Category Archives: The Hustle

Things I’ve actually done in the hopes of getting ahead, and minimizing the clutter in my life.

Part 4: The Apparatus, My Enemy & Other Choices

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

There was absolutely no way to prepare for the aptitude test.  Any Google search lead you to nothing – no study guides, no sample questions.  My friends and I who were scheduled to take the aptitude test were scrambling.  The only leads we had were those already in various trade unions who were able to guide us based on their own aptitude tests years ago.  So, at the risk of having received very dated information, my friends and I explored every avenue possible.

To prepare, some reviewed using a TABE prep book.  Others practiced on an apparatus that I can only describe as the “peg test” which was rumored to be used by the local to measure dexterity.  Because I didn’t have access to a “peg test” apparatus, I secretly wished and hoped that it wouldn’t be on the test.

On test day itself, the aptitude test was just that – it measured each candidate’s potential.  There was a written portion and a practical portion. The version of the test that we took, which was administered by the DOL (which oversees all trade apprenticeship programs in NY), consisted of a number of analogies.  These were very similar to the ones found on the SAT.  Another part covered spatial reasoning, and matched shapes and their mirrored/rotated versions with one another. With both sections, there was no way to complete the timed tests. There were more questions than the short 6-8 minutes would allow.

Then, the dreaded practical portion:  IT WAS THE PEG TEST!  I couldn’t find the exact game/apparatus online, but there were a couple of similar products.  The peg board looks like a hybrid of the two boards pictured below.


It’s definitely more like the “Big-Little Pegboard”, but the size of the pegs are closer to the white ones on the curved board.  The facilitators instructed us on how to maneuver the pieces through the board during a series of 15-second and 30-second rounds.

From my observation, I was doing pretty well in my group.  I was doing so well, that I think the test proxy thought I was cheating. He came over and observed me three times to make sure I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve, and it affected my last round since he distracted me a bit.

This process began for me in July.  To date, it’s taken about 6 months. I have been unemployed, so I have taken the opportunity to pursue other educational avenues in the meantime. What you have to keep in mind as you apply to trade locals for an apprenticeship is that each union will differ in the amount of time their hiring process takes place.  A number of my friends and I have grown frustrated in the wait as our bills sing for payment.  Some of us have taken part time jobs in the meantime. I just want you to take this as a caveat and plan on how you’ll preoccupy yourself in the meantime.

For highly coveted positions, the wait time may be even years. Some trade unions don’t open up the public application process as frequently, have limited positions, or are in high demand. At times, applicants are expected to put their lives on hold in the wait, which involves a number of interviews and various daytime testing.   (Just to make clear that you will find some difficultly taking time off if you are currently employed and looking to begin an apprenticeship.) Therefore, please expect to interview, job hunt, and keep current on any requirements for the jobs or public benefits you may need. If you’re dead set on having a trade career, then this sacrifice isn’t much.

Which brings us to now…
After the rounds of testing all candidates, the only thing left is to see where I rank so that I determine whether I make the cutoff point. Then, it’d be time for the drug test. As I wait for that letter in the mail, wish me luck, and I’ll update in Part 5!


Part 3: Did I get an interview with my local trade union?

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

After waiting for months, I finally received a letter from the local, inviting me to interview. I was pretty excited!

When I decided on plumbing, and started telling my friends, the first thing many of them said was, “OMG, do you really want to work with poop?!?” The answer is always: That is a very limited view of what plumbers actually do.

In the union, the projects are mostly commercial.  In New York City, plumbers are some of the first builders on site, since the work is largely focused in the foundation of the building and every floor. So, sure, there might be some occasional poop encounters, but it’s not the primary scope of the work.

Part of my interest in plumbing is the larger, public health aspect of the work; how it can prevent diseases and affect our consumption of water. Also, I just like water, in the sense that it’s a feeling I’ve developed as a long-time swimmer.

Anyway, the day came when I had to make the trek to Queens.  Coming from the “white collar” world, I was confused as to what attire was interview appropriate.  I opted for a button down, long sleeve shirt, slacks, and some flats.  Judging from those seated next to me while we were waiting for our interviews, the mens’ outfits ranged from 3-piece suits, casual Friday wear, construction pants, and one Dickies long-sleeve coverall. I erred toward safety as there are limitations for women’s wear during trade interviews.

