Sunday, April 20, 2014

Financial Report: San Francisco and Washington

We had a wonderful trip last week!  We flew from Las Vegas to San Francisco, spent the day in San Francisco then flew to Seattle, took a ferry to the Kitsap Peninsula, visited there for a couple of days, came back to Seattle, took the train to Portland where we stayed for a couple of days, then flew home to Las Vegas.

The finances (costs for both of us):

  • Flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco $184.00
  • Flight from San Francisco to Seattle $140.00
  • Train from Seattle to Portland $61.05
  • Flight from Portland to Las Vegas $230.00

We spent the day in San Francisco and it was wonderful!  We dropped our bags at the USO (its like a very fancy lounge at the airport for military and retired military members) and got a bunch of tourist info from the guy at the desk there.  We hopped on the BART train for the trip into downtown San Francisco, got off in Chinatown, then walked down to Fisherman's Wharf.  At Fisherman's Wharf we had to try some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl (yummy) which is kind of a San Francisco classic, then we took a cable car back up to Chinatown.  We ate lunch in Chinatown (both yummy and cheap), then took the BART train back to the airport.  We hung out a bit at the USO before our flight left and chatted with the volunteer staff there who were great!  Total spent in San Francisco: $79.10 (for BART train, cable car ride, and food)

Next we were off to Seattle where we took the lite rail from the airport to the ferry then took the ferry to the Kitsap Peninsula where we stayed with hubby's cousin who had just visited us in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.  Total spent on transportation: $14.50

The next day we hit some of our favorite places including the most amazing crepe place ($17.67), hubby played poker with some of his old poker buddies while I met up with a friend for lunch ($21.11), we stopped by the $1 Store to buy treats for my friend's kids ($7.75), meandered by the Goodwill where I found a brand new Sherpani backpack for $3.03, and then met up with a bunch of friends for a wonderful buffet at the Suquamish Casino ($5 for tip, they paid for dinner).

Thursday we were off again!  I picked up a hot chocolate at my favorite coffee place for $3.35 then paid $4 for the city bus to get to the ferry.  The ferry was free on the return trip to Seattle, and we had a great lunch at one of our favorite Chinese places (Harbor City dim usual it was a half hour wait just to get in the door) for $29.58.  I picked up a bottle of water for $1.95 then we hopped on the Amtrak to head south.

On Friday I spent the day working at my friend's office then we were invited to dinner with my sisters (which, surprise, I got to pay for...$120.00!).

Saturday was our final day of vacation.  We went to a buffet ($27.11) for our big family reunion where I saw family members I hadn't seen for 30+ years!  We also gave $20 to a niece to pay for her dinner, then picked up candy at the $1 Store ($2.00) before we caught our plane back to Las Vegas.

What saved us a lot of money was staying with friends and relatives in each place plus they gave us cars to use while we were there so no hotel costs and no rental car costs saved us a lot of money.  We spent a crazy amount of money on restaurants which was fine because we pretty much expected this as mostly what we do when we vacation is eat out.  We also got a couple of nice discounts because I asked for hubby's senior discount on things like the train and ferry.

Total spent on our trip: $971.20

In order to keep this post less than 500 inches long, I will post pictures of our trip in the next blog post...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Need to Stop Shopping!

We are getting ready for our trip and I have been doing way too much shopping!  Among our purchases:

