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Monday, October 31

Staying Warm

Even in the Deep South the temperatures have suddenly dropped.  As I write this it is 38 degrees outside.  So far I have managed to keep the heat off.  The house is well-insulated and as long as the daytime highs stay in the 60s it is enough to warm the house up.  When it does get colder I have an electric blanket.  I've owned it for over 25 years and it still works fine.  I also have a radiant heater which works really well without consuming too much energy.  Turning on the central heat will be a last resort, something I always wait to do as long as possible.

This week I have several mystery shopping assignments lined up.  It's not a full week of work by any means but it's enough to earn a few hundred dollars.

Tuesday, October 25

Slow Week

It's funny how things change from one week to the next.  Up until Sunday mystery shops were taking up most of my time.  This week, not so much.  I did two gas station audits yesterday but that took less than two hours including driving there and back.  Since it is the last week of the month I'm sure some shops will pop up with big bonuses.

I also don't have any rental property work to do.  Last Saturday I finished the final details with House #9 and also completed a small paint job for another property that's been on my to-do list for a while.

I need to do a better job at accepting "free time" as okay and not feel guilty about having it.  I know how busy I am going to be in November so why worry?  Next month I will be spending 6 nights in Las Vegas, 5 nights on a cruise, 3-4 nights in Central Florida (mystery shopping hotels), plus there's Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 21

Mystery Shopaholic

After I closed the restaurant I swore to myself that I would be picky about mystery shopping.  The truth is I've become just another truck stop whore, and I'm proud of it... pardon the offensive analogy if you do indeed sell yourself at truck stops.

Seriously though, I've picked up the pace and October has been really busy.  Even though I have a couple of week-long leisure trips planned in November along with Thanksgiving, it looks like November will be a good month for shopping as well.

I mentioned recently that I want to aggressively pay off some of my debt, and this drives me to shop.  I think I'm still being fairly selective about which shops I take and the minimum rate I will accept.  But I am taking on more and more work, particularly gas stations.   Restaurants - not so much.  Today I am shopping a fast food place because I negotiated a $25 commission.  I have control issues when it comes to eating right so I find it best to avoid fast food shops to help control my weight.

One extra benefit to all the shopping I am doing is that my fuel cost will be next to nothing this month.  I have 30 gallons of fuel in containers in the garage and will be adding to that today and tomorrow.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 20

Yes, Rented

Finally some good news.  House #9 is rented.  Last night I met with the new tenant to sign the lease and he paid me in cash for November's rent.  I have two small "to-do" items and then I should be finished for now.  It took a little more than 5 weeks from the time I closed on the house until I signed up my tenant.

I paid $22,500, spent about $5,000 on improvements, and am renting the house for $695 per month.  That's more than two times what the "safe" number (1% of my cost recovered per month) is so I feel good about this investment.

Tuesday, October 18


I made a mistake with the first tenants I selected for the new rental house.  The mistake I made was not asking for a deposit to hold the house until they signed a lease.  I should have known better because they seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.

Fortunately it looks like I did find a tenant.  He paid me a nonrefundable deposit and is supposed to sign a lease and pay for the first month today.  He even paid $50 toward the first month's rent when I was unable to make change for him, so I feel good about this one becoming the next tenant.

I don't know why I dislike the tenant search process so much.  Maybe it's the anxiety of having an empty home and the desire to get it rented as fast as possible. 

Saturday, October 15

Free Meal at Taco Bell

Yesterday I scored a free combo meal at Taco Bell.  Now through Christmas, if you buy a $20 gift card at Taco Bell you will receive a free Chicken Flatbread Sandwich Combo.  The combo includes the namesake sandwich, 2 crunchy tacos and a drink.

I can see myself buying several gift cards just to get the free meal.  Eventually I would get around to redeeming the gift cards.  Hopefully this is just the start of several holiday season gift card deals.  A couple years ago my local Texas Roadhouse gave away a free $25 gift card with every $50 gift card purchase.  That's just about as good as they get.

Friday, October 14


Sorry it's been so quiet around here.  This week was weird.  I was busy but don't have much to show for it.  Well, I do have a new tenant (assuming they sign their lease this afternoon!), so that's a positive.

House #9 rented at $695/month just 32 days after I bought it.  I like the tenants but I don't like the lease, which is a month to month.  The tenants have been trying to buy a house so they didn't want to make a year long commitment.  The reason I rented to them anyway was because I am more confident I'm going to be paid the rent on time, plus they were ready to move in.  It does me no good to have an empty house or to have an occupied house with a deadbeat tenant.

