May 23 2012

4 Travel Tips that Don’t Suck

By |May 23rd, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|12 Comments|

I’ve been told that travel tips are often rigid and impersonal.

I give tips all the time and I don’t think I’m rigid or impersonal, so I’ll give this a shot. Here are four fluid and personal travel tips for your enjoyment:

Roommates Aren’t So Bad

Remember when you were younger (maybe high school or college) and you used to sleep anywhere from 2-45 people in one bedroom just to save some cash. You might also remember that living in very close proximity to your travel partners is actually somewhat of a bonding experience.

My favorite vacation ever was spending 5 weeks in Europe sleeping in hostel beds right beside two of my friends and next to around 3-16 other complete strangers. Sure it was cheaper than hotels, but it also really helped me bond with those two guys. Bunk up and you’ll save a few bucks as well as get a little closer to your friends.

Trade Living Spaces

You probably have friends that live somewhere you want to visit. You probably also don’t want to stay with those friends because they have a small apartment or you aren’t really close to them or you are really embarrassed about your horrible body odor.

Don’t visit those friends; trade homes with them! Switch places with them for a week. You pay $0 in lodging for your trip and have a built-in housesitter to feed your dog. For the most advanced travelers, you can even set up a three or four way swap.

Don’t Travel For Stuff You Have at Home

I’ve never understood people who spend tons of money on flights and hotel rooms to go to a different city and do the exact same thing they would do in their hometown.

beach feet

photo credit: flickr.com/epsos

There’s no reason to fly to Vegas to go to bars when you probably have 100’s of places in your hometown you’ve yet to party in. Go to Vegas for the shows that you can’t see anywhere else. Similarly, don’t pay a bunch of money to go to Florida in June to sit around at a pool when you have a pool down the street. Go to Florida to surf or scuba dive. On the other end of the weather, don’t go somewhere cold like Canada just to hole up inside and sit in the heat. Get out, embrace the cold if it’s something you don’t have at home. Build a snowman. You can find plenty of cheap vacation packages that would involve or at least suggest some fun winter activities.

Getting away is great, but you’re only getting half the benefit if you’re only changing location. Change what you’re doing too.

Use Current Events to Your Advantage

I went to Mexico a few weeks ago for super cheap. I’m sure everything was cheap because of all the bad publicity Mexico is getting about violence and gangs, even though none of that affects the area I was in.

I’m sure there are some great travel deals in places like Greece, Italy and Spain right now, considering the fact that those economies are in the pooper and they desperately need customers.

Pay attention to the news and don’t do anything stupid like scheduling a trip to a border town of Mexico, but use the news to your advantage and get a great deal from people who are dying for your business.

Readers: How do you save money on traveling?

May 22 2012

Don’t Just Assume Pickup is Cheaper

By |May 22nd, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|5 Comments|

I mentioned yesterday that I moved into a new apartment last weekend. I guess I forgot to mention that I moved in with my long-time girlfriend Tag.

She is starting nursing school this summer and we moved close to her campus so she can have all the study time she needs without having to worry about a commute. Plus our new apartment is really sweet.

Tag also pointed out that I talk in the first person a lot on this blog when almost everything I buy is a joint decision with her. For example, she found and picked out the sheets I was raving about yesterday. All I did was agree with her that they felt amazing.

In fact, she actually bought them while I paid for a few other things.

The point is, Tag is awesome and deserves a lot of credit for any bright ideas that come out my my typing fingers.

Should You Have New Furniture Delivered?

Tag and I picked out an awesome new living room furniture set, and while we were making the purchase we were asked, “Would you like to pay $xxx.00 for delivery?’

delivery truck

photo credit: flickr.com/billward

I honestly don’t even remember what the price was because I immediately said “No.” Why would I pay for delivery when I can borrow Ruth’s dad’s trucks and pick it up myself?

The pickup date was last weekend, so we borrowed both of Ruth’s dad’s trucks, as well as her dad and sister to help with the move. The pickup place was about 30 miles away from her dad’s house, and then it was about 25 miles to my apartment. Then it was another 10 miles or so back to her dad’s house.

I also bought lunch for everyone as my way to say “thank you for helping move our crap.”

All in all, we spent about 4 or 5 hours picking up this furniture and getting it set up. I also spent about $60 in gas to replace the gas I used on the trip. Add in the cost of lunch and we’re up to almost $100 and 4 hours to pick up my own furniture.

Next Time I’m Paying for Delivery

I think delivery of the furniture would have been about $150 or so. Considering I spent $100 to pick it up myself, the question is whether or not 4 hours of my time (as well as 4 hours of three other people’s time) is worth $50 to me.

Of course I’d pay $50 for that!

