Thursday, February 27, 2014

Free Cruise Challenge

Looking for the best deal on a cruise
We have been looking for a great deal on a cruise for some time.  I have not been on a cruise for over 10 years and my wife has never boarded a cruise ship.  We thought it would be great to go on our first cruise together. 

My friend pointed me to this website called Vacations To Go, which helped us find the best possible deal on our upcoming cruise. 

We booked a balcony room with the Norwegian Epic ship for a 7 day Caribbean cruise out of Miami to Ocho Rios, JamaicaCosta Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico.  The Epic is one of Norwegian’s largest ships, with a capacity of 4,100 people, a crew of 1,753 staff, and an overall length of 1,081 feet.  The total price paid for our cruise in a balcony room was $1147.02, or $573.51 per person, which also includes $100 onboard ship credit per person. 

This was an excellent deal on a balcony room.  I went to the Norwegian Cruise Line website at, and saw that the price for our exact same cruise comes out to an after taxes total of $1307.02, or $653.51 each person, and does not include any onboard cruise credit.  
By booking through Vacations To Go, we’ve saved $360 total ($160 for the tickets and $200 for the total onboard ship credit).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Valentine’s weekend road trip

This past weekend, we decided to go on a spontaneous and last minute road trip to Northern California to visit some family and friends that live in the area. 

We didn’t give each other physical gifts for Valentine's Day.  We decided a while ago that buying gifts for each other didn’t really benefit our financial future.  We show our love in other ways.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t splurge every once in a while, as long as you can afford it.  In fact, we did some splurging this weekend (in moderation of course).

Before our road trip, we went to our favorite local Mexican restaurant.  Dinner came out to be $52.44 after taxes and tip.  This was a lot more than we usually spend on food, considering we mostly eat in for lunch and dinner.   We’ve never been big “foodies” and generally are just happy to eat anything nutritious and healthy. 
Chips and freshly prepared guacamole! 

Of course I did make sure to book the reservation through OpenTable to earn some extra dining points.

We have friends and family in Sunnyvale, San Francisco and Oakland. This past 3 day weekend allowed us to spend some meaningful time with them Since this was the long weekend (no work Monday) with Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day, a lot of the hotels in San Francisco and Oakland had expensive rates.   We decided to use some Club Carlson points to book 2 free nights at the Country Inn and Suites Sunnyvale for 38,000 points per night.  
The normal price of this hotel was $99 a night, so we saved $198 by booking our stay with points.  We got a value of 0.0026 cents per Club Carlson point.
Our drive from Southern California to Sunnyvale took about 6.5 hours.  Luckily there wasn’t any traffic. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

PineCone Research open enrollment

I’ve been a member of PineCone Research for over 10 years, starting when I was in college.  They are an online survey group that rewards you for sharing your opinions online.  Your opinions are valuable to product manufacturers to help them gauge consumer interest in future products.

PineCone Research pays you 300 credits per survey completed.  These surveys are usually very short, and the credits can be redeemed for various gift cards and other prizes.  I usually just redeem for a $3 Paypal cash deposit.  

PineCone Research occasionally sends you test products to try out.  Over the years I’ve gotten to test out new products like shavers, lotion, shampoo, toilet paper, foods, and more. 

Every now and then, PineCone Research opens up enrollment to join their online panel. 

I just got the following email from PineCone Research and wanted to share the invitation:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus miles - my turn!

I’ve introduced you all to the Barclaycard Arrival credit card a few months ago.  My wife applied for the card and was instantly approved.  We easily spent $1,000 (now $3,000) on normal purchases to receive the hefty 40,000 mile sign up bonus.

Last month, I wrote a post describing our experience redeeming our Arrival miles for cash back as a statement credit for our free flight to Portland.  

We are always looking to travel, and are already interested in travel within the next few months.  One idea we have been considering is going on a week long cruise.  One of our friends has been on several cruises and reports having a great time on each of his experiences. 
While I don’t know much about cruises, I do know that if we were to book a cruise, we would not be able to use any of our regular credit card points (i.e Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Starwood Preferred Guest points). 

There are several credit cards that can offer points on travel redemption for cruise purchases, such as the Priceline Rewards Visa Cardor the Travelocity Rewards American Express Card.  However, these cards only give you a sign up bonus of points valued at $100.

This is where having extra Barclaycard Arrival miles can be put to great use. 

While Arrival miles cannot be transferred to airline carriers or cruise lines directly, these miles can be redeemed for statement credits on all travel purchases including: airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, rain rides, and cruises. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January side hustles

While many people are simply content working 5 days a week, I’ve always been motivated to generate extra income with side hustles.  I’ve shared some of the side hustles I’ve done in the past in a previous post where I thanked my mother for giving me the drive to succeed.    

The great thing about generating extra income with side hustles is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more work, time, and creative effort you devote, the extra money you can bring in.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your money, and you can choose to spend it with purpose, or without.

Side hustles can be active or passive ways of building wealth.  They can be done in your spare time.  The money that comes from side hustles can be used for little things, such as free movie and television shows streamed to your television with Amazon Instant Video to big things, like purchasing shares of your favorite Vanguard mutual fund or ETF.  Money coming in from other sources beside your main job can help accelerate your wealth accumulation towards financial freedom.

This year, I am going to share some of the ways we have been bringing more money in on the side.  This will help keep me motivated to continue to hustle and continue to make hay while the sun shines. 

By posting monthly updates, this will help me keep track of our progress.  To keep myself honest, I will only post the income from side hustles that I have already received, and not income that I am expecting to receive.  Sides hustles performed today may be rewarded weeks later.  I will refrain from posting any regular points and miles earned through normal or manufactured spending, since unused points are worthless.  I’ll share our redemption of points and miles for free travel as we make travel plans.  

Now on to the January side hustles!
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