How to Deal With Non-Paying Bidders on eBay

No doubt, if you’re trying to minimise (like me!) you will be selling some items on eBay. I find non-paying bidders to be a more and more frequent problem. It’s so frustrating when you’ve listed a whole bunch of stuff – you would prefer to make just one trip to the Post Office and you have to leave 1 or 2 parcels sitting waiting on the side. I just don’t get it – if you went into a shop you wouldn’t get away with paying 3 days (or even longer) later. So why do eBay buyers think they can get away with it? I find it disrespectful.

My top tip is that you use eBay’s non-paying bidder process for every bad buyer. This is the only way you can get your fees funded, if they ultimately refuse to pay. They will also have action taken against their account and I believe this depends on the severity of their offence. For example, a first time offender will probably simply get reminded of the rules, but it will still be a strike against their account. If they do it again, they won’t be able to bid on my items or any other seller who has set up tight buyer requirements. If they offend further, they will likely find their account restricted or banned.

I prefer not to set up the non-paying bidder process to run automatically, as you have to wait twice as long for the process to kick in (4 days then 4 days to get payment!) As far as I’m concerned, 2 days is plenty of time to pay for an item! I start the process myself, as soon as possible after the 48 hours has passed. You just click next to the item in your selling page and click the option to resolve a problem. Then select that you haven’t received payment yet. The case will open and you won’t need to do anything more for a few days. If the buyer pays, all well and good- there is nothing else to take care of. If they don’t, in 4 days you can close the case yourself- get their account marked with a strike (they’ve had 6 days to pay, plenty of time in my mind) and get your fees back, so you can get on and re-list that item and get rid of it!!! You can open a case immediately if for some reason, your buyer is no longer registered with eBay. When you close the case, you must select the options to say that the buyer did not pay and that you want to receive a fee credit.

Since eBay no longer allows sellers to leave negative feedback about buyers, I simply refuse to leave feedback for bad buyers. I know this is unhelpful to other users of the site, but eBay have tied our hands. I also take a moment to add them to my blocked bidders list, so I don’t ever have to deal with them again.

Another tip I find hugely helpful, is to set up tight buyer requirements on your account. Bring all your settings down to the minimum levels allowed. This means that (in theory) only the best buyers will be able to bid on your items. For example, I don’t allow people with 2 unpaid item strikes within the last year to bid on my items. I frequently find this one kicks in, to stop them bidding. So many buyers now seem to have 100% positive feedback – but it’s masking a bad buyer. I don’t allow people with low feedback scores to bid on my items. This may be harsh to newbies, but I had a spate of zero feedback buyers not paying. I also block buyers from countries I don’t post to and those who don’t have a Paypal account – this is to protect myself as a seller.

I hope you find this guide helpful.

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The Best Laid Plans

Whenever I have to go out for the day, whether it’s for business or pleasure I plan to take a packed lunch with me. This is a crucial money-saving tactic, as you can easily spend £3.50 – £5.00 on lunch, even just a bog-standard sandwich! It’s easy to purchase an insulated lunch bag and a couple of mini ice packs, so you can store your lunch safely, regardless of whether you’re out and about or not. Another great tip is to take a thermos flask with you, so you can save another £3.50 or so on a hot drink. If you think you’re going to succumb to a sweet treat, mid-afternoon – then pack one! It’s far cheaper to buy a multi-pack of chocolate bars than it is to purchase them singly, either from a shop or a vending machine.

So I dutifully did all of the above and set out on my journey. Imagine my frustration and dismay when I arrived at my destination, to find I’d left the lot on the kitchen counter! The best laid plans and all that. So I ended up having to purchase items in a corner shop anyway! This was even more frustrating, as I had to break my own zero waste rules as you cannot buy anything ready-to-eat unpackaged here, except for fruit. I blame my forgetfulness on a phone call that I received just as I was picking all my belongings up to leave. That interruption cost me dearly, in every sense.

Still the other beauty of a packed lunch is you can always eat it later or the next day! Unfortunately my sandwich hadn’t remained cool, despite the cool pack I’d used – too many hours had passed, so I had to bin that.  However, everything else was ambient and I just had it for my tea instead!

Have you had any money-saving fails?

