Passive Income Phone Fleet Reloaded


My old fleet of 5 Android devices playing PerkTV has gotten me almost $1,800 (current figures).  But, my old LG Motions have been having trouble lately trying to play the ads.  Every time I passed the phones, they would be stuck on a loading circle, never playing any ads.  My earnings dropped significantly.  I remember usually picking up a $50 gift card every two weeks or so, but now it seemed like I was only applying for a $25 gift card every month.  I decided it might be time to upgrade my fleet after reading this post on /r/beermoney.  He made $280 on Perk alone!  I had some serious catching up to do.

It’s not Perk.  It’s mostly my shit phones.

I picked up some slightly more modern LG Realms that could run a newer version of Android.  It was important that they were running Android 4.3, since an app that I wanted to use to automate them required it.  I started out with 5, and planned to ramp up from there.

It’s not 5 devices per account, it’s more like 5 devices per app

And, they have a ton of apps.  For now, I have some on PerkTV and some on Perk Word Search.  I’m going to buy more once the phones that I like come back in stock over at C7 Recycle.  I don’t know why I like that store so much.  I think it’s because I can just click to add the right power cable, and Jon always helpfully responds to my e-mails if I ever have any problems with a phone.

AutoInput is where it’s at

Before, I would rely on Freps to follow a script of clicks in order to get the videos playing.  No longer.  AutoInput allows me to program Tasker to wait for certain UI states and then act upon them.  So, I can easily dismiss popups, I can (randomly) rate videos, I can handle any unexpected situation as long as I program Tasker to do it.  This is great, because these income apps have a lot of little popups and annoyances that a simple procedural script cannot account for.

Syncing Tasker profiles is key

Now that I have many devices, it’s would be a disaster if I had ever had to maintain or change a script.

Now, my process for a change is such:

  1. I use my phone labeled as “Master” to make the change and get Tasker running just how I want it
  2. I export the Tasker profile
  3. I use Dropsync to upload the profile to Dropbox
  4. I use Dropsync on all of the other “slave” phones to download the profile
  5. I load the backup into each slave phone
  6. Restart Tasker
  7. Done, and all my phones are running the latest version of my script

Eventually, it would be great to automate even this process!

The world is my oyster with the right automation

I have my eyes set on all sorts of income apps.  There are easily 10-20 more apps that I could be running, between the array of PerkTV and Swagbucks and Earnhoney and other, smaller companies…I’m going to need some more phones!

With my current setup, I hope to earn about $160-180/mo.  My earnings will only go up as I figure out how to automate each app, one by one.

My First Experiences at Walmart Buying Visa Gift Cards


I’m clearly not doing this right.

I’ve been trying to manufacture my spending on a credit card of mine in order to meet its minimum spend of $4,000 in 3 months.  To do this, I had a plan where I would purchase a Visa Gift Card from Walmart and then walk over to the customer service area and purchase a money order with the gift card.  The money order would allow me to deposit it into my bank account so I could pay off the same credit card that bought them in the first place.

Total cost? $5 for the $500 gift card…which, if I did solely manufactured spending, would cost $40 to manufacture $4,000 in spending.  With the prize of 100,000 points, worth $1,500, I’m essentially getting paid $1,460 for jumping through the hoops of churning this credit card.  Minus gas, time and the cost of the money orders themselves, and it’s probably closer to $1,400-$1,450.

So, I set out to my local Walmart to purchase a test run to see how the process went.

Mistake #1

I bought a $200 gift card (an amount I felt comfortable “losing” if I wasn’t able to turn it back into cash in my bank account) at the register and immediately went over to customer service to try to buy a money order with it.  The lesson here is the age-old, “don’t shit where you eat.”  Never do this.  It may work, but we’re trying to be stealthy here.  Go to a different store.

Mistake #2

I was attempting to fill out all this paperwork for MoneyGram, because I thought that’s what you needed to do to send money to yourself.  All it did was confuse the shit out of the employees.  They had no idea what I was trying to do and as soon as I felt like things weren’t going to work out, I just said “Alright, nevermind.” and left.

What I should have done, was just fucking ask for a simple money order.  In a future visit, I overheard the employees saying that using a debit card for a money order is acceptable and I watched as a lady swiped her card for a money order and everything went smoothly for her.  So, just walk up to customer service and ask for a money order.

Mistake? #3

To unload this card into a money order at a different location, I went around to other shops.  Family Dollar and my grocery store.  Both said they only accepted cash and looked at me very strangely.  I thanked them and left.  This may or not be a mistake, but I felt a little silly and wasted some time.

Mistake? #4

After I unloaded the card to Venmo and eventually got my money back, I got a little more adventurous.  I wanted two $500 gift cards, which would set me just above my minimum spend.  I stopped off at the same Walmart where I got my first one.  When I got to the register, I asked to have $500 put on each of them.  Some errors happened on the register which confused the cashier and it kept spitting out receipts that the card was activated, but the second receipt said that the card could not be activated…as if it was already activated.

