I am headed of the Wichita, Kansas tonight for a 2 day work project. This is a new state that I will check off my list. I am hoping for a smooth project completion tomorrow and Friday.
This is my last work trip until September 3rd unless something last minute pops up. I am liking the few weeks of travel and a few weeks at home. I find it to be a good balance but am always welcoming more travel if needed!
I am headed of the Wichita, Kansas tonight for a 2 day work project. This is a new state that I will check off my list. I am hoping for a smooth project completion tomorrow and Friday.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, August 08, 2012
A lot of folks in the miles and points world gripe about British Airways and their miles program. Rightly so since they charge HUGE fuel charges on award tickets if you fly British Airways across the Atlantic or other long flights.
Today I was able to get great value from them for next to nothing. I have had an alert on a flight I wanted from American Airlines next weekend. Since they are a British Airways partner I was thinking of using my Avios points for the booking. For a LONG time space was not available on the flight I needed. Until this morning.
Expert Flyer sent me an alert saying the seats I needed opened up! Only 1 week in advance. That was a nice email to wake up too!
I jumped online and booked 2 one way tickets from Miami to Atlanta on the late night flight home on August 5. Thanks to only 9,000 Avios points and $5 I now have another 7 hours on Key West for my birthday weekend! That works out to an impressive 9.93 cents of value per Avios point used.
If I were to buy that same ticket today it would have been $447 per person. Only spending 9,000 Avios points (which are one of the easiest to get!) and $5 in taxes is a fantastic deal in my book. I get more valuable beach hours and no rushing back to Miami to catch my flight. That's a win.
This is a direct benefit of all my research, learning, and knowing all the tricks of the trade.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, August 03, 2012
I travel for work pretty often but nearly as much as a lot of the other flyers I run into at the airports, Sky Clubs, and seat mates. I am the lowest level tier elite, Silver Medallion, with Delta. I get some benefits but not a lot or as much as I would like. This year my goal is to hit the second level, Gold Medallion, so I can extract more value from my flights.
As it stands now I am well on my way. Just found out that I will be heading to Seattle and back as well as Los Angeles and back for work. Between that and my currently scheduled travel I will only be around 6,500 miles short of Gold. I am hoping more work travel comes in to cover there but am prepared to do a mileage run if I have too. To be that close and miss is leaving a lot of benefits and miles on the table.
I won't start considering a mileage run until October or so. Things are still looking good at work and I may not need it. Only time and sales at work will tell how much more time on the road I will have. Either way I am hell bent on getting the Gold!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, July 23, 2012
Another travel week for me! I am spending 2 days and nights this week in the outskirts of Boston. I am working on a project that has gone well past the original schedule and it will be nice to check it off the list. I hope everything is ready when I get there!
It is a nice change to be back on the road after a few weeks in the office. I find it a nice equilibrium to have a few weeks of travel followed by a few weeks at home. It keeps things changing and more interesting for me.
Of course I get to rack up some more points and miles for my efforts and see different places around the country I otherwise would not get to see. I have been to the Boston area enough where I am getting used to my "normal" hotels and restaurants while I am in town.
I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing but either way it gives me that extra level of comfort while on the road. It is good to know that I will have a decent bed and good-to-excellent dinner to look forward too as opposed to guessing and hoping all the time.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, July 20, 2012
I love last minute surprises. Today I got one!
My boss had good tickets to an afternoon Braves game here in Atlanta that he couldn't use. I took them and the parking pass and went to the game. It was a nice sunny day out and I drove over to the Delta Medallion parking lot right next to the stadium.
I was at work and was running a little late. I got there during the 3rd inning and walked through the air conditioned club level. My seats were behind 3rd base and quite good. I grabbed at $7 beer and $5 hot dog and enjoyed the game.
I did have to monitor my work email from my phone which wasn't too bad.
Overall for free I cannot complain! Little surprises are great sometimes!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, July 19, 2012
I am glad I get to travel for work next week. The daily grind at the office is starting to catch up with me! I am ready for a change in scenery and people. Working for a small business can be both interesting and boring at the same time depending on what the current projects look like.
I am itching for time on the road and now I have 3 weeks straight including a fun weekend on Key West. I will be turning 30 during this time and plowing ahead with my miles and points balances.
I am fortunate to have a job that gives me a good balance of travel and home time.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Mistake fares are a great way to have a cheap trip somewhere and earn some miles while you do it. I grabbed a mistake fare last year on Continental to go from Boston to San Diego for $62 round trip. I turned it into a mileage run to get enough miles to go First Class to Asia on Lufthansa. One of my best trips so far!
When things like this pop up you should NEVER call the company giving the deal. Doing so allows them to catch the mistake sooner and therefore less of us can get in on it. I have seen countless deals taken away from this. It is the number 1 killer of great deals.
Keep this in mind if you find an amazing fare!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, July 17, 2012
I just booked another trip for work. That makes 3 straight weeks on the road (with some time in the office each week). Kansas will be a new state to check of my list. I don't know a lot about it honestly. I am not sure what to expect!
I will be there 2 days. I will certainly take the miles and points to add to my balances!
I still have more work travel to sort out for later too but too early to hammer down dates at this point.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, July 16, 2012
I haven't even taken all of my fun trips this year yet and I am already planning for 2013. My usual research and earning strategies for miles and points also entail how I intend to use them. I have a lofty goal to fill: 2 round trip first class tickets to Southeast Asia and back.
My plan for now is to fly Korean Air first class on the A380 out of New York. This will also include first class on the 777 onward to Bangkok. I have had great experiences in their Business class product and want to try out First!
My plan for the other direction is to try out the famed THAI Airways first class. I have heard nothing but good things and getting a 1 hour massage at the lounge in Bangkok sounds awesome! I will probably connect through Europe to maximize the experience. I want to see if I can also get into the Lufthansa first class lounge in Frankfurt again.
That said I have a LOT of points to earn! I need 95,000 Chase points for each Ticket on Korean Air. I will also need 70,000 United miles for each ticket on Thai. I can use Chase points for both so my primary focus is to earn as many as I can. I am also focusing on United miles for dining and any other cheap/easy bonuses I can find. I am also looking into other options for redeeming the flights I want.
It's all part of the fun!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, July 13, 2012
I recently did a focus group on restaurants. The payment was in the form of a gift card for that particular restaurant. It ended up being a place is really dislike. I decided to go online and see if I could sell the gift card below face value for cash. It works!
I found giftcardgranny.com which compares multiple sites that buy your unwanted gift cards. You can also purchase gift cards from them at a discount too. The best offer I saw was $35 for my $50 gift card. Sold!
I now get $35 I can use for something I actually want!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, July 12, 2012
This past week I took Megabus for the first time. I admit my expectations were low as I have heard mixed things about them. Some people swear by it and others stay far away. I am somewhere in the middle myself.
The ticket I had cost $8 USD each way between Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC. The price certainly could not be beaten! I like the idea of wifi on the buses and it was non-stop. They also have a bathroom on board and power outlets so I can get some work done.
The reality was the wifi was almost non-existent. I ended up using the company 3G USB card which was spotty itself but not nearly as bad. For free we cannot complain though. My main gripe is the hard seats. I don't see myself spending more than 4-5 hours tops without getting soreness and cranky.
The service itself was fine. The drivers seem nice enough and they allow you to eat on the bus if you like. In a last minute pinch it will work if they go where you need to be. The bus stops in Atlanta and Charlotte were both well located. They also leave on time and tend to arrive early if you are not in rush hour traffic.
Would I do it again? Only if I was very strapped for cash or it was the only option left. I think it would be OK for a one way trip if you were flying back or taking some other transport. I certainly wouldn't make it my first choice!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I used to do this a while ago but got lazy. I am now back on track! I buy items that are free (or nearly free) after rebates for the sake of earning the points. In this case it is a mixture of office supplies and software from Office Depot and Staples. I am earning 9 and 15 points per dollar spent respectively. And I get my money back!
I am now keeping track of deals like this so I can continue to rake in more. I have some future travel plans that I don't have enough points for. They require quite a lot for the two of us so I have to get everything I can. Even if plans change I won't be upset with having an abundance of points. They are just too valuable for premium cabin international travel.
These rebate deals usually occur once per month. I have built a spreadsheet to keep track so I know how I am doing overall. I just have to be careful with the paperwork since they look for any reason not to fulfill the rebates. It takes a little time but pays off in first class to Bangkok :)
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Sometimes you get to do cool things at the last minute. Today is no exception!
I am going to see Roger Waters do Pink Floyd's "The Wall" live in Charlotte, NC tomorrow night. I am staying the night and coming back Wednesday. The downside is I have to take megabus. I have never ridden them but am not a fun of buses. But for free I cannot complain!
It will be a short trip but I am OK with that. The boss is paying for it all and I am grateful. We had a good quarter and this is a reflection of that. I got really good seats and can check a small item off the bucket list. I also have never been to Charlotte so it will be a new place for me as well.
It's been a while since I have been to a good concert. I am excited!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, July 09, 2012
I am an avid hater of TV. Most of the shows are pointless and overly dramatic. Add in the very American-centric topics and ignorance of the rest of the world. Finally the commercials drive me insane.
