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These days, selling items you no longer want or things you’ve made has become easier and more lucrative than ever before. We no longer have to hold yard sales every week, or pay for classified ads in newspapers.
With eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Craigslist, and so many other outlets available, you have the world at your fingertips. But of course, the more open you are to sellers, the more accessible you are to scammers.
Know what to watch out for, and you can sell your stuff with minimal stress. (See also: How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams)
1. Don’t Accept Big Bills
If you’re selling on Craigslist, you have to be very careful with cash transactions. Something scammers love to do is present a fake $50 or $100 bill, and take home an item along with a bunch of change. The seller is left holding a worthless note and down a valuable possession. One way to keep this kind of damage to a minimum is to only take $20 bills and below.
However, $20 bills can be fake as well, so you have to keep your wits about you. There are many ways to detect fake notes, and if the bill has blurry text and lines, no watermark, you likely have a fake. If you’re in no mood to become a detective, pick up a fake note detector kit.
It costs less than $10 and will pay for itself the first time you detect a phony bill.
2. Always Meet Your Buyer in a Public Place
It may be inconvenient for you to meet in a police station parking lot or at a local coffee shop, but your first priority here has to be your personal safety. You have no idea who you’re meeting and what they have in mind, even if they sound wonderful via email or over the phone.
Some “buyers” lure you in to steal your item, and whatever else you have on you. Some want to cause you physical harm, or worse, and have no intention of purchasing anything. If you ask to meet in a public place and they refuse, that’s a massive red flag.
If they want you to bring the item to an address of their choosing, you also need to steer clear of that transaction.
If you can, bring a friend (or friends) and tell other people where you’re going and all the details about the person you’re meeting. Most of the time, it’s just a regular person looking for a deal. But you really don’t want to let your guard down and trust the wrong person.
3. Have Evidence of the Item’s Condition
Many people abuse the goodwill of online sellers to save money. One of the nastiest ways you can be taken advantage of is when someone buys a mint condition item from you, then asks for a return and a refund because “it doesn’t work.”
For example, let’s say someone buys a high-end computer mouse from you, then they say it doesn’t work and want a refund. You know it worked fine when you sold it. If it’s something that costs more than just a few bucks, have evidence of the item working in the listing itself.
Take accurate photos and videos, and record serial numbers. It takes just a few minutes to get this all down, and you only have to store it until the transaction is closed and everyone is happy.
4. Avoid Buyers With Brand New Accounts
This is not to say that all buyers with new accounts are scammers. This is simply a precaution you should take to avoid getting stung. Scammers tend to get banned by eBay after a few incidents that form a pattern of fraudulent behavior.
These people will just keep opening new accounts, doing a few returns for broken items, or “item not as described” before being banned again and continuing the cycle. Luckily, you don’t have to weed these buyers out on your own. eBay has settings that let you block certain buyers.
5. Be Wary of Requests For Partial Refunds
So, you sold your item and everything seems fine. Then you get an email from the buyer, saying that the item isn’t in the condition they were expecting, or it’s missing some parts — which you know were included. But they want to keep the item.
They’d just like you to refund their money to make things right. If you’re asked to do a partial refund, try and get evidence of the problem. If it’s damaged, ask to see the damage. If it doesn’t work as described, ask for a video. If they refuse, you know something’s afoot.
If they do send pictures, you have a few choices. You can say you want the item to be returned, and will fully refund their purchase upon receipt. If they don’t want to do that, they’re probably trying to get a quick buck from you.
Of course, sometimes these partial refund requests are genuine, perhaps due to an inaccurate listing from a new seller, or another mistake. In that case, a partial refund is something you can issue if you feel comfortable.
6. Never Ship to a Different Address Than The One on File
When you set up an account on an online selling site, you should enter a shipping and billing address. This is standard practice. If you sell an item, and receive a note asking that you ship to a different address, you should decline.
On rare occasions, the person hasn’t updated their shipping address from a move, or it’s a gift for someone else. Too bad. Don’t do it.
When you’re asked to ship to a different address, it could be that the account in question has been hacked, or you will be asked for a refund because the item was not delivered to the address on file. It’s just not worth it.
Amazon is the latest e-commerce retailer to offer free shipping on all pre-holiday purchases, regardless of membership status.
Amazon typically offers free two-day shipping to Prime members, who pay $119 for the privilege. Otherwise, shoppers must hit a $25 purchase minimum to access free shipping.
“All Amazon customers can enjoy free shipping with no minimum purchase amount on orders that will arrive in time for the Christmas holiday,” the company announced on its website.
It also noted that eligible items typically ship in five to eight days.
The promotion started Nov. 5 and is available “for a limited time.”
Amazon’s offer is likely in response to increasing competition from other retailers that hope to lure customers to their e-commerce options.
Target announced Oct. 23 that it would offer free two-day shipping to all online shoppers without requiring a minimum order size. That promotion began Nov. 1 and will continue through Dec. 22. Target typically has a $35 minimum order requirement to access free shipping.
Meanwhile, Walmart announced the same day that it’s expanding its free two-day shipping option to Marketplace items sold by third parties.
“In the coming months, you will see millions of additional items with the two-day free shipping label,” the company announced. Walmart.com will still require a $35 minimum order for free two-day shipping.
Customers in search of the best shipping deal for their online holiday shopping should watch the fine print for deadlines and restrictions that could delay delivery of those gifts
One Last Free-Shipping Hurrah?
