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Monday, May 30

A Little Deadline Mystery Shopping

Yesterday I had planned to stay at home and take it easy. Then I got a phone call from a scheduler who said he could make it worth my while to pick up a shop. He offered me $30 for a fast food shop in a town 20 miles from my house. Before hanging up I asked if he needed help with any others. I ended up getting two more shops at $40 each. Then I read an email from another company that had just increased the commission on a restaurant shop (to $26.50) that was in the same area as the other three.

All told, I earned $136.50 for four shops, and I didn't even have to get out of my car to do them. I drove about 120 miles and was gone from the house for a little more than 3 hours.

I don't think I'll return to mystery shopping on a full-time basis because the vast majority of shops do not pay enough in these days of nearly $4 a gallon gas. Besides, as I mentioned before I am thinking about slowing down and living a little. Still, I see myself picking up some work at the end of every month when bonuses are being offered.

Sunday, May 29

Slowing Down... Day Two

Yesterday was an awesome experience with frugal fun. We ran several errands before eating Thai for lunch. I used a coupon to get one meal free; with tax and tip I spent $10.00 for two of us. Then we headed to the Botanical Gardens. My city is blessed with a large, diverse garden that is absolutely free of charge. Even though our gardens are more than twice the size of the one in Atlanta, there is no admission to get in, ever.

Afterwards we headed to the second run $1 theatre. I'd been wanting to see Scream 4 even before it was released, so this was a real treat. I confess to having memorized most of the dialogue from the original Scream when it was released.

In all we spent $12 out of pocket plus about $8 worth of gas. Not bad for a Saturday out. I could get used to this.

Saturday, May 28

Slowing Down... Day One

Yesterday was the first day of my new life - it was the first day where I did nothing at all related to the restaurant. And... it was marvelous.

I didn't exactly sit beneath a tree in a park and read Shakespeare, but the pace was slower than I'm used to nonetheless. I started out the day by visiting one of my rental properties. The tenant had two issues: a bad element in the oven and a defective shower diverter. Had I still worked at the restaurant I would have called a plumber and an appliance repair person, and I probably would have shelled out $200 in labor. Instead, I Googled the nature of the problems, watched a few online videos and read through tutorials on how to fix the problems.

Including running around town looking for the baking element, I spent about three hours on these projects. In the end I fixed them both for nothing more than the cost of the replacement parts.

I also did three mystery shops: one at a home store since I had to go there anyway, another at a clothing store in the same shopping center, and a third at a bookstore. I haven't been inside a bookstore in months, so it was a real treat to get paid to go inside and see what was new.

Day One was a blast. I'm not sure yet what we will do today. It's nice not having a schedule to go by.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 25


The restaurant is no more. Wow...that was a quick page in my book of life. Moving on, it's time to make some important changes. I've lived here all my life, so I am a little nervous about moving somewhere. But why not? Worst that can happen is I don't like it and decide to move back.

I also feel a twinge of desire to take things slower. I've been working long hours for as long as I can remember. Is it okay to slow down and live a little? My best friend tells me I'm not the type of person who will be content with not pushing myself. He might be wrong, but he might be right.

My partner and I will leave Friday, June 3rd for Tampa. We are driving, and I found a hotel mystery shop halfway down there, so that room will be free. In all we will be gone four nights this first trip. My mission is to look at neighborhoods, talk with locals, and figure out what parts of Clearwater, Tampa or St. Petersburg would be ideal. Beyond the basic criteria of having a safe place to call home, I am looking for a pedestrian-friendly area. I want to walk to the library, grocery store and park. I've not used public transportation much in my life but think proximity to a bus route will come in handy. It's time to park the car, simplify my life, and enjoy the little things.

Thursday, May 19

I've Cut My Debt In Half This Year

Wow... I was looking at the progress I've made paying down my credit cards and car loan. Even with not taking a salary for most of the year I have managed to cut this debt by more than half, from $44,979.53 to $21,067.76.

This just shows that living a (mostly) frugal life can yield results fast. In fact, working at the restaurant without pay has helped because I've been there instead of being out and about tempted to spend money. My food bills have been next to nothing, and other categories such as entertainment and household spending have been greatly reduced.

I expect to pay my Pontiac G5 off in June, even if I have to borrow from my HELOC to do it. I want to pay it off as quickly as I can so I can drop my full coverage insurance. I'm not sure how much I will save but right now I spend more than $100 per month on car insurance so hopefully I can save $25 a month or so by dropping it down to liability coverage only.

