Generating Income: Build Websites!

December 14th, 2011

Back in February 2010 I did a post about generating extra income by using your expertise. You could even expand your expertise by learning new skills.

Here is a great example!! I learned website technology and built a website for a local restaurant which specializes in Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes. Check it out here:

http://asiangardenwakeforest.com/

 


Generating Income: Affliliate Advertisement Programs

September 27th, 2010

Once you have a web presence, additional income can be derived by joining various affiliate programs. For the purpose of this post, I will describe an affiliate program as one in which you “deliver” a potential customer to a business and that potential customer buys an item and thus becomes an actual customer of that business for that sale.

Make sense? It would be like I bring a customer into any business who would not normally shop there for that particular item. Bingo, I get a “finders fee”, or commission as it is sometimes described.

Many businesses with a web presence offer affiliate programs. One of the great examples is Amazon.com:

http://bit.ly/9EGY2u

Advertise an Amazon product on your website and send a customer to Amazon, you will receive up to 15% of the sale of that item.

That is of course, if you don’t live in North Carolina!!

Amazon.com deleted all of its affiliate associates who live in North Carolina over a dispute with the state which would have required Amazon collect sales taxes on North Carolina based customers. NC is now suing Amazon to get its list of customers, as well as products they bought!! Scary. You decide if that is fair or appropriate usage of state jurisdiction.

But Amazon is only one of many major businesses that pay for bringing paying customers to them. Others include:

Sears, http://bit.ly/90JWkL

Best Buy, http://bit.ly/cy94Qe

Even Google’s AdSense program is a form of affiliate program:

http://bit.ly/9um1ed

Hosting companies like Godaddy.com provide affiliate opportunities:

http://bit.ly/c4ypyG

Software companies such as Microsoft are particularly affiliate program savvy:

http://bit.ly/cWdrlc

I want to point out that these programs are big business.  That means there is money to be made. By who? You of course!

So big is this business is that the Federal Trade Commission recently announced updates to “guidance” it provides to advertisers to keep their advertisements in line with the FTC Act. The press release can be found here:

http://bit.ly/cjNwvq

The FTC is not saying that the affiliate programs are in any way illegal, any more than a car salesman getting a commission for selling you a car is illegal. What is does say is that the affiliate relationship between the advertiser and the seller must be disclosed.

While based on the FTC’s interpretation it seems that it doesn’t come into play all the time; because many of the affiliate relationships are pure advertisements. However, it does come into play when there is an endorsement, or implied endorsement. This may be particularly significant in the social media space!

Now I am not a lawyer, and am in no position to be interpreting laws let along government guidelines or regulations. What is clear to me is that the government, like the IRS, only gets involved when there is money there to be made!! Get the picture?

Go find some worthwhile affiliate relationships and make some money!!

How do you find them? Simply scroll the bottom of a business’s web home page for links to their affiliate programs, or look for a site map to find them.  Good luck!!

Disclosure: I may be Compensated Affiliate! You could be too!

How to Lose Debt – When You Have No Job or Income

August 5th, 2010

The latest installment to the How to Lose Debt Blog has been published at EzineArticles.com. Please see it here:

http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Lose-Debt—When-You-Have-No-Job-Or-Income&id=4750225

Reducing Expenses: Purchasing vs. Leasing Vehicles

July 4th, 2010

This is an interesting topic, because there are posi­tives and negatives to both. For example, you will likely have few or no major repairs when you lease a new ve­hicle every three years. That is a good thing. If you are into status, you will have the newest and shiniest car on the block all the time. Interestingly, your monthly payments will likely be less on a lease than if you actu­ally made an outright purchase of the vehicle with an auto loan.

However, purchasing a vehicle also has its advan­tages. The first is you own the vehicle. It is an asset of yours that you are free to sell at any time, assuming you use the proceeds to pay off your loan first to obtain the title. Some of the amount of the monthly payment, as­suming you have a loan, goes towards principal, build­ing an owned asset.

On the other hand, the car is depreciating, getting old, getting used, and therefore there are downside im­pacts to owning a vehicle. For one, depending on how long you own it and how many miles you put on it, you may have major repair costs along the way.

