About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Hitting a major rough patch & down $35K – May 2020 Freedom Update

Selling my Dallas condo has consumed most of my energy this month. Every time I check the Zestimate on Zillow, it falls a little more (yeah, I know it’s not reliable, but seeing the number go down gets me in the worst way). The value was above $200K for a few years, and now it’s dipped below that.

I get the resale certificate tomorrow. At this point, I’m seriously considering offloading to a cash for homes place just to get rid of it so I can move on with my life.

Because of Covid-19, I was able to get a 90-day forbearance on the mortgage. So I’m hoping that whatever’s going to happen will work itself out in the next three months. Cuz it’s seriously stressing me out.

May 2020 Freedom Update

What good has come from this situation? I’m meditating again and preparing for life’s next chapter

In the background, I’ve taken time to reconnect to my meditation practice (remember when I did that 10-day meditation retreat when I first got to Dallas?). And I’m seriously considering going full digital nomad when I no longer have a mortgage pinning me down. I want to travel again – this time, for a long time.

I’m also cutting my losses. Mourning in advance, if you will. So while my numbers are down this month, it means I’m going to have to work that much harder (or smarter) to keep my goals on track. Either way, I feel I am winding down my time in Dallas.

May 2020 Freedom Update

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Up $11K, condo for sale, moved, and uncertain – April 2020 Freedom Update

What a month for my April 2020 Freedom update. My condo is on the market now (!). COVID-19. I moved into an apartment around the corner. And I’m still employed – for now.

I’m concerned my property value is going to drop like a stone.

I always thought I was doing the right thing by investing in property. I had no idea how much control an HOA would have and how much they can affect your asset. I just want to offload this thing as quickly as possible – and I’m willing to give somebody the deal of a lifetime if it means I can get out.

April 2020 Freedom Update

Would anyone like to buy a perfectly good condo in Dallas?

This experience has soured me on condos (specifically HOAs), and to some extent, Dallas. I’m just ready move on with my life.

I will never buy property with an HOA ever again. And this whole thing really makes me wonder if I really want to deal with owning property at all. I love my new apartment – everything works and I’m not responsible for anything. I can cancel my lease and be out of here with a 60-day notice. It’s so… unattached. So freeing.

Although with COVID-19 happening, I definitely see the value of living in a paid-off house, especially with money being uncertain.

So a lot has happened in these last four weeks. And I really hope even more happens in the next four.

For starters, my investments have started to recover. But the idea of “normality” still seems very far away.

April 2020 Freedom update

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Ways to support Out and Out during the COVID-19 pandemic

What a strange time to be a travel blogger. And what an especially strange time to be a travel blogger who’s also interested in personal finance topics. I can’t travel, and the economy is going through one of the rockiest, decline-iest, bear market-yist times in a generation – or a lifetime. #iquit #not

There’s no question page views and blog revenues are declining right now. There’s simply lack of interest and people are more preoccupied with daily existence rather than aspirational trips and points balances. I’m still here and ready to get back those types of reports. Trust me, I’m ready to book an epic trip the second things return to normal (in my cabin fever haze).

But what really rattled me was when my company slashed everyone’s salary and started cutting expenses left and right. So now I’m low-key worried about my future and thought – well, there’s no harm in asking for support. Plus, many readers might not know there are so many ways to support the blogs they enjoy. Including mine.

It’s always been hard for me to ask for support. But I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained. And oh, how I’d like to venture right now!

Ways to support Out and Out

Cheers to the many years this blog has been around

Many of the ways you can support are super simple – by clicking a link at no cost to you. Affiliate links are free for you and directly support the blogger of your choice – including me.

And most links have a benefit to you in the form of promotions for services we’re mutually interested in.

I encourage everyone to support the blogs, little guys, small businesses, and local joints they love – we need you more than ever during this pandemic. So please please please use our links!

I will also go ahead and say thank you for the first of many times throughout this post. Thank you for your support!

Ways to support Out and Out

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Review of My $100 Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Writing this now is so weird because my last trip was exactly a month go today. In early March, I headed to Cabo San Lucas to enjoy a 4-night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. Read about how I booked it for $100 per person – including flights – for what would’ve been a $2,600 trip.