It still baffles me that people will pay (a lot!) to watch commercials. Cable and Satellite companies are getting paid at both ends. It's a great scam. You pay your monthly service fee AND they get paid by all of the commercials that are run. I want to run a business where both the customers AND suppliers pay me!
According to this Simple Dollar Post the average person spends around $100 per month in electricity, cable subscription, and other related costs. What a waste.
The sad part is people mentally buy into everything they watch. The ignorant keep getting more ignorant because the TV told them this is how it should be. No one can think for themselves anymore. It's a shame.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, July 06, 2012
I had a semi-last minute work trip at the end of the month come up. I will be headed to Baltimore for 3 days. I don't mind treating myself to a crab cake before Key West!
It will be a lot of condensed travel though. I go to Boston the week before. I leave Monday night that week and return on Thursday night. In the office Friday then straight back to the airport to fly to Miami for the weekend.
I love it though! Miles, meals, friends, fun, and beach. I can live with that.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, July 05, 2012
Always books itineraries originating in the USA on Mondays. You have 24 hours to cancel it without penalty and a full refund regardless of the fare you booked.
The reason: Sale fares are released on Tuesdays. Here is an example scenario:
Today is Monday and you need a flight that is 3 or more weeks away from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Today's price is $400 round trip in economy. Not too bad! You book the ticket today.
Tomorrow you check the prices for your same flights again. Delta has loaded their weekly sale fares and you notice the the exact same flights in economy now price out at $320. You feel a little duped. But wait!
You are still within your 24 hour grace period. You can go online, cancel your original fights, and rebook at the new $320 price. A quick flight search and about 15 minutes of your time has just saved you $80!
I do this all the time for myself as well as work flights. You don't always end up finding lower fares but it does happen. There is 0 risk since you can cancel within 24 hours. If the price goes up then you got in at a good time. It's a win-win for air travel.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, July 03, 2012
My boss surprised me with tickets and expenses paid to go see Roger Waters perform "The Wall" in Charlotte, NC. I will be taking Megabus there and back (I'd rather fly but will take it for free!) and see it Tuesday July 10th. Lower level seats!
Apparently this is part of my quarterly bonus. We have been quite busy lately so I appreciate the extra fun trip and not getting docked time off. It will be a quick trip up and back. I can check a Pink Floyd show off the list!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, July 02, 2012
My Boston trip that was cancelled is now rescheduled. I will be there from July 23-25 for work. It will be nice to put an end to this project!
I still have several more work trips to schedule and am getting closer. They include: DC, Wichita, Baltimore, Detroit, and Scranton. Busy is good!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, June 29, 2012
I am on a roll it seems!
I just got accepted for another one on July 11th that will yield me a taste test (hopefully dinner!) and a $50 restaurant gift card that I intend to use for my work travel meals (and therefore banking per diem cash!).
These things do seem to come in waves. As long as I am staying home for work for a while I want to fill up my schedule with as many as I can get!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, June 27, 2012
I just discovered by getting and registering gift cards from both Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks you get a free drink on your birthday. You also get a few coupons and other perks but I focus on the free stuff!
This is great since my birthday is not far away. I like coffee on the road and need it sometimes for long days at the office...like Mondays!
I already had a Dunkin card so I registered it. I got a $5 card from Starbuck (which I will eventually use on the road for work anyway) so I can cash in the free perk too.
Free is good!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Today I got another focus group for some extra money after work. I am actually a stand in for no-show participants so I get paid to play on my laptop. There are worse things!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, June 25, 2012
The small wins add up!
This week I have scored:
- $180 round trip airfare to Chicago for my seminars in October
- $4 3-day Chicago Train pass (Groupon--Normally $14!)
- Free $25 AMEX gift card for meeting a $200 promotion.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, June 21, 2012
For a while I have been using ebates. A site that gives rebates for orders online at most popular merchants. It was nice getting a quarterly check in the mail for things I was going to buy anyway. I averaged about $35 per quarter or $140 per year!
I have now discovered TopCashBack.com where they offer larger (the largest in fact) rebates from the same places. They are quite flexible and I can keep more in my own pocket. Both are wins in my book!
I will continue to use them and add to my savings account!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Today I am doing a focus group after work for a TV Show. I am getting paid $125 to give opinions for 2 hours. Not bad at all!
I wish I could do this everyday! Very easy money and sometimes even interesting.
Update: They had free beer during the focus group too! A first for me but awesome.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, June 19, 2012
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, June 18, 2012
The bonus categories this quarter ending 6/30/2012 are grocery stores and movie theaters. I don't go to the movies so I am trying to max out the $1,500 spending cap at grocery stores. I don't come anywhere close to that in food!
The good news is that Kroger sells a LOT of different gift cards. To make the deal sweeter they are currently offering, until 6/16/2012, 4x fuel points for branded gift cards (except Kroger, Visa, Master Card, and American Express). I did my best to maximize both without buying cards I don't need. I settled on:
- $500 Kroger gift card (bought before I saw the 4x fuel points deal)
- $500 Visa gift card (I needed flexibility more than fuel points)
- $50 Amazon.com card
- $100 Shell Gas card
- $100 Shell Gas card
- $50 Kroger card #2
I am selling the second Kroger gift card to a friend for $50 cash. Money he would have spent anyway and I get 250 more points out of it. Being creative is all part of the game!
Looks like I will be giving the credit cards a break for most things until I burn through these gift cards. Carrying them around is a slight hassle but worth it for all the points and benefits I get.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, June 15, 2012
It has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to do some. They are a great and easy way to get extra money. Travel for work has slowed a little so I can cram some in. I can use the money!
Today I got into 2 different ones. One is next week for $125 and another the week after for $60. I would do these everyday if I could! Some are actually interesting. I like the food ones where I can get a free meal too!
I need to get back into this more and start to ramp up my side income.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, June 14, 2012
When I first started flying regularly I thought people were crazy to pay $400 per year to have access to airport lounges. I used to go to restaurants, coffee shops, and bars at the airport before flying. Then I had the chance to go to the lounges for free or nearly free and saw the light. I now use them all the time!
I am trying to figure out how to value the visit. The quieter space and nicer bathrooms are a good perk but I need to justify the annual cost. I find I get this from the free wifi, free bar drinks, and snacks. My visit today to the Sky Club in Detroit I will use as an example:
- 2 Jack & Coke cocktails: average $8 each with tip at airport prices
- Snacks: $5 at airport prices
- Canned soda: $2 at airport prices
- Wifi: $10 for a day pass (where airports do not offer it for free)
- $200 per calendar year in Delta fees reimbursed
- $100 ($20 per year) for Global Entry
- Membership rewards points that I can transfer to several airlines
- AMEX Travel Insurance (hard to value that but VERY handy if hurt/sick abroad)
- Priority Pass lounge access abroad
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
This trip will yield me a LOT of points. It so happens that 3 big promotions are being utilized this time. My first night hotel will get me 44,000 points plus the normal points for the night. My second night hotel will get me 50,000 points plus the normal points for the night. Finally I will be hitting my spending target for my new Chase Ink card (or dang close!) and get the 50,000 point bonus there.
This is certainly not the norm but worth noting. I will have lots of points for future hotel stays or other needs and 50,000 more valuable Chase points to add to my pile. At least for now I am earning points faster than I can spend them which is an excellent problem.
I run out of time off work way before I run out of points!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I called US Airways yesterday to book a ticket for my girlfriend to join me in Guatemala for a 2 week stint in November. I have read horror stories about their phone reps and was prepared for the worst. I had all the flights I wanted with open inventory that I found on Expert Flyer. I was prepared for a painful spoon-feeding call buried in ignorance.
I called up the reservations line, got through the annoying automated system, and spoke to "Dennis." He was friendly but immediately asked me where "GUA" airport was. "Here we go..." I thought to myself. Turned out to not be too bad. He said he had traveled to Central America before but never Guatemala.
I explained that I could not book this online and hence my call. He did some checking to confirm that United flights in fact had to be booked over the phone. I was prepared to pay the fees. Lucky for me he waived the $40 phone booking fee. Yay!
I ended up having to give him my dates and specific flight numbers. He was unable to locate them on his own but when I gave the info to him segment-by-segment it was not an issue. I spent a total of 20 minutes on the phone with "Dennis" and got every booked and done. Not great and not bad either. Maybe I was lucky?
This means that I have now burned most of my AA and US Air miles. This was by design due to expiration dates and now sped up since the potential merger between the two. Who knows what would come of that so may as well burn the miles for something I need now and watch to see what happens.
In the end I have success! Another cool trip for pennies on the dollar. I love miles.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, June 11, 2012
One of my pet peeves is last minute travel cancellation. This happened Monday morning when my client called to delay the project. It was a scramble to cancel all the arrangements and re-schedule my entire week. Ugh...
It worked out as I have plenty I need to get done here anyway. I hate losing the miles and points but I will get them later when I have to actually go on this trip later. I am still also going to Detroit next week for a couple of days.
Back to work!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, June 06, 2012
I just got my annual notice for my property tax on my house. I had to read it several times to be sure I understood because I didn't believe it at first. It had dropped over 50%!
