Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Smart Wallet HQ updates: July 2015 Edition

So my fellow smart wallet finance savvy blog readers, you may have noticed that the blog has been a little quiet of late. What has been going on at the HQ?

1. We have been running a side business experiment, over the last 6 months.
2. We have been on holiday
3. We have been contemplating about life, the future and existentialism.
4. I have been busy picking up on some old hobbies that I thought I never would again

Having multiple sources of income is great, and I cannot recommend it enough. I have read about a great many ideas, and actually tried a few things. You see these mentioned and hashed and rehashed in so many personal finance blogs, it seems pointless to bring them up again. You know, mow your neighbors lawn or clean windows for a few quid, ebay sales, man with a van - help with house moves, pick up your neighbours kids from school, babysit or tutor for a few hours.

There are some more creative or niche ideas, like cake baking, or car cleaning and detailing, tailoring mens suits, dog walking and grooming, tree/vegetation cutting, or wedding planner etc... I just searched google for "side business ideas" and the top few results are teeming with things that you could try. Nothing to lose really, except time. But hey, we lose time all the time and its better to lose it attempting to improve life than watching Eastenders.

If we look at any one of these ideas, deep down a microscope, the very DNA of making money is simple. You use your resources (such as time/skill/knowledge) to provide value to someone who does not have the same resources as you. Every business on the planet does that. 

Why do people buy a house? It provides value to them (shelter, warmth, privacy, storage etc), and they cannot build one themselves. The same principles apply when people buy a car. Or a washing machine. Or fast food.

I decided to take a subject that I was passionate about and attempt to make money from it. I love fixing things. And I have always had a burning desire to buy a vintage car and do it up. Obviously there are always caveats - and space, time and cost were mine. I have no place to store the thing securely or out of the elements. I cannot leave an exposed engine on my driveway for 5 workdays until I am ready for the next weekend. So that idea would not work. 

I needed something smaller, and then it hit me. Watches. People pay a premium for some watches, some are worth  pocket change and yet others sell for more than cars. I have always held an interest in watches and timekeeping - sure I don't know enough to repair a watch (I can change a battery or a watch strap) - but in this day and age of Youtube and the internet surely there were enough resources for me to attempt it. I had a few expensive watches myself, Seiko, Citizen, Tissot. So I attempted to search for various online resources for people buying and selling watches. I started off cheap - spending about £20 on a watch. When delivered, I took the strap off, the movement out and gave it a clean with warm soapy water and an old toothbrush, then a bit of brasso, a new strap and put everything back together again. I sold it for a few quid profit after postage and listing fees.

I then did this for a few more weeks, changing straps and batteries. I got pretty good and moved onto mechanical watches. I learnt to replace the glass, buckles, crowns and even part of the movements, I learnt to buy broken movements and harvest them for spare parts. I sold 10 watches a week in some cases. I reached out to knowledgable people in the forums, contacted watch makers who could do the difficult parts for me (like service high end mechanical watches). And as time went on, I upped the ante a little. Gone were the days when I was happy with a £5 profit from a single watch. I was making £50~100 profit on some watches. In April, I pondered as my wife showed me £890 profit from selling several vintage Omega and Longines watches.

The truth was, I was burning up. I chased the money really hard. It was no longer about learning about watches, but beating last months profit. I needed to slow down, so as happy as I was at all that I learnt, and all the amazing watches that I had held in my hands (and a few that I kept for myself), I slowed down. I'm no longer chasing profits, if I sell 2 watches a week, I'm happy. I have learnt to appreciate lovely mechanical watches, I learnt how to open them, tune them, fix them and work with them. I learnt what is a good buy and what to avoid. And I made money. Have I wasted my time? I don't think so.

With all the money we made, we went on Holiday in June. A week in sunny Malaga; my favourite part of Spain. There is a lot of history, places to explore and fun things to do here. I do plan to come back a third time.

So, after the holiday, it occurred to me that I had once again touched base with my expensive DSLR camera. Why had I not used it in such a long time? Who knows, lost in fixing and selling watches, I guess I felt too busy to enjoy a spot of photography. I plan to do more of this in the future. Theres a lot to learn, and great moments to capture and the sheer thrill of chasing the perfect shot. I also read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist and Manuscript Found in Accra. The alchemist remains my favourite book and starts in Andalusia, where we were holidaying - so my connection to the mountains and views of the vast expanses of sea from there were not just for there serenity.

I am also trying to learn to play chess again, and ride a bike to work. So we will see how these hobbies pa n out over the next few months.

Finally, we had time to catch up and breath from the hustle of daily life. I spoke to my wife about our plans for the future. Family, finance, job. Who are we and and where do we want to go? What kind of people do we want to become? I think we are still figuring this stuff out, but our common goal is to life a fuller and happier life.

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