Affordable Health Insurance from Aetna


As part of my 101 goals in 1001 days list I vowed to get dental insurance so I can get some much needed dental maintenance. In my search I came across some low cost, high deductible health insurance than includes dental covered. It is a combined plan that cost me (a 27 year old male) $50 per month!

Basics of the Coverage (Medical):

  • Annual Deductible: $10,000 (ouch!)
  • 5 doctor visits per year (only $40 copay, deductible waived)
  • 5 specialist visits per year (only $50 copay, deductible waived)
  • Generic Prescription ($20 copay, deductible waived, $5,000 per year max)
Basics of Coverage (Dental):
  • Annual Deductible: $25
  • Annual Maximum: Unlimited
  • Exams, X-rays, cleanings: 100% Covered
  • Fluoride and Amalgam Fillings: 100% Covered
  • All other items: "Discount"
I am the first to admit this plan is far from ideal. It is good for routine medical and dental items but anything major will still cost you. If I were to go to the hospital I can safely say I am out $10,000. For $50/month I am willing to take that risk for now just so I can get caught up on my preventative health and dental care. I plan to change to a better plan once I get my debts paid down and can afford it.

101 Goals in 1001 Days update!


It has been a while since I have last reported on my 101 goals in 1001 days progress. I have ticked off a few more items and have more in progress. You can view my list here.

Recent Accomplishments:

  • Negotiated and booked a month off to go to Asia again!
  • Spending Thanksgiving 2010 in Cambodia!
  • Acquiring affordable health and dental insurance
  • Helped a friend with an item on their list
  • Paid off over half of my credit card debts!
This list is really helping me to get things done. I now have something to keep me focused with a deadline. Being organized is half the battle!

Tickets to Asia booked!


I now have my tickets to Asia at the Skymiles "price" that I wanted. It took a lot of patience and research on my end but I made it happen. I will be spending almost the entire month of November in Cambodia exploring what it has to offer. I am very excited!

I got my ticket for 60,000 Delta Skymiles (the lowest level). I am flying a crazy route each way but I am a travel geek and all the stopovers are fun to me!

Here is my itinerary:


Atlanta - Toronto, Canada - Seoul, South Korea (16 hour layover) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Guangzhou, China (9 hour layover) - Los Angeles (red eye) - Atlanta

I am flying on a total of 3 airlines: Delta, Korean Air, & China Southern Airways to make this happen. I am still happy with this as flying on a paid ticket is around $1300 round trip. I am only paying $165 in taxes. Awesome!

I am also excited about new stamps in my passport, great food, the beach, and $4.00 hotel rooms in Asia. I have a budget of $500 for the month which should be ample over there. I am spending a month overseas for under $700! How's that for a frugal vacation?!

Meeting Credit Card Bonus Thresholds


Many rewards credit cards, such as my Delta Skymiles Platinum American Express, have spending thresholds to get some great bonuses. In my case if I spend $25,000 in a calendar year I get 10,000 bonus miles. I sometimes fall a little short.

Here is what you can do to push yourself over with little to no cost:

  • Plan large purchases: You plan and time large purchase to push you over the threshold so you can earn more rewards.
  • Purchase for friends: A lot of people hate credit cards. Make a big purchase for your friends and have them give you the cash. I do this a lot!
  • US Mint: You can buy up to $250.00 per year in $1 coins with no shipping charges. If you are really close to a threshold this can be very handy. Simply deposit or use the coins!
  • Work Expenses: I get to travel for work and use my personal card and get reimbursed. This can add up fast with flights, meals, car rental, etc. Take Advantage!
Most of these things can be done by anyone. Keep and eye on your thresholds and if you are close and nearing the end of the year try to use these strategies to get your bonuses. They really add up over time!

Weekly Blog Roundup


This is a series where I link to my favorite blog posts from the financial blogs that I follow and read directly. These are the articles I found particularly useful or good in some way. I hope you enjoy my choices and learn something too!

Week of 7/19/2010:

  • How to Recover From a Lost Wallet @ Bargaineering. Jim writes about best practice steps we should take in order to minimize financial damage from a lost wallet or purse.
  • Is It Time To Quit Your Day Job? @ Get Rich Slowly. Staff writer Sierra Black writes about quitting your job to pursue your own business and dreams. This is what I aspire to and has lots of good insight and ideas!
  • Some Thoughts on Inexpensive Vacations @ The Simple Dollar. Trent writes about how to plan your vacations to be less expensive, more enjoyable, and more relaxing. I apply all these techniques myself. Cramming in everything is work not vacation!
These are my favorites for the last week. Feel free to comment and share some others that I may have missed or not even know about. Have a great week!

Quicken Online: Soon to go away!


