Derek Chang is no stranger to bad luck.
Last December, he was admitted to a hospital with excruciating pain in his lower abdomen.
It took three specialists and some expensive equipment to find out what was wrong with him.
Which, as it turns out, was an 11 mm kidney stone.
That’s pretty large for a kidney stone, I’m told. And plenty sore too.
As painful as that was, though, it was nothing compared with the final bill he received.
Altogether, Derek’s hospital stay — including three specialists, two attempts to remove the stone (the first one failed) and all his prescriptions — cost him a little over $5,000.
That said, he reckoned the actual cost was closer to $6,000 when he factored in lost wages.
That’d be enough to sour anyone’s spirits. But Derek’s spell of bad luck wasn’t over just yet.
A little over a week after he left the hospital — just as he was coming off his pain meds — his car was rear-ended.
Luckily, Derek walked away from the crash uninjured. But his Honda Civic wasn’t quite so fortunate.
Both of the back lights were crushed… the bumper was barely hanging on… and the paneling was crumpled so bad the trunk wouldn’t close…
In the end, the insurance estimate was about $8,000.
Most of it was covered, but there still was a $1,000 deductible — which he added to his pile of growing debt.
Incredibly, in just two weeks, Derek racked up almost $7,000 in debt.
But he wasn’t worried about it.
In fact, he paid those bills as soon as they arrived… in cash.
That’s the power of an emergency fund.
With it, you can take on almost any unexpected expense or disaster without having to worry about getting deep in debt or losing your home.
After all, having a kidney stone removed and your car rear-ended is stressful enough without the added financial strain.
Yet about 57 million Americans have no emergency savings — leaving them vulnerable to even the slightest financial hiccup.
And they’re going to be hit the hardest during the next big financial crisis.
To be safe, your emergency fund should equal at least three–six months of your current income.
That way, if you lose your income for any reason, you have a financial cushion to pay the bills and feed you family.
But don’t worry if you’re behind on your emergency fund.
I have a simple way to kick-start your fund — fast.
Welcome to the Online Marketplace
If you’re anything like me, your house is probably full of old stuff you don’t use…
Old clothes you don’t wear…
Exercise equipment gathering dust in the basement…
Ornaments you don’t even remember buying…
All this stuff is just taking up space… when it could be fattening your emergency fund.
It’s true. You can make a tidy chunk of change selling your old stuff online.
Here are three simple steps to making money in the online marketplace.
Step 1: What to Sell
You’d be surprised at the kind of things folks will buy online.
Generally speaking, if an item is in good or even fair condition, someone will buy it if the price is right.
Start by searching your home for items that you rarely use but are in good condition.
I know that choosing to sell things you’re attached to can be tough. But if you haven’t used something in a long time, you’re probably better off selling it.
I use the two-year rule when I’m clearing house.
If it’s been over a year since I used an item, I strongly consider selling it.
If I haven’t used it in two years, that baby is as good as sold.
Step 2: Where to Sell
EBay is always a good place to start.
This online marketplace is the granddaddy of online consumer-to-consumer sales.
Of course, that comes with its own pros and cons.
On the one hand, you have instant access to a marketplace of 160 million people.
But that comes with more competition and high fees — as much as 30 cents per item plus 10% of the sale price.
If you’re looking for an eBay alternative, check out Bonanza or eBid. Both of these sites have a solid reputation and lower fees.
Meanwhile, Etsy is similar to eBay but is geared toward unique, handcrafted items.
This is the place to sell your vintage or handmade goods, if you have them.
Step 3: The Listing
A good listing is key to making online sales.
Your description should be as descriptive and accurate as possible — listing the brand, model and anything else notable about the item.
If there’s an obvious flaw or defect, you’re going to want to list this too and adjust the price accordingly.
Otherwise, you’re going to get negative reviews on your account, which will impact your sales over time.
Next, take photos of the item from every angle.
You don’t need professional photos to make a sale, but it should be clear to the customer exactly what they’re getting.
Finally, when setting the price, look at what other folks are charging for similar items online.
You might not find the exact item, but you can use this as a template for what people expect to pay for that kind of item.
Follow these steps and you should have the makings of a robust emergency fund in no time at all.
As always, we welcome feedback from our readers. If you agree, disagree or have any topics you’d like us to investigate, you can email me right here.
All the best,
Editor, Money & Crisis