Monday, December 4

My Frugal Miser - November Expenses: $3,498


November wasn't a terrible month.  Three large expenses accounted for over $2,000 in spending:  car insurance, medical bills and the annual property tax bill.  I bought a new Chromebook, some Christmas gifts and spent a little during our cruise.  We did very little gambling, but I won just a little, which offset the money we spent on alcohol in the Entertainment category.  There weren't any other unusual expenses last month.

November Expenses:  $3,498

$647 Auto ($60 for gas, $11 for service, $576 for 6 months insurance)
$0 Bank Fees
$113 Clothing
$105 Computer
$21 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$268 Food
$110 Gifts Given
$6 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$65 Interest Expense*
$647 Medical/Dental (income)
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$904 Taxes (Property Taxes on my residence)
$52 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$388 Utilities
$144 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In November, I paid $46 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of stock. 

Friday, December 1

My Frugal Miser - November Income: $13,502


Almost half my November income was a capital gain on a Sears put option that I sold.  It wasn't a great month for income otherwise because I still have two non-performing rental properties.  I wrapped up a large mystery shopping route.  The bonus for that route will be paid in December, but otherwise my mystery shopping income will fall in December.  Amazon income was way down because we worked a meeting for a week in Dallas, took an 8 day cruise, and I was focused on finishing the BP route.  In December I think Amazon will be a much larger source of my total income.

November Income: $13,502

$2,757 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$0 Uber
$0 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,200 Amazon Deliveries
$3,578 Rental Income
$0 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$5,926 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$41 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Thursday, November 9

My Frugal Miser - October Expenses: $1,485


I was frugal in October.  Because of all the work we did, we were able to keep our food costs low since many clients feed us while we are working.  There were some annual charges in the mix, including my tag renewals (I renewed the Sonata and the moped for two years) and AAA membership.  I also received a cruise offer I couldn't refuse.  We are leaving Saturday for an 8 day Caribbean cruise.  For the two of us with taxes the cost was $400.

I had a nice bit of income in the expense category.  Since we were working I sold my Bruno Mars tickets.  I sold them directly on the Ticketmaster website for a $400 profit.

October Expenses:  $1,485

$265 Auto ($4 for gas, $136 for AAA membership, $125 for registration)
$59 Bank Fees
$70 Clothing
$10 Computer
($465) Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)  income this month
$210 Food
$85 Gifts Given
$133 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$457 Interest Expense*
$0 Medical/Dental (income)
$0 Miscellaneous
$5 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$62 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$130 Utilities
$440 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In October, I paid $428 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Monday, November 6

My Frugal Miser - October Income: $14,217


October was a solid month.  I worked some large meetings and did several BP mystery shops.  I also had two profitable stock sales:  I closed out my short position for SHLD (sticking to Puts moving forward) and made a short-term profit on some of my Biglari Holdings stock.   Rent was down.  I have two non-performing rental properties right now.

October Income: $14,217

$2,030 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$46 Uber
$22 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,591 Amazon Deliveries
$5,397 Rental Income
$985 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$3,914 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$232 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Tuesday, October 31

Keeping Busy! (Dallas bound)

October has been quite a busy month.  I accepted a route of 138 BP mystery shops with locations across the state.  I spent three days this week on the east coast, mostly around Melbourne down to Port St. Lucie.   The route has also taken me to Ocala and the Orlando area.  I have 48 shops left to complete the route:   16 in south Florida from Palm Beach to Homestead and the rest from The Villages through Ocala and Gainesville and north from there.  It's questionable whether this was the best use of my time.   There is a completion bonus of almost $1,000, so I have no choice now but to finish it.

In addition to mystery shopping, it's been a busy month in the meeting industry.  We worked a 5 day Tampa meeting, a 5 day Orlando meeting, and several 1 or 2 day meetings.

Today we are flying out of Orlando to Dallas for another 5 day meeting that starts tomorrow morning.  It sucks having to drive two hours to the airport, but I saved enough on the flight to make it worth it.  We worked the same meeting at the same hotel last year.  The hours are long but the work isn't too bad.

Even though I haven't had a day off in October, and have routinely put in 80+ hour workweeks, it will all be worth it in November:  Carnival offered me a "Pack and Go" cruise rate we couldn't resist.  After the hurricanes, the company reconfigured some cruise destinations, and I suspect this caused some cancellations they wanted to fill.  Including taxes and port fees, we paid $400 total for an 8 day cruise.  Even better, we are visiting all new ports this time.

With the cruise, another Vegas trip lined up for December, and the upcoming holiday season, November and December should be easier months.  The income focus will be on finishing the BP route and making Amazon deliveries.  I only have a couple of day meetings scheduled and don't expect anything larger to pop up until January.  I have a vacant townhouse and should have a second vacant property at the end of the year, so I'm not ruling out a trip to Birmingham if I can make it work.

Thursday, October 5

My Frugal Miser - September Expenses: $3,629


I should have been more frugal last month.  Things got out of hand in Vegas after one too many drinks and I lost a lot of money playing blackjack.  What sucks is that I was ahead $700 before that and then gave it all back and then some.