I got an email saying that, a free service, is going away. I saw this coming every since Intuit bought which is a competing service. As a result I have signed up for Mint, got the free iPhone app, and am transitioning over to using it. I must say that so far I like Mint better!

I love the fact that it automatically updates and categorizes my transactions daily. I have alerts set up so I get notified via email on my iPhone if something "big" happens. It is also useful for tracking my net worth and seeing easily where I am over or under budget.

I am a big fan of the online tracking/budgeting tools and Mint is one of the best I have seen and used. I hope they continue to improve it and add all the institutions I need so I can accurately track everything in one place.

For those of you still using Quicken Online now is the time to get started. It takes a while to get Mint set up but trust me it is well worth the effort!

Traveling using miles: Heads up!


As mentioned earlier I am going to Southeast Asia for just under a month in November-December of this year. Being the frugal and diligent person I am trying to use my Delta Skymiles to book a ticket. I am hitting some walls thanks to the complications of the Skymiles program(s). Here is what I have learned in my 3 attempts to book my tickets across the pacific:

  • Black out dates: a lot of the partner airlines have almost completely blacked out December. This makes finding the "cheap" miles tickets tough.
  • Book WELL in advance. I am 4 months out from my trip. People I have spoke with say I should have booked around 9-11 months out. This is not always possible since getting a large block of time off is not easy!
  • Be flexible: Direct flights fill up the quickest. You need to be willing to have odd layovers or multiple stops to get the lowest price. I am ok with this but it surprises most travelers.
  • Research flight times and availability. This saves a lot of time calling the booking agents as you can ask if specific routes are available and go from there.
  • Call multiple times. Availability of reward seats comes and goes often.
I will make this happen. Persistence and determination will get me the tickets I want at the price that I want. I just have to keep pushing forward!

My top 5 expenses and how I reduce them!


Everyone has expenses. Some small and some large. Today I am going to share what my top 5 expenses are and steps I have taken to reduce them as much as I can. This idea came when I was looking at Quicken and asking myself: What do I spend the most on and why? Can it be reduced?

The answer is almost always yes but I am sure some of you are looking for ideas that you may not have thought of. I am also looking for ideas that I have not thought of as well. That is the more difficult part. Nonetheless I will share my strategies and ideas and hope I find more along the way!

My top 5 expenses are:

  1. Housing
  2. Food
  3. Insurance
  4. Utilities
  5. Entertainment
I am sure that most of you will find that at least 3 of these items are in your top 5 as well. Housing is usually everyone's top expense. Food and Insurance are also commonly big budget items.

Here are my methods for cutting these expenses:
  1. Housing - I currently rent out 2 spare rooms in my house to cover my mortgage. Other options include refinancing the mortgage to a lower rate, keeping up with routine maintenance, shopping around (for renters) when leases come due, and getting roommates in a bigger place.
  2. Food - Food is expensive. I use the grocery game to save on my weekly food stockpiling using coupons. I look up recipes that use cheaper items for tasty meals. I cook in bulk and freeze a big portion of it for later. I try to eat more veggies and less meat.
  3. Insurance - Insurance can be cheap or expensive. The best bet is to read up on what types of insurance you need and shop around thoroughly. Contact 5 companies for each type and comparison shop. One trick is to find the lowest auto insurance rate and get the rest of your insurance from the same company with a multi-line discount. Auto is almost always the most expensive insurance!
  4. Utilities - I have gotten these very low. I use CFL bulbs in all lights. I turn lights on only when I am in the room. I use more fans and less air conditioning. I use a programmable thermostat. I made a habit of only having faucets on when I need water that second. I turned my water heater down 5 degrees. It adds up!
  5. Entertainment - This budget item can be small if you don't go out or huge if you go out all the time. I like going out so I combat this as much as I can. I use sites such as groupon, half off depot, living social, scoutmob, etc. I also use reward points for gift cards and local coupons. The entertainment book is another option for local establishments. This can add up fast too!
Aside from raising your income cutting your major expenses as much as possible is a great way t get ahead financially. I am constantly evaluating looking for ways to keep my expenses low and savings high. I am on a mission to be financially free as soon as possible!

Bad Or No Credit? How to get started (or restarted)!


It has been a while since I have written about credit. It is a subject I know a good deal about from personal experience. I am pretty familiar with the US credit reporting and lending system and have used that knowledge to my advantage many times.

Today I am going to focus on building or rebuilding credit. Since we are in the midst of a recession there are more folks out there that have to start over. With banks and credit card companies becoming more and more strict on who gets approved we have to be more creative in order to get started.

