My Goals for 2011


It is new years eve and soon the beginning of a new year. This is the time when everyone makes "resolutions" that are almost never met. I always set goals to work towards on this day. They may take more than a year to complete but I do make progress. I did pretty good last year and am looking forward to more of the same!

Goals for 2011:

  • Fully fund my emergency fund -- top priority
  • Restart Roth IRA contributions monthly
  • Visit a new country
  • Finish my 2-year IT Degree (only 1 course!)
  • "Game the system" of credit card bonus offers to cover some of my vacation costs
  • Eat at home more (at least 70% of the time) to cut food costs
  • Increase my salary at least 5%
As I slowly move from debtor to saver I am finding myself looking for more ways to lower expenses and increase my income. This year I am looking into beefing up my resume and keeping my options open. In order to meet my large, long term goal of financial independence the math tells me I need more income. This will be a primary focus this year!

Travel Deals Blog: Frugal Travel Guy


I found a great blog and resource for travel deals and travel credit card bonus offers. This guy is the king of getting bonus points to obtain free hotels, airfare, car rentals, etc. He goes into the details of all the offers, analyzes them, and puts instructions on how to take advantage in plain English. Saves me leg work!

His title is similar to mine as a coincidence. Until a few days ago I had no idea his blog existed. While his site design is not the best the information is. He posts daily with deals he finds, tips from his readers, and anything else of interest to us travel lovers. He also posts on really low and "mistake" airfares which can be great for saving a lot on your next vacation.

His blog inspired me to take advantage of more of the bonus offers. I am going to attempt to use offers to get free airfare for myself in 2011 for my trips. With the offers that are out now this should not be an issue! Credit card companies want customers and are giving away a lot of points to do it. I need to jump on this boat and ride the wave!

Only 2 more days to make your final tax moves!


There are only 2 more days left in the year to sell off losing stocks, make donations, and any other tax moves that you need to make. The tax on Roth IRA conversions can be split between 2010 and 2011 to lessen the sting if that is in the cards for you also!

I am happy to report that my investments gained this year. I am selling them off so I can transfer the funds to my Roth IRA which makes more sense long term for tax purposes. I have plenty of mortgage and student loan interest to offset so I won't have that much of a hit on my refund. They are also long term gains which are taxed lower too!

I am donating some old clothes and the like as I will be itemizing deductions this year and each dollar helps! I am going to clean out the closets and bit and get a few more dollars back from Uncle Sam. It is a win win as people get items they really need and I get rid of them plus a tax break.

Don't wait until the last minute to make your moves now or you may miss the deadlines!

2010 Goals Review


We are nearing the end of the year. I am looking back over the past 12 months and reflecting on my progress both in life in general and financially. Overall I feel it was a pretty good year with quite a few milestones hit. As I look forward to 2011 I can hope it will be more of the same.

Major Milestones for 2010:

  • All credit cards paid off
  • Refinanced my house to a much lower rate
  • Achieved a positive net worth
  • Negotiated a one month vacation from work to visit Asia
  • Substantially increased my savings on all fronts
Other honorable mentions include a focus on getting more side income from consulting work, I did get to see 2 new countries, and I went from a 10% pay cut to my normal salary again at work. I also have been eating better but I feel I could have done more. I am certainly more health conscious overall I it seems to help with my day-to-day life. 

How have you done with your 2010 goals? Meet them? Exceed them? Miss the mark?

Travel: Headed home for Christmas


Today I am working a half day then driving back home to St. Simons Island, GA to be with my family over the Christmas holiday. I will return to Atlanta on December 27. I am looking forward to excellent food and seeing most of my family that I don't see the rest of the year.

I will be taking a break from blogging until I return. I hope you all have a great Christmas holiday!

Save your money and one day it will save you!


The title is a quote from an African proverb that was used in another post I read elsewhere. I stuck me with the powerful simplicity of the statement. I understand it to mean that the more money you save the more situations you are financially "ready" for. This is the underlying logic to having an emergency fund--before anything else!

During this time of year even I tend to spend more than I would like too. Gifts, travel, meals, etc. all add up quickly. The quote in the title reminds me to stay focused on my goals. Even though I don't like these extra expenses they are worked into my budget for the most part. My best bet is to stay the course and focus on getting extra side income to "lessen the sting" of holiday expenses.