On the other hand, there are risks to leasing a ve­hicle. You may have gone over the mileage allotment, which would cost you hard cash above and beyond your monthly lease payment to return the vehicle at lease end. Trust me, the leasing company does not want the car back, so they are going to make it as hard as pos­sible for you to return it. I’ll get into that in a minute, because you can use that to your advantage.

I once leased a vehicle because I moved to New Hamp­shire and needed a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I wanted the least expensive vehicle I could find and wanted the lease payments to be very low.

Now everyone knows that you get what you pay for, but I was determined to keep the monthly lease pay­ments low. So I bargained, I negotiated, begged, bor­rowed, and lambasted the dealer into giving me a “great” deal, which for me was a low monthly payment.

In leasing, there are many ways a dealer can make money. For one, you cannot negotiate the monthly pay­ment and the cost of the vehicle. You can negotiate one or the other, not both. You can try, but I guarantee you will have varying levels of success.

The dealer can play with the “interest rate,” which be­lieve me is imbedded in the contract someplace. He can adjust the amount of miles in the contract. If you request less miles, your monthly payment will go down. He can adjust the lease term, the length of time you need to make payments under the lease before you return the car. He can adjust the residual value of the vehicle at lease end, which is the amount you can purchase the car for, assuming you want to purchase it at lease end. Last but certainly not least, he can adjust the purchase price, which becomes the basis for all other components of the lease.

Keep in mind that you have an obligation under any lease to maintain the vehicle in proper running order. So the dealers have a twist to make sure you do that. If the standard warranty on the vehicle is 36 months, for example, they will make sure the lease term is at least 39 months. Why do they do that? Well, if you run the vehicle into the ground, it will be out of warranty before you return it, and therefore you will be responsible to make any major repairs before you return it. As I’ve said before, you simply can’t make this stuff up.

Well anyway, I leased this four-wheel-drive vehicle for a great monthly payment amount, just over $200 per month. The SUV probably “cost” more than it was worth, $26,000, and had a residual at lease end of $15,000. It was a 39-month lease, wouldn’t you think, with a 36-month warranty?

Oh, and one more thing. They normally charge you for an average of 15,000 miles a year in the lease. Any­thing above that, you need to pay .25 per mile extra, or something like that. In my ultimate wisdom and drive to get the lowest monthly payment possible, I negotiated the mileage down to 12,000 miles per year. The dealer agreed, we signed, and off I went with my brand new SUV.

Now I should have suspected something when, with 60 miles on the vehicle, a car in front of me picked up a rock on the highway and the windshield began a hairline crack that ultimately consumed the entire windshield.

Well, to shorten this story as much as possible, the SUV was a piece of crap. Things that weren’t covered under warranty, like brakes, tires, the windshield, etc., were breaking right and left. There was a roof rack on the vehicle, and putting something up there one day it actually dented the roof because it was so flimsy a feather could have dented it. Finally, it did get used on long highway trips, so by lease end I was 10,000 miles over the lease contract. It was a disaster in the making.

When it came time for me to decide if I was going to buy it or return it, there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to buy it. As a matter of fact, the book value of the vehicle at that point was $10,500 and the lease residual purchase price was $15,000. Do they think I’m crazy? I’m trying to lose all debt!!

So, as I alluded to before, the leasing company does not want the car back. They have to pick it up, store it, and likely ship it overseas to find a market. They want you to buy it; it’s less trouble for them. Oh, and they have the ultimate authority to re-negotiate the residual amount. Can you believe that?

They made enough money on you over the course of the lease to actually reduce the end payment, should you decide to keep the car. So we negotiated, not that I wanted to buy it. It started at $14,000, $13, $12, $11, even below market value $10,000 if I would simply take it off their hands. Not interested.

Before returning it, I had to replace the brakes, tires, windshield, and spruce it up a bit. When they came to pick it up, I had to pay $500 for the dent in the roof and $2,500 for the excess mileage just to return it. What a bad decision. Don’t do it. Leases are almost always more expensive in the long run.

For my next SUV I did an out and out purchase, with a loan. I still own it now, it’s 10 years old with 120,000 miles on it, and it’s still worth $5,300 retail. It only had two major repairs, a wiring harness and a transmission, both covered under warranty (six years). So I got 10 years usage, 120,000 miles, the loan was paid off in five years and I own the vehicle.

Now I agree that the monthly payments were more than if it was a lease and I am not driving around in a flashy new car, but then, I’m totally without debt!!