These free shipping offers are enticing for customers, but retailers may not be so generous next holiday season.
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed a 9% to 12% increase for the parcel select shipping service used by Amazon for the last leg of delivery. FedEx also announced that ground and home delivery shipping rates will increase by an average of 4.9%.
These increases don’t go into effect until January 2019. But they surely have major e-commerce players preparing to adjust their shipping strategies or make up for the increase in other ways — potentially by increasing prices.
How the actress made sure Bianca would be “no sidekick or cheerleader.”
Tessa Thompson is a superhero. In the past year alone, she’s starred in Sorry to Bother You, Annihilation, and Creed II, she has a Men in Black reboot on the way, and she literally played a superhero in Thor: Ragnarok.
For Creed II, she’s also written and performed her very own original music, redefined the role of the stereotypical boxer wife with strength, independence, and unapologetic blackness, and dealt with a “hangry” Michael B. Jordan on set.
And what does she ask of us? To let her be mediocre. Let her be average. “For me, the mark of true equality will be when we get to be mediocre,” says Thompson, the “we” here referring to black actors. “I feel like we are all exceptional because you have to be. It will just be nice when you get to be average.”
While Thompson probably won’t be pulling an “average” any time soon, the actress is finding the balance between roles that challenge her and providing some much-needed representation in Hollywood. And with boxing blockbuster Creed II, Thompson has done just that. She plays Bianca, a “fiercely” strong musician who can and does, go toe to toe with Jordan’s strong-willed boxer Adonis. Bianca is no sidekick or cheerleader—a choice that Thompson influenced while shaping the role with director Steven Caple Jr.
Below, Thompson opens up about her special connection to the characters she plays, her undying passion for acting, and Michael B. Jordan’s secret (he eats pizza in sweatpants).
You’ve said you felt a connection with Bianca even when you weren’t filming and have mentioned that you look for roles that are parts of yourself you haven’t been able to explore. How does Bianca fit into that?
Well, we’re actually really dissimilar in a lot of ways, but I can relate to the fact that she’s a musician and that’s really tied to her identity. I can relate to that. It felt like acting was always this compulsion in school; I would try to do other things and went to school for other things, but always came back to acting. It felt like something that I could not not do. In the first film, Adonis asks her why she does what she does, and she says it makes her feel alive. In this one, it’s something they talk about a lot, that they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t do the thing that they burn for. I think I can really relate to that.
Who do you feel most like, Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok, Bianca from Creed, or Detroit from Sorry to Bother You?
They all mean a lot to me, for a multitude of reasons. I feel really lucky to get to make work at this time and be part of the conversation around representation for women and particularly women of color; our ideas are becoming more expansive. Detroit means a lot to me because I felt like it was the first time I had the chance to play inside of a magical-realism narrative. So many of the films that I grew up watching that made me want to make movies, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—all of these incredible sort of mind-bending, hyper-imaginative stories—just felt really not terribly inclusive of people of color, so that felt monumental to me.
Obviously, to get to play a superhero—again, you don’t see a lot of women of color in that space, but particularly queer women, and to get to play a character that’s queer, that felt significant to me.
Bianca feels significant to me in the sense that she’s a really well-rounded female character inside a sports narrative, which is really rare. We hadn’t seen that since the first Rocky, and so to continue that tradition with a character that is also unapologetically black and independent felt significant. I couldn’t really pick one. It’d be like having to kill one of my darlings. They all mean a lot to me.
Michael B. Jordan recently talked about selecting movies with bigger cultural aims for black people, and becoming a movie star, without the descriptor “black” first. Do you look at it through a similar lens?
I’d be hard pressed to look at something objectively, because I’m me. I feel like, yes, selfishly I want to be breaking new ground for myself. So it’s like, “What have I not done?” I came from the indie world, so the idea of getting to do a big ol’ giant movie and work on green screen felt attractive because it mildly terrified me. It felt like something new. Then in a macro sense, I feel like it’s deeply significant culturally. For me the sweet spot is when those two things align. I want to make work that I’m proud of, so that’s the first thing. And then inside of that is also, “Is this a good way to contribute? Is there something to say in this that the culture needs?”
I feel so tethered to stories that center women and center women of color, because I happen to be both of those things. But I feel like where we really can break ground is when there are too many of us for one of us to be exceptional. That’s what’s exciting about this time. Playing Valkyrie was cool, but then when Black Panther came along and suddenly there’s all these other women of color in this space, that’s cooler. That feels better to me. I would prefer to be one of many than to be just one. Similarly, getting to work with women directors. We just don’t get those opportunities nearly enough. For me, the mark of true equality will be when we get to be mediocre. I feel like we are are all exceptional because you have to be. It will just be nice when you get to be average.
“FOR ME, THE MARK OF TRUE EQUALITY WILL BE WHEN WE GET TO BE MEDIOCRE.”
The role of the boxer wife has been done before, often as a stereotypical anxious woman behind the scenes, but that’s definitely not Bianca. How is Creed II rewriting this narrative?
That was super important to me because it’s what we established in the first movie. A part of the reason why Bianca disappears from the third act of the first movie is because Michael’s character messes up and she’s like, “Look, I have a world that’s too big and I’m trying to do too many things to have you mess with it, so goodbye.” I loved that about her. I loved that she just had her own agency. Even though they become far more intertwined in this one, and they make a commitment to each other and they’re beginning a family, it is really important to honor that the woman we’ve established is fiercely, fiercely independent.
