Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ebook selling business: Has the bottom fallen out?

As I wait to have my baby - any day now, I'm thinking of ways to make a few additional dollars to help pay for diapers, baby clothes and all of the other baby items that it takes to start a new family - not to mention the cost of college education. After spending several hours of free time (probably the last free time that I will have for the next 18 years), I've decided the following businesses have little if no potential now.

1. Ebook store. There are plenty of websites out there that sell the same ebooks. The market is flooded with bad ebooks that give the industry a bad name. Most of them seem to be written by people who have a 4th grade education. They are full of typos and incomplete thoughts. Over the past few years, I was lured by the promises of wealth and free reselling rights for purchasing these ebooks, and found that after spending $50 to $100, I've only made $10 or $15 on my investment. 

2. Write and publish my own book. This is a time intensive process. In addition to research, writing, editing, and finding markets for the book, there are the hard costs of printing and promoting the book. I self-published an ebook and marketed it through for use on the Kindle ebook reader. After spending $40 for my ISBN and hundreds of hours writing the book, I've only made back around $50 - over 2 years. 

3. Writing for magazines. This isn't a bad deal, but it is still hit and miss on the income stream. The best deal that I've gotten was back in 1997 when I wrote a two sentence suggestion to Better Homes and Gardens (25 words) and was paid $2 per word. With the current economic crisis, many publishers are going out of business, but before they do, they eliminate any extra costs, including freelancers. This is happening throughout Santa Barbara.

4. Photography for magazines/newspapers. I have won awards with my photography, so this isn't too bad a deal. However, the trick is to keep updating the camera equipment. When I started promoting digital photography, a 2MP camera was the standard. Now, most publishers will not accept less than a 12MP photo.  The new equipment can be very expensive. I stay away from stock photography sites, because nowadays, there is so much competition that publishers can by cover photos for under $10. Compare this to the good old days when that same cover photo could go for $2,000.

After all of this searching, there seems to be only 2 areas of low investment and high profitability that I've found to be tried and true that are almost turnkey businesses: Ebay and selling handmade jewelry in the local Santa Barbara high-end boutiques. I hope this helps my readers save some money as you start looking for additional income streams in these challenging economic times. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Switching to a Mac

In late April, I switched from being a lifelong PC user to being a Mac user so that I could be more efficient for my day job. Mac computers are very easy to use, and in many ways they are far superior to any Windows based system. 

1. The start up menu pops up within 15 seconds. This is a lifesaver when I'm on a deadline.
2. Most of the software that comes with a Mac is software that I actually need. New Macs come with a program called I Life which offers photo software, basic text software, video software, and Itunes. The only program that the computer came with that I don't use is Garage Band. I suppose I would use it if I was a music composer, but at this point, it is just wasted space.
3. For under $100, I was able to purchase IWork - a program that is very similar to Microsoft Office. It includes a spreadsheet program, a more sophisticated word processing program, and a presentation program. I can create a document using these programs and then export it to a PDF, Word, or Excel document.
4. No more worries about computer viruses! No more updates to my antivirus software, because hackers just don't bother creating viruses for Macs. 

My favorite new addition to the computer is the video camera and built in microphone. With this, I am able to talk with my family who are thousands of miles away. I'm going to have a baby any day now, and hope to bring the mac to the hospital with me so that I can do a Skype video call and introduce my new baby to all of my friends and family. More on Skype in a later post.

The main drawback about the Mac vs. the PC is that all of the money that I've spent over the years on Windows based software is now in the trash can. I invested in hundreds of ebooks that I can't open unless I purchase an add on like Windows Vista for the Mac. Also, the Microsoft Office suite that I purchased a couple of years ago will not work, so if I ever want to use a true MS Office app, I'm out of luck. Probably the most annoying thing about the Mac is that the touchpad does not offer two mouse buttons, and the computer doesn't include a mouse. I've invested in a new mouse this week, to bring the functionality back.

Macs are more expensive than PCs. Nowadays, you can get a decent PC for under $500, but to get a decent Mac, plan on spending $2,000. Normally, I would not suggest investing such a large amount of money on a computer, but after my experiences with Mac, I'll never go back to a PC for work. I know people who have had Macs for 10 years, and they say that their computers are just as fast today as they were when they purchased them. I have never heard the same praise for PCs.