Zero Waste Wreath

I fancied a wreath for Christmas this year, I’ve bought cheap (£6-7) before and they’ve fallen apart in about a week being outdoors as they are just glued onto polystyrene. I also wanted to avoid plastic, as much as possible aiming to be zero waste. I had half fancied making my own, but I’d left it a bit late this year. Plus, a wreath holder costs around £5, plus any other materials on top – even if I foraged the natural materials and raided my fabric scraps for ribbon, I would have wanted to buy cinnamon sticks and oranges. Cinnamon sticks are not cheap – around £1 for 3 or 4. This option was starting to look expensive.

I found this wreath going in Morrisons for £5 instead of £15- it was from their ‘The Best’ range. I think I bought it about 2 weeks before Christmas, so maybe that’s the time to look? It is comprised of natural foliage, with cinnamon sticks, pinecones, ribbon, raffia and yes, unfortunately just a few polystyrene and plastic adornments. However, it was the best option I could find. As you can see, it was all sitting on this wire frame which I plan to re-use year after year. It is painted green to blend in with the foliage.

In taking the wreath apart to compost the foliage, I was able to learn about its construction – vital as I will be making a homemade version each year from now onwards. It was actually comprised of very short sections of foliage, each clamped between the metal prongs that stick up. These are easily bent down with pliers. Then the decorations are wired and simply push into the foliage. I have carefully removed all of these and stored them in a cardboard box for next year. Rather than buying an expensive wreath hanger, we simply wrapped a long piece of twine through the wreath, over the door and tied it through the letterbox. It didn’t budge, even in strong winds!

So this is my top tip for next Christmas, or any other time of year you fancy putting up a wreath. Buy a good quality one, on sale and re-use the parts. Or maybe you can find the parts on sale? This frame could be re-used for any occasion – maybe I’ll try a Valentine’s wreath next?

What Impact Does Our Consumer Culture Have On Our State Of Mind?

It’s the New Year, a time when many of us make resolutions to stick to good habits. Many people will be committing to buy less and spend less this year for all manner of reasons, be they thrifty, green, minimalist, zero waste and or just plain skint! Today I’m going to explore the impact of our consumer culture. Some people even choose to enforce a ‘No Spend Year’. This often comes after people have been pursuing the Minimalist lifestyle for a while and they start to realise how meaningless all their stuff is. Some people have triggers for this, such as; having to box up all their possessions to move which really forces you to evaluate absolutely everything that you have.

The ‘No Spend Year’ concept is simply an extension of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ which falls on Black Friday each year. An academic from The University of Sussex, Dr Helga Dittmar has been exploring the effect of our consumer culture on our well-being and identity. She has been examining what she has termed as ‘a materialistic value orientation’ or ‘MVO’ where people pursue and strive to spend money on expensive possessions to gain status. Alongside this, people who do so also have beliefs that these things will lead to a better life and make us happy.

She and her team have conducted a meta-analysis of over 200 research studies, where they have looked at all the existing studies that link MVO to personal well-being. This is a very robust study of the evidence and in the case of the aforementioned, means that the results are conclusive. MVO is linked to lower personal well-being, lower subjective well-being, increased negative self-appraisal such as low self-esteem, mental health problems (in-particular depression and anxiety) and also poorer physical health. As you can see, the more MVO a person is, the worse they are affected and interestingly, there are no positive attributes according to this study!

The advantages of spending less are that you are more organised with your time, organising free or low cost activities to replace your previous expensive habits. Your health may benefit as you spend less on eating out, junk food and alcohol. It may even force you to find new things, that you may never have considered before.Buying things can easily become addictive behaviour, bringing along with it a pressure to spend more and more due to our consumer culture. We are constantly bombarded by advertising which tries to persuade us to buy yet more. Advertising has become totally pervasive in our culture, it’s literally everywhere these days – on TV, on radio, on the internet, on billboards, in magazines and newspapers and more! It partly plays to our fear of not wanting to miss out on something that everyone else has. But they also ply us with subtle messages – ‘buy this and you will be happy’, ‘buy this and your relationship will be better’, ‘buy this and you will achieve the perfect body’ and so on. Consumer culture will try to sell us everything. However, the research shows that buying all this stuff has actually made us less happy. Psycho-pathologies have increased since the 1930s.

