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Friday, May 6

My Frugal Miser - April 2022 Expenses

When it rains, it pours.

April was the most expensive month in a very long time.  The biggest culprit was the payment I made to the U.S. Treasury.  In 2021 I had substantial long-term capital gains, and my ignorance about tax rules got the best of me.  Somehow I thought the gain I had on Vereit stock would be taxable at the 0% long-term capital gains rate.  Boy was I wrong.  In addition to the 2021 tax bill, I need to make quarterly payments in 2022, so I did that in April for the first quarter. 

  • I paid 6 months auto insurance.  Gas prices are still over $4/gallon but that was only a small part of my auto expense. 
  • Food was low because of all the meetings I worked where I was provided food.

Fun

We love adventures.  Spending on experiences makes us better humans.  

  • This is really embarrassing.  I booked a last minute cruise out of Miami.  I only spent one afternoon in the casino, but I drank too much and honestly have no idea how I lost.  Seriously, it's like I blacked out.  I remember being ahead by a few hundred dollars, and then I lost it all.  After this episode I stayed away from the casino.

April Expenses:  $32,175

$890 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$0 Bank Fees (annual fees on credit cards)
$0 Clothing/ Personal Care
$7,370 Fun (vacations, movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$171 Food
$31 Health and Dental
$1,050 Household/Home Repairs
$131 Unreimbursed Job Expense
$319 Reimbursed Job Expense
$0 Interest Expense
$0 Miscellaneous
$22,021 Taxes
$192 Utilities 

Tuesday, May 3

My Frugal Miser - April 2022 Income

April's income was down a bit but I still managed to keep it over $10K.

I worked 5 meetings jobs, but have only been paid for 3.  One of the 3 was a single day gig.  

I did 5 Amazon routes.

The Airbnb was booked every day except four days I blocked from the calendar.  I listed the BNB for sale this week and the four blocked days were used by a handyman who made a few repairs and improvements.

Rental income came in as expected.  I am down to just three rental properties, all in Alabama.  I also received a distribution from Realty Mogul.

April Income: $10,564

$0 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$2,875 Meeting Jobs
$24 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$574 Amazon Deliveries
$3,994 Rental Income (Rental Expenses:  $706)
$3,041 Airbnb Income (Airbnb Expenses:  $1,711)
$8 Interest Income
$47 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  ($14,993)

April was a bad month for stocks.  My investments were down, but continue to outperform the S&P 500.  

Wednesday, April 6

My Frugal Miser - March 2022 Income

 March continued the recent trend of 5-figure monthly income.  

I worked 4 meetings jobs.  One was a single day gig.  I also worked The 80's Cruise, spent a week in Chicago and ended the month at a meeting in Denver.  April will only slow down a bit, but the payments for the last March job will help make April another solid month.

I only did 4 Amazon routes.

The Airbnb was booked every day except two days I blocked from the calendar.

Rental income came in as expected.  I am down to just three rental properties, all in Alabama.

March Income: $15,106

$0 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$7,243 Meeting Jobs
$0 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$306 Amazon Deliveries
$3,155 Rental Income (Rental Expenses:  $723)
$4,388 Airbnb Income (Airbnb Expenses:  $977)
$9 Interest Income
$5 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  $6,605

My investments were up, and continue to outperform the S&P 500.  

Monday, April 4

My Frugal Miser - March 2022 Expenses

March was another inexpensive month.  A lovely phenomenon helped me get my total spending under $1,000:  per diems.  Some of my meeting clients provide a daily allowance for spending on food, drinks and miscellaneous.  The average per diem is $75.  I often spend less than that, making the per diem pure profit.  A second unusual credit to the "fun" category lowered my spending even further.

  • Auto expenses continue to benefit from the lack of driving.  I spent most of March working meetings and didn't use my car.  I spent $69 on a coupon book that included 4 oil changes and tire rotations as well as other discounts.  Even with minimal driving, gas prices over $4/gallon added up.
  • Bank fees were high because I paid the annual fee for my Self-Directed IRA and the annual fee for my Chase World of Hyatt card.
  • Food was low because most of the meetings we work either provide a meal or reimbursement for food.  I worked most days in March.

Fun

We love adventures.  Spending on experiences makes us better humans.  

  • I finally received the refund for the canceled Carnival cruise in Australia.
  • I didn't spend anything on future travel.