What is your experience with Macs vs. PCs?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Money from books

For several years, I've purchased used books from garage, estate, and library sales for a dollar or less. After reading them, rather than allowing them to collect dust or clutter the house, I sell them on Ebay,, or through my own garage sale. For the books that don't sell, I would send them back to the library as a donation and take the tax deduction at the end of the year. This worked well, but I found that my book collection was building up in boxes while the books were waiting for new owners. At Ebay,, and, I would need to wait until someone contacted me to buy the books.

Last week, I found a new site called It is as easy to use as and Ebay. Simply register for free, enter the ISBN (number found on the back of the book), and see if there is a buyer for the book. If there is, you will see how much the company is willing to pay. Just affix the free postage label and pop it in the mail. I made $23 in around 25 minutes by sorting through all of my books. They will not take all of your books. In 7 out of 8 cases, my books were too old to take, but the process was so easy I was able to enter in over 100 ISBNs within 25 minutes to see the ones that they would take.

On all of these sites, your books should be in good condition so while reading them, do not fold over pages or overtax the spine of the books.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Local Property Management companies

This week, I contacted several property management companies about renting out my 2 bedroom 2 1/2 bath townhome. Their listing fees and services fluctuated dramatically.

The least expensive property manager charged 6% per month of the rental charges, but he was a crotchedy old guy who was trying to drive the rental price down dramatically. With his negativity on the phone I could just imagine how he would be with prospective renters, so I declined his services. I'll leave his name off this list to avoid any liabilities.

We also contacted Sierra Property Management. They took a look at the place and said that they would charge 10% and recommended that we reduce the price for a quick rental.

The best deal that we found was with Town 'N Country Property Management. They charge a 7% fee. They are a full service firm that will manage all maintenance, finances, and screen candidates for the monthly fee. The person that I dealt with was amazingly friendly and competent and she spend a full hour with us touring the property. She said that what we were asking for was fair for the property. Since we aren't in a huge rush to rent it out, we are starting at the full price, and if it doesn't rent out by the time the baby comes, (we need more room) we'll drop the price.

This exercise drives home the point that any time you search for a service or a commodity, be sure to get 3 quotes and then follow your gut. The least expensive option is not always the best one, but neither is the most expensive option.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

This weeks Ad Circulars

If you like meat, this is the grocery week for you. The stores realize that you will be having guests over this holiday weekend, and have chosen large cuts of meat so that you can feed your extended family. If you are only feeding your immediate family, buy these meats anyway. You will be able to eat for a week - as Julia Child said, "Feasting on Remains."


American Leg of Lamb, $3.99lb.
Cook this whole covered in rosemary harvested from your yard or 'borrow' some from your walk anywhere. It practically grows wild. Add mustard, salt and pepper and roast. With the leftovers, you can make a delicious curry.

Strawberries - 99 cents per pound. (strawberry shortcake or angel food cake for your guests?)

Split chicken breasts - 99 cents per pound. Stock up.

Nabisco crackers - buy one get one free.

Philadelphia cream cheese, 10 for $10 (how about strawberry cheesecake?)


Beef Rib Roast (prime rib dinner) - $3.47 lb.

Farmer John Full Ham (ham for Easter, ham and eggs for the following breakfasts, and use the bone for split pea soup.) 77 cents per pound

Green Beans - 88 cents per pound

Onions - 2 lbs. for $1

Radio Shack
In Sunday's circular I noticed a small ad about their trade in program for used electronics. I piled old digital cameras and a laptop into my car and drove to the local store. Even though the items worked, 2 out of three of them were too old so they wouldn't take them. On the third item - a 7 megapixel camera, they would be happy to take it for $17. This was a $125 camera last year and it still works well. I decided to pass on the deals. I compared selling these items on Ebay and found that I could get 300% to 400% more for the camera and that I could easily sell the items that Radio Shack turned away. Recommendation? Skip the trip to Radio Shack until you are ready to purchase items. Post your items on Ebay and then upgrade your electronics with your earnings.

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grocery circular savings this week

Here are my favorite sales this week. For the most savings on the grocery bill, visit all three stores.