And now I’m reminiscing because I don’t know when my next trip will be, which would’ve seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago. I have FinCon set up in Long Beach in early October. Sure hope I can still get to that. But no jet-setting or hopping around the globe for a while. I’m craving a nice long trip to Europe. ✈️🇪🇺

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

Cabo was my last trip in a pre-virus world. Here I am a month ago at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

So I’ll take my time writing this one. While we were in Cabo, word was already starting to circulate about this mysterious new virus. But it wasn’t in full effect yet.

Because of the constant news cycles and information, I feel like this trip was years ago instead of four weeks. 😝

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

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10 ways to make the most of self-isolation (Quarantine and chill edition)

quarantine and chill

We’re all staying at home during this pandemic. Because self-isolation is a must. It’s weird to not have the option to go out for a meal or grab a drink. And I miss hanging out with friends.

But, I’m dealing like everyone else. Washing my hands, staying inside, and taking long (socially-distanced) walks with the pupper. He really is my best friend right now. We quarantine and chill.

quarantine and chill

And we are staying worked out and hydrated throughout this thing, ok?

Here are 10 things getting me through this lockdown.

May the lord open.

10 things to do during quarantine and chill

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Taking a $25,000 beating & dealing with panic in a bear market – March 2020 Freedom Update

This year has already been difficult in many ways. So I’ll have to unleash a whole lot of not great news. Of course, everything is down right now. And I’m fighting my HOA about a roof repair and thinking about renting an apartment nearby and trying to sell my current place.

All that’s been going on in the background as everything I’ve worked to save in the past year or two has been wiped out in the stock market. I’m hoping I can sell before my property value suffers too much. I will never, NEVER live in a place with an HOA EVER again.

That said, I’m grateful to have a job that’s allowing us to work from home. But this – all of this – moving, renting, selling, and making repairs to my current place (including the roof and ceiling!) are going to cost me everything I have. Like, everything.

But I have to try.

March 2020 Freedom Update

I few weeks ago, we lived in a different world and I was in Cabo. How quickly things change

For a second, my finances are going to spin out of control. And oddly enough, it’ll all be OK.

March 2020 Freedom update

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One IRA maxed, a return to credit cards & up $10,000 – February 2020 Freedom Update

Hello my droogs. How quickly things change in a day.

I started this post with such excellent news to report: big gains, strong performance, and hard work paying off. As I write this, I fear I’m about to go into battle with my HOA over repairs that haven’t been made for a month – right before my (nearly free) Cabo trip. So I’ll try to put myself back into my previous headspace and vent about the rest later. Because I need to vent.

The good news is a continuous upward trend. Though I fear coronavirus is about to give my stocks a hell of a beating, I’ll have to see it as an opportunity to buy more at a discount. Because it’ll pass and that’s what it is.

This month finds me almost done maxing out my 2019 Roth IRA. Then I can finish paying my credit cards and turn attention to the 2020 Roth IRA. All according to plan.

February 2020 Freedom update

I’ll be back in Mexico at the end of this week, a lot further ahead than I was before – even if it doesn’t feel that way right now

The HOA stuff might throw a wrench in my progress soon, and I hate that. But life, right?

Sigh – going back to previous headspace again. As it stands now, my overall net worth is up to $137,88528% of the way toward my $500,000 goal. Baby steps feel so good.

February 2020 Freedom update

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Citi retention offer: A quick call got me 3X ThankYou points everywhere (up to 35K)

I’ve written how everyone with a Citi card should call at least once a year and check for a Citi retention offer – particularly if the card has an annual fee.

My Citi Prestige annual fee recently posted. I called, and no joy. This week, the fee on my beloved AT&T Access More card posted, so I called again.

This time, I got my favorite retention offer so far: an extra 2X Citi ThankYou points on all spending, with a max of 35,000 points.

That breaks down to 3X points per $1 spent on up to $17,500 spent in non-bonus categories. And 5X points per $1 spent for online purchases (which are a bonus category with this card). Wow.