I am sharing this so that you too can keep the focus!

My Take on Christmas/Holidays: Travel & Financial


Being the frugal person that I am I always try my best to minimize my expenses around the holidays. I do this partially by continuing my tradition of traveling to a less expensive country overseas. For the Christmas holiday I visit family. This can get expensive as holiday travel always comes with higher prices.

Most years I drive back home for Christmas. The airfares are usually too high so even though I have to buy 3 tanks of gas I still come out way ahead. It also makes it easier to transport gifts. I like having my car for getting around back home (a small town). I always check airfares for great deals but they tend to be rare. They were all too high for me this year so I am driving!

For gifts I make it a point to get something practical that I know the recipient will use. Nothing is worse than getting "more junk" that you have to sell or donate (or worse more clutter). I really dislike when others buy me clothes as they are rarely what I want. I find that about 90% of the clothes that are gifted to me get donated with the tags still on. This is why I give practical gifts. I believe if it is just going to sit on the shelf it can do that just fine at the store without me having to buy it!

Over the years I have greatly reduced the gifts that I give. I make it clear to almost everyone that I do not buy gifts and expect none in return. December is usually a rough financial month for me and this is how I combat it. I offer to do dinner or drinks instead of gifts as I enjoy the time with the person more. This also is part of my anti-consumerist streak showing. We don't have to exchange gifts to prove we are friends.

I normally am happy once December 26 comes around. The shopping headaches are over, I can visit with family and friends without stress, and I can look forward to the new year. I admit that Christmas is one of my least favorite holidays and to me is another financial battle to get through. I have to remind myself that it is about family and friends and not money. This is difficult as money seems to fly out of my hand at the same time. Traditions can be expensive!

Incheon (ICN) Airport Seoul: Spa On Air


There is a great spa on the public side of Incheon (ICN) Seoul, South Korea airport. I heard about it from a couple of travel forums but oddly enough could not find any solid information about it online. All I could get was patchy information from those who had visited it in the past.

The sole purpose of this post is to have all of the important info on the spa in one place so people will not have to search forever and hope for the best like I did. I am shocked they do not advertise it more or even mention it on the airport website but I digress...

Spa On Air: Seoul International Airport:

  • Price: 15,000 won during the day or 20,000 late at night
  • Private Sleeping Room Add on: 20,000 (if available first come first served)
  • Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all year long
  • Amenities: hot tub, shower, sauna, massage (Thai, pay per session), lounge
  • Sleeping mats and limited chairs and couches are available.
  • Snack bar with light snacks and soft drinks for purchase
  • Lockers for shoes (separate) and big lockers in spa for clothes
  • Swim trunks and shirts (men) provided at no extra charge
  • Towels at no extra charge
  • Soap and shampoo in all shower stalls
  • Luggage storage up front monitored by staff
  • Located in basement of ICN. Go all the way down and check directory
I went to the spa twice myself. It is a great deal and is wonder after a long flight over the pacific. A great place to sleep after a relax in the spa. It made my flights and long layovers much more bearable and I looked forward to the spa!

This information is accurate as of December 4, 2010. That was my last visit there personally. Hopefully they will get this information online soon but until then this is the best guide I have seen!

December Airline Extras!


I noticed a couple great deals while traveling this week. The first is the free WiFi on a few airlines with GoGo access. Google Chrome has sponsored access for everyone until January 2, 2011. I have used GoGo in the past and it is a very nice service and handy for work.

Secondly Delta has a deal at their Sky Club lounges. You can buy 5 one day passes for $99. This is a good deal since the passes are normally $50 each! I travel enough where these will be handy for when I am delayed or have a long layover. I was actually delayed a few hours in Boston and the free wifi, drinks, snacks, comfortable chairs, and clean bathrooms made it much easier for me and I was able to get some work done!

I am always on the lookout for good deals like these and want to make sure of all you are in the know!

Smartphone Service: Line 2 Review


I found a service that was a great concept and decided to give it a try. It is called Line 2 and they offer unlimited Voice over IP calls and text messages from your smart phone namely the iPhone. There is a 1 month free trial and it is $9.95/month thereafter if you decide to keep it.

