2 Half Days at work!


Thanks to the slow season and a nice boss we got 3x half days off of work. I am using one today and another tomorrow. This is allowing me to get some year end chores done around the house and rest a bit from work. He seems to thing Q1 2012 is going to be busy. I hope so!

Today I am starting the large project of a long overdue house cleaning. Time to purge and get ready for what the new year will bring. I also have some tax return calculations and planning, review my last year's goals and finances, and set concrete goals for 2012. Wow I need more than 2x half days!

I better get to work! I have a lot of ground to cover in the next few days.

2011 Travel Roundup


2011 was a fairly good travel year for me. I had quite a bit of work travel and some fun trips mixed in too! Looking back on the year I have covered some ground. I will start with the fun travel first:

  • Feb 2011 - Cruise to Bahamas for the weekend
  • April 2011 - New York City with a friend
  • May 2011 - United Mileage run to San Diego 
  • May 2011 - Myrtle Beach, SC weekend
  • July 2011 - 4th of July back home, St. Simon's Island
  • July 2011 - Mileage run to Chicago 
  • October 2011 - New York City with my girlfriend
  • November/December 2011 - Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore for a month!
  • December 2011 - Home for Christmas
And of course my work travel:
  • Mar 2011 - New Hampshire
  • April 2011 - Baltimore
  • May 2011 - Boston
  • June 2011 - Baltimore
  • June 2011 - Detroit
  • July 2011 - Boston
  • August 2011 - Baltimore
  • August 2011 - Boston, twice!
  • September 2011 - Boston
  • October 2011 - Rochester, NY
  • October 2011 - Hartford, CT, twice!
Overall a good year including 2 mileage runs, 3 new countries under my belt, my first cruise, my first leisure Amtrak journey, and of course tons of miles earned and redeemed. I am looking forward to a strong 2012 starting with New Orleans in Jan and Easter Island / Mendoza in April. Happy trails!

Christmas is over!


I can finally stop the financial bleeding. No more gifts to buy, expensive holiday travel to worry about, or other unexpected expenses to pay out. December 26th is my favorite day of my least favorite month of the year.

I can now regroup and get things lined up for 2012. Time to look at taxes, see how I did overall this year, and set goals. There is still a lot to do in the next 4 days!

Unexpected Money!


I got a check in the mail yesterday!

I forgot that I was party in a class action lawsuit on credit card foreign transaction fees. I finally got a payout of $18.04. While it is not a lot of money it helps to offset my $22 property tax mistake.

I know I am not alone in liking checks showing up in the mail that you forgot about or did not know were coming. I certainly welcome them during this expensive month!

Stupid mistake cost me $21.97


Being in a hurry costs money. That is why gas stations charge $5 for milk and overnight shipping versus ground is usually 10 times as much. Time is money.

My mistake was with my property tax payment. My county breaks it up into 2 installments. One is due in August and the other in November. The November payment was late. I even scheduled it to pay automatically while I was in Asia!

The problem was I skimmed my tax bill and set my payment to arrive on November 30. It was due on November 15th. I did this in a hurry one evening while getting ready to leave on my trip. A simple reading/comprehension error on my part.

This certainly will not happen again! $22 is a big enough lesson for me to be more careful from now on. The last thing I needed was an extra expense in this already pricey month. We live and learn I guess. Moral of the story: Double check all of your bill payments to be sure you are not late!

Keeping the grocery costs low: I have a system!


This time of year has me paying extra special attention to my normal expenses. I switch to bare bones grocery shopping and utilize what I have in the pantry already first if I can. It has worked well this month and I am staying under budget.

I am starting to be able to purchase what I need at the lowest price. Splitting my grocery shopping between the farmer's market and grocery store is allowing me the best of both worlds. All of my produce, spices, and juice come from the farmer's market. I tend to get dry products, meat, and packaged items at the grocery store. Add in coupons and sales and I come out well!

I am getting into the habit of having fresh fruits and eating more salads on a regular basis. Not only is this healthier but it tastes better too. I have almost no canned vegetables around unless I have a specific recipe. I do get canned tomatoes and anything that is really good sale for quick needs. Mostly I use fresh these days and have better meals as a result!

Finally I am working on my bulk cooking skills a bit. I currently make my own chicken noodle soup, spaghetti sauce, and sometimes chilli in big batches. I freeze and use them over the next month or two. It takes me 1 weekend afternoon to cook all 3 at once if I need them. I always find they taste great when reheated later and it takes very little time!

I tend to go shopping more often when using fresh ingredients but I am better off money wise even with the extra trips. Both stores are close to my house and the gas cost is negligible. I try to go to both on the same day if possible. Even still sometimes you still just need butter, milk, or bread. Such is life.

US Trusted Traveler Program


The TSA is doing a "pilot program" that allows "trusted travelers" to use designated security lines. In these lines you do not have to remove your shoes, take out your laptop, nor take off a light jacket. I really liked the sound of this so I looked into it. This would save me time for work and personal travel!

I found out that be already being a member for the Global Entry program I am also in the trusted traveler program! All I had to do was put in my Global Entry number on Delta's site and it is done. I will be testing it out this Friday when I fly home for Christmas. I am interested to see how it all works and how quickly I can zip by all the rookie flyers!

For now it is only available for Delta and American Airlines fliers in certain airports. I really hope this becomes a permanent thing nationwide. What remains to be see is if the speed improvements will stay or will everyone join it and be roughly the same?

Link to the Program: http://www.globalentry.gov/tsa.html

End of year tasks begin!


This is the time of year when I have to look at all sorts of tasks. End of year tax planning, whether or not to do stuff now or wait until Jan, and many others. I have no stock loses to harvest so that makes things little more simple. I still need to project my tax refund this year so I can plan for that.

I also use the time to do some cleaning around the house, purging, and getting organized for the new year. Sell off some stuff I don't need and also donate old clothes and so on. I will take all the tax breaks I can get and if ti de-clutters my house in the process that is a great bonus!

I get to juggle all this with Christmas shopping, travel, work, and other day-to-day tasks. A busy 15 days to go!

Upcoming Travel: New Orleans, Easter Island!


Aside from going home for Christmas I am heading to New Orleans for a long weekend in January for my girlfriend's birthday. What an all in fare of $91 per person round trip I had to do it. It is a fun place for a weekend with plenty to do, great nightlife, and of course fantastic food. Best of all New Orleans is not an expensive place. All wins in my book.

We are also going to Easter Island and Argentinean wine country for 9 days total the first week of April. I am looking forward to a lot of big head statues, the best steak you will ever have, great wine, and some beach time. And the best part is this is all fun travel for not a lot of money!

I still have to renew my passport before we go and that is on the docket if January. It is a steep $110 to renew but at least it will get me 10 more years. I have pay an expensive visa fee for Chile that is good for the life of the passport so it pays off in the long run.

I am getting an iPad 2 from work!


Ever since it came out I have wanted an iPad. I simply could not afford one and it truly was one of those "it would be nice to have" items. Our boss asked us for a list of items we would like as a gift from the company. I threw iPad 2 on that list. It is now on the way to me!

The company subsidized most of the cost of the iPad 2. I threw in some money of my own. I am looking forward to playing with it and especially traveling with it. It is great for movies/shows on airplanes and also games. It will be a great way to pass the time in the lounge at various airports. I can also use it to be productive if need be.

Yay a new toy!

Quick Summary of my month in Asia


Asia was awesome as always. I had great food, nice beaches, and ran into some great people along the way. For the most part the weather was nice and sunny. We took over 500 pictures, rode every form of transportation available, and enjoyed business class flights to and from Asia. Very memorable!

I started off in Phuket, Thailand for my solo week. I took a few days to visit a nearby island with almost no tourism. I had great local food and did absolutely nothing but wander around, read, and relax on the beach. It was rough I assure you!

My girlfriend arrived after one of the hardest rains I have witnessed thus far in my life. A true flash flood that went away as fast as it came. I met her at the airport (at 1AM!) and we started our vacation. We spent another day in Phuket then off to Phi Phi Island (from The Beach movie). It was as great as I remembered just more built up and more expensive. Still worth it!

We headed on to Ko Lanta which was actually better than I expected. Though it is popular with tourists it is still remote enough to not be too built up. We stayed right on the beach in a nice room and had many great meals. The food in Thailand is simply excellent! Next we flew over to Ko Samui. I knew what to expect: very built up, overrun with tourists, McDonald's, etc. It wasn't too bad but it rained everyday. It was rainy season for that part of Thailand so not great. I am sure it is great other times of year.

As a result we left a day earlier than planned from Thailand. We took the overnight sleeper train down to Malaysia (a long ride!). I am glad we did because I loved Penang. The food in Penang is certainly the best I have had in Asia and will return too. It was also very affordable and we ate well for next to nothing! We did various activities each day until our flight to Singapore. I need to see more of Malaysia!

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Singapore. Once we got settled at the hostel I was pleasantly surprised. There is not a whole lot to see but it is a nice, very clean place. The best I can describe it is a modern western city that has been jammed together with a typical Asian city. The food was just as good as Malaysia just more expensive. Singapore is a great place for a couple of days to layover or cure jet lag. Getting around is very easy and everyone speaks English. I would go again if flight routing was optimal.

This trip further solidified my love of southeast Asia. I still have lots more to see and getting a taste of Malaysia has sparked my interest to see more. They have great islands there too as well as good highlands and fun cities. Now that I know things can be very affordable there I can look at a longer trip. I need more time off of work!

Can Christmas be over yet?


It is no secret amongst my friends that December has to be my least favorite month of the year. It is expensive, stressful, and I always seem to get large, unexpected bills in December. This year is no exception.

