What I plan to do once I stop working (full time)


This is a comment I posted on this post at Get Rich Slowly. I thought you may be interested in what my "light at the end of the tunnel" is for me. This is what keeps my going!

My retirement plans are already set. I absolutely LOVE travel and plan to travel the world–and see every country at least once. I would live only on what I carry with me. I would shed most of my possessions and hit the open road. I would arrive in a country and make it a point to stay the length of my visa. I want to see, smell, taste, and enjoy all the cultures I can. Some would say I am obsessed with travel. They are probably right!

I also think I would need some extended time of rest so I am considering the idea of eventually buying a place in another (cheaper) country on the beach. If I ever wanted a break from the road I could go there for a while with my own place and relax on the beach with a margarita. I could also come back stateside and stay with family and friends for a while too. Being a traveler makes things very flexible!

I would also have side projects that I could do over the internet and/or while traveling. My travel blog would certainly be one of them and I also like photography so I would spend time working on that hobby. I also see myself possibly doing some volunteer work as I go as my way of giving back once I retire. Maybe even write a book about my travels if I got the ambition and time to do it. I find with travel that you can certainly over-plan everything and then it becomes work. Just go where the road takes you! It’s about the journey not the destination.

If travel was not an option for some reason or another I would take my idea of owning a place on a foreign beach and open a bar/cafe too. It would occupy my time and in my mind be fun. Maybe I could even make more money!

I am sure as I go along in life circumstances and priorities may change and will alter this plan accordingly. I do know if I retired today I would be on the next plane out and take it from there. I am passionate about travel and do it every chance I get!

Don't count on Social Security benefits for retirement!


I believe that anyone under age 40 should not be counting on Social Security benefits as part of their retirement income plan. I am sure the politicians on capital hill will either revamp or replace it with a new system but I want to side with safety. The law can be changed at any time and I believe they will do just that to greatly reduce benefits.

I look at Social Security as a bonus during retirement assuming it even exists for me. I plan on covering all of my income needs using my own assets and businesses that I will have amassed by then. If I get extra money from the government each month then I guess I will be able to do more fun stuff than I had originally planned!

This of course means that those of us who were counting on that income have to re-evaluate our plans. You most likely will have to save more and/or make cuts in your retirement plans. It is also possible to retire later or find ways to reduce your retirement expenses. You are much better off planning for $0 Social Security now as opposed to falling short when retirement rolls around. We would much rather have saved too much rather than not enough!

Portfolio Rebalancing: Save on transaction costs


Everyone should be re-balancing their retirement portfolios once per year. This normally involves the sale of part of one asset and the purchase of another. One little trick to save on transaction costs is to have your re-balance scheduled for when you expect to receive a tax refund you intend to invest.


Your portfolio is overweight in stocks. They did well this year and you need to move some money to your bonds portion to get things back in order. Lets say the amount you need to move is $2,000. Lets also say you are also expecting an income tax refund totaling $2,000. It is best to wait!

If you re-balance now and sell off $2,000 worth of stocks and reinvest it into bonds you could be paying transaction costs for the two trades. If your mutual funds are no transaction fee then this does not apply. Either way it is easier to wait on your tax refund and the invest the new monies appropriately to get you back into the proper asset mix. Less transactions means less record keeping and hassle on your part.

This strategy particularly works well if you are invest in ETF's or in mutual funds that cost you for each trade. Keeping our portfolios in balance is very important but we also need to minimize our transaction costs and possible tax consequences (if trading in a taxable account) whenever we can. Taxes would not apply to IRA or 401(k) accounts but transaction costs are levied on all types of accounts.

The less we spend in transaction costs the more money we can keep invested and growing for us for the years to come. Try to select investments that meet your needs with the least transaction costs associated with them. Lots of brokerage houses have long lists of no transaction fee mutual funds and free dividend reinvestment. A little research can save a lot of money!

Get your first time homebuyer tax credit NOW!


I did some digging around and found out that you can refile your 2008 federal tax return using form 1040X (amended) to get the money back early. The form is a little complicated so I suggest consulting a tax adviser if you are not comfortable with it. Here is the article on the IRS site that says you can refile.

