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Saturday, December 15

Planning for 2013

I always look forward to this time of year, not for the holidays (sure, spending time with relatives I rarely see is nice) as much as because of my annual planning ritual.

Without a map it is much harder to reach your destination.

I have friends who fly by the seat of their pants, and it is scary to imagine what they'll do when they are no longer able to work for a living.  There's no planning for retirement.  Heck, they barely plan for next month.  Then I have friends who set measurable goals.  Guess which of my friends are best prepared for rainy days?

My map adjusts for traffic.

My goal setting combines financial, physical and fun goals.  It is flexible enough to allow for changes when life presents detours, yet challenging enough to keep pushing me to be a better person.  Most of the goals are financial-related because it takes money to do the fun things, so if I meet my financial goals I should be able to do the fun things I would like to do.

Around the end of the year I will have firm goals and will publish them here.  Here's a sample of what I am working on:

  • Weight loss (at least 25 pounds)
  • Increasing my Net Worth (by better than I did in 2012)
  • Lowering Utility Expenses
  • Decreasing Debt
By setting short term (month-to-month), medium term (annual) and long term (lifetime achievement) goals, I have purpose.  I can measure my progress and feel either success or failure.

Thursday, December 13

No Cruise

Talk about a letdown.  Our 7 day cruise departed on Sunday.  We wrapped up the hospitality work Friday night, spent the night at an Atlanta hotel, and planned to drive back to Clearwater on Saturday.  Saturday morning I received a call from the wife of my best friend.  He was in cardiac arrest and they were headed to the hospital.  He didn't make it.

On the one hand, I feel good that I was in contact with my friend as recently as Thursday.  In fact, we were on the phone throughout the day as he was fretting about the latest financial crisis his family was in.  On Thursday evening he called to tell me his pancreatitis had returned.  Since he's been in the hospital so many times for it, I didn't think much of it.  Along with numerous other ailments, this time it got him.

Needless to say, we rushed from Atlanta to the hospital in Birmingham.  I stayed through the visitation on Tuesday evening.  The family decided on cremation and opted not to have a funeral.

In case anyone is curious, Carnival Cruise Lines doesn't issue refunds or credits if you cancel a cruise the day before it departs.  That hurts but I understand that they are unable to fill the cabin at such late notice.  Still, it would have been nice if they offered some sort of credit toward another cruise.

In addition to the cruise ordeal, my best friend was also a tenant in my most expensive rental property.  The financial impact of his passing goes much further than the canceled vacation, but hopefully I can get things worked out with his wife soon.

Thursday, December 6

My Frugal Miser - November Expenses: $5,761

During November my total expenses were high but a large part of this was from paying some of my property taxes.  I was mostly frugal with my personal expenses and they were down slightly from October.

I ran out of free gas near the end of November, so a marathon trip to Birmingham and Atlanta added to that expense.  Food was also higher because we ate out a lot while on the road.

November Personal Expenses ($1,339)

$112 Auto (all for fuel)
$0 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$25 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$210 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$606 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$159 Health and Dental Insurance
$39 Medical
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$163 Utilities
$27 Vacation

November Business Expenses ($4,422)

$1089 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$159 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$3174 Rental Properties - Maintenance and Repairs

Total November Expenses : $5,761

  • 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 over 155,000 miles on it.
  • My deadbeat tenant has moved out but many of her belongings are still in the house.  Most likely there will be some expenses in December associated with getting the property ready to rent again.

Monday, December 3

My Frugal Miser - November Income: $8,725

I am satisfied with my income in November.  I have one deadbeat tenant, so my rental income was off slightly.  I did well with mystery shopping.  October was a busy month (most of my mystery shopping pay is from work completed the month before).  Last month I speculated that November would be a slow month but I picked up a large gas station project ($770) as well as a hospitality job.  My December income should be solid even with a 7 day vacation and the holidays.  However, January's mystery shopping income will definitely be down.

November Income
$2,142 Mystery Shopping
$6,502 Rental Income
$82 Other Sources
$8,725 Total Income for November


  • 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. 

Saturday, December 1

Ways to Make Extra Money : Hospitality Work as an Airport Greeter

Today and the last two days I have been working a hospitality job in Atlanta.  There are many types of hospitality jobs so let me explain what I've been doing.  This particular assignment requires me to "meet and greet" people attending a meeting.  For the first two days I worked at the Atlanta airport for a total of 18 hours.  There were fewer than 30 guests arriving at different times and my job was to hold up a sign at the arrivals lobby and take the guest to his chauffeur.  Today I am working five hours at the hotel where the meeting was held.  I will be making sure the guests are all taken back to the airport at their designated time.

This work is easy, but it is definitely not for everyone.  Yesterday I worked 13 hours (I could have chosen fewer hours... but I like to make money and long hours never bother me).  About 25 guests arrived yesterday, which means about two guests per hour arrived at the airport.  Imagine standing on a non-carpeted floor, in the same spot, for 13 hours straight.  Now, I did have some down time, particular in the last couple of hours where there were longer gaps between arrivals.  In that down time I was able to grab a snack, stretch and charge my phone.  The pay is much better than minimum wage, and since I am a contractor I can deduct expenses from my pay so that the entire amount isn't counted as income.

I do hospitality work through Buckalew Hospitality.  There are many other companies that offer this type of work, but all my jobs have been through Buckalew (he has some high end hotel mystery shops, also).  The type of work varies, from well-paying to lower end.  This year I have worked a trade show booth for a pharmaceutical company, staffed a registration desk at an engineer's training conference, and next week will be staffing a desk at a hotel for a pharmaceutical meeting.  Usually the higher paying jobs are the ones where I am unsupervised.  Obviously these jobs come after you have proven yourself and can be trusted, so it is usually easiest to get the lower paying jobs at first.

My stay in Atlanta will come to a close shortly.  Tonight I am mystery shopping a limited service extended stay hotel.  Because of its limited service, the report looks easy:  I take photos of the room, kitchen and bathroom as well as an exterior shot of the entrance.  I also rate the cleanliness of several specific items and the service I receive at the front desk.  Because of its limited service, there are no staff interactions besides check-in and check-out.  I also do not have to rate any food service since there is none.  This worked out well.  My hospitality job ends at 8 PM tonight, so I will be tired and it will be late.  I needed a place to stay, so it's a free night.