Sunday, September 23, 2012

Online Marketing - I Hate You!

Starting a new online store is really, really hard.  There is just so much to think about and check out.  PCI compliance and SEO marketing are my two chores this week. It would not be such a chore if the store was actually making money.  We are making sales but not making a profit yet.   My research tells me that to change that I need to do two things.

One, throw a lot of money into advertising.  Admittedly, we have been stingy with the advertising mostly relying on free and I did a few campaigns on Google and Facebook. It helped, but only with CD sales, in which we have very little profit margin. Everything I've been reading indicates that I need to throw about $1000 toward the campaigns.  Wow, it would take a lot of CD sales to recoup that cost.

Research also tells me that I need to link a video to my website.  I'm willing to do this but a video about what?  We have a small, home based store.  We are in the process of opening up a storefront here in Alaska, but at the moment, nothing video worthy.  

When we started AK Music Storm, we committed ourselves for a year.  That year will be up in February. I'm hoping that the holidays will give it a boost but with the bulk of our sales still with eBay and Amazon, the future is depressingly uncertain.

If there are any ideas out there, I'd sure like to hear them! Right now I'm going to comfort myself with a game of Castleville.  They promise a happy ending.

PS- Next week I am looking forward to continuing my post about our 5 year plan!  

Sunday, September 16, 2012 or eBay?

I just celebrated my 3 year anniversary  to the mechanic.  Four years ago I was content and single and one son shy of an empty nest. I never considered getting remarried. And wham, life hits me with Nick.  

Nick likes to say that I am his best eBay score ever.  We met when he bought a dvd from my eBay store.   I included a little note thanking him and letting him know he was my first Alaskan customer.  He thought the note was adorable and emailed me.  I thought he was adorable and emailed him back.  Nine months later we were married. 

Life has been on overflow ever since.  So many events in such a short period.  We had a beautiful baby girl and lost another baby to a miscarriage.  My mom, two uncles and my dog passed away.  My oldest son graduated from college and my youngest son chased a pretty girl to Salt Lake City.  A grand-baby has been born to my middle son.  Through it all, the mechanic has held my hand and held me up.  As well as, kept my car running in tip top condition. 

Lovin' life (and the mechanic) in Alaska! 

PS - Music wise, here are some of the mechanic's favorite CDs, available for sale in our store!

The Corrs

Head East

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The 5 Year Plan - Frugal Food

My family teases me that I am the only female they know that hates to shop.  To me, it means sacrificing a day off, driving 20 miles to the nearest store of any size, pushing a squeaky cart around the store, swiping my debit card (sigh), loading and unloading the booty, usually in the rain.  Where is the joy in any of that?

Considering my poor attitude toward the whole ordeal, our five year plan includes as little shopping as possible.  Right now, we shop for groceries once a month.  Shopping twice a year is music to my ears, and once a year is downright dreamy.  Some around me are skeptical but here's the plan.

The new shop area we are building will have a generous storage area to keep our can and dry goods.  Most items are shelf stable for a year or more.  We have a large chest freezer that, with some creative stuffing, should be sufficient for our yearly needs.  We will have chickens for eggs and a goat for fresh milk.  Veggies from the garden will be canned, frozen or dehydrated.  This is the easy part of the plan.  The big question is how we can get it to fit into our very frugal budget.

Current pantry.  Our new space will have a lot more room.

The last time I went shopping, I purposely turned my brain off and just bought what was on my list and what I wanted. I even brought my hungry husband along.  Hungry husbands are great.  Not only did he do the driving, he pushed the squeaky cart, did the loading and unloading, and only disappeared when it was time to swipe the card.  We spent $418.13 on that trip. With the frugal budget for entire living expenses at only $500 month, what can we do? 

