How to save money when training

When talking about training in our modern times, it usually means going to the gym and lifting weights and/or doing some kind of aerobic activity (running, skiing, aerobics class, dancing). Other types of training are specialized training, such as martial arts (including boxing and yoga), athletism training (performance sports) or team sports (basketball, tennis, football etc).

For a long time I was a member of one of the most expensive chains of gyms in Oslo, and I didn’t get my money’s worth (too lazy to train). So the first step in saving money on training is to cut the gym, or get a cheaper one (hopefully one without lock-in period, but one which you can cancel at any time).

If you cut the gym completely, how are you supposed to get muscles? One answer is in bodyweight training. There are many books about bodyweight training, but I can recommend the ones I found to be working:

The story of the books might be a little far-fetched (many people doubt the fact that the author spent time in prison and think it is just a marketing trick), but I began following the advices in the book and now (8 months later) I feel I got a bit of muscles and I’m in better shape than before. And I have a huge appetite and eat a lot and still lose fat and I can almost show some 6-pack. :)

Why do I like the Convict Conditioning system for training with bodyweight?

  • No need to join gyms – you can train at home. I train at work in the gym they provide for free, for 2 hours/week
  • Lower risk of injuries compared with lifting weights
  • You don’t “bulk-up” muscles, but all the body develops together (tendons, smaller muscles) and range-of-motion for joints is not hindered by big muscles. I need to remain agile for kung fu, and bodyweight training supplements it well (we also do some strength reinforcements in our kung fu training, like squats and planks)
  • It is against the current gym culture of using protein powders, hydrating drinks, pre-workout drinks, steroids or whatever junk people put it in them these days. The author just sticks with 3 meals a day, composed of anything you want to eat

So the second area where you save money when cutting the gym and going against the culture is by not buying protein powders and any other stuff like that.

So here are the top benefits of canceling your gym contract, or getting a cheaper one (I recommend one close to your house or on the way to work), and going against the bodybuilding culture:

  • Cheaper gym or no monthly fee at all – big money saver!
  • No need to drive to gym – another big money saver!
  • No need to buy protein powders – yet another big money saver!
  • No need to buy trendy clothes to fit in – yet another big money saver!

If you are into competitions (running, cycling etc), forget about joining organized competitions like marathons, which are usually expensive – compete with yourself instead.

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How to earn money with Flattr

Flattr.com is a web service which allows people (supporters) to give a little money to content they like on different platforms, for example when liking a photo on Instagram or favoriting a video on YouTube. The supporters setup their monthly budget (minimum €5 EUR monthly), and after one month passes, this budget is evenly distributed to the creators of the content they “Flattr”-ed during that month (one time donation, not recurring). For example, if the supporter with a budget of €5 EUR liked 5 photos on Instagram and favorited 5 photos on Flickr, then each of the content creators will get 50 EUR-cents (€5 EUR/10 content pieces = 50 EUR-cents). It is not much, but if you have many supporters for your content it can add up to a good amount of money.

The content creators need to have their content accounts connected with their Flattr account (even if your accounts are not connected, the supporters can still “Flattr” your content (and the money is kept available), but you will be able to access the money after you connect your accounts to Flattr.

There are many websites which can be connected with Flattr:

  • Instagram – Flattr by “liking” a photo (heart)
  • Flickr – Flattr by “favoriting” a photo (star)
  • 500px – Flattr by “favoriting” a photo
  • YouTube – Flattr by “faving” a video
  • Vimeo – Flattr by “faving” a video
  • SoundCloud – Flattr by “starring” a song
  • GitHub
  • Twitter – Flattr by “favoriting” a tweet (via a third-party service)
  • Your own blog or website – Flattr by “Flattr this” button

To connect an account you have with Flattr, follow these steps:

