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Archive for June, 2014

June 7: Wildlife Feeding Wagon Ride Super Fun

June 22nd, 2014 at 11:50 am

My plan for today was to tag along with my wife to an offsite church group activity at Virginia Safari Park. But I did not expect to turn into a kid again or have so much fun!

We carpooled about 100 miles from the church assembly point to this Virginia Safari Park, a place I had never heard of. It turned out to be the kind of wildlife attraction where you drive through a huge park-like area where exotic animals from around the world roam free and come close to your vehicle. But instead of driving in our own vehicles, our group program included riding through in a large, open, tractor-pulled wagon that made this even more fun.

As we boarded the wagon after an ostrich-gawking picnic lunch, the driver-guide gave each of us a large plastic bucket full of animal kibble. Every so often, he would stop the wagon along the trail and the animals would converge on us to be fed, close and personal, and essentially by hand. I loved it!

You name it, we fed it. Food bucket snatching camels, pot-bellied pigs, huge-headed Scotch Highland cattle, super tame buffalo, all kinds of gazelles and antelopes, llamas, deer and elk, and more. All coming right up to the wagon and sticking their heads in over the transoms for the food.

The bunch of little kids in our group got me acting like a little kid too. Wanting to be sure I got to feed everything. Wanting to pet everything. Keeping the camels from stealing our buckets. Pouring kibble onto the gigantic tongues of begging buffalos. Ooohing and aaahing over everything. It was great.

After the wagon ride, my wife and I roamed all over the pedestrian zoo-like part of the park to see many more exotic creatures and birds as they "did their thing" in various enclosures. And some of those animals were super-unusual australian and south asian species I had never ever heard of before. So that was great, too.

The trip to this place took practically all day, but it was sure worth it to me. On the way home, we errand-bundled building-supply and grocery stops. And topped it all off with a nice dinner out.

What a nice break.

# # #

June 6: Doggie Surgery and MORE Packrating

June 21st, 2014 at 05:29 pm

My plan for the day was to spend the day packing up stuff* at our now-vacant previous home while my old and blind doggie, Little Bit, had surgery performed to remove a massive mammary growth. All went as planned. All went well.

Again, I had to skip a coffee-and-blogging start to my morning** so I could get Little Bit to the vet by 8:00 am -- which I did. Then back I went to our old house to keep working at getting the heck out of it.

It might seem strange for me to take my dog to a vet that is located over 100 miles from my present home, but it actually often ends up being more time efficient for me to do things like vet trips, bank stops and DMV visits when I am already going to be doing the 100-mile trip anyway.***

By 2:30pm, I had done all the packing I could stand doing, my truck was loaded and I was ready to get the heck out of Dodge. Got to the vet by 3pm, and there was Little Bit with a successful surgery under her belt (no pun intended).

With my doggie snuggled up in one of her most favorite places in the world (my pickup's passenger seat), we were off and running. Two-and-a-half hours and 102 miles later, we were home. Another half-hour and my truck was emptied out and I had had it for the day.

After that, it is all a blur but I would not be surprised if I wrapped up my day with a big Chivas Regal and an extended round of Pacific War!****

# # #

* Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

**** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

June 5: A Great Hike and Some More Packrating

June 21st, 2014 at 03:02 pm

My plan for the day was to drive over to our now-vacant previous home (102 miles each way), do some caretaking there, load up my pickup* with yet another load of boxed up stuff**, and do a nice hike*** at nearby Shenandoah Virginia State Park. It all worked out.

8:00am to 1:30pm
I skipped my usual early morning coffee-and-blog-writing**** routine to get an early start on my drive. (It takes me a long time to get ready to go.) So I arrived at our previous home around noon, just in time for lunch.

After setting up for my overnight stay (because staying at a vacant house is just like camping!), I had a sandwich lunch while viewing the lecture on The Egyptian New Kingdom in my Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations DVD course.

1:30pm to 5:30pm
Drove over to Shenandoah Virginia State Park and piggybacked Overlook Trail and Allen's Mountain Trail (up and down the mountain) to trailwalk some 4 miles. Great stuff.

5:30pm to 7:30pm
Got a couple of hours packing in and then goofed off the rest of the night.

7:30pm until...
Cooked up dinner, ate it and then caught up my Pacific War fantasy combat journal*****, all while watching the movie Gettysburg.

