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Archive for January, 2006

Shop With Your Finger

January 31st, 2006 at 05:02 am

You have no will power and you know it. You have therefore cut up your credit cards keeping a single one frozen in a block of ice in the refrigerator just in case of an emergency. You finally gotten the monkey off your back that comes with easy access to money you don't have that a credit card provides. But wait. Retailers aren't going to let you off that easy.

It won't be that far off when you can pay with your finger. I started hearing about this a couple of years ago and it looks like it's a lot closer to reality on a large scale. Here is the part that will send shivers down the spines of all those that can't control their credit card spending:

Within three months of a pilot program at four Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, 15% of its customers who normally did not pay by cash enrolled in the Pay By Touch system. Those users increased their store visits by 15%, which translates into an additional 7,350 transactions a year. Not only did they come more often, those shoppers also spent 12% more on groceries.


The problem? It's not quite as easy (and a lot more painful) to cut up your finger and if you freeze it in a block of ice and leave it in your freezer in case of an emergency, the neighbors will likely call the cops on you...

Negative Savings For 2005

January 31st, 2006 at 04:48 am

If you came out of 2005 with more savings (or less debt) than you began with at the beginning of the year, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You were one of the few. The Commerce Department reported today that consumer rose more than double the rise in incomes which left the 2005 savings rate at the lowest level since the Great Depression: negative 0.5% This is the first time the savings rate has been in negative territory outside of the Great Depression

While there are a lot of experts putting on the spin that the reason people spent more than they had in disposable income was due to "soaring housing prices which made them feel wealthier," I'm not buying it. I think it is an attitude change where people don't believe that they have to save anymore. A perfect example is the huge increase in no down payment mortgages for homes.

When I was talking to some friends the other day about saving for a down payment, they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language (and I swear I wasn't speaking Japanese at the time). There attitude was, "why save for a down payment when there is no need to?" Their basic logic was that they can get a loan for no money down so they must be making enough money to afford it - an extremely dangerous assumption.

I'm wondering what type of spin the experts will put on if the savings rate is still in negative territory and the housing market isn't growing as much as it has been - my prediction for 2006. For all of you taking the time to visit the personal finance site and get your finances in order, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You're obviously in the minority at the moment...

ID Scam - Who Can Your Trust?

January 28th, 2006 at 01:19 am



I came across this little piece about an ID Theft scam that goes to show that you really can't trust anyone these days:

"For Aisha Shahid and dozens of others who went to an advertised job fair in Chattanooga and got offers of nightclub work in Atlanta, Memphis and Miami, the "dream jobs" turned out to be an identity theft scam...

A man who identified himself as record company and music group president William Devon took applications and personal identification numbers from more than 100 people January 13th and 14th...

The man took many of the applicants' drivers licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards and even a diploma.



While obviously I'm not going to be applying for a nightclub job (like anyone would hire me if I did), I began to think about the concept. If I heard about a job fair and someone said they represented a reputable company, was dressed in the appropriate attire with name tags and materials from that company to give away and after talking a bit asked me to fill out an application, I would probably do so without thinking twice - and that would turn over a lot of my sensitive information including social security number, birthday, driver's license number, contacts, address and probably anything else that was asked on the application.

If an ID scam like this took place, it's only a matter of time that something like what I just described above also takes place. It's another reminder (especially to myself) that you do need to be extremely careful to whom you turn over your sensitive information to.

Caught Up

January 24th, 2006 at 03:10 pm

Previous Total: $55.50

Current Total: $55.50

Inventory: 1 book, 10 photos

Okay, I have moved all the posts from the forum into this blog. Nate said he'd be setting up a system where all the $20 Challenges will display together so I hope others make the move soon so we can set that up.

The last couple of weeks I haven't been able to work on this challenge becasue of all the work getting these set up and beginning the financial challenge again. Hopefully now that both of them have started I will have some more time to devote to this challenge.