Ralphs Gallon Milk - $1.99
Large Haas Avocados - 68 cents each
Roma tomatoes - 88 cents per pound
Boneless chuck steak or roast - $2.99lb.
Celery - 99 cents each
Ralphs frozen vegetables - 89 cents for 14 to 16 oz packages
Philadelphia brick cream cheese - 10 for $10


Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail drink - $1.99
Lucerne butter - 99 cents for 16oz with coupon
Life or Cap'n Crunch - 99 cents with coupon
Foster Farms whole chicken - 77 cents per pound
80% lean ground beef - $1.67lb.
Boneless pork sirloin chops - $1.77lb.
Cross Rib Roast - $1.97 lb.
Broccoli - 88 cents per pound
3 lb. apple bags - $1.99 each


Pork spareribs 99 cents per pound
Lobster tails - $3.99 each
Large mangos 3 for 99 cents
Mini seedless watermelon - $1.99 each
Kiwi - 3 for 99 cents
Texas grapefruit - 69 cents each

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fun Pregnancy website

Today, I stumbled on This site is from the folks who write the series, What to expect when you are expecting and What to expect in the first year. The books are so trusted that my OB/GYN and insurance company sent me free copies as a congratulations gift. On the website, there is a great pregnancy ticker. It looks like this.

Get your free online pregnancy calendar from

As you can see, I'm 26 weeks, 1 day along and have 97 days until the due date. It can be customized for whether you are having a boy or girl, or whether you don't know yet. Besides the cute bells and whistles, there are plenty of blogs, articles, and coupons to make this website a first stop when I need to choose a baby name, have concerns about new symptoms, or just want to daydream about when I get to hold the new delivery in my arms. If you know someone who is pregnant, be sure to share this website with them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

This week's grocery circulars

This week, the big 3 supermarkets have good promotions. Here are my favorites:


The Mix and Match sale is back. Pick up a circular in their store. Groups of items are arranged by price point. If you prchase 10 of these items, you will receive an instant $5 off.


Whole Chicken: 69 cents per pound
Wish Bone Salad Dressing: $1.29 each
Jazz Apples: 99 cents per pound
Iceberg lettuce: 2 for $1
Hot house tomatoes: 99 cents per pound
Large navel oranges: 39 cents per pound
Green seedless grapes: 79 cents per pound


Boneless Pork Loin: $1.99 lb.
Strawberries: 99 cents per pound
Life cereal: 4 for $4
Boneless rump roast: $2.99 lb.
Fresh Express garden salad or slaws: 99 cents per pound
Green onions and radishes: 2 for $1
Brown onions 2 for $1
Van de Kamp's English Muffins: 99 cents per pound
Farmer John skinless pork links: 99 cents per pound
Roma tomatoes: 99 cents per pound

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grocery and Home Improvement this week

This is a very exciting week for frugal grocery shoppers. All stores have something to offer. Here are my favorite specials.


Fresh Split Foster Farms Chicken Breasts: .97 per lb.
Russet Potatoes, 5lb. bag: .97 per lb.
Beef Cross Rib or Rump Roast: $1.97 per lb.
Green Asparagus: .97 per lb.
Cottonelle and Viva bath tissue and towels: $5.99 12 double rolls and 8 rolls respectively
Dannon and horizon yogurt: 10 for $5
Nabisco crackers: 2 for $4

There is an interesting mix and match special that can save you plenty of money. It is a bit convoluted for my taste, and easy to mess up, so be sure to pick up the circular from the store to see the specials. If you do, you will save 35 to 50% on the items. In addition, here are some great specials:

Fugi and Gala apples: .68 lb.
Lucerne yogurt: .40 each if you buy ten
Daffodils: 2 bunches for $3


Raw lobster tails: $3.99 each - time for that lobster dinner!
Cantaloupe: .25 per lb.
Nectarines: .69 per lb. today only
Softsoap: .89 each today only
Eggo Waffles: 3 for $4.98
Beer, wine and spirits sale: 30% off this week for many brands
Cucumbers: .79 each

The Home Depot:

Through 3/22 - 4 inch annuals only 3 for $1, limit 60 - I've never seen such a low price on these. If you are a fan of big splashes of color that only last a few months, stock up on these. For the more practical, frugal shoppers, it is worth the expense to purchase perennials which are always more expensive, but will give you color year after year.

Gallon staked pink jasmine - $3.88 - you can't beat the fragrance of these little pink flowers.

2 cubic ft. bark nuggets - $1.88 - great for mulching around your new annuals. Only through 3/22.

