Gotta spend money to make money.

unicorn ranch

This internet stuff is tricky business. I love this blog because it requires such little financial investment. I pay $10/year for the domain and about $80/year for hosting. And that’s where the cash investment ends. I put in $90 (and obviously sweat equity) and get back $10,000+ for a year. That’s a pretty darn good rate of return if you ask me. This blog is easy to manage. MANteresting.com, however, is proving to challenge my inner miser.

This crap can get expensive. Fast.

Yesterday, we were lucky enough to get a few mentions on some pretty popular websites. Which lead to some pretty popular people tweeting about us, Guy Kawaski, a cofounder of Flickr, a Vice President of Tubmlr, and someone with 1.3 million twitter followers all giving us some shoutz. This lead to a flurry of traffic, and a flurry of headaches. Within minutes MANteresting went from stable unknown website, to “OMG our servers are down because we are getting hammered with traffic.” 

Do you know how frustrating it is to have people want to see your website, but instead they get a 502 “this website is broken” message upon arrival? It would be like going to Krispy Kreme and being told they’re out of donuts. Or Nordstrom Rack and being told they are out of shoes. If people want to give you their money, or in our case check out our website, we gotta be ready for it.

So our site crashed and was terribly unstable for a good hour or two. What a wonderful problem to have, but still a problem. We were already paying $85/month for hosting. We had to decide if we should pay for an upgrade.

The obvious choice is YES, upgrade and give the users what they want. But reality is, many of the people who were clicking through to our site, probably wont be back. They were simply following a trail and checking it out. Many signed up, but many didn’t. So do we pay for an upgrade that might only be necessary for a day or two?

You’re darn right we do! Haha. If we want this thing to succeed we can’t afford to NOT let people see us. Every user gained is another step closer to internet domination. 

So my pockets are running significantly deeper with MANteresting than compared to PDITF. In fact, I’ve spent more in the last 1.5 weeks on MAN, then I have in the last three years on PDITF. I guess the saying “you gotta spend money to make money” really is true. Or in this case I guess the saying is, “we gotta spend money to get seen by a lot of people, which will hopefully lead to acquisition or monetization”. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but you get the point. 

We’ve also had people reach out wanting to partner with us, take a stake of the company and help us in its development. This is a particularly awkward stage of life because we are so new we don’t even know the full potential of our site. It could fizzle out and be a dud, or it could literally turn in to a million dollar idea. Makes it real tough deciding how much of our cash flow we are willing to put in to it (keeping us sole owners), and at what point we should probably accept/seek funding from third parties.

Frick. This business stuff is terribly confusing, particularly when your business strategy at this point completely ignores generating revenue. Here’s to hoping things keep getting more problematic. And by problematic I mean awesome! We like awesome. MOAR AWESOME PLEAZE!!!

 It’s a good thing I’m financially disciplined otherwise I might have been putting these expenses on a credit card. Could you imagine?!

p.s. favorite nail from yesterday: Oh Frank.

 

Are you living social by grouponing?

Last week I did something I almost never do. I bought a living social deal. I signed up for both Groupon and Living Social a little over a year ago, and after about two weeks of receiving their daily emails, I bowed out. I was sick of receiving a bajillion emails from them for redundant, unexciting offers. You can only get notified of a 50% off spa treatment or manicure offer so many times before you start to go crazy. I’ve unsubscribed and never looked back.

So what was this last deal that was so good, I just had to get it? Meh, it was nothing exciting. Just a 50% off restaurant coupon at a place in Seattle I’ve never heard of or been to. I figured it would be nice to take Girl Ninja out on a sweet date now that I’m back, and no better way to do it then at 50% off regular price. This time, however, after making the purchase, I made sure to “unsubscribe” to email notifications. I don’t want Groupon, Living Social, or any other similar company emailing me every day.

If a Groupon or Living Social deal is truly incredible, I almost always hear about it through other means. Whether it be someone’s Facebook status “Hey I just bought the Nordstrom Rack Groupon” or a text message from someone else that says “Dude, Ninja! Five dollars off frozen yogurt!”, word spreads quick when a unique opportunity arises.

