It pays to retain me... this story tells why

By Andrea Reynolds From the archives © 2010

Are we too skeptical and suspicious to accept genuine kindness and generosity? I conducted an experiment for 13 years - and told everyone about it - to see how receptive people will be to helping an older woman start over. This is after helping police stop criminal activity and losing everything as consequence of my being a good citizen. To acquire only a safe place to park my van, a little water and electricity, I’ve offered very generous tasks and services to people who are financially comfortable as well as to those who are not. I’ve been documenting my experiences for a future book because, despite announcing upfront exactly what I’m doing, 99% of my offers have been rebuffed.

When I heard about a local man who died in his home a week before anyone noticed, I was sad that he’d been so alone. So in February I was surprised when his sister called me from California. I didn’t know her, but wanted to help any way I could. Her brother was a hoarder and she wanted someone to clean out the house and stage it for sale. Having those skills, I was willing to do it for no charge just to have a driveway to park in where I could sleep safely at night. I knew the house could be worth $100,000 if fixed up and I knew my de-cluttering and interior design services – my degree is the same as some HGTV hosts - would add another $10,000 in value to the home and sell it faster despite its being a stigmatized property. I expected no payment, yet she blew me off!

Yesterday (August) I drove by the house, saw that the property had never received any attention, and found a sold sign in front. I looked up the listing to find the list price was $32,000. I determined that if the house did sell for that much the owner - the one who blew me off - likely received $30,000 after the agent’s commission. Had she allowed me to do the work for free to allow me a place to park and allow me to document the progress of my work for my portfolio on this web site to show future prospective clients, she may have netted an additional $75,000 for just saying yes to me. Her refusal to be kind-hearted deprived her of a $75,000 gift from me.

Not only that, but with loans perhaps I could have bought the house from her for $30,000 in February when she called me and she would have had her $30,000 five months earlier. But she had refused to give me the address or a key so I could even look at it inside and out. (In June I found both the address and a photo of the home in a newspaper article. Too late)

My book will be filled with these stories of self-defeating choices. And all I wanted was a safe driveway to park in and an opportunity to acquire testimonials for doing good work so I could begin to land paying assignments.

Sadly, no longer will I be able to provide free work. I need to charge for my services because I have expenses to have a roof over my head in the bitter cold winter. But with my creative mind there is usually something else of value I can do for clients that is unexpected and sometimes outrageously delightful.

My advice? Be cautious, but before you reject a proposal out-of-hand, research who the person is and what they are asking in return. It’s not always a case of if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-IT-IS. If you let your skepticism guide your decision-making, you may deprive yourself of valuable gifts from someone with a good heart and good character. (Like me.)

Andrea Reynolds stopped working on her book, The Kindness Experiment. She offered to share 40% of the book’s profits with early buyers, but stopped after 6 months due to public skepticism. The plan now is to write Missed Blessings once she has sold her house and has some time available to write for herself.

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What to do with your unwanted timeshare

© Andrea Reynolds, 2005 - 2014. From the archives.

A few years ago my elderly father gave up traveling and decided his two week (back-to-back) Labor Day timeshares on the coast of North Carolina were costing him $1,000 a year in maintenance fees. He had paid two "timeshare advertising companies" upfront at least $500 each to sell his shares for him. That was a waste of money. Months went by and all they did was print a tiny ad in tiny type which was lost in a large catalog of other unwanted timeshares.

So I took on the task. I posted six photos of the timeshare unit, its location, description and map on my
web site and waited to see what would happen. Yes, this is passive selling, but it cost me, and Dad, nothing. In a little over a year someone contacted me and offered $3,000 which was the current value of the points. I knew we would not likely find another buyer so I urged my father to accept, and to handle the transaction, they used a local lawyer in the same town as the timeshare. There was no realtor commission to pay, just the lawyer fee which was nominal.

One day I heard
Clark Howard say on his radio show that there was no way his caller was going to be able to sell her timeshare and urged her to just give it as a gift to family members. Obviously, I only partly agree.

My father could have done that: he could have just given me his two weeks and then I would have had a lovely vacation spot that would have cost me only $1,000 in annual maintenance fees. I could have stayed in it, or traded it for a different location.

• If you have two children and own two timeshares, it would be somewhat easy to split them between the two. And of course, if you have only a one-week timeshare that sleeps six, perhaps your adult children could share.

• Yes, you could sign over a timeshare week to your children as a
wedding gift so they have a free honeymoon location (for the rest of their lives).