I received an unexpected refund from the hospital where I had my sinus surgery, but I also received an unexpected lab bill that I have yet to pay.  I want to find out if those two transactions are somehow related.

Food and gas were affected by our evacuation during Hurricane Irma.  We went to Birmingham for a few days until the power was restored at my house.  Since the power was out for several days, I had to throw out all the food that spoiled.  Interest expense was the hard-to-borrow interest I pay for shorting Sears stock.  One day, if they ever file for bankruptcy, this will all be worth it and I will have a nice gain.  Clothing was also on the higher side.  For the meeting work we do, I have to wear professional clothes, and needed to replace some of the dress shirts that were stained.  Last but not least, utilities were higher as we switched cell phone providers.  I sold my Pixel at a loss and also had two cell phone bills.  The good news is my monthly phone bill will go down by at least $50/month.

September Expenses:  $3,629

$621 Auto ($193 for gas, $428 for new tires)
$0 Bank Fees
$102 Clothing
$13 Computer
$1,126 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$480 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$50 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$783 Interest Expense*
($404) Medical/Dental (income)
$0 Miscellaneous
$5 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$111 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$436 Utilities
$244 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In August, I paid $1,070 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Tuesday, October 3

My Frugal Miser - September Income: $9,812


September was a mediocre month for income.  I continued to get steady work from Amazon making deliveries.  I did not do much mystery shopping, but yesterday I signed on to a major project that will mean higher mystery shopping income in October and November.

Rental income is still lower than it should be.  I have one tenant who hasn't been paying rent (the primary tenant passed away, so this will continue until she moves out).  Another property became vacant at the end of the month.

September Income: $9,812

$543 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$65 Uber
$0 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$3,271 Amazon Deliveries
$5,242 Rental Income
$140 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$553 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$0 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Tuesday, September 5

My Frugal Miser - August Expenses: $4,057


Overall August was a good month.  Taking out the Sears interest I paid on my short stock position, my real spending last month was just under $3,000.  The utilities category was high because I paid two electric bills, bought a new phone and switched to a new phone provider.  The net effect will be a lower phone bill in the future.  I also spent nearly a grand on vacationing.  That shouldn't surprise anyone:  we spend on experiences, not things.  I bought two round-trip tickets to Las Vegas for $221 (5 years ago it would have cost $800, go figure!).  The balance was for the Belize trip, and it included the food we consumed while we were there.  We did one day tour on the mainland, paid for four ferry trips, and ate (and drank) like kings.

August Expenses:  $4,057

$158 Auto ($19 gas, $139 for service)
$85 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$20 Computer
$115 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$185 Food
$150 Gifts Given
$443 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$1,112 Interest Expense*
$0 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$6 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$88 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$653 Utilities
$979 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In August, I paid $1,070 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Saturday, September 2

My Frugal Miser - August Income: $13,499


I busted my butt in August!  Amazon deliveries ($3,412) contributed to the bulk of my income.  Not bad considering we spent a week in Belize last month.  We didn't do any meeting jobs and I only did a few mystery shops - most of the income in that category is from work I did in July.

Rental income looks okay, but one management company paid July and August rent during the month of August, so this is artificially high.  I still am dealing with the deceased tenant's house.  Her mother is living there and hasn't paid rent since she died.  I also found out another tenant (in one of my townhouses) is leaving.

August Income: $13,499

$1,242 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$181 Uber
$104 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$3,412 Amazon Deliveries
$7,546 Rental Income
$28 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$875 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$112 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Wednesday, August 16

MoviePass: $10/month to see all the movies you want

Last night my partner and I joined MoviePass.  The company lowered their subscription fee to $10/month yesterday.  Since we love to go to the movies, this is a no-brainer:


  • You can see one 2D movie every day.
  • The company mails you a debit card.  All you do is go to the theater of your choice, and pay for the movie using the debit card.
  • It's a flat $10/month.  
MoviePass was founded by one of the co-founders of Netflix.  They've been in business for a while, but I think the monthly cost was $50 before.  I can't imagine this deal will last forever.  Just using it to see one movie a month should pay for the subscription.

Good morning from Caye Caulker, Belize




Friday, August 4

My Frugal Miser - July Expenses: $8,964


I had two large expenditures in July.  I made the last payment to the contractor who remodeled our bathrooms, and at the end of the month I took the Sonata in for several repairs.  With over 110,000 miles, the cost of upkeep will be higher.

Food spending was high.  We traveled for work, and ate out more than normal.  We also had an unexpected trip to Birmingham to attend a funeral.  I treated my mom to dinner one night, and during the entire trip we were eating in restaurants.

July Expenses:  $8,964

$1,557 Auto ($72 gas, $99 for moped insurance, $1,387 for service)
$52 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$0 Computer
$317 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$460 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$4,394 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$1,419 Interest Expense*
$85 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$6 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$63 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$438 Utilities
$144 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In July, I paid $1,380 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Wednesday, August 2

My Frugal Miser - July Income: $10,802


I worked hard in July.  Meeting jobs were steady in a month that is usually slow.  Between those jobs I completed a number of mystery shops.  Also, I transferred to a new Amazon warehouse.  It is much closer - less than 9 miles from my house, but I deliver packages instead of groceries and restaurant meals.  That means I won't be getting tips, but I should be able to work more.