Taking a look at the receipt and the bigger picture, there is a lot that can be done.  Here's what I see:

1.  Leave the hungry husband at home.  Instead of two containers of Greek yogurt we  bought five.  We bought two cases of San Pellegrino water instead of one.  Some vitamins caught his fancy and he contributed a carton of ice cream to the cart as well.  By leaving the hungry husband home I could of saved $61.

2.  The kids will grow up.  Stormy needed a box of diapers.  We treated the teenager to his favorite juice.  Just for those two items - $54

3.  Raise chickens and goats.   We consume a gallon of milk every 2-3 days and a dozen eggs a week.  The hungry husband is the biggest consumer of milk but the teenager is the egg fan.  In five years this won't change much.  I'm not sure what the cost of raising chickens and goats will be but I'm confident it will be less than the $75 we are spending monthly on just those two items now.

4.  Stop the Full Circle deliveries.  Right now our fresh fruit and veggies are delivered to us by Full Circle Farms.  A nice box every 2 weeks or organic produce is $75.  By gardening, picking wild berries and sprouting we will save this expense.

5. Shop once or twice a year in Anchorage.  Anchorage is Alaska's largest city and has the best stores and prices.  It's about 200 miles away but if we drive our veggie powered van, the cost of driving there will be minimal. Anchorage also has no sales tax whereas we do pay 7.5% here. 

We have a lot of planning and learning to do in the next few years.  The payoff will be huge and healthier with less shopping.  Win, win, win! 


Saturday, September 1, 2012

5 Year Plan - Frugal Connections

I love everything about Saturdays.  Sleep-ins, extra cups of coffee, hot breakfast, snuggling with Stormy while she watches Strawberry Shortcake are just a few of the things that I love.  Saturdays are also the day that I work with our  on-line stores.  I leave feedback on eBay, post more music, shop for more inventory, and suffer through more SEO learning and marketing.  None of that will be happening today because my internet is acting very badly.  

Internet is a sore subject with me today and I think it is time to research some other options.  Right now we pay around $70/month for a sluggish connection and sporadic service like today.  In  5 years we are hoping to have our living expenses under $500.  It's not hard to see that something needs to change.  

Cell phones we have more of a handle on.  Currently we have 2 phones and pay $200 a year for them.   The phone I use is prepaid from one of our local providers.  I pay $100 each year for my plan.  It gets me 750 minutes and unlimited texting.  I text more than talk so I usually make it last a year.  The teenager has a Trac Phone.  We buy him a $100 card each year that gives him 1000 minutes of talk but charges for texting.  He has to pay for anything over that.  

The mechanic doesn't want a cell phone.  But  he does have a mobile phone.  For a couple of years now we have been using Skype for our long distance.  A great service but the mechanic always hated being tethered to the computer. His solution was to use his iPod Touch.  He downloaded Skype to it and now is free to wander about the property or find a wi-fi hotspot if he's not at home.  

Of course, neither of our phones are smart phones and I'm holding out because I don't want the monthly plan.  We are not lacking though.  We own a Xoom tablet with all the cool apps but more than anything else we have a Kindle.  A pretty old Kindle that I will hold on to for as long as I can.  It's not a tablet or even in color.  The reason I love it so much is because it came with 3G access all included with the purchase price.  It's what we travel with to look up maps, phone numbers, movie times, ferry schedules, etc.  When internet service is down in the house we use the Kindle to keep in touch with the eBay and AK Music Storm  stores.  It's slow and black and white but it gets the job done with no extra charges or minutes used on our cells.

Our connections: Xoom, Kindle, LG phone and iPod

 Here's hoping that I can publish this with the next internet burst.  I'll be calling Tuesday to put in yet another work order.  No doubt they will make me reset my router before they'll come reset the line.  Thanks to the Kindle I'll be in touch but I don't know how I'm going to take care my castle in Castleville.  Hopefully a neighbor will go feed my unicorns before they run away.  This weekend I'll be puddle splashing with Stormy instead.

Lovin' the connected life in Alaska, at least most of the time.