A drop in the home loan ocean – eBay wins

I posted a while back that I had listed a few items on eBay to create more dollars to contribute to my dream of early retirement.

I would be reluctant to call this a ‘side hustle’ as I’m not listing enough volume to make a continual or substantial amount. Regardless, I have had a few successes that have added a few dollars to the coffers.

Trestle Leg desk

I picked this up for free from someone that just had too much stuff. Other than being dusty, it was in good, solid condition. The person lived minutes from my gym, so I wasn’t out of pocket for petrol to pick it up.

I didn’t do a whole lot to the desk. I sanded the legs for no other purpose then making it a bit different (and it was the only surface that was real wood) and cleaned up all the dusty areas.

I ended up selling for $31.51. Not a terrific amount but as it was free and I had put little time into it, I consider it a success.

Dining chairs

The chairs had obviously seen better days. The wood was faded and had some black ‘muck’ on them. However, they were solid and the vinyl was in dusty but good condition. I liked the mid-century style of the chairs, so paid up the huge sum of $6.00 for both of them.

I dismantled the chairs and scrubbed the black substance off. I sanded the lacquer back and found a really lovely grain underneath. After applying some Scandanavian oil to them, they looked great. I was very pleased with the finished product.

Overall, with the purchase of the chairs and products used to clean them up, I wasn’t out considerably financially. I did put in many hours into the restoration though. I decided to list at $20.00 with the hope of making $50 or $60.

Well, I got lucky. Two bidders went crazy against each other and after one day, the amount was over $100.00. At the end of bidding (with a single bid from another person), the chairs went for $162.50! I was actually a bit embarrassed at the winning price but I reminded myself of how much time I had put into the chairs.

A bonus also is that I found two more of the chairs that I am fixing now. The winning bidder has already expressed their interest, so I have a ready sale when I get them completed.

Vintage recliner

I bought two of these chairs for $60.00 a few months back, with the intention of keeping one for myself.

Both chairs were tired and the vinyl seating was weathered and cracked in parts. I managed to salvage enough of the vinyl from both chairs to make one decent chair. I disassembled one of the recliners and sanded back all the old lacquer. There was also some sticky gunk under all the vinyl, which took some elbow grease to get off. After oiling, the chair looked very impressive (in my opinion).

I had spent quite some time restoring the chair but little in the way of actual cost. I listed again at $20.00, with the hope of making around $100.00.

Bidding started off fairly strong and the price was over $60.00 in one day. This impressive start, with the fact that I had a ‘watch list’ of over 50 people after 2 days, made me start to see dollar signs in my eyes. Maybe $200-$300 was possible!

Well, bidding ended with $82.00. Still a win but I still felt somewhat disappointed as I had set myself up for something in the hundreds. Really though, I had only paid $30.00 dollars for the chair, so more than doubling my money was a good outcome. And I still have another chair to keep!

Overall results

  • Desk                     $0.00
  • Chairs                  $6.00
  • Recliner               $30.00
  • Product used       $15.00 (approx)
  • Sold                       $276.01
  • Profit                   $225.01

I’m not including the significant labour costs involved as I really enjoy the process I would be doing it in my spare time anyway. I also haven’t considered the eBay fees either, which will reduce my in-pocket. Still, I have additional money that I can pay off against my home loan that I didn’t have before. Only a drop in the ocean really but every bit counts.


Obstacles to the dream – Options and opportunities

I was called early last week to advise that I have been deployed to a work location for an indefinite period of time. This was not an offer but a statement. This secondment is considered a reward of sorts as it recognises my work ethic by placing me in semi-permanent location for stability.

However, my initial reaction was disappointment. I had worked the particular location for numerous shifts. I found the location did not offer me the opportunity to interact with many customers, provided little to do for a large part of the shift (which may suit some but not me) and possibly worst of all, did not have weekend or morning penalty shifts. There would be a significant financial impact that would compromise my early retirement goal.

Unfortunately, I can’t always think logically immediately after a disappointment, so for a day or two I felt sorry for myself and saw my early retirement goal drift away. I woke up a few days later though to pull my thoughts together to look at what options and opportunities the secondment would offer.

Plan A – My first option is to dispute the secondment. This proposal is proving to be somewhat difficult, as I am obliged to agree within the terms of my employment agreement. Nonetheless, I am pursuing the matter with a reasoned approach. Rather than just approaching this matter by bemoaning my personal concerns, I have primarily focussed on the benefits to the business by redeploying me to a more dynamic location. Of course, the locations I am recommending far better remunerate me but in all honestly, I do believe I am being underutilised in a quiet work location.

