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Wednesday, June 27

Frugal House Hunting, Round 2

On Sunday I am returning to Clearwater, FL to look at houses.  When I went at the end of May I had a lot of mystery shops as well as some conference work lined up to pay for the trip there.  I haven't signed up for as many shops this time but I've still found ways to keep my travel costs low:

  • Sunday night I am mystery shopping a hotel in Atlanta.  Right now this is the only hotel I am shopping but there is one more site that could post hotel jobs for July.  It's not looking good though.  
  • I am being reimbursed for another two nights because I am doing a time share mystery shop in Orlando.  This shop reimburses mileage for 200 miles, two nights hotel plus it pays a fee, so it will be my most lucrative shop.  All I have to do is covertly record a meeting with a time share salesperson.
  • We're shopping at least 10 TGI Friday's.  These are alcohol compliance shops so the report is very simple:  the location either passes or fails and then I answer a few additional questions.  I have also signed up for a BBQ restaurant in St. Petersburg for one meal.
  • I am taking advantage of Choice Hotels "Two Stays Pays" promotion - twice.  For every two stays this summer you earn a $50 gift card.  Since there is no minimal stay requirement, I am flipping between two adjacent hotels every night for 4 nights.  Sure, it's slightly inconvenient to have to check out every day, but doing so earns me $100 in gift cards.  The hotels are less than $50 per night so if I consider the gift cards like cash I am really getting a rate of around $25 per night for each of four nights.
  • Unless I find more mystery shops, two of the nights I am redeeming Hilton Honors points.  These will be the two "splurge" nights as we are staying at a newer Hilton property.
  • I've signed up for 15 gas station shops (no pictures!) which will cover about half of our fuel costs.
In total we will be away for 10 nights and I will be paying for 5 of those nights.  My out of pocket expense for hotels will be less than $300 and I earn $100 in gift cards plus more points on the fifth night.  The majority of our meals will be mystery shops or free breakfast in the hotels.  

This sounds like a lot of work but it isn't.  The gas stations only take 10 minutes each, or basically 2 1/2 hours of work.  The time share presentation will last from 1-3 hours.

Monday, June 25

Deadbeat Tenant: Chapter 4

Over the last few months I've been the unintentional recipient of an email exchange between a landlord and his deadbeat tenant.

Cast of Characters
Kandi... as deadbeat tenant
Jan... as cc'ed co-landlord
Ricky... as God-fearing landlord

On Friday we found out that Kandi's computer at work has been down.  However, she promised to pay the rent by June 10th.  \

From: Ricky
Date: Thu, Jun 7, 2012 at 1:11 PM
Subject: Re: Rent
To: Kandi
Cc: Jan

Thanks for the response. We will be looking for the payment.
Jan and I will be praying for you and your daughters. Parenting is a gift from God and is a true blessing, but it can also be very trying and challenging. Especially with teenagers. Prayer is certainly where I draw my strength for it!
Please stay in touch us from time-to-time.


God is great indeed.  He's blessed us with a deadbeat tenant who is now six months behind on her rent.  That's the kind of person I'd like to keep in touch with from time-to-time.

Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 10:33 AM
Cc:  Jan
Subject: June rent


No rent has been received for June. We need to talk to you TODAY!


Atta boy.  Email is such a threatening avenue for communication.  By golly, I mean today!  Phones are so overrated. 

From: Kandi
To: Ricky
Cc: Jan
Sent: Tue, Jun 19, 2012 7:50 am
Subject: RE: June rent
Ricky, I got back in the office this morning.  I guess you probably think im not telling you the truth but I did mail a money order for the rent.  I texted Jan on Friday and told her if you did not receive by then to please let me know.  I have been in South Carolina for my work.  I actually gave it to my daughter to mail and I called her to make sure she didn’t forget to drop it off.  I will call the post office and see what to do about if it is lost in the mail.  I will find my receipt that you tear off the money order. 


