My plan to be a digital nomad and slow travel for the rest of 2021

As I sat in the freezing dark for hours earlier this month, lit only by candlelight, a crisp and salient thought began to form: fuck this.

My windows were covered in condensation that made puddles on the window sill. I put towels down and tried to wipe it up as best I could. My power came back in flashes and I ran around charging everything and trying to heat the place. Over the course of a week, I paid $700 for what little electricity I got. In the middle of the week, my lease expired.

I didn’t want to renew it, nor did I want to move elsewhere in Dallas. So, I called to give what I thought was my 30-day notice. But noooo, it’s a 60-day notice. They’ll “try” to get it rented sooner. Oh and keep the power on until the last day, they reminded me.

digital nomad

Lovely

So this is how it ends – talk about a whimper.

I picked the date, called my brother, and reserved a U-Haul. I’m gonna throw my stuff in a storage shed and live on the road for a while.

First stop next month: Memphis.

Digital nomad life

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The level set and a miserable month, but still up $10K – February 2021 Freedom update

February 2021 Freedom update

Well, this month just about broke me. There was a historic, once-in-a-generation cold snap in Texas accompanied by power outages and wind chills of -15 or more. I found myself without heat, power, water, and internet for the better part of a week.

And there was nowhere to go because the roads were a slick, icy mess. Fort Worth had a 133-car pileup. I considered going to a hotel, but didn’t want to risk it. For the power I had, I paid $9/kWh and over $700 in electricity for February alone. My lease expired and I’m now paying a $400 per month upcharge.

Things are better now, but overall February was a cold, miserable month where I did work by candlelight and got price gouged out the eyeballs.

February 2021 Freedom update

And I got new glasses for those eyeballs before the power outages

But, the positives: I had never ran out of food, work was amazingly sympathetic, and my net worth rose nearly $10,000 despite everything. I now have all the creature comforts again, but it’s too little, too late. Next month, I have some personal news to share but the gist of it is: I’m finally leaving Dallas!

More on that soon!

February 2021 Freedom update

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Up $8K, starting a new 401k, and possibly switching brokerages? – January 2021 Freedom update

Since last month, I went from 33% of the way toward my $500,000 net worth goal to 35% of the way there. Once I reach $200,000, I’ll be 40% of the way. I find that breaking it up into little steps is a lot more manageable than thinking about the entire goal all at once.

This month finds me sitting at ~$173K, so I’m focused on ways to reach that next milestone. The stock market has been kind, and I’m back to rebuilding my savings after paying off all my credit cards and car note last month. All told, I’m up ~$8,000 this month. And in a few days, I should be getting the first deposit into my new 401k from the job I started a few weeks ago.

january 2021 freedom update

Cute dog alert! He was napping right before I took this pic of us

Now that I have no liabilities and only assets to think about, my finances have gotten a bit… routine? So of course I have to rock the boat.

I’m seriously thinking of moving some assets to Bank of America – enough to qualify for the Platinum Honors tier in the Preferred Rewards program – and opening a couple of new cards and a checking account with them. But the thought of switching from Fidelity to Bank of America and from earning points to cashback is giving me heartburn.

Thus are the thoughts that find me on this cool, rainy evening in north Texas.

January 2021 Freedom update

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FoundersCard Review 2021: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

FoundersCard Review 2021

Time to update my FoundersCard review for 2021! I’ve been a member for 7 years by now. Each year, they add more (and more useful) benefits, keep the best ones, and refine their partnerships based on member demand and use.

The upshot is making the most of even ONE perk can outweigh the $395 membership – and the rest is gravy. And when you sign up with my link, your rate will never go up.

I’ve used the 15% AT&T discount, Hilton Gold elite status, and Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status (which is back this year through January 2022!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2021, mostly focused on business and lifestyle. A couple of the travel benefits have gone away, but I believe that’s reflective of where we currently are with Covid-19 and that they’ll return. Until then, what’s left is still a long list of benefits.

FoundersCard Review 2021

Has it really been 7 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again as a Charter Member

Here’s everything to know before you apply for membership.