The IRS claims it will take 8 to 12 weeks to process but my past experience has seen it more like 4 weeks. With something as simple as a tax credit it should not take too long or much scrutiny. I would suggest that everyone who is eligible file now to get the money. It would be a great debt payment or savings addition and their is no reason to wait!

Suggested uses for home buyer credit (in priority order):

  • Pay down credit card debt (best)
  • Pay down auto loans
  • Pay down other debts (non-mortgage!)
  • Emergency Fund Savings
  • Roth IRA contribution (up to max--preferred)
  • Other Retirement Savings
I specifically left out the mortgage pay down as I believe a mortgage is good debt and only needs to be paid off early if you are near retirement. Interest rates are generally low on mortgages and you can get better returns on your money in investments. I especially am against paying it down if you plan to sell the property anyway. Houses are very illiquid and your money is better off in an asset that is easier to liquidate and earns more return.

My story for my tax credit:

I just completed my form 1040X to mail off tomorrow. Unfortunately you cannot have direct deposit using this form so I have to wait on a paper check. This may make me wait as I will be in Thailand for 5 weeks on extended vacation. Either way I am happy to get the money!

I will end up with a large sum once my amended return is processed. I plan to send this money directly to my debts to knock off a nice chunk. This will significantly help my net worth and reduce my monthly payments so I can accelerate the others. It will be a big relief to drop a monthly payment!

How to start saving for the future


I read an interesting post over at Get Rich Slowly and it inspired me to write this article. It lightly touched on the idea of how you can start saving so I decided to explore the topic in more detail. This is a step anyone can take no matter how high your expenses are or how much debt you have. This is also how I got started!

Start of by saving 1% of your income. This can be via an employer 401(k) program or a savings account done via direct deposit. You could also set up automatic transfer at your bank so each time you get paid 1% of your income gets moved. This is only 1 cent on every dollar you earn so chances are you won't even notice it.

Over time you will see your balance increase. If you are like me then you will be motivated to try to save more. This can be done a variety of ways. You can put gifts, rebate checks, side work pay, and others into your savings. Pretend like you never had the money. You can then increase from 1% of your pay to 2% or 5%. Your savings will begin to snowball.

As you pay down your debts and have all of this "extra money" each month make the move to taking the same monthly payment amount in spread it among your savings. 401(k)s, Roth IRA, emergency savings, and other goals. You will soon turn from being the person "who could never save a dime" to "wow look at all the money I have put away!" No one saves a ton of money at once. It is built over time. Along with savings comes freedom. Freedom is priceless!

15 year versus 30 year mortgage


Since I was recently house shopping I have decided to share my thoughts on mortgages. I am not a fan of adjustable rate or interest-only mortgages as they tend to only cause financial trouble or even crisis later on. I only support fixed rate, fixed term mortgages and that is what I have on my foreclosure that I just bought.

When I was looking at houses I decided that a 30 year mortgage was best for me. I am over 30 years away from retirement, have a lower payment, and can always add principal payments if I desire. I like the flexibility. Having the lower payment allows me to tackle higher interest bad debts and get them gone faster. I end up saving in the long term.

If you are house shopping and no longer have bad debts (credit card, auto loans, etc.) I would suggest a 15 year mortgage if you can afford it. You will save a small fortune in interest in the long term and the monthly payment goes away a lot faster. You should absolutely get a 15 year mortgage if you are 20 years or less away from your target retirement age. The ideal situation is to have the house paid for by the day you retire at the latest.

That said, their are exceptions to the above rules. If I knew that I would be selling the house in a few years after I bought it or going to use it as a rental property after I moved out then I would do a 30-year mortgage. The tax breaks and more positive cash flow from a rental make sense in this case. If your cash flow becomes exceptionally good you can always accelerate the payments on principal.