Let's get this straight.  So far:
  1. Deadbeat Kandi really has been calling.  It's just that she's been leaving voicemails on someone else's phone.
  2. Deadbeat Kandi will pay all her back rent as soon as she gets her tax refund.
  3. Deadbeat Kandi has technical problems at work.  Computers were down all week.
  4. Deadbeat Kandi mailed her rent.  Really, she did.  It's just that it got lost in the mail.  Hate when that happens. 

Pretty Ricky is at wit's end.  The Good Lord is testing his faith.  

From: Ricky
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 8:45 AM
To: Kandi
Subject: Re: June rent

Fair enough Kandi. I have told you before, we will work with you any way we can. I don't want to offend you, but I would like to see a copy of the money order receipt. I don't know how you go about getting a lost money order replaced.

As far as whether or not you're telling the truth, I am not in a position to judge you, only to do my best to show you the grace that God has shown to me.

Please, let's try to get June taken care of and start making some progress on the back rent months so we can all put the past difficulties behind us.
I don't mean to beg, but God's grace has prevented me from ripping your head off and eating it for lunch.  Don't you know we're hungry over here?   You're taking food off our table.  Since torturing you is not an option, how about throwing us a few bones instead?
From: Kandi
Date: Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 2:18 PM
Subject: RE: June rent
To: Ricky
Cc: Jan

You are not offending me at all.  I don’t blame you a bit.  And I will get it took care of and yes I do more than anything want to get all this behind me and move forward.  I apologize that you both have gotten caught up in my problems.   It was not my intentions at all.

Thank you,


Folks, that's all I got, but I promise to post updates when I receive them.  Interestingly, Kandi's been emailing from her work computer.  Assuming she's been receiving a paycheck, it's hard to fathom how she could be six months behind on her rent.  It's even harder to figure out why these naive landlords haven't evicted her ass yet. 

Friday, June 22

Deadbeat Tenant: Chapter 3

Over the last few months I've been the unintentional recipient of an email exchange between a landlord and his deadbeat tenant.

Cast of Characters
Kandi... as deadbeat tenant
Jan... as cc'ed co-landlord
Ricky... as God-fearing landlord

Yesterday Ricky threatened Kandi with legal action.  Kandi happened to just start a second job and promised to pay $700 toward her outstanding rent by Friday, April 27th.

From: Ricky
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:50 AM
To: Kandi
Cc: Jan
Subject: Re: Rent
I greatly appreciate the response. Basically, that's all we're asking for, communication. By the way, I'm Ricky, not Mr H., that's my dad's name.
If you feel like you can get your finances worked out to the point where we can get more consistent on the rental payments and take care of the past due situation, then you're welcome to continue to rent the townhouse. Like I said, Jan and I both know what it's like to face difficult life situations and we're more than willing to work with you, but we need you to work with us as well. If, however, you have made up your mind that you're ready to relocate, then please confirm your intentions in that regard so that we can begin advertising the townhouse in pursuit of another lessee.
I would not expect you to seek help from your employer if you are honestly awaiting your tax return for use in rectifying the past due rental payments. We just want to make sure that you're making an effort to satisfy the situation and ask that you keep us posted in that regard. Again, we are willing to work with you and we are not out to make your life more difficult, but we have to have communication in order to do so.
Again, thank you for the response and the update on the rent. Please advise us on your intentions regarding whether you want to get current on your rental agreement and continue to live in the townhouse, or if you intend to get current and vacate the property. Either way, Jan and I will work with you so long as you agree to keep us informed.
Should you have any difficulty contacting Jan, you now have my personal email address. My cell phone number is 205-937-xxxx. You can call or text at your convenience.
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Deadbeats unite:  we found his soft side!  This is certainly worthy of a rare same-day reply.

From: Kandi
To: Ricky
Cc: Jan
Sent: Mon, Apr 23, 2012 2:33 pm
Subject: RE: Rent
Thank you both so much.  And I do fully intend to take care of the previous rent.  Me and the girls are happy at the townhouse, I just know you probably do not have much trust in me and I would totally understand if you were looking for someone else.   I so appreciate your willing to work with me, It was never my intensions to make it hard on you.  I will keep you updated on my tax situation which I hope to have soon.  Also I will send a regular payment on Friday.  Thank you again, I really do appreciate your kindness.
Hope you have a good evening,

How sweet is is!  Let's share a group hug.  No need to exchange any more of these nasty emails this week:  the rent is on its way.

