Monday, September 28

On Simplifying...

I've been working on a few things to simplify my life.  I've always been a fan of focusing on what you are good at and eliminating or delegating the rest.

Real Estate

The house I listed in March is ALMOST sold.  The buyer's lender has taken a long time to get the loan in order.  Over the weekend the buyer offered to rent my house until she buys it.  I said "yes" right away.  The buyer will pay $500 rent every two weeks, plus I was able to take the utilities out of my name.  The house should close within the next couple of weeks, but it is quite a relief to add a little income while getting my buyer fully "bought-in" on this house.  There's no backing out now as far as I can see.

The plan is to methodically sell all my Birmingham properties.  I'm not in a hurry to do this, but whenever an opportunity presents itself, this is what I will do.

Finances

Recently I closed out one of the bank accounts I had opened as a mystery shop.  I also dejunked my wallet by taking out all but a couple of my credit cards.  The ones I am not using are kept in the safe.  There's something refreshing about having a nice thin wallet.

Work

Meeting season is kicking off tomorrow.  I'll be more picky this year about the jobs we do.  There's no reason to drive to Orlando for $100 on a busy Uber day when I could earn twice that here at home.  I've been keeping copious notes on when Uber/Lyft are busy in my area.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be the slowest days for rideshare.  I will continue to refine my work schedule so that I am only working when demand is healthy.  There's nothing worse than giving someone a ride 10 miles away, only to be stuck in that area for half an hour without another fare.

Life

Back at the homestead, we still don't have a kitchen.  The base cabinets aren't level, and it's been a real struggle.  I have to focus on a solution to this ASAP.  As far as recreation goes, we've taken advantage of our Busch Gardens passes twice.  We also planned an impromptu trip to Las Vegas later in October.  I found a cheap airfare combining flights on Spirit and Frontier and decided that getting out of town would be good for us.

Things are headed in a positive direction, and this is a good time in my life.  I'm finally seeing some progress on checking off my to-do list.  

Tuesday, September 22

Why I Decided to Drive for Lyft

I've been driving for Uber going on three months.  At first I didn't think it would work out.  I was frustrated by the low fees and unpaid miles.  Things have begun to improve.  One of the strategies I did to make rideshare driving more profitable was signing up for Lyft, Uber's main competitor.

What Are the Differences Between Uber and Lyft?

From a driver's perspective, Lyft cares more about our success:
  • If you are logged onto Lyft for 30 hours per week, including 10 of the designated "Peak Hours", and accept 90% of the requests that come your way, you receive a 10% bonus on your weekly earnings.  Work 50 hours and the bonus is bumped up to 20%.  Uber has no such incentive.
  • The Lyft app includes a tipping function.  When a ride ends, the customer can easily add a tip to the total fare.  Uber does not offer this, and actively encourages customers to stiff their drivers.
  • On minimum fares, Lyft pays more.  This is because Lyft does not include the Safe Driver Fee in the minimum fare calculation - it is added to it.  On a $4 ride, the driver receives $3.20 with Lyft but only $2.40 with Uber.  That $.80 difference starts to add up when I drive on the beach, where minimum fares are standard.
There are some disadvantages to Lyft:
  • Fewer people use Lyft.  It is only sustainable for me when used in conjunction with the Uber app.
  • The requests that do come in are sometimes really far away.  I've had three requests that were almost a half hour drive to the passenger.  The longest request was 43 minutes away.  This is due to there being fewer drivers using Lyft.

Lyft is a great supplement to Uber income

First off, I was offered a $50 sign-on bonus for joining Lyft.  The only requirement was that I provide 30 rides, which I have already done.  One of the worst things in this industry is downtime between rides, and having two platforms open decreases the time I have to wait for my next request.

The Numbers

In my first week, I only logged onto Lyft over the weekend.  I was logged on for 17 hours and received a net payment of $191.46, which included $22 in tips.  The week of 8/31-9/6 was my first full week on Lyft.  I was logged on for 30 hours and received $292, which inclued $33 in tips and a $28 Power Driver Bonus.  I should note that most of the hours I logged I was not actually driving.  In fact, many of the hours I was sitting at home, running the clock to try to obtain my Power Driver bonus.  I succeeded at that in week 2.  The most difficult part was accepting 90% of my requests, since you are naturally inclined to ignore requests that are too far away.

Summary

Now that I've been driving Lyft for a few weeks, I'm finding a lot to like about it, but only as a supplement to Uber.  If Lyft was more popular with riders, I would choose to only do Lyft since it has a tip function and opportunity to earn bonuses.  I'm learning to ignore far-away requests, even though that means forgoing the bonus I would earn if I accepted 90% of the requests.  Sure, a $30 bonus is nice, but not so enticing if it means I am driving more unpaid miles and time to pick up a passenger.

Sunday, September 6

My Frugal Miser - August Expenses: $3,508


August spending wasn't too bad. I kept food expenses low.  I bought a kitchen sink and some missing pieces for the cabinets, which is reflected in Home Repairs.  Mystery shopping helped keep the gas tank full, even though I used a ton of gas working as a rideshare driver.  Depreciation on my vehicles was the largest expense last month.


August Expenses:  $3,508

$1,463 Auto ($202 gas, $216 depreciation, $749 Rideshare Car depreciation, $137 service, $159 insurance)
$49 Bank Fees
$8 Clothing
$0 Computer
$144 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$156 Food
$10 Gifts Given
$890 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$141 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Investment Expense
$141 Interest Expense
$0 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$4 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$110 Uber Expenses (excluding fuel and depreciation)
$135 Utilities
$255 Vacation and Recreation

August Expenses, Excluding Vacation and Home Repairs:  $2,416

Wednesday, September 2

My Frugal Miser - August Income: $9,811


My August income was solid.  All properties are rented except the one I am selling.  The closing date for the one I am selling is this month.  I am thrilled to be taking the first step to liquidate my Birmingham properties.  This will be a long process, as I need to get the most out of those assets as possible.

Mystery shopping and hospitality work came in strong as well, but most of that income was from work I completed in July.   I spent more time driving for Uber and Lyft and less time on other work.

I also received an unexpected check from the nursing home for $310.  My grandfather passed away in 2013 so I am unsure why they are just now settling his balance.  I imagine it had something to do with a Medicare reimbursement that covered his care.

Once the house closes, I plan to invest the proceeds.  I should start seeing additional Dividend and Interest income (reported in Other Sources) as I deploy those funds into passive investments.

August Income $9,811

$1,421 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$806 Uber
$197 Lyft
$6,985 Rental Income
$401 Other Sources

Notes:.  
  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I don't include changes in investments from capital gains/losses or dividends.  Most of my investments are in retirement accounts anyway, but this category will grow as I start selling my rental properties and I will probably change this policy.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work.