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Archive for March, 2006

Our Frugal Travel Entertainment

March 24th, 2006 at 07:53 am


We took a trip to the sea today. Over the years, we have developed a lot of games to liven up the trips which don't cost any money. I talked about how we always look for phone cards when we go out. Another form of free entertainment we enjoy whenever we go out is collecting stamps, but not the postal type. One of the great things about Japan is that almost anywhere you go, they have ink stamps that you can put into a book for free.

These stamps are located everywhere. At train stations, at highway stops, at museums, at virtually every tourist spot, at temples, at shrines just to name a few. One of my favorite books is the one we made climbing Mt. Fuji - there were a number of stamps at each rest station marking the height of each along the way and at the very top we got a huge one from the shrine that is located there. Basically there are stamps everywhere in Japan if you keep an eye out for them.


They even have sponsored stamp rallies. These are usually organized by tourist bureaus or cities. If you get stamps from all the designated places in the rally, you will get some type of prize. These are usually focused toward families with kids, but sometimes they have them specifically for adults. It is a great way to see a new area of Japan and you often find yourself in out of the way places you would have never gone otherwise.

We added 7 news stamps to our book today. Not only are they free entertainment for us finding them, but they also are great memory books as each time you look at them, you remember where you got them. With a little imagination and focusing on things that you like to do, it's not too difficult to find entertainment that doesn't cost a lot of money.

Playing with photos

March 16th, 2006 at 12:57 am

Nate added a place where you can now add photos to your blog. So here are some random ones off my computer just to play around with the system a little



These are our three cats keeping each other warm. The one to the right is chibi, the one in the middle is marla and the one to the right is Live-chan (when we found her 8 years ago, we weren't sure she'd live the week she was in such bad shape - thus the name)



Marla sleeping - crazy cat



That's Margo, my niece and the writer of Financial Baby Steps - isn't she a cutie? Less than a year old and already a net worth of $3000+



Working on a bonsai tree display - we went there last weekend and they were pretty impressive. There were about 100 displays...



They were photographing a commercial of some type and the woman was wearing a beautiful kimono - the photo doesn't do it justice because I couldn't get close enough.

Those are some random photos to test the new system. Hope you like it.

eBay $0.10 Listing Sale 3/15

March 14th, 2006 at 08:02 pm

Previous Total: $231.18

Current Total: $231.18

Inventory: 1 book, 5 photos

Time to get more items up on eBay - they are having another $0.10 fixed price sale on March 15. I'll be trying to list 30+ items and some more for the challenge. We'll see how it goes. More information on the promotion here

Save Money On Your Phone Bill - Bermuda Style

March 11th, 2006 at 03:35 pm

While it's easy to complain about phone bills in the US, it's still a lot better situation than in many other countries (like Japan) and apparently Burmuda from this tongue in cheek article. A few bits from it:

The cost of phone service is one of those items over which consumers have little control. With local calls at 25 cents a go, or an hour (whichever comes first), one could limit the number of calls one makes, but in a free, American-style society, using a phone has come to feel like a right. I do a lot of my work by phone, and so regard the phone bill as a cost of doing business, much as the heroin user probably regards the cost of his drugs as just one of those unavoidable day-to-day expenses. Heroin would probably be cheaper...

I was paying 75 cents a minute. Apparently, they had a 19-cents-a-minute rate, but to qualify, you had to (a) know about it and (b) apply for it. That is what's called sharp practice. If you went into a store and bought a candy bar, and the cashier asked you for $5, you might think that was a bit steep. If you mentioned that fact, and were told that really it was only $1, but you had to fill out a form in advance to qualify, you'd shop elsewhere wouldn'd you? Yes, but I assumed that all the other telephone service providers - don't get me started - used the same vile practice at the time...

Now, here is how to save money on your phone bill:

1. Don't date Americans or anyone else dumb enough not to live in Bermuda.

2. Especially don't date those Americans who will promise to marry you and then dump you by e-mail just before Christmas because you're an insensitive clod. This will however cut down on your engagement ring expenses.

3. Before making those pesky long distance calls, telephone your long distance service provider each and every time to ask if they're changed their rate. Your Telco bill will be astronomical, but you can't win them all...


Time Management - Ben Fraklin Style

March 9th, 2006 at 11:23 am

I came across an interesting piece at Money.com about Ben franking and his time management which has put this on my list to read (you can read it here for free). From the article:

The book is mostly, as advertised, an autobiography -- sprinkled as most good autobiographies are with the occasional life lesson. One is astounded by all that Franklin manages to do (he teaches himself French, Spanish, and Italian in the evenings after full days of running a print shop, publishing a newspaper, and busying himself with Pennsylvania politics).

There is a steady stream of advice about interpersonal relations, the common thread of which is this: You can get a lot more accomplished if you let others take the credit. Franklin also argues that you can be more productive at work if you don't drink rum or beer all day, apparently a revolutionary concept in the 18th century...

Ben Franklin certainly didn't (achieve the organization he wanted). As a small-businessman he had to jump at the whims of his customers. Also, his interests were so many that he struggled to keep track them all. "I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order," he admitted in the Autobiography. "But on the whole, tho' I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of attaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and happier man ..."

This is perhaps the most appealing aspect of Franklin's time-management advice: He was an admitted failure at it, and yet that was ... okay. Which is just about the most inspirational message conceivable.

Chinese Save 30%

March 9th, 2006 at 05:47 am

An interesting article over at Money.com that says while Americans currently have a saving rate of less than zero, the Chinese have a personal savings rate of approximately 30%.