Work has been crazy lately but is finally starting to let up now. I am still trying to figure out my Christmas gifts (and I despise Christmas shopping!) for a couple of people. I got some medical and other bills that are also helping to wipe out some more money which annoys me.

I am ready for 2012. Three more weeks to go and it is over with. I like seeing my family over Christmas but all the other crap seems to cast a shadow over it. At least I have some awesome food to look forward too!

A long week!


My first week back at work was a long one. As I suspected a lot of stuff piled up while I was away. It could have certainly been worse.

I had to install 12 new locations for a new client local to the Atlanta area. Between the jet lag and my sore legs (which I suspect is from all the flying) it was a struggle. I drove over 500 miles this week for work. In the end I got it all done. It is finally over!

I plan on doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend. I am beyond tired.

Back to work! ...and jet lag


My month off in Asia was great! I saw some great beaches and ate a lot of awesome food. It was just what I wanted and expected! I had a misconnect in Hong Kong but I still made it home at a reasonable time.

I did a quick tally of what I spent on this trip and it was just north of $1020. Not bad for a month away from home. Biggest expenses were hotels and transport between places. It would have been less if I could have gone to Bangkok and Chiang Mai but the floods prevented that.

It is  now back to work and the boring grind of life at home. Bills to pay, traffic to get stuck in, and the other usual suspects. Good thing I am already researching and planning 2012 trips!

Using Vacation as a Financial Reboot


I did a self-audit of my finances a little while ago and found that over the past year I have made some tracking mistakes. In total I spent more than my tracking systems say I did and I had to correct. This basically wiped out the quarterly bonus I got. Luckily I was not underwater.

The problem stems from my system of tracking expenses that are not directly in my budget. Items like car repairs, extra medical costs, and so on are hard to budget for. I use a spreadsheet to account for these against my remaining monthly budget. This lets me know how well I did overall.

It took me the past year to hammer out the details of how the system should operate. The problem came this past month when it appeared that my checking account balance would not cover all of my credit card balances. It gets complicated with work expenses thrown into the mix that are reimbursed. Turns out I forgot to transfer some money from my irregular bills savings account. Other than that it was simply bad record keeping in the beginning that caused the issue.

Now that I am leaving for Asia in a few days this will allow the dust to settle. I will be almost exclusively using cash while abroad. During this time my credit card balances will clear out and I will have a better picture of where I stand when I get back a month later. At this point I will start my monthly budget versus spending tracking over with good numbers. I am going to be much more attentive to the spreadsheet and tracking this time around!

5 days to go!


I have 5 working days left before I depart for my long journey to Thailand via Frankfurt, Germany and Seoul, South Korea. This includes a day in Frankfurt and afternoon in Seoul. It will be a long haul but I am in First and Business class the entire way for roughly $50 out of pocket. Not bad!

During my stopovers I am going to the First Class Lounge in Frankfurt and then doing a free tour in Seoul and probably stop off at the airport spa for the hot tubs and a rest before flying onto Thailand. I am quite excited to be flying Lufthansa's International First Class and Asiana's business class products. They get great reviews!

I am spending this week doing all of my travel preparations and of course packing and getting supplies. Today is also Halloween so I have to participate in the fun too before I go!

I can't wait until Saturday. I am ready for the trip and for the beach most importantly!

Stressful work week complete!


I can now say that all is well with this mess of a project at work. I got everything fixed today and the client here is happy. It took a lot of long work days, no days off, and some careful planning to make it all happen at the last minute. I have had a long talk with my boss to ensure this does not happen again.

I am attending their grand opening tomorrow and I can do this without worry. This was my last big hurdle before vacation and now it is mostly over with. It will be great to truly be able to relax once I get to Thailand and take my mind of work. I am looking forward to the beach, a cold beer, and my book that I am saving for the trip. I am ready for the Land of Smiles!

They are forecasting over 12 inches of snow here in Hartford so I hope my flight gets out tomorrow. It will get nasty out there but I have to go with the flow. Getting upset over weather doesn't get anyone anywhere. It would be nice to get some time at home though!

Thailand update: My trip is saved!


I was quite worried about the situation on Bangkok so I called United. I was able to change myself to a flight that goes directly to Phuket (on the coast) instead. It cost me $75 to change but well worth it. After getting some taxes back it was only $34.40 out of pocket. A small price to pay for peace of mind.

I was also able to get my girlfriend's flight changed to Phuket as well since Delta extended their waiver to cover her outbound dates. It didn't cost anything and even got a whopping $2.30 back in taxes. Delta's service has always been great for me and a reason I still fly with them. When this stuff happens I can rely on them to make it right!

It is now snowing(!) here in CT and fairly miserable weather wise. I am staying in tonight since I didn't bring proper weather gear for snow. All the better since I can save my money for Thailand instead. I am headed to Red Lobster next door for some all-you-can-eat shrimp before bed. I am breathing a sigh of relief!

Floods in Thailand getting worse!


From what I am reading online the floods in Bangkok have a 50/50 chance of drowning the city in up to 5 feet of water. The airport seems unaffected thus far but that doesn't mean much if it gets surrounded by water. This can make a real mess of my vacation plans.

I am watching it closely in case I have to fly elsewhere and rework my entire route. Looks like I may have to fly into Singapore or Kuala Lumpur instead if things get really bad. I am considering doing this anyway since my girlfriend will be coming a week later in which time floods could get bad then even if it is OK on Nov. 7--my arrival date.

Plan B is to spend time in southern Thailand on the islands and skip Bangkok and probably skip Chiang Mai unless the flights work out. I have a lot of booked flights through the now flooded Don Muang airport which I hope will be refunded eventually if I cannot take them.

It is annoying to have my plans messed up by disaster but also have to think about the 12 million people in Bangkok and what they would have to deal with. Wow I cannot imagine it honestly. I am hoping for the best for them.

Work Travel: Back to Hartford, CT!


I have another last minute trip to Hartford again to be there for a new client's grand opening. I will be wearing my trainer/sales hat this time since I do not have a lot of real work to do aside from getting an issue with one of the devices fixed before the event on Saturday. Hopefully this will be a lot less stressful than last week!

The upside to all of this weekend work I have been doing is that now I don't have any unpaid days off during my Asia trip. I worked a deal out with my boss to work these extra days in exchange for paid time off while I am gone. It is worth it to have the extra money for travel!

Less than 2 weeks to go before I head to Bangkok. I hope the floods get sorted out soon!

Wow what a LONG weekend!



My project, which I thought was going smoothly, fell apart quickly once I started installing the equipment on site. I had multiple failures on all fronts and it quickly became frustrating and sent my blood pressure through the roof! I ended up working two 15+ hour days and had to stay an extra day in CT taking away from my time in NYC.

It mostly worked out in the end. I got most of the stuff working thanks to Saturday delivery new parts and some much needed sleep. I am sure my girlfriend was bored out of her mind there but there was little I could do about it. The client was happy which is the important thing.

End Rant

Lack of updates


Sorry for the slow posting on here. I have been beyond busy and have not had the time to dedicate to posting as I should. I am getting caught up though!

Stay tuned!

Off to Hartford and New York City!


Today I am flying up to Hartford, CT for my work project. I should be heading to New York on Saturday to spend the weekend in the city before heading back home Sunday night. I am hoping for a smooth project but some doubts have been recently raised. Keeping my fingers crossed!

I am not earning miles for these flights as they were booked close in and my boss used his miles to pay for my ticket. It is a little annoying but there is little I can do about it. It would bring me closer to Gold status but I will won't make it this year so it is fine.

Fixing Mistakes: I goofed my math on my money tracking.


I am very careful about tracking my money since I maintain a relatively tight budget. I use a combination of mint.com and Excel spreadsheets to keep my stuff straight. I have just discovered that I have some pretty large errors in my numbers and I have less than my spreadsheet says I do.

Luckily I got a bonus from work that more or less covered the errors. It is pretty much as if I did not get a bonus at all mathematically. It could be worse!

It basically boiled down to me forgetting to do some transfers and recording of transactions. It also was partially the result of me working out my spreadsheet tracking system for items that I do not budget for. It developed over the past year and is now fine tuned to be correct. The earlier months are incorrect and thus created bad numbers.

I have a solution!

I am going to Asia for a month and will almost exclusively use cash while there. This will let all of my credit card balances clear off for the most part so I can start clean in December. I will have a better idea of what I "really have" in terms of disposable cash. I am pretty close now but probably still a bit off.

I will start the day I get back with a clean slate spreadsheet and continue to track it very carefully. Having my work expenses reimbursed does complicate things a little but is well worth it to get all of the extra points that allow me to travel more often! I am just glad I have not added on more debt!

Food Costs are dropping!


I am happy to report my plan for taking lunch to work and cooking at home are working out!

I am saving a good deal of money by taking my lunch 3-4 days per week and doing the majority of my meals at home. It is also a good way to force myself to use up the stuff that will spoil while I am in Asia and not waste the already spent money. Frugal is 50% being a smart shopper and 50% using what you already have.

I enjoy cooking and am using that as my focal point. I make mostly inexpensive food at home but throw in a nice meal now and then to counter balance and take place of a meal out. I grab steaks on sale and shrimp from time to time also. Variety is key in food otherwise it is just a chore.

I am trying to keep variety in my work lunches by using leftovers and sandwiches in rotation. I wouldn't be able to stick to this if I had the same thing 5 days a week. This is the best compromise for me.

US Airways Grand Slam: Free hits!


Thanks to all of this work travel I am getting several free hits in the promotion from my hotels and car rentals. This will yield me more miles than expected and that is a good problem to have!

I am switching hotels each night so I get a hit for each stay. Between the 2 trips I am getting 6 extra hits total for activity I would be doing anyway. I am setting my new target to be 50,000 miles in my US account. This will get me enough for 2 domestic round trips or 1 international. The more the merrier!

