Aloha Uncle Sam

Moana Surfrider Hotel, Oahu, Hawaii

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It’s that time of year again, when households across the land are excited to fill out their tax forms. Yeah for Tax Day!

Goal #1 is of course to minimize tax burden using the numerous options available. Be sure to contribute to those deductible IRAs and 401ks!

Some households will have a zero or even negative tax burden, but most will have a tax obligation for the year. This is usually paid at least in part through paycheck withholding or estimated tax payments.

This is also the case for us since we pay Self-Employment tax on blog income. (But… plans are in motion to reduce/eliminate this.)

And I don’t know about you, but if I have to pay some taxes…. I at least better get a ridiculously cheap trip to Hawaii out of the deal.

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How To Get Maximum Hotel Value

hotels.com free night

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

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Discounts on the stuff you are going to buy anyway are a beautiful thing.

But time is precious. Even saving 90% on a low-cost item we will only buy once probably isn’t worth much effort. On the other hand, with frequent purchases or high cost items even a few percent savings can be significant.

For us, hotels are one of those frequent purchases, so I have put extra effort into maximizing our discounts. Of course the best discount is free, and it is fairly easy to get free hotel stays. For those nights that we purchase, we typically get 20%+ off (as explained here. This post expands on that content.)

This post reviews some of the nuances of maximizing our ROI on hotel spend. I couldn’t find a good summary elsewhere so I decided to write one myself.

Even if you aren’t interested in saving $ on hotels, the thought process may still be mildly entertaining. If not, come back next post for more good times!

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The Earth Awaits

The Earth Awaits ReviewGCC: Before we retired I looked long and hard for International cost of living/travel data. What I found was limited, vague, or outdated. Since then many sites and blogs have offered new data or a new approach.

Recently I found a new favorite… The Earth Awaits. Others like it too;  it is currently featured on BBC’s The Travel Show.

In this Guest Post, see what the Frugal Vagabond has to say about his creation:

A Labor of Love

I love the world, and think that travel makes us better, more thoughtful, and more charitable with each other. In a world that seems to be turning inward, we could all use a little more of that.

Back in July, my wife, my father-in-law, and I sat down to a delicious Indian dinner. Dinners like this are always a little bittersweet— my wife’s mother passed away early last year, and her dad misses his wife terribly. Without her, he has an understandably tough time finding things to look forward to. Seeing his struggle with this loss always reminds me that time is our most precious resource.

As we ate, my father-in-law casually mentioned that his youngest brother had retired, making him the last of his siblings not to have done so. “Someday,” he said, “they’ll find me dead at my keyboard, I guess.”

I glanced at my wife and saw that she wore an absolutely miserable expression. She wants her dad to be happy, but doesn’t know how to help him look forward to anything.

“Hey… you’re collecting your Social Security, right? How much is that check every month?” I asked.

“About $2,300, why?” he replied.

Looking back, that was the moment that The Earth Awaits was born.
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Our First FinCon

Classy in San Diego

Classy in San Diego

In September we (all 3 of us!) attended the financial bloggers conference known as FinCon for the first time, which took place over 4 days at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.

I’ve been wanting to attend ever since I won a Plutus Award at last year’s FinCon for Best International Personal Finance Blog (yeah!) Thanks Plutus Awards!

Although I’ve been blogging for awhile, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. What exactly is a bloggers conference? I’ll try to convey our experience as first time attendees.

And naturally, attending a conference about fiscal responsibility requires a bit of fiscal responsibility, so I’ll share our actual costs. Hopefully this helps with planning if you want to attend in the future.

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The Credit Card Annual Fee Debate

It All Becomes Clear

It All Becomes Clear

I’m a big fan of financial efficiency. If it is possible to get a discount on something I’m going to buy anyway, I’m all for it.

So it isn’t a big surprise when people inquire about call me out for paying annual fees in comments and email.

“Why would you pay a credit card company just for the privilege of making them money?”

“Isn’t it a waste to pay an annual fee when there are so many free credit cards out there?”

“Why would you pay a credit card annual fee? That is just dumb.”

I can certainly relate to the sentiment behind these questions. But if we strip away the emotion and just use the cold hard reason of accounting, it all becomes clear. We pay a fee now with the expectation that we will get something of equal or greater value.

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Cost of 4 Months in Europe

Causeway Coast in N. Ireland (Over yonder way be Scotland)

Causeway Coast in N. Ireland (Over yonder way be Scotland)

For the 4 months from mid-April to mid-August 2016, we explored a healthy portion of Western Europe.

We started our journey in spring in the South and worked our way North as summer arrived. Our plans were very loose… we had only booked flights from Asia to Portugal (via Amsterdam) and from Iceland to the US. Everything in between we made up as we went along.

Our main goal for the trip was simply to enjoy some fine European cuisine. If we happened to discover a place that we could later happily spend months or even years, that would be a nice bonus. We definitely accomplished the former, and perhaps even the latter.

Roughly speaking, we spent a month each in Spain, Italy, and the UK / Ireland, and a week or less in the Netherlands, Portugal, Czech, Germany, Denmark, and Iceland; 10 countries in total.

Our European Trip

Flights, Trains, & Rental Cars – Our European Trip

Not surprisingly, this cost a bit more than our excursions through Latin America and SE Asia. Here is the full cost breakdown:

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Retire Early.

Travel the World.

Let's do this.

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