I checked it against last year's bill and they property value they put on my house also dropped by over half so it made sense to me. While this is not a good thing if I were wanting to sell my house I am not concerned. I will be living here a while and eventually keep it as a rental property.
This is great news since it reduces the amount I have to dedicate each month to paying the property taxes. Since I have been over saving the past 6 months I moved the surplus funds into other savings goals.
It is nice to get a tax bill in the mail well below what you expect. Doesn't happen often!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, June 05, 2012
My annual fee hit for my United Visa card this weekend. I decided to call Chase to see if they can give me some sort of incentive to keep the card. Otherwise I was going to close the account to avoid paying the fee.
It took them all of 5 minutes to offer me a credit to my account for the fee or 10,000 miles. I took the miles since I value them well above $60. I essentially just bought those 10,000 miles for $60. Under normal buy mile prices $60 would have gotten me 2,000.
So my cost is $0.006 per mile which is an excellent deal any time!
Never hurts to ask!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, June 04, 2012
Next week I am back on the road a bit. I am headed up to Boston again Monday night and will be there through Wednesday. With 2 straight weeks in the office I am glad to be back on the road again. It breaks the day-to-day grind a bit and of course I can rack up some points!
Should be nice weather this time as well. I usually don't travel for work during the summer much but that has changed this year. We have stayed steadily busy which is a good thing. Busy means more travel, more raises, and more points!
The following week I will be in Michigan for a couple of days for another project. I am utilizing a hotel promotion to really bring in a lot of points for both of those nights up there. It will be a lot of driving but that is normal for my Michigan trips it seems. I am also looking forward to more great Lebanese food too!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, June 01, 2012
I am going to start a service where I use your miles to help you book the flights you want. There are other services out there so I know there is a demand for it. Through my extensive studying of points and miles I feel I can offer a valuable service to the public.
After some research I am going to take a slight different approach. Instead of a fixed price service I am going to offer a "pay what you feel like" price tag. This takes the pressure off and allows the customer to pay what they feel is fair for the services rendered.
We shall see how this turns out. I am still in the planning stages of this service.
Anyone want to be my first customer?
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, May 31, 2012
I am now in the habit of using up what I have in the house more often. For a while I would succumb to my "cravings" for certain things. I still do sometimes but also try my best to use up leftovers. I do this mostly through taking lunch to work and mixing in whatever leftovers I have.
Sometimes I make larger amounts of side dishes to use more than once in a week. Potatoes and salads are examples of where I can do the same amount of work for multiple meals and have less dishes, less utilities, and less effort involved. This is a win on all fronts!
My next experiment will be with bulk cooking main dishes and freezing them. Things like chicken and pork can be cooked all at once on the grill or in the oven and used multiple times down the road. I am going to try this first with my next bulk Costco chicken purchase and see how it goes.
I can actually see my food cost going down overall which is my main goal. Food is too expensive to waste!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, May 30, 2012
A couple months ago I used the rest of my American Airlines miles to book my ticket to Guatemala. I looked at my miles account and noticed there was a schedule change on my flight from Miami to Guatemala. It created a long (4+ hour) layover in Miami that didn't sound pleasant.
I did a search online and found a seat on a later flight leaving Atlanta opened up! This was great since I was on the 7AM flight. I am now on the 8:30AM flight so I can sleep an extra hour and still have a long enough layover to have lunch in Miami. Since there was a schedule change I was able to do this for free.
Knowing the rules of the tickets you book can help you later on. Schedule changes in most cases can get you a free change. Sometimes I will book a flight with multiple connections in hopes one will change. When it does I can call and change to a more direct flight for free. Buy the cheapest that will work and hope you can change later is the strategy.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A much needed 3-day weekend begins today!
I am planning on spending most of it with friends and not thinking about work. I am looking forward to grilling, relaxing by the pool, and maybe a few cold beers!
I am glad I am not traveling since these holiday weekends tend to make a mess at the airports. I deal with it enough on a regular basis and I don't need added stress.
I am also going to get around to some post-poned chores that I have been putting off lately.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, May 25, 2012
I still feel the need for beach time. Since I won't be doing that in Guatemala for my November trip I am going to Key West for my 30th birthday this August. I just booked flights and car rental. I am working on the hotel now.
I used my buy 1, get 1 Delta certificate (thanks AMEX!) that I get each year to save money on the flights and still earn miles for myself. I am still trying to get Gold status with Delta so need to fly more to make that happen. I used my Hertz points to get a free convertible Mustang for the weekend. I plan to use hotel points to cover the 2 nights of accommodation that we will need.
This will be a cheap trip and a fun weekend for my birthday which is a Saturday this year. I have always wanted to rent a convertible and drive around a tropical area so I can check that off the list too. I look forward to the beach, pool, and of course some tropical drinks.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, May 24, 2012
As part of my earlier strategy to maximize my Chase points I bought a $500 Kroger gift card. I am using it for groceries and gas. The 5 points per dollar earned on that purchase is more than I would have gotten through normal spending.
It is forcing me to get food at the grocery store instead of eating out. This is a good thing since it saves me money and makes me spend less overall. I will certainly use it up between my normal gas and food purchases. I can max out the 5 point bonus now and use the gift card(s) over the next couple of months.
Gift cards are a useful tool for financially forcing you to do certain things. This can be good or bad depending on how you use them. I don't buy card I don't need so I am not stuck with spending the money in a certain way.
I still have to spend about $800 more to max out the 5 point bonus. I am hoping I can figure out a way to use them for work expenses. Worst case I will top off my Kroger card some more and it will get used eventually. Just have to make sure I don't lose it!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I have Kroger in my area and found a great way to double dip on points!
Grocery Stores are this quarter's 5x Chase Freedom bonus category (along with movie theaters). It maxes out at $1,500 in spending. Kroger sells gift cards to all sorts of different places including Home Depot, Restaurants, Southwest Airlines, gas stations, and so on. These are a great way to maximize the 5x Chase points.
On top of that Kroger gives you 4x bonus fuel points (totaling 4 per dollar) for buying non-Kroger gift cards. Every 100 fuel points takes 10 cents off per gallon up to $2.00 off. This is a great way to save a little extra money on something you are going to buy anyway!
To maximize this you could buy $1,500.00 worth of various gift cards that are not Kroger gift cards. This means that you would get 7,500 Chase UR points and 6,000 Kroger fuel points. You could use 2,000 points every time you get gas to save $2.00 per gallon. I would consider filling up gas cans too at that low rate!
Get creative with points strategies and you can save big!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, May 22, 2012
With 2 more work trips booked for Detroit and Boston I booked my hotels and car rentals for them today. Booking these at least 14 days in advance saves money. I also keep track of big promotions from hotels and try to incorporate work travel into them to maximize my points earning.
In this case I will get an extra 94,000 Raddisson (Club Carlson) points for my 2 hotel stays in Michigan. They are running a stay one night, get a free night at any hotel promotion and this 2-night trip worked out perfectly!
It is going to cost me $32 out of pocket since one of the hotels is more than my company maximum allowed. I am ok with that for 94,000 extra points which works out to be $0.00034 per point. I can use these points for my own hotel stays later. $32 now for 2 (or more!) free nights is not bad at all!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, May 21, 2012
Today was going well for work until the phone rang. A fire came up for a customer and had to be handled immediately. This is hard enough to do at the office but on the road is another animal. Luckily I got it sorted out.
I had to pick up some parts locally in Richmond and ship them overnight to my client. This was all banking on getting a local tech available to install them the next day. It was stressful to say the least. I had to put off my work in Virginia to handle it. Fortunately I was ahead of schedule.
All ended up getting fixed in the end. I completed my work in Richmond by 11AM Friday and headed to the airport to go home. I got lucky and cleared standby for an earlier flight back home. It could have been much worse!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, May 17, 2012
This place is certainly an improvement over the past 2 days.
Definitely lots more traffic and very short on/off ramps on the highways. I have covered a fairly wide area hitting all of the job sites here. I got everything done ahead of schedule which is nice!
I am in Richmond, Virginia now and it was a long boring drive up on a faceless 4-lane interstate highway. The weather stayed clear and the traffic wasn't too bad so I made it in 3.5 hours. From what others have told me it seems I missed the usual bad traffic in the area.
This is also a the nicest hotel of the trip and I actually get to stay for two nights! Packing everyday can get tiring. Off to bed!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Day 2 was another day of bad weather. I saw lots of rain, trees, and winding roads. I am moving onto North Carolina tomorrow and I know there will be at least more people around and things to do. I am sure it will seem like a metropolis in Winston-Salem compared to what I have just seen.
Things are still moving along on schedule for work. I hit my usual snags as I always do on projects but nothing too major yet. The weather is finally starting look better now and it is warmer at the lower elevations. Good riddance West Virginia!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I was expecting a boring place and was not let down. I heard it has nice scenery and it does...for about 20 minutes. Backwoods America is just not my cup of tea I guess. It doesn't help that it has not stopped raining since I arrived and I am not a fan of driving on mountain roads.
I hope the weather improves tomorrow but it does not appear it will based on the forecast. I have a lot of driving ahead of me and lots of work to do!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, May 14, 2012
I have today off work and am spending the weekend with my family since I was already so close in Savannah. I fly directly from here to West Virginia for work on Sunday. I am looking forward to relaxing and not thinking about work for a while.