She tried again, and again (with me swiping my credit card each time)…until she eventually had me get another gift card off the rack.  Which, I swiped again and was on my way with a boatload of receipts and a possible 5 charges on my credit card, when I should have only had 2.

Turns out, yes, I was charged 5 times ($2,500 for those following along!), when I only wanted $1,000…and, more importantly, only had $1,000 on my gift cards.  I walked away confident that I could explain these charges to somebody should I ever have to try to get a refund.  Which, later on, I ended up having to do when all 5 transactions posted to my account.

I returned to Walmart and explained my situation and gave them all of my receipts, basically requesting $1,500 to be put back onto my card.  Managers were called.  They forwarded my request over to their Loss Prevention department, which ended up having to pull up videotape of our little confusing transaction.

So, what happened?

The cashier got a little mixed up and scanned the first card twice, which resulted in putting $500 on the card and then she had an error when she tried to activate it the second time (since it was already in use).

Then, she scanned the second one twice, with the same effect.  So now I had two cards with $500 on them, but we were a little confused about what was going on, since all these receipts kept printing out, that it was activated, then not.

Then, when she had me get the third card, it went through fine.

She kept the one that she/we thought was “bad,” but actually had $500 on it…that nobody knows what happened to.

Walmart did credit me back (automatically, in fact) for the two erroneous charges, and the manager believed me due to the videotape, and gave me back $505 in cash to cover me for the third card that nobody could find.

The only saving grace about this whole ordeal was that that third charge actually was manufactured for free, since I got the exact amount back in cash, which I thought was a little funny.  I deposited it right into my bank account and was able to pay that charge off no problem.

What could I have done better?  I don’t know.  Probably give them the first gift card then the second card after the first one was done and in my pocket?

I still haven’t found a way to manufacture spending that clicks great for me

The closest system I have is now:

  1. Buy gift cards of  It’s much easier than going to Walmart (even though I think they’re $1 more online).  I just am really “leave the house” adverse, so I’ll pay the buck and not have to get dressed, drive, stand in line and possibly get my order messed up to the tune of $1,500.  They come in the mail, through a slot that is behind a locked steel door.
  2. I register them online so that I can use them to make online purchases that require a zip code.
  3. I make a new Venmo account.  You need a unique e-mail address (easy enough) and a unique phone number ($1.50 through the Burner app).  I can then use this account to add three cards to.  You can only add 3 debit cards every 6 months.  Without verifying your identity, you can only send a max of $299/week.  I send $250/week or $1,000/mo per account.  Sending money via debit is free on Venmo.
  4. Send the money from the “burner” account to my real account.
  5. Deposit that money into my bank account.
  6. Pay off credit card.

I like this system because it’s expandable and fairly cheap.  I do realize that step #2-4 could be replaced very easily by just getting several money orders for $1,000 and be done with it, but, I dunno.  I don’t like to leave the house and deal with people.  Plus, I’m only churning one card at a time for now.  It works for me, for now.  When my addictive nature gets the best of me, I’ll probably ramp up with getting the MOs at Walmart.

I’m Going Down the Rabbit Hole of Churning Credit Cards


Months ago, I had read articles about how people were “churning”  credit cards.  What they mean by this is that they’ll sign up for a credit card purely for the bonuses that it provides, then never use the card again.  For instance, a card might give you 50,000 reward points to use at their redemption store if you spend $3,000 in 3 months on that card.  50k points is nothing to really sneeze at, since that could get you about two round-trip, economy tickets to a US destination for most reward programs.

Some people travel the world for next-to-free, by optimizing their reward generation and claiming.  Others, go hardcore and apply for several cards at a time, using a technique called “manufactured spending” in order to meet their minimum spend criteria.

Taking a look at one new card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 100,000 points for meeting the minimum spend.  With a value of 1.5cpp (cents per point), that’s $1,500 worth of travel.

Typically, I’d be against all credit cards.  I mean, that’s what got me into a huge mess when I was younger.  It took me years just to get a rewards card that had 6% cash-back (up to $6,000/yr) on groceries.  Why did I get it?  It just made sense.  I was going to spend the money anyway, so I might as well get 6% off.  I also set up the credit card to pay its balance off in full every month, automatically.  I did the same with my Amazon card (3% cash-back at Amazon), and haven’t looked back.

So, why did it take me so long to get into this churning game?  I simply just don’t spend that much money!  On my credit cards combined, I spend about $1,200/mo on average for the past year.  Some months, it’s much, much less.  Really, why would I break my back trying to meet the minimum spend if I wasn’t going to spend that money anyway?  Well, the bonuses can be lucrative.

I don’t travel that much because who wants to spend a few hundred per ticket, plus hotel?  I could vacation nearby in the state park with gas and accomodations at <$50.  If the tickets were free, though?  I’d travel and visit friends a whole hell of a lot more.  So this left me with some questions.

How much of what I’m already spending, that’s not on a credit card, could be put on a credit card?

