How To Organize Your Stuff, Your Finances and Your Communication Back Home

How to Organize and  Sell Your Belongings for Your Move Abroad

If you have a digital camera and a computer, this process is a breeze. I will walk you through it. If you don’t have a digital camera, invest in one. When you move, everyone will want to have pics of your adventure, and you can share them easily on a computer. Plus you won’t believe how easy a camera can be to help you organize your stuff.

There are several ways to sell stuff. Some require a little effort but don’t cost you anything. Other ways to get rid of belongs might involve consignment shops who take a fee or percentage of the sale. I vote for free first in order to get more money. But remember in the end, it is about freeing yourself of stuff, not making tons of money.

Apple QuickTake 200 Digital Camera

Photo Courtesy of donjd2 (Flicker.com)

That brings up another thing. And I learned this along the way. What value I place on an item is not necessarily what someone else would value that at. You can’t hold onto something because you think you should get more for it. If someone offers you less than what you think it is worth, SELL IT ANYWAY and move on. Waiting  for extra nickels and dimes does not remove that item from your house. In some cases you will need to give away items in order to get rid of them. Some one wise long ago said,

“The Value of Anything , Is Only Determined By What Someone Wants to Pay “

If you have items you know are valuable such as antiques, musical instruments, artwork, etc or items to big to ship on your own, seek out consignment places who can show these items to people who are searching specifically for them. They will take a percentage of the sale but you are more likely to get a higher price when these businesses sell your things.

Smaller items that you know are selling well, put on Craigslist in your area. The ads run free for 45 days. In that time you will usually sell your item. Craigslist is a free service. Go to Craigslist.com and open an account. Really easy. Then do a add posting. Write as a descriptive posting as you can. Make sure you put where you are , such as Denver. I always include my home phone and times they can call. I always ask for cash only.Use your digital camera and take picture of your item well lit and with a white background. Take and post to Craigslist at least 4 pics.

Most computers now have slots for the photo memory cards. So after you have taken your shots, take out the memory card and place it in the slot of your computer. Usually the computer will recognize the chip and automatically save the pics to your hard drive in the pictures folder.

When you are done writing your add you will notice that below you can upload pictures. Click on the upload button and find the picture you want on your ad by looking in your picture folder. Click open and the picture will appear as downloaded to your ad. You can download a total of 4. Click done and wait for people to call. You can make as many postings as you want.

You can also sell on Ebay or Amazon. This is a little harder because you have to ship the item and these companies also take a cut of the sale for your ad. However, it is a great way to get exposure for items. Many millions of people spend time shopping on these sites.

Garage sales are probably the last resort to getting rid of stuff. You will always find that people never want to pay for what you ask at a garage sale. Knowing that going into it, it is a great way to practically give away your stuff.

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How to Consolidate and Organize Your Stuff To Move Abroad  

First, there is no way that you can move to another country without a computer to use to access your bank accounts and do bill pays for your credit cards. Mail delivery in and out of the United States to most countries, takes time and is not necessarily reliable. The computer is.  So force yourself to get at least a laptop and a decent printer before you move and get used to using them. Computers are very expensive to buy in other countries because they have to be imported.

Computers are cool, sometimes. I am not a geek, but I have found some pretty cool ways to be able to consolidate some of my things.

Records to CD’s For Easy Move

Did you know that you can copy your music from old Lp albums onto CD disks with a software program and some cables that attach your turntable to your computer? I personally did this for about 30 albums. I do not listen to them anymore as records but still love the music, so putting the music on CD’s will allow me to move them to Panama, plus they will last a long time. I used a free software download from Audacity and downloaded it onto my computer.  I purchased the cables at Radio Shack and hooked the turntable to the computer. Audacity has great instructions. I didn’t do it fancy job but just recorded every album onto the computer then copied it onto a CD.