I did end up having to do some work today since some things are time sensitive. Such is life.
Now it is time to head to my favorite local places for seafood and drinks!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, May 11, 2012
I ended up at a small taco bar in downtown Savannah and had some great tacos and a great margarita. My co-worker headed off to bed since they had been awake since 3:45 AM for their flights. I decided to stop into another small bar near the hotel for some cheap beers and to watch the baseball game to unwind. It worked!
I spent all day on the trade floor and it involves a LOT of standing. My sore feet and legs reflect that and I am glad I don't have to do it again tomorrow. We broke down the trade show booth at 6PM and were ready to roll by 6:30. Luckily my boss is taking the van back and I am staying with family this weekend. They are picking me up soon!
I am supposed to have tomorrow off but we shall see if that happens. It is very busy right now at work and with the time sensitive nature of my projects I fear that I will have to do some work at some point tomorrow. Either way I am going to get some relaxing time in and some errands done. Maybe I can sneak in some beach time at some point!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, May 10, 2012
This morning I drove from Atlanta to Savannah in a rented van with all of our trade show goodies. It is a VERY boring drive with not much to look at aside from trees, concrete, and other cars. It took me around 3 hours and 40 minutes to get there which is 30 minutes less than Google's estimate.
I picked up my co-worker from the airport and we proceeded to the convention to set up the booth. It is definitely a 2 man job with all the small things that have to be assembled. It ended up looking great and we finished just in time for the opening reception. We said hello to some clients and mingled a bit.
Tomorrow is the all day show. It is crunch time and a chance for me to try on the sales hat for a while. A welcome change of pace from the rigors of project management...even though I will be doing that at the same time.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Tomorrow starts one long slog!
I start in Savannah for a 2 day trade show for work. I follow that with 3 days back home in South Georgia for a long weekend with family. Sunday night I am off to West Viriginia followed by North Carolina and Virginia until Friday. That is a total of 12 days on the road!
This is going to be a whirl-wind trip with many different types of clothes needed. This presents a packing challenge since I need to carry on my bag and also want to keep it down to 1 bag that I have to lug around. It is going to be heavy but manageable.
I am going to take a small bag with me to Savannah to carry the nicer clothes I need for the trade show and will send it back with the trade show shipment. This will reduce what I drag around during my work travels later. I also am considering going to the beach which means flip flops need to be brought. That works out to less laundry since I won't need socks on those days.
Its going to be a tiring but hopefully fun experience in the end. I have a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover but nothing I haven't done before.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, May 08, 2012
I saw this on a bumper sticker on a car in front of me. This was on the way to work this morning and I completely agree with it. I have realized that material things are just that. In the end they mostly mean nothing. Some of them you need to survive but the majority of the crap we have is not necessary.
The things I value the most:
- People: friends, acquaintances, family, and so on. People are what make life what it is.
- Experiences: All of my best memories are from travel. I will continue to travel for as long as I can.
- Food & Drink: This brings people together. The food itself is not as important as the company that comes with it. It is a tool to bring us together
- History/Culture: Another reason I travel. I read about all sorts of interesting history and places to visit. When I actually get there it definitely adds to the experience to know the background behind it.
- Freedom: without it we cannot do as we please. I will viciously fight anything that tries to impede it.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, May 07, 2012
The burning grease smell from the axle has gone away. I called my dad (a mechanic) and he says as long as it drives OK then I can wait to replace the part. This is good news!
It saves me $150 today since I don't have to take it anywhere to get fixed. It can (hopefully) wait until he comes to visit again and we can do it ourselves. He comes up to Atlanta fairly regularly so it shouldn't be an issue.
It also saves me time and hassle of taking my car to the repair shop and picking it up. I will just hang onto the part just in case things get worse before he can visit again.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, May 04, 2012
Today so far has been a day of putting out fires both at work and on a personal level.
Hertz did find my sunglasses and they will ship them back to me. Nice to know that I don't have to re-buy them at least. I will have to eat the shipping costs. Lesson learned!
I got a collections notice from FEDEX in the mail last week. Turns out the mysterious charge to my American Express a while back was actually through my FEDEX Account. I called them to investigate.
They looked into it and decided it was indeed fraud would erase the charge from my account. That is another $168 that I don't have to come up with. Another bit of relief!
Things are looking up from the events of the Baltimore trip. I hope they continue to improve!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, May 03, 2012
This trip wasn't going to go well from the start.
A lot of scrambling around today got most of what I needed done. There is still one small loose end that my client is going to help me with my guidance over the phone.
Lots of delays, barely made my flight home (the last one of the day!), and left my expensive sunglasses in the rental car. Running through the airport is not my idea of fun. Neither is having a crappy cold sandwich and peanuts for dinner. In the end I made it home.
It was a long two days that I do not care to repeat. The majority of my work trips go well. This is one that was doomed from the start. I have had worse but still get frustrated all the same.
Hopefully the next one will go much better.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, May 02, 2012
I must admit that today got to a rocky start:
- Left home with a headache
- Lots of turbulence
- Rough landing
- Broken A/C in the rental car
- Things a mess at the job site
I did have some great crab cakes and a beer for dinner which helped smooth things over a little. Early start tomorrow to keep things moving for work. Always and adventure...I guess.
Just another day on the road!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
I am off to Baltimore for a short 2-day work project. A little more road time, some more miles, and some great crab cakes to be had. This will be my first time in Downtown Baltimore instead of the outskirts. Hoping it is more interesting there!
I am looking forward to a smooth project with few hiccups. I have had enough of those recently!
I will be back Wednesday night and home for about a week before nearly 2 weeks of Savannah, staying with family for the weekend, and then West Virginia Sunday.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, April 30, 2012
This is one area where I am still learning and forming better habits. I have been buying a lot of my staple foods in bulk but separating into 2-person size portions and storing them. I find that this makes cooking easier down the road. Less waste and fewer leftovers.
I am now questioning my methods a little. I am wondering if I should get 5-7 pounds of chicken and cook it all at once and then store it for later use. It makes sense from an energy use and time saving standpoint. The major issue is I like variety in what I eat and don't want to eat only chicken for dinner all week.
I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. If I buy bulk chicken and maybe cook it 2 different ways I can achieve some variety and still save time and effort later. I could marinate in 2 different ways and cook/grill it all at once to get that out of the way. I can then make several different dishes with that chicken as the base ingredient.
The bottom line is that I need to learn more about cooking and do better with what I already have laying around so I can make less frequent trips to the store. Buying certain bulk food such as pasta, rice, meat, and other staples does save money in the long run. I need to take better advantage of that!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, April 27, 2012
A little while ago I mentioned using dryer sheets to their fullest by cutting them in half and then using them until they start to fray on the ends.
Part 2 to this is that dryer sheets are good for cleaning soap scum also!
Basically once you are done using the sheets in the dryer store them. When you clean the bathroom(s) in your house you can use them one last time for soap scum. I haven't tried this yet but people claim this is a very effective way to get the scum off.
We shall see!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, April 26, 2012
I am always trying to find new ways to save a buck yet there are times when spending extra makes sense in the overall big picture. One of the things that I always aim for quality over price is technology. The up front outlay saves me headache, time, and of course more money down the road. My recent experience with the WiFi at my house is a good example.
I currently have a refurbished Cisco wifi router at my house. It works great...most of the time. In the past few months I have had issues with the wifi signal just dropping out. It usually happens about once per day on all of my devices. All I have to do is reset the wifi on the device and it works again. A minor annoyance at first but now I have had enough.
My $40 cheapie router is costing me time and productivity. I did some research online and found a lot of other people with similar issues and they all came to the same conclusion: spend the money for a better product. In my case that is an Apple router which makes sense since all my devices are also Apple.
I am dropping $150 on this but I know it will be solid. It also has some nice other features my current one does not have so I am getting an upgrade out of it too. They have nothing but stellar reviews online and the failure rate is extremely low. On top of that I get a full year warranty instead of 60 days. A win in my book.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I think I am finally back to normal after that parasite from South America did a number to me. Many unpleasant days and bland meals later I am feeling normal again. I am still not sure what the source was but that is always the mystery with these types of things. It could have been much worse (and has been worse in the past!).
The part that bothers me the most is the food we could not eat that went bad as a result. I went grocery shopping when we got home for our usual stuff and half had to be thrown out. I absolutely despise wasting food. Food is expensive. Such is life.
The good news is that we are both doing better.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I finally found a purchase points promotion that I could not pass up. The Daily Getaways promotion from American Express has a lot of bad deals. In this case it was a great deal. I bought 50,000 hotel points for $128.70. I can convert those points to many different kinds of airline miles at a rate of 2.5 hotel points per airline mile.
That works out to half a penny per mile which is a great rate. To buy most airline miles outright costs 2 cents each or 1 cent each on a "good" sale. I will end up with 20,000 miles wherever I need them when the time comes. It was a small price to pay to add to my pile of "flexible" points that I can transfer as needed.
I value "good" air miles, such as United miles, at around 4-5 cents each so I got an excellent value from this deal. In this case 20,000 extra miles gets me 1/6th of the points I need to go to Asia in business class. That is worth more than $128.70 to me.
