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Friday, May 25

Recipe for a Frugal Getaway

Burnt out from all work and no play?  Don't want to bust the budget?  Yes, and yes.  We'll have to delve into why I don't find fulfillment in my line of work later.  For now, let's talk medicine.

Travel is my elixir.  It's the escape I need to come back refreshed and ready for more.  But I hate spending tons of money unnecessarily.  We needed a quick, CHEAP getaway.  We decided on Philadelphia.

The Process

For the most part I was location-agnostic.  My needs were straightforward:  fly non-stop on the cheap for a quick, inexpensive trip.  I looked over my emails for deals on the discount airlines, including Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant.  I compared a few cities, including Richmond, Chattanooga and Philadelphia.  For whatever reason, flights to Philly were super-cheap and abundant.  Then I checked the weather to be sure nothing crazy was going on.  Then, before booking, I pulled up Expedia and played around with dates and airports to be sure I got the best deal.  Good thing I did:  flying out of Orlando, 90 miles away, saved us even more.  I settled on Spirit because I've fallen in love with their Big Front Seat.  Sure, it costs extra.  For $47 extra, we will travel in a first-class seat (just on the way there,  on the way back we will sit at the back of the plane).  Total roundtrip for two, including upgrading our seats:  $218.  Can you believe that?  The roundtrip ticket was $50 each (not a typo!).  Upgrading our seats cost more than the flight, but still well worth it.

Free Hotel

I use hotel-branded credit cards, and never intended to pay for our room.  That was part of the game:  sleep for free.  Hotels in Philadelphia tend to be expensive, even on weekends.  I compared Hilton, IHG and Choice Hotels websites and found an incredible deal:  10,000 points/night for a newer Cambria Suites in the heart of Philadelphia.  

Next Steps

Now that we have a flight and hotel, the real fun of planning our trip begins.  Philadelphia is a walk-able city, no need to rent a car.  I'll look into public transportation and rideshare to get around.  Then I'll research activities.  Most of the sites are super inexpensive.  Booking them online in advance saves even more money.  For example, I booked a guided tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Booking online saves $2, plus I googled for a promo code and received another $5 off, which nearly halved the cost of admission.  The only other expense will be our food.  Might look online for deals on that, too.

Thursday, May 10

Update on Simplifying

Several weeks ago I posted about wanting to eliminate unnecessary stress in my life.  We as humans tend to over-complicate a lot of things, and I am on a journey to do my part in living more simply.  Here's a progress update on my road to the simple life.

Cutting Back on "Deals"

I have always enjoyed getting a "deal", but sometimes these deals have too many hoops to jump through or they aren't such a great deal after all.  As an example, we tried to use a Groupon to a restaurant last month, only to discover after ordering that the Groupon was not valid before 5 PM.  I had to pay full price for our lunch and, since the Groupon was about to expire, I felt compelled to squeeze in a second visit to the restaurant later that week.  I've also let bonus offers on gift card purchases expire (I'm talking about those $10 bonus when you buy a $50 gift card deals you see around the holidays every year), and last week I misplaced a gift card.

Progress:  I've been deleting the daily Groupon/Living Social emails I receive.  Next I will opt-out of the emails altogether.  I may still use those deal sites from time to time, but mostly for same-day deals, like when I need an oil change.  At one point I had close to 20 vouchers sitting on my account, and trying to redeem them before they expired would cause unnecessary stress.  I've also been redeeming some of the gift cards I've had sitting around.  I'm always scared I'll lose one (just happened!) and would prefer not to have to keep up with them.

The Financial BHAG

Next, cleaning up the balance sheet.  I've set an aggressive (big, hairy, audacious) goal of paying off all my credit card balances by September 30th.  Ultimately I want to consolidate my spending, maybe to 1-2 credit cards.  It will be easier to keep up with my spending that way.

The other goal, to increase Passive Recurring Income by $2,300, remains.  Part of the plan includes putting my house on AirBnB.  I have a few repair projects to do, and am postponing these until my credit card balances are lower.


A couple times a year we load up the car with donations and take them to the Salvation Army.  I love the feeling of getting rid of things we no longer use.  During May we will make our first donation of 2018.  We already have a couple of large boxes ready to go.  It's nice being able to find things more easily.

Saying "No"

I used to take every job opportunity I was offered.  I'm learning to forego the ones that aren't worthwhile.  This will be easier when my credit card debt is paid.

Monday, May 7

My Frugal Miser - April Expenses: $7,555

Can we just pretend April never happened?  It was expensive.  I paid the annual management fees for my self-directed retirement account ($500).  I made a quarterly payment to the IRS.  I spent too much on concert tickets - second row seats with the meet and greet package!  I also lost a lot of money in Las Vegas.  And we ate like kings, with too many overpriced restaurant meals.

All I will say is, I have to be more frugal.  I'm losing site of the big picture, which is to grow passive recurring income to $10,000 per month.  I have set nothing aside for savings this year.  This has to change.

April Expenses:  $7,555

$231 Auto ($211 for gas, $20 for service)
$533 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$10 Computer
$3,644 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets) 
$576 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$105 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid a portion of 2018 health insurance)
$0 Investment Expense
$87 Interest Expense*
$22 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$1,819 Taxes
$52 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$127 Unreimbursed Employee Expenses
$186 Utilities
$134 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.  

Friday, May 4

My Frugal Miser - April Income: $6,725

My April income was light.  Lower rental income was the culprit.  I did not receive rent for two properties.  One was the home I just rented, so I'm not worried about that.  The other was up for renewal, and the management company charged me a renewal fee, but I did not receive any rent.  Now I have to confirm the tenant did not move out since the management company has not said anything about it. 

April Income: $6,725

($30) Mystery Shopping
$911 Meeting Jobs
$157 Reimbursed Job Expenses
$164 Uber
$185 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$1,095 Amazon Deliveries
$4,049 Rental Income
$24 Interest Income
$171 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  $3,540

My investments did good.  A put option for the company that owns MoviePass is currently up 159% from my purchase price.

  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.