panel of experts.

18 06 2010

consumer panel you might have noticed that i’ve been a little more MIA this week than usual. i’m actually kind of surprised that i didn’t get any emails saying “hey, your lame father’s day post has been up for 3 days- what gives!”. well, i’ll tell you what gives.  for the last 3 days, i’ve been languishing in the excessively tight clutches of an online consumer panel.

when the company (sorry, it’s a secret!) contacted me via email 8 months ago, i thought that a consumer panel would make an interesting topic for a blog post and was excited at the possibility of getting some sweet free product samples…. TIME PASSES…. then about 6 months ago, they called me mere seconds before i was about to go into the nickelodeon for a movie and proceeded to take way too long to ask me a series of repetitive questions, at which time i became severely agitated and was very impatient/not nice to the interview lady (my bad!)….MORE TIME PASSES…. and as winter fades into spring, i’m assuming that my chronic CSR rudeness condition (CCRC) has driven away the opportunity forever….YET EVEN MORE TIME PASSES…. it is now exactly 2 weeks until official summer, and i have completely forgotten about the panel and am going about my merry business when *WHAM* an email from the company hits, telling me that my online panel discussion group will begin in 2 days. oh, and they’re going to give me $50 for my troubles. amazing!

according to instructions, i am to log onto a dedicated BBS (that’s bulletin board service for those of you who didn’t have web access in the early 90s) and answer a series of questions posted by the moderator, and then log on again once more during the day to answer follow up questions.  seemed simple enough until i logged  onto the site and was reminded exactly why the BBS has gone the way of the dinosaur. what in the clunky archaic hell were they thinking when they hired someone to design this focus group site? they also asked me to get all myspace and fill out a profile with all my favorite movies, books, and tv shows. you could also look through the other profiles for the rest of the focus group (there appeared to be 18 of us),  under the “friends” tab, and as it turned out only me and one other chump actually bothered to do it. this would be one of many indicators that i was putting in way more effort than this survey deserved.

day one. unfortunately it arrived at midnight, as the testing facility was on pacific time, drastically cutting my window for when i could take care or business. i dutifully logged on during my lunch break and started to sift through the questions. the site was set up so that you couldn’t see anyone else’s answers until you had answered first. i felt compelled to earn my $50, and tried hard to be thoughtful with my replies. too bad nobody else did! two word answers at best. they almost seemed angry- like how dare this survey demand more than checking boxes or rating things one to five! and then of course the moderator had to drag additional information out of everyone for the sake of the study, which involved even more follow up questions that i felt again compelled to answer carefully.

day two. i had passed out on the couch around 2 am before finishing up the questions from day 1, so i again had to sacrifice my lunch break to wrap it all up. i barely made it onto the day two questions at all before i had to get back to work and then had a 3 hour dance class/rehearsal immediately afterward.  my exhausted ass got home around 10, at which time i found a nasty note from the moderator telling me that i needed to answer the day two questions- or else (ok, it didn’t actually say “or else”, but it was heavily implied). i logged in and started banging away, still foolishly attempting to give quality information. again, i fell asleep on the couch at 2 am. i tried getting up up early in the morning to finish, but the program had kicked me out. i assumed that i had been booted for not finishing the day 2 questions before midnight. i wrote a frantic note to the moderator.

day three. my privileges (mercifully?) reinstated, i had PROMISED the moderator that i had time in my schedule to finish both day two and day three of the survey. i lied a little, and it was also taking several hours to get through all the repetitive bullshit. “on a scale of 1-5, does this statement make you feel more or less like gouging out your own eyes? please explain using as many descriptive words as possible.” the follow up questions were in many ways worse, and began to make me wonder if the moderator was not in fact the pleasant looking office girl in the photo, but possibly a robot or someone in an outsource factory in  new delhi  or something. definitely an ESL feel with questions like “tell me more about this myspace is too sparkly?” i again collapsed on the couch around midnight, only to wake up frantically around 3, hoping that i had not again been shut out. i deliriously pounded out my last few answers and dragged my carcass up to bed. sweet release.

i really thought that $50 would be  fair compensation for 3 days of online question answering/interaction. most especially for a brand and a product that i really enjoyed using. unfortunately, my sad tale proves that not to be the case. hassle, tedium, lost sleep, anger, wasted days not posting to my blog… like godzilla attacking the city, somehow this monster ate 3 days of my life and left the city in ruins behind it. i suppose it made for a good story, but that $50 better be wrapped around a gold brick or a fruit basket or something.  it just pains me to confirm how little big companies value their consumers. our opinions are far more valuable than we are ever compensated for (hey, at least i didn’t do it for coupons!). is it time to unionize? time to daft some fair compensation for survey takers legislation? time to mobilize the masses? fuck that. it’s time to take a nap. wake me up when my $50 gets here.





blogging for dollars.