This is one of a few ways I make my work travel pay off big!

More Work Travel: Hartford, CT and New York City, NY!


I have another work trip thrown in last minute before I go to Asia. I knew this one was coming but dates finally got nailed down. I will be in Hartford, CT for Oct 20-21 and New York City for the weekend. I have to complete a project in the Hartford area and then fix a long standing minor issue in New York. Other than that I should have lots of free time in NYC to enjoy!

Turns out the my girlfriend will be joining me in New York. It is nice to use work-paid travel to do some fun stuff while I am on the road. I am looking forward to some dim sum, pizza, free hot dogs, and my favorite empanada shop in Queens. I will fly out of LGA on Sunday night.

The downside is that this means a 7 day work week. It is all give and take I suppose.

Either way I will take the travel time!

Flooding in Thailand!: Last minute travel changes


The flooding in Thailand has caused some ground travel disruptions. Trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, ones I intended to take, are suspended. After I found this out I needed a plan B. In this case it means flying to Chiang Mai and back. More money. Ugh!

As luck would have it I found reasonable flights for the times/dates that I wanted. I booked them using my no foreign transaction fee card. It costs roughly $45 each way which is a very good deal compared to US Domestic flights. They are low cost airlines with fees for everything but $45 all in is still great. The flights are short at around 1 hour.

I was looking forward to taking night trains there and back as it would save money and hotel costs. In the end I will still get there and have a blast. I hope the flooding subsides by the time I get there and doesn't become more of an issue. Rainy season in Thailand should be winding down no so hopefully it will help out the situation

New Long Term Goal: Increase residual income to $1,000 per month


Now that I am more settled financially I am beginning to look into ways to boost my side income. I have always been on the lookout but now I have more time and energy to dedicate to it. I have several types of side income that I produce to move towards my goal of financial independence and extensive world travel.

My current side income avenues:

  • Interest Income: Savings, CD's, Bonds, etc.
  • Investment Income: Dividends, Gains on stocks/mutual funds
  • IT Consulting: Break/Fix work locally
  • Miles & Points: Churning Credit Cards, bonus promotions, flying for work
  • Focus Groups: Giving my opinions on products for money
My new goal is now to boost the income from the above activities as well as new ones I can start so that I earn an average of $12,000 per year from it. I am looking heavily at a rental property as an option to boost it. I am also researching investing strategies and looking for more IT consulting work as I can. I am constantly working on miles and points deals since they can create high value for travel.

If I can make this happen it will bring me a lot closer to financial independence. It is much easier said than done but I have to start somewhere. There are risks too that have to be weighed and managed along the way.

US Airways Grand Slam Update


Things are going great!

I am getting more "hits" that I originally expected so it looks like I may be able to end up with 35,000 miles! This should cover one of the flights to Guatemala (or anywhere else in Central America) if that is where I decide to go next year.

This is a great promotion and I hope they keep it up for years to come. When I have more money to dedicate to travel I can see myself going all the way for the 100,000 miles. That works out to a very inexpensive business or first class flight to Asia!

I am currently up to 22,500 miles in my US Air account and am still on track for more!

More Work Travel and a weekend in New York!


On Oct 20th I am headed up to Hartford, CT for a work project. I will be there 2 days then head to New York City for the weekend. I have one quick thing to fix in Brooklyn on Sunday but other than that I can have fun in the Big Apple!

It also works out so that my girlfriend can come along for the New York portion of the trip. It will be a very inexpensive trip since my flights are covered and we used her miles for her flight. We only had to buy Amtrak tickets to New York from CT at $39 each. My New York hotel is from Hilton points. I only have to cover food and subway pass.

I am looking forward to a quick fun weekend before Asia. The weather should be pretty good in New York around that time and I can show my girlfriend some of the cool stuff in the city. I am also looking forward to some good dim sum, pizza, and hot dogs while I am there. I fly out of LaGuardia Sunday night and back into the office Monday!

Off to Niagara Falls/Rochester, NY!


I am off to Buffalo/Niagara today to see the falls and have a fun travel day off work. Saturday I have our quarterly meeting which will be more leisurely than most work days. I am also staying in my first 4 Star hotel (Hyatt Regency) in Rochester which is nice. Thanks Priceline!

Work is also paying for this trip so I just have some small incidental costs such as tolls and food to cover. Other than that we have a rental car, free hotel, and flights. I am going to check off my second of the "big three" water falls of the world: Niagara, Igauzu, and Victoria.

I went to Iguazu back in 2006 in Brazil/Argentina. Today is Niagara in US/Canada (both sides). I now need to plan Victoria Falls in Africa! That will most likely be sometime down the road as it can be difficult to get too. I would want to incorporate it into another longer trip if I could as well.

I could get used to these work + fun trips! It is nice when someone else pays for the expensive parts and all I have to do is have fun!

Find it for free first!


For the past few months I have been trying my best to spend as little money as possible. It is helping as my savings is increasing over time and I have been able to adjust my budget downward a little.

With that goal in mind I still need/want some things from time to time. Clothes have to eventually be replaced, household goods re-bought, and so on. I have a strategy that has evolved from this and the idea is to see if I can find a free option first.

I have several ways to find it for free. I check out websites such as slickdeals.net for free (or nearly free) after rebate deals on what I am looking for. Recently I have gotten 5 quarts of motor oil, 3 oil filters, and a Digiorno pizza all for free after rebate. Not bad!

I am not starting to look into craigslist and freecycle to see if what I am looking for is available for free. I am still trying to find a way to make money from it too! You can find all sorts of things for free such as furniture, clothes, book, movies, and so on. Why but new when these will work just as well?

Before running out to the store or mall see if you can find it for free first! The more we save today the less we have to work tomorrow. Time is the most valuable asset.

Steve Jobs: A Great Man Lost


Steve was a great innovator, businessman, and never settled for less than the best. His companies were a huge success as a result. It is a shame that cancer and illness took him at age 56.

I am a big fan of Apple products. The quality is second to none and they are always ahead of the game in terms of utilizing new technology in a great way. This is all the result of Steve's visions and ideas.

He will be missed by many. I hope Apple continues in the same direction and keeps things as great as they have always been. Time will tell...

Work/Fun Travel This weekend: Niagara Falls/Rochester, NY


I have a work trip on Friday to fly up to Buffalo, NY. I will spend the day on the US and Canadian side of Niagara Falls then over to Rochester, NY for the night and a Saturday meeting. I will be home Saturday night.

Unlike most work trips I will get to see some of the country and take some (hopefully) great photos with my DSLR camera. I am a fan of waterfalls so this works out well for me. The free day Friday is in exchange for a Saturday meeting. Very fair since I am paying $0 out of pocket for this trip.

I am also staying in a 4 star Hyatt in Rochester thanks to priceline.com. Landed it for $70 for the night also on the company dime. This will be the highest star rated hotel I have stayed at to date. I am normally OK with just about any old hotel on my own dime. I'd rather save the money for food, sites, drinks, and more travel down the road than have a $400 per night room.

October 2011 Net Worth Update


It is the 1st of the month again and it is time for my net worth report card. I had a down month do to investment values decreasing. Otherwise I was mostly on track and got a little ahead on other goals!

As of today my current net worth is $16,936.89. That is an decrease of $784.11 over last month. The major contributing factors: large decline in the stock markets, less work travel, and more money put towards vacations.

I expect next month to good. I am focusing on sticking to my budget, exploring more ways to be frugal with food expenditures, and reducing car expenses by further combining trips and saving fuel costs.

Alternative Income this past month:

IT Consulting: $0
Focus Groups: $0
Rebates: $89.10

One Month Away: Asia Trip Preparations!


I am now roughly one month from boarding my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, onto Paris, and finally Thai Airways to Bangkok. All in First Class!

Needless to say I am very excited!

I still have a lot to do in the month leading up to departure. I am planning my grocery purchases around using up stuff that will spoil while I am gone and not buying anything I don't need. I am also researching in more detail my planned destinations that I have not been too before. I am finalizing my budget for the trip and making sure I have the money in my travel account.

At the same time I still have 2 work trips to go in October and of course going to work full time. I head up to Buffalo, NY next week and then to Hartford, CT at some point in late October. It is a lot of work to be able to leave work for a month but most certainly well worth it. I am lucky to have the month off in the first place so I have to take full advantage of the time!

US Airways Grand Slam 2011: First Bonus!


I just got my first round of bonus miles, 3,000 miles, from the promo for getting my first 4 "hits". Being my first time around on this promo I was not sure how it would work. Now that I know they will post quickly relative to other promos I have done I am more motivated!

I wish other carriers would catch on to this kinda of promo. I would love to earn AA or UA miles for doing stuff like this. Good news is I can use my US miles for anyone in Star Alliance so I still have options. I am shooting for a free domestic ticket but may aim for Central America if I can find enough cheap "hits" to make it happen.

Keep the miles rolling in!

The psychological battle of being back home


I got home from traveling in 2007 in April. Needless to say I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to live, work, or if that was even going to be in the USA. Two months later I landed the job I have now in Atlanta. I have been on several great trips since then but it is just not the same. I still, to this day, miss the road.

World travel is an addiction with only 2 cures: travel more or death.

Option 2 does not appeal to me so I am left with 1 cure. Not a day goes by where I am not daydreaming about being back out there, with my backpack and the only material items I truly need, seeing the world one day and one place at a time. I cannot put in words the great feeling of arriving in a new place with new people, new smells, new sights, new food, and new cultural quirks. It doesn't ever get old.

The only way I can keep going is to keep my eyes on the goal of getting back out there on a more long term basis. Saving all that I can and shaping my life around that goal is my current work in progress. Unfortunately it is going to be a very long slog to make that happen but I have little choice in the matter. Just push through and hope for the best.

