Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Out of the Box

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Total Black: $901.25 ($500 of which is still for an un-cashed check)
Total Red: $228.069.39

We don’t fall deeply into debt solely on our own.  We have gentle encouragement all along the way—from our peers and their pressure, from the Joneses and their upkeep, from the television and its ads. At this time last year, I couldn’t have been more in the box than if Charlotte Perkins Gillman herself plastered me to the walls. I was earning $160,000 a year working for one of the largest law firms, and one of the most prestigious law firms, in the world.  I was laid-off after only two years with the firm and with more debt than when I started and it just keeps growing.  In retrospect, I, like many others in my shoes, just assumed there’d be a few more good years at the firm before the curtain fell on that stage of our careers.  But what good is retrospect when dealing with times like these?  Not many have seen such times, and frankly a lot of us still aren’t acting like things are that bad—when Starbucks goes under, you’ll know we hit the iceberg!  But I suppose that’s a conversation for another day.

Today—all the creative ways I’ve come up with so far to start thinking outside the box and diversify and increase income streams.

1) Meetup.com I organize two bookclubs through Meetup.com The site charges organizers $144/year and permits up to three groups.  And if you’re creative enough, you can just run with it and roll in the dough.  Example: this guy started a Rooftop Drive-In Group.  People go to the roof of his apartment building–with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline–and for $5 dues (if they pay it, more on that in a second) and $5 admission fee, you get to kick-back, relax, meet new people, and watch whatever films he’s showing as they’re projected on the wall of the stairwell leading up to the roof.  What a great idea!  Alas, I only came up with bookclubs, but maybe I can think a bit more on that since I’ve been trying for quite some time now to get members to give me their $5 dues to help off set that fee.  You can’t imagine how difficult that is.  One way ’round that—meetup.com let’s you charge a fee to RSVP for events.  Right now, I’ve set mine at $2 per event and I use Amazon Payments to collect the fees. Of course, the dangerous side to Amazon Payments is that Amazon.com let’s you draw down the balance in your account when making purchases. An aside: my bank’s net worth software doesn’t sync with Amazon Payments, so technically we should add $9.25 to the total black number, rounding it out to a whopping $910.50 (still minus that $500, of course).  But hey–that’s $9.25 more than I had before.  Since starting in June I’ve collected about $40 this way.  Pros: Possible revenue stream: you’ve gotta set-up the events to earn income, and be willing to organize people, participate, and so on.  But if you hit on a great idea, the sky’s the limit.  Cons: Sporadic revenue stream contingent upon organizing people, setting-up events, attending them, and so on; annual fee is a ding if you don’t recoup it, especially so if people don’t RSVP, or RSVP and don’t show, or just don’t even participate.

2) Amazon Associates Amazon.com let’s you set up an Associates account and through links, banner ads, and such, placed on your website, Amazon.com will give you between 4%-8% back on any purchases made through that link.  So, if I set-up the hyperlink correctly, you (whoever you are out there) should be able to click on the link, which will redirect you to Amazon.com, where I’ll get a cut of any purchases you make. It doesn’t cost the Associate or the purchaser anything to use.  Amazon.com just gives you a share of the profits for routing traffic their way. But, of course, your own purchases don’t count. I set up Associate accounts for both bookclubs and now for this blog.  Pros: Possible continuous revenue stream; no participation fee; once established, it can run on auto pilot practically and Amazon.com will even deposit your “cut” directly into your bank account.  Cons: you need a website (or I suppose you can just email the link to your friends & family) and some tech savvy to deconstruct computer code.  For example, meetup.com and wordpress.com won’t allow you to post banner ads and such, so a hyperlink is a way around that, but it involves figuring out what part of the code is need and what isn’t.  But I’m also not inserting that link every day in every entry, so I’ll have to find a way around that ban so I can plug a banner ad into this site, along the lines of the box on the right-hand side.  (Apparently just for clicking on it, Showtime, the sponsor I selected, will donate money to the cause I selected: DoSomething.org)  So, stay tuned.  And hey—come here first before shopping on Amazon.com  Throw that twenty cents my way!

3) eBay.com Sorta speaks for itself, I suppose.  But, for example, I’ve got a PC laptop that I used while in law school.  It works great; I just used it to take the Pennsylvania bar exam (back-up plan in case I have to move back to mom’s).   But I don’t use it at home because I bought a Mac back in the good ol’ days of steady income.   So I put it up on eBay, starting at $75.  Someone already bid on it, so I’m at least getting $75.  Pros: Depending on the item, sky’s the limit on revenue stream.  That “Friend for a Day” dude I mentioned in a prior post–his bid is now up to $7,700.  Insane!  (I might have to do that.)  Cons: you need something to sell.

4) Webuy.com A chain here in the area (WeBuy.com) has outlets around the city that will buy used DVDs and electronics (cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc.).  So, I took all the gadgets I’d accumulated over the years and sold them all: iPhone, iPod, bluetooth wireless earpiece, Boze iPod speakers, and some iPod remote control thing I had lying around (didn’t even know why I had it).  Gone.  (Of course, so is the cash now too.)  Took a bit of creativity and stick-to-it-iveness though.  One outlet said they’d take my iPod but didn’t have cash on hand, so I’d have to come back in a week.  Impatient as always, I went to another outlet but they said they wouldn’t take that same iPod because it looked cracked (it didn’t.)  So, clearly I waited the week and went back to the first place.  A third outlet wouldn’t take my iPhone—so, as noted in my first entry—I took it back to the Apple store, got a new one (after upgrading to the 32GB (love it!)), and then sold it.  Pros: instant cash; green / environmentally friendly.  Cons: one-off revenue stream; no haggling on price (at least at this place).  And now I have to wonder if I could have earned more on eBay.com

5) Abebooks.com Sell some of your books.  I went through all of my books (which also allowed me to unpack and get rid of some of those boxes referenced in my first entry) and found a number of duplicates or soft-cover versions when I had the hard-cover version as well.  Even some I’d purchased twice.  Went onto Abebooks.com (they took many more than cash4books.net did and offered better prices) and sold a bunch of books, including law school textbooks I’d been lugging around and hadn’t looked at probably since 2005.  Got about $50 sent to my PayPal account.  Pros: quick cash; green / environmentally friendly.  Cons: one-off revenue stream; you need books they’re buying.

So . . . yeah . . . that’s just a few of the out-of-the-box ideas I’ve stumbled across.  Nothing too crazy.  But keep a look-out for a future posting titled “Buy Me a Beer.”  I did hit on one idea that seems so obvious I don’t know why people haven’t been doing it for years.  Today’s tasks are to get crackin’ on finding some temp work and flooding area colleges with my resume.  Based on my degrees and experience, practically the entire panoply of the Liberal Arts should be available—and someplace must need a few adjunct professors.  (Another way to supplement that income stream.)

Got any other suggestions?  Post ’em and let me know.  Clearly, I’m game.  (Uh . . . within reason.)

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