Set up an eBay Account

eBay Buyer Protection Shield

Having 200M + members selling and buying stuff online with an auction business model puts eBay in a spot many have tried to copy. The increasing number of businesses having an eBay Store makes it even more compelling to log in and validate the real time “offer vs. demand” market price .

I have been an eBay user since March 2004 in Canada and ten years later this is my preferred online place to check

1) Small (read light) items that eliminates a trip to your Wal-Mart or shopping mall which can be ordered directly from Asia saving you time, taxes and 50% of the cost. Examples: batteries for my Swatch or smartphone, bike parts, small gifts for birthdays, DVD’s that friends recommend and are not on Netflix etc.

2) Pricing compared to national retailers: if you can get a Google Nexus 7 tablet for $100 shipped to a hotel in the US during your next vacation why pay $220 + tax at a local electronics retailer? It’s the BOGO solution to many annual upgrades in our household.

3) Marketing research for Entrepreneurs: many have a great idea about a product they want to sell as a Start Up. Well, go on eBay and see what’s already out there at what price, because that is eventually going to be your competition especially in the 20-30 age group. Testing your idea on eBay is even more fun!

I have even tried to be an eBay seller for 12 months and learned the hard way that Canadian shipping costs bring margins down to 5-10% unless you sell diamonds since the optimal eBay product has to have a HIGH density value: expensive, small, on demand and low cost shipping & handling. So this experience can teach you very fast which items to search for online and which to buy locally unless you live in the US where ground shipping still is a bargain.

Website: www.ebay.com

Cost: $0 and whilst you are at it may as well open a PayPal account so that check out process is a click away.

Time to make decision and execute: 2-3 days with PayPal validation of your credit/debit card(s).

Benefit: It’s the only market place that really makes buying “glocally” easy at the right price. My young children have learned that if something isn’t available in Montreal all one has to do is look on eBay and wait for the Postman to deliver it. From California, Hong Kong, Toronto…they really don’t care as long as the price is right!

WARNING: eBay can be like a dating site where you think the next deal will be cheaper, better and delivered faster. Amateurs spend hours searching an iPhone Hello Kitty case to save $0,25 on shipping. Professionals know exactly what it should cost and what the initial budget was and BUY NOW only. Use filters to speed up the process and if there are zero results then eBay was not the right channel to get what you wanted with the budget you had available.

Set up a Free Mint Account

Mint Personal Finance software

Personal Finance Software Mint

Having built a personal finance software for a credit union I know exactly what data banks have about their clients. Few of these tools can work with other bank accounts though and the one who cracked the code is Mint. Now owned by Intuit you can rest assured it works like a Swatch and when there are glitches the user community typically has found a way how to bypass the issue. Their tablet and smartphone app is the best out there still.

I have been using Mint for 1036 days solid and every transaction is tracked, sorted, ear market and automated. You no longer open bank statements, keep receipts, pay or leave a tip in cash because if you want to know where your money goes it has to be a virtual transaction. Now you think this must be the most daunting task on Earth after having a root canal, but think again.

Besides my mortgage there is $0 in interest fees, $0 in bank fees and $0 penalties per year. $0 is powerful because it allows you to go on vacation, flip a kitchen project in 12 months and smile when the bank employee glares at the screen asking “You don’t have more than one credit card?” Nope, because with Mint I learned if you channel ALL your expenses through one card and pay the monthly balance it generates more than $1,000 in cash back per year. No moon light flight to Las Vegas on a Tuesday, no Black & Decker toaster or bogus insurance coverage.

Website: www.mint.com

Cost: $0 unless you have fees to close a banking account/credit card

Time to make decision and execute: 2-3 months including migrating financial assets to www.tangerine.ca and setting up budgets, automated monthly transfers, alerts, goals etc.

Benefit: Financial freedom without visiting your bank branch ever again. Those who are afraid of fraud I can confirm that after 12 years of online banking the only time one of my accounts got hacked was a debit card which professional thieves cloned at a local Esso station in 2005. On the contrary – since using Mint I have cancelled $1,000+ of services companies “automatically” renew that I didn’t want or needed any more.

Sign up for a race

Santa Shuffle Race Start

Santa Shuffle Race Near You

Most people wait until January 1st to join a gym, start a weight loss program, diet etc. It lasts a month or two at best. Then nothing happens until Dec 31st and back to “GO”. I sign up to one yearly 70.3 Ironman race to motivate mysekf to run with colleagues at lunch twice a week all year. Now my entire family is signed up for the Santa Shuffle race in December. Every six months we will do an affordable, fun and local 5K race until the children are ready for 10K and so on.

Website: www.santashuffle.ca

Cost: Starting at $25 CAD

Time to make decision and execute: 10 minutes

Benefit: affordable family activity that keeps you motivated for months to run weekly

Become an AARP Member

Michelle_Obama_with_AARP_card

First Lady with AARP card

I became an AARP Guest Member in January 2014 and now can read their awesome magazine on my tablet, receive updates on what the US is doing for their seniors (55+) and eventually get discounts with a large number of fine companies. 40 millions members was a compelling value proposition and their articles are also valid for Canadian/European readers.

Website: www.aarp.org

Cost: Starting at $16 USD per year

Time to make decision and execute: 15 minutes

Benefits: can apply information to my work and future financial investment decisions

The Art of Non-Conformity

Martin Wiedenhoff

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