Until it's not. 

Interestingly, the landlords wait several weeks before contacting Kandi.

From: Ricky
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 11:22 AM
To: Kandi
Cc: Jan
Subject: Fwd: Rent
I've attached the string of emails that you and I exchanged over a month ago. Can you explain why we haven't heard anything from you regarding rent payment, past and present?
Looking forward to your response.
Ricky & Jan

Surely there's an easy explanation for the delay.
From: Kandi
To: Ricky
Cc: Jan
Sent: Thu, Jun 7, 2012 12:35 pm
Subject: RE: Rent

Ricky and Jan,  I have been out of the office and I apologize.  I actually sent you an email last week but our computers went down and we did not know which ones actually went and what we lost, I’m sorry you did not receive.  I was telling you that I would be sending the payment to reach you by the 10th.  I am still waiting on my money, I am also gong to try and pay some extra each time also to help make up the past.  I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch as much as I should.  I have been out a lot with my daughter Courtnie,  still having some problems there but not trying to make excuses. 
Thank you and I hope you are both doing well.

Oh... the computers went down.  Good thing you're paying us on the 10th.  Just a few more days.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 21

Deadbeat Tenant: Chapter 2

Over the last few months I've been the inadvertent recipient of an email exchange between a landlord and his deadbeat tenant.

Cast of Characters
Kandi... as deadbeat tenant
Jan... as cc'ed co-landlord
Ricky... as God-fearing landlord

Yesterday we learned that Kandi is four months behind on her rent.  Kandi promised to get caught up as soon as she receives her tax refund, but for some odd reason her refund has been delayed.  Today we meet Ricky, Landlord #2.

From: Ricky
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:30 PM
To: Kandi; Jan
Subject: Fwd: Rent
I hope this email finds you doing well.
After reading the email that you sent to Jan earlier in the week (Monday April 16th, 2012), we felt like you are sincere in your desire to get current on your rent obligation, which would prevent us from having to proceed with taking action to get you out of the townhouse in order to rent to someone more responsible. But, once again you failed to follow through. You said that you would contact Jan later in the day on Monday, yet here it is Friday afternoon and still no word from you regarding plans to make a payment. In 10 days, you will be 5 months in arrears, just one month shy of half of a year!
It's my understanding that you told Jan you would catch up on the back rent when you get your income tax return, but outside of your income tax, you apparently don't have the means to pay rent, otherwise, you would have been paying something over the last 4 1/2 months.
Kandi, unless we receive some satisfactory payment from you IMMEDIATELY, we have no other options than to take legal action to recover the past rent AND have you removed from the townhouse. While we would love to work with you because Jan and I both have experienced very difficult times, to be seemingly ignored and taken for granted through a lack of communication is evidence of a lack of concern on your part.
We will expect to hear from you immediately, otherwise, our next communication will be through our attorney.

Ricky hits the ground running.  With the threat of legal action, something will happen soon.  Either Kandi pays up or Kandi moves out.  Let's see if Kandi can't soften him up a little.  She needs to take the weekend to consider her reply.

To: Ricky
Cc: Jan
Sent: Mon, Apr 23, 2012 9:53 am
Subject: RE: Rent
Good morning Mr. H.  I am just reading your email.  First of all I want to apologize for the lack of communication, I totally understand your feelings.  I had called Jan’s phone and left several messages last week or what I thought was her phone.  I had it as 403-xxxx, I have a different phone from when I first had her number programmed in and had lost my numbers.  Anyway I went back and looked at her email this morning and realized I had been calling the wrong number.  It went to voicemail everytime and someone got messages they didn’t  understand.  I have been out of my office a lot lately also and that is where I receive all my emails as well as send them.   I definitely am not trying to take Jan or your kindness and patience for granted.  I have had a lot of things happen the last few months that has made it very financially difficult.  I am starting a second job that will help and help me stay caught up. I am and have been waiting on my taxes for the last week and that will get me caught up with you and then it’s like I said, I will find something else willingly without you having to seek legal help.  I never meant for it to be this way and I hate that now you probably think of me as a bad person.  I will be happy to meet with you or whatever you want me to do.  I will definitely pay $700 on Friday for regular payment and hopefully I will have the other this week also.  If you can please give me this week, if my taxes do not come I will try to work something out with my employer to get the money and then give it back to them when they come.  Again I never meant for it to be this way.
Im sorry,
Kandi Hill