I no longer rely on Groupon or Living Social to tell me about their fantastic deals. I know this means I’ve probably missed a few deals I would have been interested in, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay to not get email spam every morning.

How do you feel about Groupon or Living Social? How many “Daily deals” would you say you buy a year (I’d say 4 for us)? Do you think these businesses are here to stay, or just a temporary fad? Are there any better, less annoying alternatives (I like Woot and Steep and Cheap)?

Why being finacially stable kinda sucks

Girl Ninja and I spent a wonderful four-day weekend in Palm Springs for Thanksgiving and, as you might guess, we got in super late last night. While today’s post won’t be a long one, I still think the message is important. And that message my friends is this: Being stable kinda sucks.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on life, money, jobs, housing, cars, location, kids, savings, etc. I don’t know why, but it seems like a few times  a year I get in a little funk. A funk where I start to convince myself being “responsible” is overrated.

Even though I’m happy with my job, I sometimes dream about being fired. Not because I think unemployment would be fun, or getting another job would be a cake-walk, but because I’d probably learn a lot about myself in the process of looking for new work. I know I have a great gig, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes dream of working at Subway.

I’m also not so convinced investing, saving, and just general fiscal responsibility is all it’s cracked up to be. Discretionary income can be a headache. A few years ago, I had a ton of student loan debt and a much smaller income. Every dollar I made went to paying down my massive debt. Life was simpler back then. But now that the debts are paid off, and my income has grown, I’m more stressed than I was when I owed $28,000 to Sallie Mae.

How much of our discretionary income should we save? How much should we put in to retirement? Should we go to Hawaii this summer because we can afford it? What type of car should we buy? How big of a home do we want? Blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “being broke is awesome”. I’m simply trying to bring attention to the fact that fiscal responsibility is no walk in the park.

I feel really weird writing a post about why being financially stable isn’t that great. I’m probably coming across as really ungrateful and/or unappreciative of the blessings GN and I have. That definitely isn’t my intention, as I know we are extremely fortunate to be where we are. That said, I’m hoping a few of you can relate. Anyone understand where I’m coming from? Can you give a few more examples why being stable kind of sucks?

p.s. How was your Thanksgiving.

p.p.s. If you are Canadian (Mo D, and others) you didn’t have Thanksgiving, so how was your weekend?

I save money without even trying.

Girl Ninja and I have made multiple intentional decisions on how we can best reign in spending and control our costs. We don’t have cable, we rent a one bedroom apartment, and we try to buy as much stuff as we can on sale. We intentionally cut costs to save money.

Last night, however, I started thinking about all the ways I unintentionally save money. Turns out, I’m even more thrifty than I realized. Here are some ways I’ve unknowingly been saving some serious coin…

Alcohol:

I only know a handful of people like myself. People that hate alcohol. This is not a religious thing, but more a I-hate-the-way-it-tastes kind of thing. It amazes me how much some people wish I drank. I swear every time I go out someone is begging me to try their glass of wine, their beer, or their rum and coke, as though, my taste buds will suddenly do a 180 and be in alcohol heaven. I’ve done a lot of taste tasting over the years and the scale in which I use to describe alcoholic beverages ranges from “extremely disgusting to moderately disgusting”. I’m yet to find a drink I legitimately enjoy. Since I’ve never bought alcohol before, I don’t really know how much I’m saving. I’ll make a completely uneducated guess and assume most other 20-somethings probably drop between $30 and $200 a month on alcohol. Is that a good guess? How much do you spend?

Haircuts:

If you haven’t noticed in the various pictures I’ve posted over the years, my head is shaved. After my freshmen year of college I decided it was time to say goodbye to my long flowing locks and get the clippers out. That was seven years ago. I haven’t paid for a single haircut since. Prior to buzzing it all off, I was probably getting my hair cut once every two months. At $20/cut that works out to a total savings of $840 over the years. The only thing I miss about going to get my hair did, was the way the stylist would massage my scalp under hot water. Can I get an amen?!