March Expenses:  $819

$289 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$595 Bank Fees (annual fees on credit cards)
$20 Clothing/ Personal Care
($1,336) Fun (vacations, movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets) (income - Carnival cruise refund)
$253 Food
$48 Health and Dental
$1,084 Household/Home Repairs
$359 Unreimbursed Job Expense
($1,001) Reimbursed Job Expense (income - my provided per diems were more than I spent)
$0 Interest Expense
$71 Miscellaneous
$248 Taxes
$190 Utilities 

Thursday, March 31

Selling the BNB, What I'm Reading, Increasing Passive Income

2022 has been an incredible year so far.  I'm writing this blog from the Gaylord Rockies outside of Denver, where I just wrapped another meeting job.  This is #2 of 4 back-to-back meeting jobs I'm doing.  Things don't appear to be slowing down.  I love to travel, and it's great being able to make money while honing new skills.

One minor downside to all the work I am doing is that it's easy to let everything else overwhelm me.  This is just another reminder about why it's important to simplify my life.


Selling the BNB

This one was difficult.  As I quickly approach four years as an Airbnb host, I've decided to take advantage of the hot real estate market and sell the house.  I was contacted by an agent in March who was engaging and full of energy.  I usually ignore unsolicited offers from realtors, but this guy got my attention.  He had neighborhood comps that suggested my home would sell for healthy price.

I've been thinking about selling for several months.  When I was planning my 2022 goals, selling one of my rental properties was Goal #1.  I had a different property in mind - and am still strongly considering selling it.  So there is definitely a possibility of selling two houses this year.  The plan for the BNB is to list it in early May.

The Intelligent Investor

I'm talking about the book by the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham.  I aspire to make intelligent decisions about my investments, so I redeemed a Barnes & Noble gift card I was given for Christmas to buy this book.  Graham was Warren Buffett's teacher (literally), and this is considered the Bible of Value Investing.  If I am successful at selling the BNB I'm going to have a windfall of cash to deploy.  There's so much noise in the stock market these days.  A lot of what's happening is irrational, and markets eventually become rational, every time.  I hope that The Intelligent Investor will make me a more successful investor.

Increasing Passive Income

I've been actively working to increase passive income for years, but have put this into high gear these last few months.  I've purchased a number of bonds, most of them at distressed prices.  One of my favorite investments right now is a bond issued by the theater chain AMC.  It matures in 2025 and is the next substantial debt to come due for the company.  The meme-gamblers are responsible for a lot of the noise in the markets today.  These kids aren't buying based on fundamentals but instead on the greater fool theory that someone else will be willing to pay more than they did for a stock.  Why does this matter?  AMC took advantage of this noise by raising a ton of cash last year by selling overpriced shares of stock.  This gave the company a substantial war chest.  I think the odds are good that the company will honor its debt obligations, at least for the next few years.  I've bought a substantial amount of AMC bonds for less than 80 cents on the dollar.  If all goes as expected, I'm getting a 15%+ annualized return.

AMC is just one example of where I am growing my passive recurring income.  I've bought other bonds at similarly attractive prices.  I've also been investing in income properties on Realty Mogul.  Eventually I will set an annual income goal with the intent to earn enough passive income to pay all my bills.

The most important benefit to all this will be more freedom to do things I enjoy.  Owning an Airbnb has been one of the best financial decisions I have made.  But along with these golden handcuffs comes a lot of responsibility.  We have to plan our lives around the house.  I've tried multiple housekeepers, and am not satisfied with their attention to detail.  I would LOVE to be able to take a vacation and not have to think about some issue arising at the house that will require my attention.  Sure, I could put more effort into making this a truly passive source of income by hiring a management company.  But home prices are so high that, with a bit of effort, I think I can earn close to the same amount of income in a totally passive way via Realty Mogul or stock investing.

Friday, March 4

My Frugal Miser - February 2022 Expenses

February was quite reasonable when you compare spending to income.

  • Spending on my car was low.  There was no maintenance, and because I was out of town for work, I spent less on gas.
  • I paid the annual fee for my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
  • Food was also low.  In addition to being reimbursed for or provided food when we work meetings, we have started eating more "regular" food (versus low-carb), which is less expensive.

Fun

We love adventures.  Spending on experiences makes us better humans.  

