Friday, April 26, 2013

Trade-Ins: Tips and Tricks

As pretty much everyone who knows me already knows, I have been a long-time user of trade-in services.  Originally, I just traded in video games; I don't do that anymore, but I still do trade in DVDs at MovieStop and books at my local used bookstores.  With all my years of experience, I thought that I would give out some tips and tricks for those who are interested in trading in items to save money.  These are in no order:

  1. If you don't want it, and you can trade it in, do so, regardless of the potential trade-in value.  You may think that you won't get much for your DVD or book, and you might not, but every cent you make on any of the items you trade in is one less cent that you have to spend to get what you want or need.
  2. Don't go too crazy with trading in items.  Unless you're completely strapped for cash and need the money to buy food or pay rent, don't recklessly trade items in for credit or cash.  Unfortunately, I've had to buy DVDs more than once sometimes, because I traded them in and later wished I hadn't.  You can learn from my mistake.
  3. When trading in DVDs or CDs, make sure that the correct discs are in the correct cases.  This is especially true for those who keep their discs in some sort of binder.  I once mistakenly traded in an empty case; it was a bit embarrassing.  Not only that, but I recently bought what appeared to be a two-disc "best-of" set of The Jetsons, when it turned out to be the first half of the first season.  I didn't know it until I had purchased it from MovieStop and opened it; I'll be returning it soon.
  4. Don't expect miracles from your trade-ins.  The used bookstores in my area give you twenty-five percent of the list price for whatever books you trade in; you can calculate that by finding the price online, if it isn't already on the cover.  MovieStop, FYE, and other places in my area go on a sliding scale, but you can get a general idea by looking up the prices online; if it's on clearance for only a buck or two, don't expect much!
  5. Don't buy something just to trade in unless you are sure it will be worth it.  Usually, new release movies on DVD or Blu-Ray are worth at least ten dollars in a MovieStop trade-in; if, by some random chance, you come across one at a yard sale or thrift store on the cheap, it would likely be a good idea.  Other than that, I would suggest buying just what you like; as prices rise and fall, and trends go and come back, you might be surprised at what DVDs you bought for yourself are actually worth.
  6. Know the rules of the places you are trading in items to before you get there.  I know that MovieStop accepts DVDs and Blu-Rays, but I know they don't accept VHS tapes, and I'm pretty sure they don't do HD-DVDs either.  Those would be better suited as a donation to a thrift store.  Also, the used bookstores in my area have rules about condition--no holes in the cover, no cracks in the spines, audiobooks must have all the discs and be in good shape, etc.--and format as well: no hardbacks unless the same book is not available in paperback form.  Sticking to the rules can help you and the employees at the store save time and effort, and will make you a more popular customer.
Any questions or comments?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Confessions of a Male Shopaholic

Have you ever played a game where everyone was asked to write down his/her response to a question, such as "What is a little-known fact about you?" or "What is one of your pet peeves?", and, as each answer was read, the people had to guess who among them gave that response? Sometime during 2002 or 2003, I did just that; the question was, "What is one of your bad habits?"  I have several, but I wrote down, "Eating too much," because it was the only negative trait of mine that no one else there would have guessed.  Looking back at it now, one thing surprises me: Another member of that group wrote down, "Buying things I don't need," and her best friend thought that was my bad habit instead.
It seems, though, that said young lady--who might very well be reading this--was right on the money.  For most of my childhood and teenage years, whenever I was at any place that sold goods, I would see something there that I wanted, and either intended to buy it myself or, in my younger years, would beg my mom to get it for me.  Though I now have the maturity to walk into a store and not buy anything, I still tend to buy or otherwise obtain things I don't need.  I've found legal free music downloads online that I put onto my iPod(s), only to be offended by what I was hearing as soon as I started listening to it.  Even at yard sales, thrift stores, and similar places, I have found books, DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs, and other items--usually entertainment-related--for which I really didn't have much need.
That right there is part of the whole "garage sale" mentality.  As an article I once read in AARP Magazine--yes, I know!--said, "Stores are for things you know you want.  Yard sales are for things you didn't know you wanted."  Many times, I go to garage sales, thrift stores, library sales, used bookstores, or similar places and find items I wasn't expecting to, sometimes ones that I didn't even know existed.  If I looked, I'm sure I could find most of the same items on eBay or Amazon's Marketplace; however, the surprise is part of the fun of such places.
Buying items secondhand has actually been the start of many of my fascinations, some of which are still present today.  Most of you reading this probably know that I like Garfield, and have a large collection of his comics in book form, right? What you may not know is that, about two decades ago, my mom buying me the first Garfield Fat Cat Three Pack from a yard sale started my collection.  Star Wars is pretty much the same way; though I liked it after seeing The Phantom Menace in 1999, I really got into it in 2005, when I read the wonderful Expanded Universe novel I, Jedi after purchasing it at a garage sale.  There were other similar discoveries; one was finding the novelization of Alex and Stephen Kendrick's (Fireproof, Courageous) first movie, Flywheel, at a local used bookstore.  My mom and I both read it and liked it so much that we made a special request for the movie at our local library.  Suffice it to say: Yard sales, used bookstores, and similar places have kept me stocked with entertainment over the years.
There have been times where I have gotten killer bargains.  Just last year, I paid about forty bucks for a scanner/fax machine/copier/printer that still works quite well to this day.  Around the same time, I was able to find an audio NIV Bible, in like new condition, for a mere four bones, when the "list price" for it was close to a hundred dollars.  MovieStop once had the brand-new movie October Baby on the clearance rack for $3.99; you bet I got it! The two lots I recently purchased from eBay--one of Christian fiction books, the other of Christian rock/alternative CDs--were great deals; when I did the math, I knew that I was paying less that two dollars per book or CD.  It's times like those that make shopping fun.
Of course, there have also been opposite experiences.  One time, my mom bought a tape of Barney and Friends for the kids in her daycare, only to discover that there was no film in the cassette.  What made matters worse was that the tape was sans box, and the lady who was selling it rudely refused to negotiate on the price.  Another time, my mom bought me a computer game, only to get home and find there was no disk in the box.  More recently, I bought a wireless router without knowing that it didn't have an adapter, or purchased a DVD/CD that turned out to be just an empty case.  Usually, people are willing to refund your money when that happens; however, sometimes you have no idea where you bought it.
Let me be very serious on this final note: As a Christian, one of the things I try to avoid is idolatry.  If you asked me what that was, I would tell you that it is putting anything or anyone before God.  In years past, I thought nothing of doing that; my obsessions ruled my life--and were even more important than my friends and family--but that was just the way I liked it.  I've since matured past that, and realized that real-life relationships/friendships are more important than what only exists on television or a computer screen, but idolatry is a struggle for all of us.  It's especially the case when it comes to material things; Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 tells of a man who stored up things only for himself.  Just like that fictional rich man, I have so much entertainment that I could simply "eat, drink, and be merry," but that would be selfish and sinful.  Though it's great to have a hobby, even one such as bargain hunting, I don't want to let it rule me or take over my life.
Any comments?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Need You!