Progress – I have secured an appointment with Human Resources to discuss further. I’ll be approaching this meeting carefully as I don’t want to complicate my future in the company but I do want me point of view to be considered favourably.

Plan B – If Plan A fails, I considered how the secondment can benefit me. As the work location is quiet, there is 2-3 hours each shift of downtime that I can utilise to my benefit. This time can be used to learn more about the managers role to obtain an internal qualification. Once I have the obtained the qualification (which, generally takes only a few months), I can be redeployed to temporary manager roles throughout the network. This is not an ideal preference for me as I don’t necessarily want to pursue a manager’s role, however, it would assist in reducing the financial loss.

Progress – I have several rotating managers. I have approached them to ask for training, which has been welcomed.

Plan C – Start applying for higher level jobs. Strange as it seems, I can make considerably more money by continuing to work night and weekend shifts at a base level role than I can for a lot of higher-level jobs that are in Monday to Friday work locations. Again though, the purpose is to reduce my financial loss and keep my goal on track.

Progress – I have applied for a higher level role. Realistically, my chances are poor but by expressing my interest I am making myself noticed. I will consider an interview as a success in this instance and take any feedback as a learning opportunity.

Plan A is the ideal. I continue to work hard and make good money in the job that I enjoy in locations that are busy. While I do like the ‘all the eggs in one basket’ type of thinking as it promotes the desperation to succeed, Plan A may be restricted by formal legislation. Therefore, to ensure that I do not become desponded should Plan A fail, I have other Plans to pursue to maintain my motivation.

Every problem has a solution. Not every solution may be perfect but as long as I’m moving forward I’m not going backwards.




Vintage Recliner Restoration

A few weeks ago I came across an ad on Gumtree advertising two vintage recliners. They were advertised at $60.00 each. The photos were dark and unclear but there was just enough there to make me think that the chairs were something different.

I contacted the seller to ask if I could buy one of the chairs. She informed me that the chairs were already taken. That’s life, so didn’t think much more of it. The next day, however, I received a message that the buyer had pulled the pin and the chairs were available again if I wanted them. What’s more, the seller had identified some issues with the second chair and I could have both for $60.00. Good deal I thought and went to collect.

The chairs were in a bit of a sad state. They had been used as outdoor chairs. Thankfully, they were under some cover, so the damage was only skin deep. One chair was structurally sound but the other chair had a broken leg.

I got the chairs home and made a decision to fix the good one up first. I found a makers mark, indicating that the chairs had been constructed in 1977. The vinyl on the chairs was in relatively good condition given the age and that they had been outside but some splits were visible. I picked the best pieces from both chairs and ended up with good vinyl for one chair that had the look of aged leather.


I pulled apart the good chair as much as possible without interfering with the joints. The vinyl had left a nasty black funk on some of the wood, which took elbow grease with soap and water to remove. There was inconsistent fading on the armrests where the vinyl had been. Overall though, the chair was solid with only minor bumps and scratches.

I proceeded with removing the lacquer. Firstly with paint remover and then with fine grade sandpaper. I was very pleased to find a lovely grain underneath that just needed some love. I willnote that, by definition, what I am doing is refinishing and not restoration but I consider the term is used for both these days.

After completing the sanding, I ran over the wood with fine steel wool. Even at this stage, the beauty of the chair was starting to become clear. I then coated the chair with two coats of Danish oil. I prefer to put the oil on before I reassemble to make sure all surfaces are coated equally.

I started to put the chair back together to find that the vinyl armrests were a little too retro. The look without the armrests was far more vintage/mid-century and far more attractive.

I have decided to list the completed chair for sale. I have full confidence I will get my money back and more as it has come up so nicely. A bit more money to contribute to my retirement fund I hope.

I have kept the damaged chair to repair and restore. As it has the worst of the vinyl, I intend to recover in fabric for a mid-century aesthetic. Upholstery is not currently amongst my skill sets as yet, so we will have to wait and see on that one. Once complete, I will post for critique.

Tips for buying second-hand furniture online

Over the years, I have purchased a large amount of furniture online. Some have been wins, while others have ended up on the curbside.

Through hit and miss, I have found some tips for being more consistently successful with my online furniture purchases.

  • Read description thoroughly

I look for comments that may indicate issues with condition that aren’t apparent in the photos. Additionally, I look for information that I consider should be included in the description. I don’t assume that what I think it means is what it means.

Example 1

2 chairs in all photos. Description used the plural chairs. I assumed I was bidding for both chairs. I won the auction and was pleased with the price. On arranging collection, I was advised the auction was for each chair. In this instance, I advised I would not proceed with the sale as the advertisement was unclear and ambiguous. I always confirm now what it is for sale if any doubt before committing to buy.

