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really great money-making ideas

App Attempt

By | being a computer genius, holiday fun, really great money-making ideas, salesforce | One Comment

Today I did a few cool things — slept in, drank coffee outside, talked to my brother on the phone (he’s still deployed), rode bikes to the Shadowlawn Halloween party, ate chili cheese tots for dinner — but the coolest was that I worked on a prototype of an app I’ve had swirling around in my head for ages.

It’s an app that would keep an inventory of the items you own and how frequently you use them — specifically, your clothes, shoes, and accessories. But it could be repurposed for anything. The would help you understand the items you use most frequently and provide the best value based on what you paid for them, how long you’ve had them, and how many times you’ve used them. It should help you make data-driven decisions about what types of items to purchase (or not purchase) in the future, and which items you should probably part with.

I know Salesforce probably is not the best platform for this app, but I’m making a little prototype in there anyway because it’s the platform I can build it in the fastest. My first stab at some objects, fields, and functionality are complete, so now I’m just going to start adding items and uses to collect some data over the next few days.

Hopefully I don’t get distracted. 🙂

Marketing in a Socially Connected World

By | pr/marketing, really great money-making ideas, shopping, social media, you might learn something | No Comments

The other day, Doug McCoy of Nordstrom Bellevue Square tweeted something that piqued my interest.

NordstromBVUE: In a socially connected world is great product the new marketing? Your thoughts…..

I actually did have a bunch of thoughts on this, so I e-mailed this tweet to myself with a note to blog about it over the weekend.

I’d have to say that yes, in a socially connected world a great product is imperative to marketing. It used to be that marketing was one-way communication — you put your product out there, and you hoped that consumers would buy it. Advertisers spent all kinds of time creating messages and strategies to impose on their target markets — most of which those markets were subjected to involuntarily. But now, through the explosion of the Internet and social media, marketing has become very much a two-way street. Customers can review products, share them, promote them and voluntarily reach out for information about them. Sounds like if your product isn’t great to begin with, you’re toast.

But, while a great product is a great start, it’s not the end of the road. You still need a clear map of how to get your product noticed because it may not be solely through traditional means of marketing (magazine advertisements, commercials, reviews by major publications). There are so many options out there these days, and you need a clear idea of who and what is influencing your target audience. How are your competitors marketing their products? Who are the major social media influencers for your product? What are the most creative ways to get your product out there?

Your product must be “share”able — if you want fans to tweet it, share it, blog about it, post it on Facebook, add it to Fancy, etc., you must make it easy for the average user to do that. For example, this could be as simple adding a white-background, magazine-worthy photo of your product to your website that bloggers or designers can use to create collages or feature your product via their own websites and publications. So many times, I’ve had to skip using a product I truly loved in a collage for my blog and use something similar instead. It’s usually because I didn’t want the actual model wearing the product in my collage — does that make sense?

I think that especially in the fashion industry, there’s been a major shift in how consumers view products and marketing. For so long, society has bought into the fallacy that buying the clothing that super-skinny models and extra-beautiful celebrities are wearing will make us look that good, too. That’s a nice fantasy (in theory), but the last few years have been an economic reality check around here. As a result, people have scaled back and are less easily swayed by marketing campaigns. Consumers are looking for real-life evidence to reinforce the fact that they’re spending their dollars on quality products. They’re not going to take your magazine ad’s word for it — they’re going to look for proof through their friends and social connections online.

And that’s where your great product comes in. If it’s great, then people will vouch for it. If it’s awesome, then people will share it willingly and promote it to their connections. So, yes. A great product is the first and most important step in marketing to a socially connected world. Getting that product out to the right influencers seals the deal.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: kind of knowledgeable
And I’m singin’ along to: Hideaway – The Weepies

Six, Seven, Ate

By | facebook, food, movies, new jersey, really great money-making ideas | No Comments

Saw 3D? Is that for real? Seriously? I kind of feel like I’ve been trying to ignore the fact that Saw exists for, like, going on what? Six years now? Maybe I’m totally off-base for saying this because I refuse to watch it, but I don’t really see how you can justify creating seven freaking movies on the same premise in six years. Six years. Seven movies in six years. Do you see the problem here?