Rental income looks horrible, but it's not quite as bad as it seems.  One of my management companies made a mistake on my statement, which I didn't catch until a week ago.  I didn't receive any rent from that company, which manages two of my properties.  This means July income is lower, but August income will be higher.  Another management company will deposit my July rents during the first week of August.  It's just a timing of the deposit.  Finally, one of my tenants passed away in July, and I didn't receive rent from her.  The tenant's mother is still in the house, so it's going to take some effort to get her moved out and then ready the property for a new tenant.  This is my most expensive property so it will hurt the most.  All the other rental properties are occupied and current.

July Income: $10,802

$3,979 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$93 Uber
$21 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$492 Amazon Deliveries
$1,920 Rental Income
$1,026 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$3,210 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$61 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Sunday, July 30

What's In Store for August

It's been a toasty summer.  I recently switched to a different warehouse for Amazon where I deliver packages instead of groceries and restaurant meals.  There is more work available but it is physically more demanding, at least in this heat.

I have one small hospitality job this month and four gas station audits to do.  That's it.  Looks like I'll be doing rideshare and Amazon deliveries.

On the 14th we head to Fort Lauderdale on Megabus.  We fly the next day to Belize.  We're spending a week in Caye Caulker.  Since I've already paid for our room and we used points for our flights, the trip should be inexpensive.

Last but not least, I've got to put together a plan for the rental property where my tenant passed away.  Her mother was living with her and I wanted to give her some time to grieve before bringing up the fact that she can't live there without paying rent.  This was one of only two properties I manage myself, so it's going to take more hands on effort than it would if a management company was in charge.  Plus, the house is in bad shape and will need a lot of work.

That's it.  August looks to be like a slow month.  Sure, I'll be working a lot of hours.  But there aren't too many commitments pulling me in too many directions.

Thursday, July 6

My Home Remodel Update

Master bathroom before

I bought our house in 2014 for $45,000.   It was a real steal.  The MLS listed the house as a 2 bedroom, 1 bath foreclosure.  In reality, the house was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath.  In Tampa Bay, the institutional buyers who were buying up hundreds of homes site unseen were buying three bedroom houses, so mine flew under their radar.

Even then, $45,000 was ridiculous for a house in this area.  It was so low because there were so many problems, including water damage.  Not being scared of a little work, all I saw was opportunity.  We did much of the work ourselves.  The back yard was grass and sand.  Now there is a 224 square foot patio, partially covered, and an extensive tropical garden with seashell paths and bird fountains.  We added drywall to the walls and ceilings (the bank replaced the roof before I bought it), gutted and re-did the kitchen, and painted the whole house.  When it was time to start the bathrooms, I was a little burnt out.  We began demolition in one bathroom, and I started to realize there were a lot of little things I had no idea how to do.  Ultimately, I decided to hire a contractor.

During the last few months I've had contractors working inside our house to remodel both bathrooms.  I am really happy with the work they did and don't regret the expense.  In total, I spent close to $18,000 to completely remodel both bathrooms.  In the master bathroom, this included converting the green bathtub to a full shower with insets for soap and shampoo.

Master bathroom after

Behind all that's pretty, the plumber replaced the old shower valve as well as all the shut-off valves.  Drywall was replaced with mold-resistant tile board.  The old vanity was so damaged that the drawers wouldn't open and close, and the 70's era wallpaper was peeling.  Now I have clean, bright walls, with a full tile shower and four feet of tile that wraps around the entire bathroom.  There's a brand new window to let in lots of sunlight.

In the second bathroom, the pink (yes, it was PINK) tub with the broken sliding glass doors was replaced with a white tub with tile walls and a curved shower rod.  It too was gutted and all the plumbing was upgraded.  A new window was installed there, too.

The contractor is wrapping up one last (small) project for me, and then I will take a break from any major work to replenish the bank account.  One advantage to buying a foreclosure is that you have some control over how much the house costs you.  I paid cash for this house, so I don't have the traditional expense of a mortgage.  Instead, I decide when to spend money on the house.  There's plenty left to do, but nothing that keeps us from living here or that makes us uncomfortable.  Well, the air conditioner might need to be replaced, which is a comfort issue.   In the coming months, I hope to replace the old wooden fence that's falling apart with a vinyl one.  There are a few electrical upgrades that need to be done.  The laundry room needs new walls and I might tile the floor.  Then there's the carport and the peeling blue paint.  Oh, the list goes on!

Monday, July 3

My Frugal Miser - June Expenses: $8,354


I spent more in June than I made.  There were four main reasons.  I had surgery on my sinuses, which cost over $1,600 out of pocket.  Second, I made another payment to the contractor who is remodeling the bathroom ($3,000).  My annual homeowner's insurance premium was due, costing me $880.  Last, we spent two weeks in Europe.  Those three expenses made up almost $7,000 of my spending.

