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Saturday, May 23

Normalcy is Returning. I See Opportunities...

Every few years the world experiences an unusual event causing society to believe things have permanently changed.  Each of us forms our own unique perspective about these things that shapes our lives.

During my adult life these are the events I remember:

The Internet

My freshman year of college I took a creative writing class.  It was in this class that I first experienced the Internet.  There wasn't much to do online just yet, but I didn't know that then.  Dial-up Internet was all we had, and we didn't know how slow it really was.  AOL chat rooms.  The familiar "You've Got Mail" after connecting to the service.  Being able to read the news online.  Who can argue that this technology that has only been commercially viable for 25 years would change our lives in so many ways?  Today, we watch TV over the Internet, manage our finances online, and shop for groceries, all from the comfort of home.

The Dot-com Bubble

This was the first time I lost money in the stock market.  Like many other investors, I got caught up in rising prices.  I remember a story on the news about Cisco Systems becoming the most valuable company in the world.  $500 Billion market value.  I wanted in and pretty much bought at the very top.  I also bought stock in a defunct operating system and who knows what else.  From the crash I learned invaluable lessons.  I learned that you should never overpay for something.  Patient investors, and even consumers for that matter, will be rewarded... eventually.  I discovered Warren Buffett during this time.  In the grand scheme of things, the money I lost in 2000 was a cheap education that has served me well.  


A terrorist attack on our soil, killing thousands while exposing weak links in our security.  Air travel was grounded.  Stock markets closed.  We were at war.  How did this affect me?  In truth, it barely did.  You see, everyone has a unique perspective in life, and the things going on in mine ensured that 9/11 was barely more than an interesting story on the nightly news.  Not meaning to be insensitive, just pointing out how different people perceive events in their own way.  Within a few weeks of 9/11, and totally unrelated to this tragedy, my life was basically starting over.  I had gone through a traumatic experience and had a renewed hope for what was possible.  Within a year of 9/11 my home situation changed, I had a new job, I was back in school with a new major, I lost my father.  

The Housing Foreclosure Crisis and Recession 

I lost my job during this period.  That's the first thing that comes to mind.  It was somewhat related to and caused by the crisis.  This was also the peak of when I was purchasing foreclosed homes and turning them into rental properties.  I started blogging about my frugal life.  We opened a restaurant.


Relatively speaking, this one has affected basically everyone.  It's the first time in modern history a health scare has shut down the economy, quarantined nearly the entire world, and brought about Depression-era unemployment in a matter of weeks.

How I'm Taking Advantage of the Pandemic

We as a society are resilient.  We bounce back, even if things aren't exactly the same.  After 9/11, the way we fly changed.  But with TSA Precheck and a good knowledge of the rules, it's barely an inconvenience.  After the 2008 crisis, housing recovered. 

There are opportunities for those of us who can see beyond today. 

  • In the stock market, certain sectors have been negatively affected.  I invested a significant sum of money into Vereit.  It's a stock I've owned for years, and it has been cut in half in the last few months.  The company owns single tenant properties, mostly retail.  Think Walgreens, Dollar General, and casual dining restaurants.  They don't own malls or shopping centers, which I think are going to struggle.  Sure, things are going to be rough this year.  But my money is on a recovery.  
  • I am reevaluating my career.  I've been working in the meeting industry since 2012.  There are some things I like about it, but I've never been passionate about the work.  Since this industry will struggle for the foreseeable future, now's the chance to consider something else.
  • I'm looking for opportunities to save money.  The rental car industry is struggling - Hertz just filed for bankruptcy.  I think used cars will be cheaper and plan to buy one soon.  If the housing market also goes down (I don't know that it will), I'd like us to move back closer to the Airbnb.  I just booked a short getaway to Las Vegas.  I'll blog later about how we're saving money.  I'm also looking at cruises.  Now's the time to book a cheap cruise!
I'm choosing to see the opportunities in our current environment, not just the problems.  How can you take advantage of the situation?