Buy, don’t lease.

Reducing Expenses: Go on Vacation!

June 22nd, 2010

While we are talking about reducing expenses, how about tak­ing a vacation? You are probably saying, I thought we were talking about saving money here. We are. But, everyone needs a vacation from time to time, so while you are on the road to losing debt, it’s okay once in a while to take a short detour and enjoy the sights.

Many people live within a short drive of a national park or other tourist location. We live just over two hours from the beach, there you go! There are 22 million websites with the text “Cheap Hotels.” some of the larger ones are Expedia http://www.expedia.com, Travelocity http://www.travelocity.com, and Hotwire http://howtolosedebt.com/HW which also provides hotel “ratings.”

I am not particularly fond of just booking a hotel sight unseen, because you never know what it looks like or the neighborhood it’s in until you get there. I can remember staring out the window of our hotel all night long at our brand new Nissan Maxima sitting in the parking lot, hoping it didn’t get stolen.

Therefore, if you have never seen the hotel before, you may want to join AAA http://www.aaa.com. They provide tour books free of charge that have ratings on each hotel. There are other “rating” companies like Tri­padvisor http://www.tripadvisor.com and Hotels.com http://www.hotels.com. Most let you book the hotels di­rectly through their sites. It is important to shop around.

Another form of “cheap” vacation is to go on a cruise. It is obviously more expensive if you need to fly to the port, or if you drink significantly on board. Many cruise lines will now let you carry your own beer and wine on board. They do, however, feed you, boy do they feed you.

There are 1,970,000 websites with the text “last min­ute cruises.” by booking at the very last minute, most cruise lines want to fill their ships, and will “sell” the rooms at a discount. While you may not get your choice of rooms, you can surely cruise for less than the stan­dard advertised rate.

There are sites like:

Cruises.com http://www.cruises.com,

LastMinuteCruises http://www.lastminutecruises.com,

VacationsToGo http://www.vacationstogo.com,

CruseDirect http://www.cruisedirect.com, and

Cruisesonly http://www.cruisesonly.com.

We have used SmartCruiser http://howtolosedebt.com/SM as well, with good results.

Now you have to understand there are two different ways that cruise booking companies work. Some com­panies go in and buy, that is guarantee, that they will buy a certain number of rooms. Those rooms are then removed from the available rooms from the cruise line’s website, but that does not mean they are not available from the booking company that bought them.

Other booking companies only book the room that you are seeking, so they have somewhat less control on availability. The companies that buy large blocks of rooms want to get as high of a price as possible while not getting “stuck” with the room. The other companies make a profit based on the discounted rate they get from the cruise lines and what they “sell” it to you for.

Therefore the booking companies that purchase in­dividual rooms do not have as much flexibility in rates as the ones that guarantee the booking. At the end of the cruise booking period, the booking companies that have guaranteed blocks of rooms will even sell the room at a loss to not get stuck with it. They do this because they made enough profit on the rooms that they did sell. So you may be able to get a better deal with them. I will say, you need to do your homework, because there will be no sign on the website that says which business model a particular website is using.

Now I would be neglectful in any discussion about booking vacations if I didn’t mention one other site, and that is Priceline http://www.priceline.com.

The “ambassador of entertainment” in my house is my wife Lisa. We always said she missed her calling; she should have been a travel agent. She actually loves to shop for a bargain. Frankly, I can’t stand it.

You know, men go right into a store, buy what they came for and walk out. Women shop, peruse, hunt for bargains, use discount coupons, combine discounts, etc. It is not unusual for her to come home with an out­fit that she paid $10 for, which would regularly sell for $80 or even higher. She sees it as a personal challenge that she is going to win.

Back to Priceline. Priceline has an unusual busi­ness model. Sure, you can book hotels, rental cars, etc. through them like you do any other of the large websites like Expedia or Travelocity. The curve in their business model is they let you set your own price, a bid.

Now picture yourself an owner of a 200-room hotel which sells for $150 per night per room. If you were sitting there with 100 vacant rooms, which is better, to have the rooms sit vacant, or to “sell” them for less than the standard going rate, but fill them up? This is what makes the Priceline model so effective. You get to tell them what you are willing to pay for a room in their hotel. They either accept your bid and you get the room cheaper, or they refuse it, and there is no sweat off your back.