  • I received the refund for taxes and fees for the canceled New Orleans cruise.  We decided to work a meeting in Boston instead.
  • Our Australian cruise was canceled, but I am still waiting for the refund.  Carnival is taking its time to process it.
  • I booked and paid for an Alaskan cruise.  Alaskan cruises generally cost more than Caribbean cruises, but I was offered a decent price.  I paid $350/each for a balcony stateroom plus taxes/fees for a 7 night cruise at the end of May.  One of the days includes crossing through some glaciers, and I thought it was a no-brainer to have a balcony where we could marvel at the sites.  It worked out to under $200/day.  Not bad considering a hotel room alone would cost more than that, while a cruise includes our food, entertainment, and drinks in the casino.
  • I decided to splurge on our flights to Seattle for the cruise.  I used points to book first class seats on the way, and took advantage of my annual travel credit on my Capital One Venture X card by booking first class seats back on American Airlines.  I was pleasantly surprised by how little the difference between first class and economy were and took advantage of what I thought was a mispriced ticket.  The difference between economy and first class was less than $200/ticket.  For that, checked bags, meals and alcohol are included - not to mention better seats and no one in the middle seat, because there isn't one!

February Expenses:  $3,686

$150 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$550 Bank Fees (annual fees on credit cards)
$78 Clothing/ Personal Care
$2,013 Fun (vacations, movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$372 Food
$143 Health and Dental
$1,214 Household/Home Repairs
$75 Unreimbursed Job Expense
($1,358) Reimbursed Job Expense (income - my provided per diems were much more than I spent)
$0 Interest Expense
$407 Miscellaneous
$82 Taxes
$39 Utilities 

Wednesday, March 2

My Frugal Miser - February 2022 Income

February was one of the best months ever in terms of income.

I worked 5 meetings jobs.  Two of those were single day gigs and another, a 7-11 Grand Opening Event, was two days.  The 7-11 was a brand ambassador job, but I include that income in the meeting jobs category.  I also received the cancelation fees from two February meetings.  Both paid 50% of the amount I would have earned.  This was a nice double-dipping opportunity since I was able to do other work in their place.

Since I was mostly working meetings, I didn't have a lot of time for Amazon routes.  I still managed to make over $600 from the 4 days I worked.

The Airbnb was booked every single day.

Rental income was solid.  All three tenants paid rent, plus I received two dividends from apartments I own through Realty Mogul.

February Income: $15,983

$0 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$7,607 Meeting Jobs
$14 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$623 Amazon Deliveries
$3,930 Rental Income (Rental Expenses:  $715)
$3,754 Airbnb Income (Airbnb Expenses:  $791)
$8 Interest Income
$47 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  ($1,927)

My investments were down, but continue to outperform the S&P 500.  It was another down month for stocks, but I still think the market is overvalued.

Friday, February 4

My Frugal Miser - January 2022 Expenses

    January wasn't a bad month.  I would love to get my monthly spending under $2,000 excluding the monthly contribution I make towards home improvements/repairs, but I'm not too disappointed with my spending last month.

  • Auto expenses were unusually low.  There was no maintenance or other expenses besides gas.  I worked several meetings so I didn't put many miles on my car.
  • I paid three bank fees for credit cards.  The value of the cards exceeds the annual fee I pay.
  • Food was about average, which is to say it was expensive.  We are still mostly sticking to a low-carb diet.  Junk food is a lot less expensive than the healthier stuff we eat.

Fun

We love adventures.  Spending on experiences makes us better humans.  

  • I received the AMEX Fine Hotels $200 rebate from our December stay in Atlanta.
  • Our Australian cruise was canceled, and I canceled our February cruise out of New Orleans because we took a meeting job instead.  I opted for a refund, but it hasn't posted yet.

January Expenses:  $4,064

$125 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$719 Bank Fees (annual fees on credit cards)
$0 Clothing/ Personal Care
$1,281 Fun (vacations, movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$618 Food
$53 Health and Dental
$1,116 Household/Home Repairs
$379 Unreimbursed Job Expense
($455) Reimbursed Job Expense (income)
$0 Interest Expense
$6 Miscellaneous
$100 Taxes
$123 Utilities 

Wednesday, February 2

My Frugal Miser - January 2022 Income

 In January I worked 4 meeting jobs - one in Dallas, two in Orlando and one in Tampa.  I also had two meetings cancel, which just shows how uncertain the live events industry remains.  For those two meetings I should receive a 50% cancel fee in February, plus I haven't received half the pay from the Dallas meeting yet.

I only worked a few Amazon routes since I was doing meetings most of the month.