The points game all comes down to math, rules, and creativity. I have a pretty good handle on those so I get to take amazing trips in premium seats for pennies on the dollar. This game pays off big time!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, April 23, 2012
I got my quarterly bonus today which was nice and well timed. I can recover car repair and house repair costs incurred recently and add some more to savings! I always look forward to these bonuses as big steps ahead. I am always careful not to spend them on stupid things.
That said I do have to work the majority of Saturday for our quarterly meeting. Not really difficult work just a necessary time consuming meeting. I am also not a fan of a 1-day weekend after time on the road but I will live.
Now it is time to figure out exactly how I will divide up the bonus dollars amongst my goals.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, April 20, 2012
I am in Boston today to finish up the project here. I had a rocky start with things that were not done although I was told they were. I made several emails and phone calls and in the end I got everything that I was responsible for done. By 11AM I had all of our devices up and running perfectly. I had a sigh of relief.
I then headed out for a semi-early lunch then my usual round of errands on the way to the airport. I was very early for my 5:15PM flight so I proceeded to the lounge to relax and get some work done. Days like these I really appreciate the Sky Clubs and other airlines lounges and easily justify the annual fee on my American Express.
I checked into the club and my flight was delayed. They moved me to an earlier flight that was also delayed but it was actually going to leave around my original departure time. I got an aisle seat closer to the front so I was happy. In the end it worked out just fine.
I got home at 8PM and will be able to get enough sleep to have a decent day tomorrow!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, April 19, 2012
Today I am off to Boston for work. It should be a relatively easy work trip for me since I only have to do one location this time around. It is a new construction which means with almost certainty that something will be missing, wrong, or both. I have been doing this too long to believe otherwise.
At least I will spend a lot less time in the car than I have on previous recent trips. I have had my fair share of driving all over the place in recent weeks!
7:30AM flights come early! Waking up at 5:00 AM is my least favorite aspect of work travel but it could always be worse.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Today I was approved for another credit card to add to my nice collection of points/miles. This time around it is a business credit card that will yield me more very valuable Chase points that I can transfer to multiple hotels and airlines as I need them. I plan to use my work travel expenses to ramp this one up quickly and reap the benefits sooner than later!
I did have to call the Chase reconsideration line since I was not instantly approved. A little research has shown that no one who has published anything about this card has gotten an instant approval. It was not a big deal just to verify some information, ask questions about the business, and so on. It took about 15 minutes and now my new card is on the way.
I am running out of attractive credit card offers to apply for. This is a good thing as I don't want to get red flagged by the banks as an abuser of the system and get cut off. I am planning to take a 6 month break from new credit cards to let the dust settle and stay in good standing with the card issuers. Of course if some ridiculous offer appears I will go for it but for now I will take a break!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Well it seems the cold last week was not the end of it!
My girlfriend and I both had the cold on the way home from South America. Then she started to have stomach troubles. We both thought it was what she ate and would pass... Wrong!
On Saturday I had the same stomach problem. It appears to be some sort of stomach bug as a nice double-whammy on the health front. Weird thing is we both feel fine except for a bad case of the runs. We have eaten different things so it is hard to pinpoint where it came from. I suspect some sort of virus.
Needless to say it was a long weekend of eating little and a lot of uncomfortable trips to the bathroom. I am still not 100% today but do seem to be slowly getting better. I am easing my way back into eating normally again so I don't shock my system. I have had enough bathroom time to last me a month!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, April 16, 2012
Just booked my flights for another round of work travel. I am headed to Boston for 2 days next week and now in May I am headed to Savannah for 2 days, home to visit family, then straight to West Virginia for a week-long stint covering West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virigina.
The travel is certainly slower than the weeks leading up to my Easter Island trip and I am ok with that. Just got over a nasty cold this week and trying to get back into the swing of things after a week off.
Savannah should be a more fun trip as I am working a trade show. I have a 3-day weekend to visit family back home before flying up to West Virginia for work. A nice way to make the most of work travel! And of course more miles for me.
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, April 13, 2012
I arrived to work this morning to a dead server. Hard drive died and we were down. This was what I walked through the door to see.
It was a bit stressful at first as the backups weren't working. We finally get the backup to work and the server back online about 1.5 hours later. That sure beats 24+ hours of rebuilding it from zero. I created the disaster recovery plan and it worked. It was a pain to create but much needed today.
Part 2 of the bad luck is that my car needs a CV axel. It is a $60 part which is less than I expected. The killer may be the labor. I have to find someone to replace it as it is out of my scope of car repair knowledge. I am hoping for $100 in labor as my dad (a mechanic) says it should take 30 minutes. We shall see.
So it seems Friday the 13th came early for me. Maybe because of the leap year?
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, April 12, 2012
For those who wonder (like me) where it makes sense to use Freedom card over Sapphire Preferred to maximize points earning. I did some playing around in Excel and have the strategy figured out.
You need to have:
Chase Total Checking with Exclusives program (this gives you the Freedom bonus points)
- In my case I am parking $1,500.00 in the account to avoid the monthly $12 fee
Chase Freedom Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Now the math:
Chase Freedom ($amount x 1.1) + 10 = points earned
Sapphire ($amount x 2.14) = points earned. (the 2.14 factors in the annual bonus)
This ONLY applies to Dining and Travel charges. Any other transaction should go to Freedom since $amount x 1.1 + 10 extra is more than $amount x 1.07 (this factors in annual bonus).
It worked out quite simply:
Any transaction in the Dining or Travel category $10 or under yields more points on Freedom. $11 and above earns more on Sapphire Preferred. All other categories earn more on Freedom. Period.
This may not sound like a lot of points to worry about but 10 extra points per transaction can add up fast if you have a lot of separate small charges. Great examples: coffee on the run, 1 day of cheap parking, short taxi ride, cheap burger/fast food, etc. All of those earn a lot more points on Freedom.
Happy Points Earning!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I found this tip on The Simple Dollar and thought it was brilliant. I won't rehash the entire post but here is the general idea:
- Get a box of dryer sheets (cheapest available)
- Cut the entire box in half with sheets still in it
- Dry clothes and keep the half sheets until they have been torn
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Today I just mailed off $525 in checks that I got from a credit card churn. I had to spend $2500 (that I would have spent anyway for work travel) to get 52,500 points. Those points were turned into checks that I am sending off to my student loans. It cost me $0 and about 20 minutes of my time in total.
This directly increased my net worth. It is a great example of how good credit can reap direct financial benefits when you use the system properly. This brought me $525 closer to being debt free and ultimately closer to not having to work full time. Well worth the minimal effort!
Deals like these add up over time. I am not always looking for travel deals. I will look at any deal that gets me financially ahead. Points are very valuable but cash is always king.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Today I am reaping the rewards of my credit card churning. I redeemed my British Airways miles to get us both down to Easter Island and back. Business class outbound and return in coach. It was a great value since it would have cost more than $5,000 for the airline tickets alone. We are also stopping in Mendoza, Argentina for some fantastic steak and wine.
I am working on my broken spanish vocabulary and getting everything packed for the flights. I am doing a 100% carry on trip for the first time for an international vacation. I will be gone a total of 10 days covering the spring break period. I am sure I will take 100's of photos and have plenty of stories to share when I get back.
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, March 30, 2012
I went with my dad to Lowe's this morning to get a new water heater and related materials for installation. We decided to convert from gas to electric for safety and cost reasons. It will pay off over the long term in utilities costs and efficiency.
It took my dad most of the day to get the electrical and plumbing redone but I now am mostly back to normal again. It is nice to have a hot shower!
I spent $300 on materials and am taking my dad out for a nice dinner tonight for his help. All said and done I am looking at close to my $500 estimate. Luckily I had money saved for house repairs to pay for this.
This is the perfect example of why we all need an emergency fund!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, March 29, 2012
Today was a relatively uneventful day on the road. I got the rest of the work done and the client trained on the new system. They were very pleased with the results which always makes me at ease after a lot of work, planning, and travel to make it happen.
I have to say the TSA security line at Bangor Airport is one of the worst I have been in. They went through my entire bag and took everything out which I of course had to take 20 minutes to repack properly. I understand wanting to be safe but running pens and iPad cables separately is taking it too far.
It is obvious these people have nothing better to do than to waste our time and tax dollars.
Time for the flight back home and a quick stop in New York to change planes. A trip to the sky club for a celebratory drink is in order!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I have spent my first full day in Maine for work. I got 90% of the work I came for done and have had some free time. I admit there is not a lot to do around here! Flying in from 75 F weather to 30 F weather doesn't add much to my motivation. Their seems to be very limited good food options around too. Bleh!
I have all day here tomorrow and head back home tomorrow night. My dad should arrive around the same time and we will assess the hot water heat situation. I am estimating at least $500 in costs to get things back to normal if no further damage is found. I am glad he is coming up as hiring someone would easily be north of $1000+.
It is time to head to a local Irish pub for dinner. I hope the food is at least edible! I have had bad luck with finding decent local restaurants in the northeastern USA.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I woke up this morning to have a shower as usual. I noticed that the water was barely warm. I found it odd but went on as usual getting ready for work. As I was shaving it hit me. I knew what the problem was but finished getting ready.