The local scheduled several applicants to show up within the same time block.  About 15 other candidates were waiting with me. Once 1 p.m. began, we were called from the hall into one of the classrooms.  Inside, there were 4 stations set up with 2 interviews at each. Candidates were called in as interviews were completed.

Questions that are important to know and rehearse are:

  • Tell us about yourself?
    Yes, this question also comes up here.  Keep it short and simple. Since I was in transition, I discussed my past work experience, what I’m looking forward to as a tradesperson. The Muse has a great little formula to help you brainstorm.
  • What are your hobbies?
    While this seems of non-importance, it’s just good to have a prepared answer so you’re not stumbling and stammering.   I chose to list off some of my active hobbies – like hiking, and those that showed further interest in the trade, like light carpentry.
  • What are the tasks of this particular trade?
    A good resource would be to look up the knowledge/skills/abilities  — KSAs —- of the position so that you can refer back.  Since you’re looking at an apprenticeship, the interviewer understands that many are coming into the profession very green.
  • What experience do you have that is applicable to this trade?
    Since I was coming from a series of desk jobs, I mentioned having great spatial logic,  being fit for heavy lifting, familiarity with tools, an ability to stand for extended periods of time , and my trade school pre-training.
  • What do you expect from this position? /What is your goal in the next 5 years?
    THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS THIS:  to be a Journey level trades person. The apprenticeship is no joke.  it is usually 3 to 5 years of coursework and on-the-job training.  They are looking for the long haul with you.
  • Prepared to do some mental math!
    I was asked a quick word problem.  Something about the number and lengths pipe a hypothetical team could carry in X amount of time.  The problem was fairly simple, so just listen carefully, and apply some 4th grade math.  You’ll be fine.

The entire conversation lasted around 5 to 7 minutes. The 2 men who interviewed me took notes on their form in my folder the whole time. We made slight small talk,  and  I shook the hands of both of my interviewers while thanking them for their time. They wished me luck, and the process was fine and comfortable.

After my other friends finished their interviews, we all walked out together.  The staffperson up front scheduled us for  our aptitude tests, and we knew that we were to return in a month as we headed to the train.

Which brings us to now…
I have no clue how to prepare for this aptitude test, but wish me luck anyway.  I’ll update in Part 4!


Part 2: How I prepared to enter the trades

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

Many of the women in my program arrived at this training program for the same reason: they couldn’t find good jobs anywhere. Many were unemployed, or just working a series of dead-end jobs, and were looking for ways to disrupt that cycle of poverty.  This is why I wanted to head into the trades.

Research I did, and how I started:

First stop was, of course, the internet. I was able to find a program in the NYC area that focused on getting women into trade careers, and they offered a free orientation course for apprenticeships. Their training was six weeks long.

Second, I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into the trade orientation program for women. Our days consisted mostly of learning more about the various trades and associations in the area, simulating a construction site, carrying heavy loads (45-65 lbs. of various types of equipment up flights of stairs, and back), doing woodworking and electricity workshops, and learning more about green (environment-focused) trades. You have to be pretty quick at math, many of us learned, since you don’t have that much time to do complicated calculations when you’re busy at a site.

During this time, we also learned about various issues we’d face as women in a predominantly male industry. We learned about our rights at work, and how to address sexual harassment , should it arise. Other helpful workshops were about job attitudes, new trends in the trades (mostly headed toward green-minded technology), and refresher classes in math.

Third, I started speaking to the many lecturers we had. These women were also graduates of the program, and many were now journey-level in their careers. Many were involved in various associations which supported other women in the trades, usually referred to as a sisterhood. One of our mentors was a with a carpenters union for the last decade, so asking her about her profession really informed how I chose for which trade to apply.

I later found out that carpentry serves as the basis for the majority of trades, as much of what any tradesperson does is carpentry using different mediums.  This was helpful to know, and made me more open to investigating other trades, as well.

Fourth, I completed the program, and placed fairly high on my various tests.  This was sort of the easiest part for me, since I’m pretty much a nerd. What I found more challenging were some basic principles of building: sawing in a straight line, using a plane with a steady hand, not splitting the wood while you’re hammering in a nail, etc.

The other women in my cohort were also a pretty great bunch, so I really appreciated my learning experience more while with them.