Saw is like the only thing I can think of that’s worse than Jersey Shore. I moved to Virginia Beach to get away from idiots like that, and now I can’t go 24 hours without overhearing some mention of fake tans and fist pumping. Where did that even come from? Fist pumping? I don’t think I ever noticed anyone fist pumping while I was living at the Jersey Shore. I do remember the lack of arm hair though. And Snooki Monster? Too bad I already picked out my Halloween costume.

You know what was a great movie? The Facebook movie. Yes, the Facebook movie. I loved it. The acting was pretty awesome, and it kind of made me think that I should have been just a tad more inspired in the early 2000s, so as to make my millions by inventing an Internet sensation (or writing seven of the same movie in six years). Also, LiveJournal made an appearance, so that’s important. (At least LiveJournal helped someone change the world, you know?)

Am I the only one that is insulted that there are going to be more Saw movies than Star Wars movies? Animated films don’t count because I said so, and don’t even get me started on those Clone Wars toys I keep getting in my Happy Meals. Every time I say, “No toy.” And every time, the McDonald’s employee on the other end of the drive-through speaker hears, “Boy,” and I end up with yet another Clone Wars collectible. (Although, they switched to Mr. Potato Head trick-or-treat buckets this week, so things are looking up.)

Happy Meals are proof that you can buy happiness. Seriously. It says it right on the menu. Happy Meal. Personally, I always order the Mighty Kids Meal with a six-piece, fries and a Diet Coke. That’s a total of about 11 Weight Watchers POINTS, and it’s the only way to order a six-piece McNuggets anymore. You can get a four-piece from the Value Menu, or a 10-piece meal, but seriously? Who the f- needs to be eating 10 nuggets? That’s gross.

Anyway, I wanted to get a Happy Meal for lunch today, but I didn’t because I had one yesterday. I went to Wawa and got a sandwich instead. Coincidentally, I was supposed to eat Wawa yesterday on the way to Busch Gardens, but we got lost looking for one in Williamsburg when we exited the Interstate. Williamsburg is really pretty because, you know, their street signs are all extremely aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the landscape (which means they’re practically non-existent). Hence, we got lost following the signs to Wawa, since there weren’t really any eye-catching signs. There’s not much that’s aesthetically pleasing about golden arches, but we saw them, therefore we had McDonald’s for lunch.

And that’s all I’ve got for today.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: full
And I’m singin’ along to: Lisztomania – Phoenix

My Attempt at a Short Refi

By | condo, drama, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, home improvement, life-changing purchases, mortgage, really great money-making ideas, roommates | 13 Comments

It’s nice to have this blog back up and running, especially on days like today when it’s cold, windy, rainy, and I’m in no state to be taking photos of myself twirling around in a pretty skirt. I like the fashion blogging, but some days I don’t have the motivation to dress up and take photos to post online. I had a free day off from work today (in return for working all those ridiculously long hours that last two weeks), and now that I’ve run all my errands, my main goal is to put the final touches on my short refinance package that I’ll be sending to the mortgage company.

I know I’ve written some ranting posts about the mortgage company recently, so I thought I’d share some interesting things I’ve learned over the past few years that I’ve been arguing with those idiots.

You’re probably already aware of the fact that I purchased my condo in 2006 with my friend/roommate at the time, and she’s since moved out, gotten married and started a family. We financed 100 percent of the value of our condo when we bought it, and since we had hardly any credit established between the two of us, we’re paying a ridiculous interest rate on our loan. (Ridiculous.) We’re obviously updside down in the property — just like everyone else on the planet — and we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get her name off the loan for almost two years now. She’s not interested in owning the condo anymore, but I live there, so I’m not really willing to sell it or give it up any time soon.

Of course, the bank won’t assist us in any way because we’re current on our payments, and unfortunately, since we’re upside down, there’s no refinancing unless we want to sink a bunch of money into the black hole we refer to as “negative equity.” The government loan modification programs won’t help us because modifying a loan doesn’t remove a borrower from the note — it only modifies the terms of the loan, like possibly the interest rate and the monthly payments. (And I’ve heard lots of sketchy stories about those modification programs anyway.)