I went downstairs. Broken water heater. Leaking. I was none too pleased.
Immediate call to my Dad and work begins. End up shutting the water off to the entire house since the valve for the water heater is of course not closing all the way. Drained out the water heater and started to soak up the water as best I can.
Did I mention I have a flight to Maine for work at 5:40PM? Yeah.
I get to the office around 10AM. I am late, stressed, and already had a shortened day and week due to travel and I am going to Easter Island on Friday!
At least this happened now and not while I was gone for 10 days. It could always be worse.
Luckily my Dad will get time off to come for a long weekend and we will install a new water heater and get things sorted out. It will be a lot cheaper than a plumber/electrician and I will buy him a nice dinner and his gas here and back.
Now I am off to Maine!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, March 26, 2012
It amazes me what people come up with. This is why I love blogs and the internet. All of the different thinkers out there can share their ideas freely and I can learn form them. This is a great example:
27 Uses for a dead phone book
I usually get these fairly often from the phone company even though I don't even have phone service...go figure?
I would normally just toss them in my recycle bins for the weekly pickup. Not anymore!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, March 23, 2012
Today I have finished my last job site for this big trip up to Michigan. It was a large project for the company and it went well. I got all 35 locations up and running on relatively short notice with no major hiccups. I call that a win any day of the week.
I am going back home (well the office) tomorrow morning. No need for me to stay another full day just to sit around on slow WiFi and get half as much done. We have more work coming and I need to tend to it soon!
This trip has earned me a lot of points and per diems that will be handy for Easter Island, Guatemala, and beyond. I am off to Maine next week for a quick 2 day, 2 night trip for a smaller project. I have never been to northern Maine and am hoping for some decent weather.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, March 22, 2012
I fly nearly all of my vacation travel using the points I earn from my fun game of promotions and credit card offers. And of course my work travel that earns me points with a few programs. Now that I have been in the game for a while I have my overall strategy figured out: Do not put all my points into one program!
A lot of programs lately have "devalued" their points by changing the rules. These changes make the rewards I want take a lot more points to redeem. Delta was the worst and fell way down my list. British Airways switched to a distance based approach with removed some great redemptions but added others. Half of the battle is to keep up with the rules and tricks to get what you want for the least amount of points.
The only way to stay a step ahead of the game is to earn points that you can transfer to multiple programs. As it stands today my top 3 are American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Hotels Group. Each of these allows me to transfer their points to a long list of programs. I can move to where I find the best deal and am not married to a single program.
My current favorite is Chase Ultimate Rewards since they transfer to United. I am most interested in international business/first class. United has lots of great partners in Star Alliance and availability. I can first find the seats I want, transfer to United instantly, and book the ticket. Fantastic!
My main problem is earning points fast enough. With promotions and credit card offers slowing down I will eventually run out if this trend continues. I know this game is not going to be sustainable forever so I need to make the most of what I can get today.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Last week I started traveling for work with my new bag. I wasn't sure at first when it arrived and I did a trial packing of all of the essentials. Now that I have lived out of it for a week I can form a better opinion. I have figured out all the little quirks and tricks to make it work better.
The result: The bag was worth every penny!
It is smaller and more light weight than my older backpack (which was meant as a laptop bag!). I can get all the clothes, electronics, work stuff, and everything else I need into it with room to spare. I use the large section for clothes and toiletries. The middle section I put electronics, notebook, and other odds and ends. The outer pocket happens to fit my macbook pro by itself.
I had to change the way I organize my stuff since it has essentially no internal pockets. I am using small bags and ziploc bags to keep things organized. I have ordered ditty bags from Amazon to save weight and space in the long run. I highly recommend them!
It construction is solid. I can tell they used very high quality materials and workmanship when building the bag. It does everything I need it too and more. I can certainly see using it for longer trips too and fully intend to do so. My main gripe is that it is not great for laptops. They are not really protected at all in the bag. I also have to note that it wasn't built for that purpose.
I will probably end up getting a small separate laptop bag as a solution. While I don't like to carry 2 bags I can see where it will be useful. Firstly I will have proper protection for the laptop. Second it transfers a lot of electronic stuff out of the main bag. That leaves room for more clothes needed for longer trips and better weight distribution. I also like having the big bag in the overhead and my smaller bag with everything I need under the seat.
Overall I am very happy I bought the bag. It will give me a lifetime of good service and easy traveling in the air. I have a lifetime warranty, no questions asked, and can get a new one if I have any issues. They are USA based and manufactured so I don't have to worry about getting stiffed on some sort of warranty exclusion.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, March 20, 2012
This morning I flew United from Atlanta to Dulles to Detroit. I booked a reward coach ticket for work in exchange for some points. It definitely worked out in my favor!
I decided to buy and Economy plus seat on my leg from Dulles to Detroit. The Atlanta leg did not offer it (very small plane). It cost me $19 over and above the ticket price. Now that I have done it I am wondering: Was it worth it?
My Answer: Maybe.
I bought it since I needed to deplane quickly and get to my rental car and ultimately my first job site in the city. It saved me about 30 minutes (my own estimate) over a standard seat.
The seat itself: I thought it was pretty good. Being 6'2" I really liked the extra leg room. It seemed to be the same as most smaller plane exit row seats. It was appreciated. The recline seemed to be the same as all other economy seats. If there was more I certainly did not notice it!
Would I pay for it again?
My Answer: only if it was a longer (3+ hour) flight. I can survive a couple of hours in a normal coach seat if I have too. If I am going across the country the value of the extra space increases since I will be stuck there a lot longer.
Pricing: It would be more fair of United (or any other airline) to make the Economy Plus seats an upgrade fee per direction instead of per segment. Those costs can really jump if you have to connect a lot. It also helps us not feel nickel-and-dimed. Just combine the two fees and drop the price a little.
As a Delta Elite flyer I will certainly be using the economy comfort seats as they become more widely available. I rarely, if ever, get upgrades and the extra room means more to me flying all the time. I am interested in trying them on a longer haul international flight also. If I have to buy a ticket instead of using miles I would pay for the extra comfort.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, March 19, 2012
It was a long week. I flew in Sunday night and leave tonight. I have visited 22 customer locations statewide and have driven over 900 miles. It has been hectic and I am tired!
At least I get to be home for the weekend. Changing hotels daily and long hours have worn me out a bit. I am planning on some R&R in the nice weather. I also have to do other fun things like laundry, errands, and paying bills while I am home.
I am flying back out Monday morning on United. I have a ridiculous flight time of 5:45AM departure with a 45 minute connection in Washington, DC. I am not looking forward to getting up at 3AM but it has to be done.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, March 16, 2012
We are getting very busy at work. I am being ever more stretched. I am managing other projects while on the road for the current one. Busy is good though. It means raises and bonuses. It also means more miles and points to have fun with. Keeping the eyes on the prize.
I have even more travel coming up. It looks like I will be going back to Boston again in late April. That will be followed by at least 1 trip to Baltimore. I also have my WV/NC/VA trip that has to be booked sometime in there too. I might even be coming back from vacation to the road again. A lot still has to be planned out first.
I am happy to be busy. No worse feeling that it being very slow and work and wondering how much longer your job will be around. I will have to make the most of every opportunity that comes my way and keep my eyes open.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, March 15, 2012
Eating well on the road is tough. I am getting better at it but when I am tired after a 12 hour day and not familiar with the area I go for what is close, fast, and easy. Usually means mediocre food that may or may not be healthy. I am trying to change that.
Tools I use:
- Yelp. I look for a place that has at least 20 reviews with 4+ star rating average. I find great local places this way that I can go back too.
- Ask my customers. They live here! I have gotten some good suggestions over the years.
- Ask hotel front desk staff. They also live here and work where I am staying so they can suggest healthier options.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, March 14, 2012
American Express has been giving free money by "syncing" your AMEX card to twitter, facebook, and foursquare. You register for the deal and then spend at the business using your AMEX card. You get a credit on your statement 3-5 days (or less!) after you meet the spending requirement. There are some great deals. Here are a few:
- Spend $5 and get $5 credit at McDonalds
- Spend $10 get $10 credit at Best Buy (I got a $10 gift card)
- Spend $5 get $5 at a few of my favorite bars/restaurants
- Spend $5 get $10(!!) in Austin, Texas (dead deal)
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Now that I have an iPad and have been using it for a while I find that I use it most often for certain things. I decided to share my list for those who may be on the fence about buying one. They are expensive!
What I use my iPad for:
- Travel. Great for watching movies, reading, and light web surfing and email. Good for short trips where you don't want to lug around a 10 pound laptop. Weekend trips ideal.
- Netflix. The screen is large enough to watch shows and movies on. The battery lasts a long time so no issue there. Quality is great!
- Second Monitor. I bought the $10 app that allows me to use it as a second monitor for my laptop. It works over wifi and very well at that!
- Web Surfing and Email. This is great for doing small things just before bed. Send a quick email or surf a couple of pages.
- Light Gaming. Games look great on the iPad and the large screen is awesome!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, March 12, 2012
I leave on Sunday for 6 days / 5 nights in Michigan. Probably one of my least favorite places in the world. It is relatively inexpensive for America so I can make the most of per diems and my time there. I have a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover. I am just keeping my eyes set on all the points and miles I will earn and the trips I will get from them!