Some Items Not Selling

January 24th, 2006 at 03:06 pm

Previous Total: $55.59

Current Total: $55.50

Inventory: 1 book, 10 photos

Hmmmm, I really don't understand why the other Coca Cola sets haven't been selling. it's one of those things that you can never tell with eBay. I thought they would do well, but for a second time they ended without any bids. This despite the fact that there were a number of people who had placed them on their watch lists. I think I'll take a break for now and see if I can find better timing to put them up.

I did relist them in my store which only cost $0.09. Maybe I'll get luck and someone will pick one up from there.

The good thing is that I didn't buy any of these. It's never fun having stock around your house that you can't sell.

Some New items To Sell

January 24th, 2006 at 03:04 pm

Previous Total: $75.59

Current Total: $55.59

Inventory: 1 book, 10 photos

The items that I have put on auction haven't been selling so it's time to look at another way. Since they are all free, what I'll do is simply leave them on the side for whenever ebay has a sale of some type and I can list them for cheap.

I did find a book and some photos the other day that put me back $20 but I'm hoping will sell well. I will place those on auction later today - still need to take photos and write up a description for them. I'll update again once they are on auction.

No Sales

January 24th, 2006 at 03:02 pm

Previous Total: $78.44

Current Total: $75.59

Inventory: none

None of the other Coca cola sets (partial world cup pin set, key chain set and bottle cap set)I placed on auction sold although all had people watching the items. I decided to give each of them one more try this time as an auction instead of as a set price. We'll see how they do. The listing price for all of them was $2.85 which I have deducted from my total.

I will also be going to some stores today where I may be able to find some things to sell. I'd rather stay with stuff I'm somewhat familiar with as it just takes a lot less time to list - and I'd also like to go for multiples so that I can sell the same thing over and over again without having to write a new description each time. Those are tough to come by, but can be quite valuable and save time all at once. Fingers crossed on that. Finding a few things would be good as it would help jump start the earnings a bit more.

Good & Bad News

January 24th, 2006 at 03:00 pm

Previous Total: $52.41

Current Total: $78.44

Inventory: none

Some good news and some bad news. The good news is that another of the complete Coca Cola pin sets sold today. The bad news is that when I went to the hobby store to pick it up and was planning to by the fourth set they had, the last set had already been sold (so a loss of an easy $25).

The cost of the Coca Cola pin set, Paypal fees and ebay end of auction fees minus the $49.95 it sold for leaves me with a profit of $26.03. Sad that these have all been sold as it was a good money maker and I assume they would continue in popularity through the world cup. I do have partial sets, but I haven't sold one of those yet and the profit margin isn't as good.

I do have a bit in the fund now so it's time to find some items to invest in. I'm hoping to have a little time to do that this weekend and I'll continue to hope everything continues to sell as well as it has thus far.

Selling Leaves

January 24th, 2006 at 02:59 pm

Previous Total: $52.41

Current Total: $52.41

Inventory: none

While this post isn't really directly related to the challenge, I thought is was a great example of the way you can take something and turn it into a nice business by thinking a bit outside the box.

I was watching TV last night and they has a special on a town in the Japanese countryside where most of the residents are elderly - over 65 years old. The town was dying as all the younger people moved to the cities to find jobs and there was no income coming in for most of the residents. It was going to be another town that simply died until one of the residents came up with an idea. The idea? Selling leaves.

You read that correctly. The town sells leaves - as those things that hang on trees. One of the residents figured out that high end restaurants in Japan use a variety of different seasonal leaves to display with the food to make it more attractive. The towns people (many in their 80s) walk out the door and pick the leaves off the trees to sell. So how much can the earn doing this? The average monthly salary is $2,000 while in peak season in the late fall and before New Year they can ear as much as $20,000 a month.

This isn't one or two families, but the entire town. The entire business brings in over $10 million a year. It's a brilliant idea. The cost of the product is $0 - it has always been right there under their noses. It just needs to be packaged and sent.

Now if I can just come up with something as brilliant for this challenge...