Ultimately, stripping away all this stuff will expose the real you and what matters is that you are a good person, happy and positive in yourself. Having stuff won’t necessarily make people like you. The research demonstrated that the most crucial aspect in getting the balance right in your life, is getting the right orientation towards money and material things. Having things is not inherently bad, but you do not need to have certain things in life. You can use the MVO in either a positive or a negative way, for example- if you seek status, you might become depressed which leads you self-medicate and this is a bad use of MVO which leads to lower well-being. Conversely, highly treasured personal possessions, are a record of your history and tell a very personal story of who you are and who you’ve been over time, who you’re connected with, they are symbols of your personal relationships and are a form of self-expression – these can have a positive effect. The study particularly looked at life transitions, such as going into a nursing home in older age. In this situation, if you are allowed to take your treasured personal possessions, you are not only happier – you actually live longer!

So, in the light of all this you might want to consider taking up a musical instrument, singing in a choir, learning a new art or craft. I also think this research shows that we should make time for small items that can make a big difference to our well-being; like flowers, perfume or a good moisturiser. Of course, what brings joy to one person will be completely different for another but try to keep it simple – so no purchasing of a Ferrari! Consider purchasing items that allow you to spend time with others; like a meal out, or travelling together, or to see someone important.

This blog post was inspired by today’s episode of Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. If you are in the UK, you should be able to catch up on iPlayer. If you are interested in the work of Dr Helga Dittmar, then you can look here for more information or read her book on the topic. The author of this book was also featured in the podcast – Michelle McGagh – The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More. I have added that book to my reading list!

 

How to Recover from Holiday Spending Using Your Phone

 

Did you find yourself spending a little more than you had anticipated over the Holidays?It’s easy to do, especially when you want to give all your friends and family the perfect gifts. Well today I have an easy way for you to recover from your holiday spending from the convenience of your mobile phone.

Swagbucks is the web’s most popular rewards program that gives you free gift cards and cash for the everyday things you already do online. My regular readers will know about this, since I write about them often as they are my main online earning opportunity. I am certain that there are still plenty of you reading this who haven’t yet taken the plunge and signed up!

Whenever you shop, watch videos or search the web, Swagbucks gives you points called SB. You can use your SB to redeem gift cards to hundreds of your favorite stores. With the Swagbucks mobile site, answer and SBTV apps I can use my spare minutes to earn free gift cards on my phone! I leave the apps below running when I’m home and on Wi-Fi. So my phone is earning, whilst I get on with my life! Like the Swagbucks website; I can also rack up SB by shopping, answering surveys and downloading free apps.

Here are some quick tips to get your started:

  • While you wait for the coffee to brew, download free games and other apps through the Discover tab: 20 SB
  • During commercial breaks, take a featured survey or fill out your survey profile: 60-100 SB, and sometimes more!
  • While standing in line at the supermarket, answer the daily poll: 1 SB
  • When you’ve finally made it to the gym, watch style, tech and celeb news through the SBTV app: 2 SB for every 10 videos
  • Just as you’ve put dinner in the oven, your Swagbucks app tells you there’s a new Swag Code!: 3 SB
  • Before you go to sleep, use the Swagbucks app to shop from your favorite stores. You deserve it!: 100 SB

By downloading the Swagbucks mobile apps, I could earn a free £5 gift card by the end of my week. Who knew playing on your phone could be so productive?!    There are 6 apps:

  1. SBTV
  2. Sportly
  3. Lifestylz
  4. EntertaiNow
  5. MovieClips
  6. IndyMusic

So you can instantly start earning your way to free gift cards. It’s 100% free to download and easy to use. They are all available for both iPhone and Android devices. They often give out bonus rounds too, so there are extra earning opportunities. It really is a case of the little things soon add up.

How to Save Money on Laundry Detergent

Buying laundry detergent can be mind-boggling because there is such an array of products on the shelves these days! Did you know that the majority of products on UK supermarket shelves are all made by only 2 global brands? Shocking, I know. You wouldn’t believe it from their marketing.

At the end of the day, that is what you’re paying for when you buy from a market leader – their advertising and the branding of the product. Didn’t you notice how often they re-design their packaging? Or how often their TV adverts change? Essentially all laundry detergents are the same, no matter what their format – powder, liquid or capsule. But the way you use them can also be beyond confusing – should you put it in the drawer, the drum or a wash ball? Honestly, the main difference between them all is price and how much damage they can do to your washing machine – yes really!