  • Hubby pulled out his (very old) netbook that he uses for traveling and it was SO SLOW that I decided he needed a new travel computer.  A tablet would be kind of hard for him to manage because he plays a lot of poker online so he ended up with a small ChromeBook which he loves (and was very cheap at under $200).  The Chrome Book was SO SIMPLE that he loves it.  He doesn't really do anything on computers besides watch Netflix and play poker so a computer with only a couple of buttons to click on works great for him.
  • I did get a $500+ refund when I returned the new computer I bought hubby last week.  I thought a big 17" laptop would be great for him as he tends to watch Netflix and play poker at the same time so more screen space seemed like it would be a good idea.  However,the computer came with Windows 8 which he absolutely hated and told me to return it.  So now he will just keep his 15" laptop until a better operating system comes out.
  • I got (yet another) new tablet.  I had a 7" tablet a few months ago but since it was just barely bigger than my cell phone it wasn't all that useful so I sold it on Craigslist (at a $30 loss from what I originally purchased it for).  But for traveling I decided I would rather carry a tablet that my 14" laptop.  So I did a ton of research (as usual) and found that while a nice Galaxy Tab Pro 12" or a Surface Pro would be wonderful, it would also be very expensive (at $600+).  So for $279 I got a 10" Asus Memo tablet which had many hundreds of very positive reviews.  I need to buy a blue tooth keyboard and mouse for it (via Amazon which is much cheaper than in stores) and I will be all set for traveling with a very lightweight but still very functional computer/tablet.
  • I need some black shoes for my WSOP work.  Last year I spent about $10 on a cheap pair from Payless which actually worked fine (they were comfortable but since they were plastic-ish tennis shoes the smelled pretty badly after eight hours of work).  So now I am looking at getting some more expensive New Balance shoes (like this) made specifically for walking which I will be able to use both for work and for my distance walking.  *Speaking of which I have walked six miles a day for the past four days and hope to keep it up until we go on vacation*
Bottom line: after our trip I am definitely going on a spending fast until about July.  The month of May should be pretty quiet around here and I figure that while I am working during the month of June I will be too busy to go shopping.  I need to start saving money instead of spending it!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Interesting Day Today

Kind of an interesting/unusual day today...

  • I walked six miles today.  I am going to my family reunion in a couple of weeks and I'm feeling fat and frumpy so I figured I would walk six miles a day until we leave in 10 days which would give me 60 miles of walking for the month (at least) and hopefully a firmer body!
  • I bought hubby a new computer today.  He has a 15" laptop but each night he both watches Netflix and plays poker on it at the same time so I figured a bigger screen would be helpful.  Unfortunately it has Windows 8.1 on it instead of Windows 7 and he was not happy.  Not happy at all.  There will be a bit of learning curve with it but he said he is too old to mess with new things.  I told him it was the wave of the future and he needs to figure it out.  At this point it is debatable whether he will figure it out or send it back to the store.
  • Something is eating my chard.  I'm not sure what it is but all of the chard leave have a bunch of small holes in them.  :(
  • For some reason all of my contacts in Google disappeared!!!  I have no idea where they went but I need them so I went back to Yahoo mail which I have used for years (and which I left in a snit to GMail because their mail system was down for four days).  Now to input all of my contact again.  Ugh.
  • My love/hate relationship with Tumblr continues (I've had like a dozen Tumblr blogs over the years which I have set up then eventually delete).  So I've started another one...let's see how long this lasts...
I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What A Week...An Update

Seems like all I have been doing on this blog lately is posting quick updates a couple times a week but it has been hectic around here so, here is yet again another update...

  1. My little garden is growing!  See photo above ^
  2. We thought we would take a nice day trip to Laughlin.  Driving ourselves would cost around $50 in gas since it is 200 miles round trip so I found this tour place online and booked our trip.  We figured that for $32 for both of us, offset by the $20 meal voucher it would be a nice, cheap day trip.  Then after I booked the trip I read these reviews and was a bit disheartened.  We then got ourselves up early and took ourselves to the appointed place to meet the bus one showed up.  I called when the bus was a half hour late and the lady said they had cancelled the trip.  Of course they didn't contact me and tell me this.  I told her I wanted my money back and now I am waiting....and waiting.  Oddly enough, the next day I found another website that offers the same tour through the same company for $5 per person and includes meal vouchers as well.  I'm deciding now if, once my money is refunded, we try this same company but at a much better price.  
  3. I am doing A LOT of work for my friend this month which makes me very happy.  I also can't wait until WSOP starts.  I am eager to make MONEY!
  4. Hubby's cousin called today in a panic because her hot water tank died.  There was water everywhere (not a good thing when she is in a second floor condo) so we helped her clean up then took her to the home store to get a new hot water tank and found someone to hook it up for her.  We then ran home, checked out some "how to get the sediment out of your hot water tank and extend its life" videos on YouTube and drained the sediment out of our hot water tank in hopes of extending its life and not having a hot water tank crisis like she did.  eeekkkk
  5. Yesterday at the Goodwill (half off senior day of course) hubby found a great deal on a Magic Sing.  It's a requirement in Filipino families that you have a high tech karaoke system so we, of course have one (and spent over $500 for it some years ago!).  The karaoke system he found was priced at $25 so we grabbed it (obviously no one there knew what it was or the price would have been much higher).  We brought it home, tested it, found that it works great, and then packed it up to send to his son who lives in the Philippines (they will be overjoyed at receiving such a nice system).
  6.  Our Washington trip has been set.  We (more like I) decided that hubby is going with me AND I will be able to knock off two on my annual goals (see sidebar) along the way.  We will fly from Vegas to San Francisco, spend the day there, then fly to Seattle where we will stay for a few days (and hopefully get to the San Juan Islands this time).  We will then take the train or bus to Portland and attend my family reunion before heading back to Vegas.  Then I promised hubby no more trips until the fall when we go to Asia or Europe (hopefully both depending on how much I make this summer).
  7. Here's some great links to check out: here, here, and here.
  8. Since I have been doing so much work for my friend, she is going to get me a complete MS Office Pro suite of software (I am using the starter Word and Excel programs that came with my computer which aren't so great) at Tech Soup.  This is a great place to get super low low prices on software if you are with a non profit.  Yippee!
  9. I read this post on Barb's blog and know exactly how she is feeling.  My blog too has kind of become more about me me me and less about being a money blog.  It was great to track how our money habits have changed for the better over the years but these days our money habits are so ingrained that I often don't feel like I have much more to write about.
  10. I walked only 39 miles in March which leaves me to walk 824 more miles this year to reach my goal. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My 10 Favorite (Free) Apps

