updating my financial goals, July 2008

Back in December, while participating in the Carnival of Financial Goals started by Patrick of CashMoneyLife.com, I gave my 2008 financial resolution. I’m pretty happy about where I’m at with it now.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tigr

Here was my resolution and how I intended to accomplish it:
I will average $1000 per month in alternative income in 2008.

More specifically, these were the SMART measurements I came up with to measure this.

  • Specific – I’m going to expand my alternative income through this blog, through writing freelance articles, through my investments (although those will be reinvested) and through my other blogs.
  • Measurable – In December I will look back, take the total of my non-wage income for 2008, and divide by 12. That number will be higher than $1000.
  • Actionable – I’m already started on this goal – this blog is earning nearly $0.03 per day, I have some dividend-and-interest-producing investments, and I have started submitting a few freelance articles here and there. I just need to increase the intensity of all of these actions!
  • Realistic – If you’ve read this blog for a while you know I believe that just setting a goal down to (figurative) paper means that you can achieve it, but even without that belief I’m sure that if I work hard enough at 10 different income streams I can manage to generate that much, or more, if I make it a resolution.
  • Timely – I will have a good idea if I’m headed in the right direction by February 1, but even if I earn $10 in January it just means I have to average $1090 for the next 11 months. I’ll have a moving target each month, and I’ll know on December 31 if I hit my goal or not.

I followed it up a couple of months later, pointing out that I had come up far short of that goal. I interviewed myself (yes, I actually did – it’s a slightly disturbing one-person two-sided conversation). At that point, I had made far, far less than my original goal.

Well, as Jack Nicholson said in Wolf, “The worm has turned and it is now packing an Uzi, Mary.” I spent some time focusing on this goal and a surprising thing has happened. I am now close to halfway to my goal of earning $1000 a month on average. Considering how badly I did for the first month of the year you can imagine that things have really started picking up. I’m not even counting dividend or investment income at this point.

So how did this happen? I’ll attribute it to three specific actions:

  • My network, The Money Writers, has provided some help with obtaining revenue (namely advertisers) but far more importantly they’ve helped with ideas, tips and support. This is a perfect example of the mastermind concept in action.  I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys (and gals).
  • I reengineered the blog and its advertising. Instead of my previous throw-everything-at-the-wall approach, I stuck to about four categories of ads and studied what worked. I tried to eliminate some of my in-your-face ads but put more ads on older posts. I deemphasized or removed ads that didn’t work, rather than hoping they would generate trickles of income; the purpose was to keep the overall experience of reading fun.
  • And I am sure this final point appeals to half of you and disgusts the other half, but I really concentrated on attracting success; not just for this alternative income but in my overall financial life. I decided that from being positive and writing more about what I feel needs to be said – from my gut – success would follow. I hope it has, in the sense that I hope what you read continues to deliver more value to you (in terms of ideas and maybe even just some fun reading it) than it takes from you (in terms of time). Only you would know that! Otherwise, you’d go read CNN Money.

So I’m halfway there, after an awfully slow start. Later in the year I’ll also pull in other alternative income: totally independent (rather than contracting) consulting in a slightly different field, my work-in-progress book, dividends, referral fees that I mentioned before (I have “headhunted” some former colleagues into positions this year – one 60-minute phone call netted me a $2000 fee for one of them, for example). I have a lot of plans, and the only constraint I have is time. Scratch that… I watched 45 minutes of Star Wars II: Attack of The Clowns, er, Clones last night, so I have time. The only constraint I have is myself, and I’m working hard on not constraining myself in anything!

And to quote again from my interview article update: “Well, the playoffs WERE good. 17-14, baby.” Anything is possible, even beating “The Greatest Team in History.” Nothing is impossible. Nothing.

David Tyree New York Giants Super Bowl XLII

follow the white rabbit to financial freedom

Trinity: Please just listen. I know why you’re here. I know what you’ve been doing… why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when I found him, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, reader, just as I did.

What is the secret to financial freedom?

If you are deeply in debt, or spending more than you earn to acquire stuff, you are living in a world that is less than what it could be. Corporations and consumer society have constructed an elaborate world that is filled with shiny things and toys and useless items. In this false world, you are told that true happiness comes with the acquisition of things, that your attention should be focused on today, that tomorrow will take care of itself. In this Matrix, it’s always Black Friday and it’s always the Presidents’ Day Sale.