24 05 2010

after the big week with the wordpress deluge and just the general positive growth of my little blog egg over the last year, a friend recently posed the question: why aren’t you monetizing? first of all, i hate the word monetize. it’s like one of those jargony crap words that everyone throws around when they’re talking about “important internet stuff”. second of all, i hate advertising cluttering up my favorite blogs. it’s ugly and distracting. on the other hand… i do like money. i do need money. as a writer of a blog with the word “broke” in the title, don’t i have a personal responsibility to scrape every penny off the sidewalk that i can?

well, when i first started this project, i promised myself that i wasn’t going to try any funny business like paying for a domain name, or advertising, or trying to make money until i had been successfully operational for at least one year. i have a bad track record with blogs (and a lot of other things)… i get so excited about things for a minute, and then someone jangles some keys in front of my face, and i’m off and running in the opposite direction. the internet is a virtual (pun intended) graveyard of my abandoned writing projects, and i wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just another one night stand before i made any big (potentially expensive) moves. well, i’m not quite at the 1 year finish line yet, but it’s looking good. in short, the patient is still alive, and it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

but you know what, i have no fucking clue what comes next. how exactly do you take a blog to “the next level”, if you’re not ever sure what the next level is? i’m still really down on the idea of sidebar ads (primarily for aesthetic reasons) and according to copyblogger (one of the best blog resources out there), i probably wouldn’t make any money doing it anyway. so then what direction? do i try to figure out what the hell affiliate ads are (who wants to affiliate themselves with my financially inept ass)? do i try to sell ebooks where i speak in depth on the profundities of my financial ineptitude? do i try to get famous and get talking gigs where i can tell other people how they too can be profoundly financially inept? but seriously, at the end of the day, do i actually have anything worth monetizing?

whether i do or not, i feel like dream of making a living off of blogging is roughly akin to wanting to grow up to be a rockstar or an astronaut. sure, somebody gets to have that job… but the odds are less than stellar for big time success. the truth is that i love this. i don’t think i’d get so little sleep for something i was kind of meh about, and i’m scared about the possibility of losing that love in the process of trying to spin straw into gold. what happens if i try and make money and it doesn’t work? would that failure suck the joy out of the writing, and ruin the whole affair?

for now, i think i’m going to hold off with the blogging for cash schemes. although i can’t promise that there won’t be a few subtle surprise changes headed your way this summer. but if any of my seasoned blog peeps out there have some light to shed on the subject, it would be most sincerely appreciated. i have much to learn, and i’m just going to sit quietly right here until i’m well educated enough not to tear the whole system down in the process.





99 luftdesigns.

5 04 2010

last weekend i was quiet because i was bummed out, this weekend i was quiet because i was lost in the depths of stunning weather (78!)  feaster weekend (choco-coma), and my brand new obsession 99designs.com. it all started with this little article i read on mashable (another current obsession) about finding digital design projects online. last month when i unsuccessfully attempted to make $1,000 (i ended up with $22, but we’ll talk about that later…), one of the first things i did was think about my marketable skills. i came up with the following:

cleaning
organizing
sewing
sass mouth
general labor
bookkeeping
babysitting (as long as they can use the toilet and eat solid foods)
resume writing
graphic design
and some other crap i’m probably forgetting.

but about that last one… ok, so i’m not a real graphic designer (as evidenced by how lame my behance portfolio is in comparison to all the other stunning real professionals on the site).  i have an art degree, and i’m good with computers. i’ve done some projects for some friends (usually for free or in trade), and i do some basic design for work (making warehouse space look sexy is rough). but i am far from trained- and there is a whole lot that i don’t know how to do/could be better at. one of the hardest things to do when you’re just starting out at anything is to GET EXPERIENCE, because who the hell wants to hire some schmo who doesn’t know how to do dick? 99designs, that’s who. basically, they give businesses a low cost alternative to hiring a real graphic designer.  for a flat fee, a business seeking a logo/web design/icons/letterhead… whatever can list their project, and anybody and their grandmother can submit their designs. if they choose your design, you win a prize (usually between $100-$500).  simple simple. and even if you don’t win, it’s still a great opportunity to hone the ole craft on some real life projects.

on the double upside, a good chunk of the designs on the website are really awful, and made me feel better about my skills after behance took my ego down 1,000 or so pegs.  yet another added benefit is that even if you have no desire or interest in being or hiring a graphic designer, there is a ton of hilarity to be found soaking up the bad design, poor direction following, and inappropriate use of clipart.





seeking redemption.