# # #

* My Oldie-Goldie Thrifty-Nifty Truck:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/25/my-oldie-g...

** Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

*** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

**** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

***** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

June 4: Raccoon Release and Spend Spree Progress

June 21st, 2014 at 01:18 pm

My plan for the day was to focus mostly on doing stock research* and working on setting up my part-time hiking blog business.** That got changed by a raccoon, a newspaper flyer and a brochure in the mail. But it was all good in the end.

Today, I did my early morning coffee routine at the computer while I edited, typed up and posted my blog article Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort. Then off to the barnyard -- where we found our first trapped raccoon.***

8:00am to 12:00 noon
-- Drove and hiked into a secluded wooded area with fresh water access, and released the raccoon. It trotted off about 20 feet, went behind a tree, and then stood there on its haunches looking at me. (Yes, you are welcome for your life, raccoon.)
-- Back at home, I did some stock portfolio monitoring**** and it was time for lunch.

12:00 noon to 1:30pm
-- Another enjoyable sandwich lunch eaten in front of the TV watching a DVD lecture in the Great Courses' Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations.

1:30pm to 6:30pm
-- A day or two ago, a newspaper flyer from Ace Hardware sold us on picking up a modest above-ground pool there at a great discounted price*****. This afternoon, we set it up. (1000 gallons of water is a lot of water.)
-- Having some leftover time and energy, I knocked off a few boxes off our monstrous storage pile.****** It's a start and it felt good.

6:30pm until...
-- Having hardly made a dent on my June 30-deadlined $5000 spending spree*******, I opened today's mail to find an offer I could not resist from the Great Courses company. Seventy percent off on anything and everything in their catalog, including all already discounted courses on sale. So I spent an hour or so deciding what to buy and how to get the most bang for my buck, and then I picked up the phone and ordered TEN courses at a total cost of $795 including taxes and shipping. (List price on the courses was well above $3,000.) Take that, spending spree.
-- And then I played a little Pacific War********...

# # #

* My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

** For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

*** A Raccoon Raid and Coop Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/10/may-31-a-r...

**** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

***** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

****** Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

******* A $5000 No-Guilt Spending Spree!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/24/a-5000-no-...

******** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

June 3: Heavy Stockering and a Trapped Raccoon

June 20th, 2014 at 11:31 am

My plan for today was to spend most of my task time "stockering": reviewing quarterly earnings reports on my portfolio companies* and researching new investments to make.** Plus doing a little more start-up planning for my TrailWalkers Club part-time business***. And I accomplished all that.

Today was also the day we trapped a big raccoon we suspect is the raider that killed 2 of my wife's chickens last week!****

I launched my day with an early round of blog writing, getting down 200 more words***** on my newest opus, Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort, while enjoying a cup of my free gourmet coffee.******

8:00am to 12:00 noon
-- barnyard critter detail and house chores
-- pinned down all the regulatory hoops I will have to jump through to start up TrailWalkers Club (county, state and fed -- oh, my!)

12:00 noon to 1:30pm
-- lunch and another Great Courses DVD lecture from Prehistoric Man and the First Civilizations.
-- welcomed my wife home from her latest business trip.

1:30pm to 6:30pm
-- researched stocks, plowed through several quarterly earnings reports, and set up some new buys and some possible profit-making sales.

6:30pm to ...
-- set out our new and BIGGER live trap at the barnyard.
-- after dinner, played a long session of Pacific War******.

and a trapped raccoon!
-- the trap worked and the next morning we found a big raccoon in the trap!

# # #

* How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

** My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

*** For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

**** A Raccoon Raid and Coop Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/10/may-31-a-r...

***** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

****** Free Gourmet Coffee Every Day:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/11/free-gourm...

******* My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

A Frugal Tale of 2 PCs (Part 2)

June 15th, 2014 at 10:40 am

Last year, I had to choose between spending $350 for a new laptop computer or spending $113 to get both my desktop pc and my laptop back into service.* Of course, I went the frugal route** and regained the use of 2 computers for one third the cost of buying just one. Unfortunately, my Gateway laptop has now developed new problems that actually make replacing it the frugal way to go. Luckily, I have found a way to also keep using my old Gateway that makes the cost of my new laptop tax-deductible. Here is how.