  1. Create a Flattr.com account if you don’t have one yet
  2. Login to your Flattr account, and go to Settings Connections (click on your user profile photo on the right side of your Flattr website page, then click Settings, then click Connections)
  3. Click on the button corresponding to the service you want to connect with (if your service is missing, click on “Add more connections”). You can connect with several accounts of the same type (for example, 2 Instagram accounts)
  4. You will be asked to login to the service you connect with your Flattr account, and then to allow Flattr to connect to that service
  5. Once your account is connected, you will see it in your Settings Connections page
  6. NOTE: by default, whenever you will “like” something with the account you just connected with Flattr, your monthly Flattr budget will automatically be used for each “like” you give to people (even if they don’t have a Flattr account). In your Settings Connections page you can turn off this behavior (turn off services in the list, such as “on/off automatically flattr photos I like on Instagram”)
  7. If you want to be a supporter in the beginning, you can add some money to your Flattr account (minimum €5 EUR monthly). In your Settings Connections page you can turn on giving micro-donations for each “like” (turn on services in the list, such as “on/off automatically flattr photos I like on Instagram”)

Since I’m not good with making videos or music, I don’t contribute to GitHub and I rarely use Twitter, my Flattr-connected accounts are:

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How to sell your stuff on Amazon.com

I have lots of stuff which I would like to get rid of in exchange for money. The reasons for this are obvious: make more money, and declutter.

While living for one year in a student residence in Oslo between 2010-2011, I happened to “receive” some great video games, left by people next to the door or by the windows as presents. Or at least that’s what I understood. So I just grabbed whatever video games and books I found lying around. Some of them are classics like Dungeon Keeper Gold, which I hope to sell one day for a large amount (hopefully at least $50 USD).

Not actually using these games (read my editorial On Video Games), I decided to sell them on Amazon.com. So I grabbed Black & White 2 from the stack of CDs and opened Amazon.com and went to the Your Seller Account section.

How to post an item

Step-by-step guide to post an item for sale on Amazon.com. In this case I will post my “Black & White 2” CD:

  1. Open Your Seller Account section (also called Amazon Seller Central)
  2. Hover your mouse on INVENTORY on the top, then select “Add a Product”
  3. Enter “Dungeon Keeper” in the text box and then click “Search” – a results page will open, with different products containing the words “Dungeon Keeper”
  4. Click on the most likely match – you will see on the top info such as List Price (like $24.95 USD) and different prices for used and new items from other people (Competing Marketplace Offers)
  5. Fill in all information required for your product to be sold (Condition, Your Price, Quantity, Shipping options). About shipping: Amazon.com will give you a credit for your chosen shipping method when your product will sell, so after your product is sold and shipped you will have in your Amazon.com Seller account [Your Price] + [Shipping Credit]
  6. Click “Save and finish”
  7. Send the product by mail (post) when a buyer buys it

How to get paid

After your product is sold and shipped, you will have the money in your Amazon Seller Central account. After selling my “Black & White 2” CD to US, there are some things I realized (which I didn’t check before selling):

  • My country (Norway) has very expensive shipping costs – I paid almost 100 kr ($16 USD in 2012 exchange rate) to ship the CD. Amazon.com gave me $3.99 USD in credit for shipping, and I priced my CD at $9.49 USD, so the buyer paid $13.48 USD and I received around $9.62 USD in my Amazon Seller Central account (after Amazon selling fees, which are quite hefty) – so I ended up selling the CD with a loss
  • My country (Norway) is not in the countries where Amazon Seller Central can send money earned from selling (USD zone, Euro zone) – so I ended up with not being able to withdraw money
  • Amazon.com sent me a weekly reminder about adding a payment option to my Amazon Seller Central account in order to get paid – for 1 year

After contacting Amazon and researching how to receive the money for almost 2 years, I finally found a way: Payoneer (affiliate link, we both get $25 USD if you sign-up from the link). I got a Payoneer debit card in my post, and I was able to enter the Payoneer bank account details in my Amazon Seller Central account, and now my Payoneer account has $9.62 USD, which can be withdrawn with the debit card, or via a bank transfer to my Norwegian bank account. Bank transfer fees (from Payoneer to your own bank account) are quite high though, at 2.74%, and the minimum sum for bank transfer is $200 USD. So I must needs wait until I receive more money in my account, so that I can withdraw.

