Off to Baltimore tomorrow (work)


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.

Buy and cook food in bulk


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!

Frugal Tip: Dryer sheets part 2!


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!

Where spending more makes sense: Technology


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.

Stomach problems finally clear?


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.

A first for me: I bought some points!


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!

Bonus! and a 6 day work week


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.

Boston Day 2: Success! and flight delays


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!

Off to Boston for 2 days


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.

New credit card: 50,000 more points!


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!

Stomach Blues


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!

More work travel coming!


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.

Bad Luck came early


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?

Chase Checking Account + Freedom Credit Card + Exclusives Program = more points!


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.

Summary of points earned dollar-by-dollar:
As you can see above you break even at roughly $10 in charges. At $10 you can use either card but I would use Freedom as you get all the points quicker instead of waiting up to a year for the Sapphire Bonus.

Happy Points Earning!

Frugal Tip: Cut dryer sheets in half and reuse them!


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:

  1. Get a box of dryer sheets (cheapest available)
  2. Cut the entire box in half with sheets still in it
  3. Dry clothes and keep the half sheets until they have been torn
This may sound silly but adds up over the years. 3 cents per dryer sheet average cost (generic) can be cut by 50% using this method. It only takes a few seconds to cut the box and move on with life. Reusing is also better for the environment.

I am going to start doing this today. Why didn't I think of this?

Student Loan Pay Down!


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.