8 03 2010

this is bound to be a kind of schizophrenic post, as i am writing it while i’m watching the oscars. at a party. slightly drunk. as a matter of fact, it’s taken me no less than 39 minutes to write this much. but that’s okay, i don’t really have a lot to say on the subject of bottle redemption.

after collecting ground change all year, you do start to notice discarded bottles as well. they’re like dirty sticky nickels that won’t fit into your pocket. there have been moments when i’ve considered going after them… but there’s already a lot of competition in town, and there’s something about throwing my hat into that ring that just seems a little unfair. i’ll stick with the boxtops for education. if i even have the balls to do that. digging through other people’s trash is a place that i’m still a little afraid to go.

but back to the bottles. the best thing about having a big party is that everybody brings beer, drinks beer, and leaves bottles behind. score. also, copious road trips, my unquenchable thirst, and general untidiness meant that the car was also packed to the gills with empty water bottles. smaller, secondary score.

we ended up taking our drippy pastic bagged bounty to the RSVP redemption center out on forest ave. this kind of classic redemption center is, as always, smelly, sticky, noisy, and horribly inconvenient.  you have to sort each  bottle by type, which means that you end up with like 10 different slips- not counting the ones for the bottles that the machine won’t take that you have to get from the cashier up front.  then you have to schlep across the way to the liquor store to  cash in your slips, which a checker has to enter in individually into the register before she gives you your $7.25.

they clynk program at hannaford’s all over maine is by far a better solution. you put your returnables into one of their special bags, drop them off at any clynk location, and they keep a running tally in your account until you’re ready to cash out. although i suppose it’s only a better solution if you don’t need cash right now,  or if you don’t mind parting with $.20 for every bag full of bottles you bring in. but it’s definitely easier, cleaner, less smelly, and a great way to keep your bottle fund growing quietly until there’s enough to make it worth withdrawing.

i’m likely to make at least a couple more bottle runs this month as we blaze through the leftover party beer, and i clean out the bottle stash at my office. but i’m going to need more than another $7.25 to make it to my $1,000 goal. unless you’re willing to spend the day scouring the streets and garbage cans for recyclable cast offs… bottle returning is definitely not the path to easy money- unless you just want to use it to buy more beer.





brass in pocket.

6 03 2010

it was time. no etsy sales, no takers for my personal organization service, i had to put at least a little something into the pot today. time is running out, and i am doing a piss poor job getting it together. coinstar to the rescue! well, sort of.

after a serious bout of searching in couch cushions and pants pockets, i came up with a fairly sizable sack of pennies, nickels, dimes, and one random half dollar to cash in. you may notice the conspicuous absence of quarters from the list. unfortunately, we are still tethered by the shackles that are pay-laundry. all quarters (without exception), are to be placed in the laundry fund. bummer.

still, i had a pretty good wad going on. to the grocery store!

what’s great about coinstar is that it’s everywhere. pretty much ever major supermarket in town has one of these bitches, and for the very small fee of $.02 per dollar, your 10 lb. sack of pennies gets turned into dollar bills in about 5 minutes.

but is it $.02 too much?  as far as coinstar is considered, they always give you the option of donating the full amount to a non-profit of your choice. or at some machines, you can get the full amount on a gift card for cvs, old navy, itunes… or some other crap i don’t care about.

but if you want all your money in cash, you do still have a couple other options.

anyone up for some good old fashioned change rolling? this doesn’t entirely qualify as free, unless you already have some/can score some coin wrappers for free. otherwise, you’ll have to buy some– and it looks like they can cost over $.04 each. also, i can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to hover over a pile of loose change for hours quietly counting and rolling… but hey, just letting you know what your options are.

but seriously, your best bet for fee-free coin counting is definitely the penny arcade located at TDbanks.  it’s pretty much just like coinstar in function, except that an adorable cartoon girl leads you through the process. AND, you get to play a game where if you guess your total change within $1.99, you get a prize. despite copious googles, i have yet to find out exactly what the “fabulous prizes” actually are (although this story is really tragic). anyone? anyone?

i chose coinstar because the bank  is closed on saturday, and i didn’t feel like waiting anymore (or carrying all my fucking change across town). regardless of the fee, i still and managed to finally put $14.72 toward my $1,000 goal. $985.28 to go. fuck.





hoppin down the bunny trail.