Conclusions

I don’t understand how big and respectable companies like Amazon and Payoneer don’t have simple payment solutions such as PayPal. I have seen small companies which pay even small amounts like $2 USD quick and easy through PayPal. Why bother with bank transfers and cheques (Hello? We are in the 21st century!!!) when you have PayPal, and the transfer fees are similar.

After this experience, I’m not sure if I want to sell again heavy things on Amazon.com, because shipping costs from Norway exceed the profits. But I will try to find lighter things to sell. At least now I have a payment solution Payoneer (affiliate link, we both get $25 USD if you sign-up from the link).

What are your experiences selling on Amazon.com? I’m especially interested in selling on Amazon.com from outside US.

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On video games

From the time I got my first home computer (a Sinclair Spectrum clone) circa 1992, I have been fascinated, and some might say even obsessed, about video games (other people might say even “lazy”, including me). Many hours were used daily to get my “fix” of games. Not only home, but also in arcade establishments (where you are supposed to “Insert coin to continue” to try to get to the end of the game).

Looking back now, when I’m finally in my thirties, those were some good times I lived back then. The idea of this editorial article is not to discuss the advantages vs disadvantages of playing video games from the psychological point-of-view. Instead the discussion is from the “saving money/making money” point-of-view.

It’s not only about the game

While playing video games (I’m not doing that so much now as a family man), I realized that at least half my video game time was spent on actually reading about the games. I was interested in tutorials about how to play, the history of the games, how to find secrets, how to enter cheat codes, the endless discussions about which class or character is the best and how to build the perfect character (for role-playing games).

I think I learned English better and had a considerable vocabulary just by reading all the game manuals and articles and tutorials I could get my hands on. And I got better at programming and analytical thinking by hacking games (to get more lives, to add cheat menus, even to move my character out of being stuck in a room by hex-editing the save game file). So I consider my time used AROUND the game the most beneficial to me now.

Game time

Even if I don’t have enough time to play video games now in my adult life, I still read about the games. It must be my fascination about the games I used to play, as I sometimes find myself digging up old game manuals and re-reading the same DOOM and Quake manuals I used to read when I was a teenager. Some of them are funny (check out the One Must Fall 2097 manual). I also read re-game tutorials (even if not actually playing the games; check out this Gothic II tutorial). And not to mention books about history of video games (check out the classic Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture).

So it seems I’m more interested in the time AROUND the game. And one day I found myself watching a YouTube video showing the full solution for a game, and I realized – why play games when you can watch other people play it for you? Talk about being lazy… :)

So in the past 2 years or so I watched many videos showing full playthroughs of video games, instead of playing them. I still play the occasional video game from time to time, but my main method to relax with video games is watching other people play them.

This way I freed up some time to pursue other productive endeavours, such as earning money. Since my laptop is no longer capable of playing newer games (and I don’t want to invest in a new computer in the near future), I also save money. And money is also saved by not actually buying the video games.

Rules of the game

But what about the people playing video games and letting other people watch them? They are MAKING MONEY BY PLAYING GAMES! :) It seems that the rules of the games have changed. Now the nerdy kids obsessed about video games are actually being paid to play the video games.

For example, Lazy Game Reviews is earning a lot of money on YouTube and over $3000 USD/month on Patreon by playing classic video games.

And there is a video games platform called Twitch where players (called streamers) can earn money and donations from people watching them play live. Here is a get started tutorial.

Game on

So if you are a gamer, you might think of youself as being in one of those 3 situations:

  1. Continue playing video games as until now (no saving money and no saving time). You can combine it with selling video games as a side hustle (earning money)
  2. Replace playing video games with watching other people playing video games on YouTube or Twitch (save money and also save time). You can combine it with selling video games as a side hustle (earning money)
  3. Transition into playing video games on YouTube or Twitch as a side hustle (earn money)

What are your thoughts about video games?

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A practical guide to making money on Fiverr

This guide will show you step-by-step how to make your first $4 USD on Fiverr.com.