FoundersCard Review 2021

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New job, no credit card debt, car paid off, and IRA maxed out – December 2020 Freedom update

Happy Holidays! 🎄 I feel a little bad for saying this but… 2020 was actually a really good year for me. No, I didn’t travel nearly as much as I wanted and being at home all year with an occasional trip to the grocery store wasn’t what I had in mind. But I did a lot of good, important work. Most of it inward.

I know this year has been hard for so many people, and I almost don’t want to celebrate my wins publicly. But that’s what these posts are about, and I’ve always posted when things have been down. So with that…

I’m hoping 2021 will be the year I thought 2020 would be: lots of travel, live music, and exploration. During the last year of reflection, I’ve been wanting to leave Dallas, reconfigure my future, and take control of my finances.

december 2020 freedom update

I’m a new plant dad and love having so much green around

And I’ve been doing well on that last part! I have so much to tell you. So much has happened right at the end of the year.

December 2020 Freedom update

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Amazon bank points deals: Save big by using 1 Amex, Capital One, Chase, or Citi point (YMMV)

amazon banks points deals

I’ve been using bank points of all kinds to save on Amazon purchases recently and wanted to share. This next week is the last dash to purchase gifts before the holidays, and in many cases you save big bucks by adding these promotions to your account and redeeming a single bank point.

These deals come and go frequently. Sometimes I’m targeted, other times not. Still, I always check to see if I’m targeted and add the promotions to my account.

I didn’t need anything the last time I got an offer, so I stocked up on dog food and called it a day. In that way, it’s great to save on basics or things you absolutely know you’ll need in the future. And of course, gifts! 🎁

amazon banks points deals

Save money on Amazon by clicking a link and activating a promotion – as easy as it gets

Y’all know I’m all about the quick, easy wins. And well, this is about as quick and easy as it gets.

Amazon bank points deals: How to use them

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One year of tracking later, my net worth is up $60K – November 2020 Freedom update

november 2020 freedom update

About a year ago, I started seriously tracking my net worth. And every month, I’ve posted what I call Freedom updates. Obviously, 2020 has been a wild ride and a lot has happened. I’ve had months where I’ve been way up and way down. Sometimes by tens of thousands from month to month.

After bouts of whiplash, I want to look back at where I started – before I sold my condo in Dallas and Covid-19 hit – and compare where I am now. As of today, my net worth in Personal Capital is $158,999 (darn that extra dollar lol). I’m up over $60,000 from the end of last year. And currently at 31.8% of my goal of a $500,000 net worth.

“They” say investing your first $100K is the hardest. And now my investments are sitting at $127,353. I’m contributing 30% of my paychecks to my 401k. And come January 2021, I’ll dip into my savings account to max out the $6,000 Roth IRA contribution early in the year.

november 2020 freedom update

This sure ain’t where I began. Ain’t where I end, either!

But before I get into all that, I just want to celebrate my overall progress. Despite everything, I averaged $5,000 per month in net worth gains over the last year. And now that I have momentum built, I’m hoping it’s just a short jump to the next $100K. Onward!

November 2020 Freedom update

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Easy Status Match: Caesars Diamond to M Life Gold to Hyatt Explorist through December 31, 2020

caesar m life status match

This is rather niche, but it works! Through December 31, 2020, if you have Caesars Diamond elite status, you can match it to M Life Gold, and from there, to Hyatt Explorist. I just did it this past weekend.

The only hitch is you must do the Caesars to M Life match in person. And of course, have Caesars Diamond status to start with, which is a free perk you get from FoundersCard membership. You can also get it from matching your Wyndham Platinum or Diamond status, which you can get from having a Wyndham credit card.

If you’re in a place where there are Caesars and MGM casinos or hotels, like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or Tunica, it takes just a few minutes to get it done. I was at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, and walked over to the Gold Strike Casino. From there, I matched from M Life Gold to Hyatt Explorist online in under a minute.

caesars m life status match

Easy way to get Hyatt Explorist if you can work it out

Within Hyatt’s program, Explorist – the middle tier – isn’t all that different from Discoverist – the lowest tier – which also comes with having the Chase World of Hyatt card. But this is an easy way to get it for free and without completing a single stay.

Caesars M Life status match to Hyatt Explorist

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Trip Report: My Texas-sized road trip to Austin, Big Bend National Park & Marfa

trip report big bend

I spent most of last week partying in Austin, hiking in Big Bend National Park, and driving. Lots of driving. I drove over 1,000 miles last week. But let me tell you: West Texas is insanely gorgeous. I had no idea. I kept thinking, “This is Texas?!” as I hiked and drove around the Big Bend area, very much in the middle of nowhere.