At this point, I was also wrestling between the possibilities of applying to apprenticeships with the carpenters, electricians, or plumbers. I learned that for electricians and plumbers,  the curriculum for apprenticeship was advanced in that it combined the 5-year apprenticeship trainings with a college degree. Because I was deathly scared of getting “blasted” by electricity, and that the carpenters unions were not opening up soon, I decided that I would try for the plumbing apprenticeship.

Fifth, we checked the DOL’s website a lot.  Typically, if you are not coming from some kind of trade-prep training, this is the step where you would start.

In the state of New York, the Department of Labor runs ALL trade apprenticeship programs. This site lists all the days that certain unions are publicly recruiting. Depending on the trade, a certain number of applications would be handed out either on a specific date, or a range of dates. The number of applications is based on how many people the union or association can hire at that given time. Some applications are highly coveted, since their trades are high paying, and there are a limited number of positions.

One example of this is for the position of operating mechanic, whose main responsibility is operating large, heavy machinery like cranes and bulldozers on a worksite. Because there are only 14 cranes in NYC (this is a fact, btw, not an exaggeration), they only open up for recruitment every two years, and look to fill 1 or 2 positions. This is in stark contrast with a local carpenter’s union which opens up recruitment annually, and hires up to 200 new apprentices.

Looking over this boring ass website was more interesting to do with the other women in my program. The mutual support was very helpful and motivating for us all, and we went through these steps together. We were all interested in different kinds of work, but many of us made it a point to tag along in groups for application days.

Sixth, I got a union application. Right around the time that I completed my training program, the local plumbers union was opening up for public recruitment.

The plumbers were last open 8 months ago, were handing out 600 applications, but only hiring 100 apprentices.  The applications were going to be handed out on a Monday, but we were tipped to be there earlier, and we were strongly urged to even sleep on the line as early as the Friday prior. Standing “on the line” for your application is almost a point of pride for any tradesperson, serving as a symbol of earned rank through hard work and discipline.

Coming from a land of submitting my résumé through LinkedIn, lining up for an application was a completely foreign concept to me. But as the sharp women from my cohort stated: if people have the time to line up for days just for the latest iPhone or some sneakers, why can’t they line up for a job? True. A number of us in my cohort were also interested in the plumbing apprenticeship, so we were able to schedule who’d be present on the line on each day fairly easily.

Because we were in the middle of summer, the conditions on the line were not harsh. Many brought lawn chairs, coolers, and grills as if this were one big tailgate. I even got a free steak and some hot dogs from the guys who were grilling two cars down.  Some people parked nearby and slept in their car, others slept on chairs in the line as it wrapped around for blocks. We used a local McDonalds for its rest room. This lasted for three days for most, luckily my friends and I each rotated our places in line. I slept on the line for one night, and I got a spider bite – luck of the draw!

Seventh, I submitted my application. When Monday arrived, we were given a slip with a number on it. And then, we proceeded inside the union hall to pick up the full application.  Seen:


And yes, that is a blue tarp, because on the last day, the rains fell upon us without mercy. (If you look even closer, you’ll also see the McDonald’s where I brushed my teeth.) Having secured my place in the 300s, I felt awful for the poor person who was #601 on line. They were not going to receive an application.

Once inside, our ticket number was married with our application form (I’ve blurred it here, since my application is still being processed), and we were instructed to return it completed in one month. The application was very straightforward (with all needed info) and pretty easy to fill out, and included the following:

  1. some basic contact information,
  2. job history stuff,
  3. a checkmark that stated you are able to pass a drug test (this is where I hear so many people DO NOT make the cut, so please ensure that you are free of any substances when eventually taking your drug test.)
  4. the results of my TABE test (Test of Adult Basic Education, a mandatory standardized test which I took at the assigned facility for free. As of this writing, the needed score to pass for this was a 10 out of a 12.9 scale),
  5. and your sealed high school transcripts.

I made sure to ask to whom to address and send the transcripts, just in case.

Then, I returned one month later to submit. There was only a 4 day period to do this, and there were specific time blocks during the day that applications were accepted. I arrived early anyway on submission day, and I received a receipt of confirmation. Because my high school mailed my transcripts directly to them, I called a week before to make sure that my documents were received. As an added precaution, I also attached a note within my application explaining that I had called on such-and-such date, and Mr.this-and-that confirmed that the union had my sealed transcripts.