The best way to pick the term of your mortgage is to take a close look at your personal financial situation. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I save more in interest by taking a 30 year term and paying down other debts?
  • How much of a monthly mortgage payment can I afford?
  • When is my target retirement date and how close am I to that date?
  • When do I plan to sell the house (if at all!)?
  • Am I going to need to borrow money to do remodel or repairs on the house as well?
  • What are the tax, insurance, and maintenance costs each month?
You should also consider your tax bracket and tax breaks from the interest. This is only a secondary concern but does changes the numbers a bit. It is best to avoid paying interest when you can but sometimes it can make sense to pay more interest and refinance later if rates are expected to drop. If you fall into a 20% marginal tax rate, for example, you can reduce the total interest on the loan by 20% as you would save that money on your income taxes assuming you itemize deductions.

One final item to consider and should really not affect your decision at all is future borrowing potential. Having a higher payment from a 15 year mortgage could theoretically drop your ability to borrow for other needs as you have less disposable income. This should be a non-issue for most as we should save for things and not borrow.

Buying a house is a big investment and it is important to make the right mortgage choice for your situation. If you have covered all of the above items then you have "done your homework" and are on the right path. Now that you have figured out your mortgage details and how much you can afford go out and find your new home!

Never go grocery shopping hungry!


This is a lesson that I learned early on in life. It was not completely obvious to me at first but when I began to think about it I soon realized what was happening. I ended up spending a lot more that I had originally intended too and bought things I did not need. Some of that eventually was wasted. I devised a system to correct this!

Going grocery shopping hungry will make everything look extra-good to you. Suddenly things that you sort of like or even don't like look delicious. I also tend to buy more junk foods when I shop hungry. My solution to this is to go shopping an hour or two after a meal. I can then stick to my list and only deviate if something is at a bargain and I can stock up without waste.

The inverse can also be a hindrance here. If you go shopping too full then you will not get everything you need and end up having to go back later to pick up those items. This wastes time, gas, and money because you are not exactly in the mood to think about food or eating. Give yourself time to feel less stuffed and then go.

If time is an issue and you are hungry you are much better off stopping for at least a snack before hitting the supermarket. It can be a $1 cheeseburger, bag of chips, candy bar, or anything! Spending that $1 can save you 10 or 20 fold in the supermarket since you won't be hungry and looking at all the great foods around you. Before you walk in the door just make sure you don't feel really hungry or stuffed and you will be able to stick to your list and move on!

AT&T Wireless Users: New A-list!


AT&T has finally caught up with the competition. You can add 5 phone numbers to the list for free unlimited calls. You can add 10 numbers if you are on a family plan. Individual plans must be $59.99 or more and family plans $89.99 or more. As an iPhone owner I am very happy to see this. It can be any number with any carrier.

It is very easy to set up and use. You log into your wireless account on AT&T's website and add the A-list feature (free). You can then add numbers to the list which will take 24 hours to activate. It can be changed at any time. Keep in mind that current AT&T wireless numbers are usually covered under the unlimited mobile-to-mobile feature. I personally added my Google Voice number so I can start giving it out and get calls for free!

This will be a good way to save most of my minutes and utilize Google Voice better. I plan to eventually change my official number over to Google Voice so I will always have the same number no matter what city, state, or country I am in since I can forward to anywhere. Just load my account with credit as needed and keep going!

Understanding opportunity costs of time and money


Opportunity cost is an economic term in it's common form. You can also apply it to daily life, spending, and many other areas. It is good to think in terms of opportunity costs if you have trouble with buying too much stuff. It is also good to use it for managing your time.


You want to spend $100 on some new electronic gadget you have been eying for a while. You see it at a store and you are tempted to buy it. Now is the time to consider opportunity costs. Think to yourself: What else could I do with this $100? You could put it into savings for other goals such as a vacation, a replacement car, down payment for a new home. Would you rather have this gadget now or attain these other goals sooner? If you spend the $100 now you give up the opportunity to use that money on other things that may be more important.

I use the above example myself all the time. I work in the IT Industry and I like computers and all the toys that I can get to go with them. I used to buy new stuff all the time but have cut way back by going through this thought process. I have a strong passion for travel and tell myself I can either have this now or save the money and cover 3 days expenses in Thailand, etc.