I was also able to squeeze in the River Road drive between Lajitas and Presidio (on my way to Marfa), 67 miles of pure twisty mountainous highway considered to be the most scenic drive in Texas and one of the most beautiful in the country.

All the hiking and driving made me feel, at times, that I was perhaps the last person on Earth. It’s such beautiful nature out there. And at night, you can see thousands and millions of stars and glimpses of the Milky Way, which make you feel like you’re on the fringes of the galaxy – which you actually are. Absolutely cosmic.

Big Bend trip report

At the terminus of Lost Mine trail, on the mountains… in Texas!

I wasn’t expecting so many mountains. Or to experience such biodiversity in Big Bend. For example, did you know there are bears in Texas? I sure didn’t. But sure enough, the park is populated with thriving black bears, along with mountain lions, deer, rattlesnakes, and lots of other critters that move between scorched desert to canyon to near-jungle, from cactus flowers to alpines.

Here’s more from the trip.

Big Bend trip report

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Free Food! Get $20 off your first meal with Uber Eats promo code “EATS-RFUFR”

Sharing an easy win for $20 off $25+ a meal with this Uber Eats promo code: “EATS-RFUFR

Uber eats promo code

Easy $20 discount with Uber Eats

If you’re in a city where UberEATS participates (and there are many – here’s the full list), you can get $20 off your first $25+ order when you use an existing user’s promo code after you download the app for iOS or Android.

It only takes a few minutes and you can get a nice discount out of it. I’ll show you how easy it is.

$20 off Uber Eats promo code

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A Bounce Back to a ~$150K Best-Ever Net Worth – October 2020 Freedom Update

october 2020 freedom update

Last month sure felt dismal. Felt like throwing money into a fire pit, like I wasn’t catching up to my effort. There have been so many ups and down this year that I should’ve known better. But sometimes doubt gets the best of us and it’s hard to keep riding the wave.

October was much better. I am putting 30% of my paychecks into my 401k and aggressively paying down my credit cards. As of this month, I only have $3,000 to go! I’m challenging myself to pay them off completely by the end of 2020.

So I’m saving heavily and getting into excellent financial shape – as of right now, the best of my entire life. My net worth is currently $148,641. That’s 30% of the way toward my $500,000 goal!

I hope the next couple of months treat me as favorably, though that might be tough with the election coming up in a couple of weeks. We will see how the stock market reacts. I kind of expect it to dip, no matter the outcome.

October 2020 Freedom Update

Sign o’ the times

But I’m keeping myself occupied. Working, writing, talking to friends. Looking forward to my Big Bend trip next weekend. Being present has emerged as a major theme for me lately. That and connection. ⚡️

October 2020 Freedom Update

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Booked: A Texas Road Trip to Austin & Big Bend National Park

I don’t post industry news – and as most of the world remains closed to Americans, I’ve withdrawn inward. Instead of planes, I’ve found solace in my car during the pandemic. My last trip was to Arkansas, and that was back in July.

I’ve been mostly shut-in, but am venturing out again, feeling more empowered and eager to explore. A wandering soul needs to wander.

My next trip is to Big Bend National Park via Austin at the end of this month. Two nights in Austin at the Hyatt Place Austin-North Central, then three nights in Terlingua, TX at this cute Airbnb cabin outside the entrance to Big Bend. Then back to Dallas through Midland and Abilene.

texas road trip 2020

The lil cabin I booked in Terlingua, TX

I used Hyatt points and a free night credit from my Chase World of Hyatt card for the two nights in Austin, so they were completely free. And paid for the Airbnb with my Chase Freedom Flex via PayPal, which is a 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points category in Q4 2020.

That Freedom Flex is a beast, I’m tellin’ ya

The only expenses I’ll have on the trip are gas, food, and pet fees at the Hyatt hotel. I’ve been wanting to visit Big Bend for as long as I’ve lived in Texas.

I took election week off to spend in nature and take a break from all the media and craziness. Coincidentally, I’ll be in Big Bend for Day of the Dead this year.

Texas road trip 2020

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