Actually, not that much.  Ever since I got my cash-back cards, I’ve moved everything I could over to them.  My mortgage and utilities will not allow it.  Third-party services like Serve might possibly work, but I really don’t want to have to go into a whole process every month when I’m trying to pay my bills.  These are things that I don’t really want to mess with.

So, since everything else has moved over, there wasn’t much to look at here.  I would have to find a different area to work on.

What other methods might there be to “spend” on the credit card, without actually spending?

Here, I started to get ideas.

  • If I’m ever out with friends, I can pick up the tab on one of my rewards cards and get paid back in cash.
  • I could have my boyfriend pre-pay me for his student loans, and then have him use an authorized card to pay his student loan bill.  An easy $600-800/mo.  Risky?  Sure.  But, I think it’s worth a test run and I don’t see any problems as long as I get paid first.
  • In fact, I could pay for everything between us, and just get reimbursed.  It’s easily trackable.
  • If I’m ever close to meeting the minimum spend, but need an extra push, I could just buy some gift cards for the grocery store that I visit every week to make my minimum spend for that card, and then use the gift cards when I’m not trying to make a minimum spend on a card.

What minimum spend can I safely shoot for, without straining myself…so I can get my feet wet?

My “base spend,” what I would normally spend without any of this craziness, is about $1,000-1,200/mo.

Adding in being a middleman for student loan payments, and that’s about $1,700-1,900/mo.

Adding in incidentals and friend outings, probably about $1800-2000/mo.

Keep in mind that the increase in spending on the card would be immediately reimbursed to me, and I would simply deposit the reimbursement into my checking account to pay off the rewards card.

So, I could without a doubt apply for a “$3,000 in 3 months” rewards card.  If I wanted to be super ballsy on my first try, I could shoot for more.

Which card should I get?

Obviously, I’m going to be cautious.  But, I can’t lie, I’d like to work the system a little also.  So, I applied for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card (right now, I’m actually not sure if I was approved…but my credit score is over 800).

For 50,000 bonus points (or about two round-trip, economy tickets in the United States)…I am to: spend $4,000 in 3 months.  Also, for an extra 5,000 points, I added my boyfriend as an authorized user to the account…to make it easier to add some reimbursable spending on it.  If I’m ever cutting it close, my plan is to make up the difference with gift cards to my grocery store, since there is no way I won’t use those (and only when needed).

What am I trying to gain here, exactly?

Well, for one, near-free travel.  I have a whole list of places that I want to go and daggonnit, I want to get there as cheaply as possible.  I’d also love to visit friends that have moved far, far away.

I also hope that this is the start to my real-world learning process of becoming a salty, wise credit card churner.  Right now, I’m a little baby neophyte.  Getting to where I can churn multiple rewards cards at the same time while balancing my credit score is where I’d like to end up (not that I care about my credit score that much).  It’s a skill that takes research, a little cunning and spreadsheets…and it sounds right up my alley.

Have you “churned” before?  What has your experience been?

2,000 miles on an E-bike


Well, it’s that time again.  I just hit my next 1000 miles traveled on the same electric bike…putting me up right up to 2,000 miles.  The last time I posted about getting to 1000 miles was in December of 2015, so I think I’m on track to maybe hit 3000 miles by December of 2016!  I’ve learned a lot about bike maintenance, courtesies and other drivers.  While it has been getting a little monotonous, it’s so much better than driving.  Every day, however boring it is now, I get to effortlessly roll through the park and bike trails that parallels the thruway that I would have normally been driving up and down.  About half the time, all of those cars are parked on the thruway during rush hour…and it doesn’t help that there has been bridge construction going on since the start of Spring.  While my legs meander around the park, the bike is hauling my ass and cargo at a very perky 20-25mph.  I’ve come to refer to it as “Mega-Bike,” as it’s currently the biggest, baddest cargo-loving bike on the streets of Buffalo.  Friends like to ride with me, since I’ll haul all of their gear for them in my spacious saddlebags without complaint.  But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (although it mostly is!).  Here’s what I’ve learned…

For reasons I’m sure are obvious to others, my bike tire goes flat…a lot.

I think I’ve changed that thing maybe 4-5 times.  Once, I only got about 2 days out of the tube before it gave out on me.  Most of the time, it’s from these damn wires from street sweeper brushes.  However it happens, a long, thin wire will be poking out of my tube and tire slowly letting more and more air out.  So, I upgraded to using Slime tubes…which are supposed to fill the hole with Slime and dry up…plugging the hole.  What happened the day after I upgraded the tube?  A gigantic rock found my rear tire, the rear tire kicked it up into my fender and bounced the rock around for awhile until I realized what was happening and stopped.  By the time I stopped, I just heard a complete give-out of air from my tube.  Not even a small escape of air that you can barely find.  I’m saying that the tube just went from “kind of full” to “flat” in a second.  I was so close to work that I just walked it the rest of the way and fixed the tube later.

Which brings me to my next point…

You just have to roll with the punches on a bike.