Coffee:

I must have some extremely jacked up taste buds, cause not only do I hate the taste of alcohol, but the taste of coffee (or anything with coffee in it) makes me want to projectile vomit all over a white cat (I hate cats). Girl Ninja loves her some Starbucks. It’s a good thing I don’t, otherwise we’d probably be there every day. She does her best to minimize her “Tall non-fat vanilla latte” purchases, but probably averages two a week. If I was joining her each trip that would be an additional $7/week out of our pockets, or $364 over the course of a year. Extrapolate that over the last 10 years and we are talking THOUSANDS of dollars saved by not liking the flavor of coffee. Booya for sensitive taste buds. 

Video Games:

I may have to give up my man card for mentioning this one, but I don’t really get the point of video games. I played them in elementary and middle school, but by the time I got to high school I cared more about my outfit, girls, and sports then I did about what type of gun Lara Croft used. While video game consoles are reasonably priced (most around $200), the video games are a budget killer. At $40 to $80 a pop, I don’t know how gamers sustain themselves. Oh that’s right, they never go outside and they all live in their mother’s basements. Kidding….kind of. Thank goodness World Of Warcraft and NCAA Football ain’t my thing.

Okay now that I’ve pissed a bunch of video-gamers off, it’s time I step down and give you an opportunity to share some ways you’ve unintentionally saved some scrilla (that means money for the less cultured). Do you hate sweets? Never shave your armpits? Or do use public transportation? It might take a minute to think something up, but when you do drop a comment below.

When do you take (or pass up) a good offer?

Hypothetical Scenario:

You have a four-year old white Macbook. The CD drive burnt out two years ago, you’ve dropped it a handful of times and it goes “Crrrachhhhsmackashh” every time you open it, and the hard drive died six months ago, but was replaced for $50.

Now imagine:

You are at a football game on a Friday night. A friend of yours casually states the following…

Hey, I’m quitting my job at Apple in 7 days. If you’ve been thinking about getting a new computer or anything, I can hook ya up and get you a 25% discount before I quit. Need anything?

Dilemma:

What do you say?

 

If you haven’t caught on, this situation isn’t hypothetical at all, but very much the quandary Girl Ninja and I are currently in. I’m gonna lay out the facts as I see ’em…

Facts:

  • We each need (and by need I mean really enjoy having) our own laptops.
  • In our house, we have two four-year old white Macbooks, a first generation iPad, a relatively new Mac Mini, and two iPhones. Needless to say, we like Apple products.
  • We will buy a new Apple laptop when one of ours passes away.
  • My laptop could literally spontaneously combust at any moment, it’s that beat up.
  • Girl Ninja’s laptop probably has at least another 12 months left in it.
  • The iPad is cool but, in my mind, not a laptop replacer.
  • Apple products never go on sale. Like Ever. So this 25% discount is SUPER appealing.
  • We can afford the laptop.
  • We want  a new laptop.
  • We definitely don’t need a new laptop.
  • We would not be looking to buy a new laptop right now if there wasn’t a 25% discount offered.
  • We could sell one of our current laptops for a few hundred dollars on Craigslist to help mitigate the cost of a new laptop.
  • The thought of replacing our current laptops, while they are both still “mostly” functional, makes us feel like we are stereotypical “American Consumers”.

And thus ends our dilemma. Although Girl Ninja and I have an idea of what we will do, we’d like to hear your two cents on the situation before we share. We would totally appreciate your opinions as to why we should or should not get the new laptop (maybe you have insights we haven’t considered). To buy, or not to buy. That is the question dilemma.

Have you ever passed up a deal and regretted it later? Ever taken advantage of a deal and realized it was a waste? I feel like no matter which route we go, we will always wonder if we made the right decision.

p.s. Don’t turn this in to a Mac vs PC fight.

Terribly Inefficient

We moved in to our new place one month ago, yet we still haven’t managed to go a single day without stopping at Target, Walmart, or Home Depot. Just when we think we have bought the last thing on our list, we remember a few more things. I don’t know if Girl Ninja would agree, but I think we have been terribly inefficient during this “nesting” process. Full disclosure…. I’M THE ONE TO BLAME!