I must say that overall I am very impressed. I used it over wifi to make a few calls and they were clear like normal calls. I used it in Cambodia to check my voicemail and my girlfriend phoned family for the Thanksgiving holiday. No issues at all!


  • Voice calls: you get a real US Phone number.
  • Texting: you can also text to and from this number.
  • Forwarding: If you are off wifi or the app is closed it can forward calls to your normal cell number for free.
  • Conference calling is also allowed!
  • Voicemail: if you chose you can set up voicemail for the second line and it has visual voicemail much like that on the iPhone.
  • The application itself strongly resembles the Phone application on the iPhone so it is easy to navigate and use.
I tested all of these features except for voicemail and I am impressed with it. It works very well! The price tag is great for what you get and is definitely a good alternative to the costly AT&T iPhone plans. It is most certainly the cheapest way to use the iPhone while roaming. As long as you have wifi you incur no extra costs!

I would certainly keep this service if I was a heavier phone user. Currently I have the minimum iPhone voice and data plans with AT&T. Paired with 1500 texts I am more than covered for my needs. I will definitely keep Line 2 high on my list if my needs change. For only $9.95 more per month I can save a fortune in overages.

One extra benefit is that this app and it's paired services will also work on iPads and iPod touch. Just add headphones and you are up and running! This can be handy in certain situations such as you are already using your iPhone and need to send a text or handle another call.

You can also use it over 3G cellular data but I have not tried it myself. I have a lot of access to wifi so there is no real need and I am on the low 200MB data plan with AT&T. Every kilobyte counts! I would use it to send texts from the Line 2 app but calls would burn through my data fast! It is nice to have the option though!

I highly recommend this service to anyone trying to lower their iPhone bill. By dropping to the lowest plan with AT&T you more than make up the $9.95 it costs for Line 2. They have a great idea and a product to match and I hope they succeed. Staying connected does not have to cost over $100 per month anymore!

December 2010 Prosper Lending Update


It is the middle of the month again and it is time for my update on lending. It has been a quiet month with business as usual. I have 2 slightly late loans and 0 more have paid off completely. I three open bids at this time.

I did get a large collection payment from a defaulted loan which I will always welcome!

I am have decided to begin reinvesting in Prosper once again. I have drawn down my account and my financial situation has improved. I will add no new money at this point.

I "write off" all loans in collections as a loss.

Here are my stats as of today:

Outstanding Loans:

Late: 2 (< 30 days)
In Collections: 0 (written off)
Current: 31

Closed Loans:

Charged Off: 10
Paid Off: 22

Open Bids: 3

Total currently invested: $699.39 (Principal Value)
Cash in Account: $122.36 (includes open bids)

Total Principal: $821.75

Moving to Schwab: Saving money!


Today I have decided that I am moving all of my investments from Firstrade to Charles Schwab. A few years ago I would not have even considered this because of Schwab's high fees. The landscape has changed and now I am making my move just in time for tax season!

Here are my reasons for moving, in order of importance:

  • The big one: $0 commission on Schwab Funds and Schwab ETF's versus $6.95 currently.
  • Consolidation: Accounts in less places (combining with new Schwab Checking Account)
  • Schwab has branches: If I have an issues I can visit a human!
  • access: I can see my Schwab accounts in Mint. I cannot for Firstrade
All of above make this move make sense for me. I especially like that I can invest in ETF's with no commission. It makes re-balancing possible and MUCH cheaper over the long haul. Every dollar counts in a Roth IRA! I will combine this move with a re-balance as I will sell every position and move cash to start clean and save on transfer fees.

One final step I am taking is to take what used to be in my taxable brokerage account and move it to my Roth IRA. This requires me to sell all positions (which I have done for a gain!) and deposit cash as a contribution. It makes sense to do this now since it will count as a 2010 contribution and leave me more room for 2011. This will also cut my tax bill over time significantly!

Long term I plan to start using my Schwab Checking account more too. It refunds all ATM fees AND does not charge me a percentage for foreign ATM withdrawals. As a lover of international vacations this can save me thousands over the long haul. As long as this policy continues I may considering using them for other things as their account pays a small amount of interest too!

My First Estate Sale!


