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Saturday, September 10, 2011

$1000 Micro Grants, Best PrePaid Cards, Alternatives to PayPal

Bruce’s Poor Man Survival Bulletin

A Digest of Urban Survival Resources

ISSN 2161-5543

In This Issue:

1.       Creative solutions for better living

2.      $1000 micro-grants can change lives

3.      Backyard chickens in urban settings

4.      Alternatives to PayPal, Best Pre-paid debit cards

A politician is a man who will double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.

--Oscar Levant

Finding Creative Solutions to live a better life…

   A number of years I ago I purchased and flipped a couple of homes at a nice profit.  One of my earlier part time jobs had been a construction inspector, working for a county housing rehab authority which made grants to construction firms.  The goal was to restore housing in certain neighborhoods and to move in low-income families with realistic mortgage payments.

I enjoy a doing a certain amount of cosmetic work on properties and of course, the profits were nice.  It was mighty easy for me to obtain a mortgage in those days.  Believe it or not, a drive-by appraisal, a handshake and my signature on the dotted line was all that it required.  No extensive credit checks or other nonsense.

One of the reasons why the real estate market is going nowhere today is because of the stringent mortgage requirements which are a backlash to crazy ’give anyone a mortgage’ days…and fewer people have decent incomes now so qualifying is more difficult.

The area in which I had purchased these homes was considered low income and creative financing was the rule of the day for unloading these properties.  Most often I offered the home on a lease-option whereby 100% of the rent paid would apply to the down payment for my potential buyer.  Within a year these folks could accumulate a reasonable down payment and qualify for a mortgage.

In one case, I bought a very nice home on an acre of land in an upscale area.  Interest rates at the time were sky high.  I wound up substituting my VA Certificate of Eligibility for that of the existing owner and gave him a cash payment on top of that.  The home ultimately sold for more than double what I paid for it.

I share this with you because much of our economy is based on the real estate industry and its related consumption of household items such as carpet, appliances and so on.  Although interest rates and home prices are low right now, too many people do not have an income sufficient to meet loan criteria.

I always had to chuckle at my Dad’s first home buying experience.  He paid $10,000 at less than 2% interest rate with 30 years to pay for it (My Dad was a Korean War vet and used his VA certificate as well). It was the first home that I remember growing up in after being an Army brat, then corporate brat.

Secondly, creative solutions, barter and alternative financing have always been a useful means of keeping the economy going and such tools should be explored.

When splitting wood by hand, use a ratchet strap to save time.  On flat ground, place upright 5 or 6 blocks of wood close together.  Place the strap around the wood about ¾ of the way up and tighten.  Then split the blocks.

PM’s Compendium of Useful Resources

$1,000 grants have proven they can change the lives of low-income individuals of potential.

Giving back to the community is an important part of Live Green, Live Smart. We work with individuals and organizations interested in creating a green community through research, information sharing about sustainable and energy saving ideas or lifestyle changes for eco-friendly citizenship.

One way we foster these goals is through our Micro Grant Program, grant awards of $50 to $500 for individuals and organizations working toward greener practices close to home.

Connecting People
Joe’s mission with the MicroGrants organization is to connect the affluent with the low-income by offering a service to those who want to give and connecting them to a recipient who can utilize a mini-grant efficiently and productively.  Here are links to these resources.

Note:  You’ll find additional grant opportunities plus a mini-how to guide at our site - click on the Free Money tab.

Backyard Chickens

Raising food at home is almost always cheaper than buying it from the supermarket and it’s personally gratifying.  There has been a growth of families raising chickens in urban settings, despite an aversion to this practice by some local officials.

Here are some tips:

>>Get six to eight hens.  At their peak, each chicken will produce an egg a day.  After a few years, production will decrease but those hens are still good for keeping insects such as fleas and ticks at bay.

>>Have a good coop.  Designs vary but a good roof is necessary along with a ’run’ where the birds have space to roam.

>>Get advice from local extension offices or poultry clubs and/or magazines.

>>    Beware the bureaucrats.  In some localities, hens are fine but not roosters.  In some areas, chickens are not allowed so check first.