I love Android products (cell phones, tablets, etc) and I especially love that I can find so many free apps in the Google Play store for them.  Here's my ten favorite apps that I tend to use all the time:

  1. Runtastic.  I just started using the free version of this app and so far it works really well.  It is a pedometer that tracks my steps when I am walking every morning and so far it seems pretty accurate (but I can't figure out how it works--I don't even have my cell's GPS on and I didn't have to calibrate it but somehow it knows...)
  2. Kingsoft Office.  This office suite works seamlessly with Microsoft Office so if I want to create a document on the go I can simply create it on my cell in Kingsoft then email it to myself and open it in MS Office.
  3. Scanner Radio.  If I am bored I would rather listen to 911 calls than music.  Weird huh?  This is an interesting app that lets you listen in on police and fire dispatch channels all around the country.
  4. Bravo Poker.  This is the best poker app out there.  Even though I don't play, I use this app to let hubby know where the best games are at (quite helpful since we live in Las Vegas and there are dozens and dozens of poker rooms here).
  5. Reddit is Fun.  I love reddit and even though I'm on that site way too much as it is, I like having it at my fingertips on my cell.
  6. TV Guide.  I use this app all the time.  We are usually home in the evenings and almost always have the TV on in the background.  This is a quick way to see what's on TV--even faster than looking it up online.
  7. Kindle.  While I like watching TV in the evenings, I love reading anytime.  I can download as many free ebooks from my local library as I want and they all wait right here on my cell on this Kindle app for me to read them.
  8. Skype.  Since my cell's pre-paid plan only comes with 100 talk minutes a month, I use Skype on my cell phone all the time.  With Skype's $2.95 unlimited calling plan, I can call in to multi-hour meetings without worrying about using up my calling minutes.  The clarity of the calls is also amazing!
  9. Banking apps.  We have more than a half dozen bank accounts spread over three banks, two of which are out of state so the apps for our banks are really useful.  Just snap a picture of a check and it is instantly deposited!
  10. A Swype-like keyboard app.  Swype comes pre-installed on my cell but it is a paid app for those who don't have it.  I really can't live without it as it makes messaging and emailing and basically doing any sort of typing at all on my cell bearable.  A similar keyboard app which is free and very popular is SwiftKey.
What are your favorite free/cheap apps?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Quick Update in 10 Points

It's been busy around here, mostly with me doing a lot of work for one of my clients and now I am running out the door again but wanted to post something because I haven't posted anything since Saturday.