Which brings us to now…
I’m extremely grateful to my cohort for their support, and willingness to make this work for all of us! I am now waiting to hear back from the union for an interview date, and then take an aptitude test. Those would be the last two steps in this process, and I would either be accepted or rejected as a new apprentice. As of this writing, I am not in the trades, and who knows if I’ll be in a position to accept if I get an offer? 
Wish me luck anyway, and I’ll update in Part 3!


Part 1: The appeal of being a tradesperson.

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

There came a point when I became absolutely frustrated with my options while I was on the job hunt. I’ve had a number of terrible work experiences, and the idea of going back to some position just waiting to be exploited gave me a migraine.

I started by being very honest with myself on the types of work I did and didn’t want to do; made a list. One of the things I hate the most is maintaining email communication, especially as a main component of my work. The idea of sitting at a desk, writing line by line, to a client who was just complaining was just not an experience I wanted to relive. I wanted to never ever send a work-related email again. There was also the element of my labor that focused too much on spreadsheets and meetings. Would I be able to proudly say on my deathbed that my life’s work boiled down to two turning points:  that one AMAZING spreadsheet I made in 2017, or the time I facilitated a conference call with some Canadian buyers? Nope.

There are very few positions in the U.S.’  service economy (the sector where the majority of jobs lie now that U.S. manufacturing has either been outsourced to prisons or offshored to other countries) which allow for non-email tasking. Knowing that, and how the average person has about 7 career changes in a lifetime,  birthed my personal investigation into the trades.

The trades are a number of different jobs within the construction industry.  These positions are skilled, and require a number of years of formal education and training (depending on the position.) Once you apply to be in a trade job and are accepted, you begin your apprenticeship.The apprenticeship is hosted by a union or trade association, which usually has some kind of national or international affiliation, so they are identified by their district or regional number (e.g. “Local 61″.) Upon completing the apprenticeship, via on-the-job training and formal classes at trade schools, you are then considered a “Journey” level worker, which is also referred to as the mechanic. The years of your apprenticeship also vary based on the trade, and pay increases with experience. Some common trade jobs are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, iron workers, latherers, painters, etc.

A funny observation in this process was when I shared this desire to switch careers, people were a bit shocked. There was definitely some confusion stemming from my family/friends who have white-collar/professional backgrounds. What they know of me, well, my work history doesn’t exactly scream “blue collar.” So, I cautiously went into this, knew that I needed a lot of guidance, and really had to articulate why I was interested in exploring the trades.

My secret: the life of a carpenter has always appealed to me. (Let’s skip the Jesus comparisons, yes?) There is something terribly practical about the craft, that I felt immediately drawn to its pursuit. I would have a skill that I could take with me anywhere I want, and I could literally build anything. I also talked a lot about the coming zombie apocalypse, and how I would be really useful in my new survivor group as a carpenter. By having a practical skill, I would be less likely to get voted out/double crossed by my new stranger-friends.  With the current job skill set I had, I just felt like there wasn’t much to do outside of emails, meetings, and spreadsheets. That’s not how I wanted to participate in the workforce.

Furthermore, I wanted to work using my hands while I was still able-bodied. There was also something very appealing about getting a good day’s work in, and earning your exhaustion. (Yes, this is the one place where I will readily admit that I drank the Kool-Aid of American “bootstrap” mentality.)  There were also the wages, benefits, and stability: consistent employment and pay during one’s apprenticeship was not a shabby deal for someone struggling with chronic underemployment.

After being pretty decisive, I knew I had a ton of  homework to do so that I could dive into the trades.

Which brings us to now…
How did I start this process coming from a string of desk jobs? With limited resources,  check out how I prepared to enter the trades  in Part 2!

What I sold for a Surprising $212.50

In cleaning out my life, I’ve been focused on getting rid of as much as I can, for the highest turnover possible.  I didn’t realize the amount of added stress I placed on myself by placing such sentimentality on numerous items.  I bordered on hoarding.  Growing up  poor, I learned to saving every last scrap, which translated to holding onto things beyond their prime utilization.

My life became storage with a bed placed in the middle of it.

Needing to move, the purge began. In this process, I’ve returned items to stores for credit and created piles to donate and discard.

When items were in decent condition, I’d set them aside to look up their value online. I’d then dedicate a day to eBay research, and I’d put items up for sale or auction if there was potential to make more than $7 from it.  I lucked out when I posted a doll online.