Oh, no.  Kandi's been dialing the wrong number.  How could that be?  Jan listed her number earlier in the exchange.  I guess the "1" looked like a "0".  Fortunately, Innocent Kandi started a second job.  Even better, she's going to pay her rent on Friday.  

In tomorrow's episode we should be able to wrap things up, right?  Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, June 20

Deadbeat Tenant: Chapter 1

Over the last few months I've been the unintentional recipient of an email exchange between a landlord and his deadbeat tenant.  Truth be told, it's fascinating to watch this obviously naive newbie of a landlord deal with this seasoned, career scam artist of a tenant.  My email address is very similar to one of the landlord's.  Interestingly, the drama all takes place in my hometown of Birmingham, AL.  So, without further ado, I share:

Cast of Characters
Kandi... as deadbeat tenant
Jan... as cc'ed co-landlord
Ricky... as God-fearing landlord

I was first copied on March 26, 2012.  

On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 8:43 AM, Kandi wrote:
Jan, I have been out of town for my work.  I apologize, my taxes were supposed to be in my account the next week after I spoke with you.  There was some kind of hold up that they needed some more information and I did not know until I got back.  But it is straightened out now I believe and they assured me I would have it this week.  I promise as soon as it hits I will have you all caught up.  I’m really sorry.
Thank you,

Innocent Kandi promises to pay her rent the week of March 26th.  She deploys the classic "waiting on my tax refund" excuse.  Eventually Jan and Ricky realize that tenants who rely on tax refunds to pay recurring expenses might have trouble managing their money.  Jan starts out as a friendly landlord.  Jan patiently waits two weeks before asking Kandi where the rent is.  She also throws a bomb:  Kandi hasn't been too sweet about paying her rent lately.

From: Jan
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:41 PM
To: Kandi
Subject: Re: Rent
I hope you are well.
We need to talk about your rental agreement for the townhome.  I think we have been lenient regarding the due date of your rent payments, and we have tried to respond to everything that needed to be fixed in a very timely manner.
However, unless you have put a check in the mail recently, you are now four months behind on your rent payments (January 2012, February 2012, March 2012, and April 2012).
We need to talk about when we can collect these four rent payments, as well as how we will handle the payment schedule going forward.
Please call me at your earliest convenience.  My cell phone is 413-xxxx.
Thank you.

Innocent Kandi takes a full week to respond, but she's not stalling.  No, she's been having a hard time with her girls.  She also uses this as an opportunity to let her landlord know what a wonderful person she is.

From: Kandi
Date: Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 8:01 AM
Subject: RE: Rent
To: Jan 
Good morning Jan.  I was out last week and just responding to your email, I apologize.  You are completely right, you have been more than lenient with me. I know with my taxes I can catch you up, I just have not received them yet.  There were some discrepancies with me getting to file the girls, but anyway I think this has been resolved and now I’m just waiting.  I am really sorry it has been this way, I never had any intention of ever being late on the rent, that is very important to me.  I have had a really hard time and a lot of unexpected things with Courtnie which we are still dealing with.  None of this should affect you and I am so sorry.  I think things are going to get better with me having another income soon but with all of that said.  I will start looking because I know you need to get someone in there that is dependable every month on your rent.  If I could change the way things have gone this past year I really would.  You are a great person and I certainly have not meant to do you wrong.  I appreciate everything you have done.  I’m going to call again this morning to check on my taxes, I really think I will have them this week.  I will try to call you tonight, the girls have ball but hopefully it will not be too late when we get home.
Thank you Jan,

Rent is very important to Innocent Kandi, but she also promises to start looking for a new place.  Tomorrow we meet Rick, God-fearing landlord #2.