The Airbnb had a record month thanks to a large cancelation.  A snowbird canceled his 28 night booking, and I received the entire amount based on the cancelation terms.  The guest never asked me for a refund which was surprising.  There were a total of 5 vacant days in January.

Rental income was okay.  The tenant in my Birmingham condo did not pay January rent until February 1st.  I did receive a dividend from one of the Realty Mogul investments.  Expenses were high due to another slab leak at my largest property.  I found out the plumbing used in that house is part of a class action lawsuit and filed a claim for my losses.  Since 2016 I have had 3 leaks and may even qualify for a whole house replumb.  

Other income included a $50 gift for my birthday and $100 cashback from redeeming credit card points.

January Income: $13,761

$0 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$3,730 Meeting Jobs
$0 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$390 Amazon Deliveries
$3,108 Rental Income (Rental Expenses:  $6,362)
$6,374 Airbnb Income (Airbnb Expenses:  $687)
$9 Interest Income
$150 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  ($10,877)

My investments were down, but all my brokerage accounts outperformed the S&P 500.  It was a rough month for stocks, but I still think the market is generally overvalued.

Tuesday, January 18

Tackling 2022 Goals: Decluttering and Upgrading Our Home

Partly borne of necessity, I'm getting an early start to my 2022 goals.  One of the biggest strains in my relationship with my partner is keeping up with household chores.  We downsized last year to a smaller house, and I thought this would make it easier to keep up with things.  It hasn't.  Our house just isn't working for us in its current form.  

The Challenges and Opportunities

We are living in the first home I purchased in Florida.  I got an incredible deal on a foreclosure in 2012.  The house lies just outside a posh area.  There's a golf course and country club on the other side of the main road connecting our street.  Tom Cruise built a condo about a mile away where he reportedly plans to live full time.  The beach is a short bike ride away.  And that "poshness" across the street is creeping over to our neighborhood.  A private equity firm/community bank built a fancy 4 story office at the end of our street, and many of our neighbors are sprucing up their homes.  It just makes sense to make improvements to our house from both a practical perspective and a financial one.

Our first project is new flooring.  We have the original hospital tiles the home was built with in 2002.  They are a vomit yellow and yes, look just like what you might expect to see in a doctor's office.  I chose a beautiful porcelain tile to replace it.  While we are waiting for the installation, we are getting rid of things that are in the way:  last week, my partner took an old mattress and table (from the Airbnb) and the headboard to our old bed to the street for pickup.  These cleared a lot of space from one of the bedrooms, but there's more work to do.  We also moved a lot of the Airbnb supplies to the laundry room of the Airbnb.  Our home already feels more spacious.

It feels great to have a more spacious home.  This keeps me motivated to purge more stuff.




















Monday, January 10

My Frugal Miser - Reviewing my 2021 Goals, Setting New Ones

 So much happened in 2021.  It was our second year of the pandemic, but live events finally started to return, at least for me, in June of last year.  

Last year I set three goals.  I modified the financial goal, which was to pay extra on my mortgage, because I ended up selling our home and no longer have a mortgage.

2021 Goals Review

1) $1,000/mo. to short-term savings and $400/mo. to investments.

Status:  Exceeded, thanks to the power of automation.  For several months, I've automatically transferred a total of $2,000 to investing and saving, but tweaked it a bit.  I've been depositing $1,500 to my brokerage account and $500 to my short-term savings.

2) Weigh 180 or less by end of year.

Status:  Not quite.  On October 7, 2020 we started the keto diet.  I managed to get down to 183 pounds.  When I checked my weight last week, I was at 190 pounds.  This is 49 pounds less than I weighed before starting the diet, which I am super proud of.  I just need to redouble my efforts to keep losing.

3) Read more books.

Status:  Sort of.  I have subscribed to Audible and listened to 3 audio books.  I really enjoyed two of those.  I struggle to read with my short attention span. 

2022

So what's in store for 2022?  Well, events are still stumbling along.  Many of my friends have experienced more event cancelations for early 2022 with the rise of cases of COVID.  Thus far I've been spared, but the pandemic is definitely affecting my industry and the jobs I am offered.

