Four Tools to Help You Make the Most of eBay

eBay can be an exciting place to buy merchandise; and it can also offer a great way to make a few dollars by selling off goods that you no longer need.

Over time, eBay has developed a rich set of features that help its customers buy and sell goods. However, a number of third party tools have popped up that can help you make the most of eBay. These tools include:

  • PicClick – an online tool that allows users to browse eBay and Amazon visually. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this tool provides an interesting way of navigating both services.
  • STUFF ALERT – Looking for something specific on eBay, but can’t find it? Stuff Alert provides an online monitoring service that alerts you via email or SMS if an item matching your search criteria pops up.
  • Auction Bloopers – Listings with misspelled keywords typically don’t receive the same amount of traffic or attention as their properly spelled brethren. You can use this tool to ferret out auction listings that you might otherwise miss.
  • Prospector – If you’ve ever watched an eBay auction closely, you’ve probably noticed that most bids occur close to the very end of the auction. Typically called ‘sniping’, this tactic can enable users to nail auctions at great prices. Prospector automates this process; and also can help you search and find auction items.

The Stock Market Is Down, But The Smart Money Is Buying

So far this year, the major indices are all down by over 20%. It’s gotten so bad that a lot of us don’t even open up our retirement statements when they arrive in the mail. So what’s the smart money doing?

They’re buying up beaten down stocks.

Following the old adage of “Buy Low and Sell High”, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has recently taken big stakes in Goldman Sachs (GS) and General Electric (GE); and recently agreed to buy Constellation Energy at a fraction of its recent high of over $100 per share.

And he’s not the only one. Anthony Bolton, described by some as the “British Buffett”, recently purchased shares for the first time in two years because he believes that valuations are among the cheapest he’s seen in years.

Seven Ways to Save on College Textbooks

  • Textbook Rental
    – Instead of purchasing a book that you will use for a semester or two and then selling it back for a fraction of what you paid, Chegg and BookRenter.com provide books on rental-basis. The services claim that you can save 75-80% off of the cost of purchasing textbooks.
  • Look for Paperbook or International Editions
    – Some publishes create paperback and/or international editions that are essentially the same as the hardback version, but are less expensive.
  • Search for the Lowest Price
    – In addition to large book sites like Amazon, Half.com, and Alibris.com; check meta-search sites such as BigWords and CampusI.com. These meta-search engines hit multiple sites simultaneously and can help you quickly identify low-price options.
  • See About Using Earlier Editions
    – Often, the changes between editions are minor. If the textbook you need is unusually expensive or is difficult to find, then ask your professor if it is okay to use a previous edition.
  • Check Your Library
    – Frequently, college libraries keep current copies of textbooks available for short-term loan.  If a textbook is going to be used infrequently, then check with your library to see if it can be reserved when you need it.
  • Check University Forums
    – If your school has online forums or a place where goods can be posted for sale, then check and see if the textbooks you need are available for purchase. By negotiating a private-party sale or trade, you can cut out the middle-man and potentially get a very good deal.
  • Time Your Sales
    – Frequently, you can make the most money by selling your textbooks on your own. If you choose to do so, then you can maximize the number of potential buyers by selling your books when it’s top of mind for them. Therefore, consider selling just prior to the start of the semester.

A Roundup of 17 Tips to Help Save Money and Fuel

With gas prices pushing $4 a gallon, it seems there that are many articles that have been written on how to save fuel and money. I had originally planned not to write on this topic. However, after running across this article on Lifehacker, it struck me that there is potentially advice out there that simply isn’t cost-effective or even correct. So I decided to dig around and came up with a list of solid suggestions from reputable resources.

What follows is a list of 17 money saving tips and two dispelled myths:

  • Don’t drive aggressively – Edmunds tested a number of fuel saving tips and they found that driving less aggressively provided the best savings: an average of 31%. What does this mean? Avoid jack-rabbit starts, anticipate what’s ahead and brake lightly (but safely) and avoid mashing the gas pedal hard. In addition, do not accelerate as you climb hills.
  • Lower your speed – When Edmunds performed their test, they found that when they lowered their speed from 75 to 65, they saved an average of 12 percent.
  • Use cruise control – By using the cruise control, you are letting the car control throttling, which helps prevent aggressive throttling. During Edmund’s test, they noted an average savings of 7%.
  • Avoid excessive idling – When you are idling the engine, you are effectively getting zero miles per gallon. During Edmund’s test, they let the car idle for two minutes during ten stops on a ten mile course and noted a 19% improvement in savings when they shut the car off in lieu of idling. That may be a bit extreme, but if you’re idling for a minute or more, there may be some benefit to shutting the car off.
  • Reduce drag and weight – According to the guys at Car Talk, items that reduce your aerodynamic efficiency, like roof racks, can drop your fuel efficiency by 5 percent. If you’re not using your roof rack, take it off. Also, each additional 100 pounds of weight will reduce your economy by 1 to 2 percent. So, if you’ve got unneeded stuff in your trunk or in the back of your pickup, get rid of it.
  • Don’t use premium gas if it’s not needed – If your car does not require premium fuel, then do not buy it, as premium fuel will provide you with no additional benefit over regular fuel. And according to the guys at Car Talk, they believe that it’s okay to use regular fuel in cars that require premium gasoline, as long as the car has a “knock sensor” that will retard the timing, if needed.
  • Shop for the best price on gas – Before you fuel your vehicle, take a quick look at GasBuddy.com or the Gas Prices page at MSN Autos for the best price on gas in your local area.
  • Buy low rolling resistance tires – The folks over at Consumer Reports recommend using tires that have a low rolling resistance. They typically cost the same, but CR figures that it will save you about $100 per year.
  • Shift up, when possible – Using the highest gear possible for a given speed will save you gas, as the engine turns more slowly at a given speed than if you were to use a lower gear. So, if you have a manual transmission, shift more quickly and work your way up the gears. As long as you have got torque to continue accelerating — and as long as the engine isn’t shuddering or pinging — you will be fine.
  • Air-conditioner versus windows – Edmunds did not notice any difference in performance when using the A/C at highway speeds. Digging into this further, it appears that when you are driving at speeds below 45 MPH, it is best to open the windows and turn the A/C off. At higher speeds, the drag caused by the open windows becomes significant and it is actually better to roll-up the windows and turn the A/C on.
  • Look for alternatives – instead of taking the car, consider other options: public transportation, bicycling, or walking. Doing without your car for a day or two a week can pay off handsomely. And if you bike or walk, think of the exercise you will get.
  • Consider a more efficient vehicle – if you’re in the market for a car, then considering looking at the most fuel efficient models that will meet your needs. Given that the typical American keeps their car at least two to three years, stop and consider what the cost of gas might be a few years from now. A few extra MPG in a new car now may pay off handsomely down the road.
  • Carpool – Like public transportation or walking, this isn’t a radical idea. However, if your commute is long, splitting the cost with someone can provide significant cost savings.
  • Join a Car Co-op – Some cities in the US now have a car co-op that allow users to share a fleet of cars for a monthly fee. And if you drive less than 10k miles per year, it may make sense from a financial perspective. According to a study by the Swiss Office for Energy Affairs, co-op members reduced their driving by more than 70 percent, without feeling impacted about the lack of immediate transportation. Sound interesting? Check out zipcar.
  • Telecommute – If your work situation allows it, ask whether you can work from home a day or more per week. Not only will you save money and fuel, but you can also skip shaving.
  • Have your car serviced regularly – Regular service can identify problems than can reduce the efficiency of your car. Items like sticky brake calipers, low transmission fluid and broken thermostats can reduce your car’s ability to use gas efficiently. In addition, routine service can help rectify issues that may put your safety at risk.
  • Use the correct oil – Many engines in use today are engineered to precise tolerances and are designed to use very lightweight oil. Using thicker oil will cause your engine to expend more energy as it works to push through the oil, reducing gas mileage. In addition, thicker than recommended oil may not lubricate your engine as well. If in doubt, check the owner’s manual for your car.
  • Fuel up early in the morning – Conventional wisdom suggests that you should fuel your car when it is cooler outside, on the theory that cooler gas is more dense and that you’ll get more fuel for your month. However, that’s a myth. Since fuel is typically stored underground, the temperate of the fuel coming out of the pump remains relatively consistent throughout the day.
  • Change your air filter – Again, another myth. Some people believe that when an air filter is clogged, the car will “run rich” and burn more fuel than it should. However, almost all cars on the road today will automatically sense how much oxygen is coming into the engine and will adjust the fuel mixture accordingly.

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