Monday, June 18


The last few days have been mostly routine.  Yesterday I shopped four gas stations and did a theater check. The check involved visiting three screens of my choosing and recording the ads that played before the trailers (in a show called First Look).  I also had to take photos of some posters and popcorn bags.  On Saturday I shopped four gas stations, did a 5 store special credit card assignment and took photos of a parking lot that is going to be paved.  I did go to a concert Saturday night; my first in years.  We went to see Daughtry.  It was decent.

Today is yet another day of shops, but I don't have a ton to do.  I have 5 gas station audits and a fast food restaurant for lunch.  All I have lined up tomorrow is a fast food lunch, and the rest of the week is similarly bleak.  For some reason I'm not finding as many attractive shopping opportunities as I did in the past.  Many of the jobs I used to do are now offered with a much lower fee, one that I'm unwilling to accept.

I'll save my soap box on how mystery shopping is becoming commoditized for another day.

Outside of shopping, I found out I'm going to have to replace the air conditioner at the rental property.  That's a $4,000 expense I wasn't planning.  Big ouch.  I'll also be looking at planning my July trip to Florida.

Wednesday, June 13

Yes, Landlords Do Play Favorites

I think of myself as a great landlord.  I provide quality housing and prompt communication with my tenants.  If there is an issue, I don't ignore it or hope it just goes away.

Still, I can't help but send subtle messages to tenants when they take advantage of my kindness.  I have one tenant in particular who has never paid his rent on time.  He always pays before the end of the month and has never been two months late, but that isn't good enough.

My tenant works outdoors, pouring concrete.  I bet it gets hot out there.  He sent a text message last month saying he did not think the air conditioning was working properly.  This happened to be around the 15th of the month and I still hadn't seen the rent for May.  I didn't respond to his text.

When my tenant finally called me about the issue, I told him I was going out of town for a couple of weeks.  The weather was mild so I wasn't too concerned about it.

Yesterday I took a look.  It isn't something I know how to fix.  The unit may be low on coolant, but that doesn't make much sense because I had someone look at the unit and repair a leak before my tenant moved in.  Could the leak still be there?

Anyhow, the tenant called three times yesterday.  Is that audacity?  I mean, the 12th of the month, rent is due on the 1st.  I told him last month this paying late has to stop.  I do have an HVAC tech scheduled for Friday, but how do you call your landlord three times about a problem when you are almost two weeks late on your rent?

I welcome anyone who disagrees with me to let me know.  I think I've made my opinion clear:  if you owe someone money, don't expect any favors.  Do you think my best tenants - the ones who pay me on time and don't call me to change a light bulb - have to wait?

Tuesday, June 12

Attack of Murphy's Law

One day I'll know how to fix things.  Until then, if something can go wrong, I'll definitely figure out how wrong it can go.  Yesterday I intended to install the microwave but have to return to try again.  The trouble started when I was loading everything into my vehicle.  I laid the filter screens that go under the microwave along with the screws that hold the microwave in place on top of my car and completely forgot about them until I was almost at the tenant's home, 45 miles away.  I figured I could just re-use those parts from the existing microwave, but of course the screens were a different size and when I retraced my steps I could not find them.  On top of that the screws go into the top of the microwave in a different place and I didn't bring a drill for the new holes that were needed.

While I was there the tenant pointed out a leak behind the toilet I just replaced.  I'm not familiar with PEX plumbing so when I replaced the toilet I just rehooked the existing PEX supply line.  Looks like I need to go to Home Depot and get educated on how to connect PEX to a shut off valve and then to a standard toilet supply line.

Fortunately my entire day wasn't wasted.  I had my annual check-up and, besides being scolded for being too heavy, found out I'm in good health overall.  My blood pressure has never been high but it happened to be even lower than it was one year ago.  I haven't gotten the results of my blood work but I'm assuming everything will be fine.