Example 2

The description stated that the item was a mahogany cabinet. The photos were not perfect but they did seem to support the description of mahogany. On collection, found the item was mahogany wood veneer that needed repair. As I buy now to restore and sell, the restoration cost outweighed the possible sale so it ended up a failure.

  • Don’t use your iPhone to check photos

The quality of photos on mobile phones is very clear but the size is far too small to see detail. Use your laptop or tablet. Open the photo to full screen and enlarge areas for detail.


Purchased a chair for restoration. Looked at photos on my iPhone and while the chair looked shabby, it was sure it could be restored. On arriving for pick up, it was apparent that there were several irreparable (at my skill level anyway) splits in the wood. I reviewed photos on my iPad when I arrived home and, on closer examination, the splits were apparent. There was little to reclaim from the chair, so it ended up on the curbside. My mistake and lesson learnt.

  • Be aware of poor quality photos or very few photos

Many times, I see very poor quality photos accompanying online listings. With the quality of photos capable even with a mobile phone now days, this is almost inexcusable. The same is the case with taking one photo only. It takes seconds to take and upload the photo. I am cautious of buying anything with poor quality or minimal photos. It may simply mean the person is incompetent with cameras or they might be hiding something.

Example 1

The bad. One photo with listing. Fixed price and price seemed fair. Didn’t negotiate price and arranged collection. Found that the rear legs on the item had considerable dry rot. The legs were beyond recovery and required replacement. The value wasn’t there to restore, so lost money with that buy.

Example 2

The good. Two photos of a dresser. Looked like the photo had been taken with a potato while jumping on a trampoline. I could still make out the overall shape of the dresser and took a punt. The dresser was fantastic. In perfect shape and only needed a dust. I could have flipped for quadruple the price but ended up keeping that one for myself.

  • Have a tape measure handy

For some items, it is necessary to check the measurements. This applies to items such as cabinets, side tables, coffee tables and dressers. This is of particular importance to items you to intend to keep. Check the measurements and then use tape measure to ensure that the size of the item suits your needs. Measurements are important also when considering what you can fit in the back of your SUV or hatchback. Hiring a trailer or van really starts to add up.

If there are no measurements in the description, send a message to ask for them. If they don’t respond, it is probably in your best interests that you do not commit to buy.


Found a very nice mid century sideboard for auction. Lots of clear photos and it was in great condition. Ended up winning for a reasonable price. On collection, realised that photos had been taken at a distance and sideboard was huge and weighed a ton. Somehow managed to get home but it totally overpowered the room. The dimensions were listed in the description, however, I bought purely on appearance in photos.

Point 2. The item turned out to be veneer covered MDF. I ‘assumed’ it was wood but turned out to be an average quality piece.

I subsequently dropped the sideboard when moving it down some stairs and the MDF crushed. Ruined piece and not something that could be salvaged for resale.

  • Set your limit with auctions

It’s so easy to get caught up in an auction of any type when you really want something. An extra dollar ends up being an extra $10-$20 and you have gone outside your limit. Some items are ‘must haves’ and you pay what you have to but you end up chasing your tail.

I won’t include examples on this as I have done it too many times to mention. Just set a limit and are comfortable and stick to it. If it sells for more, than obviously it wasn’t meant to be yours.

Well, that’s some of my tips and examples of some of my mistakes. I am comfortable in saying that the failures outweigh the wins but less so now with experience.

Use your mistakes as opportunities to learn.






The frugal benefit of balding – The $0.06 haircut

Oh, how I used to love my monthly $50.00 haircut.

It wasn’t cut at a barber’s but at a salon. Everyone that worked there seemed to be slim, flirty and quirky beautiful. Electronic dance played but at a soothing background volume. I was offered a coffee or champagne while I waited in the comfy lounge chairs, while I flipped through the latest magazines that covered numerous topics and interests. When I was fortunate enough for my time to come, I was escorted by the beautiful receptionist to the equally gorgeous hair stylist, who was introduced by name. This person would become ‘my’ hair stylist and would always remember my name and everything about me the next time I turned up.

The hair stylist would proceed to faff around with my hair for the next 20 minutes before passing me off to get my hair washed. Again, I was escorted to yet another beautiful person, who lovingly massaged my hair with just the right temperature water for the next 10 minutes. Just before drifting off to sleep I was returned to my hair stylist to make minor adjustments to my hair cut, trim any rogue hairs from my ears. etc etc. My haircut was complete and it looked wonderful. I considered the $50.00 investment a bargain for such excellent service, the exceptional experience and perfect haircut.