In a previous email, I mentioned several computer deals, but after visiting the stores, decided that it would be better to wait than to purchase these now.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday paper circular bargains

Now that I'm back from an amazing Australia vacation (that ended up being free after tax refunds and the stimulus package), I'm excited to report on the latest sales in the Santa Barbara News Press.

Colgate toothpaste is free with the extra bucks using the CVS card.
Irish Spring body wash is also free with the extra bucks using the CVS card.
Fig Newtons and Lorna Doons - 5 for $5
Ajax liquid detergent - 99 cents with card

Altoids - 2 for $2
Sun-Maid Raisins 18 oz - $1.99 with coupon
Royal Gelatin - 5 for $1 with coupon
Dinty Moore beef stew - 2 for $3
1 lb. epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide - 2 for $1 with coupon
Palmolive dish liquid - 99 cents with coupon
6 big rolls of Charmin - $3.49 with coupon
Kleenex - 89 cents with coupon

1 dozen eggs for 2 for $3 Thursday through Saturday
C&H Sugar 2 for $5
Pillsbury all purpose flour - 2 for $4
Ajax dish liquid - 99 cents

There are several good values on laptop computers right now at Staples, Office Max and Radio Shack that I'm going to check out and report on soon since my laptop is on its last legs. Upcoming blogs will also report on Australia vs. US health care system, good travel buys and more. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Return of the Ant Invasion!

During the latest bout of storms, our home was invaded by ants - at least 200 of them all over the floor. Our faithful cat, Pywacket, marched upstairs to wake me up with a light paw to my ankle and a small meow (more like a mmmm) at 5:30am. I came downstairs to see what she wanted and saw lines of black along our tan tiles.

Since I'm a little over 5 months pregnant, I'm a bit leery about using pesticides or heavy duty chemicals around the house. That eliminated Raid and the super effective ant killers. I'd heard somewhere that everyday household cleaners work just as well as bug spray to kill ants so I tried it. First, I zapped a line of ants with a can of Lysol and a handful of paper towels...on my hands and worked, but the smell of Lysol got to me. Next, I grabbed the Swiffer wet and started sweeping up the ants. Aha! perfect solution. The ants were killed and cleaned up at the same time.

Swiffer wet is not normally on a frugal list of grocery supplies, but in my case, it is a lifesaver. Having a pet around ensures that we need to mop the floor almost every day, and using Pine Sol or other floor cleaners is out of the question due to toxicity. Swiffer got a bad reputation a few years ago about killing pets, but through extensive testing, the rep was unfounded - unless your pets are of the 6 legged kind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grocery Store Deals Have Returned!

I don't know about you, but I've been dreading going to the grocery store lately. There just haven't been any good deals over the past month, so I ended up doing most of my shopping at the 99 cent store. However, today, all of that is changing. My mailbox was overflowing with good grocery bargains, so whether I shop at Ralphs, Albertson's or Von's there are good deals to be had. Here are my picks of the week.


Green asparagus - 99 cents per pound
Atlantic salmon fillet - $3.99 lb.
Ripe tomatoes on the vine - $1.88 lb.
Grilling shrimp - $4.99 lb.
Iceberg lettuce - 99 cents per pound
Cottonelle bath tissue 99 cents
Kleenex 99 cents


Split chicken breasts 99 cents per pound
Atlantic salmon $3.99 per pound
20 for $10: Albertson's canned tomatoes, Campbell's soups, Albertson's packaged seasonings
Starkist chunk light tuna: 69 cents per can
Red grapefruit: 69 cents each
Italian or yellow squash: 99 cents per pound

They have a $10 coupon on the circular to use if you spend over $50.

48 hour sale on Saturday and Sunday:
Lucerne large eggs - 97 cents per dozen
Campbell's select soups - 88 cents per can
Blueberries - 18 oz. for $2.88

Regular sales:
Chicken breast halves - 97 cents per lb.
Green Asparagus - 97 cents per lb.
Russet potatoes - $1.97 for a 10lb. bag
Lucerne butter - 99 cents for a lb. with coupon
Raisin Bran - 99 cents for a box with coupon

The following produce is $1
Broccoli, Cauliflower, navel oranges, 3 lbs. of onions in a bag, iceberg lettuce, zucchini or yellow squash, eggplant, baby peeled carrots

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This week's Grocery Store Deals

This week, there is a money saving crop of great grocery store deals - much better than the holiday sales.