What is Fiverr

Fiverr.com is an online platform where people post jobs they would do for 5 dollars. These jobs are called “gigs”. For example:

  • “For 5 dollars I will create an icon for you”
  • “For 5 dollars I will record a video of me promoting your product”
  • and so on

The gigs can have extra options for more money, so you can earn more for each completed gig. The Fiverr.com website takes 20% from the earnings for each gig, so if you earn $5 USD for a gig, you would end up with $4 USD (which is not too bad).

What kind of gigs should I post?

“What kind of gigs should I post?” is the right question to ask yourself first, if you want to make some money on Fiverr.com. DO NOT START with “what can I make?”, but rather with “what is popular?”. Posting “weird” gigs such as “I will make a fool of myself on video” is NOT ALWAYS the way to earn money – who cares that you make a fool of yourself, and most importantly who would pay money to see that?

So to start earning money on Fiverr.com, you must first do some analysis about how other people make money.

These seem to be the gigs which are always in high demand:

  • Create logos (for companies, for products)
  • Create icons (for apps, for websites)
  • Create apps (iOS, Android, Windows, OSX)

Some of these are quite time-consuming to make, and you would think that the people completing the gigs get very lousy pay for their efforts. These kind of gigs usually have extra options for more money, such as “for $5 USD extra I will complete the order in 1 day” or “for $10 USD extra I will make the icon with transparent background”, so it is actually possible to get paid enough for one order to earn per hour as much as in a normally paid full-time job. But in order to be able to offer extras to your gigs, you need to attain different levels on Fiverr, which is based on how many gigs you complete (normally you get to the second level after you earn $50 USD).

Of course, not everybody is talented enough to create icons and logos, and some categories are very competitive, and a newcomer might have problems getting orders.

There are some other categories for gigs which are still useful for other people, but not as in demand as the ones above. I will guide you through a gig type which worked for me, as I earned $64 USD from it (a total of 16 orders over the course of 1 year). This was without promoting my gig to any social media website, just by post-gig-and-forget and letting the orders come to me.

How to get paid

This is the second-most important question you can ask, after the “What kind of gigs should I post?”. Many websites you sign-up in order to earn money reveal later that in order to get paid you need to have earned a minimum amount before you get your money. Or they make you go through hoops by providing only cheques or bank account transfers or gift certificates (with extra crazy requirements like providing passport copies and utility bills and whatever).

Fiverr.com is simple in this regard: you can withdraw your money by PayPal, with no minimum required. The withdraw request takes a few weeks to complete, but eventually you will get your money.

Step-by-step gig guide

The gig I found which had some success is about providing names for a company or product. I created the gig as “For $5 USD I will send you 5 creative proposals for a company or product name”.

Why this type of gig has success with almost anybody who creates it:

  • It usually is in demand: every day lots of new start-ups and products are launched. Finding new names is sometimes a difficult task, and to get some fresh ideas for names for a few bucks can be worth it to some people (most requests I received were similar to “Hi, I will launch [new product] and I’m looking for a good name, easy to remember, similar to ‘Flickr’ and the domain name should be available”)
  • It is not an exact science, so “anybody” can post this gig and propose names for people who pay. Sometimes even crazy names which you think might not work can be good input or starting point for the gig buyers

Let’s create this gig together:

  1. First things first: you must have a Fiverr.com account. So if you don’t have one, head over toFiverr.com (affiliate link) and create one. Head over there if you have an account already anyway, and login. Make sure your Fiverr.com account is connected with an email address you can access anytime (so that you get email notifications from clients right away, and you can see those notifications on your smartphone, for example)
  2. The “create gig” button is kind of hidden: once you are logged-in, click on your profile icon in the upper-right corner, then click on My Sales, then click on My Gigs, and then Add a New Gig
  3. The gig title can be “For $5 USD I will send you 5 creative proposals for a company or product name”. You can sell for example 10 names for $5 USD or something similar. To add extra options to earn more money from each gig you must have sold already for $50 USD.
  4. Set the time to complete to 2 days or more (this is so that you don’t miss a gig by not being available due to normal work etc). Don’t set it too high, otherwise the customers’ expectations will be high as well.
  5. Add the relevant categories for the gig (e.g. Business->Market Research)
  6. For gig photo and cover image do what you would like (normally gigs with photos are more successful)
  7. The gig will be active in 1 day or so after approval by Fiverr.com

And now you wait for emails from clients. I don’t promise that requests will come, though.