• Or you could simply allow friends to use your week for a fair payment for
honeymoons and vacations. If you can break even on renting it out, you can keep the timeshare in your name for years to come.

• You can designate family members as beneficiaries of your timeshares in
your Will.

• Or you could
donate unwanted timeshares to your local PBS station and let the station figure out a way to sell the timeshares for cash (if they are willing to take it).

• Or put your timeshare in their annual fundraising auction to offer to subscribers. Consider
other charities that accept vehicles as donated items.

If you give away a timeshare, you don't make money, but you stop having a money drain from the annual fees, and if you
talk to your accountant, there may be a tax advantage in giving it or donating it. If you donate it, be sure to get a receipt from the recipient with a date on it.

And of course, if you insist on selling it, there is eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji, and some local buy/sell groups on Facebook, etc. Those may involve an element of danger - both physically and financially - and I'm not sure I'd attempt to sell anything of significant value that way. I've encountered a number of scammers on those sites and an elderly person who is trusting may not fare well with a masterful scammer.

So giving away your timeshare(s) may be less hassle in the long run. But keep in mind not everyone wants to own timeshares even if they can trade for a more desired location.

But if your timeshare is sitting vacant, I'd be happy to use it so it doesn't go to waste. ;-)



Money blogger Andrea Reynolds doesn't have another timeshare to sell you, but she is renovating a 2 bedroom bungalow which will be for sale in a few months. She is the author of Sell Your Mobile Home in 60 Days or Less and Save $500 to $6000 on Agent Fees. The 150 tips work for all kinds of homes. Order your copy here:

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Freecycle can help you start over simply and cheaply

© Andrea Reynolds 2009-2014; From the archives: 2010

Question: I lost everything in a fire and had no insurance. How do I replace appliances I need without expense? I don't want to ever be attached to things again and want to spend as little as possible.

Andrea's Answer: Consider asking your local Freecycle group for what you need. Go to and find your local online group. Once you join you will start receiving postings of items that people want to get rid of that may or may not be working. If there is something you need immediately you can post a request. Some groups allow only one request per person per week, or 4 requests per month, but most of the time someone has something you can use.

When I left everything behind (again) to return to Canada I was dependent on Freecycle for basic things like a bed, lamps, and small appliances like an iron, coffeemaker and a small vacuum. Many items, like the vacuum, and more recently a countertop toaster-convection oven, just need a thorough cleaning and they will work beautifully. The coffee maker went through about 4 cycles with vinegar and clear water to clear out all the debris including a dead spider. I cleaned the outside with scouring powder and it looked pretty good. It came without a coffee pot, but someone had given me one that fit perfectly. It had a tiny leak but I just place it on a shallow pan and voila! it's back in use.

Freecycle decor
Items in this photo were all received from Freecycle: clock, lamp, phone, shelf, chalk board, fish tank stand, and the basket below the "telephone table."

The vacuum needed some intensive picking apart, but once all the stuff clogging it was removed it had good suction again. The toaster oven was a little gummy from baked on grease, but I sprayed the removal pan with oven cleaner to get off all the baked-on stains and cleaned the outside with one of those "eraser" sponges. It looks new. I was able to find an instruction manual online and download it so I'm now in business and don't have to use my full oven to heat items like fish sticks that don't taste good out of the microwave.

So if you're willing to do a little fixing and cleaning, someone else's throw-aways become useful workhorses again at no monetary cost to you but the gas - or pedal power if you have a bicycle - it takes to go pick up the item. If you're handy you can restore items that others don't have the patience for.


Money blogger Andrea Reynolds also owns a small business,, where she will declutter and organize your home for more harmony and serenity in your environment. Contact her for an appointment.

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Reclaim your own money

© Andrea Reynolds 2009-2015; From the archives: August 4, 2010

In a recession money becomes more precious. We’re more careful to find ways to spend it wisely. Yet I continue to see smart people abandoning money. I know this because I see authors, speakers, and experts who expect no payment for their work even when payment is available. When I decided to pursue damages after my constitutional rights were violated resulting in no income for several years, my friends all tried to convince me that I should let the money go and forget about it. Why? Should Bernie Madoff’s victims just forget about their losses? I hope not.


While you may not have lost millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can recover several thousand dollars over the course of a year. That money could pay off a debt, buy groceries for a year, or cover multiple mortgage payments. Why deny yourself your own money?

The following eight suggestions may bring you small amounts of money for a little effort and time, yet when added up, could bring you a significant sum of “bonus” money.

Overcharges. Check hotel bills and grocery bills. If you were overcharged you’re entitled to a refund of the overpayment, and some stores will give you the product free and/or give you double your money back.