Turns out, an old gift from an ex of mine paid off when I listed it on eBay.  We apparently were dating when Monsters Inc. was popular, and he got me this doll.  We broke up shortly after, and the doll joined the rest of the items in my “ex box.” When I was organizing items to toss, I came across it in almost perfect condition!

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 6.18.32 PM

See!  Proof that it sold for a lot.  When I looked it up, I originally saw it selling for around $35, which would have worked for me.  I think there’s some kind of rarity that runs for this particular doll, so fair warning, when you have a rare item many internet strangers will try to swindle you.

I lucked out with this listing, and I want to share with you what I think worked for this.

  1. First, the item was in pristine condition, it had all the original pieces.  Many of the same listed dolls were missing the original pigtails and socks.
  2. Second, the item still functioned – it still made said all these phrases, etc.
  3. Third, I labelled it pretty accurately and based it off the title of other listings
  4. Fourth, my photos were pretty good.  I did a lot of these macro shots , and had detailed photos in good lighting.
  5. Last, I took a photo of the label for clarity and to prove the item was genuine.  (See examples below)
    boo1 boo2 boo3

Hopefully you can dig up some gems in your junk.  And forgive me, as I’ll be posting like this every now and then, because I’ll be mostly bragging…

Good luck on your auctions!

Move Your Money to a Credit Union TOMORROW – Saturday, 11/5

The Occupy demonstrations have made one thing clear: big banks and corporate America can no longer gouge the every day account holder with arbitrary fees and random exploitation. There seems to be a tacit understanding between us: we no longer want to support big businesses that don’t support us. But if our money walks, where will we put it?


Well, I’ll tell you. Tomorrow is National Bank Transfer day, where millions of Americans will leave their big bank and join a financially responsible, people oriented, and community-minded credit union. (Besides, you really shouldn’t be hiding your riches under a mattress. Mattress fires are a real thing.)


To make it even more official, take the pledge to move your money to a credit union this Saturday, NOVEMBER 5, 2011 HERE . Be one of the 650,000 Americans who have already transferred their available funds to credit unions in the last month, and haven’t turned back since running far, far away from their former big bank’s fees


To keep this simple, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. You’ll find below some links (all found via Google) to help you prep for tomorrow. Know that the credit unions are READY FOR YOU with extended hours and possibly, pastries. Also, bring 2 forms of photo identification, your SSN card, proof address, and your money (oh yeah, that) to start an account.


Read what I’ve gathered below, and go visit the Move Your Money Project for more details.


What is a credit union?
A credit union is a member-owned, not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution. Credit unions are similar to traditional banks in the sense that both institutions offer financial products to customers. Credit union members, like bank customers, have access to checking and savings accounts, CDs, loan products, and credit cards.

What is the difference between a credit union and a bank?

Table taken from this link

Credit Unions Banks
Not-for-profit Profit-oriented
Returns profits to members in the form of lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and free or low-cost services. Returns profits to stockholders
Each person who deposits money is a member with a share of ownership Customers have no ownership in the corporation
Members elect a volunteer Board of Directors to represent their interests Controlled by stockholders and paid officials
Member-service driven Profit-driven
Are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration or a private insurer Are federally insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Can serve only those individuals within their field of membership Can serve anyone in the general public

Why are credit unions better?

According to this site:

A credit union is a democratic, member-owned cooperative. So when you join a credit union, you’re more than a member; you’re an owner—and that means you have a say in how your credit union is run.

Credit unions provide the same products and services as other financial institutions—but credit unions are non-profit and exist to help people, not to make a profit. As such, all earnings are returned to their members in the form of high-interest savings and low rate loans.

Credit unions across the country are committed to their communities, offering financial services to underserved populations, engaging youth in financial education, and returning profits to their members.

Credit unions also tend to offer more competitive rates (via DailyFinance):

Credit unions offer most or all of the services you need from your bank, and they generally charge lower fees, offer higher interest rates for your savings, and lower interest rates for loans. Compare these rates for June, 2011, the most recent data available from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA):

Credit Unions(national average) Banks(national average)
5-year CD 2.09% 1.78%
1-year CD 0.75% 0.59%
$1,000 in a regular savings account 0.25% 0.20%
30-year fixed mortgage 4.78% 4.64%
Classic credit card 11.64% 13.17%
Unsecured fixed 36-month loan 10.37% 11.98%
36-month used-car loan 3.88% 5.61%
60-month new-car loan 3.91% 5.22%

Where can I find one:

or go to Google Maps and search for “credit union”

If you’ve successfully moved your funds to a different bank – tell us where in the comments below!