I will be back home for St. Patrick's Day weekend then back to Michigan again the following week for 5 days / 4 nights. I am going to get a feel for what I real road warrior does "commuting" by air each week.
After that I have a couple of days and nights in northern Maine and finally Easter Island for spring break! I am looking forward to steak, wine, and of course the awesome sights. It is going to be a lot of time in the air and the airports but certainly worth it in the end. I love to fly so this all works out great!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, March 09, 2012
That is the question I am trying to answer. I am still saving for my emergency fund and have been back and forth in my mind on a target number. I have now decided:
I need 1 year's worth of bare bones bills saved up to not worry about job loss or some other life event.
That changes my new target to roughly $20,000.00. That seems like a lot but to live an entire year, 365 days without income, is a nice safety net. That is also the amount I would need in order to attempt starting my own business or going to consulting/contracting full time. This target represents that goal.
My main goal in life is to be financially independent enough to not have to work 40 hours per week. That leads to other goals like travel and part time contracting to fill the gaps. The more I have in savings the less I actually need to work in order to live. I don't want to quit working completely at this point just not have it be the focus of my entire life.
Having time to do what I really want is the most important. I don't need a Mercedes, 18-bedroom house, or 67 plasma TV's. Just time to do what I like (mostly travel at this point). Without having to work 40-60 hours per week I can enjoy myself more. That is the real aim here.
I know that if I had a savings account that could cover my bills for the next 365 days I won't be as worried about losing my job due to some unforeseen event. I can focus on other things and move forward. My patience is thin but I am getting there. Hopefully another year or so and I will be in a much better position.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, March 08, 2012
I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I love flying. I get to go to a new place (sometimes) and just relax and enjoy the ride. After a while though I get bored. This is when I try to do something productive with the free time in the air.
Here is my list of things one can do:
- Respond to emails and send if the flight has WiFi. I save drafts if not and send when on the ground later.
- Organize my expenses. I have tons of receipts to get reimbursed for. May as well get a head start!
- Read about my destination. Using either a guidebook, print outs, or WiFi if available
- Update to do lists
- Write in a journal. I like to do this when coming back from an international trip.
- Talk to others. You never know who you are sitting next too. Network with them!
- Organize files on my computer. They seem to get in a mess quickly!
- Sleep: If I can. Sleeping while in motion is very efficient!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, March 07, 2012
I travel a lot for work. I usually have to change hotels every night or maybe 2 days in one spot if my job sites are close enough. That is a lot of packing and unpacking! These days its the little things that hotels do that make me a repeat customer. Here are some examples:
- Free bottle of water at check-in. I have gotten this fairly often lately. It is great after working all day on the road to have some much needed water. I always take it!
- Free dinner. Some hotels order pizza or have some sort of small buffet set up free of charge. This saves me per diem money and is convenient when I need to get work done.
- Free beer! One hotel has a snack cart that goes around and you can have whatever you want for free. Awesome!
As I spend more time on the road these things mean more to me.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, March 06, 2012
It is not secret that I get very irritated by marketing. Marketing people are no better than politicians. They use specific wording so that you hear what you want to hear. In the end they are all lies then end up with you spending money (whether it be taxes or buying a product/service).
My biggest pet peeve is when an advertisement says "Save $X dollars!". You are not "saving" anything. You are getting a discount on an already overpriced item. The simple fact is that you are being tricked into thinking it is a good deal. That may or may not be the case!
You only save money when you do not spend it. Buying at item for $5 that was "normally" $10 does not mean you saved $5. It means you spent $5. That "extra $5 saved" doesn't get automatically transferred to a savings account. You just got a lower price. Don't be fooled by advertising!
Rule 1: You only save money when you do not spend it and move it to some sort of savings vehicle like a savings account, CD, investment account, etc.
Rule 2: Discounts are good but shop around first. Just because you "save $5" or the item is 50% off does not mean you are getting a good deal. Do your homework before buying anything.
Rule 3: Ignore advertising. It's sole purpose is to make you spend more than you plan to. You are almost never getting a good deal. 50% off a price that is 4 times what it should be is still an awful deal. Knowledge is power. Self control is the only way to really save money!
Being on a tight budget really makes you look at the bottom line and not "what's on sale". If your budget is $50 it doesn't matter what the sales are. You are interested in the bottom line price. Bring a calculator and figure it out for yourself if you have too. Using Google to find out if the item is priced better elsewhere--"on sale" or not.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, March 05, 2012
One of the joys of travel is having to eat out for most of my meals. I try to go to supermarkets for salads and healthier things if time permits but that is not always the case. My usual fallback is chili and/or a salad at Wendy's. You can only eat so many hamburgers in one week...
I have been doing dining for miles for many years now. It has paid off a lot for me and has single-handedly gotten me an award ticket to Asia! I always look online for restaurants in the area I am traveling too so I can grab a few miles from a meal I would buy anyway. I have actually found some good, reasonably priced places that I go back too. It is also nice to stay way from the chains as much as I can.
I now credit all of my dining miles to United. As it stands now they have the best "bang for your buck" miles program. Finding seats on the flights I want is leaps and bounds better than Delta. Hopefully this will change in the future but I doubt it. Dining for miles is a great way to beef up the account balance while supporting smaller, local establishments. A win-win in my book!
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, March 02, 2012
Since my new raise kicked in I am allocating the new income to more savings. I am accelerating the emergency fund transfers and also starting a fund for a new laptop. I am approaching 5 years with my current MacBook Pro and will need an upgrade soon. Either this one will die or Apple will stop supporting it. I need to be prepared.
I am transferring $50 per month to a new savings account just for my new laptop. My target is $2000 so I will add to it later as I get more side income and have a larger emergency fund. It all starts with the first $1 saved and snow balls from there!
I am doubling my contribution to my emergency fund to hit my target sooner. I want to have 1 year's worth of bills saved up and I am about 1/3 of the way there. Doubling my transfers will get me there a lot faster!
The main point here is that I am immediately putting my new income into savings and not letting lifestyle inflation eat into it. All other aspects of my budget remained the same. This is a big win financially!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, March 01, 2012
There will be 366 days this year. That means one more day of work!
I am spending my leap day in Baltimore for work and I must admit it is not very exciting. At least I am earning extra points and per diem for my troubles!
The week is half over!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I have a lot of spare time on the road. I use some of this time to analyze my budget, spending, and future goals. I am always looking for ways to get a few extra dollars/points/value out of everything. Today I realized that traveling (a lot) for work is saving me money personally too. Here is how:
- Gas for the car: my car is parked at the airport all week. I am in a rental car with everything paid by the company. No wear and tear on my own car and no gas used. Nice!
- Food: I get a daily per diem that is mine to keep no matter what I spend on the road. I easily bank half of it every day I travel. Free food + cash!
- Finding points/miles deals/bonuses online: I have a lot of time to use the internet at night. I usually find myself taking advantage of bonus points and finding great ways to use those points. This pays off big with my vacations and fun weekends!
- Slightly lower utilities at home: I am not home consuming power, water, and gas. While I am already frugal with those not using them at all saves 100%! Small but still a gain.
- More Points and Miles for me: Every time I am traveling for work I am earning points all over the place. All work expenses go on my credit card. I keep the points from flights and hotels and car rentals. All of these play a big part in my awesome international trips each year!
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I am going to be traveling a LOT this month. I only have 1 week at home. I am on the road otherwise.
I am planning on making the most of these trips. I am maximizing points earned on everything as much as I can. I am also trying to maximize my off time so I can get some things done personally while I am away. This week is researching where to go and what to do for Easter Island. I will research Mendoza while in Detroit.
My weeks on the road are going to be a tiring whirlwind of driving all over the place, working, and changing hotels pretty frequently. That means lots of packing and unpacking my bad. I always try to analyze how to pack better and find dead weight in my bag that I don't need to carry. This will be especially true once I get my new bag and test it out!
I could opt to just watch TV or play on the internet in my hotel room each night. I still do that to an extent to rest my brain but also have some sort of small goal to work towards. I can get back home after a trip and feel like I made progress while on the road instead of falling behind. Efficiency is key!
It doesn't matter what city/state/country I am in. I need to always be moving forward on my goals. That is the key to success.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, February 27, 2012
I just checked my checking account and my State of Georgia tax refund is now in my account. That is very fast compared to the last few years. I always have filed my state return via paper mail since e-filing with the software was an extra $19.95 that I did not want to spend. I was fully expecting to have my money next month!
I am glad it came early so I can plan for it's use. My main focus still remains having a very large savings buffer of 1 year of expenses. Most would call this excessive but I call it stress reducing in my everyday life.
I am glad Georgia finally got on board with direct deposit of refunds. It was a pain to wait for 2 months for a paper check in the mail and have to make a trip to the bank. Now I just wait for the deposit and get on with life!
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, February 23, 2012
I am finally getting to a point where I am going out a lot less and staying home more. At first boredom was an issue but I am finding ways to fill me time. I am also learning more and earning more points as a result!
That is not to say that I never go out. At this point I am trying to limit my going out to around once per week unless there is some special occasion I must attend. I still have to maintain a social life to be sane.