You can also use this to help manage your time. Here is an example:

You have free time this weekend and a friend offers to sell you his extra ticket to a ball game. You are considering it as you would like to go to the game. You also have to weigh other things in your life to decide if it is worth your time. Maybe you have a household project you need to get to. Or you would like to spend more time with your family. You may want to finish that book that has been collecting dust for a month. You have to decide what is the best way to use this free time. There is no right or wrong answer here only you can decide how to best spend your time.

It is important to remember that your time is just as (if not more) important than money. How we spend our time affects our happiness and what we get out of life. Money helps us to do the things that we enjoy in our lives. For me this is travel and living without a job (eventually). Always remember that we work to live. We do not live to work.

Credit Card Tip: Get your interest rate lowered


Today I decided to call about my oldest credit card account, a student card, to see if I could change to a type of card that would give me a better rewards program. I was unable to get better rewards but by changing to a different type of card they lowered my interest rate 5%! This is great!

I have always called and asked them to lower my rate when I had to carry a balance for a while. I did not realize that you can also get a lower rate by changing the type of card you have. It is worth your while to call and ask if you are carrying a balance. This can save you a lot of money in interest!

I usually do my research online first to see what types of cards are offered. Keep in mind that if you have a Visa you can only change to a different Visa card. You cannot change from a Visa to a Mastercard (or any other brand of card) as they all have different agreements and require a whole new application. Once you find one you like you may see that they are advertising a lower rate than yours. Chances are you could get your rate lowered and a better rewards program.

In my special case today I have a card that was owned by a company that was bought up by Citibank a few years back. For a long time I was stuck with the type of card I had. Today I was finally able to change over and at least get my rate lowered and gain a few other perks. Credit cards can be useful tools and it is important to get the most out of them.

10 Frugal habits that save us money every day


I have compiled a small list of stuff we can do each day to be more frugal and cut expenses. Someone once said if you "take care of the pennies the dollars will follow." I find this to be true and am always looking for small things I can do to save a little here and there.

Here is my list:

  • Shut of the faucet while brushing your teeth, shaving, and during other hygienic activities. Even the most efficient faucets dispense 2 gallons per minute!
  • Get into the habit of turning lights on and off as you go. Power is expensive. Save it by not leaving a lot of lights on all the time!
  • Use coupons! This one can be big. I follow coupon cravings, mail, and the local paper for coupons. I keep all of the ones I use in an envelope in my car. Any time I shop I dig through and take them in to use. This mostly applies to food.
  • Find the cheapest gas station near you. Here in Atlanta gas prices can vary quite a bit. I did a survey of my neighborhood every weekend for a few weeks and found that certain gas station is always the lowest. I save an average of $1 per tank in my Honda Civic this way.
  • Grocery sale shopping can be a big saver. I always grab the weekly flier at the door and see what is on sale and stock up on the items I need. Combine sale items with coupons too. I also go to farmers markets and Aldi to save even more!
  • Unplug what you don't use. Simply having stuff plugged in draws power. Even if it is turned off. Only leave the items that you use all the time plugged in and unplug the rest.
  • Going out of town: Turn off all you can. Unplug everything except the bare essentials. Turn the water heater down and the air conditioning / heater to very low levels. No need to run up utilities when you are not home.
  • Check your air in your car tires weekly. I do this when I get gas. Having them at the optimal level saves gas and uneven wear on your tires.
  • Run the dishwasher and clothes washer when you have full loads. You waste energy and water if you run them when they are not full. Of course you will have exceptions but most of the time this can be done.
  • Use your leftovers religiously. Leftover food gets wasted a lot these days. Make it a point to go for those first before making anything new. It saves time and money!
All of these are very easy to do and will most certainly save you money. Forming frugal habits is a good way to start your path to good spending. If you think about the cost of the above you realize how this can easily add up over time. Frugal habits become hard to break and this is a good thing!

October 2009 Prosper Lending Update


It is the middle of the month again and it is time for my update on prosper.com lending. I reinvest all payments into new loans when I find one I like. I had 3 new bids that become loans last month. I also have 2 notes that are paying off this month.