Then I took all the albums and put them up for sale on Amazon.com. I looked each one up on Amazon and saw what they were selling for and put my price slightly lower. I got some mailing sleeves from Uline.com and when Amazon notified me that an album had sold, I sealed it up in the LP mailer and used Stamps.com: Print Postage on Your PC! to weigh and print off my shipping labels. As a side note always mail books and records  with “Media Mail” shipping. It is a lot cheaper, so you get more money. Easy.

Photos to CD’s For Easy Move

I purchased for under $150 a couple of years ago, a printer that had a scanner. Never thought about it. Then one day I looked at all the photo albums I had. I new that humid weather would not be kind to my albums if I moved them. Then a light bulb went off. I easily figured out how to scan the pictures onto my computer and put them onto a CD disk. Number 1, the color is now preserved, number 2, they will never be ruined, 3, I can view them on my computer or TV and 3, I can move them easier.

I did 6 albums and about 1500 pictures. I could scan four photos at a time.  It only took me about 6 days to transfer them all to disk and then I through out the prints. Wow,I now have all my albums down to about 6 disks.

Sensitive Documents  and Information You Need To Take With You

Organize Your Stuff

Photo Courtesy of lancefisher (flicker.com)

The thought of taking  important documents in my suitcase to another country freaked me out. What if they got stolen, wet, lost?  So going with the same frame of mind that I did the Cd’s for the photos and music,  I took all my sensitive documents, social security card, insurance policies, medical information, wills, etc and scanned those and put those on a disk. I made sure to erase the file from the computer after I transferred so that no one can get that info off my computer. I also made a backup of that file on a USB that I can take with me anywhere safely. You can organize you stuff easily.

I went another step further and took all my personal accounts with passwords and did up a spreadsheet filling it all out with all my information as far as contacts , account numbers, passwords and pins and scanned that onto a CD. And of course deleted that file from my computer afterward. I am still of a mind that I don’t want to use an online backup for information because someone can hack in.

Some things I will always have stored here, but I wanted access to my IRS forms for last year so that when I need to do them this year I will have them handy. Again trying to avoid paperwork, I scanned my last years tax return and put than onto a disk. And gain deleted that information from my computer for security.

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How to Organize Your Finances When Living Abroad

Again computers are cool. Technology today provides the ability for everyone to keep in touch for personal conversation, banking,  bill paying,  mail forwarding  and computers make  life easier for day to day living.

Social Security is now directly deposited into your  US bank account. If you set up your finances correctly your money management from another country should be easy. Most banks make it easy to do transfers online as well as bill pay. My personal checking account for about a year now has a feature where I can simply scan in my checks for deposit from my home computer. I rarely go to the bank now here. It is fairly straightforward. But you do need to know some things about your bank, credit card, debit card and mail.

Banking and Credit Card Considerations:

      • If you are planning to move abroad, check to see if your credit card company will charge you an extra percentage fee for foreign transactions. This can add up if you are intending to buy large ticket items in your new home country. Even 2 or 3 % makes a difference on a budget. You can find this information by calling the company or looking in you agreement paperwork. You can avoid theses charges by finding credit card companies that do not charge these foreign transaction fees. You can find a list of these credit cards at these two websites here and here
      • You will need to open a bank account in your new country to make payments for your monthly utilities and other odd and ends.Make sure that  your new account in your new counry will accept “international transfers in” from you US bank account.
      • Your US bank account will need to have the following, if it doesn’t, find a new bank that does-
      1. International Wire Transfers- at a small or no cost per transaction-you will need this to do transfers from your US account to your new country account.You will also need to be able to do this by fax or phone. Some US banks require in person requests only. Not good if you are living in a different country.
      2. Debit Card- again with preferably no cost per transaction or foreign transaction fee-This will allow you to be able to get cash (dollars) to spend in your new county.
      3. Scan Checks into Account- This may not be important to you, but it is nice to be able to scan checks on your computer for deposit to your US account.
      • You also need to  make sure that you don’t hastily close any accounts. If you are in the process of beginning an application for a Visa in a country, most countries will require “bank reference letters” from more than one bank. So don’t get stuck closing accounts down to only one before your Visa is approved. I would advise in any event that you have more than one US bank account with more than one debit card. That way when your debit card expires you will have another one from a different bank to use until you receive your new debit card. The same goes for credit cards, have at least two.
      • Now a days you can usually receive all the tax forms by email or download them from your online accounts. This is extremely important, so that you don’t have to rely on snail mail from your mail forwarding account.
      • (Side Note) In order for you to keep your US credit card, credit card companies require you to have a US address. They may close your account if they find you are living out of the country full time.