Next time I need to actually think through what it will cost me to pick up furniture myself. In this case it definitely wasn’t worth it and my gut reaction was wrong.

Readers: When is the last time you tried to “save money” by doing it yourself but found out after the fact it wasn’t worth it?

May 21 2012

My New Bedsheets Are Heavenly

By |May 21st, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|7 Comments|

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I want to make an immediate, dramatic increase in the quality of my life for less than $100″ then I have an idea for you: new bedsheets.

I bought my old bedsheets about four years ago. I spent about $100 or so and I thought they were pretty nice. They were cotton and something like 400 or 500 thread count. Nothing special; just regular old sheets.

I moved over this past weekend (which is going to be the theme of all my articles for quite some time) and I got an entirely new bedroom. I still have my 4-year old mattress (which will be good for at least another 6 years) but I got a new bed, new comforter, new dresser, and new end tables.

And while all that stuff is pretty awesome, there is nothing better than the new bedsheets I bought.

Pure Beech Satin Bedsheets Are Heavenly

I highly recommend the Pure Beech Satin Bedsheets I bought this weekend.

  • It says it’s only 300 thread count. Don’t be discouraged, it feels more like sleeping on 300 clouds
  • The satin feel is much cooler than cotton so I no longer get hot overnight and kick off the sheets and covers
  • It’s so soft and wonderful that I literally had to be dragged out of bed this morning

When I think of heaven, I think of angels floating around and hanging out on clouds. And when I lay in my new sheets and close my eyes, it seriously feels like I’m up there with the angels. And here’s the best part:

It only costs $80 for the set! That’s a fitted sheet, a regular sheet, and two pillow shams for just $80 if you have a queen bed. It’s $100 for a king bed and if you have a twin bed then I think you’re out of luck. Sorry.

The moral of the story is that I FREAKING LOVE MY NEW SHEETS!!!! There aren’t a lot of things that cost less than $100 that can make such a huge impact on your quality of life, but these sheets are definitely one of them.

sleeping

photo credit: flickr.com/edenpictures

If you aren’t in love with your current sheets like I am and you have $100 or so to spend, you might want to check out Bed Bath and Beyond or some other stores that sell that kind of stuff. You might not love the sheets I got, but there might be a different set that tickles your fancy.

You spend 8ish hours a night sleeping. You deserve to be comfortable. The point of making money is so you can spend it on awesome things. Heavenly sheets are definitely awesome!

Readers: Is there something in your house that cost $100 or less and is so incredible that it is worth every penny?

May 15 2012

I Can’t Work Three Jobs

By |May 15th, 2012|Blog, Life|10 Comments|

I have some bad news, some very bad news, and some good news.

I’m on a business trip right now. I left Monday after work and have been working, traveling, training, and doing all kinds of stuff that makes it very hard to update this website. That’s the bad news.

When I arrived at the airport on Monday, I parked my car in long term parking. Then I took a shuttle to the terminal, got my boarding pass, got in line for security and realized I lost my keys. That’s the really bad news.

I am 100% certain I lost my keys in a time frame of about 15 minutes, and I can’t find them. Hopefully they will turn up at the airport lost and found. If they aren’t there tomorrow, I’m going to have to replace keys to my new apartment (which will cost about $60) and a key for my car (which will cost a lot of money because it’s a new fancy electronic key).

The good news is I don’t have to pay for food all week because my company is paying for all my meals. I guess there’s a silver lining in everything.

I Can’t Do 3 Jobs

I am pretty good at working my day job during the day and working my website at night. I’m really terrible at going to training during the day, working my day job at night, and finding time to update my website.

Unfortunately that means I won’t be updating this site until next week. I know I’ve been going on vacation and now I’m on a work trip and I’m leaving my wonderful readers hanging, but I also know you guys are awesome and you’ll understand.

Oh, and I’m moving into a new apartment over the weekend which will make me even more busy.

So please feel free to give me a hard time when I’m not updating the site as much as I should, but also understand that I’m thinking about you. Always. (creepy)

Thanks guys!

May 11 2012

Do’s and Don’ts with your Credit Card

By |May 11th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|7 Comments|

The concept behind credit cards is a simple one: charge now, pay later. Yet every year, so many people find themselves falling behind on payments or in extreme debt due to poor financial planning, high interest rates, and unexpected fees. Stay out of trouble and maximize the benefits of your credit card by adhering to the following do’s and don’ts of credit card usage.

DON’T: Charge Items You Can’t Afford

Just because you can charge a new entertainment system or pair of shoes to your credit card doesn’t mean you should. Maxing out your card makes it harder to meet monthly payments, lowers your credit rating, and in many cases increases your default interest rates. Estimate your monthly income and household expenses so that you know how much you can realistically charge each month. Knowing your limits will help you fight the temptation to charge something you can’t afford.