Here are my stats as of today:

Outstanding Loans: 49
Late: 2 (< 30 days)
Late: 0 (> 30 days)
Current: 45 (2 are processing payoff)

Closed Loans:

Charged Off: 1
Paid Off: 3

Open Bids: 1

Total currently invested: $1627.04 (Principal Value)
Cash in Account: $65.73

Total Principal: $1692.77

Net Change from last month: $24.59 (+1.47%) increase

Enviromentally friendly credits and rebates


The federal government seems to be making a big push on "going green" with home improvements. They are providing money as incentive for folks reduce energy consumption. They offer tax credits and grants to states. I personally have taken part in some of these programs for my house remodel.


  • Sales tax-free weekend (GA) for energy saving appliances and light bulbs. I saved 7% on my new washing machine and some fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Federal Income tax credit for water heaters, air conditioners, and other energy saving appliances.
  • 2x $100 rebates for installing 1.28 gallons per flush toilets. I got this from my county government.
I encourage you to look into credits and rebates to see if any of your needed home repairs and improvements will qualify. Most of these have time limits so it is worth your while to evaluate your options now. On top of all this the energy efficient improvements will cut your monthly utility bills while helping the environment too!

Sources for credits and rebates:

These rebates and credits have added up over $1,000 that I will get back. It seems I picked a good time to buy a "fixer upper" house. I will also get the large tax credit just for buying the home as well. I plan to use the tax refund that I will receive to pay down my debts.

Setting up "Escrow" savings for irregular bills


One of the challenges of budgeting your monthly income is bills that are not due monthly. Examples include taxes, insurance, homeowners dues, and many more. My solution is to break the amount of the bill up as if it were due each month and have automatic transfer so a dedicated "bills escrow" savings account. I will use my own example:

I have two "irregular bills" that I must pay:

  1. Homeowners Association dues: $150 due every 6 months
  2. Water/Sewage: $60 average, billed every 2 months
If you do the math #1 is $300 a year. That works out to be $25 per month. For #2 it works out to be $30 per month on average. I have set up an automatic transfer of $55 per month to go to my "bills escrow" savings account. When they come due I will have the money waiting for it (and earning some interest!).

When the time comes I will transfer the appropriate amount back to my checking and pay it on the due due. At the end of the year I will re-evaluate the escrow system and make any adjustments up or down as needed. Using this system prevents you from having to dip into savings or have hardship when the "irregular bill" comes. It makes balancing your finances much easier!

Which goals do we save for first?


The other day I wrote a post on what debts we should pay off first. I then started to think about what to start saving for once debts are paid? I have come up with a priority list as a general guideline of how we should earmark our monthly savings. This list makes sure we are on the right track to reaching our financial independence.

Savings Priority List:

  1. Emergency Fund - Their are many schools of thought on how much this should be. It varies based on your situation but the best general guideline I found is 6 months worth of your average take-home pay saved. This is the most important. This trumps even retirement savings!
  2. "Escrow" Expenses: These are irregular expenses such as bills that come once or twice a year. They include insurance, taxes, association dues, and many others. Work out a monthly amount to set aside for when the bill(s) comes due as part of your monthly budget. Use a savings or money market account to earn a little interest while the money sits there.
  3. Retirement: The amount you save depends on how much you will need during retirement years. See my priority list of what type of retirement accounts to use here. This one comes after the above two are completely satisfied!
  4. Future Big Purchases: I reserve this part for necessary purchases only. Examples: A replacement car, down payment for a home, new appliances, home improvements (mandatory only), and other big ticket items that you must have.
  5. Fun Stuff: This is where we can use savings to work towards things we want. In this part I include vacations, weddings, holiday and birthday gifts, collectibles, etc. Once you get out of debt and start saving it is important to include fun things too!
  6. Other Goals: These are goals that don't fit into the above categories and are of lowest priority. Examples: Charitable gifts, gifts for friends or family, Religious donations, etc. These are goals that would not affect your livelihood if not obtained. All of these goals would start with "It would be nice if..." and are completely optional.
Following this list should provide you with a good plan for the future and cover any financial emergencies that come up. Once we have an adequate emergency cushion and our normal expenses covered we can continue onto saving for retirement and other goals. Every dollar we save is another step towards our financial freedom. Let's make sure we put those dollars in the right place!