I had some measure of hesitation when I knew that she was going to be pregnant, and some worry that she might end up being the dutiful wife. I expressed those concerns to Steven Caple Jr, our fantastic director, and those concerns made it into the movie—when she says to him: “I’m not gonna be this barefoot wife making you sandwiches.” That was literally something I expressed to Mike and to Steven and they were like, “Let’s put it in the movie.”
Michael B. Jordan is perfect and wonderful, but can you give us the dirt? Does he have bad breath? Does he clap when the plane lands?
I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this, but he’s really irritable when he hasn’t eaten. He gets really angry. It’s not just sort of like, “Okay, get him a sandwich.” I think it might have also been exacerbated by—when he’s training, there are certain days where he wouldn’t drink water all day and he was going through very intense training. So he was allowed some irritable days.
Also, when he’s having a cheat day, he really goes in and it feels like being at a college dorm room, but a really nice one, where the kid has a lot of money because he just has everything from Chinese food to pizza. Every kind of junk cuisine he’d want. He’s in basketball shorts just gorging himself. But he only had a couple of those days, so he’s allowed.
Is your inbox groaning under the weight of a thousand gift-guide emails? Did you intend to set aside money for the holidays this year and then, yet again, forget? Do you hate everyone who talks about their “holiday budget”?
Welcome to the club! We’re a big one: Last year, 74 percent of Americans reported that they failed to budget adequately for the holidays. And here we are again.
To me, December is about damage control. You’re going to eat too much and drink too much and spend too much money — just embrace it.
But there’s a difference between getting into the holiday spirit and no-holds-barred hedonism, and that usually comes down to strategy. Sure, you could spend with abandon and atone for it in January — I’ve done that before, and it makes New Year’s Day that much more painful. Or you could make 2019 a little easier on yourself and come up with a plan.
I asked several financial experts for their recommendations on handling the holidays, especially for those who haven’t budgeted as much as they hoped (or, you know, at all). Happy Black Friday weekend, and good luck out there
1. Pick a limit, ideally no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income.
Choosing a dollar limit for gift shopping is an obvious step, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In an ideal world, you’d come up with that number at least a few months in advance so you could save accordingly, but oh well — there’s always next year.
For now, look at what’s in your bank account, subtract your “needs” (fixed monthly costs like housing, food, etc.) and then see what’s left over. Realistically, how much of that can you put toward gifts, what other holiday expenses should you account for (like travel, a New Year’s Eve dinner, an outfit to wear to said New Year’s Eve dinner, etc.)?
As a guiding principle, Emily Purdon, a certified financial planner and member of the Financial Therapy Association, recommends spending no more than 1 to 1.5 percent of your annual income on gifts.
But that number means nothing if you don’t have it in cash right now, says Manisha Thakor, the founder of MoneyZen and VP of Financial Education at Brighton Jones. “Do not spend any money on holiday gifts that will require you to take on debt (or increase any debt you already have),” she says.
Your goal is to work with what you have this very minute — not with your next paycheck, your anticipated bonus, or the money you hope to save by not drinking in January.
2. Get on the same page as your loved ones so you don’t under- or over-gift.
Talk to the people in your present-exchanging circle and come up with a plan. “I always recommend having a pre-holiday conversation with your family that’s like, ‘Hey guys, how do we want to handle gifts this year?’” says Alexa Von Tobel, the author of Financially Forward: How to Use Today’s Digital Tools to Earn More, Save Better, and Spend Smarter. “The most awkward dynamic in buying gifts is that you don’t want it to be uneven.
When everyone decides together that you’re going to keep things under $100, or $50, or whatever, then it’s more fun and less stressful because no one has to worry about under-gifting somebody.”
You could also propose a group-gift arrangement, like pooling your money with your siblings to get your mom that $500 bag she really wants, doing a Secret Santa with your cousins, or pitching in for a family activity instead. “Maybe everyone would be happier if you just split the cost of a great dinner out,” says Von Toebel. “I guarantee you’ll find that everyone prefers to be economical, even if they make more money than you do — they still have their own expenses and financial goals.”
3. Go “narrow and deep” or “wide and shallow” — i.e. quality versus quantity.
Pick your approach: “Do you want to go ‘wide and shallow,’ and buy a variety of lower-cost gifts for a wide range of people, or ‘narrow and deep,’ and pick a select group and spend more on them?” asks Thakor. “The thing to avoid is going ‘wide and deep,’ as much as you might want to.”
Personally, I usually do a combination of the two. There are five people for whom I go “narrow and deep” (my immediate family members and significant other), and then a second tier of “wide and shallow” friends who will get, say, a book, a bottle of wine, a plant … you get it.
The trick is to figure out how many people fall into each camp and then, based on your finances (see No. 1), do the math on what “deep” or “shallow” means, cost-wise.
Depending on your situation, “deep” might be $100 per gift, while “shallow” is $20 — but you won’t know until you determine how many people are in each group and how much money you have to spread around between them.
4. Don’t let marketing tricks derail your gift-buying plan.
Retailers spend millions in research and ploys to put you in the shopping mood; don’t be fooled. One study found that when stores played Christmas music during the holidays, customers spent 34 percent more time browsing and were 17 percent more likely to buy something.
Meanwhile, Christmas scents have been found to boost sales. You can avoid these traps by shopping online (which also has its pitfalls — clicking is so easy!) and, more importantly, deciding what you’re going to buy before you shop. “Make a list of who you’re buying presents for, what you’re buying them, and how much you’re going to spend on each, and don’t let yourself deviate from it,” says Von Tobel. “Keep that list on hand and reference it whenever you’re tempted to go off-script.”
