Ok, first off, I have tried Movable Type and the like, but don't like the idea of maintaining a server. I ran mrbrown.com on MT for a while (on the sly in a beta site) and it ate up my time. I found that I spent more time doing maintenance than writing.
Typepad frees me from the technical support role, and also they have some nice features like integrated Photo Albums and Moblogging. I am a founder member, so I get a discount. But yes, it is somewhat expensive compared to S$60 per year for simple hosting.
As for ads. No. I made a conscious decision to not take ads in my site because 1) they look ugly, and 2) most of the time, you don't really make much cash for your trouble.
For now, I don't need donations (but I won't say "never will", heheh). I might do something like Daring Fireball's membership drive (I have a t-shirt for my donation). I like his idea of making a living from "personal journalism", so I supported him with my US$35.
And I have been toying with the idea of merchandise but I want to decide what it should be before I commit the mrbrown brand to it. I'd hate to be selling cheap trinklets with my name on it. There is also the problem of getting the right supplier (no, Cafepress costs way too much, and the shipping will kill most Singaporeans). I also need to find a means of fulfillment (by that I mean getting the merchandise to you, not the warm and fuzzy feeling I get doing this site).
We'll see. It is heartening to know there are supporters out there who are willing to part with their hard-earned cash to support my little corner of the web.
I may not get rich from blogging but I know I will be poorer without your readership.