpster cuisine I discovered by reading Savvy Frugality‘s post Extreme Frugality: Freegans.

Husband, who has often wondered where the line stood, is much relieved.

I Posted to Craigslist, and the Police Showed Up

The police came to our house today, as the result of a Craigslist post.

Unlike the obvious Rhodes Scholar who advertised for a hitman to kill her lover’s wife, our visit was innocuous.

The officer’s wife had contacted me about some shelves I had listed for sale, and like a good and dutiful husband he came to pick them up.

Nice as he was, he let my three-year-old sit in the back of the police car, hopefully for the one and only time in his life.

Better yet, I sold the shelves for what I paid for them four years ago, so I got to use them for free.

You Don’t Have To Be Gullible To Be a Victim of a Check Scam

There are lots of news items and articles about Identity Theft, and for good reason. It’s the fastest growing crime in the US, and the more technological breakthroughs there are the more ways there are to steal your identity.

Scary.

Identity theft isn’t the only thing to be wary of. Thousands of people have become victims of Check Scams, and the numbers are growing every day.

Back when I was dealing with InfectionsRUs, I got to watch a bit of Judge Judy and the People’s Court. I was surprised at the number of people who were being sued because they got a friend to cash a check for them, and when the check bounced (it was counterfeit) they didn’t reimburse the friend. As I was sitting there, coughing up lungs all over the place, I couldn’t help thinking that all of the litigants were idiots. Come on! Who is that gullible?

Well, today I got a warning from my bank about it, and I realized the problem is more far-reaching than I thought. Some of the scammers are so clever you don’t need to be all that gullible.

Who are the victims?

  • Ebay, Craigslist and other online sellers. Someone overpays us for an item “by mistake”, then asks us to wire-transfer them back the extra money. Then we find out the check was counterfeit – and we’re out the item AND the money.

I was selling a large ticket item on Craigslist and got contacted by more than one person trying to scam me. I actually set up a meet with one guy before he balked at my cash only requirement, which clued me into the scam he was trying to pull.

  • They tell us they want to buy or rent our home. They give us a check that’s too much, then ask us to go ahead and cash it and wire them the difference.

This almost happened to a friend of mine who was doing seasonal rentals on a property she owned. She e-mailed me the info and asked what I thought. I agreed with her – a scam. She didn’t fall for it, thank goodness.

  • We get notification that we won a lottery or sweepstakes. They tell us to deposit the check, but then ask us to wire them some money to cover taxes or fees or whatever else their crooked brains can come up with.

This one, to me, should have red flag written all over it. Unless you’re a professional sweepstakes and lottery enterer, you’s KNOW you didn’t win any lottery.

  • We sign up with a work-at-home company, and they send us a check or money order to deposit and ask us to help “process payments”. We’re told to keep a percentage of the money and wire-transfer them the rest.

This one is a reach for me, too. But I can see how it could happen.

  • Someone we meet in a chatroom or on a message board asks for a favor: deposit their check and wire them the money. Or they claim to be in love with me and want to come be with me – can I please cash this check?

It took me over two years of near daily communication to be willing to meet in person someone I’d met online, so there’s no way I’d have gotten into any large financial deals with them, wonderful as they may be. I’ve built friendships with people that over time turned out to be friends-not-so-much, but at least I didn’t fall for this scam.

How does it happen?

The basic premise is the same even if the details differ. Someone sends us a check or money order. They ask us to deposit it into our account and then wire them the money. They sweeten the deal by telling us to keep part of it for our trouble.

The Result Is The Same

The check or money order turns out to be counterfeit. It gets returned to our bank unpaid and the full amount will get deducted from our account. We’re responsible, because we are responsible for every check or money order we deposit to our account.

Why Did the Bank Allow You to Withdraw the Money?

Excellent question, which my bank was kind enough to answer. Federal law requires banks to make funds we deposit available within 1 to 5 business days. Just because we can withdraw cash from our account shortly after making a deposit doesn’t mean the deposited items are valid. According to my bank it can be WEEKS before a check or money order is discovered to be counterfeit and returned to our bank. By them the scammers are long gone, and we’re left holding the bag. The empty bag.

Weeks? Weeks! I wonder how many Ebay sellers have gotten checks for merchandise, even made out for the correct amount, thought they cleared and then had them bounce weeks later. Egad!

Why Didn’t the Bank Know the Check Was Bad?

Well, according to my bank their job is simply to process our financial documents. The employees may not be able to determine if a check is valid. That makes sense, really. How is our local teller supposed to know that a check written on an account thousands of miles away was written on a valid account, and signed by the rightful account owner? It’s just logistically impossible.

So, the buck starts, and stops, with me. And you.

How Do We Avoid These Scams?

From Looks Too Good To Be True: An interesting point about fraud is that it is a crime in which you decide on whether to participate. Hanging up the phone or not responding to shady mailings or emails makes it difficult for the scammer to commit fraud. But con artists are very persuasive, using all types of excuses, explanations, and offers to lead you — and your money — away from common sense.

Well, that’s makes sense. We educate ourselves. And we choose not to participate. Ever.

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