I also did two mystery shops and had a minor issue on my car looked at.  It was so minor that the dealership didn't charge me for the repair.

Today I'm hoping for a slower day.  My to-do list has gotten long enough that it's stressing me out and I really want to knock out a couple of pesky things I keep putting off, so maybe I'll muster up the motivation to do some of these tasks.

Monday, June 11

Back Home

We made it home around midnight Sunday morning.  After we checked out of the hotel Sunday we rented a car and did one last restaurant shop for lunch.  I got lucky at the car rental place with a free upgrade.  For the next month, at $9.55 per day, I'm driving a Fiat 500.  It's a sweet car and handles remarkably.  I can almost do a complete U-Turn without leaving the lane I am in - imagine that!

We made it in later than expected because there was heavy rain most of the drive home.  I slept until 6:30 AM Sunday (late for this early bird) and spent yesterday getting caught up around the house.  The post office isn't struggling because of me, at least judging by the volume of mail I had to process.  When that was done I removed the over the range microwave so that I can use it in one of my rental properties.  This will be the last time I provide a microwave for one of my tenants.  It is only three years old and has to be replaced.  Fortunately I'm not coming out of pocket since I'm giving them my microwave.  In its place I plan to install a simple hood vent and to purchase a portable microwave I can take with me when I move.

Today I am installing the microwave.  The house is 45 miles away so it will take a good bit of the day to do it.  I also have my annual physical and a couple of mystery shops lined up.  Finally, I plan to pay property insurance today.  That bill hurts since I am paying on 9 different properties.  On the upside, the points I will earn from charging this to my credit card will earn me a $50 gift card.

Friday, June 8

Update #3 From Orlando

This trip is nearly over and I can't believe how fast it's gone by.  Tomorrow we will be driving home.  Originally we were planning to fly, but I am returning to the area in one month for a time share mystery shop and was planning to drive then.  So, I'm renting a car for a month and will return it at that time and fly home from that trip.

It's been a fruitful trip:  I've earned $748.50 in fees, over $2,000 in reimbursements, and enough loyalty bonuses for a handful of free nights.  It's also been fun, even though much of the trip has been about working.

On Wednesday my agent showed me four houses.  There's one that I am considering and may put in an offer.  I like it's location but think it is a bit overpriced.  My gut tells me to just do it - as a buy and hold investor I can be forgiven for spending $5,000 too much (assuming I am overpaying, but who's to say real estate doesn't recover and I see some appreciation on top of rental income?).

This afternoon I check into my last hotel, which is also the last mystery shop of the trip.  That is, unless I find something on the way home.  Otherwise, I'll arrive home late Saturday evening.

Thursday, June 7

Diamonds are Forever, But Why?

Earlier this week I logged onto my Hilton Honors account and discovered two nice surprises.  First, a mysterious bonus has been added to my last two stays.  Listed as the Q3 Team Member Production Test Bonus, I have no clue what it actually is for.  The amount is a mystery, too.  On my first stay, the bonus equaled the "base points" I earned.  On the second stay is was twice the base points earned.

The second, more delightful surprise, was that I was upgraded to Hilton Honors Diamond Status, the highest tier in the program.  According to their website, Diamond status is awarded after 28 stays, 60 nights or 100,000 base points are earned in a calendar year.  While I've stayed in more Hilton properties this year, I haven't met those thresholds.

I'm thrilled to have received these "gifts", but I wish I knew the logic behind all this.  Then I could plan my travels to maximize the benefits of this program.

Wednesday, June 6

Goals Update: I've Achieved A Goal!

Some time over the weekend I achieved the first of five goals I set for 2012.

Goal:  Increase net worth by $50,000

Status:  Achieved!

I've been fortunate this year.  First, I couldn't have converted my IRA to a Self-Directed IRA at a better time.  I locked in a small but respectable gain for 2012, which followed a market beating performance in 2011.  Second, I sold the Cartier bracelets and several smaller items.  I also received a $3,000 distribution from the bankruptcy trustee of American Business Financial Services.  Finally, those rent checks keep paying down my debt.  It hasn't been effortless, but I'm still surprised I did it this quickly.