Another Coca Cola Set Sold

January 24th, 2006 at 02:57 pm

Previous Total: $27.73

Current Total: $52.41

Inventory: none

I sold another of the Coca Cola pin sets today. As mentioned before, the cost of the Coca Cola pin set to me is $20.00. Paypal fees and ebay end of auction fees came to $3.92 and the set sold for $49.95. That puts me up $26.03 after deducting all expenses. Since the store still has 2 sets available, I decided to list one more and see how quickly it sells. if it goes quickly, then I may just purchase the last set to make sure I have it on hand.

I did list another of the sets which cost $1.35 and means I can add a grand total of $24.68 to earnings.

I'm a little surprised that none of the other sets I put up have sold. I guess I need to be a bit more patient and hopefully a few will.

Finding Coins

January 24th, 2006 at 02:54 pm

Previous Total: $27.63

Current Total: $27.73

Inventory: none

I was walking to the post office yesterday and found 10 yen on the ground. I will add this to my totals. I haven't kept track of the money I find for a few years now, but it's probably about $50 to $100 a year. Let's just say it's kind of a hobby that I don't get to practice as often since I don't commute to work any longer. I actually wrote an article about this for a magazine in Japan quite awhile ago 8the easiest way to convert is the 100 yen = $1.00). For those interested, here is a copy of it:

A colleague's daughter was given New Year's money known as otoshidama from her grandfather. After receiving the money, she quizzically looked at her grandfather and asked, "Did you find the money on the ground?" Her question perplexed everyone in the room until they realized that otosu means "to drop." She had assumed otoshidama had meant the money had been dropped and found on the ground.

Although it wasn't the case in that particular situation, the girl could have easily been correct. In my first full year of keeping track of the money I found in Japan, I made myself 14,129 yen (94 one-yen coins, five 5-yen coins, 121 ten-yen coins, 10 fifty-yen coins, 38 one hendred-yen coins, three 500 yen coins, two 1000 yen bills and one 5000 yen bill) richer. That may not seem like an overwhelming amount, but consider you'd have to keep close to 3 million yen in your local bank account for an entire year to earn the same amount in interest (a good reason to find another place other than your local bank to invest your money). Add an additional 7920 yen found in unused prepaid cards, and it's well worth the effort to keep a lookout wherever you go.

I only found a tiny piece of what's really out there. Consider that in 1997, people turned in over 2.5 billion yen in lost currency to the Japanese Metropolitan Police Department's lost and found. Of course, I've done my share of returning too. Not counted in my findings was 2153 yen in dropped coins returned to their rightful owners (ears become attuned to the cling of coins on hard surfaces) and 32,000 yen found in a lost wallet (which would have become mine if the money hadn't been claimed after one year).

In addition to the cash, I've never had to purchase a pre-paid telephone card since arriving in Japan. That's because I always find telephone cards which still have value on them. Usually it's only ten to thirty yen, but sometimes the cards are almost new. You can find the cards by looking on top of, and the area surrounding, pay telephone you pass. Even if you find a card that's completely used, it's still worth keeping it. You can donate it to any one of a number of charities which collect used phone cards as part of their fund raising activities.

I never went out of my way to search for the money I found. All the coins I found were while carrying out my normal everyday activities. I also followed certain rules. The money I found had to be in a public place where anyone else could have found it had they been looking. Money found in places where the general public didn't have access were not counted. Thus coins discovered at my friends' houses, my work and all those forgotten coins in my own apartment didn't count. Coins which were purposely placed on the ground were also not eligible; coins at shrines, near graves and in the water around fountains were strictly off limits. Basically, any coin which had been accidentally dropped or left could be counted.

Since the money is there, it's simply a matter of knowing the best places to find it. For example, if someone informed you that you could find 1 yen in every vending machine you passed, would you bother picking it up? With the vast number of vending machines in Japan, it would make most people think twice every time they passed one. I averaged 1.16 yen for every vending machine I checked (3120 yen from 2690 vending machines checked). For those who are too embarrassed, it's also possible to check most vending machines at normal walking pace by simply looking into their coin return slot (a method I was forced to master at threat of divorce by my wife).

