The Weirdest Ways to Make a Fortune

money in the banana stand for u and for meHere’s a creative and unexpected way to make some money:

Domainers, also known as domain name speculators, buy domain names that they think might be desirable to someone else in the future, often generic words or phrases that they can then flip to business for a profit. Brown asked the guy what happened when people emailed those dormant addresses he owned. The guy said, people don’t do that. Brown borrowed a few, 12 in all from two different guys, and it turned out that people, as well as bots, did email those addresses, to the tune of some 200,000 emails a day, 8% from real humans. All of a sudden, he had a business.

“I started sending bounces back, and I put a little tracker inside of it,” Brown told me. “It turns out that 60% of the time, people opened the bounce I sent. That makes it the most read email in the world–that’s more frequent than my mom reads the email I send to her. I said to myself, ‘I think I’ll put a little back-to-school gift-card ad in the body of this bounce.’ And I let it run. A month-and-a-half later, I’m checking the mail and I get a check from the advertiser for $20,000.”

Best line in the article: “A trained Shakespearean actor, Brown credits his experience in the theater with having provided him a mindset for framing startups.”


Monday Check-in

unhappy duck loofahGood morning! Hope you all had great weekends. (I finished reading American Gods. I’m still trying to process it. We’ll talk later.)

My $50 spending estimate for this weekend was completely thrown off because of soap. I was totally “oh, I don’t need to buy groceries this weekend, I can wait until the middle of the week or so,” and then I realized my bottle of Softsoap Body Butter Coconut Scrub Body Wash was empty.

So I went to the grocery store after all, and figured that while I was there, I might as well get everything that was on my list to get later this week.

Which brings my weekend spending to:

$47.32 on GROCERIES

$3.00 on LAUNDRY



$4.33 on GELATO




Total spending: $107.46

How’d you do?

Photo: Tom Reynolds


Chatting About Crocs, Y’all


Meaghan: HI NICOLE! We had another Mike-free week and covered some fun ground, eh?

Nicole: We certainly did. I was ready to write about shoes and hair all week long.

Meaghan: And wages for housework! Ha. I, for one, was delighted to see you are a Crocs Person. I saw that movie Obvious Child and Jenny Slate has this amazing Crocs scene and really sold me on the whole idea, like a decade late. Have you been in the Crocs biz long?

Nicole: I have worn Crocs since 2009, I think. I needed to buy a really cheap pair of shoes that I wasn’t afraid to ruin. So I went into Macy’s and found the Crocs display and tried some on. I was sold. It’s funny that I can remember I went to Macy’s but can’t remember why I was buying the Crocs.

Meaghan: I have the Crocs that look like ballet shoes, and they are purple. I bought them, I told myself, for pregnancy / labor, but obviously I have worn them every day since I bought them.

Nicole: I love the idea of buying shoes just for labor. And if you mean the Malindis, I totally have those. In multiple colors.

Meaghan: Lol, yes! (Just googled) They are very CUTE! Though they make my feet sweat? Caveat emptor! READ MORE


Our Money Daydreams: Faith and a Truly Unlimited Bus Pass

In my own easy money fantasy, my brass band is out somewhere, playing a cover of George Michael’s “Faith” (this part is actually not a fantasy; I have a brass band, and we do cover that song). Inexplicably, Jack White is in Hartford, hears us playing, and decides he wants to pay us handsomely to make an album of funky brass band covers of George Michael songs. The album does moderately well and we are all able to get time off from our day jobs to go on a lucrative concert tour, which conveniently happens in the summer so I can bring my kids along.




The Best Time I Thought I Was Going To Die In The Italian Woods


“You don’t have to speak Italian, it’s completely fine. Non ti preoccupare.”

The fact that my boss couldn’t get through the entire reassurance in English should have been a tip off. But it wasn’t. I accepted the job, an offer almost too good to be true: myself and my first-ever Serious Boyfriend would be working in Italy for a now-defunct government program that sent Italian government officials’ children away from them for a few weeks every summer.

A regular summer camp in most of its programming, we would teach English for three hours total each day. In return, we would be housed, fed, paid, and free to roam the Italian national park where the camp was located. “If you’re working, try to keep it professional, you know. No more than three glasses of wine with lunch,” my future boss—a British man named Peter who sounded like he was kind and handsome—had said on the phone. It was really and truly too much. READ MORE


Is 75 Enough?

golden girls jailIf you’d like mortality mansplained, this pedantic fellow in the Atlantic does an excellent job. (“Mortality: You’re Doing It Wrong.”) In the process of declaring that 75 is a perfect age to die, the author also declares himself against euthanasia / “death with dignity” movements for some reason and adds that he will have a memorial service before his death because wow is he a control freak. Yet, as the Dude would put it, the author is not wrong — at least not in his main point, that he won’t make any effort to extend his life past 75; he’s just kind of an asshole.

The good news is that we have made major strides in reducing mortality from strokes. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths from stroke declined by more than 20 percent. The bad news is that many of the roughly 6.8 million Americans who have survived a stroke suffer from paralysis or an inability to speak. And many of the estimated 13 million more Americans who have survived a “silent” stroke suffer from more-subtle brain dysfunction such as aberrations in thought processes, mood regulation, and cognitive functioning. Worse, it is projected that over the next 15 years there will be a 50 percent increase in the number of Americans suffering from stroke-induced disabilities. Unfortunately, the same phenomenon is repeated with many other diseases.

So American immortals may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Not to me.