Tuesday, June 5

My Frugal Miser - May Expenses: $5,946

My May expenses were fairly high.  I spent over $1,000 on vacation related expenses.  Half of this was the deposit I made on the December cruise.  The balance was for the Orlando/Tampa/Clearwater trip (even though I categorized airfare and car rental as "vacation", I am earning more than this from mystery shopping, so it's a wash.

I also splurged on 3 concerts scheduled this summer:  one in Birmingham (taking Mom for her birthday to see Journey and Pat Benetar), one in Tuscaloosa, AL (Daughtry) and one in Savannah, GA (Elton John).  I'm not a  huge Elton John fan but he's one of the greats and I want to be able to say in 10 or 20 years that I took a road trip to Savannah to see him perform.

May Personal Expenses ($2,351)
$83 Auto ($78 fuel, $5 service)
$0 Bank Fees
$35 Clothing
$278 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$254 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$0 Home Repair
$13 Household
$0 Homeowner's Association Dues
$139 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Medical
$0 Miscellaneous
$381 Mortgage Interest (primary residence)
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$96 Utilities
$1,072 Vacation

May Business Expenses ($3,595)

$746 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$190 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$2,659 Rental Properties - Maintenance and Repairs (mostly the cost of rehabbing the vacant townhouse)

Total May Expenses : $5,946

  • Once again I benefited from mystery shopping by spending just $78 on fuel.
  • Food was higher than I would like.  I ate in restaurants over 30 times in May.

Monday, June 4

My Frugal Miser - May Income: $11,231

May was a strong month.  I earned significantly more than I spent, which enabled me to pay down some debts and spend a little more than I would otherwise have for entertainment and upcoming vacations. On Tuesday I will take a look at my spending, so today let's took a look at where the money came from.

May Income
$1,096 Mystery Shopping
$6,447 Rental Income
$3,688 Other Sources
$11,231 Total Income for May

  • I've been averaging about the same amount for mystery shopping for a few months now.  For this category I combine my reimbursable expenses as they occur with the income that comes in during the month.  Accountants wouldn't like my way but it sure is easy, and over the long run it's 100% accurate.
  • Rental income was solid.  I rented the vacant townhouse faster than expected.  One tenant paid $135 in late fees.  I love late fees. 
  • Other Sources was much higher than usual.  This month it includes my 2011 state tax refund and a settlement check from the bankruptcy trustee of a company I invested in many years ago.  That check was for more than $3,000.  Considering I invested something like $24,000 with that company from 2002-2004, I received just a fraction of my investment back.  Still, it was a welcome addition to the month.

Saturday, June 2

Update #2 from Orlando

Today is the first day of the conference we are working.  It is also the shortest:  1 PM - 5 PM.

Thursday afternoon I met with a real estate agent and finally began the process of finding a property.  I'm not quite sure what to expect because back home I usually don't use an agent unless one is required for paperwork purposes, in which case a relative helps me out.  The agent gave me the address of a home in Belleair and then emailed six other properties for review.  Belleair is a nice community - Hulk Hogan used to live there (that's your trivia for the day!).  The home I am looking at is modest but the surrounding streets are filled with beautifully landscaped estates on or near the water.  More than likely my agent will accompany me on a house hunting tour when I return next week.  The house in Belleair was ugly, but that's what I want.  I want a house that the average Joe is scared of because it means I'll get it cheaper.  This one is particularly scary because it needs a new roof... as evidenced by the pool of water in one of the interior rooms.

Today we will check out of a hotel I am shopping.  Since I have until 1 PM before our conference work begins I plan to knock out a few gas station audits.  This evening we have reservations for a restaurant I am shopping. The reimbursement for the restaurant is $120 which looks generous enough to be able to enjoy the meal without fear of going over the allowable amount.

It has been a frugal trip thus far.  As expected I have been able to add mystery shops to fill in gaps.  Besides going slightly over the allowed reimbursement on two of the alcohol compliance shops, my out of pocket expenses have been virtually zero.