I'm going to try and keep this short to make it more accessible: I've been doing quite a bit of thinking lately; one big recent realization I've had is that the way I have been living just isn't cutting it.  You know I've talked about wanting change, and liking without obsessing, but there's one other topic that needs to be discussed: my attitude towards my friends.
Over the years, I've had lots of people try to reach out to me; the only problem was that, if they didn't do/say what I wanted, I lashed out against them.  It's been happening all my life; when I was a little kid, I missed out on buying a Charlie Brown book at a yard sale because I wouldn't read the title out loud like the lady who was selling it wanted me to do.  As time went by, it became more and more frequent; I missed out on everything from youth group outings to seeing movies at the theater to my high school prom just because I was unwilling to try it.  Oh, sure, I always had some excuse: "I already saw that movie." "Do you realize what goes on at school dances? I don't want to see that!" "I don't think I'd enjoy it."
It would seem that I have an irrational aversion to some things.  When I was a kid, I was interested in going to a theme park--shocking, I know!--and I asked my two best friends if they wanted to go.  The one guy would have liked to go, but couldn't because of medical reasons related to his severe asthma; the other simply refused because of some traumatic incident that happened on a previous visit.  When it comes to theme parks, you would think that I had a similar experience; why else would I continually refused to go? However, nothing like that happened; the last time I went, I had fun.  It just so happened that, when I got into high school and realized how long it had been since I'd set foot there, I didn't feel deprived, and decided to hate it because it took less effort; that way, I didn't have to worry about scheduling a time to go with friends.
That right there is why people were so insistent that I go on outings to theme parks: My aversion was baseless, and they wanted to include me.  It was the same way with school dances: My friends weren't badgering me about it to harass me; they were trying to help me out.  I've spent years defending myself, even claiming that a friend's allergic reaction was why God didn't want me at my high school prom.  (How can I even know that? I don't know the mind of God better than any other mere human!)
It gets even worse when it comes to changes in my lifestyle.  People have suggested all kinds of things--new ventures, possible career paths, joining social groups, activities that would enrich my life and relationships with others, etc.--and I largely refused because it required change on my part.  In short, I just wanted to keep on doing as I was doing; it wasn't worth the risk to change anything.  Sometimes, I even lashed out at them, which made them very unhappy with me.  There were even times where friends informed me about things I probably would have liked, but I just ignored them; in some cases, those friends became former friends.
All that has got to change.  If I'm going to get anywhere in life, I'm going to have to take risks, at least consider others' suggestions or offers, and address my friends when they're trying to show me that they care about me.  So, for any friends or former friends who have experienced such treatment at my hands, I must apologize.  Seriously, you did not deserve to be verbally attacked and/or ignored for doing what you did.  I'm not doing this just so I'll get re-added onto some folks' friends lists; frankly, I'd be just fine with not getting a single friend request out of this.  Even if you feel our friendship will never be restored--and, no, forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconstruction--I still need to own up for what I have done.
I will end by saying this: One of Jesus' most famous sayings is, "Healthy people don't need a doctor; the sick do."  When you look at the Gospels, you realize that everyone Jesus encountered was "sick"; though not all of them had infirmities or demons, all of them were in need of Jesus' love and forgiveness.  However, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others were too proud to realize what they really needed, which is why Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, the prostitutes and tax collectors are entering heaven ahead of you."  For too long, I have been a Pharisee.  I was so sure that I was right about anything and everything that there was no room for disagreement from anyone; my friends could either agree with me or leave, and right many chose the latter.  Even some who stayed friends couldn't express their opinions, because I staunchly disagreed with them.  So what if I was obsessed with various actresses? Why did it matter if I was too friendly with the womenfolk? Who cares if I'm well into my twenties and still living like a child? It was not for them to judge...and that's the attitude that cost me.  I even defended it on here; I once made a post that was a purposefully vague defense of not expressing congratulations to those who were engaged, which was manipulative on my part.  I'm not the same person anymore; if you look at the sidebar on my blog, you'll see that many of the old posts--over a hundred of them!--were deleted because they were simply either too dogmatic or too whiny, if not both.  Starting a new Facebook account to wash away all the history was done for essentially the same reason.  I'm looking forward to what this new beginning brings; I'm glad to have friends who will take part in it with me.  (Don't forget to keep me accountable!)