We spent $1,666 in the vacation category:  $445 was towards a trip to Vegas we are taking in September.  The remaining $1,221 was for the two weeks we were in Europe.  This includes food, tours, transportation, and everything else during our trip except the flights and the AirBnb in Iceland, which were paid before our trip.  All-in, our two week European vacation cost less than $2,000.  The three days in Iceland were a disproportionate part of the cost:  Iceland is very expensive.

June Expenses:  $8,354

$28 Auto ($28 gas)
$23 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$0 Computer
$63 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$283 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$3,038 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$880 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$298 Interest Expense*
$1,613 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$88 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$310 Utilities
$1,666 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In June, I paid $285 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Saturday, July 1

My Frugal Miser - June Income: $7,753


June was a softer month for income as expected.  We spent two weeks in Europe at the beginning of the month, and I didn't work a single hospitality meeting in June.  The mystery shopping/hospitality category was negative.  In addition to paying for flights to New Orleans for an upcoming meeting, I was out of pocket for several mystery shops I completed but will be paid for in July.

All rental properties are occupied and current.

June Income: $7,753

($159) Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs (expenses exceeded income)
$225 Uber
$201 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$718 Amazon Deliveries
$6,407 Rental Income
$214 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$0 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$147 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Tuesday, June 6

How I've Become Less Frugal Since This Blog Started

Every time I write my monthly spending report, I ask myself whether I am being as frugal as I possibly can be.  Of course, the answer is no.  There's a tricky balance between spending as little as possible and paying for the conveniences that make my life better.

There are a handful of expenses I could do without, but right now I choose not to:

  • I pay $26/month for an unlimited car wash package.  When a new car wash opened up a mile from my house, I caved.  It's so much easier to run the car through the wash and use the free vacuums.  I'm more likely to drive for Uber in my spare time now that my car is always clean.
  • I pay $35/month for a Wall Street Journal subscription.  I want to make money from investing and need the proper tools to do so.
  • I pay annual fees on three credit cards.  While I recently canceled two credit cards that charge an annual fee, I've decided to keep the other three for now.  It's simple:  the value I get from these cards is worth more than the fee I pay each year.  With that said, I may get rid of the Marriott Rewards card.  I get a free night each year, but the annual fee is $85.  On the IHG card, I also get a free night but only pay $49/year.


Sometimes I wonder if I justify my expenses as a way to avoid the effort of getting rid of them.  I don't think I am doing that.  Most of these costs help me either make more money or save money.   Plus, we continue to be more frugal than most of our peers.  Some of the things we don't spend money on include:

  • cable TV
  • trash removal
  • drinking at bars
  • expensive cars
  • jewelry, expensive clothes, and other status symbols

Sunday, June 4

My Frugal Miser - May Expenses: $9,892


My spending in May is deceptively high:  take out the non-recurring expenses, and I was moderately frugal last month.  In May, I advanced another $5,000 to the contractor who is remodeling both bathrooms in my home.  I spent $975 for the crown over my implant.  I'm happy to report this implant is completely done now.  I also paid E*Trade $832 to borrow shares of Sears stock.  Absent these costs, I spent about $3,000 last month.

One bit of good news:  I have now fully depreciated the cost of my car.  That has been one of the biggest monthly expenses.

Food spending for the two of us was $254, and most of that was eating out.   We were out of town 13 days last month and we usually don't have a way to heat food, so eating out is easiest.  In June we will be in Europe for 13 days and I expect our food spending to be especially high.

May Expenses:  $9,892

$1,145 Auto ($12 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $598 depreciation, $535 6 months insurance)
$277 Bank Fees (2% fee on 0% cash advance offer)
$13 Clothing
$0 Computer
$122 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$257 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$5,135 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$847 Interest Expense*
$1,109 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$80 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$63 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$403 Utilities
$380 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In May, I paid $832 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Friday, June 2

My Frugal Miser - May Income: $12,101


May was a solid month.  I worked two big meetings and a few dinner meetings.  I also did a good bit of delivery driving for Amazon.  I made some money on a realized gain when I covered a short position on Sears Holdings.  The gains were achieved in one day, which I was pretty excited about.


May Income: $12,101

$3,247 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$47 Uber
$50 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,049 Amazon Deliveries
$6,355 Rental Income
$29 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$1,077 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$247 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Wednesday, May 17

My Frugal Miser, Summer Edition

It may not officially be summer, but the weather in the Tampa Bay begs to differ.  In exchange for living in paradise six months out of the year, we have six months of living in an oven.  I've chosen travel as the best medicine for dealing with the ailment that is known as stifling heat.

Iceland & Amsterdam

We will kick off our summer with a frugal European tour.  Our Wow Airlines tickets were under $400 each, and we're keeping it low by traveling with backpacks that fit under the seat in front of us.  Not to worry... we are masters at washing clothes in the sink.  Besides, who wants to lug big suitcases around the subway or on foot in the Netherlands?  We're spending three nights in a two bedroom AirBnB apartment just outside Reykjavik.  Those three nights cost less than one night at a hotel in the city.  For the rest of the trip, I redeemed hotel points, so all of our lodging is free.  Our food costs will be higher than normal, and we'll have some other expenses related to tours and admission fees, but it won't be astronomical.

