- Last month I earned $1,565 in mystery shopping income. I will be traveling nearly two full weeks in November, so I expect to earn less. I want to set an aggressive goal, though. I will shoot for $750 in mystery shopping income, with a stretch goal of $1,000.
- Last month I spent $193 on food, and I spent $208 in November 2008. I will spend less than $150 on food this month. I still have a couple gift cards plus a ton of restaurant coupons which will come in handy while I'm on the road. Plus I can do some mystery shopping at meal time.
- Last month I spent $193 on fuel. In November I will spend $100 on fuel, down from $173 in November 2008. I traveled a good bit last November for my job, so much of my gas was reimbursed or I would have spent more. Thanks to all the gas stations I plan to shop, combined with lower gas prices, I should be able to reach this goal.
- I took on credit card debt in order to purchase this last rental property. It's something I'm not proud to admit doing but after considerable work to find an alternative, I hit a roadblock. I also had a balance of just over $23,000 on one credit card with a rate of less than 4%. I used a special cash advance offer a couple years ago to finance a rental property. I don't regret this transaction, even though the interest isn't tax deductible. So, my #1 financial priority moving forward will be paying down my credit cards as quickly as possible, followed by a close #2 priority of selling the Bimmer.
The two trips I mentioned are "legacy" trips I arranged while I was still employed, and a large part of the expense was already paid. My partner and I are going to Tampa and Orlando for several days for an investors conference I am attending... nevermind that I cleaned out my brokerage account to buy the last rental property! My partner has never been to Tampa and it's one of my favorite places - I may even move there one day.
The other trip was a conference that my employer paid for. I had a professional development budget which I used. I've been debating whether I should go, as a few of my coworkers are also attending and it could be awkward. But I expensed almost $1,500 to attend, so why not go? I'm still trying to decide for sure. My severance pay runs out a week before the conference, so I can't see what my employer could do to me for going. Like I said, it's a sunk cost to them, anyway. Surely they wouldn't mind if I continue to develop myself professionally, right?
Gas and food are my two largest variable expenses. My two largest expenses overall will be hard to change: the mortgage and car payment. I consider my utility costs to be fairly reasonable, a result of my frugal habits. However, I continue to explore ways to cut these even further.