The Art of the Long Layover


If you travel overseas, especially to Asia, you are bound to end up with a long layover at some point. I have had a couple long layovers so far and have learned that there is more to it than the cost of the plane ticket. Cost is important but also where you layover is important too! I have even built in a long layover on purpose so I can have a brief visit to a new place for the same amount of money (or miles) out of pocket!

Airports around the world have different amenities and options for things to do while you are waiting for your next flight. Every time I am looking at booking a flight I always consider long layovers if I can do something interesting with my time there. Here are a few examples:

  • Seoul (Incheon/ICN) - Probably my favorite layover airport. They have great airline lounges, a spa(!) in the basement (think hot tubs and massage!), and offer 2 hours and up to full day tours. You can also take the new train to the city for a day of sightseeing. Layovers here are a no brainer!
  • London (Heathrow/LHR) - A lot of flights through London coming from the USA can leave you with several hours to wait. Why not take the tube into London to see a few sites and have a meal?
  • Amsterdam (Schipol/AMS) - Same as London. Amsterdam is a great city to see by food and the short train ride to Centraal Station makes it easy. Go to Vondelpark, take the Heineken tour, or see the Van Gogh Museum. Great food everywhere!
  • Frankfurt (FRA) - Connecting to Asia via Europe at FRA can be great. Lufthansa has excellent lounges in the airport worth spending a layover to enjoy. Day trips to the city also possible.
These are just a few that I can personally vouch for. I have heard great things about Tokyo in Japan too but have yet to try it. Most of my layovers there were shorter 2-3 hour waits. Not much time for doing much else!

The next time you are faced with a long layover for substantially less money or miles do a little research on the city. You may find that you can have an extra fun stop on your trip! Out of all the long layovers I have been through I have yet to regret the decision!

Finally getting my new sunglasses!


I never thought it would be this difficult!

One of the few things I do not skimp out on are sunglasses. I always get polarized lenses and top quality stuff. It is pretty much a requirement when I like to travel to beach destinations. I also drive a lot when I travel for work and like to protect my vision as much as I can.

I found a pair of RayBan sunglasses that I wanted nearly 3 months ago. My Oakley pair fell apart numerous times and the super glue has stopped working. I needed to replace them. I ordered from a website that had a great price and good ratings. They were $100 less than the local retail store for the same pair!

Fast forward to today and they still have not shipped. After several emails back and forth between the company I finally cancelled my order. I found the same pair on eBay from a highly rated seller in New York. I bought them and a day later I had a tracking number. They are due to arrive tomorrow!

Being patient has saved me over $100 in the end. It was annoying going without sunglasses for the past couple of months but that is now water under the bridge. I am getting the sunglasses I want, for the price I want, and can ensure a great time on the beach in Thailand as a result.

Trial Run: Taking lunch to work next week


In my constant battle with food and restaurant spending I am going to experiment with taking my lunch to work. I have mixed thoughts about it since I have the psychological need to get out of the office at least once per day to keep my sanity. Sitting in one place for 8.5 hours is simply not fun.

We shall see how this goes. On one hand it will certainly save me money over the long term which I can use for travel and other goals. On the other hand I am not sure how it will affect my stress level at work. I believe it is a step in the right direction so I can hopefully find a balance of money and sanity in this area. Eating out lunch everyday is simply too much spending for my budget.

I will see how this goes. I am also considering limiting the eating out to 2 times per week as a compromise. We shall see!

Turn loose change into Amazon.com credit


My local grocery store has coin star machines. These are great for counting your change but normally charge a staggering 9% for the privilege. I recently discovered that you can exchange your coins for gift cards from a list of merchants. Amazon.com is one of them and the most useful to me. Best of all you get 100% of your deposit on the gift card.

I have some change that has built up over the past year and I will cash it in. I currently plan to get a book on Easter Island for my upcoming trip as well as a copy of Marco Polo's Travels to read while I am in Thailand sitting on the sunny beach. It will end up costing me little out of pocket since I don't track the change in my net worth.

It is a win-win since I get a couple books I want and get rid of my loose change at the same time. I turn a hassle into something nice as well. All of the little tips and tricks like this add up over time!

Why do we spend so much money?


This is a question that I hear and read about a lot. The answer is simple and complex at the same time. It is not as simple as "we want to" or "I have it so I spend it". Most people do not even realize it which is a big part of the problem.

Spending too much money comes down to 2 major problems: marketing and ignorance.

Marketing is certainly responsible for at least 50% if not more of your spending. You bought a new iPad. You bought a new car. You bought a new shirt. I could go on forever. All of that is the result of subjecting yourself to marketing. TV is a huge player in this--and also why I don't own one. Marketing is very good at making spend money--even if you don't have it (debt).

Ignorance is another aspect to this problem. Most of the people I know, including most of those close to me, have no idea how they spend their money. They just know that it is gone before they get paid again. Overdraft fees come and they eat ramen for a week. They simply have no budget and do not care enough to monitor their bills/spending and end up broke. Again and again from cradle to grave.

Every time I hear some variation of this story I want to just shake my head. I personally blame it on them since they are the one carelessly spending their money and the fact that they can't even realize they are doing it because of the cable TV they watch. I find it baffling that people pay money to watch commercials. It is no different than walking up to a salesman at Best Buy and saying "Here is 5 dollars. Please tell me about the features of this laptop."

But this is America! Materialism has gone way overboard. We have 2 iPads while people starve elsewhere. We have an average of $18,000+ in household credit card debt on top of mortgages, car notes, and student loans. Marketing has told us that we need a 20 bedroom house with 5 SUV's, 4 dogs/cats, and every gadget that ever comes out. People continue to buy into it and here we are.

Saving Interest: Pay Mortgage Every 2 Weeks?


I have been giving thought to an idea I have read about online. I am considering paying my mortgage every two weeks. Basically I would line up the payment with my payroll deposits and pay half of each payment on the 1st and 15th. Over time this results in interest savings.

I decided to run the math on my idea. Here is what I found:

$100,000 @ 4.5% paid monthly: 82,406.71 in interest paid
$100,000 @ 4.5% paid Biweekly: $67,886.84 in interest paid

In this case, which is the same interest rate of my mortgage, I would save over $15,000 in interest. This is a significant amount of money back in my pocket! This would also help me balance out my cash flow a little bit at the same time. It looks like a winning situation all around.

Now I have to research my mortgage and make sure that I will actually save interest by paying early. We shall see!

The days are moving slower!


This is the beginning of week 2 off the road. I must admit that when I am traveling the weeks seem to go by faster. I miss that and the welcome change of pace versus being in the office all week. That said it is good that I am here as I have a lot of prep work for upcoming larger projects that I need to tend too.

This past weekend was entirely too short--a sign of my burnout catching up to me. I feel tired a lot more often as of late and this reminds of around this time last year before my trip to Cambodia. I have found that a year, at least in my line of work, is too long to have essentially zero time off aside from the odd holiday.  Next year I will do a week in April and then hopefully 3 weeks in November again.

Mondays are always the most hectic. For whatever reason things seem to come to head every Monday. Slows down some mid week and picks up again on Friday. My weeks seem pretty even split between slammed days and slow days. Such is life when you rely on a lot of other people to get things done.

US Airways Grand Slam 2011: I am on my way!


I spent some time getting my first few "hits" for the US Airways Grand Slam. I have done all of my free options except for the upcoming work travel in October that I will credit to US Air. It looks like it will only cost me $40 or so out of pocket to get my account up to 25,000 miles. I am planning on using this for a domestic trip of some sort next year. I can finally have a use for the 10,000 I got there from my Barclay's card.

I could earn up to 100,000 miles from this promo but a few of the ways to earn are expensive and something I don't really want. If I had more free income I would consider it but with all the points I have thus far I have more than I can currently use. This is a good problem but I have to work within my (very) limited budget.

I am glad I found this fun hobby where I can earn very inexpensive travel thanks to my good credit and attention to detail of program/promotional rules. I should have done this years ago but no better time than the present.

More Points: Another Card Churn!


I was originally denied a card because of "too many accounts" with Chase. I knew this was incorrect as I closed 2 accounts a month ago. I was going to forget it and move on but then I read a post on another blog about calling their credit department for reconsideration. I had a few minutes and nothing to lose so I called.

I was surprised how easy it was. Less than 10 minutes on the phone and I was approved. My card will be here in roughly in a week. This time I will get 50,000 points when I spend $3,000 in 3 months. These points, which are Chase Ultimate Rewards, can be used for a variety of things but also transferred to some miles programs. One of those happens to be Continental/United and so far that is my plan for the points.

If this pace keeps up for points earning I will have lots of inexpensive travel for the next year at least. I have to be careful now not to overdo it. I don't want to get flagged by Chase or any other bank for getting to greedy. I think at this point I will back off for 6 months or so to let things settle out. That may change of some really huge bonus offer comes up. We'll see!

Staying ahead in tough economic times


The bad economy in America is old news. We all hear about it day in and day out. A friend of mine was laid off recently. Things at my own job have been wishy-washy lately too. We have been busy but it seems when we gain ground we lose it elsewhere. All of this has renewed my focus on an adequate emergency fund.

My emergency fund is growing nicely but not as fast as I would like. I have lost a roommate and the income from that so I cut expenses as much as I sanely could and also am working on a side business. The slowness of my savings growth frustrates me to no end but there is no quick fix. I find myself very irritable lately and impatient most of the time. Nothing like the feeling of being stuck to put you in a great mood...

Another annoyance that is bothering me is the fact that I am going on 3 years without a raise in an already sub-par paying job. Costs have gone up on all fronts, especially food, over the past 3 years. Bundle in inflation and I am actually losing ground in real terms. I fear the days are numbered before I get completely fed up with it all.