You’re going to get flats.  You’re going to be cold or hot on the days where you misjudge the weather.  You’re going to have cars that don’t see you.  You’re going to feel like you’re slowing everybody down when you’re trying to take the lane so you can avoid potholes and rocks (that jam up into your fender and cause a flat!).  So, prepare.

  • Leave yourself more time than usual to arrive.
  • Carry two tubes.  If both tubes go out, you’ll be covered.  If three tubes fail on the same ride…well, the universe hates you.
  • Always always always bring tools.  A basic set of allen wrenches, your flat-tire kit and a patch kit.  If you don’t need to use them, maybe a fellow biker in need might!
  • Get to know the weather routines in your city.  Keep a mental note of what worked and what didn’t for what temperature.
  • Be visible.  Be annoyingly visible.  Put those lights on strobe.  Get a big, reflective jacket.  Hell, wear those shoes that light up.  I’ve had people pull over and let me pass because my light was so annoying.  You know who’s not going to be unseen and mistakenly hit by a car?  This guy.
  • Be predictable.  Sometimes, instead of getting into the left-turning lane to turn left…I would sit on the right side of the right lane, waiting for everybody to pass so I can turn left.  This is dumb.  Nobody knew what my plan was.  People slowed down, for, well…they didn’t know what.  What did this do?  It made me have to wait even longer to cross!  It slowed down the rest of the traffic!  All because I was too much of a wuss to just get in that left lane and turn with the other cars.
  • In the same line as being predictable, just forget about those official hand signals.  Nobody knows what they mean.  Just point to where you intend to go.  People know what that means.  Maybe it’s different in other cities, but the drivers here don’t know what the hell a 90-degree bended right-arm means.

For E-bikes specifically:

  • Charge up whenever you stop, even if you think you won’t need it.  Never know what’s going to come up and while you can peddle without power, it’s going to be a bitch to pedal that 60-80lb bike.
  • Consider some insurance.  My bike isn’t exactly a “stealth” ebike, meaning people know what it is and it’s more likely to be stolen.  Bike insurance is cheap and my city can go from respectable to dangerous in a matter of 5 blocks.
  • For winter riding, just wear what you’d wear for a walk…plus a shitload of wind.  Get wind and waterproof mittens.  Get a face mask.
  • Prepare to have a lot of flats.  Between the speed and the weight, I really believe that ebikes are more prone to getting flats.  However, take this with a grain of salt.  My typical ride, now that I’m electric, is through a fairly industrial and run-down part of town.  It’s wide open, paved and has almost zero traffic…but there are rocks and potholes and it hasn’t seen a street sweeper in a decade.  So, add that into the speed and weight…and there’s my recipe for flat tires
  • Don’t be a jackass and cruise the crowded bike paths at 20-25mph.  If you’re alone, fine…but shit guys, slow the hell down when you come across anybody.
  • The higher your wattage, go easier on the gears.  Always try to stop in a lower gear.  My chain always crunches a bit if I try to start out from a medium-high gear.  Do your bike a favor and be easy on it.  The motor gives that chain a lot of stress and, speaking from experience, it can snap it off…and I usually don’t carry a spare chain!

My previous estimates for distance traveled and the bike paying for itself remain on point


In December, I said I go about 1000mi every 6 months.  Here I am, 6 months later at 2000 miles.

No major purchases have been made for the bike (except for a couple of tubes).  The battery shows no sign of wear.  In fact, in the summer, it seems I can go further on a single charge.

I learned some routine maintenance from Youtube and now I have a makeshift bike “garage” in my…well, garage.  Every week or so while I’m grilling chicken lunches, I’ll put it up on the arm and adjust anything that concerned me the past week.  It’s very cheap to just adjust the brakes (I was bad at them before), clean and lube the chain and clean off any dirt that has accumulated.

Buffalo is ramping up its bike commitment

Soon, 80% of my riding will be done on either a bike lane or a bike path.  I’m very excited for the renovations to the main street that I travel down, and the bike path that connects that street to the park that I go down.  That route is generally the most nerve-racking and soon it’ll be a breeze.  I just hope they plow it in the winter!

They’ve also paved over an entire railroad that is no longer in use!  While I’ll have a new bike path to go South now…this new path will let me cut through some of the most busiest streets in my suburb to anywhere North of me…without having to take the pre-existing North-South path that goes by the water.  The railroad path will take me through the heart of the suburbs and towns to the North…making it a breeze to go to the various parks and to visit friends up there.  Very cool indeed!

Car usage is way, way down

In the past 6 months, according to my Moves app, I’ve driven 946 miles.  I take it to get groceries every week, or if it’s actually raining when I’m about to leave for work.  I did drive to Letchworth and Allegany State Parks once or twice.  Or I’ll drive the dog somewhere if I want to take him with me wherever I’m going.  I suppose that adds up.  The important thing is, I’ve driven it much less and have put more miles on the bike than the car!  I just had an oil change because the Prius was yelling at me to get it done and the mechanic remarked about its great condition for having 97k miles on it.  Now that I’m putting far less strain on it, I’m certain I’ll be able to keep this car for a long time to come.