Wednesday, May 18

Restaurant Closes Friday

We've settled on a date, sort of. Originally we decided the 17th of May would be our last day, but business has been so slow that we have a lot of food left to sell. But now it's official - we will close on Friday, regardless of how much is left. The good news is that we've depleted most of our inventory. The bad news is we have some unsettled bills I might have to pay.

It's possible I will leave Friday afternoon for Tampa to look at houses. It really depends on how much is left to do at the restaurant. I would love to travel down there so quickly, but I realize I might need to stick around for a few days to settle our accounts and dispose of assets.

I hate that we have to do this, but now I'm just ready to be through with it and move on.

Tuesday, May 10

Go Anywhere, Give Up Everything

Whether or not I move to Tampa, I want to dispose of some belongings. Over the last few years I've noticed how material things have largely become a distraction for me. I prefer to spend my money on experiences rather than stuff. It's so rewarding to know exactly where everything I own is located, to not have to clean around useless knick knacks, and to be able to leave my windows open at home and not worry about the boogeyman stealing my valuables.

It's time to get serious. Between me and my partner we own two cars, two flat screen TVs, two Cartier Love bracelets, and a lot of little stuff. Until now we've needed both cars, but I wonder if we could get by with just one. My goal is to sell some things to more aggressively pay off my debts. The little stuff can be donated to charity. Ultimately, I should be able to go anywhere I want and not worry about material things.

Monday, May 9

My Frugal Miser - April Expenses: $3,199

I was frugal again in April until the end of the month. I stupidly lost $800 at the blackjack tables at a casino we visited while I was in Omaha. I was depressed about the restaurant and tend to do stupid things when I'm feeling down. If not for the gambling, I could report a near-record low amount of spending for the month.

April Expenses

$525 Auto ($139 for fuel, $386 for depreciation)
$16 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$69 Food
$799 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$0 Gifts Given
$0 Household
$100 Health Insurance
$0 Medical
$177 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$0 Miscellaneous
$417 Mortgage Interest (primary residence)
$795 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$20 Taxes
$274 Utilities
$7 Vacation

Total April Expenses : $3,199


  • My food budget continues to benefit from me working in a restaurant.
  • We stayed in hotels four nights during the trip to Omaha. I used reward points for two nights and gift cards for the other two.
  • I feel horrible about the gambling loss. In less than 2 hours I lost $800 and I wasn't even drinking. Hopefully some kid in Iowa will get a better education thanks to my stupidity.

Friday, May 6

My Frugal Miser - April Income: $8,969

April was an impressive month for income, even though I was not paid for my work at the restaurant. One of my tenants paid an extra month of rent and I sold some of my belongings. I also stepped up my mystery shopping.

April Income
$383 Mystery Shopping
$5,299 Rental Income
$000 Salary
$3,287 Other Sources
$8,969 Total Income for April


  • 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. Last month I sold some assets as I start planning to move (more on that later), was reimbursed for expenses from prior months and earned some income from online activities.

Thursday, May 5


It's official: the restaurant will close. Yesterday I began notifying employees and also spoke with my landlord. We don't have a date yet but it will be this month. Since we are current with all our bills, including the rent, we can wind down in an orderly manner. In fact, we are placing a food order this week in preparation for a busy Mother's Day.

This has been a difficult decision because I don't give up on anything. But I can't be selfish, either. My business partner has a family to support and owns no assets, so he can't keep working for no pay. I guess it is self-serving since I am also his landlord.

There are plenty of uncertainties ahead. I've never closed a business so I have no idea what is required of us to "notify" all the proper authorities. We also are super low on cash and I will probably be on the hook for some liabilities, but since we did not personally guarantee our lease I don't have to worry about that part. Sure, I feel bad about not fulfilling my commitment, but we plan to leave the landlord better off than she was before we moved in.

As for me personally, I think I will move to Tampa. Long-time followers of this blog will recall I've been considering a move for some time. In June my partner and I will probably drive down to look at houses. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 3

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

I drove more miles in my Pontiac G5 last month and in the first two days of May. I forgot to check the odometer while I was visiting Omaha so I've included the mileage from my drive home in my calculation for April.

I determined that each mile I drive costs me $.0867 in depreciation. In April I drove 4,448 miles. My vehicle depreciation expense was $385.64.

My 2009 car now has over 60,000 miles on it, and I am valuing it at $7,781.62 in Quickbooks, which I think is reasonably accurate.