Paris Vacation and Other News

paris eiffel tower There haven’t been many posts this month since I started my tax job. I know a lot of people work full-time jobs and keep blogs going, but once I’m done with a day of work I don’t feel like doing anything. I procrastinated so long there is no point in doing my net worth post this month because it is almost next month. Starting this week I will have one day off during the week and Sundays off. My plan is to do any blogging on my weekday off. The job is going about as well as could be expected.  The main thing I don’t like about this job is that I have to be there forty hours a week. That is a problem with about any job I would work. Next season I might be able to snag a remote position. I think the job would be a lot more palatable if I were able to work from home. The main reason I’m working this job is to build up a nice cushion of money. I didn’t have any specific plans for using the money other than a hope to travel some this year.

I now have something to spend that money on. Last week I booked a flight for me and my GF to Paris where she will stay ten days and I will stay twenty-three. The Paris trip came about due to there being some super cheap flights from Boston to Paris. I was able to book a round-trip ticket for $324. I booked the flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal using my Sapphire Preferred card which gives me 1.5 my points when they are used for travel. That meant I only had to use about $215 worth of points to book the ticket. I was able to book both of our tickets using my credit card points and I still have enough points left for another $1500 of travel. Most of the points came from the very generous credit card sign up bonus. Credit card spending for my FBA business helped boost my points quite a bit as well. We’re using Southwest points to get from Kansas City to Boston.  I now have to come up with a plan to cover our hotel for the trip. My GF and I both just signed up for a credit card that will give us each two free nights. That will take care of four nights so we’ll need to cover six more nights. I’m considering booking a place through AirBnB. Their prices are pretty cheap compared to a hotel and they would be very convenient. There is still plenty of time before I have to decide on that.

In addition to the flight and hotel there will be the cost of seeing the various sights, local transportation, food and other stuff. I’ll try to get deals on that stuff too. Since I got such a good deal on airfare I can probably splurge a little on that stuff and still have a relatively low-budget vacation so I won’t worry about getting deals too much. If any of  you have tips on what we should and shouldn’t do while in Paris I would love to hear them.

Your Playbook for Tough Times – Book Giveaway

yourplaybookfortoughtimes3d-208x300It has been a long time since I’ve done a book giveaway.  One reason for that is that publishers have stopped offering me books to review on the site. I guess that is because this site isn’t as popular as it used to be. Also, I mostly read books on my Kindle now which means that I don’t have a book to give away after I’m done reading the book.

Since I’ve long enjoyed reading Donna Freedman’s posts, and I had some Amazon credit from Swagbucks, I wanted to purchase her new book, “Your Playbook for Tough  Times.”   Since the price of a  Kindle copy was almost as much as the physical copy I went ahead and purchased a physical copy that I could read and also give away.

The book is full of advice on how to cut your expenses and get control of your money when you are going through tough times. This  isn’t theoretical advice she is giving. She has gone through some tough times of her own so she knows what she is talking about.  See her post “Surviving and thriving on $12,000 a year” for more of the story of her tough times.  Although I used to regularly keep my expenses at $1000 a month or less and sometimes still do there is a big difference between having to live on $1000 a month and choosing to live on $1000 a month.

Being a tight-fisted miser I am already familiar with most frugal tips and tactics. There were some tactics and resources in the book that I wasn’t previously aware of though. Also, there is a chapter on social services that may be available to you if you have fallen on tough times.  I don’t think I will ever need any of those social services, but it is good to know that they are out there.  If you want to find out ways to slash your expenses this book will be a great resource for you.

I will be giving away one copy of the book. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment. There is a limit of one entry per person. You must have a U.S. mailing address in order for me to keep the cost of postage reasonable. The contest will end September 20, 2016 at 9am CDT and a winner will be chosen at random at that time.

 

Giving up Soda and July 2016 Review

688098674_4692bc3705_bJuly was an okay month. On the plus side I made a little bit of progress on some of my goals and my income was at least a little bit more than my expenses. On the minus side I wasted about $500 on my hiking trip since I cut it short due to the heat.

Since I last updated my goals I have managed to reduce my 5k time from 38:11 to 35:59.  I expect to continue making steady improvement on the 5k goal for now. I’m still at 95 pounds of assistance on doing a chin-up. It might be a while before I see any progress on this one, but I am working on it.

I have managed to lose 3 pounds towards my goal of losing 50 pounds.  I hope to do better at losing weight this month. I’m giving up soda to help me lose weight faster. I’m on day 4 of no soda right now and I think I’ve gotten past the withdrawal effects already.  The second day without soda – which also meant no caffeine – I had some bad headaches. I slept 11.5 hours that night and I think my body has now adjusted to the lack of caffeine.

Although I made some progress towards my goals in July I want to do a lot better in August.  Since I am not working at a job I should be getting a lot more done than I have been. I spent too much time watching TV and reading random stuff on the web last month. In addition to working towards my goals I need to be more productive in general. Towards that end I’ll be limiting the amount of TV watching and random web surfing I do this month.

Lesson Learned – I Can’t Hike in the Heat

Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Upper Goose Pond Cabin

My planned three-week hike turned into a one-week hike. I was concerned before I left on the hike that it might be too hot for me to hike, but the forecast when I booked the trip looked like it might be cool enough. Unfortunately, it  warmed up making the hike an unpleasant experience.  After one week of hiking in the heat, sweating buckets all day, and getting eaten up by insects I decided to head back home. In addition to the hike being unpleasant it was also somewhat risky for me to hike in the heat. My blood pressure makes me prone to getting dehydrated and it was difficult to drink enough water each day to stay hydrated. I was drinking up to 5 liters of water a day and the section I had coming up had unreliable water source which would have made it difficult to get sufficient water.