Morpheus: What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.

But just maybe, while making a call on your iPhone, driving your leased car wearing your latest fall fashions on your way to the mall on your one day off from your crushing commute and your boring job, you had a sudden thought. Maybe the world isn’t supposed to be like this. Maybe we weren’t all meant to be shopping units in the corporate world’s vast consumer Matrix. Maybe our happiness doesn’t come from owning CDs, or watching American Idol, or buying a Wii. Maybe there is another world – the real world – where your work and your life are one and the same because you love them both, where you can do what you want, when you want, where you have time to give to people and experiences, not just to commuting and working for a faceless employer. No, it’s not possible. Your neighbors look like they are doing fine, and they have lots of stuff, right? This is how it has to be. This is how it has always been.

Morpheus: I’m trying to free your mind. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it. There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Maybe you’ve started reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad or Dave Ramsey or Your Money or Your Life. Other people are trying to show you the way out. The trouble is, you set down the book and remember “I need a new belt! I want to rent “Wild Hogs”!” Only you will start the journey out of the Matrix, and it will be difficult – there will be roadblocks everywhere: pricey restaurants, bigger homes, newer cars, fancier cell phones. The Matrix will do everything it can to keep you, because its existence depends on your continued function as a shopping unit. Without shopping units to generate power, the consumer Matrix will weaken. You have to stop, today. Put down your credit card. Stay away from the store. Cook a meal at home. Turn off the TV.

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.

When you finally leave the consumer world, you’ll notice that your old behavior is now awful to consider.
You’ll see credit card debt, still-functioning cell phones gathering dust in cabinet drawers, barely-worn clothes in the back of the closet, half-empty rooms never used in your house. Your eyes will hurt looking at all of this STUFF that you valued so much, because you never really SAW before.

Morpheus: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

The dream is the 9-to-5 world. The dream is a 3000 square foot home for a family of 4. The dream is a $400 per month car lease. The dream is an iPhone, a Wii, digital cable, the latest fashions. And the dream is a nightmare. You have to wake from that dream and realize that in the real world there is VERY little you need other than shelter, food, friends, family and basic clothing and entertainment. In the dream you have no time – but you can have all the time in the (real) world if you just wake up.

Neo: I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

(with many thanks to The Matrix)

giving gifts in the office

dunder A pet peeve of mine, for a long time, has been the corporate office “pitch in for a gift” routine. If you aren’t a corporate employee, what happens is that there’s usually one perky busybody in every department who decides to buy a flower basket when co-workers gets sick, or a teddy bear when they have a baby, or an item from the registry when someone gets married, or even a little gift for everyone’s birthday. This busybody goes around and asks everyone for a “donation,” knowing full well that for most people refusing is an embarrassing proposition.

I have never liked this business of pitching in.

  • 1. I don’t always like the person for whom the present is being purchased.
  • 2. Sometimes the reason for the gift is trivial – someone is having a birthday? What, are we 12?
  • 3. There is a subtle discrimination – someone who has been around longer, or has a better position, or is simply more popular gets bigger or better gifts.
  • 4. If the busybody is encouraged, soon you are shelling out $10-$20 a week for “voluntary” gifts.

I am also very uncomfortable accepting such gifts, and have often said point-blank that I don’t want any gifts. Maybe I have a distorted view, but to me if I receive a gift I feel an obligation to return it the next time I’m asked to contribute. Then I’m “stuck” as a regular contributor.

Now that I’m a consultant – and technically not “part” of the department – I find it easier to refuse. I am stingy enough with gift-giving for my family and friends (and myself) that I resent any “required” gifts for my co-workers. I know, in a sense, that this just reflects the realities of most people’s lives – that they spend more time with their co-workers than with their friends and families and therefore want to contribute to the morale of their workplace. Yet every time I’m asked to pitch in $10 for a co-worker’s cheese-and-sausage gift basket I see $10 that could buy my son some books, or $10 to add to my nieces’ and nephew’s custodial accounts, or even $10 that Bubelah and I could put towards an occasional evening out. I am selfish that way.

So am I crazy? Do you have people asking you to contribute to “departmental” gifts at the office? Do you participate? Am I just being a jerk?