Liquid detergent gunks up your machine over time and capsules are worse because they are made of plastic, it never fully dissolves and can also damage your machine as it builds up inside. Capsules make a mess in your machine, where they stick when they don’t dissolve. Both liquid and capsule detergent also blocks your pipes over time, take it from someone who knows! The drain ‘doctor’ strongly advised never to use anything by laundry powder. If it does that to your pipes, then goodness knows what it’s doing to the inside of your machine.

Remember that you will always pay for convenience, so by buying capsules – you are spending maximum money! As there is no option to change the capsule dose – a capsule is a capsule, it’s a pre-set dose) for each wash, you could easily be using far more detergent than you actually need, particularly if you soften your water (more on that below). Powders are by far the cheapest to produce (and also happen to be the most eco-friendly, if you purchase them in cardboard) and so, they are the cheapest for consumers to buy. All manufacturers will send you a dosing scoop for free, if you send away to the address on the side of the pack. So there is absolutely no reason why you can’t take a moment to measure the correct amount each time.

Now, back to the issue of softening the water. Any detergent needs to soften the water before it can get to work. This is an important issue in the UK, as most places suffer hard water. Save yourself some more money by softening your water with a cheaper product than your expensive laundry detergent! Don’t waste your money on an expensive limescale prevention product; brand name or supermarket own! All you need is a 60p bag of Soda Crystals from Dri-Pak purchased at Home Bargains. (They are available elsewhere, for  about 40p more, like Wilko and Sainsbury’s). Add about a tablespoon with your detergent at each wash, just put it into the drawer.

Use MySupermarket to find out when your preferred brand of laundry detergent is on offer, so you always pay the lowest possible price and buy the biggest pack available (buying in bulk=big savings) – usually 65 washes these days for £10. (Don’t get me started that a couple of years ago you used to get 85 washes for the same price!!!) Though personally, with the addition of Soda Crystals I can make my box last about twice as long as that.

Finally, stop using fabric softener – it’s completely unnecessary and actually decreases the absorbency of towels and can make other clothing more flammable! Use about 50ml of white vinegar instead. It doesn’t make your laundry smell, but it will soften it without the needs for artificial chemicals and fragrances. It’s also a lot kinder on your wallet too – I can pick up 5 litres for £2.00.

I hope this helps you to save money on your laundry.

Minimalism and social media

If you’re going to be successful and stay on track as a Minimalist, then it pays to be very aware of how social media can influence you. Not only is it a way to keep in contact with friends, it can be a real emotional drain, financial nightmare and a massive time sink. My tops tips for keeping social media within healthy limits are to minimise everything! That way you can keep it manageable. (This post will be primarily Facebook related, since that is the main site I use).