As you can see, I’m still very much committed to the e-bike and I’m getting better and better at maintaining it, being easy on it and not dying a horrible death…splattered on the side of the road or on somebody’s windshield.  If you’re following along, I still need 5,369 more miles on the bike before it, in theory, has paid for itself by not having to drive the Prius to where I’m going.  In terms of fun and freedom, it’s been worth every penny.

Grit and Patience: The Dynamic Duo for Success


I think Buffalo is finally out of its winter since more Spring-like temperatures have been frequenting her land for periods longer than two weeks.  This means that I won’t have to snowblow for awhile and I can ride my bike without two layers of pants and a facemask!  I’m still wearing the gloves, though.  Speaking of the electric bike, it’s been hauling ass back-and-forth to and from work for awhile since that last post…so much so that it’s been getting boring.

Typically when the bike commute gets boring, I’ll find a different route…but this has always turned against me because it either takes longer to commute or has ridiculous car traffic.  While it’s fun to blow past a long line of cars on the road, it can be incredibly dangerous if you don’t have your head on a swivel, darting eyes and a trust for nobody.  For my own safety and sanity, I’ve vowed to stick to my usual route that involves bike paths, a more direct route, minimal traffic lights and a wide-berth from cars.  So, how am I supposed to cure my boredom?

By listening (in one ear) to finance and self-improvement podcasts of course!

I’ll go over a few of my favorites in a future post, but this reminded me of something.  I want to Always Be Doing It.

What’s it?

It is whatever the hell I need to do to get better than I was yesterday.  It should be the thing that has the most dramatic impact, and It should be the most fun if at all possible.  It‘s how I’m doubling-down on myself and cutting out the bull so I can focus on what I want.  I want, for every minute I can, to be somehow moving forward.  I assure you that I’m leaving room for sleep, friends and quiet rest/reflection.  This isn’t just all about financial independence, saving money or coming up with ways to save or make a buck.  So what does this mostly mean?

Cutting out the ineffective things that soak up my precious minutes/hours…then replacing them with “productive” things.

When possible, combine activities.

  • Instead of sleeping for the 9-10th hour, or reading my phone in bed in the morning…I will go downstairs and lift weights 3x/week with guidance from Stronglifts 5×5.  When I don’t lift, I’ll do yoga with help from DoYogaWithMe.  In the case of weight lifting, I’ll listen to podcasts at the same time.
  • Instead of driving my car to work, I’ll ride my electric bike instead.  This cuts down on a lot of traffic aggravation, gets me active (in terms of moving limbs and being outside) and it’s damned fun.  Since it’s possible to listen to podcasts while I ride, I’ll listen to a nice selection that balances humor, finance and personal growth.
  • When I’m at work, I just work.  I’m lucky enough to have a boss that shields me from everything but working.  I take a nice lunch and kid around with coworkers, but other than that…I want to work because I need to get to a good spot to stop every day.  So, instead of checking Betterment, my Mint budget, Hangouts, my feed reader or any other thing that interests me…I’ll just work.  This is mostly accomplished with browser extensions that block my access and turning off notifications for generally everything.
  • Walking the dog?  Add in listening to a podcast.
  • Doing school work?  Again, I just work.  No dilly dallying.  Also, since the classes are of an accelerated nature, I don’t bother reading up on things that are not part of the assignments unless it has to do with my career.  Yes, the topics are interesting…but if I really need to know them, I can always look them up later.  In the class, with assignments pending, is not the time to drag your feet on learning what they require you to learn.

This leaves me with roughly 2 hours per day, on a good day, to do with whatever I please.  Usually, I’ll watch a show like Game of Thrones and then spend my last hour reading fiction in bed.  All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.  You simply have to relax, recharge, unload, and unwind.  I believe that preventative maintenance is essential to keep the train moving.  If I didn’t meditate, watch shows, read about the Gunslinger or have drunken Rocket League games with friends…I would have long gone off the deep end.  I need to stay grounded to remain myself.

This isn’t always perfect.  Sometimes I just have to go hard at school.  Sometimes work needs me there for 10-14 hours.  That’s life.  As much as I’d love to cram all my little activities into precious blocks, that’s just not going to happen and it’s taken me a lot of sitting and breathing to realize this.  The trick is to beat back those imperfections with patience and grit.

Also, what does any of this have to do with money?  This is a finance blog!

Well, I have a hard time reconciling that I’m not perfect with money.  Especially when I see such good things online.

  • I read online about how soandso got big returns while I just lost a few thousand in Betterment.
  • I save a couple bucks by price-checking at a few stores, but spend a almost $2k on a bed.
  • I have no ideas for a business, but know I just need to try a lot of things and not be afraid to fail.
  • Everybody else’s house value seems to be rising, while mine seems to be an endless money pit.  I should have continued to rent, probably.
  • It’s going to take me years for my electric bike to pay itself off.
  • I spent too much on fancy upgrades for this rental unit that I’m living in, just because I’m living in it.