(photo credit by makelessnoise)

what your trash says about you

I’ve noticed that I can make a few snap judgments about my family’s life based on our trash output. We are not a particularly “green” family, although I am passionate about environmental issues.  Trash output is one are where I definitely talk the talk but walking…not so much.   If you take a close look at your trash, you’ll notice that the decisions you make on a daily basis affect both the quantity and “lack of quality” of your trash.  I have noticed a few areas where we can make improvement:

Reduce the volume.

The mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” is universal by now. The focus is far too often on recycling.  Recycling your plastic bottles is a good step to take, but not buying them in the first place is infinitely superior.  I’ve written about this before, but the excess packaging that surrounds us has become insane.  Given a choice between two otherwise equal items, I’ll go for the less excessively packaged item most of the time.  Every time you buy loose fruits instead of fruits in fancy containers, for example you’re doing well.  Using a reusable bottle for your daily water instead of a Poland Spring drink-and-toss bottle is an improvement.

Consider your long-term choices. We didn’t think much about disposable diapers – we just headed right down that path.  With a 500 year decomposition time our decision to use disposable diapers will affect our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-….grandchildren (you get the picture).  I buy so many items without stopping to pause and realize:  that crap is going to be here FOREVER.

Don’t throw it away.

Hoarding items can become an annoying habit or a frugal, environmentally friendly way to live – but the border between them is razor-thin and constantly shifting.  I’ve saved boxes before, and let’s face it:  if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, or shop through drugstore.com, you get boxes all the time.  However, if you get an Altoid tin, it can make an excellent storage container for nails or other small items in your tool storage area (just make sure you have a labelmaker handy)!

Composting isn’t easy or fun. In an urban environment, or a condo association, it may be outright forbidden.  At the same time, if you can do it I think it would feel much better to throw organic waste into a composting bin rather than tossing it in a landfill.  It might be a “self-smugification” action, but so be it.

Give it away. Often if people have large items they don’t want anymore it’s easiest to put them in the dumpster.  We finally jettisoned old, broken down bachelor furniture I had dragged around for many years, but we gave it away rather than dumping it (my first instinct).  If there is a Salvation Army or Goodwill near you, take a shot.  Freecycle or hit craigslist.  Sometimes it’s hopeless – my massive 500-pound Sony TV is so heavy that nobody has ever been interested, even for free.

show me your horse

photo credit: mugley


I’m going to be beating a dead horse here, but the amount of trash you generate is probably proportionate to the amount of money you spend. If you spend a lot, you probably generate a lot of trash.  Cut back on your spending, and you will generate less.  It’s not always true – getting a free cell phone with a 2-year contract and getting a $500 iPhone both generate a lot of junk packaging waste.  But as a general rule, you’ll be better off with trash if you spend less.


I am lazy. Throwing an unwanted Land’s End catalog in the trash is not hard.  Bundling it up for recycling takes five more minutes, and that’s usually five minutes I FEEL I don’t have.

Make choices at the source. We can recycle our plastic and glass bottles in my community – but not aluminum cans, or juice boxes, or paper milk cartons.  Buying containers that can be recycled, as opposed to ones that must be thrown away makes a slight – but important – difference.

Think about needs.

This relates to reducing, but simply think about needs. Are you going to go throw a gallon of milk a week?  Buy a gallon, not quarts of milk.  Are you going to eat 50 apples before they go bad?  No?  Maybe buying 6 or 7 is enough, even if you’re missing out on a good deal on 50.

You may think you need those steel-toed boots for gardening, but you know what? You’re not Sven the Hardy Pioneer, you’re Sven the Twice-a-Year-Hole-Digger.  Use your sneakers.  The boots are going to end up in the dump practically unused.

Think about the future.

I have noticed that there is often a conflict between health and the environment. I like to use paper towels.  We have small kids, and I like to know that after I get raw meat on my hands cooking I’m not washing and wiping my hands on the same rag I might use to wipe my son’s hands after an energetic painting session.  Paper towels give me peace of mind about hygiene.

Yet at the same time, I have always been blown away by this thought:  almost every single thing you have ever thrown away – paper towels, apple cores, packaging, a bottle you forgot to throw in the recycling bin – is still lying in a pile somewhere on this planet.  EVERYTHING.  If you threw away a yo-yo in 3rd grade, it’s sitting in a pile somewhere.  Forget the environment for a minute.  Forget the toxins in the air from manufacturing that yo-yo, or transporting it from Taiwan to you, or the plastics it’s made of:  that yo-yo still exists.