Bill Paying:

    • As soon as you have decided to move abroad begin making all your bills be sent to you paperless. Give them your email address. Then check them all for several months to make sure that you are no longer receiving statements in the mail. It might also be easier to have as many things as possible done through automatic bill pay to make sure payments will be made on time.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: You may not know what an IP address is on your computer. Your computer has its own IP address which is a numerical number of a computer. When you are logging into accounts such as bank and credit card accounts, those logins  recognize your IP address as being  generated in the United States, if some of these sites do not recognize your IP address they will not let you log in. You can see my question about this I asked of Kathleen Peddicord of Live and Invest Overseas and her answer about IP address.

 

How to Organize Your Communication for Back Home

Mail Forwarding:

  • Most things that you need will be taken care of  by being delivered by way of email or logging into your accounts. However, some companies still want to send you hard copies of documents and credit cards and debit cards periodically need to be replaced and sent to you directly.
  • Some expats will use a  family members address as their own and have them open mail and forward it. I am going to have my mail sent to a mail forwarder, as I know most people use.  Most of the mail will probably be junk , but some of it will be tax  There are several that do this. Most are in Miami or Oregon. You give your credit card company the address of your mail forwarding place and they will send all correspondence to that address. The mail forwarding companies have a number of options for you to get your mail. The accounts do not cost much. The cost usually lies in how often you want to have your mail forwarded to your new home. Some will scan all envelopes so you can log in to your account and determine which items you want shredded and which ones you want forwarded and how often.
  • My two favorite mail forwarders are: US Global Mail and Airbox Express. US Global charges currently $150.00 a year. Best part about them is that they will open and scan documents if you want so you don’t need to have them forwarded to you. This can save lots of money. Airbox is great for shipping letters and packages to Panama. They have offices in Boquete and David. Letters typically take 1-3 days and cost about $2.00.

Telephone and Cell:

There are several inexpensive ways to keep in touch with those back home and in your new country. You may know or already use some of these. If you have a newer computer, Skype is wonderful. Skype is free anywhere in the world, Skype to Skype.  Your Skype to a landline or cell is only 2.3 cents a minute. If your computer does not have a webcam or audio headset you can buy the accessories and plug them into your computer easily. Here is a video on how to organize your stuff on Skype.

Some people love Magic Jack. Although, I personally have heard mixed reviews. If you want to use this product I would suggest buying it before your leave the US.

Of course you will want and need a cell phone. In the US I have a T mobile phone with a US phone number. It was easy to switch the same phone to a Panama phone and have a Panama phone number. All I did was call T mobile and have them give me the unlock code. Every cell phone has a SIM card where the battery usually is. When a cell phone has been “unlocked” you can remove the SIM card. That card is what holds all your US phone information and phone number. You can buy SIM cards for most countries. Just slip in your new SIM card of your new country and you can use that card in the country with local calls. If you want to call the US, just switch out your SIM card for the US one. Easy. Please read this article.