There are a few options for those trying to build a credit track record. Even in today's tough credit world you can still find these. Here are my suggestions:

  • CD Secured Loan - This has been around for a while. It is the least risk to a bank and low cost for the borrow. You open a CD and use it as collateral for a loan of the same amount. Usually $1,000 or more. A great way to build a good track record for loans.
  • Secured Credit Card - These have also been around a while. They usually come with high fees so it pays to shop around. You deposit collateral money into an account and that amount is your credit limit. A great way to rebuild bad credit.
  • Social Lending - This is relatively new and a bit more difficult. It can also be costly in terms of interest. You are borrowing from other people through sites such as Rates can be as high as 35% but is a good last resort option.
No matter which path you choose building or rebuilding credit is no easy task. It takes time, patience, money, and discipline. Evaluate your past mistakes if you have bad credit. Read blogs and columns online about mistakes to avoid of you are starting fresh with no credit. Our credit reflects on us as people whether we like it or not. Let's put our best foot forward!

Weekly Blog Roundup


This is a series where I link to my favorite blog posts from the financial blogs that I follow and read directly. These are the articles I found particularly useful or good in some way. I hope you enjoy my choices and learn something too!

Week of 7/12/2010:

  • New Lighting Facts Label @ Bargaineering. Jim writes about the new government mandated label that shows estimated yearly energy cost, lifespan, appearance, and energy used. This includes mercury warnings. Good stuff!
  • How to Save Money While Traveling @ Get Rich Slowly. I am a huge traveler. I love it. I am always looking to save on the road. Staff writer Sierra Black writes about this exact subject! Very helpful.
  • Eleven Effective Ways to Reduce Your Laundry Costs @ The Simple Dollar. Trent and I are big on expense cutting. This post has some great tips for saving while doing laundry. Some of this was even news to me!
These are my favorites for the last week. Feel free to comment and share some others that I may have missed or not even know about. Have a great week!

Vacation: I am headed to SE Asia in November!


I worked out another great vacation this year! I am headed to SE Asia for 1 month (28 days) for vacation covering the Thanksgiving holiday until almost Christmas. I am excited to have some extended time back on the road and am planning to do it cheaply! I am eyeing Cambodia this time as they have a 1 stop flight from Atlanta to get there. Very cheap and nice!

I also have a short trip planned to go to Myrtle Beach, SC in late August to stay at a free beach house! I am looking forward to some lazy time to turn off for a bit. This will be my last vacation until November so I will have to soak it up!

Being frugal has allowed me to take these trips. I do understand that I am still in debt and could pay them down a little further instead but I have to strike a balance. The trip to Asia also falls within my normal budget numbers so I won't be spending any extra while I am there versus if I were at home. Double win!

July 2010 Prosper Lending Update


It is the middle of the month again and it is time for my update on lending. I had 2 more loans payoff and 1 more has gone late.

I am no longer bidding on prosper loans unless they come from my lending group. I am drawing down my account for now. I "write off" all loans in collections as a loss.

Here are my stats as of today:

Outstanding Loans: 42

Late: 1 (< 30 days)
In Collections: 6 (written off)
Current: 35

Closed Loans:

Charged Off: 4
Paid Off: 18

Open Bids: 0

Total currently invested: $1023.15 (Principal Value)
Cash in Account: $35.02 (includes open bids)

Total Principal: $1058.17

Free $50 from ING Direct!


ING Direct is offering $50 to new customers who open their Electric Orange checking account. I use this account personally and love it. All you have to do to get the bonus is make 3 signature-based debit card transactions within 45 days of opening the account. You get your $50 on day 50. Easy!

I have been with ING Direct for years and even without the bonus it is a great account. They have no overdraft fees (if you qualify for overdraft line of credit), no monthly fees, and it earns interest!
I also like that they do not allow paper checks at all so it helps prevent fraud and ID theft. You can use free online bill pay or directly deposit money to anyone's account at any bank free of charge.

This is truly a paperless checking account so you also become a littler "greener" as a result and have no lost mail to worry about. All statements are online and freely printable if needed.

Don't miss your free money!

Kroger: No Longer Accepting Printable Coupons?


I got a printable coupon for a free Digiorno pizza the other day from a Facebook promotion. I was at my local Kroger and attempted to use it. I used self checkout as I always do and I was informed that they could not accept the coupon. I questioned it and the clerk brought over the manager.

He proceeded to tell me that they are no longer accepting printable coupons due to the amount of fraud. I was surprised and told him that I will most likely have to take my business to Publix (big competitor down here in Atlanta) since they do accept them. He seemed unphased by it.

This upsets me as I am an honest person and I have truly legitimate coupons that I print from all the time. In order to save money on groceries I may now have to go to a store further away in order to use my online coupons.

At the end of the day I don't really care where my food comes from. Publix and Kroger carry more or less the same products so that is not the issue. I am just annoyed that I have to change because of a few bad apples out there. Such is life!

Weekly Blog Roundup


This is a series where I link to my favorite blog posts from the financial blogs that I follow and read directly. These are the articles I found particularly useful or good in some way. I hope you enjoy my choices and learn something too!