Everything I ever threw away still exists. It didn’t become fairy dust.  Someday there may be a magic incinerator that can turn trash into edible food, or oil, or fuel (a la Back to the Future).  Yet the simple fact is that future generations will come and go hundreds or thousands of times over, and that stupid plastic packaging that your iPhone headphones came in will still be sitting there.  Daunting.

emotional finance

The following post originally appeared as a guest post on Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life waaay back in 2007. 

How can emotions help (or hurt) your finances? Take a simple example: let’s assume there are two kinds of moods, good and bad, and two kinds of financial situations, good and bad. Remember: simplistic. If you are in a good mood but a bad financial situation, you are probably doing OK. You can see the problems with your finances and a way out of them. If you are in a bad mood but your finances are good, you can afford to just back off and wait for a while. But if your mood is bad and your finances are bad, you will likely have trouble improving things; and if your mood is good and your finances are good you are set, although you do have to watch for overconfidence.

Do not discount emotional health and stability when considering finances. Making decisions out of despair or ridiculous enthusiasm can be just as bad as making ill-informed decisions. If you don’t think that’s true, you haven’t followed the real estate market recently; many otherwise intelligent people were caught up in a euphoric belief that the real estate bubble would expand forever, despite signs that it was simply a repeat of the real estate boom of the 80s.

For years, I allowed emotions to control my finances.I let good moods and good money relax me. When I had money, and felt good, I would spend it. I might invest in a crazy dot com, or buy a new TV. When times were bad I would sulk and sit on cash instead of promptly paying off bills or moving my money to high-yield savings accounts. I let my mood determine how I spent my money. In my case, I let my mood make my money decisions, and engaged in a terrible form of emotional market timing; I tried to be frugal when frugality wasn’t called for and I spent when I should have saved. If you find yourself allowing yourself pity purchases or hoarding money in fear, there are a few steps you need to take to get out of that rut.

  1. If you need help, get help. I have always been at the mild end of mood swings. I never took medication or counseling, but if I needed it, I would. If you don’t feel in control of your moods, or you can’t recognize them as temporary moods, seek help.
  2. Take some of the ‘free will’ out of your money. I am sure you’ve heard ‘pay yourself first,’ but it’s critically important if you have moody financial tendencies. Make your savings automatic, or your debt repayment plan automatic.Don’t count on yourself to show the same peppy enthusiasm for paying off your debt next month that you do this month. Make sure that money is gone to repay debt or straight into your retirement account, before you even touch it.
  3. Don’t spend on highs or lows. If you are feeling down, stay away from the store or the online shopping or whatever tempts you.If you are feeling too high, do the same.Make sure that you don’t put yourself in positions where you feel that buying that CD is going to lift your spirits, or that you need to buy those shoes because everything’s going so well.Impulse spending will almost always cause regret.
  4. Talk about it. I have made the mistake repeatedly in my life of assuming that my moods were some inner battle that I had to suppress.They aren’t.They are a normal part of life, and it’s easier if you tell people that you aren’t in a good mood when you aren’t.Friends, family and coworkers understand; none of them are Vulcans, and they can all understand that some days you don’t need to be pestered to go out to dinner, for example.
  5. Learn ways to reward yourself without spending money. If you need to spend to reward yourself – to lift yourself out of a trough or ride a great mood – you will always be in trouble.Learn to lift lows with exercise, or enjoy highs by cooking or spending time with loved ones.
  6. Change your mood. There is only one thing in this universe that you control.You don’t control your own body (it can get ill without your permission) or other people or time or your future.You can only control one thing:your own mind.The next time you feel down, tell yourself you are going to acknowledge the mood but you’re not going to let it make you irrational about money.Your mood and your actions are two separate things.So take it from someone who goes by the nickname brip blap ; you can keep your moods from controlling your personal finance situation!
  7. For those who are in control of their finances, still there are legitimate concerns – for instance the security of our home and family.  If finances are tight, consider searching the web for one of the many inexpensive cctv camera systems. With a system such as this, you’re able to both locally and remotely keep tabs on your home and its occupants! Check out some of the economical cctv cameras available at this site for more information.

is college worth it? (part 1)

guinea pig reading a book

Based on a few recent comments on some of my articles about careers (this one, for example), I started wondering about the difference in wealth between college graduates and skilled non-college graduates. A college graduate can usually expect to go into the professional world as a “white-collar” worker, earning substantially more than his non-college graduate peers. However, the college graduate – unless he is very athletically or academically gifted – will probably come out of college with at least some student loan debt. He will probably start earning money several years (4 or more) later than a non-college graduate.

