Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why I Am Not Investing in Bitcoin

There is no question about it; Bitcoin is hot.  There are those who are predicting it will go through the roof and make those who have invested in it rich, but I'm not buying any. Why?

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a currency not backed by any government that some people or companies accept as a medium of exchange.  Unlike currencies backed by governments, Bitcoin does not have a physical form, it exists only in "bits" in pieces of information on computers. The Bitcoin network is decentralized and interconnected--there are lots of computers with the same information on them. That's the fifty cent summary of a New York Times article, but the bottom line is, I really don't understand it.  

How Do You Get Bitcoins?

Like anything else, you buy them.  You can buy them through companies that require indentification and in ways that do not.  For some reason, drug dealers like the ways that do not.  I have no idea how much of the money you give these companies goes into currency vs how much is fee or profit for the company.

How Do You Make Money with Bitcoins?

You make money with Bitcoins by selling them for more than you paid for them.  In some ways, all currencies are subject to the law of supply and demand, though usually we see it on the side of a good or service that is purchased as opposed to the currency side.  Last year $10 purchased a widget; this year $10 only purchases 90% of a widget.  We say the price of the widget has increased--and if doohickeys and thing-a-ma-jigs are the same price they were last year, then yes, widgets cost more, but if "everything" has gone up 10% then in reality the currency is worth less.

If you want to buy Bitcoins you have to pay what those possessing them are charging.  If you want to sell them, you only get what people are willing to pay.  How that is determined is something I do not know.

So, Why Am I Not Investing in Bitcoin?

If you read each of the paragraphs above,  you'll see why I am not investing in Bitcoin--"I do not know" "I have no idea" "I really don't understand it".  I'm not saying I'll never invest in Bitcoin--maybe one day I'll do the research and understand those things and feel comfortable investing.  However, someone once told me that if I wanted to invest in something, I should be able to tell you what it is I am buying, how I expect to make money from it, how I could lose money from it, and why, and who is making money because I'm buying it (and how they are paid).  If I don't know those things, then my "investing" is really gambling--it might work, it might not but I'll have no way of duplicating the success or avoiding the problems in the future.  In other words, I am counting on getting lucky, nothing more, nothing less.

Bottom line--if you don't understand it, you shouldn't invest in it.  

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Stich Fix Alternative

It doesn't take much web surfing or blog reading to learn that Stich Fix is a hot property. They recently went public and though they did not raise as much money as hoped, their stock price is up.

What is Stitch Fix?

For the uninformed, Stich Fix is a clothing subscription service.  Customers fill out an online survey and then, periodically (frequency depends on the plan chosen) they are sent a box of five clothing items and/or accessories which they try on in the privacy of their own home where they can see if the pieces go with other things in their wardrobe and where they are not being pressured by sales people.  The box includes a mailer for returning unwanted items and a $20 "styling fee" is applied to any purchase made.  

Stitch Fix has combined data analysis and a flair for fashion to make it easy for people who hate to shop to update their wardrobes and to give even those who do love to shop a chance to try something they might not have picked.  

I've never tried Stich Fix though I've read reviews online.  I have tried a competitor, Dia & Co., which does pretty much the same thing, except that Dia &Co is for plus-sized women, a market Stich Fix has just begun to serve.  I wrote about one box on my book blog, and another box here.

What Are the Plusses and Minuses?

I recently ran across yet another blog post about Stich Fix and reflected on my experience with Dia & Co. and came to a few conclusions:

  • It is fun to get stuff in the mail.  Even in this day of one-click ordering from Amazon, there is still something fun about coming home to a package with your name on it, especially if you aren't quite sure what is in it.

  • Trying things on at home, with your other clothes is more helpful than trying them on in a dressing room, in isolation from the rest of your wardrobe.  If it looks awful on you, you aren't going to want it in any case, but if it looks good, it would be helpful to know if it matches your gray pants or the blue sweater.  Yes, you can always return things, but will you?

  • The box can encourage you to try things you might not otherwise have given a second look.  One of my favorite Dia &Co. purchases is a dress I would never have tried on because it was too expensive and that style doesn't look good on me. 

  • Those boxes are expensive.  If you regularly walk into mid-priced department stores (Dillards, Macys) and buy non-sales price merchandise, then these boxes will be in your spending niche.  For those of us who shop the sale racks or lower priced stores, the prices of $50 or more per item seem high. 

Is There a Lower-Priced Alternative to Stitch Fix or Dia & Co.?

If you are looking for a subscripton box that costs substantially less than those two, well, I haven't found it.  While I'm sure computers do most of the work, reality is that someone is picking the clothes, putting them in a box and sending them to you, along with a cute little note.  While I doubt stylists spend a tremendous amount of time on any one box, the cost for them, plus packaging and two way mailing means, I suspect, that this business model wouldn't work with lower-priced clothing. 

However, I do have a couple of almost alternatives, for those of us who don't have quite as much money to spend:

  • Decide ahead of time on an amount of money or number of items and then go to your favorite store's website and order them.  Hopefully your favorite store has a website and accepts returns either in the mail or in-store.  Dress Barn is my favorite store and my last Dia Box came in at $300, so I went to Dress Barn's site and picked out $300 worth of clothes in my sizes--and was able to get closer to ten items than the five Dia &Co. sent me.  They showed up a few days later and I tried them on.  I kept two and stopped by my favorite store a couple of days later and returned the rejects (and picked up something else while I was there).