DON’T: Lose Track of Your Card—Or Your Spending

Monitoring your card closely will help safeguard against credit fraud and reduce any clerical errors on your account. Save receipts from all your charges to compare with your statement, and promptly correct any discrepancies with your provider.  To protect yourself from fraud, cancel any cards that have been lost or stolen or that you haven’t used in the past 6 months.  Make sure you order your credit report annually and review it for accuracy as well as suspicious activity.

DON’T: Miss Payment Deadlines or Make Minimum-Only Payments

Once you make a credit card purchase, don’t forget to hold up your end of the bargain: paying off your debt. Failing to make payments on your credit card will cause you to incur additional fees and damage your credit rating. Set up an automatic bill pay through your online banking system to make sure you don’t miss important deadlines.

As a general rule, pay off as much debt as you can each month. While making minimum-only payments may be tempting, you’ll end up spending much more money than what you originally charged to your card.

DO: View Your Credit Card as a Way to Improve Your Credit Rating

Let’s face it—your credit history plays a role in determining everything from your eligibility for a loan to your mortgage rate. Building a good credit score often entails meeting payment deadlines, limiting the amount of cards you have, and containing your debt levels to half your credit card limit. Managing your finances sensibly now will pay off when it comes to making those important long-term investments and purchases.

DO: Take Advantage of Your Perks and Rewards

Most credit cards come with certain added bonuses—points, cash back, purchase protection, mileage and/or traveller’s insurance and assistance. Read up on the programs your provider offers to optimize your credit card usage, and rack up points by making payments on-time and in full.

DO: Compare Providers to Find the Right Card for You

Your mailbox is inundated with new credit card offers on a weekly basis, each promising you a different promotion or deal. One of the best ways to weigh the pros and cons of each provider is to use a free comparison service for credit cards.  A comparison service will give you impartial information to help you find the card that’s right for you.

May 10 2012

Race to $1 Million – May 2012

By |May 10th, 2012|Blog, Life|4 Comments|

This month is going to be a doozy of an update. Here are a few of the things that happened last month:

  • The Hoff had a bachelor party in Vegas that we both attended (where The Hoff drank heavily while I drank water)
  • I had a vacation in Mexico
  • The stock market was not very kind

Race to a million

I Won’t Be Catching Up This Year

So I had this crazy idea that I might catch up with The Hoff this year. I thought maybe because it is a no-donation year and because I’m starting to make a little size money that I could make up enough ground to catch him. It sounded like a good idea back in January.

Now I’m 5/12ths of the way through the year and I’m over $2,000 worse today than I was on January 1st. So much for his “expensive wedding” helping me catch up.

I’m Sick my Net Worth Going Up Slowly

Some people might call me crazy for being upset with my net worth increasing $20,000 in the last year. Sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. Let’s look at some of the facts:

  • I have a good job that pays me well over the average household income for Americans
  • I have no children and live in Texas where the cost of living is very low
  • While I’m not afraid to spend money on a good time, overall I’m pretty frugal

Let’s look at some of the expenses I’ll incur over the next 10 years or so:

  • I hope to be married at some point in the next ten years, which means paying for an engagement ring and a wedding – not cheap but totally worth it
  • I hope to have at least one or two kids, and every year those little guys are alive it’s going to cost me money
  • I hope to buy a house, which is going to mean a big down payment, closing costs, upkeep, and all the other stuff that makes owning a home so expensive

The point I’m trying to make here is that I expect life to get more expensive over the next 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 years. Sure I’ll probably get a small raise every year, and probably a promotion every few years or so, but my “back of the envelope” calculations seem to show that any increase in income is probably going to be offset with an increase in expenses.

Sure, if I get married and my wife has a job then her income is obviously going to help, and as my investment portfolio grows I can get more and more interest every year, but I’m pretty sure I’m still looking at my mid-40s before I get to $1 million.

I’m Going to Create More Income

Right now I’m looking at my mid-40s before I have $1 million in net worth. If I start living a crazy frugal life, I might speed it up to my early 40’s. That’s still VERY far away. I want this to happen sooner.

So as I’ve alluded to many times before, I’m spending all my free time building a new website. The new site is not like Thousandaire, which is purely content. It is a very useful, very unique, very free service that is going to TAKE OVER THE INTERNET.

Okay, it might not take over the internet, but I do think it will create a substantial secondary stream of income.

My Net Worth Tracking

As always, here are the net worth tracking graphs I use in my customized Net Worth Tracking Spreadsheet that is free to download. It’s fun to track this stuff, especially when the numbers are going up like mine have been!

I won’t be pulling even with The Hoff this year, but at least I can show a big fat ZERO in the student loan line (blue installment line in the debts graph) and hopefully get more income from my new site! Wish me luck!