All these things and more run through my head constantly, to the point where I often require myself to sit down, close my eyes and breathe.  Once open, I know that things are not that bad.  Curiously, throughout all these “blunders,” my net worth continues to grow.  I ended 2015 with $113,733.63 to my name.  Today I’m at $134,802.40 and increasing an average of $5267/mo so far this year.

But wait!  My day job only pays me $53,500/yr.  How can I be socking $63k/yr away?  For one?  Grit.  Gritty side-hustling, passive income and the unfortunate circumstances of war.

  • I stay the course with the rental, who has a permanent tenant giving me $650/mo.
  • The Post 9/11 GI Bill is paying me about $750/mo to go to school online at night.  Once I earn a degree, I expect my earning (read: saving) power to increase much, much more.
  • On top of paying for school, Uncle Sam believes this Marine deserves some money for reparations on account of injuries sustained during combat overseas in the amount of $1,300/mo until I’m healed up.  I’d have rather not been injured, but sure.
  • Various beer-money schemes, scripts and phones pull in close to $300/mo completely passively and the scripts continue to grow in earnings.
  • I eat cheap.
  • I live with my SO and split the bills.

Secondly?  Patience.

I’m not always going to be able to add to my beer-money schemes.  I’m not always going to have a clean house.  I’m not always going to have a positive net income for the month.  There are going to be rainy days figuratively (the hot water tank busts) and literally (I’ll have to drive to work like a common peasant!).  There are definitely going to be times when I even question the goals I’ve laid out for myself.

Throughout the time it’s going to take to amass an amount of money large enough to retire on, there are going to be several Presidents, probably a job change, major life events, a possible move.  Hell, there might be natural disasters and self-driving cars.

Everything is going to slowly happen…and I’m going to try to be patient enough to remain diligent in my plan.

What I can assure you, though, is that the trend is going up…and having grit will keep it that way.

What are your stories of patience and grit?


The Slip Ups


I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I slipped up.  I’ve been buying things.  Ohhhhhhh I’ve been buying things.

I just kept justifying the purchases in my head.  For example, I wanted a new mattress.  My SO and I kept bumping into each other during the night in our queen-sized bed, we could feel every single movement and it was LOUD.  It wasn’t a particularly comfortable mattress either.  When I bought it about 5 or 6 years ago, I just sort of threw money at the salesperson and out popped an overly-firm mattress.  I really suck at buying things when a salesperson is helping me.  It was so firm, that I ended up buying a foam topper for the mattress, which helped a bit.  I slept on that baby for years and attributed all of my lower back pain to doing squats and having a poor chair at work.  I kept waking up in the middle of the night to a painful side and having to switch over to the other side on my body to sleep.

See how I’m justifying?  I’m even convincing you, aren’t I?

There’s a phrase that’s pretty common around the “buy it for life” scene that says something like “You spend a third of your life in bed, so you might as well have a comfortable mattress.”  It’s right along the lines of “You wear your shoes all day, every day, so they should be comfortable.”  And, what is soon going to make me fork over some more cash…I sit in my office chair at work for 8+ hours a day and it is not doing my back any favors.

So alright, I bought a mattress.  It’s nice and I’m going to use it every night.  Should I be beating myself up over it?  No.  I know that.  But you know what?  I am.

Before this, I re-subscribed to Spotify for my student-discounted price of $5/mo.

Before that, I got rid of Ting for Project Fi when my phone exploded from a bad power cable which added ~$20/mo to my phone bill.

After the mattress and noticing the extreme comfort and what money can buy…I researched for hours for couches and all but bought a new, lifetime-warrantied, washable couch for $3500.

After having dodged a couch purchase, my SO convinced me to get a new pair of sunglasses that framed my face better…while I was wearing my old sunglasses.  Down another $32.


I had to stop and ask myself, and am still asking myself as I type this: Why are you doing this?  You never spend money.

Honestly, I don’t know.  I just…shit…I like Spotify.  I like keeping my mobile data on despite my previous cellphone heroism.  I no longer wake up during the night and regularly sleep the entire night!  Those sunglasses do fit my face better.  At least I recognized we could squeeze some more life out of that couch (despite its terrible chasms).

Has my frugality muscle gotten flabby?  Shit – that reminds me.  I haven’t hit the home gym in a month.  I went 35 days of silence on the blog.

Am I spiraling out of control!?  Are my plans of early retirement going to come crashing down!?


Short answer?  Probably not.

Is it going to slow my progress?  Sure.  There’s no doubt that money not going to my goals is time delaying me from attaining them.  But, do I want to spend the next few years on a shitty ass mattress that literally keeps me up at night?  Obviously not.

