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Monday, March 28

Busy Week Ahead

Business improved last week at the restaurant. Weekends have become solid money makers. This week I will complete my 20 store merchandising route. Yup, I never gave it up. The money is decent and I need it. It will be awfully hard to juggle that with the restaurant. I plan to visit one store on my way to work each day and several stores in the evenings. Hopefully I can complete all 20 stores this week.

I looked at our income statement for the month of March. We are close to breaking even. Of course, my business partner and I are barely taking any pay so that will need to happen soon, so getting into positive territory will still be a challenge. But, it's nice to see that our sales will cover both food cost and labor for the first time this month... and that they cover a substantial part of our other bills.

Tuesday, March 22

Focus, Focus, Focus

Last week was a brutal one at the restaurant. It was spring break, and I guess we're close enough to the beach that everyone heads there. It was our slowest week since we opened and we lost a good bit of money.

As our bank balance dwindles, it's time to take a hard look at the restaurant and decide if there is any way to make it profitable. We are open 8 hours per day (breakfast and lunch), but over 90% of our business comes from lunch. How bad is it? One day last week we only rang up $18 in sales from 6 AM until 10 AM. We have to decide whether to shorten our hours to lunch only.

I know that sounds drastic - a restaurant that's only open for lunch? But it isn't uncommon in my area. There is another cafeteria about 8 miles away that opens just for lunch - and just Monday through Friday. By shortening our hours we will reduce our utilities cost, which is the third highest expense we have after food and labor (rent, our fourth highest cost, is a fixed one that I can't influence). We also will cut our labor cost - dramatically. I'm thinking my business partner and I will come in around 9 AM to get ready to open. At 10:30 our server will come in and at 11:30 our dishwasher would arrive. This would be our Monday - Friday routine. We would open for breakfast on Saturday and we would have additional staff on Sunday, our busiest day.

I'm trying to decide when we should start doing this. It's a difficult move, emotionally anyways. Several of our team members will lose hours, and we will be giving up on building our breakfast. But, what if it means we can survive? I have to make the decisions that will help the restaurant at this point. Otherwise none of us will be working.

Monday, March 21

Go Anywhere, Give Up Everything (or, I'm Having the Urge to Purge)

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to what I might do if the restaurant closes. We've only been open two months but I just don't see how we are going to make it. A coping mechanism I've used is to think about what I'll do with my life if we do shut down.

I've mentioned in the past a desire to move to Tampa, Florida. That desire is as high on my list today as it has ever been. But simply moving isn't enough. My desire is more about starting over that just taking the life I have now and moving it to a new place.

With that, I've been working on a mantra I call "Go Anywhere, Give Up Everything." It's really quite simple: I don't want my worldly possessions to weigh me down. Back when I worked at my corporate sales job and I was on the road three weeks out of the month, I played a game with seeing how little I could pack in my suitcase. How liberating it was to have one small piece of luggage with everything I needed for a week.

That got me to thinking: if I had to cram everything into my car (or worse, into a single suitcase), what would I bring?

So, I'm on a new mission. Even if things work out with the restaurant, I want to live a very simple life, free of unnecessary clutter. I want to declutter like I've never decluttered before. Here are some of the things I'm getting rid of:

  • Most of my school yearbooks. I have one for each grade. Since I was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities, including the yearbook staff, I might save my senior class yearbook for sentimental reasons. The other 11, however, will probably go.
  • Lots of clothes. Right now I wear the same uniform every day, so most of my clothes aren't being worn anyway. But if the restaurant closes, will I even need most of the clothes I own? I've been so frugal that I have worn the same polo shirts for 10+ years, and many of them show their wear. Using my "fit everything into the car" rule, I know I'd have to leave many of my clothes behind.
  • Books I've been meaning to read. I've purchased a lot of books at Dollar Tree over the years, thinking I'd read them one day. What I think I will do is write down the names of those books in case I do decide to read them and check them out of the library when the time is right.
  • Garage clutter. I've got four shelves in my garage full of stuff I use for my properties, cleaning supplies for my car, etc. Now that warmer weather is here, it's time to go through everything and slim down the shelves.
Is it normal to be so excited about getting rid of things?

Monday, March 7

Update on 2011 Goals

Even with a struggling restaurant I have made some progress on my 2011 goals.

I owed $21,839 for my credit card debt at the end of November, 2010 (just before we signed a lease on the restaurant site). Today I owe $18,265.

Car loan
I've also made some small extra payments on my Pontiac G5 loan. At the end of November my balance was $13,415. Today I owe $11,158.

My monthly car payment is $375. I am almost back to having just one outstanding credit card balance, and the minimum payment on it is just over $300. Combined, that's about $700 per month I am paying to service those two debts alone. How liberating it will be when I don't have to worry about those payments anymore!

My original goal was to pay off my car by the end of 2010. Then I changed it to paying it off by the end of April this year. Now it looks like I should just make that goal to pay it off as fast as I can. I don't see it happening by the end of next month!

Friday, March 4

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $2,817

My expenses for February were reasonable. Even though I'm not earning much from the restaurant, I am spending less because I am always there. This means I am rapidly paying off debt. Refreshing!

February Expenses

$704 Auto ($52 for fuel, $652 for 6 months of insurance)
$0 Clothing
$71 Food (we ate out for our anniversary and my sweet tooth tricked me into visiting a bakery)
$10 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$0 Gifts Given
$0 Household (supplies, annual fire dues)
$100 Health Insurance
$134 Medical
$160 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$0 Miscellaneous
$422 Mortgage Interest (primary residence)
$802 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$14 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$113 Taxes
$286 Utilities
$0 Vacation

Total February Expenses : $2,817


  • For the second month my food budget benefited from me working in a restaurant. I also received $170 in free gas from 17 mystery shops I did, which drastically reduced the amount I had to spend on gas.
  • None of my other expenses were out of the ordinary in February.

Thursday, March 3

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $6,785

February was okay. At first I wasn't going to pay myself a salary until the restaurant's economics improved but I backed off that just a little. Still, I only paid myself about $2.50 an hour so it's well below minimum wage. Mostly a way to cover my commuting expenses.

February Income
$642 Mystery Shopping*
$3,916 Rental Income
$1,000 Salary
$1,228 Other Sources
$6,785 Total Income for February
*I did very little mystery shopping in February; this represents payments made for work done in the past.


  • The category "Other Sources" includes non-recurring (or semi-recurring) income since I always seem to have a little something that doesn't fall into the other buckets.

Wednesday, March 2

Vehicles and the True Cost of Ownership: How Much is My Car Really Costing Me?

I drove fewer miles in my Pontiac G5 last month. I used the Corolla for a week, plus I don't really go anywhere except to and from work.

I determined that each mile I drive costs me $.0867 in depreciation. In February I drove 1,603 miles. My vehicle depreciation expense was $138.98.

Mystery shopping definitely consumed some miles! In February the only shopping I did was 17 gas station shops that provided $10 free gas at each location.