You can promote your gig (the link to the gig) on your social media networks or blogs or forums, if you want. I didn’t do that, and I still got 16 orders over 1 year (during which I suspended (deactivated) my gig for 5 months). Sometimes I was getting 2-3 orders in one week, and I had to suspend (deactivate) my gig temporarily as I was running out of creative juices (it’s not as easy as it sounds to come up with 5 names for a thing, at least for me). I think I could have gotten at least 20-30 orders if I would have kept my gig active the whole year, and more if I would have promoted it.

But even so, earning $64 USD (16 orders times $4 USD earned per order) without actively promoting my gig and just letting the potential customers contact me is not so bad, in my opinion.

Some tips about building customer relations

During the time my gig was active on Fiverr.com, I wasn’t too interested in building customer relations. I was just hoping to have some kind of one-time use” service, where a customer requests something, I send something and the customer pays.

I was dreading the follow-up questions and comments, such as I could have found these names by myself” or The domain names are not available for your ideas” or Can you send me a few more better names?”. Even so, I still got good reviews from customers, but I wasn’t interested in this particular gig type.

If you are interested in maintaining good customer relationships (for further gigs and further income), here are some tips which have helped me:

  • Don’t just send a list of names – at least you can explain how you come up with each name, or how it relates to the customer’s request
  • If the customer’s request is short or doesn’t have enough information, contact the customer and ask for more information
  • Be aware of the target market of the customer’s product – sometimes they want a name only in a country or a global name, so do some research to check if the names you find are taken already in that market
  • Check if potential domain names are available for purchasing
  • Reply as quickly as possible, so that the customer doesn’t have high expectations (after 2 days you only give me these 5 crappy names?”)
  • Give the customer a rating (number of stars) and a comment right away – these are public on Fiverr. Even short comments are better than none. For example: Good information in the request, good feedback on my delivery, great experience overall”
  • Use this opportunity to promote your other services to the customer, for example ask them if they would like a logo or slogan or blog or whatever else you think they might be interested in

Books about Fiverr

Here are some books about Fiverr. I haven’t read all of them yet, but they contain some good suggestions for other gig types. They are also not expensive.

Conclusions

I believe there is a certain amount of luck required to get clients for this gig, and you can increase your chances by promoting your gig (I didn’t do that) or by standing out (communicate with the client, provide free ideas, give the client some nice feedback about his new product etc). The idea is to get a few good reviews from clients early on, so that new clients can trust you as a person who delivers good stuff.

Let me know in the comments if and how this gig worked for you.

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Bookworm’s Guide site launched

Yes, yet another blog about saving money, earning more money, living a better life, training better, eating healthier etc.

All opinions on any blog are subjective, including on this blog. Like many other blogs, I will analyze existing articles and books and propose the ones “I” feel are the best (based on my experience). So what is so special about the Bookworm’s Guide?

  • All articles are created based on information found in existing books and websites, together with my own experience. Why reinvent the wheel when there are countless books and websites written on any subject? But since there are so many sources in all fields, there must be a filter or a way to choose only the best sources – hence this blog.
  • All information provided is based on these principles:
    • Simplicity: I will always choose the simplest ways to do things (for example, favor simple food recipes over complicated ones, or favor bodyweight exercises done at home over driving to gym)
    • Low-cost: I will try to recommend everything at the lowest possible cost (for example, doing free bodyweight exercises at home instead of paying for gyms)
    • Practicality: Step-by-step instructions where necessary (e.g. a step-by-step guide to making your first $4 on Fiverr)

Who am I?

Me_FragranceI live in Norway and work as a Quality Assurance Engineer (“software tester”). Most of my adult and teenage life I have developed myself as a programmer/nerd/bookworm. I have read LOTS of books about many subjects, and can now summarize the best content that I read into good articles for improving my life and the lives of others. Check out my personal blog.

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