Surgery

After we return from Europe I have to have surgery on my sinuses.  I've had an infection that won't go away.  Since summer is our slow season for work, it makes sense to take care of this now.  Unfortunately, it does mean I had to cancel two jobs I would have worked in June.

Home Remodeling

I hired a contractor to remodel both bathrooms.  Progress in the first bathroom is well underway, and I imagine it will be finished within a week or two.  I've asked the contractor to finish the second bathroom before my surgery.  Depending on cash flow, I have some other jobs around the house I'd like to get done.  The backyard fence is falling apart, and there is a laundry list of other smaller jobs I want to get done.

Belize

If we must deal with the heat, why not do it somewhere exotic?  In August we will spend a week on a small island off the coast of Belize.  Caye Caulker is so small that there are no cars.  We will take a water taxi from the mainland, and a golf cart will carry us to where we will be staying.  We redeemed Southwest points for our flights out of Fort Lauderdale, and I snagged the cheapest tickets possible on Megabus to get from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.  Our condo on Caye Caulker for the entire week was only $305.  I plan to do as little as possible while there!  Seriously, I'm bringing books to read and ample sunscreen.  We'll surely rent kayaks and maybe visit some Mayan Ruins, but the purpose of this trip is rejuvenation.

Finances

Lastly, I'm getting close to crossing a major threshold financially:  transitioning from paying off debt to accumulating cash.  I started this blog in 2009 when I was looking at hardcore ways to pay off the half a million dollars in debt that I had.  My goal for 2017 is to reduce debt to $150,000, which is more or less the point I am comfortable with long-term.  Towards the end of the summer, I should be able to start allocating excess cash to my E*Trade account.  I'll still be whittling away at debt, but it's going to be super exciting to start building up financial resources for our future.

It's going to be an exciting summer.  What do you have planned?


Friday, May 12

Continuing to Simplify Things

Back in February I reported on some of the things I am doing this year to simplify.  There's really three main areas I am working on:  finances, material possessions, and processes.

Finances

In February I canceled my Chase Ink Business card.  That eliminated a separate log-in (little things count!).  I paid the outstanding balance on that card in April.  Last month I also closed my Chase Sapphire card (the "regular" version, not my coveted Reserve card).  This month I am closing a very small investment account I have at Capital One.  In 2006 I opened it because I was offered a $50 sign-up bonus.  That $50 has now turned into a little over $100.  It doesn't make sense to have this account since I already have an investment account at E*Trade.  I also closed out my Home Depot credit card.

My next challenge will be to close all my accounts with Capital One.  I currently have a personal checking and savings account as well as a business savings account.  I barely use these accounts.  Things get tougher after I tackle this low-hanging fruit, but I have a couple of ideas about what I want to tackle next:  my car loan and student loan.  Both have really low interest rates, so closing them would only serve the purpose of streamlining my finances.  Beyond this, I'll have to look at the credit cards I pay an annual fee on.  But these cards generally have benefits to me that exceed the annual fee, so I'm not sure what I'll end up doing.

Material Possessions

We took a carload of things to Goodwill last month.  Right now we have two vanity units that have been sitting in the living room for a year.  I hired a contractor to remodel the bathrooms, so these vanities will finally be in their proper spot soon.  With meeting season approaching its end, I'll be home more, which means I'll have more time to purge.  This is a task that will never be complete.

Processes

I lump most everything else into "Processes", which includes the mind-clutter I deal with.  Managing receipts for tax purposes, keeping a check on my investments, making sure everything around the house is working and is needed... the things that make life run smoothly.  I would like to take a hard look at how I live my life and figure out what I can do to streamline these processes.

Monday, May 8

My Frugal Miser - April Expenses: $10,113


Even though my April income was solid, my expenses were also high.  The largest expense was in the home repair category, and this expense will continue to be high for the next couple of months.  I hired a contractor to remodel both bathrooms and do a few other minor repairs.  I am paying him in increments as the work is completed.

I made another payment to my periodontist for my second implant.  When done, this one implant is going to cost around $7,000, which seems like a lot for one tooth.

We didn't go on any vacations in April.  I bought a $500 Carnival gift card to take advantage of a promotion at Winn-Dixie.  I'm sure we will use it eventually, but no cruise is currently planned.  I also paid the AirBnB for our August trip to Belize.

Food spending remained high because we traveled so much for work.  Entertainment was also a little high.  Wal-Mart had several bottles of liquor on clearance (less than half price), so I stocked up.  I bought concert tickets to see Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart, paid for 6 months of satellite radio, and we went to a couple of concerts at Busch Gardens, where we spent some money on alcohol.

April Expenses:  $10,113

$598 Auto ($74 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $524 depreciation)
$0 Bank Fees (annual self-directed IRA fees)
$135 Clothing
$0 Computer
$287 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$358 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$5,336 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$670 Interest Expense*
$1,399 Medical/Dental
$147 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$63 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$244 Utilities
$848 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In April, I paid $650 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Friday, May 5

My Frugal Miser - April Income: $12,402


April was outstanding.  All of my rental properties are rented and the tenants are current with their rent.  I received my quarterly dividend from Vereit, my largest investment.  I had another realized gain on my short sale of Sears Holdings.