Personal Record Retention Guideline


I must admit that I hate having piles of paper around. I am a big fan of scanning everything and shredding it if possible. One of my pet projects for the past year is to thin out how much paper I have around. I have come up with a general guideline for personal record keeping:

Keep Forever:

  • Income Tax Returns (filed copies)
  • Investment Trade Confirmations
  • Retirement plan and pension plan records
  • Estate Documents (will, living will, trusts, powers of attorney)
  • Social Security Card
  • Social Security Statements
  • Divorce Documents
  • Child Support Documents
  • Marriage License
  • Inheritance-related Documents
  • Credit Report Dispute Documents
Keep for 6 years:
  • Supporting Documents for Tax Returns (W2, 1099, etc)
  • Car Accident Police Reports and Claims
  • Copies of annual credit reports
  • Receipts and Bills with Tax Effects
Keep for 3 years:
  • Expired or Canceled Insurance Policies
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Bank Statements
  • Brokerage / Investment Account Statements
  • Medical Bills (in case of an insurance dispute)
  • Utility Bills
Others (time varies):
  • Car Maintenance and Loan Records (until sold, includes motorcycles, RV's, etc.)
  • Current Insurance Policies (Keep for life of policy + 3 years)
  • Mortgages, Deeds, Leases, Closing Documents (keep 6 years past end of retention or sale of property)
  • Sales Receipts (For the life of warranty on the product)
  • Warranties and manuals (keep for life of product)
Record retention is a necessary step in staying organized as well as attaining financial independence. The majority of the above documents can be kept in digital format so you can save time and space when you need to dig something up. I would retain a digital and paper copy of at least everything in the "Keep Forever" section.

Organizing and shredding your personal records can seem daunting at first but goes pretty fast once you get going. It will save you hours upon hours later when you need to find something. It also allows you to reduce clutter and storage needs. See my PDF Filing System post for more information.

Which debts should you pay off first?


I had this question myself and the answer is not always so simple. Some will tell you it is the one with the highest rate. Others will say it is the one with the lowest balance. Both of these methods are good but you also have to consider the type of debt that you have. It can affect your credit score and ability to get future credit (such as a mortgage) if you need it.

Barring some insanely high interest rate or high payment I have come up with a priority order of what debts should be attacked first. I will give me reasons for each as well. The order in which you pay them off can have big effects on your finances as well as credit report. Here is my list:

  1. Credit Cards - Generally the highest interest rates plus rates and payment amounts can be adjusted at any time. Choosing the highest rate or lowest balance doesn't matter as much. These must be paid first in almost all cases!
  2. Unsecured personal loans - These are installment, fixed payment loans. Example: You borrowed $2,000 paid over 2 years from a bank for a laptop. Interest rates are usually higher on these.
  3. Auto and motorcycle loans - These loans are for depreciating assets and should be paid off next. Accelerating payment of these reduces the risk of having an accident where the car is rendered useless and you still have to pay the loan back.
  4. Student loans - Interest is generally lower on student loans than the above debts and the interest you pay is tax deductible. In a real emergency you can defer payments if needed.
  5. Mortgage and equity loans - These are usually the largest of all loans we carry and will take the longest to pay off. You have assets to back up this loan so it should be paid last. The interest on these loans is also tax deductible. Interest rates as usually lower than the above types as well.
Following the order above will ensure that you pay your debts off faster and in the correct order so that your credit rating will improve over time. Lenders like to see installment loans more so than revolving (credit cards) with balances when they decide to lend to you. You pay off your most expensive debts first using this method as well. You will be on the road to success!

I am currently working on steps 1 and 2 simultaneously. I am slowly digging out of my hole and soon will be able to accelerate my payments in the other areas. I recently paid off my smallest personal loan and can move to the next. It feels great to have one paid off!

Travel for work? Save more!


I travel a fair bit for work and when I do I get a set per diem each day for food. I get this money whether I spend it or not. This creates an opportunity to make money tax free. Saving per diems can add up really fast and boost your savings or debt payments.

