EBay is one of the most widely known peer-to-peer selling websites. You can get massive deals on various merchandise, but how do you avoid paying into a scam? Sometimes you don't know the item you're paying for is fake until you receive it. Yes, eBay has administrators, tools and their money-back guarantee to combat these situations. But dealing with all of that can be quite a hassle. It's probably much easier to just get the item you're paying for in the first place, right? Here are a few ways to avoid paying for a rip-off on eBay and other selling websites.


1. Check the seller's rating

EBay has its own seller rating system. The better reviews the seller gets from people they buy from and sell to, the better their rating will be. You might feel confident in buying an item from a seller with a 100% rating — but take it with a grain of salt. There are even scams around inflating a seller's rating on the website. Take a look at the seller's history and read some of the reviews about them.

You should also consider the age of their account. If they just recently made their eBay account to sell a popular item, it could mean they're trying to misrepresent the product. But if they're been around awhile, it's likely they're a more reliable seller. Of course, there are untrustworthy sellers with old accounts and good sellers with new accounts. This is just one thing to keep in mind.

2. Examine the product picture

Probably the fastest way to spot something fishy is by the picture, especially if they're reselling a brand new product. If the seller has uploaded an official picture released by a big company, be wary. That picture does nothing to prove that the seller actually has the product they're selling. You want to look for a picture of the box or item in their home or in another location than what was advertised by official retail outlets. It might seem counterintuitive, but a poorer quality picture is probably a good sign the seller actually has the product on hand. (Can you spot the possibly fishy photo above? Hint: it's the middle one on the bottom row.)

If there are a lot of listings for the same thing, compare the product pictures between posts. Sometimes sellers will even steal a picture from someone else who genuinely has the item. Other times, a single seller will use the same exact picture on multiple auctions. Maybe they were too lazy to take multiple pictures and upload them, but this could also mean that they're trying to scam you.

3. Don't be afraid to talk to the seller

Any genuine seller will usually be happy and willing to answer questions about the item and their selling policies. It might take some time for them to reply, but they generally won't hold back about anything. If a seller is particularly cagey with you or reluctant to answer questions, that's probably a bad sign. Be wary if they also avoid answering your question and focus on the selling points of an item. Don't take their word on a "new" and "unopened" item without the proper proof.

Even after you do purchase the item or win the auction, keep talking to the seller. Ask about a ship date and tracking information. Once you receive the item, even if everything is all good, go ahead and send them another message thanking them. It'll help your own score on eBay and will foster goodwill if you decide to buy from them again.

4. Always use PayPal to fund purchases

Never, never, never agree to pay over a wire transfer. If a seller asks for that, it's a sure sign of a scam. Once the money is transferred via wire, it's practically impossible to get it back. For safety and simplicity, just use PayPal. PayPal protects your card information and insures your payments. If you can, use a credit card in conjunction with PayPal. Credit card payments offer more protections than debit cards do.

Also, especially if you're purchasing an item with a high price tag, make sure the purchase is covered by the eBay money back guarantee. This guarantee will cover the cost of your purchase if you don't end up getting what was advertised — even if the seller refuses to give the money back.



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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.