Therefore I am going to start seriously looking for something else. One can only tread water for so long before change is imminent. It seems I need to find a larger company with more stability and hopefully a more interesting position available. Some benefits, such as health insurance, would also be nice. I need change. I am bored and stagnant where I am now. There has to be something better out there!

US Airways: Grand Slam Promotion 2011


When I first heard of this I got excited. Due to a bad churn and my inexperience with it I ended up with 10,000 orphan US Air miles that I couldn't do anything with. Now I have a chance to bring that balance to 25,000 so I can eat least earn a free domestic flight on the cheap.

After sifting through the terms of the offer, a few other blogs, and forums I have formulated my plan to get enough "hits" to earn the bonus miles I need (15,000). A lot of the stuff I will do is free or something work would pay for anyway. I will have to make a few small purchases but should come in under $40. $40 is not bad for a free domestic flight!

I have learned to steer clear of Barclay's bank credit card offers. They are definitely bait and switch with their offer terms. I just lucked out that I found a way to not have it be a complete waste of time and energy. The promo starts tomorrow so I have some homework to do!

Vacation 2012: Guatemala?


Here I am 2 months away from Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore and I am already thinking about 2012!?!

I have to plan in advance so I can get the most out of my trips. I have done some reading and heard stories about Guatemala lately and am leaning heavily in that direction for next year's extended trip. I have seen some great photos from there also.

Since I am already burning 6 days off to go to Easter Island I am considering a destination closer to home for my next extended trip. I will only have 11 work days off assuming I don't need them for something else. If I combine that with the 3-day Thanksgiving week I can make a decent trip of it!

With only roughly 2 weeks to work with I don't think the Asia jet lag will be worth it. Central America has little-to-no time difference. It is also inexpensive and has lots of interesting places. It is one part of the world I have seen little of to boot. As I write this I am further convincing myself this is a good idea!

Nothing is set in stone at this point as I will continue my research on a couple of other places then pick one from the top 3. I am planning on buying these flights as I can get complimentary upgrades on Delta and they should be a lot cheaper than going over the Pacific. It is all up in the air right now. Either way it will be fun to research and plan!

Using miles for travel: Plan, Earn, And Spend!


Now that I have been playing the miles/points game for some time now and have spent the past 6+ months learning about all the different programs I have learned one important thing: Have plans for your points/miles. Reward programs change constantly and you need near-term goals (say within 12-18 months) for your points. Opportunities can vanish!

When I first started churning credit card bonuses I was only interested in getting the points and finding a use for them later. This is good since bonuses tend to line up with my redemption needs (at least for now). There is certainly no down side to extra points on hand but there is a limit too it. I now plan on trips and try to earn useful points accordingly!

Why plan? A recent example is British Airways just announced that they will change their frequent flyer program redemption levels. I am so thankful I redeemed my 100,000 bonus miles before this takes effect. My girlfriend and I are going on a trip to Easter Island! With the new redemption levels in November this would no longer be possible with that amount of miles. Dodged a bullet!

Another great example is Delta. My initial vision was to hoard 1 million miles to use on a very long around-the-world trip at some unknown point in the future. Then they changed their redemption levels twice in the past 2 years. I saw the writing on the wall and now earn and burn Delta miles. This takes away a lot of stress and keeps my vacations cheaper!

This has all evolved into my current strategy. I essentially have no choice but to fly Delta for work since I am based in Atlanta. I now switched my spending to a United credit card so I earn United miles for my work/personal spending. This is with 1 goal in mind: diversification. My current goal for Delta and United miles are business class trips to Asia. This brings me the most value from miles earned at this point.

When I hit the milestone I set I then start planning my redemption of the accumulated miles and enjoy the benefits. I find that I plan about 12-18 months in advance so I have time to save money, research where I want to go, and of course find my preferred award seats on the flights. Spending the miles is that fun part of this game!

I am sure my strategy will change again at some point as time goes on. Programs and personal needs/desires change so I will adapt accordingly. Keep in mind that points are great but cash has the most value and flexibility. Mixing the two can give the best overall results for travel and leisure. Be smart and don't leave money (or points!) on the table.

Work Travel Week 4: The last one!


Today I am off to Boston for my final of 4 trips in a row for work in as many weeks. I have mixed feelings about this particular project and am hoping for the best. If all goes well I will be done after a long day today and have some free time and hopefully early flight home tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

I already know I have trips in October with one already booked earlier this week and the other still in limbo until exact dates can be hammered out. I am ok with that so I can have a couple of weeks at home without getting up at 5AM and flying and then working until 8PM that night. The travel part is great but the work is exhausting too.

Time to go catch my flight to Boston!

Work is catching up to me...


Today I am really starting to feel the sting of fatigue from quite a long stint of work with no vacation to speak of. Sure I have been on a weekend cruise to the Bahamas and a long weekend in Myrtle Beach. I consider those more of a long weekend fun trip. Vacation is when your mind is 100% off work. That has not happened since Cambodia in November 2010.

I remember a similar feeling this same time last year. A long slog from one extended vacation to the next. I have roughly 2 months until I depart for Bangkok via Europe. I am very excited and very much looking forward to it! The problem is that I am 2 months away from that day and I am tired.

This feeling is what keeps me working and saving as much as I can to earn enough money to not have to work full time and on someone else's schedule. Going 2 straight years without a raise doesn't help matters much either. I suppose I should be happy to have a job but at the same time things have to improve.

I am pushing through to November 5th for now and am saving/reading/dreaming about leaving. One of the best feelings I can think if is that feeling the day before a long trip to a fun place. It is a drug, a rush, and an emotion that I am addicted too. If I cannot travel and see new things then what is the point?

More Work/Fun Travel: Niagara Falls!


I just booked a trip for myself and coworkers to go to Buffalo/Rochester, NY Oct 7-8. We have an all day meeting on Oct 7 and a free day Oct. 8. I could not pass up a chance to see Niagara Falls for next to nothing!

From some quick and dirty Google searching I found that it is easy to navigate both the US and Canadian sides of the falls. I plan to do just that and take my nice Digital SLR camera with me. I just hope the weather holds!

Aside from the meeting it will be like a mini-mileage run. On the company dollar of course!

Frugal Labor Day Weekend


We have a long weekend here in America starting today. Monday is Labor Day when most of us don't have to work. I welcome the extra day off as we have been slammed at work for the past 2 months. I still have to travel again next week!

I have no real plans to speak of for the weekend except that I don't want to spend a lot of money. In fact I am making it a goal to not eat out at all this weekend unless it costs less than $5. I have had to reduce my "fun" budget by 25% since losing my roommate. I will be hanging out with friends, grilling out, watching some football, and having a few beers. I also have plenty of other stuff to catch up on at the house.

With only 2 months to go before going to Asia I am trying to save all I can for the trip. I will have a couple of unpaid days off so if I can scrape together another $100 or two to fill the gap it will help. Since I will be visiting some more expensive places this time around I am trying to hit my savings target for the trip also. You realizes the sacrifices you make now to afford the trip are more than worth it once you get there!

I am also toying with an idea for saving some money on food while being a little bit healthier. Starting Sunday I want to try to eat food only bought from the farmer's market. I will be traveling Thursday/Friday next week but I can still make it work. Cooking with fresh ingredients tastes better anyway! I think I can pull it off and will give a shot and see what happens!

September 2011 Net Worth Update


It is the 1st of the month again and it is time for my net worth report card. I had a good month due to reduced spending, increased savings, and more work travel. I also received some cash birthday gifts and a few rebates in the mail.

As of today my current net worth is $17,721.00. That is an increase of $1,661.82 over last month. The major contributing factors: saved some per diems, increased work travel, and slightly increased investment values.

I expect next month to good. I am focusing on sticking to my budget, exploring more ways to be frugal with food expenditures, and reducing car expenses by further combining trips and saving fuel costs. With loss of rental income I am more focused on the spending aspect of my budget.

Alternative Income this past month:

IT Consulting: $0
Focus Groups: $0
Rebates: $80

Random Story: Mark from Lexington, MA


Last night after a long day of working in Boston with no lunch break I walked over to the restaurant next to my hotel. I was too tired and hungry to look around for anything else. I had some mediocre food and a couple of beers to end the day.

When I travel alone for work I tend to go to the bar and eat dinner there. Sometimes I meet interesting people and have good conversation while enjoying a couple after work beers. Last night was one of those times and a gentleman named Mark was beside me at the bar.

Mark has things figured out for himself for the most part. He was divorced 7 years ago and has no kids. He decided to sell his antiques business. After that he sold his house and most of his belongings and packed up and headed down to the Dominican Republic. He now lives there 10 months per year.

He made enough money selling his business where he can live comfortably in the Dominican Republic and not have to work. He comes back to Boston during the summer time to visit family and friends and attend to various things. Last night was his final night in the USA before heading back. We had a good conversation about travel and life in general.

Mark has a situation that I strive to achieve. I want the financial freedom to do pretty much what he does. Replace Dominican Republic with southeast Asia and I would be happy with that arrangement. Come and go as I please and have less stress in life. Most importantly I would be out of the rat race world of America. Get me out of this hyper-consumerist nightmare!

Meeting people like Mark is what keeps me going. I feel that if he can do it so can I. It helps me to renew my focus on my goals and stay the course. My impatience works against me here. I will make this happen come hell or high water. NO ONE will get in my way.

Work Travel: Off to Boston again!


I am traveling again today and am off to Boston for the next 2 days for work. I am starting to become very familiar with Logan Airport and the surrounds due to coming here so much! It will be a nice addition to my points balances and gets me out of the office for a couple of days. I notice my work week goes faster when I travel. Another perk!