This past Saturday morning I was out running some errands. On my way back home I noticed a sign for an estate sale 2 neighborhoods away. I decided to stop in and have a look.

The sign said the sale was from 8-5 and it was around 10:45 by the time I arrived. I assumed most of the "good stuff" was gone but had a look around anyway. I ended up with a small stuffed bear (for a gift) and 2 pot holders. It cost me a whopping $2!

$2 is not bad for a gift and something I actually needed for the kitchen. Going to an estate sale was on my 101 goals in 1001 days list so now I killed three birds with one stone: a list item, a gift, and something I needed!

Once home I started thinking about it: I should do this much more often! I can get things I need at a very good price, help someone else out, and possibly find things I can resell on craigslist or ebay. I also do not have to pay sales tax and it can be a fun hobby to boot. I am certainly going to look into this more!

Success Story: Flying 35,000 miles for $418 USD!


I stumbled onto this article from a friend on twitter. It is a story of a guy who booked flights totaling 35,000 miles of travel for only $418 out of pocket. He used all sorts of travel hacks, tools, and creativity to make it happen.

How did he do it?


The $418 he spent was the taxes for the flights. He booked it through American Airlines using his miles. He earned them without ever setting foot on an airplane: AA Rewards credit card. He gamed the system to get bonus points and miles to get the number he needed to book his ticket.

This is exactly what I intend to do someday just on a much larger scale. I am banking miles now for use later. Steve in the article above used 140,000 miles to book his trip around the world for 12 months. I intend to do something like this for multiple years in a row. I am going for 1 million miles!

This is a great example of what I plan to do when I leave the full time work force. This guy hits the nail on the head on what I aim for every time I am booking a vacation. The goal is to have the best experience possible by gaming the systems to have the lowest cash outlay. I wish him happy travels and the best of luck!

More Work Travel: Maine!


No sooner do I get home and settled and work has me on the road again! I am not complaining as I love to travel and I have not been to Maine before. Due to the short notice I am flying out on Sunday 12/12 and returning on Thursday morning 12/16. It was the only way to get the flights under $500!

I will be working in the Kennebunk area which I hear is small but nice. I can check off another state on the list and I might actually have time to have a look around some if all goes well. I will be flying in and out of Boston due to flight times and costs. I hope the weather is ok while I am there.

Best of all: more miles!

Back from vacation and back to the grind...


I arrived back home on Dec 4 in the evening. I had a stuffy nose from the long flights and change from hot to cold and didn't think much of it. I awoke on Dec 5 with fever chills at 4 AM and felt much worse. I have a sinus infection.

I was due back at work on Dec 6 and went as scheduled. Fast forward to today and I am feeling a better and my illness is down to a common cold. Unpleasant but manageable. I am still trying to get back into the swing of things. I have a lot of cleaning, laundry, work, finances, blogging, and a thousand other things to catch up on.

The lack of posts lately is a combination of being sick, short on time, and busy (ie overtime) at work. I am trying to get back in the habit now so I can share my financial information and get re-focused. Hopefully by next weekend I will be pretty much caught up!

December 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 great month this month! I am officially credit card debt free and pay my balances in full every month. I spent the past month in Cambodia on vacation and my reduced costs at home gave me a boost as a result!

As of today my current net worth is $2,926.14. That is an increase of $2,022.53 over last month. The major contributing factors were a long vacation in an inexpesnive, side income from a client, increased savings amounts across the board!

I expect next month to be a slower month. The holidays always slow me down financially with travel and gifts to buy. I am hoping for a nice work bonus to offset it.  I will remain focused on debt elimination and increasing my income in any way I can!

Alternative Income this past month:

IT Consulting: $60
Rebates: $25

On my way home! (PNH - ICN - ATL)


It is December 4 and my time in Cambodia is over. This is the sad part of the trip where I must return home and go back to work. I have 1 long layover on the way back. I will go to the spa and lounge in the Seoul airport to pass the time. It could be worse!
I must say I have really enjoyed my time in Cambodia and most certainly will be back! The beaches are wonderful, people very friendly and warm, and the food is great. It is an inexpensive country to travel in and I could see myself living here part time as a home base one day.

My next post will be from back home in Atlanta!