  1. First of all, cull your friends list as much as possible. I used to have hundreds of ‘friends’. Then you realise you’re sharing your life with people who you only met once or who you knew 20 years ago, when you were at school. You have no idea who they are now or what they could be doing with your information. So get rid of them! I now have 9 friends on social media, I cut it down to all but my closest friends who I see regularly. It might mean that you offend some people, but just have a gentle chat with them or send them an email to explain that it’s nothing personal and you’d actually rather see them in person. It’s actually much nicer when you meet up with someone and they don’t know everything that’s happened to you recently, that way you actually have something to talk about! I used to see so many photos from friends that made me feel bad about my life – surely unintentional on their part. But if you can’t afford or aren’t able to take world trips, seeing that kind of thing can send you down. Seeing other people’s posts of their partner, family or children can actually be really hurtful if that’s not a part of your life right now. I am a lot less depressed now that I choose not to compare myself with others through this media.
  2. Limit the audience for your posts, photos etc and keep everything really close to your chest. Nothing I share on social media is in the public domain because I don’t want total strangers finding pictures of me via Google. This is also helpful when it comes to employment as well, as most employers apparently now Google their employees to check up on them. I have been horrified at how little some parents seem to know about this. I have seen really personal information about people’s children or hospital treatment via ‘friends of friends’. When I have contacted them to let them know, they have been surprisingly off-hand about it! People who share that level of personal information about you are not true friends! Remember, you have no control over your information once you put it into the public domain, or even into that of your friends.
  3. Unlike every brand and page you can, keeping only what is really relevant, edifying and interesting to you. Most brands will use their page to promote stuff they want to sell you. You really don’t need to opt into that kind of subtle advertising on a voluntary basis! Cut it out of your life and you’ll find yourself wanting a lot less. You’ll also find your feed is much less cluttered.
  4. Be wary of pages that people create, or selling groups. A lot of the time they just want to sell you something. Whether it’s craft items they’ve made, deals they post about, or second hand items. You’re opening yourself up to a feed of stuff you don’t want or need, but they’ll try to make you think that you do. A lot of people now actively target social media users and when they post about an item their child, or they really want – they reply with a link to that item, a supposed great deal. Talk about temptation! All you’ll be doing is handing them a big chunk of affiliate cash, along with the company. I just don’t think people need this kind of thing in their lives. Bloggers and other personalities like this are the new form of advertising. The trouble is that this side of advertising isn’t regulated at all.
  5. Every day, Facebook pops up with ‘memories’ for me nowadays. They choose things from your timeline that they think you’d like to see. Sometimes you don’t want to be reminded or certain events, so I take this opportunity to review and edit my past (as it were!) That way, I won’t be reminded of it again next year.
  6. If you’ve created pages that you no longer need or use, then delete them. This takes a little time, perhaps a week or so but that tidies up your homepage.
  7. Check your profile page and remove all your personal information – your friends already know where you live, what your phone number is, how old you are, when your Birthday is or your relationship status etc. Don’t put this kind of information into the public domain. Click the tabs for ‘about’ and get rid of your work history, education and so on. I mean really, it’s all just a way for people to show of and your real friends don’t care about this! Get rid of links to your personal websites and pages on other social media. You’re just creating a trail that anyone could try to follow. I know that sounds sinister, but my other half had a talk at his school from the Police and what they shared was enough to make you want to get rid of social media altogether. I don’t think many Police use it!
  8. Try as I might, I can’t delete the ‘people you may know’ section – it’s another example of a nasty way that Facebook tries to lure you in, to friending people you don’t really know.
  9. Consider whether you really need Facebook at all. This applies equally to other social media. I got rid of LinkedIn that so many people told me I needed to have, as a professional. All it did for me was generate spam friend requests from desperate people. I didn’t need to spend all my time deleting and blocking randoms! My life has never been calmer since getting rid of it. I’d actually love to get rid of Facebook, but from time to time find it useful- for staying in touch with friends on the other side of the world, or because it makes it easy and quick to contact brands with complaints or compliments!
  10. Check boxes to make sure that friends can’t post photos or other statuses about you, before you get to review them. That way you act as your own editor. You may not want photos of your children at someone else’s house being posted.
  11. Remember to check all of this regularly, it’s easy for time to slip by and you forget what you put up there! As I was writing this, I edited my profile down a bit more too. It’s a good reminder.
  12. Stay safe online – don’t message people you don’t know and be especially careful in public groups, where all your posts are automatically public. Delete the Facebook app from your phone if you have it and turn off your chat feature, so you don’t get distracted. You’ll find your life a lot calmer if you don’t have constant notifications in real time. They will all still be there later and they probably aren’t that important!
  13. Consider unliking brands etc and only liking them again if you need to, like say you want to contact them to complain. That way they won’t clog up your newsfeed.
  14. You can use different settings for each of your friends, so if you have someone who’s overly political on Facebook- set it do they don’t appear in your newsfeed and infuriate you on a daily basis 😉
  15. I’m not sure if you can do this now, but you might consider using a nickname for Facebook. This is quite important if you are in a profession such as teaching or healthcare, where you don’t want pupils, patients or clients trying to ‘friend’ you.
  16. Consider setting a time limit for social media, so that you don’t spend so much time on it. Some people even give it up for Lent, you could try a self-imposed ban – perhaps at weekends or on Sundays? Spend some quality face-to-face time with people or pets you love instead.

I hope these tips help you to simplify your online life. If you implement them all you’ll find you’re spending a lot less time on social media, since there’s nothing much to read. Some more tips will be coming soon. Thanks for reading 🙂