In times like this, when my frugality muscle needs a bit of an electroshock and some motivation to keep burning, I like to remember how much I’ve saved vs. how much I’ve spent in my recent “spendy-era.”  I’m going to consider last month and this month as my spendy-era.  My mattress, frame, pillows and new sheets/pillowcases since I upgraded to a King size was $1780.37.  almost consider this a necessity.  We just were not getting any sleep.  Also, this is sort of on the low-end of sleeping arrangements…even though I swear this is the greatest mattress I’ve ever had the pleasure to sleep on.  Even the buying experience from Tuft&Needle and Brooklinen was very nice.  They’re both pretty disruptive (to the mattress stores) companies in terms of selling directly to consumers and having minimal (comparatively) markups.  I feel like I spent $1780.37 on a $4000 setup.  Although, I was coming from a $600 bed that was too firm, too small, with junky sheets and very old down pillows so it’s pretty easy to beat that.

So looking at last month and this month, we can consider my two months of extreme luxury of always-on mobile data, Spotify and kickass shades…bringing the total to $1870.37.

How much did I add to my investments during the same time?  $6242.66 …so about 30% more.  Yeah, I splurged…but I’m not hurting.  Though, I may cancel Spotify soon because I seem to just listen to the same old classical music at work, and podcasts on my bike commute.  I think I may turn off my mobile data when I don’t need it – but I really find value in Project Fi since I’m so close to Canada.  Traveling over there, I was able to use my data plan and text as usual without costing anything extra…so navigation over there was easy peasy.  I’m so close to Canada that when I was over at Devil’s Hole State Park, my phone believed that I was in Canada.

Perhaps I had a moment of weakness, but maybe also, I’m slowly adding things back into my life that actually did add some value.  Also, I think sometimes, like a broken furnace or water heater…you just have to replace things once they don’t perform their function anymore.  My real lesson about mattresses, shoes and chairs?  If you use it all the time, buy the quality version of it.  If I bought a quality mattress the first time around, I wouldn’t have had to upgrade.

Long story short, I learned some lessons and hopefully I will stop beating myself up for spending on some much needed (and appreciated!) items.

What larger purchases are you not-in-the-least sorry about?

What I hope I’ll be doing in my retirement


It’s been a long, long while since my last post.  I promise I haven’t run out of steam.  Just the opposite, I am swamped.  Who would have known that going to school full-time and working on a new project at my full-time engineering job, a dog, a relationship and a house would be time consuming?  It’s been a little rough, but I’m fine with that.  I also forgot how cathartic it is to write!  I wanted to talk about what I’ve been dreaming about for my retirement while bike commuting, showering and catching up on some FI blogs.

School definitely soaks up a lot of my time after work.  Sometimes I don’t get home until later than usual (hence the new project) and by the time I finish walking the dog and heating up some meal-prepped dinners, it’s 8pm and I still have hours of homework to do.  Then it’s sleep, wake up and do it all over again.  While it’s a supreme bitch, it’s going to be great for me.  For one, I’m getting paid to go to school…so it’s basically a part-time job.  At the end of the job, I’ll have at least a bachelor’s (haven’t decided on the master’s yet) in my software engineering career that will enable me to work anywhere on the planet as long as there is a decent internet connection.

First thing’s first – working from home is not guaranteed for any engineer.  Just because you have a degree and some knowledge, doesn’t mean that you can find a job working remotely.  There are thousands if not millions of engineers who would love to work from home!  But, they don’t.  Why?

Most companies these days want you to work in the office.  There are still project managers to converse with.  The executives, the office administrators – they’re all there.  Why would they hire a guy to work in his pajamas at home, half a world away?  That person would have to be good as fuck.

I’m not exactly good as fuck.

I’m decent… I’m smart – but the definition of good as fuck seems to be “very, very knowledgeable in something that most people are not.”  That’s not me.  God bless those programmers who dove into that last 5% of knowledge for years and years, neglecting everything else.   Me?  I’m good at simple, modest projects.  Luckily, I’m hoping for a simple, modest income.  I don’t need much.  So, contracting work is definitely right up my alley.

My dreams for retirement have changed time and time again.  First, I just saw myself holed up in the suburbs in my duplex, just living plainly and basically.  This idea resonated with me at first because I thought that that was what early retirement was all about – continuing to live as you are, but spending your days how you choose.  Plus, I’d still be around friends and family as long as I was in town.  There’s nothing wrong with this idea, in fact, it hits a lot of my key areas that I want to hit.  It’s also very, very safe.  I could accomplish this with my arms tied behind my back!

It lacks a bit of adventure, though.  It also lacks any sort of dream.  Just because I can, do I really want to sit in this apartment, not doing much for the rest of my life?  Sure, I could visit family and friends more, but I want to do something…I don’t know…    more.

I may have stumbled upon a great idea for myself while browsing  A trailer does make a lot of sense for me.  It’s mobile and gives you a bit of freedom in where you’re going to spend your time.  While I’ll have oodles of free time after retirement, I could spend a month or so at various federal parks.  I could park and visit friends and family anywhere in the country.  I wouldn’t be tied down to any specific house, and I feel like I wouldn’t get into a state of lethargy if I were constantly seeing new things all year.