5. Get even more out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with promos and online tools.
Between Black Friday (which now lasts for weeks, apparently) and all the other “special” sales accosting your brain this month, how do you know where to get the best deal? Apps like ShopSavvy allow you to scan product barcodes when you’re in a physical store and compare prices to other retailers nearby and online.
I also recommend Honey, a browser extension that automatically finds active promo codes and applies them to your online order — it really works.
In the meantime, you know that Coco Chanel quote about looking in the mirror and taking one thing off before you leave the house?
The same applies to shopping. “There’s almost always at least one item in your cart that you don’t need,” says Von Tobel. “Do a quick scan, see if you can take one item out, and then look at your holiday budget. Are you following the guidelines you set for yourself? If you buy this extra thing, how will it impact the rest of your spending?”
And finally, don’t wait around hoping for prices to get better. They might, but then again, they might not — and then you’ll get stuck.
Thirty-six percent of holiday debt-holders attributed their overspending to last-minute gifts, so start early. Cyber Monday is your friend.
6. Consider giving an experience, or something else that connects you to the recipient.
“I usually give three types of gifts: something homemade or edible, an experience, or a handwritten letter,” says Purdon. “I always take time to wrap and decorate the gifts, and I write a note and use a personalized seal and some colored wax.
These gifts have one thing in common: They show I took the time.” They also feel intimate and don’t need to cost much.
Research consistently shows that people derive more happiness from spending money on experiences rather than things, so it’s no surprise that giving experiences goes farther than material objects. A 2014 study found that “recipients of experiential gifts consequently feel closer to their gift giver than do recipients of material gifts, regardless of whether the gift is consumed together.”
In other words, buying someone a pottery class, concert tickets, or a restaurant certificate will probably give you a bigger bang for your buck than that sweater you were considering.
7. Use the “envelope method” or a pre-paid card to avoid debt.
As someone who will never be naturally adept at keeping track of money, I pay off my credit card multiple times a month (or even several times a week) to keep myself in line, especially when I’m buying things that I normally don’t — like Christmas presents. If you need an even tighter leash, Thakor recommends the old-fashioned “envelope method,” where you put your entire holiday budget in an envelope in cash; when the cash is gone, you holiday spending stops.
Alternatively, you could get a prepaid card that no longer works once you’ve hit your limit (here are some good options).
8. Don’t buy anything just to impress.
And finally, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses — chances are, they’re spending money they don’t have. In 2017, the average holiday-induced debt in the U.S. was $1,054, according to one survey; 29 percent of those debt-holders reported that they’d need five months or more to pay it off.
Do you really want to be paying for holiday gifts in May of 2019? Instead, use those months (and that money) to save up for next December — or at least think about it.
If there’s one thing banks love, it’s charging you extra for stupid things and hoping you won’t notice. Don’t let greedy banks upcharge you into oblivion. Here are some extremely common fees that are easy to avoid.
Fees are one of the worst offenders of wasted money. It may not seem like a lot, but they can add up quickly, they’re easily avoidable, and they don’t provide anything of benefit to you—it’s money down the drain.
Every single person with a bank account can get rid of these fees with just a little effort, and it’s one of the first steps you should take to get your finances in order.
Fees on Your Bank Account
We all need checking accounts, and in most cases they’re free…unless you take out too much money, don’t have enough money, or accidentally pay someone money that isn’t there. Basically, if you aren’t on top of your bank account, the banks will gouge you.
Thankfully, most of these are avoidable with a little research—and if you do get charged, you can often waive them with a simple phone call.
Overdraft Fees and Credit Card Late Payment Fees: Overdraft fees are probably the most notorious bank fees. In the first three months of this year, the three largest banks made $1.1 billion on overdraft fees.
Sometimes, you just don’t realize how much money is in your account and you write a check that sends you into the negative.
So naturally, the banks charge you money for not having enough money—often as much as $35 a pop.
The simple solution? Stop overdrafting and learn to manage your money better. If you’re still struggling, set up a low balance alert on your account so you know when your account is low.
Of course, mistakes still happen, and once in a while, you might overdraft. Provided you’re not repeatedly overdrafting, a simple phone call to your bank can fix this problem.
The gist is simple: make the call and ask them to waive the overdraft fee.
If they balk at your request, point out how long you’ve been a loyal customer. In most cases, they’ll waive the fee right there. I Will Teach You To Be Rich author Ramit Sethi has a great script you can follow to do just this.
You can also opt out of overdraft protection, which means you’ll bounce checks, but the fees are usually much lower. Talk to your bank to learn how.
The same goes for credit card late payment fees. If you pick up the phone and call your bank and ask them to waive the fee, they’ll usually do it, provided you’re not doing it every month.
The easiest way to avoid these fees is to meet the requirements for a free checking account.
Each bank differs, but let’s take Bank of America as an example. In order to skip out on the monthly fee, you need to either: have at least one direct deposit of $250 or more a month, maintain an average minimum balance of at least $1,500 over the month, or be a rewards member.
Maintaining a balance of $1,500 isn’t easy for everyone, but most of us probably have a direct deposit from work of at least $250. If you don’t, or your employer doesn’t support direct deposit, you can send yourself money using an online service like Square Cash, Venmo, or Paypal.