More Playing The eBay Game

March 7th, 2006 at 12:06 am

Previous Total: $162.64

Current Total: $231.18

Inventory: 1 book, 5 photos

I had another photo sell, this time for $74.95. That means on the initial $20 investment I made for the 10 photos and 1 book, I've sold 5 for nearly $200 (not counting expenses). I need to make more finds like this!

The photos were ending in close to 12 hours and once you hit the 12 hour mark, you can't make changes to them. I knew I had overpriced them when I first listed, but wanted to make sure I didn't sell them too cheap since I don't have a lot of experience with selling photos on eBay. I spent $0.80 to extend the two photos I had priced at $99.95 and lowered their price to $74.95. One of them sold almost immediately.

There were $5.61 in fees + the $0.80 for extending the auctions for a profit of $68.54.

I'm still quite undecided on the Pearl Harbor photos - with what these other photos went for I would assume the Pearl harbor photos would go for several hundred at the very least. Then again, if I make copies and sell them I could have a constant income from them depending on how popular they are. Still need to think more about that.

At least I'm moving in the right direction again with the challenge!

Amazon Price Watch Tool

March 4th, 2006 at 06:20 am

For those of you that do shopping on Amazon.com, here is a nice little tool that can save you some money. Amazon policy is that if the price of an item drops during the 30 day period after you purchase it, you can claim a refund for the difference. The problem is, who has the time to monitor the prices of the items once they are purchased? That's where this little tool comes into play.

Called the Amazon Price Watch, it monitors the items you purchased for 30 days after you have made the purchase from Amazon. You simply enter the ISBN number (for books) or the ASIN number (for all other items) and you will automatically be emailed if the price of the product you purchased decreases in price.

The service is also helpful for those who want to purchase a certain item, but want to wait until it goes on sale or is marked as a clearance item.

Good Article On Making Money On Ebay

March 2nd, 2006 at 02:46 pm

Previous Total: $162.64

Current Total: $162.64

Inventory: 1 book, 6 photos

For those who are looking to make some of their money for the challenge through eBay, here is a good article on a couple that is making hundreds of dollars a day virtually risk free.

A risk-free recipe for success on eBay

It's very similar to my hobby shop approach, except they are doing much larger volumes and hitting a base of customers that are much wider than me. The thing to remember is that is is often seemingly dull items that can earn you a lot.

A Couple More Sales

March 2nd, 2006 at 02:33 pm

Previous Total: $96.56

Current Total: $162.64

Inventory: 1 book, 6 photos

I just had two more of the photos I purchase sell - one for $49.95 and the other for $24.95. Subtract $8.82 for expenses and that allows me to add another $66.08 to my total.

It looks like I will need to spend some time this weekend hunting for new inventory for this challenge...

Forgotten Listings

March 2nd, 2006 at 08:43 am

Previous Total: $98.36

Current Total: $96.56

Inventory: 1 book, 8 photos

I forgot that I also added a four of the local hobby shop items during the campaign at $0.45 per listing for a total of $1.80 which I have subtracted from above.

I almost always list with gallery (which costs ($0.35) becasue it makes it so much easier for people viewing your auctions to navigate and find what they like. If I were selling less expensive items, I might not, but for most of my items it makes sense.

Hopefully most of the items listed will sell and I can add to my profits this week (fingers crossed).

Back On Challenge Track

March 2nd, 2006 at 08:33 am

Previous Total: $55.50

Current Total: $98.36

Inventory: 1 book, 8 photos

I've received a number of emails asking me exactly what I'm selling. I'll likely write a post later on explaining exactly how I got into selling Japanese collectibles, but currently my main focus is on pre WW2 collectibles. For those that are interested in seeing what I sell, you can do so here.

It was an interesting day listing items on eBay and I did manage to get up over 50 fixed price auctions, but of those, only 6 are for the $20 Challenge. This is what happened.

I've haven't done a lot of selling of WW2 photos in the past, but when I saw a group of photos and book for $20 -- and knew the book itself should sell for more than that -- I figured the photos were a bonus. Trying to price them was the challenge since I don't have a lot of reference in this area from past experience. I decided that I would list then for a minimum of $24.95 each with a couple at $99.95. The higher priced photos are probably a bit over-priced, but the subject of both of them is pretty unique and I didn't want to under-price them. I can always adjust them later if they don't sell.

One listed, two of the photos sold right away: Japanese Soldiers Marching In Singapore and Empire Dock Japanese Soldier Banzai - for $24.95 each. After expenses of placing all six on auction and the final value and paypal fees, it leaves me with a profit of $42.86 and my current earnings look as follows:

Since the sale of those two photos more than paid for the entire purchase, any sale from now on will be pure profit. In addition, there is an extremely interesting twist with the photos:



What surprised me was that the 4 additional photos I didn't put on are photos of Pearl Harbor and I'm pretty confident that they are original Japanese Navy issued photos (from the way I obtained them to the differences I've seen from other photos posted online). Looking on eBay, there are a few people selling reproductions of these photos for $5 - $10 each. So the question I'm faced with on these is whether to make reprints and sell them at a cheap price, but that can last forever, or sell the originals that could probably command several hundred dollars if not more.

Another reason I'm fairly confident that they are original is that although the photo above is well documented on the Internet, some of the other photos I purchased I have not been able to locate at all on the Internet. If they were reproductions, I would assume that they would be easily found. The photos that are not well documented on the Internet especially have the potential at being being resold over a long period of time - a different type of passive income. I will definitely have to consider how I want to approach this to maximize the profit from this lucky find.

Although I'm a bit wiped out from listing all the items, it looks like the effort was well worth the time. 10 of the items I placed up have already sold and it looks like this one day will generate enough so that I don't have to worry about auctions for the rest of March if I don't want to.