My 2022 Goals:

  1. (Financial) Make investing more passive.  I've been selling rental properties and diverting the proceeds to Realty Mogul, where I invest in apartment complexes and commercial buildings.  Not only does this alleviate the headaches that come from owning single family homes, but it also can potentially increase my returns and help me sleep well.  Two of my RM investments were sold.  While the holding period was short (only about 2 years), the annualized returns were about 17%.  I want to sell at least one rental property in 2022 and reallocate the money to a fully passive investment.
  2. (Health)  I would like to weigh 175 by the end of 2022.  
  3. (Simplify)  I will eliminate personal belongings that I no longer need.  One of the major personal projects in 2022 is updating our home.  There are several large projects I'd like to do, and getting rid of the clutter around the house will help us enjoy the home more.
  4. (Travel on a Budget) I don't just love to travel; I live to travel.  Inflation and pandemic fatigue mean travel is getting more expensive (just look at airfares!).  I will spend more time learning how to maximize travel programs and loyalty points.  I will research places I'd like to visit, take advantage of deals, and be mindful about how I spend my travel dollar.

Tuesday, January 4

My Frugal Miser - December 2021 Expenses

   December

  • I spent more on gas as I visited family in Alabama for Christmas.  I also replaced my tires - the second time in 2021.  I did put quite a few miles on my car in 2021, but having to replace the tires seemed premature.  For some reason one of the tires was constantly leaking air, even though a leak couldn't be located.  The others had quite a bit of wear so I decided to bite the bullet and replace them all.
  • Spending on food benefited from the week we worked in Atlanta (we received a generous per diem).  I also did a no-spend challenge starting on the 16th where I decided not to buy more groceries the rest of the month and instead deplete everything we had in the refrigerator and freezer.
  • The per diem while we were in Atlanta exceeded our spending on food, so there is income in the Reimbursed Job Expense category.

Fun

We love adventures.  Spending on experiences makes us better humans.  

  • I paid the balance for our end of November cruise.  Even though I gambled a fair amount, I managed to break even in the casino.  All I owed was for gratuities, a few drinks and a couple of days of Internet.  Our drinks in the casino were free.
  • I booked a "bounce-back" cruise for the end of December.  It was a 3 day cruise from Long Beach, CA.  We combined this with my visit to Alabama for Christmas by flying from Atlanta, stopping in Phoenix (my partner's family lives there) before continuing to Long Beach.  Most of the flights were paid with points.  I needed to use the rebate certificate from Hilton from the August timeshare presentation so I paid out of pocket for a hotel which will be rebated later.  I also had a $200 rebate offered annually on my Platinum AMEX, so I booked two nights at a really nice hotel in Atlanta.  
  • I paid $149 for another year of Frontier 100K status through a status match offer.  Our Southwest companion passes expired at the end of the year so we may use Frontier more for leisure travel.
  • We treated friends to drinks and meals for the holidays.

December Expenses:  $5,469

$742 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$203 Bank Fees (annual fee on Platinum AMEX card)
$112 Clothing/ Personal Care
$2,161 Fun (vacations, movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$427 Food
$172 Health and Dental
$1,053 Household/Home Repairs
$352 Unreimbursed Job Expense
($12) Reimbursed Job Expense (income)
$0 Interest Expense
$159 Miscellaneous
$4 Taxes
$95 Utilities 

Saturday, January 1

My Frugal Miser - December 2021 Income

In December I worked a week-long meeting in Atlanta.  December is usually a slow month for live events.

Amazon is always busy as Christmas approaches.  However, they hired so many Flex drivers this year that it was hard to schedule attractive routes.  I would rather pass on the work when it doesn't benefit me financially.  I managed to earn just under $1,000 in December delivering for Amazon.

The Airbnb was empty 4 days.  I've resisted lowering our prices too much when it is empty, as that sometimes attracts undesirable guests.  2021 was a record year for our Airbnb.  For perspective, the 3 properties I own in Alabama normally generate less income than the single Airbnb in Florida.

Rental income was solid.  All three Birmingham properties received rent.  One of my Realty Mogul investments paid a dividend.

Rental expenses were higher once again.  After replacing the water heater at my most expensive property, the management company determined there was a slab leak as the water would not stay hot.  Apparently that was the problem all along.  Fortunately the water heater was 12 years old so I don't feel too bad about replacing it even though there was nothing wrong with the old one.  The builder (DR Horton) used defective plumbing and I am hoping the related class action lawsuit will cover some of the costs of this substantial repair.

December Income: $9,445

$0 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$1,400 Meeting Jobs
$0 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$944 Amazon Deliveries
$3,810 Rental Income (Rental Expenses:  $1,598)
$3,278 Airbnb Income (Airbnb Expenses:  $278)
$12 Interest Income
$0 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  $3,594

My investments were up slightly in December.