HOARD CLEANSE: Finding $92.24 in My House

Learn how I converted a forgotten dress and some old gift cards into $92.24 in CASH…

Back in August, I started getting rid of a lot of things in my home. Between the piles of items to donate and sell, I found a couple of things with some value.

One of the items I found was a dress I’d misplaced when I was the maid of honor for a wedding in 2009. I was so sad to see this somewhat pricey, brand new dress (still in its original packaging) just hanging in the bowels of my closet.

To receive the maximum value for this dress, a couple of things went through my mind. Should I sell it on eBay for $12? Should I return it to the store? Should I just not exert the effort and donate it?

After a quick phone call to the retailer, I ended up mailing it back to J. Crew. In its place, I received a gift card for the current value of the dress, which was $99. This was better news than risking an awkward internet sale, so I was a happy camper.

At this time, I also had a Victoria’s Secret gift card I received a Christmas ago.  This made me turn to the hunt for the best deal online , and I was able to use both Plastic Jungle and Cardpool to cash in. Now, here’s the full comparison between these two services (drum roll, please!)

How I found the site: PlasticJungle came highly recommended by my sister, who used it in the past.Interface : The PlasticJungle site was easy to navigate, and offered a decent list of gift cards for selling. It wasn’t cheesy-looking, like it was some tacky Angelfire site from 1997. (Some of these buyback sites are pretty fugz.)

Process: You basically indicate you’re selling and pick from a list of retailers PlasticJungle accepts. You have to enter the number of your giftcard, and might have to scratch the secret PIN on the back of the card, and enter that, too. You can then choose to get paid by check or directly through PayPal. Afterwards, you’re provided a .pdf mailer with postage to print out, paste onto an envelope, and send in your giftcard.

Customer service: Despite using the mailer they provided, there was some delay in receiving my mailed-in gift card. I only found out it hadn’t yet been received by PlasticJungle through an automated email warning me that my deal with them was to expire soon. I tried to clear this up with their customer service reps, but there were few options other than reissuing the card itself from the original retailer (Victoria’s Secret)…which seemed like a lot of work. I didn’t know that they worked it out until I found a check in the mail.

Turnover time: 23 days

Value: My $25 Victoria’s Secret card was purchased for $20.25, an 81% buyback rate.

Notes: I chose for a check to be mailed to me to avoid PayPal fees. PlasticJungle didn’t accept J.Crew cards, so I had to go elsewhere.

How I found the site: Because PlasticJungle didn’t accept J.Crew cards, I went ahead and researched the value of J.Crew cards on other sites. Cardpool offered the best deal for this particular retailer.Interface: Really intuitive interface. Your Grandpa can even use it.

You basically indicate you’re selling and pick from a list of retailers PlasticJungle accepts. You have to enter the number of your giftcard, and might have to scratch the secret PIN on the back of the card, and enter that, too. You can then choose to get paid by check or directly through PayPal. Afterwards, you’re provided a .pdf mailer with postage to print out, paste onto an envelope, and send in your giftcard.

Customer service: Never encountered them, since there were no hitches! A very, very smooth process.






Turnover time: 5 days

Value: A $99 J. Crew gift card sold for $71.99. A 72.7% buyback rate.

Notes: While letting go of about $30 in credit money, $72 is better than the *possible* $12 I would have made on eBay for that dress.



[VIDEO] @ WNYC: The Real Cost of Unemployment

Above, Prof. Dorian Warren talks about how a combination of hope and seeking justice will propel the world towards change.


RF had the opportunity to sit-in during a live session of WNYC’s The Real Cost of Unemployment, hosted by Farai Chideya. The panel consisted of personal finance expert, CARMEN WONG ULRICH, author of The Real Cost of Living and frequent contributor to outlets including the Today Show, CNN and MSNBC; investor RYAN MACK, author of Living in the Village, contributor to CNN, CNBC and The Huffington Post, the president of Optimum Capital Management, who teaches and mentors entrepreneurs; and Columbia University Professor DORIAN WARREN, who studies labor markets with a focus on communities of color.


What an incredible run-on sentence! Once we find the archived show, we’ll post it right on site!


What sunk in for RF was this:


    • Age discrimination has increased as employers are searching for younger, less experienced workers who are far from overqualification and the retirement age. This has led to a massive pool of unemployed Baby Boomers who range in their 50s and 60s.