So I decided to do a comparison of the two career paths, and see what those big choices meant for someone later down the road. Specifically I wondered if I could answer a few questions:

  1. Can the late start in saving by the college graduate be overcome through higher salaries?
  2. Does the lower earning potential of a non-college graduate mean that the non-college graduate will be required to “work until they die”?
  3. Who will be able to quit the rat race first?

I made a lot of assumptions and put together a spreadsheet to try to come up with answers to some of these questions. I’ll cover that in part 2. I ignored a few things – I didn’t worry about inflation, for example, since it would affect them both equally. You could argue this is wrong, because inflation moves at different rates in different parts of the country, commuting costs (gas, etc.) might expose one or the other to more inflationary pressures, etc. I skipped that. I also assume that both are highly disciplined savers, always saving 10% of their income and getting decent returns over time. If, of course, both started saving as soon as they start earning and never reduce that amount, they would be in the .000001% of the US population that does so.

My findings were a surprise and weren’t a surprise to me. The main point of the exercise was for me to challenge my own personal context (a concept Robert Kiyosaki talks about a LOT in his book “Retire Young, Retire Rich“). My context is that smart people go to college and get desk jobs. My context is that wealth is created through earning as much as possible. I am trying to challenge my own prejudices about what “building wealth” and “escaping the rat race” actually mean to me. It’s interesting, because I don’t have much exposure to people who don’t subscribe to the “go to college, earn money” credo; but fortunately I’m learning more about the opposite mindset and it’s interesting for me. It’s too late for me to undo my decision to go to college for 7+ years. There were alternatives – I could’ve started a business and educated myself. It’s not too late for me to learn something new.

Stay tuned!

(photo by GirlReporter)

4 quick steps to building wealth

1.  Find something you can do well and (at least moderately) enjoy doing.*
2.  Do it.**
3.  Try to save some of the money you make doing it.***
4.  Repeat steps 2 and 3.****

I think that may be it.  What do you think?

Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

* Notice I didn’t use a phrase like “doing passionately” or “doing because you love it.”  You don’t have to love it, but you have to enjoy doing it enough that it is not annoying to you.  If you love helping people, maybe working as a nurse’s assistant is enjoyable.  If you have a passion for music, maybe owning a record store would be fun.  If you have a love of football, maybe being a sports writer is enough.  You don’t have to be Brett Favre, always “having fun out there.”

**It helps, obviously, if you enjoy investment banking or building fantastic dot-com startups instead of making rag dolls for the neighborhood kids.  However, I don’t think you can discount loving doing it.  If you want to make rag dolls, figure out a way to get rich doing it.  Launch a rag doll company, or write a how-to on the internet.  Somebody got rich on Cabbage Patch Kids, after all.

***As I’ve pointed out before several times you’re always better off thinking of more ways to MAKE money than SPEND money.  At the same time, UNLESS you are investing in your wealthbuilding (spending money to increase your skills or education or to grow a business, etc.) you’re better off spending no more than 99% of your income.  The difference between spending 99% of your income and 101% of your income is the difference between getting richer and getting poorer, any way you look at it.

****I hope that the general theme of wealth and ‘becoming rich’ doesn’t always come off as a crass pursuit of one more dollar.  I realize, for example, I might have made a lot more money continuing to claw up the corporate ladder, but I felt so drained and lifeless doing it that I had to quit (see step #1).  I like the idea of doing something more-or-less enjoyable, while making money doing it.  It may sound childish, but if you work hard at something that makes you miserable you have to wonder whether you’ll be able to continue doing it well enough to succeed.  Something you like doing – even something you just TOLERATE doing – is a better option.  If you become wealthy doing it, so much the better; life is easier when you have a little money in the bank.

can financial behavior change


Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Have you ever used a coupon? Have you ever incurred non-mortgage debt? If you haven’t ever, will you ever, just to try it? Just to see where it takes you?