Overpayments. Did you pay your utility company more money than you owed before you moved out of state? Maybe you threw the statement into a box before you moved and never gave it another thought. And maybe you forgot to notify the utility company of your new address.

Unreturned deposits. Perhaps you left an apartment and never received your security or key deposit. That’s your money. Write a letter and insist on payment. If you posted a $100 security deposit with a utility company, get it back.

Unpaid invoices. Did you do work for a client who never paid? Did you earn commissions that you never received? Follow through with documentation, and remind them that you still expect payment.

Payment made on services not provided. Did you pay a retainer to a professional but they didn’t show up. Don’t just forget it, get it back.

Price matches.  Take the time to check out prices in various stores even after you have purchased an item, like a camera, lawnmower, or a bed. If the store has a price match guarantee, take your receipt and proof of a competitor’s better price, and ask for the difference.

Unpaid loans. Did you give up trying to recover money lent to a friend? If they are doing well now ask them to start paying you back in regular installments.

Damages. If a dentist breaks your tooth while drilling, insist on payment for the extra cost of repairing or replacing the tooth. If someone plagiarized your work, invoice him for stealing your intellectual property.

If you treat money with respect, more of it will show up in your life. Say yes to recovering your own money.


Several years ago money blogger Andrea Reynolds launched a service – – to assist individuals in recovering large amounts of money swindled from them. Not a lawyer, she has had a very high success rate so far, without employing bullying tactics, insults or harassment. If you've lost money to someone perhaps Andrea can help you get it back.

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The Family Size isn't always the better deal

© Andrea Reynolds 2009-2014; From the archives, July 2008

Pay attention to pricing and you could save a few more bucks on your grocery bill each week. Here are two experiences I had when grocery shopping in just one store. I expected that family sizes and packages of several items would be priced lower per unit. Ha! Not always.

Instead, I noticed that when I wanted to buy a 1.8 kg box of frozen lasagna for $14.99, that two boxes of 900 gram lasagna (same item, same mfr., same quantity) cost $6.99 each or $1.01 less than the family size box. What I liked is that with the smaller size, if I bought two singles, I could cook one and store one in the freezer.

I also found that I could buy 4 separate, single-use cameras for $1.00 less than if I bought the package of 4 identical cameras. So you're paying more to have only one item in your shopping cart. And you're paying less for more packaging. It's the opposite of my thinking, and perhaps yours, too. But the one advantage to paying more, if you can call it one: having 4 cameras count as one item could possibly get you into the "8 Items or Fewer" line. (And yes, fewer is the correct word.)


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A Bigger home is not the only solution to your space problem

© Andrea Reynolds 2009-2014; From the archives, July 27, 2010

Do we really need 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 3-car garage homes to house our families and our stuff? Put another way, do we really need bigger mortgages if we’re already in debt? Let me tell you about the Paulsons. (Not their real name.) After forty years they still live in their first and only house.


When they first married they rented a second floor apartment while saving for a down payment. When they did buy, it was a small bungalow on a quiet street. To have enough room for their three kids they spaced them so only two kids were living at home at the same time. They didn’t have pets. When their things took up too much room in the house, they reorganized their basement storage, held yard sales, gave things to the church for its rummage sales, and donated outgrown clothes to charity.

Soon after their 25th wedding anniversary their mortgage was paid off. They lived within their means despite several job layoffs, earned two college degrees in the family, and have lived debt-free for the past 15 years. Their children never felt cramped.

Only in their early 60’s the Paulsons’ retirement years will be a cakewalk because they weren’t bitten by the bigger-is-better bug. Did you know that many self-made millionaires live comfortably in modest homes? (Warren Buffet, for example.) You probably know that the trend now is to live in tiny homes. Tiny, as in less than 144 square feet. Do a search on “tiny homes” and you’ll find custom home manufacturers are building homes 10 feet by 10 feet.

If you think you can’t live without your stuff, try this. Rent a storage unit, fill it with anything you don’t need for cooking, sleeping, eating, or working, and don’t use what’s inside for a month. You may be surprised at what you don’t need, and happier with fewer possessions around you.


Money blogger Andrea Reynolds has lived in a space of only 45 square feet but currently lives in 1300 square feet. She is the author of No Surprises: 365 Critical Questions You Need to Ask Each Other Before You Marry… and how to ask them. Readers should order two copies each:

Want to republish/reprint this blog post? First let's talk about a licensing agreement. I'm a professional writer and I sell my writing.