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Sunday, November 25

Making Lemonade, Sweeter

I'm still in Clearwater (wearing shorts and a t-shirt, mind you) even though I planned to be auditing gas stations in Tallahassee today.  Last night I checked my calendar and realized I made a planning error.  I have to work a hospitality event in Atlanta beginning Thursday the 29th.  But I was leaving Birmingham to return to Clearwater on Wednesday the 28th.   That driving would have sucked.  So, we rearranged a few things so that I am making one trip, not two.  Even better, I picked up two cell phone shops in Tallahassee paying $25 each, so tomorrow I will earn $218 instead of $168.

It's going to be a bear of a day - nearly 250 miles of driving followed by 14 shops followed by data entry.  But sticking around Birmingham an extra day will make everything easier later in the week... and I will save on gas.  I expect to earn about $700 this week, which is a decent amount considering Tuesday and Wednesday I'll mostly be goofing off and evicting my deadbeat tenant.

Cold weather, here I come.

Saturday, November 24

Making Lemonade

What started as a slow-looking end of the year is looking better.  I've mentioned that I am in the process of evicting a tenant.  Tomorrow I am leaving for Birmingham to file the unlawful detainer with the court.  I found a route of 12 gas stations in Tallahassee that will earn me $168 in fees, which will more than cover the cost of fuel for this jaunt.  I also have a couple shops in Birmingham lined up.

Before our cruise December 9th I now have two hospitality events in Atlanta to work.  From 11/29 to 12/1 I am working an airport meet and greet and on 12/7 I am working a one day pharmaceutical conference in Atlanta.  The idea is to get as close to Birmingham as possible with these jobs so that I can do whatever I need to do with the eviction.

I've been spending the last few days doing very little and enjoying it very much.  Sure, I would have worked if the opportunities presented themselves, but it is what it is.

Monday, November 19

Mystery Shopping My Way to Zero Debt

November and December have been the toughest months for me to earn a living through mystery shopping.  I have done well this November but I've had to take shops I normally would not.  This month I've already earned $1,600 but the rest of the month looks bleak.  I've noticed that mystery shopping companies try to schedule everything before Thanksgiving, which means the last week of November is usually dead.  Likewise, December shops are usually finished by the middle of the month.  So far I have seen very little opportunity in December.  I have signed up for an oil change and a discount grocery store - that's it.  Maritz is the company that provides me the most work and I don't see anything coming up for December with them.  Nothing.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that my calendar is getting lighter.  I still haven't evicted my nightmare tenant so at least I will have more free time to focus on what needs to be done there.  I am going on a 7 day cruise December 9th so that week was a wash, anyway.

I am coming to terms with the fact that I won't be mystery shopping for the rest of my life.  Maybe on the side this is a great way to get a free meal or some extra cash every now and then.  However, as a "profession" it is a tough business:  even when I'm not out working, I'm checking dozens of job boards for shops, planning upcoming trips, studying job requirements, or keeping track of what I am owed.  In the end it is a good deal of effort with minimal reward besides the flexibility of not having a 9 to 5 desk job.

I've been thinking a good bit lately about my future.  Most immediately, my goals are focused around paying off the debts on my rental properties so that I own this lucrative income stream free and clear.  After that I should have real flexibility - not just with my time, but with money in the bank to pursue new challenges.

Tuesday, November 6

My Frugal Miser - October Expenses: $2,876

During October I was mostly frugal.  For a second month in a row my rental property expenses ($213) were on the low side.  As I prepared to move over the summer I added a clause in my leases that my tenants were responsible for the first portion of repairs.  This was intended to cut down on nuisance calls but has had the unintended benefit of cutting down on overall expenses as well.

I would love to reduce my personal expenses to $1,000 or less each month, but at $1,386 I won't complain.  I mystery shopped so many gas stations that my out of pocket expense was only $7.  Food for two people was $166 thanks to all the restaurant and grocery shops.  Entertainment expenses were higher this month.  I spent more on alcohol thanks to a stocking up trip at Trader Joe's in Sarasota.  We also took a casino cruise where I lost $50 at blackjack.

October Personal Expenses ($1,386)

$7 Auto (all for fuel)
$12 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$174 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$166 Food
$141 Gifts Given
$504 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$139 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (paid annually each June)
$0 Medical
$35 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$208 Utilities
$0 Vacation

October Business Expenses ($1,490)

$1095 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$182 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$213 Rental Properties - Maintenance and Repairs

Total October Expenses : $2,876

  • I don't include principal payments in my expenses, only the interest portion of my monthly mortgage bills.
  • I expect Auto Service to increase, but it hasn't yet.  The Corolla has almost 155,000 miles on it.
  • I started the eviction process on one of my tenants last week.  There will be some associated expenses in November.

Friday, November 2

My Frugal Miser - October Income: $6,408

October was an average one for income.  My rental income was down.  One tenant wrote me a bad check; another paid his October rent at the end of September.  I wish I earned more from mystery shopping, but truth to be told the next couple months will probably be the same or lower.  November and December tend to be slower months.

October Income
$1,225 Mystery Shopping
$5,160 Rental Income
$23 Other Sources
$6,408 Total Income for October


  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work.