One example that comes to mind is our epic hunt for a dust pan. Yes, a dust pan. We stopped in at Walmart and they offered a pretty mediocre dustpan/brush combination for $5.99. The dust pan had that stupid piece of rubber across the mouth that always warps and makes it impossible to pick up dirt. Since, I wasn’t comfortable purchasing the Walmart dust pan, I asked Girl Ninja if I could try and find one online for cheaper.

A quick search on Amazon made me realize that I was either going to get an equally crappy dustpan for $5, or I needed to step it up and fork over $9.99 for the Cadillac of dust pans. Last night, I added a $10 OXO dust pan to my Amazon cart, and just before I was about to select “checkout”, I panicked and thought “Do I really need to pay twice as much for something as insignificant as a dust pan?”. I ended up deleting the dustpan from my cart. But now, as I sit here typing this post, I’m thinking “What the heck Ninja, you need a freakin’ dustpan, is $10 really going to break the bank?”

Basically, I make everything about Eleventy-Bajillion times more complicated that necessary. I have a sick obsession with trying to find the best deal possible. It makes shopping trips miserable because we run to three different stores, cyber stalk the internetz, and still end up empty handed.

My psychotic need to get the best value totally sucks. Can any of you relate? Do you often find yourself checking prices on your iPhone while you are in a store, to make sure you can’t find something cheaper online? Do I buy the $5.99 dust pan, or the $10?!!??!?!?! AHHHHH!

p.s. Girl Ninja has a post going up at 9:30am Left Coast time.

Frugal repost

My Hawaii vacation is half over. We are having a blast and loving Hawaii. We rented mopeds and went to a luau yesterday. I was hoping to find time to blog yesterday, but we were just having too much fun. Hope you don’t mind my repost of an article called “I’m frugal, I swear!”

Screen shot 2009-12-17 at Dec 17, 2009, 11.14.55 PMI got out of my 2007 Toyota Scion TC, walked in to my apartment, made a call on my iPhone, checked my email on my Macbook, opened up the box to my brand new Digital SLR camera, and then thought to myself “Holy crap, am I a hypocrite?” How can I possibly preach frugality, when I own some rather expensive items? I’m sitting here typing this, on my 22″ external monitor, desperately trying to figure out a way to reconcile my possessions with my frugality.

And then it hit me… it’s because I’m frugal that I can own these nice things! We get caught up in the mentality that, to be truly frugal, one must save every dollar they earn and avoid nice things at all cost. Wait, that’s not what frugality is about, at least for me it’s not. For me, frugality is a commitment to manage money wisely, and have fun doing it.

I can afford to spend more money in some areas because I minimize costs in other areas. I keep a tight budget on expenses that most people (not you) tend to spend more frivolously on. I don’t drink alcohol, so that automatically saves me $20-$200 a month less than most other people my age. I still wear clothes that I’ve had since college. I try to eat out no more than once a week. I don’t go clubbin (Girl Ninja would not approve). And I only shower once a week to save water….just kidding….kind of.

Sure I may own some Apple products, drive a car with less than 30K miles, and have two computer monitors, but the beauty of frugality is that it’s expressed differently for each person. It’s about living within your means, not avoiding luxuries.

Indications you may not be frugal and you are just a straight up reckless spender…

1) You put “dining out” expenses on a growing credit card balance

2) You buy things you don’t want or need, simply because it was on sale.

3) You own multiple DVDs you have never taken out of their wrapping (I know some of you are guilty of this).

4) Your name starts with a “C” and rhymes with bongress.

We all tend to make assumptions about others based off our observations. Heck, I’m guilty of it, but I hope a few nice possessions wont disqualify me from joining Club Frugal. What kind of frugal dude/dudette are you? Are you the I’m-so-cheap-I-won’t-have-any-fun frugal? The I-like-to-monitor-my-spending frugal? Or the I’m-not-really-frugal-but-I-like-to-pretend-that-I-am person?