5 03 2010

well, it’s day 4, and i have jack to show for my money making efforts so far. apparently the present economy can’t support another personal organizer, and i only have 9 boxtops in my collection. tomorrow i have plans to cash in ever loose penny i can find hidden in the sofa cushions, but for today, it’s etsy time.

i had a shop for a while around 2007-2008, but when i got divorced and my whole life exploded, i let it fall by the wayside. i’ve been meaning to resurrect it for a while now, but haven’t managed to make the finishing move until today. the desperation to scrape up some money is settling in, so i dug out a bit of unsold product i had left over from the jinglekeys heyday (oh, that was the kind of stupid and totally inappropriate name of my shop), and threw those fuckers up there.  i am officially back in business.

etsy’s tough. unless you have a really remarkable product, really remarkable photographs, or get picked to be in the gallery section on the front page, it’s difficult to stand out in the crowd. i sold a few things, made a couple hundred bucks… but it was pretty labor intensive, and time consuming.

1. first you’ve got to make shit, and make it nice enough for people to pay for it. (there is A LOT of complete crap on etsy).

2. photograph your stuff in a way that is appealing enough that people will want to click on it. i’m kind of a shitty photographer, not helping.

3. list your items in a way that is descriptive enough to be clear, and charming enough to be seductive.

4. when/if people do buy your shit, you then have to pack it, mail it, and then send tracking to the buyer. (and hope that they’re happy with the product).

5. then you have to pay off etsy and paypal, and maybe after the cost of materials and labor, there’s a little left over for you.

regardless of the bullshit hassle, i’ll be taking this opportunity to clear out all my excess inventory, as well as to finish up some product that was in process when the walls came tumbling down. this is in no way cheap plug to get people to buy my silly bullshit. it’s just that with this $1000 game i’m playing, no scheme will be left untried.





trash day.

4 03 2010

so, it was trash/recycling day on munjoy hill today, and as i was doing my early morning zombie stomp down the hill to work, i was reminded of an article i’d read recently on the penny hoarder. now this guy can be a little over the top at times, but he does have some pretty innovative ideas about making money. walking through the garbage strewn recycling day streets this morning, i remembered a particular scheme involving selling box tops for education. weird, right?

honestly, i’ve been throwing them away for years. i still don’t even really know exactly how the whole system works, but somehow they’re each worth $.10 to benefit the local school of your choice.  but that’s really not important. what is important is that for some reason, people will pay near face value for them on ebay. i picture lazy and indulgent parents buying their box tops online so that their children can win the pizza party, or whatever bullshit. why else would they be such currency? could anyone out there enlighten me?

anyway, apparently these little bitches are worth money. and there’s something that seems a little bit wrong about profiting from that, but hey- the school gets the money and so do i. win win. except that i don’t eat very much of this food. but when i saw the recycling bins lined up on the street i thought that if i could muster up the cojones to dig through people’s bins… those box tops could be mine!

no seriously, it that weird and wrong?





day 1- the big shill

3 03 2010

ok, technically it’s day two, but day one of me actually trying to do anything. i wasted most of the day at work, and then seeing a terrible movie (wolfman! no me gusta!), but since the PT showclub told me to call back later… i had to do SOMETHING today. i’ve decided that while i’m organizing the big ebay purge, i would try to sell some of my more marketable skills on craigslist.

first stop, personal organization. this is actually something i would do for a job if i thought i could actually make a decent living with health insurance. i totally get the jollies from sorting big piles of mismatched crap into neat little stacks, piles, and jars (labeled for extra jollies). but would anyone actually pay me to do it? according to the one website i looked at, real personal organizers charge $55-$85 bucks an hour. of course those people are probably certified and experienced. i have been known to organize my friend’s stuff when they’re not around… but really i’m more of a hobbyist  than a professional. whatever *throws caution to wind*! i figured i would make a charming little ad where i would charge $15 an hour (i’ve gotta make it sexy, right?), throw it out there, and hope for the best. i don’t have too much riding on this one, but it’s an experiment, so why not.

i was thinking that maybe i could put up another ad for graphic design. what else can i do?  what do you think people would you pay for?





double dipping.