The trip ended up being a pretty big waste of money. The trip cost me about $500 for round-trip transportation and a couple of hotel nights.  I could have had a pretty nice vacation for that $500. Instead I managed to hike about 27 miles in unpleasant conditions.  That is a rather high cost per mile. This is the third time I’ve ended a hike early due to heat. I think I’ve finally learned to not even try to hike in warm temperatures. In light of how much it cost to get to and from the trail I’m considering scrapping my fall hike and instead doing one long hike next spring.  I probably won’t make a final decision on that until fall.

The trip wasn’t a total loss. I did have a nice night swimming in Upper Goose Pond and hanging out at the cabin.  Although I didn’t enjoy hiking 8 miles in the heat of summer it was good to learn that I could do it.  I rented a car one-way from Albany, NY to Kansas City to get home.  Since the cost was about $190 a day I wanted to make the trip in one day. I managed to make the 19 hour drive without taking any breaks.  I just made stops as necessary for gas, food, drink and/or bathroom.  I didn’t even start feeling very tired until I was in Missouri. I’d prefer not to make a trip like that again it is nice to know I still have the stamina to complete such a drive.

Now that I’m back home I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Fall A.T. Hike Is Now Summer A.T. Hike

IMAG0014Last month I shared my plan to go on a three-week hike on the Appalachian Trail this fall. I have now changed that plan and will be starting my three-week hike next week.  I had planned the hike for the fall since I have a hard time hiking in the heat of summer. After checking the extended forecast and the average temperatures of where I’ll start hiking in Massachusetts I’ve decided that it isn’t too hot for me to hike. Hopefully, I am correct about that. It would cost me a lot of money and be a waste of time if I need to come home sooner than the planned three weeks.

Since I only planned this trip about a week and a half in advance it was cost prohibitive to fly to get to the trail.  A one-way flight to Boston would have been over $300 and then I still would have needed to take a three-hour bus trip to actually get to the trail.  After ruling out taking a flight, I looked at Amtrak and they have a train for $165 (after my $30 AAA discount) that will take me to a town just a couple of miles from the trail. The drawback to the train is that I’ll leave at 7:45am on Tuesday and won’t arrive until 4pm the following day.  And it will probably be even later than that since in my limited experience Amtrak trains are usually late. I still think it is worth taking an extra day to get there in order to  save over $150.

I was able to use my Southwest points to book a flight back to KC from Boston for almost free. I just had to pay $5.60 in fees. If I’m doing well after three weeks I can reschedule my flight and keep hiking. The flight will probably cost me some more points if I reschedule, but if I’m feeling good hiking then I’m okay with paying a few more points.

Part of the reason for deciding to hike now is that I’m not sure what I want to do long-term. I’m thinking about starting my own law practice, but am unsure if I can successfully do that.  Since I know I want to hike the A.T. and it is one of my goals I decided to go ahead and hike now and put off making the law practice decision until I get back. Hiking should also help me on my weight loss, chin-up and 5k goals. It makes the writing everyday goal impractical so I’ve decided to set that goal aside until I get back.  I’m hoping that when I get back from the hike I’ll have made good progress toward my goals and the correct decision will be clearer.

Back to Work and Other News

customerserviceI started at a new document review job this Thursday. I had been waiting for the document review company I worked for previously to contact me. I hadn’t yet heard from them on Tuesday and decided to search a couple of job sites online. I found a couple of document review jobs and submitted my resume for both of the jobs. One of the companies emailed me later that day offering me a job and the other company contacted me on Wednesday offering a job. Since the job for the first company was only scheduled for a week and the job at the second company is predicted to last through the summer I accepted the job with the second company. On Friday the document review company that I’ve worked for in the past contacted me about a new project.  I had to let them know that I’d already started at another company. I found it slightly amusing that I waited two weeks without hearing anything and as soon as I accepted a job I was offered jobs at two more companies.

There are a couple of good things about my new doc review job. One is that they are open 7-7 Monday through Friday, 8-6 on Saturday, and I can work my 40 hours whenever I want to during that time frame. If I wanted to I’m allowed to work up to 60 hours a week. Since there is no overtime and I find 40 hours a week to be enough work for me it is extremely unlikely I’ll ever work 60 hours a week but it is nice to have the option. Another nice thing about this job is they have a casual dress code. As in it is okay to wear shorts and a t-shirt casual. This is the first doc review job I’ve worked that had that casual of a dress code everyday. It is nice to be comfortable while I’m working.

The drawbacks to the job are that it is very boring just like all the other doc review jobs. I can listen to music or podcasts while working which does help alleviate the boredom. The other drawback is that it is thirty miles from my house. That is a longer commute than I’d prefer. The traffic hasn’t been too bad yet so at least the commute isn’t stressful. It is just time-consuming.

Next month I will be attending the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference. I’m hoping I will learn enough there to be able to start my own law practice. Or at least learn enough to start the process of opening my own firm. Doc review jobs here pays $22-$23 an hour. Before law school I would have thought that was a great rate of pay. Now that I have six figures of debt that level of pay just doesn’t cut it. If I’m going to be able to pay off my student loan I need to make a lot more money. I’ll let you know how the conference went after it is done.

That is all the news I have for now. I probably won’t be writing much the next few weeks since I generally don’t feel much like writing for the blog when I’m working full-time. If there are any topics you would like me to write about let me know and I’ll eventually write a post on the topic.