This trip will be busier than last week but manageable. My projects are moving along nicely and I am looking forward to a smooth completion by end of day Wednesday. Happy Travels!

Bump the bonus: A great strategy for getting more out of bonus offers!


I go through a lot of credit card offers and rewards programs in my endless search to get my airfare and other travel needs for (nearly) free. They all offer varying degrees of bonus points and hurdles to jump through in order to get the extra points. I feel a great sense of achievement when I actually get the bonus. Then, two months later, they offer a higher bonus for the same thing--ugh. You feel robbed/cheated/stupid for not getting the extra points.

Then I learned of a method called "bumping the bonus" from other blogs I follow. The basic idea is that if a better offer comes along for the same thing you can contact customer service. I usually do this by email and it works well. You explain that you really like the program and the benefits. Ask for them to match the current offer as a measure of good will. I have about a 50% success rate on this as a lot of factors go into.

You will not always get the extra points but it costs nothing to ask except for a few minutes of time. This can really pay off if they have an offer twice as good as the one you got (such as 100,000 points instead of 50,000). This can go a long way to more free travel and rewards! Don't leave points (money) on the table!

Moving Forward: Starting a side business!


I decided today that I am going to take a small leap of faith and see if I can get a successful side business running. I am willing to invest up to $1,000 in the idea to see where it goes. I have evaluated the risks and potential return and think it will be a good long term source of side income.

A friend and I are going to start a small mobile phone software company. We have some ideas for apps already and he has some people asking him to build some apps. He is a programmer by trade. Between his programming and my project management/business skills we can make this work. We are going to get started tomorrow when a new mac mini shows up for a coding workstation and discuss ideas, numbers, and timelines to get the apps to market.

My worst case scenario is that I take some loss on the computer and software I buy. I won't be using all $1,000 right off the bat. The computer is $600 and software $100. That leaves me $300 for other needs if they arise. Most of the investment will be time programming and testing ideas and getting them to market. To start with we are going to rely on word of mouth advertising and luck to get going.

The money earned will go towards paying back the $1,000 invested. Once it has been paid back we will split profits down the middle. We are going to develop for Apple iOS and Android so we have exposure to both markets and even more income possibilities. It will be a slow process before seeing "real" returns but I believe a worthwhile venture. Every extra dollar I make is another dollar towards financial freedom. I am at step 0 right now with many to come!

Be Prepared: A friend's story


I have a friend, we will call him Tom, who recently became unemployed. He found a week ago that he was being let go and was very lucky. He was given a one month salary severance so he will get paychecks for a month even though he is not working. It could have been a lot worse! He should also be eligible for unemployment after the salary stops.

Tom has been slowly turning his financial life around. He is realizing the power and security that having savings provides. He is now tracking his money through mint.com which is a huge step forward from his former paycheck and broke until next paycheck cycle. He has no credit cards and some smaller outstanding debts.

Tom has been in a lull for a while with displeasure of his job and other things going on in his life. I have been helping him as much as I can as a friend. He comes to me for money advice from time to time and I now thing he is turning the corner and is going to start to rebuild. This job loss was his wake-up call that he needed. He is approaching a financial bottom that a lot of people reach before making better decisions and habits.

Tom is ok for now but would certainly be a lot better off if he had an emergency fund. With zero savings he feels the pinch of needing another job and fast. He is limited on how selective he can be. He realizes this now. Living within his means is Tom's first step in the right direction. Adjusting spending habits is a constant work in progress for us all and his is just getting started. I hope a change of scenery and change of job will push him futher in the right direction and not back to the old ways.

Only time will tell if this really is the bottom for Tom. He seems like he truly wants to change his ways and I will support that as best I can as a friend. I have been through my financial bottom so I will give him advice as he asks for it. I find it is best in cases like these to let me find out on their own. Like most people (including me) Tom will learn the hard way. I wish him the best of luck!

More Frugality: Yet Another New Goal!


In my never ending quest to get out of the work force and into living life as I see fit I am constantly examining my habits and adjusting wherever I can to cut costs. All major items have been reduced as far as I can get them so now I have to sweat the small stuff.

I am challenging myself to further cut my food costs and household costs. I am trying to use only half of my per diem money while traveling for work and am looking seriously into taking my lunch to work when I am home. Right now I go out for lunch but am going to experiment with bringing food from home instead. I doubt I can do it 100% of the time but any savings I can get I will take!

I am also looking more into using items around the house for other purposes so I don't have to go out and buy them. I am saving food containers to reuse as well as old shirts/clothes to turn into rags for cleaning. I am being more watchful of food expiration dates and using them up. All steps in the right direction!

At the same time I am starting to make healthier eating choices and that means bringing lunch will force me into healthier meals while at work. This is a good thing as my food choices when I eat out for lunch can be less than healthy most of the time. I watch what I eat at home and I need to extend that into lunch. This ultimately will reduce health problems and related costs.

Being more frugal does not happen overnight. It takes careful examination of habits and making deliberate changes and sticking to them. You have to form the new frugal habits by force and will power. Saying "no" is the first step in the right direction when it comes to spending money. Train yourself to think "How can I do this cheaper or for free?"

Earthquake on the East Coast USA!


I flew up to Boston this morning for work. Then I drove 1.5 hours to my job location here in Springfield, MA. I got done early and went to McDonald's for a quick lunch before beginning to work remotely. I was standing in line when the Earthquake happened.

Being this far north we just had a small tremor similar to a large train rolling by. It caught me (and everyone else there) by surprise. The TV's inside McDonald's had CNN on they they starting reporting on where it occurred in Virginia. This was my first experience with an earthquake of any magnitude first hand.

Overall it was an odd experience. I am glad it wasn't worse and there was no damage here. The last thing I need is a multi-state emergency while traveling for work. I have enough problems to deal with as a project manager!

Stay safe out there!

Work Travel Tomorrow: Week 1 of 3 in Boston!


I leave tomorrow morning for Boston for the next two days. I will do two more trips the next two weeks the same way. For some reason we have a lot of work in Boston all the sudden. Good since I need the miles and extra per diems!

These are all quick overnight trips to places all over the state of MA. I am becoming very familiar with Boston and the Logan Sky Club. After traveling pretty heavily for the past 2 months I can certainly justify the $450 per year annual fee from American Express. The lounges alone make it worth it!

My goal for all of these trips (4 in total, 3 to go) is to spend half of my per diem so I can keep the other half. So far I am on track to make that happen. At the same time I am trying to make healthier choices since eating out a lot can be less than healthy. Salads are king!

Global Entry Approved and Complete!


This morning I had my "interview" with US Customs about the Global Entry program. It was very easy and non-formal. I can now skip the lines at customs when coming back to the USA! Not bad at all!

I left home a little late and took the train to the Atlanta airport. I went to the shorter security line only to find out I had to go to the longer security line to get a special pass to get past TSA for my interview. This was 10 minutes before my interview time and I was very concerned. I was able to get through the handicap line to skip the crowds. They told me not to worry if I am late they will process anyway.

I get past security and the airport trains between concourses were not running. I had to go all the way to concourse E (literally 1.25 miles away). I walked up to concourse A and the trains were running again. By this time I am 20 minutes late for my interview and still mildly concerned. I got off the train at E and hoofed it up to customs. Such an odd experience going through US Customs backwards.

I made it to a small office where I had to sign in and hand over my driver's license and my passport. After about 10 minutes or so we were brought an even smaller Global Entry office. We were shown (as a group of 6) how to use the kiosk and then I was first to "interview".

Based on what I read online I was expecting all sorts of questions on my previous travels (extensive!) and having to justify where I have been. I was surprised when all they did was take my photo, fingerprints, asked me 4 questions about customs violations and criminal background and I was done! They told me 24 hours later I could start using the kiosks. Awesome!

Overall the experience was very easy and I am now in the system for 5 years before I would need to renew. For those wondering: If your passport expires before then 5 year period (such as mine will) all I have to do is take my passport back to the global entry office and they will add it to the system and I will be good to go. I can't wait to try it out in JFK in December when I come back form Asia!

Ready for Asia!


I have finally narrowed some details and booked some very cheap flights to save time on my trip to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I am going to clock in some much needed beach time as well as some city time.

My plans are to spend my first night in Bangkok then head out to Ko Chang for some beach/island time for nearly a week. Girlfriend arrives in Bangkok late at night and I will meet her. We will spend a couple of days in the city seeing a few sights. We then head up to Ayuthaya for the day and then overnight train to Chiang Mai.

My only real plans for Chiang Mai are a day visit to an elephant reserve and possibly a cooking course. The rest of the time will be spent exploring the city, eating awesome street food, and some general chilling out with come cold beer. Always build in time to actually relax!

After an overnight train back down to Bangkok we fly to Phuket to catch the ferry to Ko Phi Phi which is one of the best beaches I have seen. Period. A few days there then on to Ko Lanta for a few more days on another island. We then have a day of overland travel down to Penang, Malaysia where we will spend a few days seeing the sights and eating all of the awesome food that is available there.

Finally we fly down to Singapore for a couple of nights before heading back home on December 3rd. I have no real plans for Singapore yet and am going to let the girlfriend figure that part of the trip out. I am curious to see what she comes up with! I am ready for this vacation and can definitely feel the burn out setting in a bit form work.

The best way to travel in SE Asia: word of mouth!


I have spent a lot of my vacation time in southeast Asia. I must admit I love the place and the prices are hard to beat. The beaches, especially in Thailand, are hard to beat in terms of quality. I just love sitting on the beach in a comfortable chair and a cold beer to relax with. It is a great escape of the rat race here in the USA and I can really "tune out" of all that stuff back home.

