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!