Living in the same house all the time, while stable, tends to make me fall into a set of routines and habits.  While I love my routines, it’s possible that they’re not doing me much good for my sanity.  I think a “life on the road” would suit me very well…although maybe that’s just because it’s a change from what I’m doing now.  But, if that were the case, it would speak well on behalf of the idea that I should be doing new things more often.

I think that on top of a trailer and a truck to tow it, I would want a few things more.

For one, I’d still want a great big plot of forested land in upstate NY as my “home base”.  Since I wouldn’t be living there full time, I would probably hold off on building anything on top of it…as my trailer would be my home.  I would just appreciate a fenced area for a dog or two and perhaps some electricity…although I’d likely have some solar panels (and I hope the tech is much better around this time!).  Having a home base would give me that sense of security and “home.”  I’d likely roll up there during the summer months and visit family and do the annual camping trips with loved ones.  As soon as the weather takes a turn, I’ll be off again.

The ultimate?  I’d have a fully operational, small cabin with plumbing and electricity that I could live in and do live in, but when it’s not in use, rent her out to campers or hunters for a little extra traveling money.  I’m not entirely sure how I’d navigate the issue of being a mobile landlord, but this is why they call it dreaming!  Even so, mobile landlording is my “ultimate” dream and wouldn’t be what I’d start out with.

I’m thinking trailer is the way to go.  I thought about an RV, but it sounds very cumbersome.  With a truck and trailer combo, you can ditch the trailer in a good spot and use the truck for other things.  While you could tow a small car (and bikes!) on an RV, I don’t like the idea of having my primary house have an engine.  A trailer probably won’t cost as much to repair as an RV.

What happens when the RV shits the bed and has to be in the shop?  That’s your home!  You’d be forced into a hotel for awhile?  I think a trailer is unlikely to offer the same situation.  I don’t think it’ll be easy sailing forever, but I really don’t like the idea of putting all of my worldly belongings in something that could be very repair-prone.

So, for now, this is the dream (until the next dream).

  1. Acquire some beautiful land in upstate NY.  Here, because I could wait around for awhile to strike on some prime land while I’m working.  Then, purchase it and enjoy it while I’m still working.  Possibly even improve upon it.  Also I really like the areas from Ithaca to the Adirondacks.  Lots of prime hiking trails and swimming holes!
  2. Sometime nearing retirement, acquire a trailer and a truck.  This is going to be hard to manage, since I’ll have nowhere to put them at my duplex.  The driveway is tiny.  But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  I’d also consider weening off of work slowly and doing contractual work remotely from the trailer…while getting started on my travels.
  3. Have the trailer meet the land.  Get used to everything.  Fix all the small little annoyances of trailer life.  Plan the travels a bit more (but not too much).
  4. Hit the road.
  5. Maybe place a cabin on the land.

Of course, I could maybe find land the comes with a cabin!  Maybe I’ll hate the idea of a trailer in a year.  Maybe the south will break away and a civil war begins.  Maybe this.  Maybe that.  It’s still a very, very long ways away.

But, it’s good to have dreams.  Dreams become goals, goals becomes steps, and steps become routine…and that’s where you’ll make your dreams.  So, I embrace my hectic routine of work, school and relationship balancing.  It’s what going to get me into that dream, whatever it may mold into when the time comes.

To everybody out there…keep on riding that bike, churning those credit cards, maxing those deposits and stashing that cash.


How do you fantasize about your retirement going?  How many times has your vision changed?

Programming for cash: Tumblr porn edition (SFW)


I have no idea why people do what they do on the Internet.  In my programmer circles, it’s hard to find somebody doing something stupid like installing the Ask toolbar.  But, if I stray just a little bit further out of the programming-office culture, silly people are everywhere.  One time I saw my mom’s Internet Explorer take minutes to load because she had more toolbars than she had browsing space on her aging computer.  She just sees an ad for something on the internet and clicks on it.  That’s breaking a huge rule on the internet: “If you weren’t already seeking it, don’t install it.”  I can tell my mom not to do this over and over again, I can rename Chrome to Internet Explorer for her – but she’s still going to have problems.

So, as long as these people are going to be around forever – how can I profit from it?

<Darth Vader image>

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Everybody’s FI path is a different one


Maybe it’s the engineer in me who, before, mentally decided that there must only be one way to financial independence…and that way was paved by the musings of Mr. Money Mustache, riding his bike of course.  He writes that we should all be riding our bikes, live close to work and DIY the shit out of everything.  Don’t get me wrong, these are all very fine ways to live and to interact with the world.  I just no longer think that this script is meant to be for everybody.

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My passive income approach


There’s only so much that a person can cut out of their expenses before it starts to get a little ridiculous.

Over the course of a year, I’ve cut out a ton of stuff.  I’ve also bought things that will save me more money in the long run, with a couple hits and misses through my experiments.  So, now that I’m saving 70-80% of my income and dumping it into Betterment, I’m left with one question.

Where the hell do I go from here?

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