He makes sound arguments for why trying to extend life past a certain point simply for the sake of it is silly and not cost-effective, especially when quality of life deteriorates and all we have to look forward to is that “second childishness, and mere oblivion” stage. (Which can be a serious financial and emotional burden on our children/care-givers.) I’m kind of convinced. But ask me again when I’ve reached his age: if I have also attained his level of success and feeling of supreme self-satisfaction, perhaps I too will be ready to Let It Go.


Remembrance of College Interviews Past


Goucher College recently announced that it will now accept two-minute video applications instead of traditional transcripts, SAT scores and letters of recommendation. Students can describe how their unique qualities will allow them to fit in and thrive at Goucher. Coupled with two sample projects from high school, the videos will be an excellent way for certain students to connect with the admissions committee. However, since I was a teenager who spent more time worrying about grades than learning how to talk to people I’d never met, I am so glad I applied to college before smart phone videos existed.

I can’t imagine what I would have said in a two-minute application video, or even if I could have come up with that much material. I applied to six colleges and had interviews with three different schools’ alumni. At the time, I thought they all went well. Eight years later, it’s hard not to cringe.

Here are two most memorable minutes from each of my college interviews.

Washington University in St. Louis

Interviewer: A recent graduate who was currently in graduate school at Harvard

Location: Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square

My mom and I took the T into Cambridge and got dinner at a small sandwich shop nearby before the evening interview. It was pouring rain over slushy snow residue, a weather phenomenon that consistently makes me question my decision to live in states with winter. My mom waited in the Harvard Bookstore while I met the interviewer.

He was a young, energetic guy who loved his time at Wash U. We talked about campus life, how often he went into downtown St. Louis, and my academic interests. He then asked a question that I recognized because I’d skipped it on the application in favor of the second essay option.

“So, if you had twenty-four hours free and money and travel were not obstacles, what would you do?”

I paused for a minute and then said, “Well, I’d probably be here. My friends and I really like to come into Harvard Square. So we’d take the train in, get lunch, walk around, probably go back to one of my friend’s houses later to hang out.” I realized that my answer seemed incomplete – at least, he was still watching as if I should talk more. “Uh, and also I’d probably try to find a cure for cancer, haha.” I was not nearly as funny at 18 as I thought I was.  READ MORE


Here is Your Open Thread


How were your weeks? Summer is definitely turning into fall. Does it seem like everyone is breaking up? Either breaking up or going on excellent vacations.

Mike will be back on Tuesday. In the meantime, here is an article that has nothing to do with money. It is about donating your dead body to science, but the kind of science where they put your corpse in a cage, expose it to the elements, and document its decay!

Maybe that will help us maintain perspective as we stumble our way into the weekend. I am planning to buy a crib, write some, and go to the Brooklyn Book Festival, which always fills me with an acute feeling of meaninglessness, but I go every year.


Good Enough Homes and Destinations: What You Get For $300,000

everyone loves an old house Tara Gone With the WindIt’s real estate time! This week, the Gray Lady lets us know what we get for $1,100,000 and teaches us some new vocabulary words along the way:

This log cabin is on Homan Lake, a private lake tucked into the Ottawa National Forest, and ringed by about 30 houses on lots ranging in size from 3 to 20 acres. The surrounding woods are popular with snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. … A vaulted ceiling with clerestory windows draws additional light. The entry-level master suite opens to the deck. The second bedroom is on the walkout lower level, which opens to two patios and a path to the lake.

Clerestory! I think I met a girl named that at ballet class. No, just kidding. According to Wikipedia, “in architecture, clerestory are any high windows above eye level. The purpose is to bring outside light, fresh air, or both into the inner space.” Look for it on the SATs.

Let’s see what we ordinary folks could get for $300,000. And just for kicks, let’s make this the Volunteer State Edition.

picture-uh=fc4f7ae8f575eacb27452d79c0a93ec9-ps=4d6beb24ffab68bf8ee4cb8e5fb88b13 READ MORE


Time Banking In Ithaca, New York

Screenshot 2014-09-19 10.07.56

I joined the new time bank in Ithaca, NY after hearing a local high-school sophomore talk about what it’s like to be raised by a struggling single parent.

Sitting shyly in front of the camera for a homemade promotional video about the new time bank, the 15 year-old explains how time banks could help teenagers like her. “There are a lot of teenagers who think that they can’t have things that they want, because they cost too much money,” she says. “Like in my case, I’ve always wanted to do piano lessons and dance lessons…” she breaks off for a moment. “And I’ve never had the chance to do that because my mom’s a single mother, and she has me and my little sister that she has to take care of. So there’s not a lot of money to be throwing into all these extracurriculars.” She breaks into an embarrassed grin, as if feeling bad about revealing her mother’s private story to strangers.

Her embarrassment and hesitancy to admit her hardship touched me. But more importantly, it made a stronger case for time banking’s social utility than any other argument I’d heard before. I’d lived before in other cities with time banks, but I never joined any of them. As I replayed her part two more times, I realized for the first time that maybe time banks were not just the feel-good hobby exchanges I’d assumed they were. Maybe they really did make a bigger difference to the poor in their communities. I decided to join to see if this was true.

In time banks, which are growing in popularity across liberal America and elsewhere, members exchange services with each other using hours as currency. As veteran time bankers will eagerly tell their new recruits, every hour is equal to every other hour. This means that an unemployed high schooler can, in theory, exchange an hour of babysitting for an hour of dental care. READ MORE