I also picked up a fair amount of mystery shopping audits that I start tomorrow and will finish up Sunday, 10/23.  It's nearly $600 for 3-4 hours of work each day.  The only problem is these are gas station audits and I have to purchase about 83 gallons of gas.  I have seven 5-gallon containers but I'm going to have to get creative and probably sell some of the gas to friends.

I'm also ready to travel again.  I'll be able to satisfy that itch soon:  on November 9th I leave for a six day trip to Las Vegas.  I'll be attending the AAII investor conference while there.

Saturday, October 8

New Goal: Debt Reduction

All of a sudden I have more debt.  It's great that I used the debt to buy distressed assets rather than spending it frivolously on new furniture or toys.  Still, my debt stresses me more than anything else.  To keep me focused, and to get a handle on things, I plan to track my progress in a special bar over on the right side of this page.

I currently have just over $444,000 in debt.  Keep in mind, I own 9 houses and virtually all of that debt was taken on in the pursuit of distressed real estate.  Still, that scares me.  Today I am setting a goal to reduce my debt to less than $400,000 in one year.  The goal assumes I don't sell any of my assets to pay down debt.  In other words, I plan to pay off $44,000 in debt above and beyond any debt that is extinguished from asset sales. The reason I wanted to add this stipulation is because one of my tenants has the option to buy the home they are in.  It will be great if they exercise that option, but I don't want that to distract me from continuing to pay down debt.


  • $44,000 in 12 months
  • $3,667 every month

Friday, October 7

Progress on House #9

Twelve days ago I posted a Craigslist ad announcing House #9 would soon be for rent.  I didn't include any photos besides one of the outside since at the time the floors were bare and it was still looking rough.  Since then new tile floors have really brightened up the kitchen and laundry room and new carpet on the stairs, hallway and both bathrooms have really spruced things up.  I installed a new refrigerator and tried to have a new over-the-range microwave installed, but the installers couldn't figure out how to remove the old one so it was sent back.  I managed to remove the old microwave fairly easily and am left with a big open space.  Instead of trying to install a new microwave myself, I decided to clean up the wall and add a couple of shelves.  I'm also still waiting on the installation of new patio doors.

This morning I am meeting with another potential tenant.  If this one doesn't work out I need to take some current photos and re-post my Craigslist ad.  It might help to put up a sign in the neighborhood as well.  Believe it or not I usually get my properties rented without needing a street sign.  I prefer Craigslist because with street signs I have to deal with a lot of crappy inquiries either from people who are just being nosy and have no intentions of renting your place or from those who don't qualify.

My original goal was to have the house rented by October 1st.  Since I only closed on the house on September 12th I am still at just under a month so I'm not panicking yet.  I know I will meet the perfect tenant soon.  Then I can hopefully breathe a sigh of relief and not worry to much about all this debt I took out to buy this house.

Thursday, October 6

My Frugal Miser - September Expenses: $3,374

In September most of my spending was fairly typical.  The only categories where I spent more than normal were entertainment (gambling in Las Vegas early in the month) and vacation (same trip plus a few other minor expenses when I went to Panama City Beach for mystery shopping).

September Expenses
$219 Auto (all for fuel)
$0 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$289 Food
$369 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$0 Gifts Given
$2 Household
$100 Health Insurance
$0 Medical
$354 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$0 Miscellaneous
$403 Mortgage Interest (primary residence)
$776 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$168 Utilities
$695 Vacation

Total September Expenses : $3,374

  • I spent $219 on fuel, which included a circuitous mystery shopping trip to Atlanta, another to Panama City Beach, FL, and a couple of trips to see my grandfather in the hospital.  It does NOT include the gas I used in Las Vegas and Phoenix.  I categorize that under "Vacation".
  • My food budget was for two people. I averaged under $9.63 per day for two people in September  This is higher than normal because we ate out a lot.  We ate out a lot because we spent a lot of time working on the new rental house and didn't feel like cooking.
  • Interest on debt will be higher than the normal ~$100 per month for the foreseeable future. I took out a loan to help a friend who was about to lose her car.  Eventually I will be paid back for this loan.  The interest on that loan was $143 in September.

Wednesday, October 5

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Steve Jobs, 2005

My Frugal Miser - September Income: $4,683

I spent much of September rehabbing House #9.  I'm basically finished now but have not found a tenant yet.  Because I was working on the house I did not do as much mystery shopping.  I did manage to spend less than I brought in, which is always great.

September Income
$824 Mystery Shopping
$3,438 Rental Income
$422 Other Sources
$4,683 Total Income for September

  • I deduct rental expenses, including rehabbing new properties, from rental income.  Otherwise this amount would have been higher.