Wednesday, May 6

My Frugal Miser - April Expenses: $9,267

April showed some promise as far as reducing expenses, but some hefty unexpected repairs ran up my expenses.

Not So Good

My Birmingham rental properties all cost me money for repairs.  The A/C went out and had to replaced at one.  There was a plumbing leak at a second house and the third property's A/C went out and required a new condensation pump.

Our washing machine had been making funny noises for about a month, and the agitator stopped working.  Even though it was less than 2 years old (builder included it with the home purchase), I've learned over the years it's usually impractical to have a home appliance repaired.  Better to invest that money into a brand new appliance.  Unfortunately, Home Depot was on back order for over half their inventory, so I ended up paying more than I had intended.  We do a lot of the Airbnb laundry at our house, so it was important to pick a decent washer.

My cats got into a fight after they saw a stray in the backyard.  The vet calls this redirected aggression.  One of the cat's claws went into the other cat's eye.  That wasn't cheap.  The good news is she fully recovered.

Food was expensive.  We had a few restaurant meals:  Texas Roadhouse is doing a $6 lunch right now, plus we ordered delivery a few times.  But most of the spending was on groceries.  Early in the month I did some stocking up, so the pantry has more than it usually does.  I'm optimistic that this will offset my spending on food in May.


After paying the $450 annual fee for my Marriott Bonvoy American Express, I decided it didn't make sense to pay this fee since I can't take advantage of the card's benefits.  I cancelled and was issued a refund.

The "fun" category was nearly zero.  It's difficult to spend money during a quarantine.  I bought a little alcohol, that's it.  I'm seriously considering booking a cruise or two though as prices are really cheap for some odd reason.

The phone bill went down after switching from Google Fi.

I also cancelled the commercial liability policy I have for my meeting work and received a $300 refund on that.

April Business Spending:  $4,926
April Personal Spending:  $4,341

April Expenses:  $9,267

$304 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
($450) Bank Fees income this month
$0 Clothing/ Personal Care
$10 Fun (vacations movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$690 Food
$406 Health and Dental
$2,943 Household/Mortgage Payment/Home Repair
$0 Interest Expense
$253 Miscellaneous
$0 Taxes includes quarterly tax payments
$11 App Jobs Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$0 Unreimbursed Job Expenses
$0 Reimbursed Job Expenses
$184 Utilities
$4,650 Rental Property Expenses
$265 AirBNB Expenses

Monday, May 4

My Frugal Miser - April Income: $13,371

I was certain my income would drop in April.  It was a grind, but I was able to avoid that outcome. 

The Airbnb was occupied nearly the entire month.  We had a group of workers stay 13 nights.  The rate was half what I normally charge.  I also received a bit of income from cancellations that Airbnb paid out at 25% as a goodwill gesture.

Meeting work was zero.  I shifted to deliveries and hit the pedal hard.  I worked about 90 hours a week.  Even during a global pandemic, deliveries just don't pay much.  Still, $3,500 is nothing to sneeze at.  I also earned $1,200 delivering for Amazon.  Again, that's been tough, too.  Amazon has done away with daytime deliveries for Flex drivers, and has been limiting one day deliveries.

Rental income includes the two houses in Birmingham and the March rent from the condo.  The tenant is over a month behind now.

I received a $250 bonus for opening a new bank account, $1,200 from the stimulus program, and a $1,000 SBA grant.

We both applied for unemployment in March.  So far we have received nothing and were deemed ineligible. 

April Income: $13,371

$96 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$0 Meeting Jobs
$3,541 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Scooter Charging, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$1,206 Amazon Deliveries
$3,065 Rental Income
$2,874 Airbnb Income
$33 Interest Income
$2,555 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  $37,906

My investment accounts recovered some of their losses in April.  I am way down from where I was in February.  It will take some time to recover from this as I have large positions in cruise lines and retail.