I find that even today I get my best recommendations and advice from other travelers on the road. I always seek out where others have stayed and what they did to add to or modify my own itinerary. I also make use of good travel forums such as FlyerTalk and Lonely Planet to get some of the same advice. Sometimes I get lucky and meet someone in the country that has been to where I planned to stay to get the real scoop.

I rarely book rooms in advance when going to Asia. There is no need. Tons of great guesthouses that are cheaper than international hotels by leaps and bounds. My average room cost in southeast Asia is around $10 per night. Combine that with miles award ticket flights and you see why I can afford to vacation for a month!

I always ask around for advice when I am traveling because other people probably know more about it than I do. Not all advice is sound but at least 98% of the time I found it valuable. It never hurts to ask as you get the most recent information. I find most of the info online is a year old (at least).

Shopping for new sunglasses


Based on the recommendation of an eye doctor years ago I only buy polarized sunglasses. He suggested them since I was traveling and driving a lot and needed to protect my eyes from UV rays. I do not wear contacts or eye glasses so I can get whatever I want.

For years I bought Oakley sunglasses because I liked their design and lightweight metal frames that lasted for a long time. I had my first pair for over 7 years before I stupidly left them while traveling in Vietnam in 2006. I went threw a few pairs of cheap ones before getting a new pair in 2008. I again bough Oakleys since I liked what they offered.

Apparently their quality went down quite a bit but their prices were high. I have had my pair break twice since owning them and I have sent them back for repair twice. They broke for a third time (arms fell off all three times) only a week or so after I got them fixed. I have swan off Oakley for the rest of my life.

I recently saved up some money to finally replace them. Right now I literally have the arms super glued on as a band aid. I decided that I am not going to spend a month in southeast Asia without proper sunglasses. I went online and started to research polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses. I narrowed it down to a pair that I liked.

I got the model number and began searching on Google Shopping. The MSRP was $225(!) which is not uncommon for good, metal frame polarized sunglasses. I found a reputable eyeglasses website that got good reviews on Goolge Shopping. They had the same pair for $136. Much better!

My only let down is that they are back ordered. I should have them in a couple of weeks.  I can make it until my trip in November so I have no huge rush. It makes sense that the lowest price Ray-Ban retailer would be sold out. Patience pays when you are shopping.

I hope these are more durable than the Oakleys I have now. I don't abuse them or do anything out of the ordinary so I know that is not the issue. I personally believe poor engineering and design are the problem in this case.

I got a mention on another Blog!


I submitted a personal success story for scoring bonus miles from credit cards and using it for free flights. All of my upcoming travel is the result of these bonus points for the most part. My story got published today on the Frugal Travel Guy blog.

Here is the link to the post.

It is nice to see my story getting out there to hopefully encourage others to do the same. This game of points will work into my long term travel plans so I can score cheap tickets to get to where I want to go. Miles are very valuable if you know how to use them correctly. This requires patience and the willingness to navigate sometimes trick redemption rules. I don't mind reading some rules to save a few thousand dollars!

More car trouble!


My car strikes again. This week I went to go to work. Battery is dead. Great...

In the end I had to buy a new battery. I bought jumper cables first just in case but it was dead. I took it to Auto Zone where they test batteries for free. Once I got the bad news I bought a new battery and changed it myself in the parking lot. In the end I was 1.5 hours late for work.

I had to fork over around $150 to get my car running again. I guess I am happy that it was only the battery and not something more serious. Just seems like I have poured a lot of money into it recently. I am learning the costs of owning and older vehicle versus when it was now is a lot more!

Thankfully I have an repair fund for my car to cover smaller items like this one. It is never fun to deal with car problems but when you have a plan and savings in place it is a bit easier.

Inspiration: 3 Travelers that I aspire to be like


I have been doing some digging around on the net lately to see if others out there are doing what I aspire to do: travel perpetually. I found a few that are "living the dream" that I am working on every day. None of these blogs seperately do what I intend. My dream encompasses a mixture of all of them

The Blogs:

Overall the combination of these 3 blogs is what I want to do. Todd in the first link teaches English and does some volunteer work. The second is an interview with a couple who have enough income from investments to travel the world and live cheaply. The last guy is truly traveling and seeing the world without a specific income. These all sound great to me.

My intention is to combine the 3 to achieve what I want. I don't mind working just don't want to do it ALL of the time. I would also have some reserve savings and side income that will help support at least some of my travels. Finally I will do some traveling purely for pleasure. A month or two just simply enjoying a beach town sounds good.

The obvious questions is: How do I make this happen both logisitically and financially?

So far I have a basic plan that I believe will build upon itself to reach my ultimate goal of being a semi-nomad. I broke it up into major steps:
  1. Become debt free and build savings. This critical step is to reduce my expenses to minimum. Ideally I would have my house paid for but would entertain renting it out. Either way I have a place to come back too. I would also have a $10,000 reserve that I do not touch. If the plan failed somehow and I had to come back to full time work this would be my safety net.
  2. Transition from working to semi-retirement/traveling. The details here are fuzzy but I am considering teaching English for a couple of years or lining up some project-based work with defined beginning and end. Would travel between contracts (overseas) to transition. At this point I am financially secure enough to not have to work full time if I choose not too.
  3. Freedom: Between side income, my savings, and planned working stints I have the security I need where I can decide where I want to go and what I want to do. I have found places where I can "home base" and travel into and out of. I will discover these as I go. One place that works for this is Bangkok.
As of today this is my game plan. Adjusting my habits and keeping my eye on the prize is the most difficult part. Big goals do not materialize without some sacrifice. I am making progress but certainly not as quickly as I would like. Patience is one of the hardest things to learn.

Another Knife in the back from Delta


I don't really need a lot of convincing to move my air miles earning to another airline. In fact I am already doing just that. I have switched my primary earning over to United. Today Delta made a move that really seals the deal for me: No cancels or changes to award tickets within 72 hours of departure.

This normally is not a big deal for me. I check back often to get the award I want for the number of miles that I want. The problem is with the already dismal low level award availability most of the "low" seats come out within 72 hours of the flight. If plans were to change I am out of luck. Either stick with what I have or I lose the miles.

Just another way Delta has devalued their miles. They still have some uses (which is good since I am forced to fly them almost all the time) but this restricts my options a good bit. I sent in a complaint letting them know how I feel about it and also made my opinion public on Twitter. Greed wins and the frequent flyer loses...

Work Travel: 4 weeks in a row!


I already have the next 3 weeks booked for travel and now it looks like it will be 4 with yet another contract coming through. I will do the first week in Baltimore then if all goes as planned it will be Boston/Mass. for 3 straight weeks. I will be gone 2 days out of each week this time around.

This will be a nice addition to the miles balance and a good change from time at my desk in the office. I will also get a good bit of money in per diem of which I hope to save half. It is always a nice little boost to the wallet since everything on the road is paid for. No gas to burn, food is covered, extra hotel/car/airline points, and I get to see America on the company's dime.

Sometimes I tire of the travel but I remind myself that this is why I do it!

Global Entry: Approved!


Just got an email saying that I am approved and can go for my interview. I was expecting it to take a few weeks but it came through fast!

I am excited as I can skip the immigration lines when coming back from my vacations abroad. Nothing is worse to me than coming off of 24+ hours of flying and having to stand in a long line. It ended up costing me $0 thanks to my Platinum AMEX.

The Budget Balancing Act Begins...


The clock is ticking on my extra income from my roommate. She is moving out so now I am re-evaluating my budget so I can allocate my lowered income efficiently. I must admit it is not a fun process to have to account for a reduced income. Pair that with no raise at work for over 2 years and my frustration is building.

The drop in income essentially means I have less money to allocate to my life goals. I can still pay all of my basic expenses without issue. It is unfortunate since I am making some nice headway on a few fronts. This exercise is making me decide between some equally important goals for me. How do I choose between a bigger (and necessary emergency fund) and saving some money for my yearly travel?

I love to travel and that is what "keeps me going" during the rest of the year slog through work. I also need the emergency fund in case I become unemployed. I am leaning towards reducing the emergency fund contributions for now so I can have the money I need to cover my already booked travel and then evaluate again in a few months. Until now I was focusing on ramping up the emergency fund to fast track it. Luckily I have it at a good level now where I can slow down if I need too (I am at 2 out of 3 months of expenses).

I have to make my decision and my adjustments soon. Time is ticking until the income stops. I will be lucky to get 1 more rent payment before she is gone. At least I was given warning!

Applied for US Global Entry


One of the benefits of the Platinum American Express card is that they refund the $100 fee to apply for the US Global Entry program. It's a program that allows you to fast track through customs and immigration when re-entering the USA. If approved you go to the kiosk, clear immigration and customs, and get on your way.

This is great as I would not have to wait in line with everyone else. I just follow the screens and move on with life. I really like this idea since I take mostly international vacations and I like anything that makes getting back home easier. This is great since I don't even have to pay the fee. For free I will certainly give it a shot.

My application is still "Pending Review" as of today. Once that is done I have to meet with a Customs officer for an interview. Once past that I am all set and can start using the customs kiosk. I can't wait to try it when I come back from Asia in December!

A decrease in income... and motivation to move forward!


I knew it would happen eventually. I have had a roommate renting a room from me for almost 2 years now and she has is moving out. This creates a decrease in income and will slow my progress towards my goals. I am now working on a solution to help replace the lost income.

I am looking to increase my side work fixing computers as much as I can. This will help but is not consistent. I have essentially cut my expenses as far as possible so there is not much room there. I am now looking at potential rental properties. I have been pondering the idea and now have motivation to move forward.

I have found some places that look good. There is a risk with becoming a landlord and that is a risk I am willing to accept. I have a comfortable enough emergency fund to make a move. By my calculations 1 rental property that I am looking at would replace the lost income with a tenant. I want to move into more of them while prices are low on houses to keep the margin up. This is one way to create passive income for myself.

