mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

the pursuit of crappyness...

So about two months ago, I found myself hurtling downhill on a curvy mountain road in the middle of rural Pennsylvania at about 1 am. I realized I was going way too fast, and slammed on the brakes as I steered. This caused an avalanche of toner cartridges - which were previously stacked on the passenger seat of my 6 year old Ford Ranger pickup - to fall over on me. As I struggled to remain in control of the "Danger Ranger" while holding a stack of HP 4500 color cartridges, I found myself wondering "why the hell am I doing this?"

What "this" was was driving home from a semi-annual auction that I go to 3 hours from my house. The auction consists entirely of tech stuff, starts at 5pm, and typically runs past midnight. I go primarily looking for eBay-able items, like the aforementioned toner, as well as the occasional item I can sell at hamfest (a swap meet for ham radio and computer types, typically held at various area fairgrounds).

In the last couple years, I've been ramping up my resale hobby, to the point where it consumes a sizable amount of my free time, and much of the living area of my house. It makes me a modest profit, but I suspect if I really took the time to figure out my expenses, and account for my time, I'd be surprised just how modest it is. The biggest challenge - besides the time and effort it takes to describe, list, pack, and ship stuff, or to drag a truckload of stuff to a hamfest in west nowhere in time for a 6am setup - is finding stuff to sell. That has meant driving further, as well as going to more auctions and the like. Most of them are a bust, or net me a few things, but every now and then I hit one that turns out amazing - and the only way for that to happen is to hit a lot of turds, where I scratch my head wondering why someone just paid $150 for an item that goes for $20 on eBay.

Why do I do it? I suspect there are a few reasons - I feel like I should take advantage of any opportunity to make a few bucks - make hay while the sun shines so you have some for a rainy day, to torture a series of metaphors. To me, passing up a chance to make money is a character flaw. It gives me an awesome feeling when I buy something that turns out to be very profitable - especially if I know that there were 10 or 100 other people who looked at the same item and passed on it. It gives me something to do - as a single guy I have lots of free time on my hands, and I might as well do something with it, something that makes money.

But it does lead to some other questions, like if I could be doing something better with that time - working out more, reading more, developing friendships, not being single. I suspect that my hobby doesn't make for the best first-date conversation, and having a house that looks more like a storage locker than a townhouse is probably not great for entertaining. And there's also the question of why do I need more money - I'm no longer saving for a specific, definite goal - at this point it's more just a way of keeping score.

On the other hand, there are some indefinite goals to save for - I'll eventually want or need to replace the Danger Ranger, even if I don't drive it off a cliff in a puff of toner. I do hope, at some point, to meet someone and have a family, and that takes money - but it also takes doing things other than going to auctions or writing eBay descriptions. And I've been thinking of going back to grad school - to a program that I'd have to pay for, and that costs more than I have in the bank right now. So in the short term, it may be desirable to keep banking bank, because if I do decide to do the program it will both cost money and eat up the free time I currently spend making money.

So right now, I'll probably keep pursing crap I can resell. But I'll try to take the downhills a little slower.


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