Foster Farms fresh whole chicken fryer - $0.77 per pound
Rancher's Reserve Boneless Beef Pot Roast - $1.99 per pound
Boneless Pork Sirloin Chops - $1.77 per pound
Pork Loin Back Ribs - $1.97 per pound
Yoplait 10 for $5
Grapefruit 3 for $1
Apples - 3lb bag for $1.49 with a coupon
Dennison's Chili 10 for $10


Fresh Peaches $0.99 lb
Blueberries $0.99 for 6 oz with coupon
Green Bell peppers 2 for $1


Boneless Chuck Roast $1.99 lb.
Cornish Game Hens $0.99 lb.
Cantaloupes 3 lbs. for $1
Iceberg Lettuce 2 for $1
Roma tomatoes 2 for $3
Carrots 2 lb. packages for $1

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Circular Sales

Today, there is a new crop of worthwhile sales listed in the Sunday paper.

Michaels - 40% off coupon. Many items are 50% off and the Christmas items are up to 80% off.

Von's - Yoplait yogurt - 10 for $5

Walgreen's - Puff's tissues, $.89; Progresso soup, 4 for $5; Deerfield Farms dried fruit, $1; Ajax cleanser, 3 for $1; Wax paper and Reynolds aluminum foil, $.99

Long's Drugs - They are having a good Thursday through Sunday sale this week. Normally, I don't like these sales, because I often accidentally shop on an off-sale day and end up paying full price. However, It is time to stock up on the following items that will be offered at 12 for $10.
Stove Top Stuffing, Lindsay olives, walnut grove whole peeled tomatoes, S&W beans, Anderson's split pea soup, Duncan Hines cake mixes.

Rite Aid - Free with rebate items...Gotta love them. Garnier Fructis Shampoo, conditioner or stylers, SoyJoy nutrition bar.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Victory Garden - Veggies

When we first purchased our townhouse with its 200 square foot backyard I had visions of starting my own victory garden full of vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees. I thought that we could preserve the surplus and enjoy nature’s bounty for much less than what we were paying at the grocery store. How wrong I was! While gardening has many benefits, saving money is not one of them. After spending money on amending the soil, plants and seeds themselves, fertilizing, and water, every tomato, squash, and bean became more expensive than the organic asparagus in Lazy Acres!

Now that the economy has shifted a bit, I am rethinking my decision. Certain plants do make some sense. Herbs that come back every year like oregano, basil, and rosemary do very well in our Mediterranean climate. Grapevines are a beautiful addition and only cost $3.99 for two plants. I use the young leaves that I remove for stuffed grape leaves and the culled vines for wreaths. Tomatoes and berry bushes are the best homegrown value, since they are so expensive in Santa Barbara. I have replaced my annual plant borders that took so much water with attractive herbs, citrus trees, and vegetables and hope for the best.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How to thrive and have fun in this economy.

Happy New Year to you too! To make the most of the year, I have a few pieces of advice.

If we are in a depression, go against the grain.

1. When people are panicking and selling - BUY - That goes for homes and stocks.

2. Use up what you already have and own before you buy new things - they will be cheaper the longer you wait.

3. Turn off the news, cancel the newspaper, and get rid of any financial subscriptions that you have. They are full of bad advice.

4. Spend time with family - the best and cheapest way to spend time.

5. Enjoy the downturn in the economy. It is now hip to be frugal. No need to buy the latest and greatest things. Even Bloomingdales is going back to their brown paper bag.

6. If you are married and have a 2 wage earning household and one of you loses your job because of the economy, why not try living on one wage for a while. In the meantime, the non-working person can fix up the house, make gourmet meals, go back to school to get a better job, take care of the kids, etc. There will never be a better time to live on one wage, because costs are dropping for everything right now.

7. Plant that vegetable garden in your backyard or on your apartment patio. Tomatoes, radishes, fancy lettuces, and beans grow well on patios.

8. Besides the veggie garden, get rid of all water hogging shrubbery. There are plenty of succulents that thrive without ever needing water from a hose.

9. Only buy new items for the things that would make you squeemish if you were to buy used - underwear, bras, swimsuits, workout wear, and things that baby's pee on.

10. Embrace the savings game. Coupons are back in style.