For those who think they may be interested in searching for lost coins, it's important to remember that it's not purely about the money. The friends who hear about the amount I've found often decide to try finding money themselves. This usually lasts only a couple of days when they end up quitting in frustration because they haven't found anything. This is to be expected since most days I didn't find a single yen (273 days) and a total of three days accounted for over half of all the money I did find the entire year. Had I not been looking those days, however, I would have never spotted that money, just like the many others who passed by it before me.

One prime location where I've never checked is under vending machines. When I told a Japanese friend my new hobby, he informed me that there are actually special devices made and sold in Japan to search for coins lost under vending machines. This immediately piqued my interest, but thus far I've managed to resist. I'm sure I would find even more coins than I did this past year, but there's also the distinct possibility that I'd end up single again.

Japanese Flags

January 24th, 2006 at 02:53 pm

Previous Total: $27.63

Current Total: $27.63

Inventory: none

I talked about doing this as part of last year's challenge, but never quite got around to doing it as fully as I wanted to. That was to set up free sites that feature some of the antique items I sell to make ends meet as I try to make my sites my full time job. I actually have a few reasons for doing this. One is to educate people a bit more about these items since there isn't a whole lot of information out there on them. Second is possible begin selling the items through those sites rather than through ebay where I have all the fees. Lastly, they give me an opportunity to earn a few dollars a month through adsense. I'm hoping that I can make a bit of extra time to get these sites going this year.

This are pretty niche sites that will probably only be of interest to a handful of collectors and therefore at this time I don't see a benefit of setting up a completely separate site for them. if they become popular, however, I can always go in that direction - especially if sales take off.

While I won't count the items sold on these sites (unless they are part of my inventory), I will place the amount of the fees I save if I do eventually sell anything. I just created one to document Japanese Flags and hopefully more will follow.

Some New Finds To Sell

January 24th, 2006 at 02:40 pm

Previous Total: $30.23

Current Total: $27.63

Inventory: none

I had a good day today finding items I could sell without laying out any money ahead of time. In a sense, it's like drop shipping except I have to pick up and send the items myself. When I went to the hobby shop to pick up the Coca Cola world cup pin set and asked how many he has remaining (2 more) he said that he also had about 10 partial sets. The sets are missing 2 of the pins and the special pin (14/17) and he said he would sell me these partial sets for $5. I took a photo and have placed that up on ebay already.

In addition I found a set of 6 winter Coca Cola key chains that I can get for $2.50 each

Then I also found a Coca Cola bottle cap set which would be $10. All these seem like reasonable prices and I have placed them on auction and we'll see of any of them sell. The listing fees for the three comes to $2.60 which I've subtracted from my total.



Now that I have a bit of money, I will begin to look for some investments. It's winter here so there aren't many flea markets so I'll have to look elsewhere to get some stock. I also don't have near as much time to search for items, so hopefully I'll come across some nice stashes somewhere.

It is now January first here in Japan (Happy New year to one and all) so I guess this challenge is officially started for me (even though I began a few days early) - onto $1,000,000 Smile

Another Sale

January 24th, 2006 at 02:36 pm

Previous Total: $24.68

Current Total: $30.23

Inventory: none

Just about ready to go to bed (12.30 AM here in Japan) and checked my email to see that the Star Wars card set sold for $9.95. That means another trip to the hobby shop tomorrow (it's a short walk from my house). The good news is that they have a lot of these sets, so I should be able to continue to sell them without having to put out any money as long as people want to buy them.

The set cost me $2.50 plus $1.20 in fees. Take that away from the $9.95 and it is a $6.25 profit. I listed the set again which takes away $0.70 so I end up being able to add $5.55 to my total. Time for bed...

Starting Off

January 24th, 2006 at 02:34 pm

Since I decided to start with nothing, I had to come up with a way to start making money without expending any money right away. I had a couple of choices here. I could find stuff for free and sell it or I could take a page out of my old challenge and place items up for sale that I didn't actually purchase, but know I can purchase if they end up selling. While I plan to utilize both strategies, I started off by placing a couple of auctions with items I knew I could get at a local hobby shop.

