Something surprising has happened over the last six months, and it has to do with money. If you're squeamish about reading about dollars and cents, you might want to look elsewhere today. Speaking only for myself, I don't really like talking about money, but I'm absolutely fascinated by it. I suspect I'm not alone, but it's hard to know since I don't talk about it much.
Anyway, the surprising thing is that my online sales have become a substantial part of my income - equal to or surpassing my part-time job, and more than I make picking up free-lance writing work here and there. One reason is that I'm working at it a lot harder. And the reason I'm working at it harder is that last fall, I sat down, wrote down some financial goals for the next 12 months, then did the math and figured out how to reach them.
I usually have an endless tape looping through my head about what I'd like to do, from home improvement projects to ways to pay for college. Although we've had household budgets, I never really sat down and wrote down my personal goals, let alone figured out how to reach them. It was more of a "I'd like to re-do the dining room so I'll sell some stuff online" approach. Seat of the pants.
My goals were modest, and not very exciting: Eliminate all credit card debt. Add to an emergency fund. Have a little cushion of cash that could be spent, but not without a really good reason. And contribute to my kids' college funds. I wrote down where I'd like to be by September 2012, and the money it would take to get there. Then I had to figure out how to earn it. I came up with a plan and wrote it down. And because I'd rather walk on broken glass than not meet a goal I've set down in writing, I've been making steady progress.
In fact, I've shocked myself at how much progress I've made. All because I wrote down a plan in black and white. It wasn't some nebulous I'll-get-it-done-someday kind of thing. It was a piece of paper I could see every time I opened my jewelry box, which is where I put it for safe-keeping.
It's helped me, too, to give myself a weekly goal. If you've sold online, you know there's real work involved, and it's really tempting to put it off. When I start feeling that way, I tell myself that all I have to do is have $50 in sales. Five items, ten bucks each. The actual income is less, once you subtract out the expenses, but you get the idea. Even on my busiest day, or my laziest one, I can come up with five things that are easy to photograph and quick to list.
In fact, that small goal is easy enough to reach that I can usually manage that a couple of times a week. Ten items, ten bucks each = $100 in sales. But usually things sell for more than ten bucks. Sometimes they sell for $40. Ten items, forty bucks each = $400 in sales. That starts to add up.
Thinking like this has helped me stay on track, so I'm passing it along in the hopes it might help you, too. I've got some ideas on making the best of a bad estate sale, too, so the next time I talk about money, I'll talk about that. (And since I'm going to a couple of sales this weekend that honestly don't look very promising, I might be able to put my plan into action!)
Feel free to ask me anything, and I'd love to hear your ideas on reaching your financial goals, too.