Doing this shows up in your account as an ACH transfer, which counts as direct deposit and should waive the fee. If you’d prefer to skip this altogether, though, try an online bank or credit union instead—most of them don’t have these fees.
Minimum Balance and Maintenance Fees: A lot of banks offer you a checking account for free, but require you to keep a certain amount of money in it—called a “minimum balance”. If you don’t, you’re charged around $12 a month to keep the account (called a “maintenance fee”).
Returned Check Fees: It’s common knowledge that if you bounce a check, you’ll get a fee (which you can often get refunded by following the same steps as if you overdraft).
What’s more obnoxious is when you get charged a fee because a check you deposited bounces when the sender doesn’t have the cash to back it up.
Typically, banks charge around $7 per check and are filed under “processing fees.”
Again, you can usually get these fees waived with a phone call. Over on I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Sethi asked the bank to remove the fees with a simple statement: “I’d like to have this removed.” That was it, they removed the $7 fee.
Fees for Customer Service
It’s actually pretty easy these days to find an ATM That doesn’t carry fees. If you don’t already have it installed, download your bank’s smartphone app. Most have an ATM locator option so you can easily find the closest free ATM, which is awesome.
Alternatively—and this is an even better option—there are plenty of banks that will refund all your ATM fees, so it’s like you never paid them. Switch to one of those and you’ll never worry about ATM fees again.
Sometimes, it feels like banks are trying as hard as they can to not be convenient. Want to take money out of your account from another bank’s ATM? Pay a fee.
Want a paper statement in the mail? Pay a fee. Accidentally get it sent to the wrong address? Pay a bigger fee. Thankfully, these charges are incredibly easy to avoid—you just have to know they exist in the first place.
ATM Fees: ATM fees are pretty well known, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. If you use an ATM not owned by your bank, you’re charged a fee by both your bank and the ATM company. If you use ATMs a lot, this adds up pretty quickly.
Paper Statement Fees: It might seem ridiculous, but a number of banks charge you $1 or $2 for paper statements.
Big ones include TD Bank, U.S. Bank, and a number of regional banks. Sadly, there’s really no way around it, other than signing up for paperless statements (which you’ll get in your email) or changing banks.
Still, if you don’t need those paper statements, signing up for paperless statements only takes a couple of minutes on your bank’s website
Every bank differs, but you’ll usually find a link on your main account page.
Returned Mail Fee: Moving is hard enough as it is, but if you forget to change your address with your bank, things get costly too.
If you get paper statements a number of banks, including U.S. Bank and many regional banks don’t allow statements to be forwarded, and when they’re returned, you’ll get a surprise undeliverable fee of anywhere between $5 and $15.
The fix is simple: remember to change your address with your bank.
Other Account Fees
You probably knew about a few of the above—you may have even gotten dinged by them before. But there are all kinds of other fees you might not know about. You can get most waived or at least lowered if you know what to do, but sometimes it’s just about getting ahead of them and not be surprised by the fees.
Foreign Transaction Fees: When you travel abroad, your bank will charge you two fees: one conversion fee for taking money out of an ATM, and another fee for every time you swipe your card. We talked about this in our guide to travel-related fees, but it bears repeating here because they can add up really fast if you’re on vacation.
Avoiding these fees is all about preparation. If you travel a lot, pick a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees (there are quite a few). Banks range from charging you 1% to 3% per transaction on your credit card or debit card, so call them before you go and use the card with the lowest fee.
As for those ATM fees, most large banks have partner banks where you can withdraw cash for free. Just make sure you research ahead of time so you know where to go.
Credit Card Interest Rates: We all know that credit cards come with interest rates. That’s just part of the deal, right? Ideally, you shouldn’t carry a balance at all on your credit card, but if you do have some debt, you can negotiate your interest rate.
The Washington Post points out that it often just takes a phone call to get your interest rate lowered.
The older you are, the more likely that phone call will work. Only 33% of people aged 18-29 had luck lowering their interest rate, but 59% of people aged 30-49 did, and 79% of people aged 50-64 were able to lower their rate. Regardless, this script should help you along the way.
Stop Payment Fees: Sometimes, you need to cancel a check. Maybe you wrote the incorrect amount, or a check got lost in the mail. You can call your bank and cancel that check, but it’ll cost you to do so. Every bank varies a little on how much they’ll charge you, but it’s typically between $30 and $35.
Like a lot of the fees on this list, your magic bullet is a phone call. If you’ve been a longstanding customer and don’t request to stop payment checks very often, you can call up your bank and ask them to waive the fee.
Depending on your bank, you should be able to get it removed.
Wire Transfer Fees: Wiring money to and from your bank account costs…well, more money. Most banks charge around $15 for incoming wire transfers and $25-$30 for outgoing transfers. That adds up pretty quick if you’re moving money around a lot.
Thankfully, it’s 2015 and wire transfers aren’t really necessary anymore. In most cases, you can send money to other people or business with a service for no additional fees. It should be just as quick as a wire transfer.
Banks love fees and even when you know about them, it’s hard to track them sometimes. Thankfully, a tool like Mint will give you a breakdown of your fees for the month, so it’s easy to monitor. When a new one pops up, you’ll know what to do to get it removed and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Of the top Black Friday retailers that put out flyers every year, Walmart has always been a leader in the brick-and-mortar category.
The mega-store is known for offering deals on products in almost every category, from smart TVs to children’s toys. As such, it has become a one-stop destination for many savvy shoppers.