19 02 2010

i guess this makes me kind of a sucky coupon lady, but i’m not really that into rebates. sure, rite aid single check rebates are great and all, because you enter your receipts online and then they keep track of the rest. as for any rebate that involves saving receipts, filling out forms BY HAND, and hauling my fat carcass to the post office…mmmm not so much.

i’m sure at this point in my life my general laziness has cost me hundreds of dollars in would-be cash back. oh, and free grapefruit spoons. i completely screwed the pooch on that one too. but every now and then (ok, almost never), the stars will align just right, and my laziness will somehow no longer be a factor in my ability to get more free money/stuff.  remember last weekend when i got in just under the wire (by about 30 minutes) for my rite aid P&G “grab the gold” rebate? most people bought their stuff ages ago (and probably got better deals). but not me! and now, this poor planning and general laziness is coming back to benefit me. woot!

via a twitter tip from savvychicsavings earlier this week, i found out that there was a $100 P&G coupon book up for grabs for those of who can manage to spend $50 on P&G stuff between 2/1-4/15. hey wait, i just did that! and magically, i managed not to throw out my receipt. it’s a g-d christmas miracle.

now if i can only manage to wander to the post office before april, we’ll be all set.

in the event that you are more enthusiastic about receipt hoarding and envelope licking than i am, there are actually a shit ton of rebates out there ripe for the plucking. get to it!





i try it- selling my books!

9 12 2009

if you have ever attended college, there is a statistical likelihood that you are still toting around a number of cumbersome volumes from past classes that seemed important to hold on to at the time (the smart kids always sold theirs back right away)… but now are just weighing down your life with their uselessness.  sorry plutarch, i’m never going to want to read about the lives of noble greeks & romans again… and i most definitely am not going to be spending any time leafing through my old art history tomes (the hefty, dust-gathering bastards!).

i love books, i do, but it is important to me to make sure that my collection is a carefully curated grouping of things that i actually have enjoyed reading, want to read, or will use regularly as a reference.  everything else must go! despite my steadfast philosophy, i still somehow managed to move an entire box of books that i don’t need or want into my new condo. um, oops.  so i decided to see if i could make money getting rid of any of them:

1. first stop ebay. i had a few three investigators (my favorite juvenile serial detective series ever) lying around that i thought i could get a few bucks for.  and i was right! i sold a series of 11 for $34, and one very rare one for $35. and then i got eviscerated on the shipping. ebay has this thing where they are trying to keep shipping prices honest (great idea!)- but it makes it more difficult to set a fair shipping price without already having things boxed up,  measured & weighed- which i didn’t do in advance. bad move. i ended up charging $4 shipping for things that ended up being $8-$12 to ship. boo-urns. that’s a significant bite out of my already meager profits- not counting listing fees and ebay commissions… not great. unless you have a hot big-ticket item (or you’re doing ebay as a job), this definitely isn’t the easiest way to go. and for the love of god- prebox, weigh, & measure everything- it will save you big time!

2. next stop, local booksellers. there are 2 local bookshops in portland that buy books, cunningham & yes books. cunningham told me immediately that they were not taking books in the crankiest way possible. yes books however told me to bring my stuff down before 6 and we were good to go! i had a big box of old nancy drews, brains bentons, vintage hygiene books, and other random pretty nice stuff. toted my box into the store with high hopes, and after minutes of scrutiny, i left with most of my stuff, and $8. not so great. basically one step up from dropping things off at the goodwill.

3. third stop, goodwill. ok, this isn’t really a money making scheme, but after hauling all the books to the bookstore- only to have 90% them rejected for condition issues (or just didn’t want them), i couldn’t bear to bring them back in the house. i could have tried more places, or maybe listed them on craigslist, but the effort wasn’t worth it for just a few more dollars. i wanted them out!

4. final stop, valore books! this was the most fruitful and exciting part of my journey. i had a pile of old college text books that i knew that the used bookstores wouldn’t want, and i had read at some point that there were places online that would buy back your books and pay for shipping!! and they were right! there are actually a bunch of sites that do it: ecampus, bigwords, textbookbuyer… but i went with valore because they had been positively reviewed, and their website was easy to navigate. very simply, you type in the ISBN number into their search engine, select the condition of your book, and it will tell you roughly how much they will pay for it. it’s usually between $2 & $10 a book. not much, but worth it to get things out of your life that might have otherwise ended up at goodwill. there were a few books that they didn’t want, but it looked like i’d be getting around $32 bucks for the lot- and all i had to do was print out packing list and the FREE SHIPPING LABEL, slap it on a box, throw it in the mail, and wait for my check. and a month later, it arrived as promised, and was even for slightly more than i thought ($40!). sweet.

after all of the above trials and tribulations, i would most definitely use valore again (i might even start scoping for hot looking books at the goodwill to send back- why not, it’s free!), but would probably skip on ebay or selling locally unless i had something really special where going that route would maximize my $$$. however, i can not stress enough that the very best time to sell your textbooks is at your school bookstore- IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR CLASS IS OVER. unless you can look at it and really know that it will be a lifelong reference- dump it before it takes over your life!