    • There are two types of economies that we’ve developed post World War II – a low wage economy between 1945 and 1973 and an economy for people who have received their Bachelor’s degrees. (Warren)


    • Much of the care of the elderly and children fall on women. Much of the time, healthcare access is a primary concern for families, as independent healthcare costs are exorbitant, and healthcare is mostly packaged with jobs. How do people receive affordable healthcare without jobs? (Wong- Ulrich)


    • We have to see two different parts of #OWS. Americans are reacting to having no voice in the political system, and they see no future by continuing to run the economy in this way. Unfortunately, there is a contradiction in society, where the opinion being projected is that “all government is bad, unless I benefit from it.” #OWS is our political voice. (Mack)


    • Political responsibility and political activism aren’t mutually exclusive. (Mack)


    • Is your degree worth it?


    • What is ethical wealth?


    • The middle class is shrinking. In NYC alone, there were districts: Meatpacking, garment, printing, etc. These were the industries that supported the middle class. (Warren)


    • There is no funding for projects. There are no jobs, because there are no projects. Banks are not lending after the bailout. (Ed Dabney, construction worker)


    • They should have create better stipulations in the bank bailout. (Warren)


  • To recession proof yourself, you have to create your own companies. You have to have a survival mentality. (Wong-Ulrich)
Story of Stuff

[NOTES ON] “The Story of Stuff”

I’m watching the entire Story of Stuff series.  Let’s watch it together, or check out my notes on all the videos, here.  Thanks – h!

The Story of Stuff is a very simple video that everyone must watch. When RF first saw this video a few years back, we were like, “OH SNAP! HOMEGIRL IN THE BLUE BUTTON DOWN IS CORRECT!” Imagine, being able to explain the mode of production, the dangers of corpocracies, imperialism, true democracy, and the effects on communities to 1.5 million people?

Let’s be real. ”Stuff” is what got us all into debt in the first place. Gadgets, cell phone bills, and expensive meals. What struck us at RF was when homegirl said @4:46 – “And if you don’t buy, or own a lot of stuff, you don’t have value.” (Let’s return to this idea soon.)

 The most important lessons:

  • history of production since the 1950s
  • planned obsolescence & perceived obsolescence
  • local living economies
  • close loop production

Please take the time while you fold your laundry:

Dodging the bullet on gift cards…

A couple of years ago, my aunt decided she was very upset with me.  This made several holidays and special family occasions very awkward.  She never actually told me she was upset with me, she just stopped speaking to me.  Because I am an astute observer of the world, I took this as a cue.  Some years later, I happened to be at a family Christmas gathering she hosted.  Surprised to see me, she gave me a Victoria’s Secret gift card that she had in her random gift pile.  While I am eternally grateful for the gesture, I already own a surplus of panties.


When my younger sister noticed this $25.00  gift card posted on my wall for years, she suggested that I finally sell it on Plastic Jungle , a giftcard reseller site.  The process is simple:  you find the gift card retailer in a listing, input the amount, and Plastic Jungle  will pay you cash for a percentage of the card’s value.  It helps to do research on other reputable sites like Giftah or Discount Granny for varying sell rates (ex. J Crew gift cards are available at a 70% sell rate while Walmart cards are available at a 91% sell rate)  and accepted retailers  (ex: J. Crew gift cards are not taken byPlastic Jungle but are  listed at Giftah.)


For my $25 Vicky’s secret card, I used Plastic Jungle.  However, there were some issues verifying my PayPal account so I opted for a check in the amount of $20.25 mailed to me – which was a good thing to avoid the associated PayPal fees. The postage to mail in my gift card was covered by a printed mailer provided via email as a .pdf file by Plastic Jungle .  Once sent, and they confirmed the card’s receipt via email, to tell you your disbursed check is on it’s way.  Overall, I liked Plastic Jungle.  The interface was very easy to use, and it looks pretty professional in comparison to some other sites out there (the next site I will use is Giftah, another trust-able interface.)


So, that  my friends, ups my total on the side. HOLLA!


***TIP:  If you have expensive merchandise from stores you’ve never used, consider returning it for store credit.  This usually comes in the form of a gift card, which you can sell online through Plastic Jungle  , etc.  This will be your best option if you were considering resale on eBay or donation.  Low amount of work, highest return in cash.