After all my digging for options, I’ve only come up with four ways to get my co-borrower off of our loan:

1. Refinance, which would cost tons of money (see above).

2. Short sale, which would ding both our credit reports and most likely result in me being unable to buy another home in the next few years.

3. Foreclosure or deed in lieu, which, again, would ding our credit reports and definitely result in me being unable to buy another home for a few years.

4. Short payoff refinance, the best option yet. This process is similar to a short sale, but instead of the property being sold, it is simply refinanced with a new lender. Well, 97.5 percent of the current value of the property is refinanced with a new lender, and the remainder of the principal is forgiven by the previous lender.  In our case, it would be refinanced only into my name, removing her obligation from the old mortgage and leaving me as the sole owner of the condo. Doesn’t that sound perfect?

Before I learned about this program, I had been asking for years whether it was possible for me to short sell my condo to myself, and everyone kept telling me no. Why not? I’d wonder because it always seemed like a great idea to me — kind of like a price adjustment for my house.

A few months ago, a short sale officer with my current lender suggested a short payoff refinance to me. He explained how it works, and sent me on my way to find a new loan. It took a few calls to locate a bank familiar with the FHA Short Refinance Loan. Apparently the program is pretty rare — there aren’t really any incentives to encourage banks to let homeowners do this, and it’s a huge pain in the ass to convince them. Besides, you have to be current on your loan and have decent credit to qualify for the program. I’m sure a lot of people are already in too much trouble by the time they reach out for help to take advantage of something like this.

When I say it’s a pain in the ass, I’m not kidding. The program was first brought to my attention in June, and it took me almost three months to get another person on the phone at LBPS (the servicer of my current mortgage) who would even acknowledge that the program existed. “We don’t do those,” they’d say. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “I’ve never heard of that.” Finally, two weeks ago, I demanded that someone list off the names of everyone I had ever spoken to at LBPS and the  dates I spoke with them. I caught a date and a name that sounded familiar and waited on hold to speak with that person for more than two hours. When he finally picked up, he remembered me.

I do remember advising you to try that, Ms. DeNoia,” he said. “We really don’t do those, but you’re right. Your situation is a unique one. If you’ll write a hardship letter and gather the required information, I’ll try to make a case for you.”

Many say the program is doomed, but I’ve got my paperwork done and ready to go. If they’re going to make and exception for someone, why not me? It’s at least worth a shot. There’s a chance this could save me a lot of money in the long run and decrease my mortgage payment by a pretty significant amount. It would be well worth the two years of bullshit I’ve had to deal with with these freaking mortgage companies (companies, plural, because my loan was sold in April).

I’m sending in my package for approval tomorrow, and in the meantime, I’ve been sending my mortgage payments via certified mail to make sure LBPS doesn’t try to screw me out of being eligible for the FHA loan by marking one of my payments late. I’ve got a lawyer, a lender, and a new loan all ready to go, and if LBPS approves it, it’s possible that I could close on the new loan before Christmas. Score!

If it doesn’t work, then maybe I’ll figure something else out. It doesn’t make much financial sense to pay as much as I’m paying to live in my condo right now because I could give it up and rent one for a lot less every month month, you know? I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced that a squeaky clean credit report is worth thousands of dollars. I’d rather take the hit, move out, and save the money if I have to make that choice because I’m not sure my property would regain it’s value in the time it would take me to recover and purchase something new for less money.

Either way, for now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed because this could turn out to be a pretty sweet deal.