For the next few days I felt like a superstar. My hair was perfect and I was certain that I was attracting glances and double-takes by random admirers as I walked past. As the week passed, however, I found it more difficult to shape my hair into the desired style and more and more product was required to maintain the required coiffe. A half inch growth on long hair may not make much difference but with my relatively shortish hair, it was scruffy and needed a trim by the end of the second week.

I couldn’t afford a $50.00 haircut every fortnight at the time, so I battled through for the next two weeks until I could go through the whole salon experience again.


I was always quite proud of my hair. It was thick, wavy and someone even remarked that it resembled Patrick ‘McDreamy’ Dempsey’s hair on Grey’s Anatomy. My reality was shaken though when a hair stylist remarked that my hair was thinning on top but I still ‘had a couple of years left’. What?!! I went home and found a hand-held mirror to get a good angle to see the top of my head. It looked fine to me. Almost daily, I would come home to make the same investigations to ensure there were no signs of thinning and I hadn’t lost a few follicles.

This process of examination went on for almost 6 months. I even lost sleep as I dreaded the day when someone would notice my hair loss….that I had yet to notice myself.

Just as you see the same car as yours on the road once you buy a new car, I started to see follicly-challenged men everywhere. I noticed how they styled their hair. Some were subtle with the styling, while others went all out with the always admired and attractive, comb-over. Whatever these guys did though, the balding was obvious.

I decided then that rather than continue to stress about my hair loss and go the path of trying to hide my hair loss disgracefully, I would embrace it. I went to a pharmacy and bought a pair of cheap hair clippers for $22.00. I initially used a #2 blade and trimmed my whole head at the same length. This gave me about a half-inch stubble on my head. It was neat, tidy and after a few days I got used to the very short hair. Again, as my hair was short it started to look scrappy after a week. I didn’t have to wait a month for my $50.00 haircut though, I just got the clippers out and went over it in 5 minutes.


I was liberated. I no longer stressed about my thinning hair that still, incidentally, looked solid in growth to me. My hair styling regime in the morning consisted of running water on my head in the shower. I would indulge myself every few days with shampoo just to make sure my stubble was free of sweat residue. I often rode my motorcycle but no ‘helmet hair’ for me. It looked the same before and after the helmet went on and off.

The hair stylist was right though. A few years later my hair did start to thin on top. By this time though, I was so used to my short growth, I was not concerned. I just threw away and the hair length guides and started to use the minimum clipper length, which is little longer than a spiky stubble.

Every week, I clipper my hair. I spend nothing on product and manage to cut my hair by myself. With the exception of that one time when I left a landing strip on the back of my head, it has always looked perfect. I am grateful also that stubbled heads are no longer associated with neo-Nazi’s and it is quite a common and accepted way to maintain one’s hair very short or even shaved.

My $22.00 clipper lasted me 7 years. 7 years of haircuts at one cut a week. That’s 364 hair cuts for $22.00. If my poor math skills serve me right, that works out to $0.06 a hair cut. If I had continued with my monthly $50.00 haircut for the same period, I would have spent $4200. I do miss the theatre of the hair salon but I don’t miss it as much as I would miss the $4178 in my pocket. That hair stylists one comment ended up saving me a great deal of money.

It seems that my frugality started before I even knew I was doing it.


Better a pipe dream than no dream at all

pipe dream


definition – an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme

I recently commenced my pursuit of retiring to Thailand in 5 years. Based on my current financial situation and incoming salary, this is not a practical goal. A more realistic goal would be 10 years and even that is a bit of a stretch.

10 years, however, will not work for me. I am mentally committed to retire in 5 years and will find a way to make it happen. Even in the early days of my mission, I am amazed at the increased focus I have on finding small ways to save and create money.

An unfortunate aspect of my current job is cleaning. Often times, I am scheduled for public toilet cleaning. This can be a fairly unpleasant activity due to the smell and the interesting ability that some people have to miss the bowl with their movements. Without going into more graphic detail, it hasn’t been my favourite job. With my new focus though, I attack the job with gusto, attempting to make the best of it, with the mindset that every task I do is making me more money towards my early retirement. Realistically, I would make the same amount of money doing an average job or even hiding in the storeroom. My passion for my retirement though has instilled in me a purpose to succeed in whatever I’m doing, even if menial and unpleasant.