My Gateway laptop's screen suddenly went black. It had been flickering slightly for a few days, but this was finally the end. One second I had a fine screen image and the next I had nothing. My local pc repair shop offers free diagnostics so I took my poor pc there. The tech confirmed that my screen was dead... priced out an installed replacement screen at $170... and showed me the keyboard command to shunt the laptop's image signal to an exterior monitor. And that would give me a frugal solution. But...

My laptop's operating system had become another problem. My Gateway's operating system is Windows XP. I knew Microsoft had stopped "supporting" Windows XP in April. But I did not realize what that meant until the tech explained it to me. No support means no more software updates automatically downloaded and installed when you shut your pc down. And no software updates means no software "patches" to combat new hacker threats. My XP system had become an open door for hackers to access my laptop anytime I went online. All my financial accounts and passwords were now at serious risk of breach.

Now repairing would cost more than buying new. I could have a "late model" Windows 7 operating system for $190 installed. I could replace my screen for $170 installed. And I would have to spend $70 to clear my Gateway of any and all viruses and malware it had picked up. That all added up to $430. Instead, I bought a brand new Asus Transformer Convertible Tablet/Laptop for $374 total. With more computing capability than my Gateway. Preloaded with Microsoft Office, which I did not have on my Gateway. And perfect for my under-development hiking blog side business.***

But my old Gateway will still help keep things frugal. I have a spare working monitor! So I just connected it to my Gateway using the keyboard command the tech showed me and my old laptop became usable again. I just will not use it for financial or other password-sensitive stuff. The Gateway is now my "fun" internet computer, dedicated to Retired-To-Win blogging and web surfing. Why bother doing that? Because it makes the purchase of the my new Asus laptop tax-deductible.

My new Asus is now my "business" computer. I will use it for portfolio stock management**** and for TrailWalkers Club*** work. This makes the $374 cost of the Asus a tax-deductible business expense. And therefore brings my true cost for the Asus down to under $300. (To be exact, $296 if I factor in the cashback reward.*****) Sweet!

The takeaway: There is more than one way to skin a cat. And more than one way to be frugal. When a piece of equipment stops working, don't just run out to buy a replacement. Always look first into repairing what you have.****** Then go with the frugal flow.

# # #

* A Frugal Tale of Two PCs:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/11/a-frugal-t...

** How I Do Frugality Without Sacrifice:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/12/how-i-do-f...

*** For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

**** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

***** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

****** Repair It or Replace It?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/31/repair-it-...

June 2: A Long Hike on a New Trail and Paperwork

June 14th, 2014 at 11:14 am

My plan for today was to go hiking* in the morning (before the rains came) and hunker down to do paperwork in the afternoon. And so I did. Walked a long, hard new trail and swept a bunch of paper out of my inbaskets.

I am now back to my early am routine of good coffee** and blog post writing.*** So I did some 200 words on my new blog article "Cashback Cards ARE Worth The Effort", had breakfast and got ready to go hiking.

8:00am to 1:30pm
-- With my wife Kathy on a business trip, I took care of her barnyard (geese, bunnies, chickens) for her.
-- Took a nice drive to Walnut Creek Park for my hike.
-- Since I had enough energy and time, I walked the longest trail in the Park (about 4 miles) for a darn good workout, seeing as this Wilkins Way Trail was designed for trail biking and that made it challenging in places for on-foot hikers. But what the heck!
-- Back at home, I had lunch while viewing The Origins of States and Civilizations, lecture #19 in the Prehistory and First Civilizations DVD course I am currently "attending."

1:30pm to 7:30pm
-- Dove into my paperwork pile and paid bills, updated stock records,**** fixed admin problems and placed orders for miscellaneous house stuff.
-- Wrapped my tasks time block***** with 45 minutes of new-planting watering for my wife.

7:30pm to ...
-- Had dinner and played Pacific War****** until I got too sleepy to stay awake.
-- NICE DAY!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** Free Gourmet Coffee Every Day:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/11/free-gourm...

*** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

**** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

***** Making Time For Fun:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-tim...

****** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

Free Gourmet Coffee Every Day

June 11th, 2014 at 11:30 am

I drink fancy, schmanzy Tully's French Roast Coffee. I get it in little individual serving "K cups" that I brew in a Keurig coffee maker. These K-cups come in boxes of 18 that retail at $11.78 (with tax) where I get them. That works out to 65 cents per cup of coffee. But I do not pay a single penny for my coffee and have not for a couple of years. Here is how I manage that.