Most companies give traveling employees a set per diem for food. It makes accounting a lot simpler by not having to process a ton of receipts. My company does this and I make it a point to never spend all of my per diem. I eat cheaply and bank the rest. I must also note that I do try to eat healthy with sandwiches, salads, soups, and the like. I don't eat McDonald's all the time to save money.

In my example I get $40 per day while on the road. Most hotels include breakfast so that is covered. I usually do $5 to $7 for lunch and try to keep dinner around $10. After tax and tip I should be able to bank about $20 per day. Traveling an average of 5 days per month means $1200 per year in tax free income!

I should also point out the indirect savings of traveling for work:

  • You are not putting milage on your own car so you are saving in gas and maintenance costs.
  • You are not eating the food at home (obviously) and they are paying for meals.
  • While not home your utilities will be lower as you can turn most things off when you are gone. (savings on electricity, natural gas, and water/sewage costs)
  • You can earn airline miles or points which can be accumulated and used for vacation flights
  • You can earn hotel reward points to use for free hotel stays
  • You can ear rewards points on your credit card for work related expenses that get reimbursed
Traveling for work definitely has it's down sides but the upsides financially are pretty good. If you like travel (like I do!) then this is just added bonus. All of the above things add up over time. If you are looking for more small ways to get ahead then this is something to consider. If you remain frugal while traveling for work as well as at home you will always come out ahead!

Tip: Amazon.com free shipping threshold


I do a good bit of my book shopping on amazon.com as they tend to be the cheapest and offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more. I do run into the problem where my order may not total $25. I found a site that allows you to bridge this gap!


This site is part of slickdeals.net where people submit good deals on all sorts of things to the forums. The best deals make it to the front page. I have saved quite a bit of money on electronics from this site so I am a fan. You just have to be careful not to buy things you don't need since it is "a good deal."

Slickfillers allows you to search for items that qualify for free shipping by price or type of item. I find that best fillers are batteries, school supplies or consumable items I use around the house and will need anyway. I figure why pay shipping when I can use that same money to get something that I will get some utility from? If you are just a few dollars short this site will prove very useful.

Just make sure you don't buy junk you really don't need. Clutter costs us money in the long run anyway. The idea is to have less stuff and more money that we can invest and have working for us. If you use slickfillers correctly you will save money overall.

Making my goals public!


Today I have decided to make my goals public. The title and description of this blog give you some idea but not the complete picture. I am going to list my goals in this post and create a page to track them as part of this blog. I am forcing myself to be even more accountable!

Goals (in priority order):

  1. Consolidate and accelerate debt payments (consumer debts, student loans)
  2. Build adequate emergency fund (3 months for now but possibly up to 6 or 8)
  3. Build side business and retirement savings (and hopefully be self employed)
  4. Have enough residual income to work part time from anywhere in the world
  5. Travel perpetually on the residual income
So far I have taken some steps towards all of the above as they are related to each other. I have now decided to tackle them in order so I can reach them faster. Item #1 is in the works and once I am finished with my house remodel I will have consolidated and paid a good chunk of my debts. I must first get my total monthly payments lowered so I can get to item #2.

Now that I have listed my goals I will give you the story behind them. Back in 2004 I took a 3-week study abroad course in Europe as an elective for my business degree in Finance. I immediately felt a passion for travel and wanted more. I finished college and did another 2-week backpacking trip in Europe in 2005 as a reward to myself.

This second trip only added to my "travel bug" and all I could think about was getting back on the road. I was working full time at a local financial advisory (independent) firm and saving heavily. I was laid off just before the holidays in 2006. I was very upset about it and started looking for work. I soon decided that now was a great opportunity to go travel more. I left in December 2005 for the open road.

I ended up traveling around the world (literally) for a total of 18 months and covered 25 countries. I had some savings but also credit cards. I was on the road living it up and ended up running high balances on my cards. As they started to dry up I decided I better get back to the USA and figure out what to do. Bankruptcy did cross my mind and I seriously considered it.

I got back home in May of 2007 and did a full personal review of my financial mess. My minimum payments were quite high and I was 2 or 3 months late on some of them. My family stepped in and bailed me out. It was hard asking for money but they paid off all of my cards and I am to this day paying them back each month. They really saved me a lot of stress and interest. I also negotiated with the credit card companies to take off the late payments on my credit report if I paid them off today. It worked.