I am looking closely and the numbers and am moving carefully. I need to first one to succeed so I can move forward with others. I am researching all that I can to be knowledgeable in all aspects of being a landlord. Financial and legal concerns have to be satisfied. More to come...

Booked Trip: Easter Island 2012!


This past weekend I scored 2 LAN Airlines rewards tickets for Easter Island. It is a place I have always been curious about and is very expensive to get too normally. I also worked in some time to visit Mendoza, Argentina so we can relax in the wine country during the harvest season. All in all I have a very nice 1 week getaway planned for us.

I used my 100,000 British Airways miles that I scored from my credit card game. We are going outbound in business class (great since it takes 17+ hours to fly there). We are coming back in coach since the trip is broken up by our stop in Mendoza. I was able to land a cheap local airfare to and from Mendoza so I just bought it outright. Overall I am extremely pleased with the deal I got:

  • Cost to obtain 100,000 BA Miles: $95 annual + spending I would have done anyway
  • "Buy up" portion of the fare: $383
  • Local flights purchased (also LAN): $174x2 = $348
All in cost: $826 out of pocket. That may seem high but the COACH tickets alone to Easter Island and back from Miami would have cost over $2,000 per person. This is a great use of the miles and I get business class on the way there so we can actually get some rest and enjoy our time on the island. This is a great example of how playing the miles games pays off in a big way. For me it made this trip affordable when I previously could not even dream of it financially.

Now I have to figure out what I want to do for Thanksgiving 2012!

August 2011 Net Worth Update


It is the 1st of the month again and it is time for my net worth report card. I had a slow month due to a fall in the stock market and increased spending.

As of today my current net worth is $16,059.18. That is an decrease of $(566.36) over last month. The major contributing factors: a small work bonus, increased work travel, and decreased investment values.

I expect next month to better. I will receive some cash birthday gifts and am tightening up on my spending too. I am also traveling a lot this month for work (more per diem, less expenses!). I will soon lose a roommate which will lower my monthly income unless I replace them. I have not decided if I will do this or not yet.

Alternative Income this past month:

IT Consulting: $0
Focus Groups: $0
Rebates: $0

Getting things done: My "To Do" list system


I have evolved a system to make sure I get everything done that I need to get done. I constantly have ideas and things I need to do and it became hard to keep track and on top of. I use my iPhone to help me stay on top of things so I can write down things as they come up. Once complete they get removed from the list.

I have 3 To Do lists that I manage:

  1. Must get done today
  2. Do this weekend
  3. Catch-all holding list
Between these 3 lists I have most everything covered. I update my daily list of high priority or time sensitive tasks. Most of the time they are simple quick tasks that just have to be done by a certain day or time. I also use the calendar feature of the phone to set reminders for critical items. I try to keep this list short so I don't overload myself.

The weekend list are items that take longer, not as time sensitive, or they don't take a defined amount of time to complete. A good example is flight and destination research for my vacations. It may take me 10 minutes or 2 hours to find a good flight. I also like to spend time learning about my destinations so I come equipped with loads of useful info on the place.

The third list is where I initially put a task 90% of the time. If I cannot get to it right away I add it there. This list tends to be long and I work it down and pile it back up on a constant basis. I find that I add to this list when I am traveling to and from work or in flight. If urgent I add the task to today's list. This is a good way to make sure you eventually get to do something you have been "meaning to do" for a while such as uploading all of my travel photos to the web or renewing my notary.

Overall this system works well for me. I find that it prevents frustration of forgetting to do something important and also gives me a nagging list of things I need to get done. It keeps me on track most of the time.  My personal productivity has certainly gone up since implementation. This is a good starting point if you are a bit disorganized. The lists will start out long but dwindle over time. Stick with it!

Christmas Travel Booked! ...and why I am ditching Delta Skymiles


I decided to start shopping early this year. Since I am using 99% of my vacation time for Asia I have nothing left for my Christmas trip home. Driving doesn't make sense since I will only be home for 3 days. I decided I would fly down and try to use miles to book it. I made it happen but not how I would have liked.

I first searched for award seats to my home airport. Delta wanted 40,000 miles round trip. Really? For an empty 37 minute fligh? I'll pass.

Next I looked at what it cost to buy outright. $220.00 for the fare. Very reasonable for a holiday weekend to and airport where Delta is the ONLY airline that flies there. I turned my 40,000 mile ticket into a 20,000 mile ticket using their Pay with Miles option. Using 20,000 miles took $200 off the fare. I paid the remaining $20.

In the end I got the times and flights I wanted and it only cost me $15 more and 5,000 less miles than a standard award seat. A very good deal in my opinion and makes the already stressful holiday much easier. I don't have to do the 5-hour drive each way alone, no unpaid time off work, and no traffic to deal with.

This is one of several award ticket searches on Delta where I cannot find the low level award seats. As far as I can tell they are virtually non-existent unless you want to take very inconvenient flight times or long layovers. In my eyes the value of Delta Skymiles are dropping rapidly. Hence my earning switch to Star Alliance/United.

As a quick comparison I just did a dummy award ticket search for Atlanta to Bangkok on my departure date of November 5. Delta still wants the "medium" price. On Continental/United I found 14 options all at the low price level. Amazing the difference! Granted I could call Delta and look for Korean Air availability but that is tough too. And requires calling in. It took me 30 seconds to find the 14 Star Alliance options.

Hence I am ditching Delta miles as much as I possibly can. I will still fly them and earn them but won't expect a lot from them. I just hope I can get lucky enough to find low level seats and use them someday. I plan on burning the miles as I go since I suspect they will continue to lose value. I am not the only one. People are leaving Delta in droves because of this exact problem. Their low level awards are borderline false advertising.

New Life Goal: 1000 day holiday?


Back in 2008 I went to Belize on a whim because of a great airfare on American Airlines from Atlanta to Belize for $200 all in round trip. It was for Thanksgiving week and was less than flying home for the holiday. Ever since I have been spending November/Thanksgiving abroad for my larger vacations.

While I was there I decided to spend my week on the islands. I stumbled across the words "1000 day holiday" scratched into a picnic table at a hostel on Caye Caulker. It has been in my head every day since.I have now made it an urgent goal to make this happen.

Thinking about the idea of spending 1000 days traveling: it sounds daunting but no one said it had to be every single day moving to a new place. I could spend a month in Laos, a week or two in Chilean wine country, a month or two in Africa, and so on. It would be a time of complete freedom and being part of the world instead of being part of an office. I would be enjoying the good things in life!

When you break it down 1000 days works out to be 2.74 years or 32.6 months or 142.9 weeks. 24,000 hours of not being in an office and see different cultures, people, food, history, and so on. I would have no ties and can just simply go somewhere when I wanted. I could laze around in a cafe or hike a mountain. I could swim with sharks or kayak on a lake. Possibilities are endless.

Now I have to consider reality. I am a long ways off financially from doing something like this. I need substantial savings, have to sell/donate a lot of stuff, and have a plane for when it was over (subject to change of course). I always thought this 1000 day trip would start of my official expatriation from the US. Where I would work/live/reside elsewhere and come back to visit.

I have already done 18 months traveling around the world. Aside from my flexible 1-year plane ticket I could pretty much do what I pleased. I did exactly that. I saw all sorts of amazing things and met some wonderful people along the way. I want that again. The whole idea of this blog is my financial journey back to this lifestyle with some alterations.

I am determined to make this a reality. That previous 18 month trip gave me a taste of what I refer to as "the good life" and I want it back. Travel is addicting and there is no care but to do more of it. Maybe one day I will tire of it but with most other people I have met and my own beliefs I do not see that happening. The road will always feel like home to me. Being stationary is boring. The world is a book and I want to read every page.

No Spend Day!


Today I have reached one of my "back burner" goals of having a day where I spend no money. I finally achieved that today! I have gone a full 24 hours without spending any money of my own. It is nice to see a day go by without dollars coming out of pocket. I hope to have many more days like this.

Even though I did eat out today I use gift certificates to cover the cost. One to get coffee which was a gift from the office and the other is a Quizno's punch card for sandwiches that I picked up a while back. This covered my food needs for the day and I had leftovers for dinner. Using what I already have instead of spending more is the most frugal choice one can make.

I have taken many steps toward making this possible. I have a well stocked fridge and pantry so I can cook several meals without having to go grocery shopping. I always keep some Lean Cuisine to help curb buying takeout since they are very easy. I also make it a point to go out a lot less. My biggest money battle is sticking to the food and entertainment budget. I am seeking out new hobbies to keep me busy. Cooking is a big part of that since I love all kinds of food. That will be my biggest challenge to achieve.

I am taking leftovers to work tomorrow for lunch and also am making a pot roast at home in the slow cooker so I can get at least two meals worth from that as well. Planning ahead with food almost always saves time and money. I am slowly getting into that habit so I don't have to cook everyday. Change in habits takes time and effort!

Side Work Weekend!


I have 2 IT side projects for a couple of friends this weekend. I have to fix a laptop with lots of malware and do data recovery on a hard drive for the other. Neither one of them is difficult but they are time consuming. Luckily I can work on other things will they "run" for the most part. I just have to click a few times every now and then.

Between per diem at work and side income I am starting to ramp up a little. I love my airline miles and points hobby but at the end of the day cash is king. Cash gives me the most financial freedom to do whatever I want. I also have a couple of tech items on ebay I am selling that end on Monday. Looks like they will both sell for more than expected!

My previous laptop issue with my screen going out seems to be a one time occurrence so far. I hope this holds and I can get at least another year out of it before I start looking to replace it. MacBook Pro's are not cheap but they are very solid. My current one has been a daily user for over 2 years and this is the only issue with it thus far. As long as the quality holds I will have one.