On the active side of income (income from working), I was busy.  I worked three long meetings, did some mystery shopping routes (most of the income from the mystery shopping will come in May), and filled in the gaps with Amazon deliveries.  I even threw in a tiny bit of rideshare driving and Postmates deliveries.

April Income: $12,402

$2,385 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$139 Uber
$116 Lyft
$34 Postmates
$879 Amazon Deliveries
$6,611 Rental Income
$1,155 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$960 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$125 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Monday, April 3

My Frugal Miser - March Expenses: $12,223


March was likely the most expensive month of 2017 because I had to pay my 2016 taxes.  A portion of the $7,536 was a repayment for the ACA credit I took for health insurance.  Ouch.  I guess the flip side to the check I wrote the IRS is that I owed so much because my income was much higher last year.  I sold several profitable stocks, and my Amazon Flex income was outstanding.

We spent a week working in DC, and restaurants are expensive there.  We ate in the apartment for several meals, but those $20+ restaurant bills add up fast.  My spending on fuel was high.  Discover Card had a 5% cashback promotion during the first quarter so I stocked up on fuel gift cards.

The other two unusual charges included the $500 annual maintenance fee I pay for my self-directed IRA and the $1,200 I spent on an Angie's List deal for 40 hours of handyman work.  I am hiring a contractor to help me get the bathroom remodeled and do some other repairs.

March Expenses:  $12,223

$1,401 Auto ($583 gas, $20 repairs/maintenance, $798 depreciation)
$500 Bank Fees (annual self-directed IRA fees)
$22 Clothing
$0 Computer
($367) Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol) income this month
$421 Food
$57 Gifts Given
$1,184 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$689 Interest Expense*
$218 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$7,536 Taxes
$182 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$279 Utilities
$74 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In March, I paid $620 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Saturday, April 1

My Frugal Miser - March Income: $10,163


March was a great month.  A significant amount of income (more than $4,000) was from work last month.  I cranked up my rideshare activity as well as my Amazon Flex deliveries.  I also worked several meeting jobs.

I received rental income from all but one property.  That home is now rented, so my rental income for April will be higher than March.


March Income: $10,163

$2,163 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$480 Uber
$85 Lyft
$20 Postmates
$1,783 Amazon Deliveries
$5,795 Rental Income
($184) Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$0 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$20 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Friday, March 17

Another Frugal Vegas Vacation

After grinding for two months I decided to get away for a few days last week.  Frontier had a great sale on flights and I was able to book a round-trip to Las Vegas for under $200.  I am also visiting Denver for a day for less than $40.  Originally I was not going to rent a car, but the rates make it logical to do so.  Since the hotels I am staying at are not on the strip, public transportation would take forever, and Uber rides would actually cost more than renting a car.

My hotels were free.  This is interesting, because the last time I was in Vegas was six months ago in September.  I didn't do much gambling then, but I did win on that trip because I hit my first and only Royal Flush.  I would love to know how a casino decides what to offer in comps to get players to visit.  I received  4 free nights and $35 in free bets.  Basically all my meals were free by using points accumulated on my player's card.

I never expect to win, but once again I came home with more money than I started.  Virtually all my gambling was on video poker, where I won $300.  My blackjack sessions were break-even.

For the frugal traveler, both Frontier and Spirit have aggressive sales from time to time.  I've signed up to receive email alerts from both companies.

Tuesday, March 7

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $4,412


February was a bit expensive.  I paid the $450 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.  This is really a $150 fee with the $300 travel rebate I received.  I also completed a 0% cash advance on a credit card but had to pay a $291 fee for it.

I had several work-related expenses.  We drove to Birmingham to work on a rental property, which used a lot of gas.  I bought a new phone from Wal-Mart to replace my Republic Wireless Moto X.  The new plan is only slightly more expensive, but my Republic phone had 3G and a very slow processor.  I also decided to buy a monthly unlimited car wash plan.  A fancy new car wash opened up about a mile from my house.  Not having a clean car has kept me from driving for Uber and Lyft on some occasions, and I think this might motivate me to do some more rideshare work.  Finally, I bought two new suits.  Some of the hospitality jobs require a business suit, and the only suit I had got a hole in it.  I bought that suit 10 years ago so it was time to replace it anyway.

It seems like I spend money on vacations every month.  Last month I booked an EasyJet flight we will be taking during our summer European vacation.  I also spent $186 on a roundtrip to Las Vegas... and that included $57 I spent to pick a seat.  While there, I'm going to Denver for a day.  That flight was only $38 roundtrip.  Air travel is so cheap!

February Expenses:  $4,412

$891 Auto ($275 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $616 depreciation)
$741 Bank Fees
$949 Clothing
$0 Computer
$55 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$383 Food
$41 Gifts Given
$42 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$243 Interest Expense*
$36 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$339 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$233 Utilities
$396 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In February, I paid $202 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Sunday, March 5

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $8,888


I made a fair amount of money last month.  I had one vacant property (new tenants are moving in April 1st).  We spent a week in Birmingham fixing it up.

Amazon Flex was okay, and I did a few Uber and Lyft rides when I had free time.  The majority of my working time was spent on hospitality jobs.