My budget numbers reflect the success and have certainly slowed the financial bleeding that was taking place for a while. I am cooking more at home and learning a lot more about food which is something I truly enjoy. This frugality paired with raises will lead to more travel opportunities and doing what I truly love to do: see the world!
I am also working on side projects to bring in extra money. Instead of being out spending I will be at home earning. That is a double win! I have to stick to my goal of a 1-year emergency fund if I am ever going to get out of the 9 to 5 rat race. I am moving in the right direction and it feels great.
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, February 22, 2012
It's official: I am going to Guatemala for 2 weeks in November! I just booked my award ticket with American Airlines to use up the majority of my remaining miles with them. I will leave on November 14 and return November 28. I am looking forward to some awesome scenery, people, and of course food!
It cost me 32,500 miles plus $57.60 in taxes. I had a little over 33,000 miles in my account so it worked out great! I fly thru Miami on my way down and Dallas on my way back. My time off from work is confirmed and I am excited to see more of Central America which is my least traveled part of the world. Everything there is inexpensive so I may actually come out ahead financially for that vaacation!
I am not sure exactly what I will do once I am there but I begin phase 2 of my research which is where to go and what to do! I am already looking into the Mayan Tikal ruins, Antigua, and Lago Atitlan. I don't want to try to cram in too much since I will only have 2 weeks. I still need to get a guidebook and do some reading to see what all is available.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, February 21, 2012
This weeks marks the start of a lot of time on the road. I will be traveling every week from now until April 9th except for 1. We are super busy at work and now it is time to hit the road!
I am going to Boston tomorrow for the next 2 days for work. Back home until Sunday then off to Baltimore for all of the following week. The week after that is back home then 2 straight 5-day weeks in Detroit. The last week in March is split between 2 days in Maine then a couple of days home before our spring break trip to Easter Island for vacation. It is going to be a busy month!
I am looking forward to getting a lot of miles banked early. I am hoping for Gold Elite this year and this helps me get there faster. I am still probably looking at a mileage run to make up the difference but if we stay this busy I may not have or if I am close enough make a run for Platinum. This will help me earn more miles from flying to get my balance high enough to cover flights to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014.
It is going to be a long month and hopefully a good one!
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, February 20, 2012
To this day I still cringe when I see someone using a debit card--or worse cash--to buy things. I am both thankful and appalled that people can't see that they are leaving money on the table each time they do this. I suppose I have different priorities than most but with the wide variety of programs available people should be earning points for everything!
The best example I have are my trips to Asia in First/Business class for around $100-200 out of pocket. People are always in awe when I say it but I am doing nothing complicated. I simply learn the rules of points programs use them to my advantage. Every time I spend money I make sure my points balance increase somewhere. It is simply a state of mind!
Even if you don't want to travel at all you should at least be using some sort of cash back credit card with no annual fee. If you could save 1% of every dollar you spend with no extra work on your part why wouldn't you? You simply spend like normal using the credit card, fill out a form online, and get a check in the mail. Takes you 5 minutes. Amazing how lazy people have become in this country!
While I am appalled I am also happy. Too many people doing this will create inflation. Too many points "printed" will mean that they eventually will lose value and be less worthwhile for me. It is a double edged sword I suppose. It goes back to the old adage that laziness and convenience equate to money lost. There is a reason why we have so many convenience stores that make a profit every year! The wants of now trump the needs/wants of later. This is America after all...
by Frugal Backpacker on Friday, February 17, 2012
Today I decided to pull the trigger on a $255 piece of luggage. On the surface that sounds expensive. When you get into the details you can see the real value of the transaction. I have looked high and low for the best piece of luggage for my needs and I believe I have found it. We will know soon if I made the right decision!
I admit it was a leap to drop $255 + shipping on a single piece of luggage. I did a LOT of research before buying the bag and found lots of great reviews. I am still not 100% sure it was the right choice. I checked and I can get a refund if I am not happy with it as long as it is new with all the tags on it. I plan on doing a test packing of the bag first.
I travel a lot for work and have long been unhappy with my carry on bag. I started of with a rolling bag which made me quite unhappy. It now collects dust in my closet. I currently use my Targus 17" laptop backpack for work travel. It is heavy when I fully pack it but I prefer it over my rolling bag. I have also used it on a couple of personal trips and it got the job done. The problem is I am still left with sore shoulders and generally unhappy with it.
Now I have discovered the Red Oxx Sky Train. I can carry it with a handle, shoulder strap, or backpack-style straps. It comes with a lifetime warranty for any damage from any source. It also weighs 4 pounds empty which is very light for a carry-on bag of any kind. From the reviews, pictures, and videos I have seen it looks like what I have been searching for all these years traveling.
Even still $255 seems like a lot of money--because it is! Between the ability to return the bag, the no questions asked lifetime warranty, and raving reviews I felt it was worth a try. My risk is $9.44 in shipping to try it out. I can get a full refund if I don't like it for any reason.
Thinking long term I will probably be better off with the new bag. My current Targus bag cost me $60 and has lasted me roughly 4 years. The seams are starting to show wear and could break soon. This sparked my search for a new bag. After reading about many different bags I discovered I hate wheeled bags due to their wasted space and needless added weight. Backpacks are my thing.
If I decide to keep the bag I will be making a big investment. The good news is that it is an investment for life since I can get it replaced any time for any damage what-so-ever. As long as it holds what I usually carry comfortably on my back I am sold. It is legal carry on size so I will never have to check it even if I over pack the bag. I am all but certain I made the right decision.
The moral of the story is that cheap does not equal frugal. A frugal person invests in what will last the longest and end up being the cheapest over the long haul. I can buy several $50 bags as I go and deal with frustrations of damage every few years or I can buy this once and not have to worry about it. Don't be afraid to invest in quality. It always pays off in the end.
by Frugal Backpacker on Thursday, February 16, 2012
I am beyond slammed at work. This is a good thing since it means I have a lot of travel coming up. I am already working strategies and promotions to maximize the points from each trip! With yet even more travel coming my way I am getting ready for the onslaught of flying, airport lounges, and hotels more often than my own bed. Points are the motivation to keep me moving!
I just found out that I will most likely be spending 2x 5-day weeks in Detroit (quite possibly my least favorite place on earth) for work. While I have a lot of bad things to say about Detroit I do tend to have my most frugal trips there. Since I don't like it I tend to stay at the hotel most of the time working on other things. This is when I book my trips and find great deals to take advantage of. Spare time!
This now means, if all my travel dates become confirmed, that I will be traveling every week for work except for one until I go to Easter Island on March 31st. That is one long streak! This certainly helps put a dent in my 50,000 mile travel goal for the year to reach Gold status with Delta. I am already clocking in some overtime as a result. Things are busy and busy (hopefully) means more raises!
by Frugal Backpacker on Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Today is one of those "Hallmark" holidays that I particularly dislike. It is definitely an "America Only" holiday which is just an excuse to jack up prices at restaurants, buy expensive candy, flowers, and cards, and just spend too much in general for no real reason at all. I call these types of holidays "corporate marketing" holidays as they are the only real ones who benefit form them.
Rant aside, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to curtail the financial damage from days such as these. Firstly I stay far, far away from the pre fixe menus at restaurants. They are always a horrible deal and the quality is mediocre at best. Second I wait until after Feb. 14th for flowers and candy. They will be 50% or more cheaper and just as nice. Akin to buying wrapping paper after Christmas is over.
I also select my restaurant based on if I would go there normally. This year we went to Planet Bombay which is a great (and reasonably priced) Indian place in Atlanta. As an added bonus they are part of miles for dining where I get extra United miles based on the dollar amount I spend. We had a very good meal with leftovers for lunch the next day. Now that is a frugal-ish holiday!
Holidays in general make me quite grumpy but this year wasn't so bad. I just have to stick to my beliefs and budget and move on.
by Frugal Backpacker on Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I watch my money closely and review all of my utility bills every month for mistakes and rate hikes. Today I found that Comcast jacked my rate up to $62.95 for internet only. WAY too much!
I called customer service and was on hold for quite some time. After speaking to an agent I threatened to cancel my service due to the hike. I was transferred to the retention department who has the power to discount your account to more reasonable levels.
I made my case as I had AT&T U-Verse up on my screen. They were showing a promo price of $29.95 per month for a year then $48 per month thereafter. It was the same speed as my current Comcast connection and a lot cheaper. AT&T was my bargaining chip.
After a brief hold Comcast offered me $42.95 per year. I took it since I did not want the hassle of cancelling them, install/scheduling AT&T, and having to buy a new modem. My price is good for a year and they will retroactively credit my account since the $62.95 already went on my credit card for this month.
A 15-minute phone call saved me $20 per month or $240 for the next 12 months. That is a great use of my time! I get to keep my same service and equipment with no hassle aside from the call for the next year. I did this last year also. I will continue to do this every year if I have too.
Don't pay too much! Don't site back and just accept rate hikes! Make the companies compete for your business. It costs them a lot more than $240 to acquire a new customer. They will do everything within reason to keep you as a customer. Finally there is no contract for my rate adjustment. It is a simple discount.
by Frugal Backpacker on Monday, February 13, 2012