If your bid is covering their “cost” with some profit, there is absolutely no reason they won’t accept it. The “ambassador of entertainment” taught me this trick, along with many others. It works just as well with rental cars. The car either sits on their lot unused, or they ac­cept your bid and at least make some money for the day. Capiche?

Now the Priceline model won’t work if you absolutely need to be in a specific location on a specific day, or if your bid is so low the company won’t recoup their costs. However, if you’ re flexible with your dates, this is a great way to shave a few dollars off your vacation expenses.

Did you know that most hotels will give you incentives to stay over Sunday night, when most rooms are vacant? Anyway, my wife will spend weeks on end searching for the best deals before we book a vacation. Isn’t she great? I get to go on nice vacations, while spending the least amount possible, becoming or now staying free from debt. You can too, but you will need to find your own ambassador of entertainment!

Generating Income: Sticking to a Plan

June 7th, 2010

It is important to stick to your plan to lose all debt. If your plan is to save or invest $100 per month in your “future,” do it consistently. If you save $100 in one month, and skip the next, not only will you run the risk that dollar cost averaging will be less effective, you will have less money saved and you will be deviating from your savings habit. All of these things risk a longer period of time before you are financially comfortable. Remember, just like expenses, if you can’t learn to save when you are making $20,000 per year, you will not know how to save when you are making $2 million a year either. Once again it is the pattern, the positive habit that we are driving towards, the key to building wealth. Therefore, make a plan and stick to it through all odds.

Generating Income: Donating?

May 13th, 2010

When you find yourself flush with extra cash, or even before that point, there is no better feeling in the world than being able to donate to a worthy charity. If you are not flush with cash, you can donate your time or efforts to a cause. I am a firm believer of what goes around comes around.

I consider myself blessed. I was blessed by being brought up in an upper-middle-class town, educated,  and always held reasonably well-paying jobs. I have had the opportunity to “invest” in worthy causes like Make a Wish, Susan B. Komen, and the ASPCA. Every time I give money or effort to charity, the favor is returned tenfold by new opportunities, contacts, and personal financial gain. As such, I list this as an investment into the future of our country.

There is a new terminology in the online social media marketing space called “Paying it Forward,” which is do something for someone while not expecting  to get anything in return. The key is to give and you shall receive. There is no doubt, from my perspective, that this is true. I give because I have a strong desire to help other people. I do not “expect” to receive anything in return, but it always comes back anyway. Try it, you will see.

Press Release: How to Lose Debt Has Been Released in Paperback, and eBook Formats

May 3rd, 2010

.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

.

New From Two Harbors Press: A Get Out of Debt Plan That Works – Straight From the Plan’s First Success Story

How to Lose Debt (Two Harbors Press, ISBN 978-1-936198-09-2, May 3rd, 2010, $19.95) outlines a step by step process to eliminating debt and regaining financial freedom without having to declare bankruptcy. Based off author Ross Dodwell’s own climb out of over $25,000 in debt, How to Lose Debt is a simple, practical and attainable guide to personal finance mangement. Dodwell puts for the simple, effective, immediately applicable steps anyone can use shrink, and eventually eliminate their debt. Dodwell’s program works, he is living proof.

After stock market downturns caused him to lose his job in a technology management position, Dodwell once again had his money on his mind and, with his new found free time, began writing the book he wished he had when he’d found himself $25,000 in debt. He’s now sharing everything he learned as he struggled to get his own bank account back in the black with the millions of Americans that face that daunting, seemingly impossible task today. Touching on everything from lowering utility costs to generating extra income, How to Lose Debt has something for everyone, and presents it all with a warm, colloquial tone that reads like a casual conversation, not a lecture on finances.

For more information on How to Lose Debt or author Ross Dodwell, please visit http://www.howtolosedebtbook.com.

About the Author: Using the skills he developed during his career in technology management, Ross Alan Dodwell built two websites, http://www.rossdodwell.com and http://toprecommendedpeople.com. Dodwell is an Expert Author on http://ezinearticles.com, the internet’s premier e-magazine and is the author of an unpublished mystery novel, The Disappearance of Jessica Fieldson. Ross lives in North Carolina with his wife Lisa.