Walmart Black Friday Hours
11/22 – Thanksgiving Day – 6 PM to 12 AM
11/23 -Black Friday – 6 AM
Store hours may vary by state.
Walmart Black Friday Deals
This year, Walmart is making it even easier for buyers to snap up great deals by expanding its online retail offerings. Available as of November 1, shoppers can access a whole host of great deals, (which were made available to users with an “Early Access Pass” earlier this week).
These discounted items, which will be available from now up to Black Friday, are listed at up to 40 percent off regular prices. These deals also give us an idea of the kinds of sales to expect on Black Friday itself.
Featured items include:
82-inch Samsung 4K Ultra HD Smart QLED TV, on sale for $1,102 off regular price (you read that right)
64GB iPhone X with Free $55 Airtime, listed with a $55 discount
Anyone who has shopped at Walmart during Black Friday before knows that it usually brings forward incredible deals on TVs, cell phones from Samsung and Apple, laptops from HP, gaming consoles, and other home electronics. The retailer’s ad from last year delivered an impressive 32 pages of discounted products.
The company also has a habit of matching whatever the other major retailers offer; for example, Walmart will be offering free two-day shipping for orders of $35 or more, just like Target announced last month.
This goes for its sale prices as well as its offers on shipping and returns.
It’s unlikely that any other store will be able to match Walmart’s prices on smartphones, and the store has historically offered the cheapest large 4K TVs from notable retailers. If either is on your wish list this year, be sure to keep your eyes on Walmart as the next few weeks progress.
Doors open for the Black Friday weekend sale at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, November 22, though you can shop the entire day online, too.
It makes sense that Randall Thompson feels comfortable comparing his business to America’s pastime, considering how big a role it has played in his life.
“I feel as if what we’re doing, we’re playing a baseball game,” he says. “And we’re probably somewhere in the fifth inning right now.”
Growing up in central Florida, his love of the game began with T-ball at the age of 5 and led to college ball at the Florida Institute of Technology. His collegiate efforts earned him a spot as an undrafted free agent for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011.
But Thompson’s professional career came to an end the following year, when he was released after extended spring training.
For most, following one path only to see it end sooner than expected is a major setback. But Thompson took it in stride and forged a new path by combining two things he loved: baseball and entrepreneurship.
After the Blue Jays cut him, Thompson headed back to his alma mater to work as the team’s pitching coach.
It was there, in the dugout during practice, that Thompson had a lightbulb moment.
A hitting coach cut the barrel off a bat so the players could focus on gripping the handle. Looking at the discarded barrel, Thompson wondered if he could bore out a hole and then drink out of it, like a beer mug.
Little did he know, he’d just come up with what would soon become a million-dollar idea and the foundation for his future company.
Despite the initial idea, Thompson didn’t really pursue the concept of baseball-bat mugs until about six months later, in July 2014.
He always knew that he had an entrepreneurial side, so when he decided to move forward with the project, it was a headfirst dive.
He went through a ton of different trials and prototypes before he finally got it right. And they all happened in the converted garage apartment in his sister’s backyard, where he was living at the time.
He started out with a chop saw and a vice. He also bought a wood-burning kit from his local Michaels arts and crafts store. He attempted to bore out the barrels by hand and tried tracing a Sharpie-drawn logo with his newly bought wood-burning tool.
“It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination,” he says with a laugh. “But it was a place to start.”
An early version of the mug consisted of two parts, which would screw together like a billiards cue stick. This prototype led to days and days of frustration. Just imagine Thompson in his apartment, hunched over two hand-drilled pieces of barrel, trying to line them up, only for them to be offset just a little bit. Every. Single. Time.
Next, he decided to buy a drill press — despite knowing next to nothing about the tool.
He set it up his kitchen and pulled his phone out so he could record a video of the first time he used it to bore out a barrel.
“I slowly bring down the drill press and the bit just lightly touches the barrel and just BOOM!” he says. “It just flings [the barrel] against the wall.”
He quickly repacked and returned the drill press.
Over time, he started asking himself better questions and developed a solid product. By June of 2016, he was ready to introduce the Dugout Mug to the world.
Time to Toe the Rubber
Like some of the biggest and brightest companies we know today, Thompson Mug Company started in a garage, while Thompson was working a full-time job, and then some.
When he wasn’t working as a sales rep for Sherwin-Williams, he was taking on side hustles to earn extra cash. And he wasn’t picky when it came to side jobs — he says he basically “started seeing dollar bills everywhere.”
Thompson funneled pretty much everything he made into his new company. Side gigs included repainting pharmacies overnight, flipping furniture on OfferUp and dressing up as Spider-Man — not to fight crime, but for kids’ birthday parties.
All the while, Thompson was thinking about the company’s future and how he could really kick it up a notch. The next thing that happened, he calls fate.
While scrolling through a Facebook group for ex-minor and major league players, Thompson saw a shared post; a fellow named Kris Dehnert was looking to sell some concert tickets. Dehnert’s profile revealed that he was an entrepreneur.
After a bit of Googling, Thompson decided to reach out to Dehnert in hopes of picking his brain for tips on e-commerce.
The two met in a hotel lobby, Dehnert on a break from an entrepreneur conference taking place in the same hotel and Thompson with one of his Dugout Mugs in tow. The two chatted over a beer and parted ways.
By that point, Dehnert had dabbled in his fair share of entrepreneurial adventures but was starting to feel like a lot of them were just noise. After thinking on it, he decided to focus his efforts on Thompson Mug Company.