    The main advantage to this method is that you don't get things you absolutely wouldn't wear--no tulle skirts or distressed jeans for me, I'm in my 50s, I'm not 5 or 15.  The disadvantage is that there is no one pushing you to trying something you wouldn't ordinary try.  You could remedy that by some version of digitally throwing darts and ordering what you land on, even if it is a tulle skirt (shudder). 

  • Give someone you know your account information for the store website.  Unless it is somone you really trust with your money, don't give them the credit card information but let them log onto the site as you, and fill your cart with a specified number of items or amount of money.  Give that person your sizes too.  Once the cart is full, you log on and pay (and decide whether or not to peek).  A friend who really "gets" you and has great sense of fashion could both avoid the tulle skirt and find the vest you'd never look at twice--but which looks great on you and goes with half your wardrobe. 
Clothing subscription boxes can be fun, but they are an expensive way to build a wardrobe. Consider alternatives for at least part of the fun for a lot less money.  However, if you want to give Dia &Co. a try, use this link and I get a referral fee.  
Disease Called Debt

Sunday, December 3, 2017

5 Ways to Make Money Blogging

Blogging is one of those things  you can do as a hobby or as a job.  Those for whom it is a hobby blog to connect with those of similar interests or as an outlet for creative expression.  Those who do it as a job want to make money.  There are even some of us who blog mostly as a hobby but who wouldn't mind making money.  That leads to the question:  How can bloggers make money?


Like the owners of any other medium, bloggers can make money by selling advertising on their site.  Some are able to cut deals directly with advertisers for space; others belong to networks like Adsense which place the ads and pay the blog owners.

 Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are posts an advertiser pays you to write, like this one was intended to be. (I sent a copy of the article to the client for review and payment prior to publishing and never heard back from them) Usually bloggers are asked to write a post that fits with the theme of the blog, and to mention the client a certain number of times, and to use the provided links.  Mel wrote a great post that mentioned programs that match bloggers with companies that want sponsored posts. 

Affiliate Marketing

A lot of businesses will pay a sales commission or provide things of value to bloggers who refer new business to them.  One such business is Amazon.   Associates are given codes which are integrated into the URLs of products on Amazon's website.  Bloggers write posts that suggest the purchase of the products or advertise the products on their sidebars.  If a reader clicks the link and buys from Amazon, the blogger gets a commission.  As with many other commission-based sales programs, the more you sell, the higher the commission rate.  

At one time becoming an Amazon Affiliate was as easy as filling out an application.  Recently Amazon has cracked down on what they consider to be spammy websites.  Also, they require that affiliates sell something within the first six months.  If you are approved, Amazon offers a variety of products and its links are easy to include in posts.

I had been an Amazon Affiliate until my state's tax laws disagreed with Amazon and Amazon dropped all residents of my state.  Amazon has since agreed to collect sales taxes and while Louisiana residents can now become Amazon Affiliates, my most recent application was turned down.

A lot of companies have affiliate programs of one sort or another.  Here are some that will pay me if you click the link and do as noted:

Motif:  This stockbroker sell baskets of stocks, which it calls "Motifs" for $9.95 per basket.  Use this link   to get a free 3-month trial of Motif, a smart way to invest for people who care. Motif makes it easy to build an investment portfolio that aligns your financial goals with your personal values. With this free trial, you will get access to their Impact accounts as well as their powerful trading tools.

Stockpile:  Stockpile is an online stockbroker which charges a flat $0.99 fee per trade, and which sells fractional shares of stock.  If you are looking for a different type of Christmas present this year, Stockpile offers accounts for minors which allow them to buy and sell stock, subject to your approval.  If you use this link, you get $5.00 worth of stock to begin your account with them, and I get $5.00 too.  I wrote a full review of Stockpile a few months ago.

Robinhood:  Robinhood is a commission-free stockbroker which, at this time, can only be used via smartphone (they are in to process of developing a website).  If you use this link to open an account with them, you and I will both receive a free share of stock.  Here is a link to my review of Robinhood.

Ibotta:  Ibotta is a smartphone app that offers you coupons and tracks your purchases.  I just downloaded it so I can't tell you a lot about it except that if you use my link, you get $10 and I get a reward as well.

Personal Capital: Personal Capital is a robo-advisor that offers free financial tracking through its website.  You can read my full review here.   If you use my link to sign up--no purchase necessary, just link your accounts so you can use (or not) the tracking features--we both get $20.00

Selling Your Own Products

Some bloggers make money by developing and selling a product such as an e-book, or in the case of some really big names (think Pioneer Woman) actual physical products.  Other bloggers use their blogs as a way to publicize an ongoing business.  From what I can see, most of the bloggers who are making big money from their blog are doing it by selling products. 

Review Products

Some companies will offer complimentary products to bloggers who agree to review them.  This is especially prevalent in the worlds of book blogging and mommy blogging. While some products are given with the understanding that they will not be sold (like review copies of books), and some will be consumed in order to review them, still others can be sold by bloggers or given as gifts.

Blogs with large readerships generally qualify for more and better review products.  Some can be obtained through tour groups and sometimes company publicists will respond favorably to a request for a review product or even a giveaway product --and giveaways can be a great way to increase readership if you are willing to promote them. 

Have you found any ways to make money blogging that I have failed to mention?  
Disease Called Debt