Five Things You Need to Know Before Using a Cell Phone Overseas

1. Why can’t I use my current cell phone overseas?

The U.S. is actually behind the rest of the world when it comes to cell phone technology. Most cell phones in the U.S. are not compatible with the frequency or bandwidth used overseas. To get technical, only a tri-band phone (known as a GSM phones) with a 900, 1800 or 1900 frequency phone will work overseas. You can buy tri-band phones in the U.S. but they are generally more expensive, harder to find and only a few local networks sell them. All those big telco’s you know and love will only sell you what’s called a “locked GSM phone” meaning that you are locked into using that provider’s service and there’s no actual key you can use to unlock it. That translates to huge roaming fees and a big bill at the end of the month. You could use one of their phones, but why would you? An “unlocked” phone is what you want, one that isn’t tied to a particular network, so you can choose any network or provider and the service that suits you best.

2. How does a GSM phone work?

Cell phone users need to know what a SIM (Subscriber Information Module) card is, because it is the SIM card that operates a GSM phone. A SIM card is a small encoded chip that is inserted into the back on the phone, containing your unique account information including the telephone number and your personal address book. SIM cards are removable, interchangeable and can be purchased for individual countries or for multiple countries (i.e. a global roaming SIM card).

3. Is it true that I can get free in-coming calls, free text messages and local call rates overseas (without roaming charges)?

Believe it or not, what we consider as normal in the U.S. is to pay for the in-coming calls. Your friends across the pond have it much easier. In-coming calls on cell phones are actually free in almost every country in the world (with the exception of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, China, the Bahamas, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and parts of Russia). Instead of paying for in-coming calls, try Telestial, which has free in-coming calls in 40 of the most popular destinations around the world. You’ll pay the local cell phone call rates in most destinations, without being penalized with exorbitant international roaming charges. With Telestial’s Explorer SIM card, customers can also receive free text messages plus family and friends of Telestial customers can send free SMS text messages from www.telestial.com to Telestial Explorer subscribers overseas.

4. Do I need to sign a contract for my international cell service?

The beauty of owning an unlocked cell phone is that there are no contracts. SIM cards are pre-paid and can be purchased on a country by country basis. Alternatively, travelers can buy a global roaming SIM card which allows for usage in multiple countries. With Telestial’s global roaming “Explorer” and “Passport” SIM cards, users have cell phone coverage in 100+ countries and can set up an auto-recharge facility with no need to go online or phone in to recharge the card. You can start with as little as $10 of air time credit.

5. Is it cheaper to rent or buy a phone?

Depending on the type and frequency of travel, purchasing an internationally compatible unlocked GSM cell phone is both affordable and practical. It is especially economical for people who travel overseas often and is certainly a cheaper and easier option than renting. Factors to be considered are the length of a trip, the purpose (business or leisure) and your budget. The down side of renting is being locked into paying the rental company’s call rates, which can be as high as $5 per minute from some countries (plus many charge for in-coming calls). Purchasing a phone gives the freedom to choose a SIM card that suits your needs, without being tied to a particular network or provider. And, of course, the reality is that at the end of the rental period, you have to give back the phone whereas the price of purchasing it out right may not be much higher.

Purchasing also helps avoid additional administration each time you travel, including ordering, paying for shipping, always having different telephone numbers when you travel and the paranoia of keeping track of how much each call is costing. Add in the fact that you won’t need to become familiar with a new handset every time you rent, and that you can loan it out to friends, family and colleagues, and you have some pretty compelling arguments in favor of purchasing. GSM phones start from as little as $99, which is a small investment to make if you are a frequent leisure or business traveler.

About Telestial

Telestial is a leading provider of deeply discounted international cell phones, pre-paid SIM cards for global coverage and other communications services that allow travelers to easily retain control over costs while staying in touch overseas. Unlike phone rental options, Telestial eliminates problems associated with incompatible cellular networks abroad or being tied to a U.S. network that charges exorbitant international rates. Working with providers worldwide, Telestial customers can get the same low local call rates that international residents would pay, plus the convenience of an enabled phone prior to arriving in an international destination. Telestial ensures affordable and simple international calling options for business or leisure with a wide selection of phone types and packages. For more information visit www.telestial.com

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