First step: I use cashback cards. And I always make sure that I am taking advantage of each credit card's quarterly 5% cashback promotion.* My Discover cashback card has promotions like that. So I make sure to carry that card in my wallet and use it whenever I can get that 5% cashback leverage on purchases I am going to make anyway.

Second step: I leverage my cashback redemptions.** For the Discover card, that means that I redeem my cashback Discover dollars for Bed Bath and Beyond gift cards instead of cash. Doing that gets me a $25 BBBY gift card for just 20 Discover cashback dollars.

Third step: I wait for the BBBY discount coupons. These come regularly via emails and via postal mail flyers. And they are good for either $5 off a $15 purchase or 20% off a single item.

Fourth step: I go get that free coffee. Here are the numbers from my most recent BBBY coffee raid. I gave the cashier two 18-cup boxes to ring up at $11.49 each, for a total of $22.98. Then I gave her a $5 off store coupon, leaving a balance of $17.98. Add the 2.5% food sales tax, and the final total was $18.43. To pay, I handed the cashier a $25 BBBY gift card. And I walked out with my two 18-cup boxes of Tully's French Roast Coffee and $6.57 credit still left on my BBBY gift card.

Doing the math, I leveraged 14.74 in Discover cashback dollars by almost 60% to get coffee worth $23.55 after tax. That is a nice win. And I got those Discover cashback dollars just for using that credit card on 5% cashback purchases I would have made anyway. That is a win-win. Free gourmet coffee every day. Win-win-win.

The takeaway: Playing the Frugal Game my way*** will put a smile on your face every time.

# # #

* Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

** Leveraging Up CashBack Rewards:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/18/leveraging...

*** Playing the Frugal Game is Fun!
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/14/playing-th...

June 1: Catching Up and Sprung Raccoon Traps

June 11th, 2014 at 11:08 am

My plan for today was to sweep through May-end pending chores and paperwork, and to do some blog planning. I managed to do all that, while continuing to act out our raccoon raid saga.*

I got back to my routine of starting my day with good coffee and writing or posting in my blog.** Today I posted an article I titled Is That Expense Essential or Discretionary?***. Then onto the chores and paperwork.

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- First thing, I went to check the traps we set out last night.* No raccoons. Just sprung traps several feet from where I set them. We are going to need a bigger trap! (So my wife promptly ordered one.)
-- Then I blitzed through a whole bunch of home administration paperwork until lunch time.

12:00noon to 1:30pm
-- Back to my routine of a nice sandwich lunch while viewing a Great Courses DVD lecture. (Presently, I am halfway through the course on Human Prehistory and First Civilizations.)

1:30pm to 5:30pm
-- Because it is month-end and I just returned from a 3-day trailwalking trip****, I doubled up today's task time and dove back into the paperwork.
-- That done, I spent a couple of hours reviewing quarterly earnings reports***** from companies in my stock portfolio (something I am falling behind on) and placing some orders for tomorrow.

5:30pm until...
-- Work time done, I spent my evening doing some blog planning, organizing my TrailWalkers Club to-do notes, and playing my Pacific War pc game.******

# # #

* A Raccoon Raid and Coop Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/10/may-31-a-r...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** Is That Expense Essential or Discretionary?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/01/is-that-ex...

**** Two More Parks and Two More Hikes:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/10/may-30-two...

***** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

****** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

May 31: A Raccoon Raid and Coop Defense

June 11th, 2014 at 01:06 am

Whatever plans I may have had for today flew out the window when, early in the morning, my wife came in from her barnyard and announced that we had "a crisis in the henhouse." I spent the better part of the day helping her address that crisis by setting up chicken coop defenses against suspected raccoon raiders. Here is the whole story.

Yesterday, my wife had reported the disappearance of Goldie, one of her preferred egg-laying hens. Not finding her in the coop when she opened it that morning, she had speculated that Goldie might have somehow escaped the previous evening before the coop was closed up for the night. But, alas, no. Because today she found the mangled and torn-asunder body of Cochee, her only Cochin hen, on the roof of the 8-foot chicken coop.

She deduced that a raccoon had found a way to scale the coop wall, crawl into the coop through the ventline that runs along and under the roof, catch and drag out the hen, and then totally shred her. So, we had a job to do if we were going to keep our remaining 5 chickens from suffering a similar fate.