I don't have any stock sales or dividend payments to report for February.   In my Prosper account one of my loans was written off, which resulted in a negative $51 adjustment to my account.

February Income: $8,888

$1,999 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$116 Uber
$18 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,044 Amazon Deliveries
$5,723 Rental Income
($51) Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$0 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$39 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Monday, February 27

How I Simplified My Life in February

This year I'm trying hard to focus on the things that make my life better.  Something that has been bugging me for some time is how complicated certain areas of my life are.

Specifically, I have too many financial accounts.  Keeping track of everything is stressful.  For example, I almost paid another annual fee on a credit card I intended to cancel.   Just by chance I remembered to look up the anniversary date, and it happened to be the very next day.  That would have been a $95 mistake.  Account canceled!

I also need to get rid of some material things.  Since we moved two years ago, the laundry room has been so full of stuff that, in order to access the back of the room I would have to spend several minutes moving things around just to get to it.  We aren't finished, but I did make more room by eliminating a set of shelves on one wall and taking my former roommate's bicycle to her new place.

What's Next?

I have big plans for March.  Earlier in February we worked on a vacant property in Birmingham.  I spent so much time looking for tools and supplies that I realized I needed to be better organized.  I bought several storage containers that were on clearance at Staples.  I was using deep file boxes for everything, and I will replace them with several smaller containers that will be labeled with the contents in each container.  I also want to get rid of some of the gas cans in the laundry room.  Since I no longer do the massive amount of mystery shopping I used to do, I don't need the equivalent of 80 gallons of storage for the free gas I was getting.

I also want to crank up the remodeling of our house.  We finally removed the old steel bathtub in the guest bathroom.  Demolition is 95% done in that room.  It's time to make this house our home, even if it means bringing in contractors instead of doing everything myself.

Sunday, February 5

My Frugal Miser - January Expenses: $3,070


January wasn't a bad month for spending.  I had a super-high water bill ($433) from the slab leak, even after the utility company took $300 off the bill.  I paid for an Airbnb for our summer Iceland trip and had some expenses from the cruise.  None of the other expenses were out of the ordinary.

Notice that I spent nothing on gas.  I used the Carnival gift card hack to get free gas at Shell using the Fuel Rewards program.

January Expenses:  $3,070

$456 Auto ($0 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $456 depreciation)
$0 Bank Fees
$191 Clothing
$0 Computer
$457 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$177 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$11 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$25 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$227 Interest Expense*
$35 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$0 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$658 Utilities
$832 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In January, I paid $186 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Friday, February 3

My Frugal Miser - January Income: $13,041


January continues the trend of healthy income.

I received rent from every property last month, but my February rental income will decline because I now have a vacant property.

Amazon Flex income was down for two reasons.  First, I worked more hospitality jobs and we went on a five day cruise.  Second, with all the new drivers that were hired before the holidays, it is now harder to get hours when I am available to work.

I also made a small amount of side income from rideshare.  I did a few rides on NYE and worked one Monday morning.

On the passive investing side, I received $1,100 in dividends from Vereit (my largest position).  I also made a fast $582 on a short-sale of Sears Holdings:  I shorted the shares on a Friday and closed out my position on the following Monday.

January Income: $13,041

$1,940 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$193 Uber
$55 Lyft
$3 Postmates
$1,936 Amazon Deliveries
$6,991 Rental Income
$1,115 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$582 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$227 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Friday, January 27

Caribbean Cruise, Among Other Things...

Secluded Cozumel Beach
January begins the peak season for meeting and convention work.  Carnival's casino division offered me a sweet deal on a cruise though, so we spent five days aboard the Carnival Paradise earlier this month before kicking off a series of meeting jobs.

Vacation

Our cruise departed from Tampa, which made it a very convenient Lyft ride to the port.  We were supposed to visit Cozumel and Grand Cayman, but the weather was too bad to tender at Grand Cayman and the captain canceled that port day.  Even so, we had a blast.  We did the Behind the Fun onboard excursion, where we got to tour the crew areas, engine control room and bridge.  We even had our photo taken with the captain.  In Cozumel we rented mopeds and drove around the island for a few hours.  It was so much fun, and the vacation was very budget-friendly because I booked the casino rate:  $100 + tax per person and a $100 onboard credit.

Work

January has been a busy month for hospitality work.  I completed two multi-day pharmaceutical programs.  Both meetings included meals, mileage reimbursement and a hotel room, so my pay was 100% profit.  Today we started another program, one I do each year.  Our hotel isn't included, but all meals are provided.  We (my partner and I, who is also working the event) booked a $35/night room.  We finish this meeting on Wednesday and start another meeting on Sunday.  

Amazon Flex has been slow.  There are too many drivers and it has been difficult to get hours.  I try every chance I get, but fortunately the hospitality work has kept me busy.  I also drove for Uber and Lyft twice this month.  On New Year's I worked about 2 hours and gave 5 rides for $187 in fares.

It's a busy time of year.  After we finish our meeting work - we have another program that ends on February 11th - we will head to Birmingham to work on an empty rental property.  No rest for the weary!

