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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

  • 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.