  1. For a bright, shining moment I was kind of offered a job which borders on six figures.  I still do some government contracting work for a client I used to do work for back when I lived in Washington.  Turns out an in-house job came available and I had four people send me the job description and tell me to apply because it is the same work I am doing now and have been doing for years.  I called the lady who was hiring for the job (turns out we used to work together some years ago) and asked if I would be able to do the job remotely then fly in for meetings every month or so but she said they really need a person nearby since there are meetings to go to every week.  Bummer.  But there is no way we are moving back to that kind of weather.
  2. I saw this recipe for biscuits and am going to give it a try.  One of my favorite things in Georgia was homemade southern biscuits.  Yummy!
  3. I came across this website and there are a few items that I would actually qualify for so I will fill the forms out for these items as soon as I get a spare moment.
  4. I also heard that as you get older your brain stops functioning so well and a way to keep your brain sharp is to "train" it.  Which you can do here.  I need to give this a try!
  5. Still no word on the travel front.  I haven't bought tickets yet but I better get moving.  I may end up just going for the day and leaving hubby at home.
  6. It was half off day at the Goodwill today so we bought a bunch of clothes and things to send to the Philippines (we send boxes of clothes, food, and household goods to hubby's son and his family in the Philippines every couple of months).  Both the shopping at the Goodwill and the saving 50% part because hubby is a senior saves us A LOT of money.
  7. One of my clients called and asked if I could do a quick needs survey for all of her agencies.  I quickly said yes then set about figuring out how to do it.  I found a free survey site called Survey Monkey which seems to work really well (now I'm just waiting for the results to see the final product).
  8. It is SO windy today I couldn't even walk today.  I have been walking four miles a day for the past week to make up for all of the days I missed walking when we had guests but when the wind is blowing so much dust around it is difficult to even breathe outside.
  9. I just realized we haven't been to Walmart (or most any other store for that matter) in ages.  Basically all of our shopping needs can be met at the Dollar Tree, 99 Cent store, and our local grocery store.  
  10. Everything is blooming (even my allergies but I digress...).  We have a bunch of apricots on our apricot tree, the chard is looking good, the green onions are getting taller and even the tomatoes are making a bit of headway after I replanted them to bigger containers.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Money Money Money

First, some good money things:

  • I was looking at my credit card account (the one I got that I used to buy the appliances with a while back) and saw that there was $135 waiting for me in the rewards section.  Seems this was a cash rewards kind of credit card (which I didn't really know much about or expect) and that was my cash reward for all of the purchases I made on it!  Yippee.  Instead of cashing it out, I will charge the tickets for our Seattle trip then put this extra, unexpected money towards paying it off.  I'm beginning to think that maybe I should use this credit card for all of our monthly spending then pay it off at the end of each month while racking up cash rewards.  The only problem is that I seem to spend more money when I use the card instead of cash so there is that.
  • One of hubby's bowling friends heard that I knew something about computers so he asked if I could set up his printer and router which I did last week.  He offered to pay me at the time and I said no, I just like to help people out and not to worry about it.  After bowling yesterday he and his wife insisted that we go to lunch with a seafood place...where each entree was $30+.  They didn't have to do that but it was a nice lunch and since we never spend that much on a meal (and the days of my expense account lunches are long over) it was a nice surprise.  
  • I finished up processing for my WSOP job and since I worked last year they were very nice about offering me whatever work I wanted.  I got to choose my shift (days), whether I wanted full or part time (full), where I wanted to work (a super busy, low dollar cash cage instead of the slower cage where you are counting out $10,000 per transaction...and doing all of the paperwork associated with such a large transaction) and they even asked me what days I wanted off or if I wanted any special days off like 4th of July (I told them every day was pretty much the same when you are retired so they could work me every single day if they wanted to).  tldr; I want to rack up the cash for our fall trip to Europe and this seems like the best way to do it!

Some great links (about money of course):

And some other stuff:

  • I am looking at crossing off two more of my annual goals--meet up with my family and go to San Francisco--in April.  It is just HOW to do this the cheapest way possible that is the issue.  (Hubby is the other issue, he says he is on vacation everyday so why go anywhere...ugh).  So I have looked at every possible trip configuration--from Megabus to Amtrak to flying to driving--and still haven't decided.  Driving is the cheapest way to go but neither of us wants to sit that long.  Megabus to LA then to San Francisco then flying to Seattle and taking the Amtrak to Portland is another option.  Just flying is the more expensive option because we would have to fly to San Francisco then to Portland then to Seattle then back home and would need a rental car in Portland.  Then we would need hotels at each place plus meals out plus dragging hubby about with me then dealing with my dysfunctional family on top of that...and I can see why hubby would rather just stay home.  Buy I have a couple of elderly aunts that were so thrilled that I set up a family reunion for the first time in 30 years last year that I don't want to disappoint them.  So I will work something out...