I found a job about 2 months later and that is the job I am still currently working as an IT project manager. It allows me to travel domestically for work and I am able to travel abroad using my skymiles for my vacations. I of course want to travel a lot more but I have to take care of finances first then the fun stuff. My financial situation has drastically improved since May of 2007.

Today I am working hard to pay down my debts. I have generated some side income which for now I have been putting in my emergency fund. Given the current state of the economy I feel it is worth it to have at least some money for emergencies. I also just bought a house in July 2009 that needed a lot of remodeling (it was a foreclosure). Between my Dad and I we can do most of the work ourselves. As of today it is about 80% complete.

I will also get the large tax credit from the government next year and will have a lot of equity once the remodel is finished. I should be done by mid-October. I have again borrowed money from family to do this remodel (they offered!) and will get an equity loan to immediately pay them back and to refinance some other debts to a lower interest rate. I can then work on the emergency fund to an adequate level and then accelerate the payments on this new loan.

My long term vision is to build wealth and work until I have enough fixed income to live life on the road. I want to travel and see everything the world has to offer. I plan to live out of my backpack and experience the food, people, culture, history, architecture, and simple life that traveling the world provides. I will stay in cheap hotels or hostels, eat street food, and live like a local. My income requirement will be hopefully lower or at least equal to what I earn today. I have the travel bug and it never goes away!

In order to reach this vision I will build my savings to the appropriate level and sell everything except for what I intend to take with me. This makes my situation different as I will not own any real estate at "retirement." I will have no need for it as a traveler. The only exception is if I decide to have rental property as part of my income. Based on these facts I calculate my net worth accordingly. I still have to decide exactly how I plan to generate this income. This will be more concrete after my debts are eliminated.

October Net Worth Update


It is the 1st of the month again and it is time for my net worth report card. I did better than I expected!

As of today my current net worth is (30,730.12). That is an increase of $196.47 over last month. The major factors contributing were me moving into my new house and extra related expenses, remodel expenses that I have not gotten a loan for yet, and my investments performed quite well.

I expect next month to be a better month since I am finishing my remodel which will significantly increase my net worth. I will also get an equity loan to offset some but should still be well ahead of my current state.

Alternative Income:

Youdata.com: 0.00
eBay Sales: $43

Want to curb spending? STOP watching TV!!


I have heard lots of people (who are in debt or "can't" save money) tell me they are not being affected by advertising. These same people watch TV regularly and have little to no savings. I firmly believe there is a connection. They are bombarded with commercials on a constant basis. It has been proven that if you tell someone the same thing repeatedly they start to believe it. Guess what commercials do?

Cable and satellite companies make most of their money from advertisers and home viewers. You pay every month to watch shows and you pay to watch advertisements. These commercials are what convince you to buy something the next time you are out shopping. Most people don't realize it at all!

My theory is that if you drop cable or satellite television completely then you will save money. For sure, you will save the money you spend on the monthly service right away. Secondly, you will not be subject to nearly as much advertising and will slow your spending. If you do not watch the commercials that get you excited over the latest and greatest product you don't really need then you won't buy it.

The biggest argument against canceling your TV service is that you will miss their favorite show or the news or sports. My response is to read the news on Google or a newspaper, Netflix DVDs of your show with no commercials, and watch the sports games on line, with friends, or go without. You also have sites like hulu to watch TV shows for free with minimal advertising.

I have been without any sort of subscriber TV for over 6 years. I do not miss it at all and now actually refuse to even own a TV. I despise the advertising and what it does to people's finances so much that I won't even have the device in my house. In my opinion it is a waste of time, money, and brains to watch TV. I obviously have a strong opinion on the subject!

The bottom line is that dropping TV will 100% without a doubt save you money. I dare you to try and and I am sure after a month or two you won't even miss it at all. You will suddenly have time to do all the things you "didn't have time to do before." You can spend time with family and friends, finish projects around the house, read more, etc. Cut the cord today!