I have some financial behavior that is set in stone. You do, too, I bet.  Me?  I hate debt of any sort. I can’t stand seeing money spent on “fancy” cars, even though I’ve owned several nice new mid-range cars. On the other hand, I am careless about spending money on eating out. I can spend money on big-ticket items if I think they benefit health or quality of living, but I agonize over spending smaller amounts on items I might not “need” – think “new shoes”, for example.

Most behavior is learned. Some is not. I know where I got the idea that money spent on “going out” was money well spent. I know where I got the idea that any money spent on books was money well spent, too. I also know why I think ANY debt is awful, and why I get antsy about buying expensive (but hopefully good quality clothes). Most of these behaviors were learned at a young age, and they fit in with the world view I developed as an adolescent and voila – now these money behaviors are part of what define me.

I often wonder if I will ever apply for a $300,000 small business loan, or splash out on a BMW. It’s easier to imagine the loan than the car, I guess. I drive an almost 10-year-old Pontiac because I just don’t care about cars. It has an air conditioner and a CD player, and it makes – for an old car – acceptable mileage. The loan? If I was suddenly struck by inspiration to start a coffee shop or a hardware store or something like that, maybe… but it would be so out of my normal financial behavior that even writing that seems odd to me.

Without being too specific, I spent some time a few days ago listening to a radio show from a political commentator whose political views were 180 degrees from my own. I was stunned by what I perceived as the commentator’s completely insane view of reality. Imagine trying to listen to someone try to convince you that the sky is pink. I wondered whether there was some truth in what he said, and whether I could ever pull some of that truth out and live with it. I doubt I could, in the same way that I can’t imagine suddenly strolling into an Audi dealership, ready to buy. Some behaviors and thought patterns are hard to change – for better or for worse.

Attribution Some rights reserved by _J_D_R_

black friday death

I’m sure I won’t be the only person to mention this event during the weekend, but I was shocked and saddened to see reports of a death in Long Island at a Wal-Mart Black Friday event.

I’m sure others will use this incident to speak about the evils of capitalism and the pitfalls of greed, but after I found out that this was a Wal-Mart worker, not an overanxious shopper, I simply felt sad. Imagining some poor guy – in his early 30s – showing up in the wee hours of the morning to earn a little seasonal pay and dying because he was slammed to the floor by people anxious to get a cheap plasma TV or xbox is just sad.  Sad.  I hope everyone who thought it was fun to crash through the doors early in the morning to get cheap consumer goods sleeps well tonight.  Some things in our society have just gotten out of hand.  Let’s take a step back:  crashing through a discount store’s doors at 5 am to get cheap consumer electronics does not need to be a death sport.

selling on eBay for passive income

Selling on eBay is definitely not ‘passive income.‘ My wife and I had a store for several years.  We had a friend whose brother lived in Turkey and was able to buy huge amounts of trinkets (jewelry, bracelets, etc.) at wholesale from a Turkish factory, ship it to us and then we’d resell it at a fairly large markup (our price $1, sell for $7 for example).

It was a good deal at first, and some of the items – surprisingly things like religious icons – sold very well.  But it was a HUGE amount of work to deal with the posting, packing, shipping, dealing with “special orders” and so on.  We tracked time spent on it for a while and finally realized – after our Turkish connection got greedy after seeing our resale prices and raised his – we were making pennies per hour, especially considering eBay’s never-ending price hikes.

Unless you can sell a very small variety of inventory (i.e. eliminating the need to take photos and write up new descriptions) and you can get the items with a minimal amount of effort or get items that have fantastic mark-up potential, I don’t think you can make much selling online. My uncle (who unknowingly is a “retired” ERE guy) goes around to yardsales and identifies items people have that he KNOWS are rare, or valuable but the sellers don’t.  He sells them on eBay with huge markups, so it’s worth it for him.  But he’s spent years and years perfecting his knowledge of kitschy valuables (like in Antique Roadshow).

I’ll tell you how to make some money selling on the internet – write and aggressively sell an ebook (pdf or whatever) called “How to Make Money on the Internet.” Lifestyle design bloggers are all about this – they’ll sell you a book and tell you it’s the way to get your life right-sized.  Those bloggers create a single product and then resell it endlessly.  That’s the only product that I personally ever would sell on the internet as a way of making income again (rather than just disposing of something I don’t need but wanting to make some money off the disposal).  I say this cynically – you can, of course, sell meaningful and helpful ebooks, but you are, in the end, selling it to make money for yourself.