Monday, January 9

My Frugal Miser - December Expenses: $8,267


I spent a lot in December.  Fortunately much of the spending was one-time in nature.  I switched health insurance plans, and was offered a one-time chance to pay my premiums with a credit card.  To maximize my rewards, I charged 12 months of health insurance premiums all at once.  I also paid over $2,000 for a dental implant.  In entertainment, I lost $500 gambling on our early December cruise.  The balance of that category was spent purchasing tickets to several events we will attend in 2017.  I had an expensive home repair.  I got a $800+ water bill (not paid yet) and had to pay to have a slab leak repaired.  In food, I bought $200 worth of gift cards to take advantage of holiday bonuses.

December Expenses:  $8,267

$1,381 Auto ($0 gas, $4 repairs/maintenance, $1,377 depreciation)
$0 Bank Fees
$6 Clothing
$0 Computer
$946 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$410 Food
$52 Gifts Given
$817 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$1,381 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid all of 2017 premiums)
$0 Investment Expense
$504 Interest Expense*
$2,198 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$8 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$21 Sharing Economy Expenses (dedicated phone, tolls, car washes, etc.)
$239 Utilities
$241 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In December, I paid $490 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Friday, January 6

My Frugal Miser - December Income: $12,168


December was another stellar month.

I received rent from every property last month, and I received two payments from one of the management companies that deposited November's rent at the beginning of December.

Amazon Flex income was stellar.  The company increased our maximum daily hours to 10 the week of Christmas, and tips increased as well.

I did some tax-loss selling last month by disposing of one losing stock position.

December Income: $12,168

$262 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$85 Uber
$8 Lyft
$47 Postmates
$4,503 Amazon Deliveries
$8,027 Rental Income
$70 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
($848) Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$14 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • 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. 

Wednesday, January 4

My Experience Driving for Amazon Prime Now in Tampa - 9 Months Later

Back in April I started making deliveries for Amazon.  Initially I only worked a few hours here and there, but now I consider this my full-time job.

When I first started driving, I was under the impression that most of the hours I worked would be scheduled ahead of time.  I had heard that an occasional block would be offered on the same day, but when I would check the Offers page (basically the job board), there would be nothing there.  But now I've figured it out.

Getting hours is still a huge challenge.  Honestly I spend more time trying to get on the schedule than I do making deliveries.  That's because in our over-saturated market there are hundreds more drivers than we need.  Ahead of the holiday season Amazon hired many new drivers, and the competition for work is fierce.

On the plus side, a few months ago Amazon added restaurant delivery in our market.  Internally we call it Hot Wheels.  These shifts are less desirable for a number of reasons, but some days they are the only hours I can get.  They are less desirable because you make fewer deliveries, resulting in less tips.  It's also harder to "connect" blocks on Hot Wheels.

The way I work full-time at Amazon Flex is by "catching" a block, and then connecting it with other blocks that drop throughout the day.  Most warehouse blocks are two hours, and connecting them is possible.  On Saturday, for example, I worked straight from 10-6, even though I wasn't scheduled for the day.  Hot Wheels blocks vary by duration and start time, so connecting them is really hard.  On Sunday I worked Hot Wheels.  My blocks were 11:30-1:30, 2:00-4:00 and 5:00-8:00.  I only worked 7 hours, but my schedule spanned 8.5 hours.

Delivering for Amazon Prime Now via the Amazon Flex app requires patience and persistence if you are trying to make it your full-time job.  The reason I do it is because I really enjoy the work.  We have a close-knit group of regular drivers, so I get the social contact that comes from a normal office-type job.  The money is also respectable.  I gross around $30/hour with my tips.  This is significantly higher than is possible driving for Uber or any of the other sharing economy jobs in Tampa.


Monday, January 2

My Frugal Miser - 2017 Goals

Happy New Year!

Once again it's time to lay out the annual roadmap.  Publishing my goals keeps me accountable:  it's a constant reminder of what is important to me.

  • Simplify
I'm still using Quicken to manage my money, which I wanted to replace last year.  First, I need to consolidate bank accounts and really make managing my finances a piece of cake.  They aren't that complicated anyway, but I have too many accounts at too many banks.

Once I close some accounts, I've got to figure out what to do about Quicken.  Do I buy a better computer and upgrade to the latest version of Quicken?  Or do I find something else to use?  It's been broken for so long.  I need financial software that properly downloads and reconciles transactions and produces accurate, actionable reports.  

I also want to be more loyal to fewer companies.  If I only stay at a couple of hotel brands I could earn better status and more points.  
  • Debt:  Reduce outstanding debt to less than $150,000.
I am closing out 2016 with about $221,000 in debt, a $40,000 reduction from one year ago.  I'd like to reduce it by $50,000 in 2017.
  • Spending:  Spend less on vacations and entertainment.
We love to travel, and I like the game of finding a deal.  However, we've probably been traveling too much.  In 2017 our big experience will be the summer trip to Iceland and mainland Europe.  For the rest of the year, I will gamble less, take fewer trips, and be very mindful of our spending when we do go somewhere.  I have to remember that when we spend a week out of town, I am also foregoing a week's wages.