So off we went to obtain the materials and get the tools to completely wrap the roof ventline in tightly-stapled chicken wire so no raccoon could again crawl in. But there was more to be done, because who was to say that a dexterous raccoon would not be able to open one of the rabbit hutch doors and make off with one of my wife's cute bunnies? So we installed raccoon-proof spring-loaded latches on all four rabbitt hutches and weighed each of their swing-up hutch tops with a brick.

That took care of defense. Then on to offense. Because the raccoon(s) had to go.

So that night we set up 2 live traps around the chicken coop (each baited with an open can of tuna) and retired for the night hoping for the best.

I did do some stock portfolio management today and took care of some other paperwork. But that was just minutiae. Today was the day of the raccoon.

# # #

May 30: Two More Parks and Two More Hikes

June 11th, 2014 at 12:05 am

This was the third and last day of my kickoff trailwalking* trip. I planned it as a 350-400 mile driving loop that took me all the way to Fairy Stone Park in Stuart (VA) and by today's end brought me back home. And in between I explored 5 state parks and took 5 hikes** covering 8 trails. Today's part of the plan came off without a hitch, as I hiked some 5+ miles on Otter Path Trail at Twin Lakes State Park and Channel Cat Trail on Bear Creek Lake State Park.

I started off the morning with a 50-or-so-mile drive from the Super 8 in South Boston to Twin lakes State Park*** in a pit stop of a "town" called Green Bay. Once I got on Otters Path Trail, I found it to be a "rolling wave" type of trail, going up and down and up and down and getting me to huff and puff almost the whole 3.5 mile way. From the nicely cleared and wide trail,I had pretty views of the lake and picturesque views of "acrobatic" creek crossings.

After a picnic lunch, I drove another 40 miles to Bear Creek Lake State Park**** in Cumberland (VA). Channel Cat Trail itself was well marked, but not so its junctions with cutouts and side trails. This made it a challenge to stay on course, even with the help of a trail guide (which was not very much help at all). But I managed.

I chose to do Channel Cat because it was described as an "interpretive" trail. But the signs along the trail were off the mark, not really interpreting the scene around you but instead imparting information on such burning topics as what bait works best on a particular fish. The real highlight of this hike was a half-mile side trail named Running Cedars Trail. Narrow, with towering trees close-in and lush vegetation underfoot, it delivered a very satisfying woodland experience.

And then another 50-mile drive and I was home. Just in time to go out to dinner!

# # #

* I Am A TrailWalker Now!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/19/i-am-a-tra...

** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

*** Twin Lakes State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/twin-lakes.shtml

**** Bear Creek Lake State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/bear-creek-lake.shtml

May 29: Three Hikes Along the Staunton River

June 9th, 2014 at 11:06 am

This was the second day of my three-day "shakeout" trailwalking trip.* The weather forecast predicted rain, but I dodged it all day and did all my hiking** while staying dry. I pulled off my plan for the day and logged 3 hikes in 2 state parks along the Staunton River.

I started my day with a nice country drive along 40 or so miles of back roads from the Best Western in Danville to the Staunton Bridge Battlefield State Park*** outside the teeny-tiny town of Randoph (VA). Although this was a smallish, one-day battle, the state and a non-profit group have done a great job of preserving the site. There is a very well-done visitor/education center and the 2.2-mile battlefield trail I hiked**** is well posted with interpretive signs on what happened when during this engagement fought over control of a bridge vital to Confederate resupplying of the besieged city of Petersburg.

Next, I headed for the Staunton River State Park***** some twenty miles away, after enjoying a picnic lunch at the battlefield park. The big highlights of this hiking were the river views along the trails. This was aerobic, up-and-down, body-leaning-forward hiking that gave me a good workout. From the extensive network of intersecting trails, I cobbled a composite 3.5 mile hike going from the River Bank Trail to Crow's Nest Trail to Robin's Roost Trail to Captain Staunton's Trail and back to end at the River Bank Trail trailhead. And I was ready for some rest!

My stop for the night was the Super 8 at South Boston, which I reached after another 20-mile drive. No luggage cart there, so I had to do a lot of back-and-forth trips to my truck to get fully set up in the room. But it was all good, anyway. I had a good night and it was a good day.

# # #

* May 28 -- Little Mountain Falls Trail:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/06/may-28-lit...

** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

*** Staunton River Battlefield Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/staunton-river-battl...

**** Frugal Fun: Hiking Civil War Trails:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/16/frugal-fun...

***** Staunton River State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/staunton-river.shtml

OCIR: Big Dividend, Big Profit

June 6th, 2014 at 11:16 am

Between February 5th and February 21st, I bought 1380 shares of OCI Resources (OCIR) for $29,288. On May 28th, about 3 months later, I sold those shares for $32,766. That sale gave me a $3478 realized gain. Just one month before that sale, OCIR had paid me $690 in quarterly dividends. All told, holding OCIR for a little over 3 months netted me $4168 which worked out to a 14.2% profit on my original investment. This was another "textbook case" of my dividend-based investment approach* in action. Here is how that worked this time.

I discovered OCIR during my weekly stock search. Its 9.4% dividend yield caught my interest. Its financials passed my tests.* And its business model, centered on long-term sales contracts, gave OCIR's dividends the extra stability I like to see.** So it was just a question then of when to buy shares of this utterly boring soda ash mining and production company.

OCIR was good to buy right then. That was because the stock was selling around $21 a share with solid price support at $20.00. So, if I bought around $21, the stock's annual $2 dividend would give me downside protection down to $19, which would be well below OCIR's $20 price-support level. This made OCIR a "safe buy"* right then and there.

I bought at an average $21.22 and sat back to collect dividends. Because that is what I always do. I buy stocks for the dividends.*** I never buy a stock on the expectation that its price will rise. (Well, almost never.****) But often, the price does rise. That is what happened with OCIR, due to some happy talk about the company here and there in the investing blogosphere.

And within 3 months, OCIR reached my sell point. That sell point was a 10% realized gain, which in my view is the same as collecting an entire year's worth of dividends in advance.***** So I pulled the trigger and sold OCIR once its price had risen past that point -- which is another thing I always do. And that (1) put a year's expected income in my pocket now from the $29K I had invested, and (2) gave me a year's time to find the next company in which to invest that now cashed-out $29,000.***** Like I said at the beginning: a textbook case.

The takeaway: Have a plan for your investing. Have the discipline to stick to it if it is working, and the flexibility to change it if it is not working. Know how much money you want to make and take it when you have made it. Do not be greedy. And know how low a stock's price can fall before you need to start worrying. Do not be a Pollyanna. But do not be a scaredypants either.

# # #


* My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

** Stacking The Deck For Dividends:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/14/stacking-t...

*** Why I Only Buy Dividend Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/01/why-i-only...

**** Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/15/stock-pani...

***** What Makes Me Sell a Stock?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/14/what-makes...

May 28: Little Mountain Falls Trail (FairyStone Park)

June 6th, 2014 at 10:38 am

Today was the first day of my 3-day TrailWalking trip. Not only did I have fun, but this day's hike* also marked the start of my attempt at a hiking-based part-time business**.

My morning was spent actually driving down to my destination area. I arrived at Fairy Stone State Park (VA)*** around noon or so. Had lunch at a picnic table (I always pack my own trip vittles) and planned my hike.

I spent the next 3 hours finding, hiking and photographing Little Mountain Falls Trail.
-- The park trail guide was not very good and neither were the trailhead sign posts.
-- Long story short, I had to hunt for the Little Mountain Falls trail head by cutting through a campground and walking around a closed-gate access road. But I found it.
-- I hiked the 3.3 mile loop trail, which included a panoramic view overlook and the 20-30-foot drop creek waterfall that the trail is named for.
-- And I did my first test of the "TrailWalkers Trail Notes Form" that I developed to record trail observations which I will then use as the basis for a trail report to be posted in my new hiking blog.

With that nice workout under my belt, I drove about another hour to get to the Best Western at Danville, where I spent a very comfortable night.

A good start to the trip!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

*** Fairy Stone State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/fairy-stone.shtml

Cashback Cards ARE Worth The Effort

June 4th, 2014 at 11:15 am

Some people think that there is not enough money in cash reward cards to go to all the trouble of managing them. Of course, I do not see it that way at all.* Check this out.

I just placed a $2692 order for 16 new windows. I made sure to charge that purchase on my Discover cashback credit card, which is running a special 5% cashback promotion on home improvement store purchases.* By doing so, I got a $135 credit in cashback dollars from Discover. And I will leverage those cashback dollars** to get anywhere from $168 to $270 in good-as-cash gift cards to use on goods and services I would buy anyway.