 Source:  Patricia Foreman, author of City Chicks and host of the Chicken Whisperer talk show on

Alternatives to PayPal, best pre-paid debit cards…

What irritates most Americans is the lack of privacy, lack of say-so, lack of customer support, high fees, etc. when it comes to big corporations nowadays…here are some viable alternatives to explore.

Walmart’s efforts to enter the retail banking market have been met with significant resistance. So Walmart partnered with Green Dot to issue the Walmart MoneyCard Visa® Prepaid Card. While the MoneyCard is not a free prepaid credit card, it does offer very low costs.

But the big feature is that through 12/31/2011, you can earn 1% cash back on all gas purchases nationwide. While you can earn more rewards with a credit card, the WalmartMoneyCard Visa® Prepaid Card is the only prepaid card I’ve found that offers any cash back on gas purchases.  Learn more about the best choices at:

Google Checkout is rapidly becoming the choice of payment programs as an alternative to PayPal…however, it’s not used by eBay and it requires a lengthier signup process but worth investigating.  There is a class-action lawsuit pending against eBay and PayPal to ensure more payment options are available to consumers.  EBay derives roughly 25% of its income from PayPal and since it is not a bank, PayPal isn’t subject to the same set of rules and can screw up your account (freeze) without warning or explanation.  Learn more about Google at:

Additional resources:

Moneybookers is changing to as they were recently acquired  There are some negative comments about them but overall, they seem reliable.

Use an old ice cube tray inside your desk drawer to corral odds and ends such as stamps, paperclips, rubber bands, etc.

ING Direct is well known for providing customers with excellent savings, checking, CD and mortgage accounts. Now ING has opened its doors to teenagers. A new feature called MONEY will be available soon so that teens and parents can begin working together to manage a savings account. This new feature will be in addition to the
Kids Savings Account ING already offers.

Rid your clothes of moths by boiling them for an hour in 118-degree water; freezing them for 12-hours also works.

The Nanny State Updates…

Photography a suspicious activity?

Long Beach, CA police arrested a man or taking photos of “no aesthetic value.”  The man, who takes photos for a local newspaper, was detained after snapping shots of an oil refinery.  Police say photography is considered a ‘suspicious activity if officers deem that it isn’t regular tourist behavior.”

The government now harassing Gibson Guitars. The Department of Justice and agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently raided the Nashville factory of the iconic Gibson Guitar Company. Federal agents stole (or confiscated according to federal euphemism) half a million dollars of supplies. This has essentially stopped operations at the company.  Gibson gets its guitar fingerboards partially finished from a manufacturer in India. The boards are then finished by Gibson's workers in the U.S. They've done it this way practically forever, but apparently some section of Indian law makes this practice possibly slightly illegal.

Apparently some section of Indian law makes this practice possibly slightly illegal. The raid was preemptive punishment for this, even though there have been no complaints from the Indian government and the illegality has yet to be fully determined.

Wired for Overregulation: Washington's latest regulatory power grab
Outside the Washington headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission is a sculpture of a powerfully built, shirtless man forcibly restraining an unruly horse. It's called "Man Controlling Trade," and it captures a common attitude in government: Oftentimes, capitalist firms need to be saddled and broken. As Steve Chapman explains, that assumption underlies an antitrust suit filed Wednesday by the Justice Department to block a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.

To save your back during garden cleanup, rake debris onto an old blanket or tarp.  Then simply gather the corners and drag it away.

How Politicians Are Wrecking the World Economy – the Parting Thought

For the last several years, the big problem has been the economy. Not anymore. Politicians are now the problem.

The headline drama masks the damage that elected officials are doing. The American job market is terrible, with most companies reluctant to hire. After a huge, two year run-up, the stock market, composed of publicly traded companies, is in the midst of a dizzying correction. Weak consumer spending is a big drag on the economy. A persistent housing bust, now in its fifth year, has drained Americans of nearly $7 trillion worth of home equity. Those mostly seem like private-sector problems, not public-sector ones.  More at:

Yours for the good stuff, the Poor Man

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