Week of 7/5/2010:

  • USPS Considering Stamp Price Increase @ Bargaineering. Jim writes about how the USPS is looking to increase again. This really bothers me as it is very expensive to mail things these days. All the more reason to go digital!
  • Pay Yourself First with a Coupon Booklet @ Get Rich Slowly. JD Shows a reader tip which is to essentially make payment coupons for various savings goals and treat it as a bill. A great idea for those who need a way to visualize our savings goals!
  • Money and Basic Math: Some Thoughts and Six Quick Tips @ The Simple Dollar. Trent shows us how utilizing basic math helps immensely with finances and why it is such a widespread problem. Good read!
These are my favorites for the last week. Feel free to comment and share some others that I may have missed or not even know about. Have a great week!

Things are looking up!


I got some good news at work! I am getting half of my original pay cut back. This is great news as it boosts my income and morale. Things are slowly looking up thus far at work and I hope it continues to head in the same direction.

I have also gotten more side work. This has allowed me to get caught up on some unexpected expenses and make a dent in my debts. I am well on my way to getting my credit cards paid off so I can move on with life!

I am also looking into a 3 week vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday back in Asia. It is cheap, weather is great, and it is one of my favorite parts of the world. To boot they have great beaches and amazing food. I need some more road time!

I hope you all have a great weekend Go Spain!

50/30/20 Rule: Also good for windfalls!


I have touched on the 50/30/20 rule in the past. The basic idea is that you use 50% of your income for your needs (housing, food, transportation, etc). Next you use 30% for wants (cable TV, gym membership, Playstaion 3, etc.). Finally you allocate 20% to savings (retirement, emergency fund, house down payment, etc.).

This same principal can be used for a windfall of money small or large. This includes: bonuses, inheritance, gifts, side work income, etc. Using a windfall for just one category can leave you feeling short in other areas. The numbers are not set in stone but a great starting point. Here is an example of how you can allocate a $1000 bonus:

  • 50% - Need - $500 payment toward debt (credit card, mortgage, etc).
  • 30% - Want - $300 - buy that Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 you always wanted.
  • 20% - Savings - $200 - Add to emergency fund or retirement account.
I find that by breaking up your windfall into these areas you get ahead on all fronts. In the long term this will get you closer to a multitude of goals and you won't feel the "guilt" of not making any progress. Life is all about balance and why not balance your windfall?

With a little planning we can take advantage of windfalls to the fullest and get one more step closer to financial freedom. By breaking it up into the 3 broad categories you will not have remorse later and and think to yourself: "Gee I wish I had used some of that bonus to pay the credit card" when something bad happens. Balance is the secret to happiness!

Passport Fees to Increase!


A friend on twitter posted this and I was shocked at the large increase in fees. They go into effect on July 13 so if you need a passport or need to renew NOW is the time!

Here is a summary of fees from this article:

  • Age 16+ New Passport: $135 (was $100)
  • Age 16+ Renewal: $110 (was $75)
  • Adult Passport Card (for land/sea crossing into Canada, Mexico, Caribbean): $55 (was $45)
  • Add more pages to a passport: $82 (was free!)
I am glad I caught this in time. I have a few friends who need to renew and should do it now. Get the word out! Time is money in this case!

Weekly Blog Roundup


This is a series where I link to my favorite blog posts from the financial blogs that I follow and read directly. These are the articles I found particularly useful or good in some way. I hope you enjoy my choices and learn something too!

Week of 6/28/2010:

These are my favorites for the last week. Feel free to comment and share some others that I may have missed or not even know about. Have a great week!

Happy Independence Weekend!


I am taking the day off blogging as I will be out of town visiting family this weekend.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th!

101 Goals in 1001 Days Update


It has been a while since I have updated on my progress!

I have not been neglecting my list only neglecting to share an update on it. So far I have completed 7 items on my list and at least as many are in progress. I admit I did get lazy on it for a few weeks but this review is getting me back in line a bit. I have a long way to go still!

Due to a change in financial circumstances I may have to change some of the financial goals but will leave them be for now. I am now going to work on some goals that will take longer time periods to complete since time is flying by!

I am really enjoying doing this list and wonder why I have not found this before now! I am excited to move forward and make big personal gains.

July 2010 Net Worth Update


It is the 1st of the month again and it is time for my net worth report card. I had a much better month than I expected and am happy with my results!

As of today my current net worth is ($12,164.78). That is an increase of $641.11 over last month. The major contributing factors were a down stock market, paying off one credit card with savings, increased side income, and stringent frugality!

I expect next month to be about the same as this month. I am starting to get more side work and have my spare bedroom rented out for the next few months. I will remain focused on debt elimination and increasing my income in any way I can!

Alternative Income this month:

IT Consulting: $177.50
New Rent!: $400