I have lived a lot of my life without direction. I was basically living day to day. I lot of the time I was doing the minimum I could so I would continue to get paid and not make it obvious I was barely making an effort. By good fortune, I obtained a job coordinating services to terminally ill clients. Many of my colleagues struggled with the role and it was not uncommon that there were tears in the office when a client passed away. I was the opposite. I found the job invigorating and thrived on providing some quality of life to my clients up until their death. I recall one conversation with a client, at a time at which he started to enter the end-stage of his condition. Paraphrasing, he said ‘Scott, if you want to do something, do it now. You don’t know when your time will come’. He ended up passing some weeks later but his words (albeit not verbatim) have stuck with me. I don’t know when my time will come and my health scare 18 months back reinforced it.

I’m not one of these ‘live every moment’ people. I find that tiring and try hard. I have no compulsion to bungy jump or socialise every day. I do believe though, that life should have a purpose and a destination.

I have gone off on a bit of a tangent from the title of pursuing a pipedream but hopefully not far that I have lost the point completely. I know many people, including family, that don’t have a dream. They seem content to just continue on with life but with no clear destination. I don’t judge them and they are welcome to live their life however they wish but I struggle to stay motivated without a goal.

I believe that your goal should be big. Bigger than you really can achieve without being so unrealistic that it can never be reached. I like the idea of the carrot that is slightly beyond my reach to keep me constantly trying and working hard. An easy goal doesn’t breed effort and provides little satisfaction if achieved.

A friend of mine once said to me ‘Reach for the stars and you may reach the sky’. It has taken me some time to actually follow his advice but now it is happening. I’m reaching for the stars. But what if I fail? At worst, I will be much further ahead then setting no goal at all. At best, I might just make it! Only time will tell.











Mid-Century Dining Chairs Restoration

I woke early Saturday to drive out to the ‘Tip Shop’. The Tip Shop only opens on Saturdays and sells items that have been discarded at the dump. Money from sales goes to charity.

I had never been to the Tip Shop, even though it is only a 10 minute drive from my home. In my mind, I expected that items would be broken and beyond repair. However, as I keen to pursue my interest in recycling/upcycling furniture for sale, I drove out for a look. I had heard that the best items were picked up early in the morning, so I arrived shortly after open time.

What I found was a warehouse crammed with everything conceivable and streets full of cars. People were milling around everywhere to find a treasure. The items inside (and spilling outside) were in remarkable serviceable condition. A lot only needing a bit of spit and polish to be used.

As I’m only new to the game, I decided on investing initially in a couple of chairs only. The chairs were a bit tired in appearance with faded lacquer on the wooden frame. What attracted me to them was that the vinyl seat and backrest were in good condition and that the chairs had a mid-century style. Also attractive was the $6.00 purchase price for both. You can’t buy $5.00 with 6 bucks, so I was happy with the buy.


I have decided that my goal is to find items within 10kms of my home. I don’t want to lose potential profit in petrol costs and time. I also have a low budget of $20 or under, so any loses are minimised. If I start making money, I may review the price limit if I deem the item is good value for money.

On arrival home with my new chairs, I had a quick look on Gumtree and located a desk for sale that was free. Free is my favourite price, so I called only to find that someone else had already expressed interest and would be around to collect. No big deal I thought, I will work on the chairs.

The remainder of the day I spent dismantling the chairs and sanding them. Under the faded and chipped lacquer I found wood with a pleasing grain. I oiled the chairs and ran some soap and water over the vinyl and they came up a treat. I listed them on eBay starting at $20.00. With sandpaper and oil, I probably have $10.00 invested in total, so doubling my money should be the worst result in my opinion. I will disregard labour costs as I would definitely run a deficit, even a base labour rates. That said, I enjoyed the restoration process, so it wasn’t a wasted day for me.

While watching TV that night, I received a text from the person giving away the desk that the interested ‘buyer’ had disappeared. I arranged to pick up early on Sunday morning.

The desk was a minor disappointment in that it was mostly MDF with a wood like coating. Other than being dusty though, it was solid and had almost no damage. I drove away with it in my ute trying to think how I could make the desk a bit more desirable.

For some reason, I don’t like to buy and sell straight away to make a profit. Somehow, I consider it unethical and that I should input time and effort into making the item better than when I purchased it. As the legs on the desk were wood, I sanded them back and covered them with a coat of poly.

In hindsight, taking the flat-pack legs apart without taking detailed photos first wasn’t the best idea, as reassembling the trestle leg setup took almost as long as the sanding did. In the end though, I was pleased with the outcome. I posted the desk on eBay with a starting price at $20.00 also. All up I probably have no more into the desk than $5.00.


Anyway, the chairs and the desk have been listed and I await the outcome in 5 days. Here’s hoping for a profitable financial outcome. Ideally, I would like to generate enough money with my furniture sales to cover my weekly grocery bill. I eat a lot, so this is no small order, so we will see how we go.