While there are expenses for placing items on eBay, I could still get away with this due to the float in time before I actually had to pay. That is, even though there is a cost, I don't have to pay that cost until the bill comes which gives me a window of about a month to earn enough to cover the bill before it comes. Not something that I would normally want to do, but when you're starting our with $0 you have to be a little creative in making things happen.

I started off with a Coca Cola world cup set. I had listed this a couple of times in the other challenge and it hadn't sold, but with world cup news now getting more air time, I thought it would be worth a try again.

I sold a set today. I have another one still available and I hope it will sell too. I only listed 2 sets because the store has 4 full sets available and I want to make sure that i can get hold of them if they sell. I will go down there today to pick up the set that sold and make sure there are still 3 sets available.

In addition to the coca cola set, I listed a Star Wars card set. I sold this set a number of times in the last challenge so I figured I should keep a good thing going. Again, there is no cost to me unless the set sells and then I can pick it up for $2.50.

The last thing I put up were sets of packaging for Star Wars figures. This was completely free - it's just packaging, but I have learned from past experience that for collectors anything has a chance to sell. If it doesn't, I'm only out the cost of listing the item for sale.

To place the items on ebay cost $1.35. The cost of the Coca Cola pin set to me is $20.00. paypal fees and ebay end of auction fees came to $3.92 and the set sold for $49.95. That puts me up $24.68 after deducting all expenses and means I now have a cushion to make this challenge work.

Previous Total: $0.00

Current Total: $24.68

Inventory: none

Complimentary Blog

January 24th, 2006 at 02:30 pm

Of course the first order of business is to set up a complimentary blog to the post here. There are two main reasons for doing this: 1) it allows me to put adsense ads on the blog that will bring about a dollar or two a month to the goal to begin with, but since I'm setting this up as a long, long term event, hopefully that will not be the case a few years from now. 2) It gives a different outlet for this entire project which will hopefully get others interested in the challenge and this site.

Since the blog is free and only takes about an hour to set up, it's worth the time for me to do so. In fact, it's already up and live at Active Investing Blog

Note: I'll probably stop that blog now that these new ones have been set up.

Challenge Goals

January 24th, 2006 at 02:28 pm

In following with last years challenge, I will continue along the same lines of looking for good investments and reselling them in my spare time. Since I know that the site and other commitments will be taking up most of my time this year, my yearly goals are a bit less ambitious than last year. The overall goal, however, has been put forth to make this a truly long term endeavor.

I've decided to begin with $0 and my ultimate goal is to reach $1,000,000 all done in my spare time. As I mentioned earlier, this is a looong term goal and I expect it will take several decades to complete, but you have to begin somewhere. I decided to begin with $0 instead of the $20 for the normal challenge because if I do ever accomplish the ultimate goal, it just sounds cooler - I know, I know - but it's just the way I am sometimes Wink

I've chosen the name "Active Investing Blog" because most of the money will be generated through active investing, though probably not typical investments of stock, real estate, etc - at least not until I return to the US (and until my balance is a lot bigger). I will also earn through passive means, but this will not be the focus.

Monetary Goals

Monthly: I'm looking at a monthly goal of creating a minimum of $250 in extra income in my spare time. This is subject to change depending on time commitments and how things are progressing.

Quarterly: The $250 minimum will mean I'm shooting for $750 per quarter.

Yearly: The yearly goal will be to end with a minimum of $3000.

Non Monetary Goals

Come up with and try a new way of making money each quarter

I'm looking forward to this challenge as a fun diversion from other aspects of the site and hope that we cam all learn some stuff along the way.

Welcome

January 16th, 2006 at 07:46 am

Welcome to the SavingAdvice personal finance blog network. We are in Beta testing at the moment and you're likely to run into a bug or two (or more). If you do. please email us with what you were doing, the url you were on and what happened. This will help us greatly in cleaning up all these little critters.