After all, it was beer, baseball and e-commerce — what was not to like?
“I was so busy being so busy, I almost missed out on a lot things in life, and one of the opportunities would’ve been this,” says Dehnert.
In February of 2017, Dehnert told Thompson that he was all in, but on one condition: Thompson had to be all in, too. That meant leaving the full-time job and side hustles behind.
Ready to see Thompson Mug Company reach its full potential, it wasn’t that hard of a decision for Thompson.
Swinging for the Fences
The new partners spent a couple of months working on research, development and marketing for the company.
By mid-March, Dugout Mugs were being sold online — and at a rapidly increasing rate.
“March we did 26K, April we did 56K, May we did 95K… and then we just completely fell apart.” says Dehnert of the amount of money being made.
The manufacturer they were using fell through, and the company was left with a major dilemma: a whole lot of demand for Dugout Mugs and no way to supply them.
While some companies might power through and hope to come out on the other side, Thompson Mug Co. took a more cautious route. They temporarily shut down production in order to properly regroup.
Within a couple of months, they were set up with a new manufacturer and facility. And by August, the company had secured official licensing with the Major League Baseball Players Association, allowing them to produce the “Signature Series” mug collection.
From there, sales quickly ramped up again, leading to a very busy end of the year. So busy, in fact, that they had to bring in a little extra help to get orders out the door.
“We had girlfriends, wives, moms, everybody in here packing for Christmas last year,” says Dehnert. “Oh my god, my mom was in here taping boxes… it was just crazy, all hands on deck.”
In addition to a Christmas rush, Thompson’s former team decided to treat its season ticket holders and ordered a whopping 4,600 mugs.
The massive Blue Jays order was a full-circle moment for Thompson. When he signed with the team back in 2011, he got a $0 signing bonus — which is pretty rare in professional baseball.
“The joke is that, you know, they eventually did pay me a signing bonus because they ordered 4,600 mugs,” he says with a laugh.
Despite the mid-year shut down, Thompson Mug Co. sold over $1 million worth of merchandise in 2017.
No longer strictly selling Dugout Mugs, they’ve rolled out Knob Shot shot glasses, Wined Up wine glasses and the Season Opener bottle opener.
The company has branched out from e-commerce, selling mugs in several MLB stadiums across the nation — like SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and Yankee Stadium.
The company also recently launched its officially licensed MLB line. Fans of all 30 MLB teams can now get a Dugout Mug with their team logo, and the company plans to have the product in stadiums in 2019.
As of June 2018, year-to-date sales were almost matching the overall 2017 sales, and Dehnert predicts they’ll reach at least $3 million by the end of this year.
A Team Effort
The success of Thompson Mug Co. is very much a team effort. In a lot of ways, they operate like, well, a baseball team. Each staffer even has a nickname — for instance, Dehnert is “Promo” because he’s always out promoting the product.
Both Thompson and Dehnert practice and preach the culture instilled in their team, which is currently at nine employees. When they’re not working from home — or Thompson’s preferred spot, Panera Bread — they’re down at the warehouse helping with orders or traveling to promote the product.
Like two sides of the same coin, the partners balance each other out and bring different skill sets to the field. They feed off each other’s energy, bouncing back and forth when telling a story.
With years of entrepreneurship under his belt, Dehnert has self-proclaimed “short memory and thick skin.” His charisma is infectious and networking is in his blood — he is instrumental in securing new licensing deals.
Meanwhile, Dehnert’s fast-talking and boisterous attitude usually has Thompson smiling to himself in the background, nodding along, completely in agreement but willing to let his partner take the lead.
Dehnert thinks that if Thompson could only do one thing forever, it would be dreaming up new stuff. Meanwhile, his one thing would be selling “shoulder to shoulder,” high-fiving athletes. Together, their different mindsets create a “third eye,” and it makes the partnership work.
Thompson doesn’t think the company would be at the level it is today if it weren’t for Dehnert.
“He sped up my learning curve,” Thompson says. “He forced me to get uncomfortable and that’s… that’s where growth comes in.”
Dehnert and Thompson have a pretty clear vision for Thompson Mug Company’s future.
They’d like to continue to expand the product offering, but stress the “measure twice, cut once” method. And not literally, although this is wood we’re talking about, so maybe a bit literally.
“Too many times people are ‘ready, fire aim,’ and that’s when you get yourself in trouble,” says Dehnert.
On top of expanding the product line, Thompson says they’d like to focus on growing their presence on platforms such as Etsy and Amazon. They want to build consistency and ensure that their product isn’t just a seasonal purchase, like when Christmas or Father’s Day rolls around.
And they’ve both talked about the possibility and logistics of selling the company someday. They’ve discussed what point they’d like to be at and what price they would let go of it for — Thompson admits that he’d sell, but he’d cry about it.
Then again, Thompson feels like they’re only in the fifth inning, which means they’ve got a lot more ball left to play.
“I don’t want to necessarily reflect on a win until we get through the full nine. I just want to be fully engaged in the moment,” he says. “For the time being… I kind of just want to be pitch to pitch.”
It pays to have the most popular game in the world.
Epic Games, the creators of the runaway gaming smash hit Fortnite, have raised $1.25 billion in a new round of financing.
It’s been 20 years since Epic Games first released its Unreal game development engine in concert with its first-person shooter, Unreal. Since then, the company has been releasing free-to-play games as a loss leader to show off what its powerful development toolkit can do.
Now, with the insane success of Fortnite, the company has flipped the script.