To score all that free money, all I had to do was (1) know that Discover was running that special promotion, (2) sign up for the promotion, and (3) make sure I carried that card in my wallet when I went to buy the windows. It just took a little credit card management on my part to capture a big cashback payout. It is worth the effort. Here is more on that.

In the first place, cashback card management is just another fun round of the Frugal Game*** that I love to play to save money without really giving up anything.

Second of all, it is not chump change I am getting here. My annual baseline living costs are around $18,000**** and I figure about $8000 of that is credit card billable. At a conservative 2.5% average cash back on that $8000, that is 200 cashback dollars. Factor in a modest 25% average redemption leverage** and my found money goes up to $250 a year. But that is just from my baseline living expenses. I also spend another discretionary***** $10,000 a year for fun stuff. And all of that is credit card billable. So add another $300 to my yearly found money from putting in a little effort into the management of my cash reward credit cards. That means that in total I am adding $550 a year to my discretionary fund for just taking an hour or less every 3 months to check a few credit card websites and rotate a couple of credit cards in and out of my wallet. I am getting over $100 an hour for my effort.

No, I do not pay more in order to get cashback rewards. For example, I bought those 16 windows at a big box home improvement discount store. I timed the purchase to get a 15% special sale discount that saved me $475 over and above the store's already discounted price. And I used a $25 store coupon to push down my cost even further. So the 5% cashback I got from Discover was on top of the $500 I would have saved without using the card.

And, yes, I will pay off that window purchase charge when the credit card statement comes in. Which is what I do with all the purchases I charge on cashback cards. It is all good.

The takeaway: Doing cashback credit cards is worth it to me in principle because I never leave money on the table. That would not be very frugal.

# # #

* Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

** Leveraging Up CashBack Rewards:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/18/leveraging...

*** Playing the Frugal Game is Fun!
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/14/playing-th...

**** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

***** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

May 27: Getting Ready for My First TrailWalker Trip

June 4th, 2014 at 10:59 am

My plan for the day was to do some financial paperwork and finalize my planning for the 3-day TrailWalker trip I am going on tomorrow. By day's end I was good to go. Lots of hiking fun coming up*!

My early-morning blogging went very well. I finished the article "Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort" and started a new one titled "Free Gourmet Coffee Every Day."** All while having some of that delicious free gourmet coffee.

My morning went to financials. Reconciling all the bank accounts, updating the income and expense projection records, and managing my cashback cards*** all got done.

My afternoon went to trip planning. After lunch and a prehistory course DVD lecture (The First European Farmers), I concentrated on getting ready for the TrailWalker trip I am starting tomorrow. My plan is to do a 300-to-400 mile loop that will take me to 5 Virginia state parks where I will hike 5-10 different trails.

My evening went to relaxing by watching (again) some of my favorite DVD war movies (Zulu and Windtalkers). Can't wait 'til tomorrow!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

May 26: Plowing Through Paper and Stock Investing

June 4th, 2014 at 10:38 am

My plan for the day, which is my plan for most Mondays, is to dive into last week's piled up home administration work and do a heavy investment management timeblock. Got it all off my to-do list and cleared the rest of the week for want-to-do stuff.

I started my day by starting a new blog article I am titling "Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort" while enjoying my first cup of coffee.* Then off to "work" at the computer the rest of the day.

8:00am to 12:00noon
Did a 4-hour time block on home administration (bills, phone calls, follow-ups and record-keeping) and cleared the decks.

12:00noon to 1:30pm
Had lunch and watched a DVD prehistory course lecture (Why Farming?)

1:30pm to 5:30pm
Caught up my stock portfolio records** and then went hunting for more stocks to buy.***

5:30pm to ...
Playtime! Dinner, movies and some Pacific War game playing.****

# # #

* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

*** My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

May 25: Lots of Blogging and a Church Picnic

June 4th, 2014 at 10:18 am

My plan for the day was to give myself a day off from tasks and chores and enjoy. So I did. I caught up my blog day posts for May 23 and May 24, completed and posted my latest article post "LTC: a Lesser and Necessary Evil"* and went with my wife to a nice church picnic.

Today was also the day that we ordered 16 new windows for the house and got a whole wad of credit card cashback** by charging the purchase on my Discover Card. And scored a big bagful of free gourmet coffee at Bed Bath and Beyond using leveraged cashback gift cards.***

# # #

* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

*** Leveraging Up CashBack Rewards:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/18/leveraging...