I normally wouldn’t share my financial information on the Internet like this, but I’m sure there are others out there struggling with housing issues. If all the time I spent trying to get this loan under control could assist others in some way, maybe I wouldn’t feel like it was wasted — even if my attempt at a short refi falls through. I’d love to hear your real estate stories if you’ve got any good ones. E-mail me if you’re not comfortable leaving a comment. I’d be happy to give you some advice on how to get your mortgage company to respond — for me that’s been the biggest challenge.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: persistant
And I’m singin’ along to: Walk Like A Man – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

A Brief History of How I Developed My Computing Skills

By | being a computer genius, games, gen y, life-changing purchases, lj, memories, myspace, really great money-making ideas, ruling at life, school, skills, technological enigmas | One Comment

It occurred to me this morning that I have been fumbling around with computers for approximately 20 years now. It’s no wonder I’m such a computer genius.

Playing on the computer used to be so much more fun. For example, making banners with the first version of The Print Shop, and printing them out on that primitive, perforated printer paper with the holes on the sides! Yay for the old school Apple II series (which recently celebrated is 30th anniversary).

My first instant messaging experience
I sent a message from the family room computer to the computer in my parents’ bedroom. Then I ran in there and sent a message back to myself in the family room. Then I ran into the family room and sent a message back to the bedroom. (Notice how this used to be less of a social networking experience and more of a physical activity.)

Early gaming
I definitely learned a few things from Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? – mainly the states and capitals, the locations of various foreign countries, and the beginnings of my impeccable detective (aka “Internet stalking”) skills. I liked Carmen San Diego much, much more than The Oregon Trail. The only thing I learned from that game was how to ration money and kill off the rest of the people in my wagon in order to keep more food for myself.

Adopting e-mail
My first e-mail address was Atlantys23@aol.com. (Don’t try to e-mail me there. AOL sucks, and that address doesn’t exist anymore. The AIM name Atlantys23 still belongs to me, however, and you might catch me on there once in a blue moon.) I used AOL to keep in touch with friends from summer camp and hang out in the occasional teen chatroom (13/F/NJ u?). Those chatrooms always turned into an insult-fest. I vaguely remember typing something along the lines of “well, you have the IQ of a tube of toothpaste” to more than one stupid ass in another time zone. By this time, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? was a television show.

Keyboard brilliance
I learned to type in high school, but luckily I still got to take my standardized tests on paper with a No. 2 pencil and an answer sheet. (Do kids still take SATs with pencils anymore?) According to multiple online typing tests, I type approximately 103-108 WPM.

My computers
When I started college in 1999, I had a computer that was solely mine for the first time ever. It was a piece of crap. It would freeze, and the power button wouldn’t turn it off, and I would have to pull the plug and kick it to turn it off and start over. (This probably had something to do with all of the music I was illegally hoarding off Napster and Limewire.) I learned the value of saving my work every five minutes, along with grasping the concept of an ethernet cable, being connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, managing multiple e-mail accounts, and using the computer to communicate with people in the next room.

In 2000, at Virginia Tech, I got my second computer. That one worked a lot better. I learned how to reformat my own hard drive and operate a computer while under the influence of alcohol. I also discovered the usefulness of an FTP site and submitted my homework online, and I was the proud owner of a pirated version of Windows XP by the time I graduated college.

Internet omniscience
If you’re an avid reader of this blog, I’m sure you remember the arrival of my post-graduation laptop. All hell broke loose! I came to terms with wireless Internet, I mastered [the basic concept of] HTML code, I started up the LJ, and I I finally broke down about two years ago and created a MySpace page. I’ve found roommate after roommate on Roommates.com; I pay my bills online; I’ve got more than four functioning e-mail addresses; I’m on my second iPod and my fourth digital camera; I’m making money off of at least four different websites while I sit here at my desk (Associated Content, CafePress, SurveySavvy and eBay); I’m working hard on developing my new Virb profile, and my pride and joy at the moment is my 250GB external hard drive (that my awesome boyfriend gave me for Christmas). You’ll get more results Googling “VTJerseyGirl03” than you will “Lisa DeNoia,” and I even have an abbreviated version of my online alias (VTJG03) on my license plates!

So, there you have it – how to become a computer genius in 20 years.

Anyway, back to work (and Internet browsing, and solitaire, and MySpace, and Facebook, and Virb, and Google, and e-mail, and Vision, and…you get the point).

Oh, and at some point during this 20-year technological revolution, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? became a board game?