Generating Income: Set up a Website

May 3rd, 2010

Amazon.com, Google.com and e-Bay.com started somewhere. They are all multi-billion-dollar businesses now. The individuals who started them are mega-rich.

Then there is the social networking sites that are just taking off, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Myspace.com, YouTube, and Linkedin.com. These are all ideas in some person’s head that go on to make a gad-zillion dollars. I won’t underestimate the importance of a business plan, which is how are you going to make money with this site? However, if you have a great idea, and a strong business plan, the amount of money you could make “overnight” is staggering.

If you have a good idea, an idea that will draw peo­ple to your website, there is money to be made on top of whatever profit you might make from items on your website that might be for sale! These are called “click” profits. Sites like Amazon http://www.amazon.com and others will pay you for customers that arrive at their site through your site and make a purchase. Is that simply amazing?

I’ll give you an example. If you buy my book on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/HTLD-RAD I get a certain percentage of the sale price (not enough mind you, but a percentage just the same). If you are trolling the internet and land upon one of my other websites like RossDodwell.com http://rossdodwell.com, if you click on the Amazon.com book link it will bring you to Amazon.com to where my book is for sale. If you buy it, I will receive my regular percentage of the sale price for being the author, AND I will receive a click profit for my site generating the referral.

Incidentally, all Amazon.com click functionality was removed from my sites because Amazon.com and the state of North Carolina got into a dispute on collecting state sales taxes on Amazon.com sales. North Carolina is forcing out-of-state companies like Amazon.com to collect North Carolina sales taxes when purchases are made on the web under the premise that the web pro­vides Amazon.com a “presence” in the state of North Carolina. You be the judge.

There are many companies that offer these click referral profits, including Google’s Double Click http://doubleclick.com. So put on your thinking cap, come up with a business plan, and get out on the web. There is money to be made!

Generating Income: Coins, Metals, Stamps, Antiques and Other Collectables

April 5th, 2010

There are very large markets in collectables. Collectables can be anything that one person wants to buy and hold, and another person wants to sell for a profit. There are probably as many places to sell collectables as there are collectable types. You could put the item in a consignment store or sell it on a website like e-Bay. Just like stock investing, the key is to buy low and sell high.

Unless you are an expert, it is especially hard to determine what the value of a collectable will be at some point in the future. For example, when the U.S. Mint came out with the State Quarters Collection in 1999, any first year is known to be a good year to collect, as in the first year of any new coin collection.

So in 1999 you could buy the entire year’s collection, the five state quarters, the dollar, half, dime, nickel and penny, with the “silver” coins minted in coin silver, proof condition, for a cost of $75, directly from the U.S. Mint. Shortly afterward, say by 2001, that coin set shot up to around $350. That is a 360 percent profit if you sold. Today, that same coin set sells for between $200 to $250, still a healthy profit, but down from its peak.

In 2006 the U.S. Mint came out with a gold proof “buffalo” coin, similar to the old style of the nickel. They charged $800 for the one-ounce proof gold coin, and it stayed at that price for two years following.

Today it is worth around $1,300, a 60+ percent profit. Not every coin, or coin set, is so lucky.

Art, paintings, Tiffany lamps and bronze statues all have collectable value, but you would need to be an expert or engage an expert to know their real value. The values also may be cyclical.

For example, there are times of nostalgia when a Beatles lunch box from the early 60’s would command a significant premium over its actual cost to produce. But society is fickle, and there are times when an item like that would command little additional value.

Collectable items that are based on an underlying commodity like gold and silver coins will never be worth less than the underlying price of that commodity.

However, items that have little real underlying commodity value, like an autograph by Babe Ruth, are only worth what the market is willing to pay for it. The “market,” mind you, is one person, so you could surprise the market by finding someone, albeit a Babe Ruth fan, who is willing to pay almost anything for his autograph.

However, these situations don’t happen as often as you think, so be careful when investing in things that require special markets to sell them.

I will say that the ultra-rich people, the ones who can afford to invest (and possibly lose) a million dollars in a Rembrandt painting, make lots of money in the art business. The question is, at any point in your life, can you secure it, and can you afford to lose the entire investment if it is taken from you in a burglary or burns in a house fire? If the answer is no, don’t invest in those.

There are markets everywhere in collectables. Did you know you can sell old out-of-print dinner plates, and there are people who will buy them?