Citi retention offer

Gosh I love this card

I immediately queued up mortgage, HOA, and car payments with Plastiq (because it’s a MasterCard, which you can use for those payments) and moved the card into my wallet – a place it hasn’t been for a looong time.

3X Citi ThankYou points for everyday spending is an awesome return. I value that at 6% assuming each point is worth 2 cents each.

Morever, earning an extra 35,000 ThankYou points is worth $700 to me by that same metric. AND this card earns an extra 10,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend at least $10,000 in a cardmember year. Because this offer will also trigger that bonus, I value it for an additional $200.

So yes, this quick call recouped the card’s $95 annual fee nearly 10 times over. And is a great reminder why you should always always call Citi about retention offers.

Note: The Citi AT&T Access More card is no longer available. Nope, not even for product changes.

Citi retention offer details

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FoundersCard Review 2020: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

Time to update my FoundersCard review for 2020! I’ve been a member for 6 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 2021!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2020!

FoundersCard review 2020

Wow, has it really been 6 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again as a Charter Member and yes that’s a really old picture

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

FoundersCard Review 2020

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Booked: How I used points to save $2,000+ on five days at FinCon 2020

fincon 2020

Dang, conferences are expensive these days! Especially if you’re paying for it yourself and not getting reimbursed from a job. But FinCon is one I’m happy to self-finance.

I’m genuinely interested in the content, meeting like-minded peeps, and immersing myself in a world of ideas about money. Now that I’m FIRE-ing up my efforts more than ever and missed last year in DC, I simply had to go. But I didn’t want to pay the piper.

So I burned a batch of old Marriott points for a five-night stay only four minutes from the conference hall, plus a few Amex Membership Rewards points. And used Citi ThankYou points and statement credits to fly there and back. The only thing I’ll pay for is food, rideshares to/from the airports, and dog boarding. 💥

fincon 2020 points

There’s yours truly among the revelers at FinCon

All told, I think I paid ~$100 for the flights and hotel. FinCon, here I come!

FinCon 2020 with points

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Booked: Four all-inclusive nights in Cabo worth $2,600 for $202 + 145K points (1.8 cpp)

hyatt ziva los cabos

For the third year in a row, I’m heading to a Hyatt all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with an old friend from Chicago. The past two years, we’ve gone to the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.

This year, we’re switching it up and visiting the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos! I’ve never been to Cabo – and a look at all the restaurants at the hotel was all the convincing I needed.

We could’ve booked PVR again – it all lined up with points – but said nah, let’s visit a new property. After this trip, I will have been to all the Hyatt all-inclusives in Mexico with the exception of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. And if it’s anything like the past two years, it’s going to be an amazing beach chill-out.

hyatt ziva los cabos with points

Y’all know I can’t pay out-of-pocket for this rn

But I have aggressive financial goals to raise my net worth to $500,000 in the next five years. So there was no way I’d remotely consider paying for this experience.

Instead, I used my points arsenal for flights on Alaska, American, Southwest, and United – and the Hyatt stay itself – with help from Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.

Here’s how I saved $2,637 and paid a cool $202 out-of-pocket. A much better price!

Los Cabos with points 2020

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Invest Vs Pay Down Credit Card Debt & Up $11,000 – January 2020 Freedom Update

Most of my thoughts recently have been on money instead of travel. Now that I have aggressive financial goals, I want to meet at least a few milestones before I take another big trip.

I’m seeing the juncture of points & miles with personal finance so clearly. I’m understanding how much you can really save on travel by accumulating credit card rewards – and sinking the extra funds into investment accounts.

Of course, I’ve always known how awesome points are if you’re passionate about travel. And you bet your bottom dollar I’m gonna treat myself to a nice big award (!) trip to celebrate soon enough.

January 2020 Freedom Update

Travel will always be my #1 passion. Now I’m wondering: where is the intersection of traveling cheap and living frugally?

This month, I was waiting for the right time to post this update. But there is no perfect time and things will always be in flux.

With that in mind, let’s dive into what happened in January!

January 2020 Freedom update

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