Since Fortnite became the thing that nearly every gamer in the world plays, the company has slashed prices on the Unreal game engine even as it keeps upgrading the technology.
And the company has been plowing that cash back into the community to support esports tournaments with a $100 million prize pool to support competitive Fortnite gamers.
The company’s game has become the kind of old-school cultural phenomenon that one rarely sees in the fractured age of internet silos. It’s inspired dance crazes, Halloween costumes, and even a Monopoly game and a Nerf gun.
And now it appears that the game has also inspired some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley’s venture capital investment scene to commit huge sums to continue its success.
Investors in the latest round include KKR, Iconiq Capital, Smash Ventures,Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Lightspeed Venture Partners, as well as gaming companies like aXiomatic, which announced a significant investment from the NBA legend Michael Jordan earlier in October.
“Epic Games has fundamentally changed the model for interactive entertainment under the company’s visionary leadership,”
said Ted Oberwager of KKR, in a statement.
The new investors are joining Tencent, Disney, and Endeavor as minority shareholders in the company — which amazingly still is controlled by its chief executive and founder, Tim Sweeney.
Do you love to receive free samples in the mail? If the answer is yes, then you’re really going to love getting free sample boxes in the mail!
These boxes are filled to the brim with free samples, coupons, and even sometimes full-sized products. They all come to you in the mail and trust me, it’s a very happy day when you receive one of these in the mailbox.
These boxes are all completely free for you to get, use, and keep. For some of them, you’ll need to do a little legwork to get them. These can range from tweeting about them to writing a review about one on a popular shopping site. Some of the free sample boxes just require you to fill out a quick form and then sit back and enjoy.
01 – PINCHme:
PINCHme is a free sample program that sends out a box of free samples each month full of customized free samples chosen just for you.
100% FREE – No catch. No credit card required.
These free sample boxes are based on the profile you create so be sure to answer all the questions to increase your chances of getting the most free samples possible.
Companies who donate products to PINCHme hope that you’ll try a free sample of their product and then go out and buy the full-sized one at the store. Sometimes you’ll also find coupons in your PINCHme box to further encourage you.
You also have the option of completing feedback on the free samples that you get and try. Completing this feedback will increase your chances of getting more free samples in the future.
There are occasionally months where no samples are available for me but the majority of months I get a large free sample box sent straight to my mailbox.
You’ll want to show up on the designated time and day to get them before they’re gone.
02 – Influenster:
If you’re a social butterfly, you’re going to love the free stuff program Influenster. The more social you are, the more free sample boxes you get. The more you share about those boxes, the more free sample boxes you’ll get in the future.
I’ve been a member of Influenster for a few years now and every few months I get a box full of free goodies from them. There are free samples in them as well as coupons but the best part is the full-sized freebies that come in just about every box.
The Influenster boxes usually feature a certain product or are a themed “VoxBox” to celebrate a season, holiday, or some other common theme.
You’ll get the boxes of free samples by writing reviews of products you’ve tried. Once you get a box, you can complete certain online tasks. The more online tasks you complete, the greater your chance is to get another box in the future.
03 – Smiley360:
Smiley360 sends out boxes of free samples as well as free full-sized products for what they call “missions”. To complete a mission you’ll need to share on social media about the box you’ve received.
Based on your profile you’ll receive surveys from Smiley360 that may qualify you for a mission. If you accept it, you’ll receive your box full of free stuff that is yours to keep.
You can increase your chances in getting more missions from Smiley360 by completing the missions and answering any surveys available to you.
04 – BzzAgent:
BzzAgent sends out free sample boxes in hopes that you’ll spread the “bzz” about the freebies you’ve received.
You’ll need to check their website regularly and fill out any surveys that are available. If they find you a good match for one of their boxes, they’ll send it out to you.
After you receive your BzzAgent box, you’ll complete several tasks that vary from telling a friend in person about the product to letting everyone know about it on Twitter.
05 – Ripple Street (House Party) and Chatterbox:
Ripple Street (previously called House Party) and Chatterbox are one of my favorite ways to get free sample boxes right now. It’s easy to get them and you don’t have to spend hours of time sharing about them online.
Ripple Street gives out boxes of freebies for you to use to throw a party to promote a certain product, service, or even a T.V. show. Inside can be products and free samples to hand out, decorations, and all kinds of other fun stuff to make your party fun.
Chatterbox sends out boxes of free samples just for you to try with maybe a few free samples or coupons to pass out to a friend. There’s no party required for Chatterbox.
06 – SampleSource:
SampleSource is a free sampling program that sends out free sample boxes about four times a year. They don’t promote when they’re going to be available, so you need to sign up for the program to be notified when you can request them.
The boxes of free samples from SampleSource that I’ve received have had around 6-12 samples in them. They’ve ranged from toothpaste, cereal, tissues, baby wipes, and other small samples.
The best part is that you don’t need to do anything to get these free samples. Just register with SampleSource and request them when they’re available. You can look forward to getting them in the mail in just a few short weeks.
07 Free Baby Box from Walmart
Walmart has a box full of free samples for those of you who have little ones: the Walmart Welcome Box.
The samples you get in the box depends on what they have on hand at the moment. In the past, the free samples have included diaper cream, baby lotion, baby laundry detergent, diaper wipes, bottle cleaners, and baby shampoo.
Walmart also has a Walmart Baby Box that’s free but costs $5.00 for shipping. There are baby boxes available for Pre-Natal, Newborn, and Toddler.