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A Language that Pays the Bills

1 Oct

While learning Spanish will cost us some money, I’ve found another language that will pay me: HTML.

Since August I’ve been busy coding web sites in HTML, CSS, jQuery and some PHP, the languages of the web. That’s my new gig. I’m a web developer. I sit in front of the computer most of the day listening to Ratatat running my new business, which I’m calling Shoe Shine Design & Development.

It’s nerve-wracking going from a steady paycheck to being a small-business owner hoping contracts keep coming in and clients pay on-time. Thankfully, work has been steady. I’ve landed 7 contracts already and one site is just a week or so away from going live.

Once I have enough completed sites to fill a decent portfolio, I’ll put up a web site of my own.

For now, just remember me whenever you ever need a web site, big or small, or know of someone who is looking. It’s for a good cause: Maggie’s meals.

My mother-in-law's basement has served as my office for the past 4 weeks.

A Ton of Stuff

10 Sep

If you’ve moved across the country before, you know it isn’t cheap. Since we’re on a tight budget, we looked into a few options for moving our stuff from Los Angeles to Columbus.

Option #1: The most obvious option is to rent a truck. A truck was estimated at $1800. Not too bad, but the need for a car hitch, increased fuel cost, very little room for our dog on the journey, and slower driving made us search out the other options.

Option #2: The whole Pods idea where a company drops off a container and delivers it door-to-door cost the most. The quotes we received were circling $3000.

Option #3: Then a friend, Tom Borland, suggested we build a crate ourselves and ship it through a freight service. I made a few phone calls to freight companies and found that it was hard to find companies that would ship household items. Some who did quoted us at about $1600. That was promising. Then I happened to call Pacific Atlantic Freight who gave us a quote for 2200 lbs for $1143. That included home delivery for $50 in Columbus!

Our search was over, we were going to ship our ton of stuff by freight. Now, we only needed to build the crates. Seeing as I have zero construction skills, Tom offered to help me build the crates. Later, Gerson Bonilla volunteered to help as well.

Tom’s generosity saved us from spending money on renting tools and buying nails and screws. The wood cost $254.

Some of the wood.

Gerson Bonilla cutting the wood to size.

Tom Borland also cutting on one of his many tools in his very manly garage.

A mostly finished crate.

We built three crates in about 4 hours. They were about 7′ (long) x 4′ (wide) x 4′ (tall). After assembling them at Tom’s house, we loaded two in a U-Haul we rented for about $123 and one in Tom’s pick-up. We drove over to our storage facility and loaded the crates. Here again, Tom’s experience in loading trucks for movie studios proved invaluable. We had to buy about $101 worth of moving blankets so our furniture didn’t get scratched up.

Filling the crate.

Screwing the lids on the crates in the rental truck.

The freight terminal we shipped from.

After a long day of building and packing (on one of the hottest days of the summer), Maggie and I drove the crates down to the freight terminal. Immediately, a guy drove over to us in a forklift and started unloading the crates. It was a good feeling.

Unloading our crates at the terminal.

On the other end in Columbus, we thought there might be trouble receiving the crates at the house. They had said the crates were a bit big for a lift gate, but it all worked out rather easily. It’s nice to have our stuff safely in Columbus now. We are so thankful to Tom and Gerson for their help.

In the end, we spent a grand total of about $1621. That includes even the tape we bought. Not bad for a cross-country move.

If you’re looking to move across the country, find a friend who knows how to build a solid crate and call Jeremy at PAF Shipping, (805) 523-7295. He’ll take care of you.

Two tickets to Buenos Aires for less than $800

16 Jun

I couldn’t sleep tonight, so I crawled out of bed and started searching for flights to Buenos Aires. Good thing, because I just purchased two tickets for a total of $762!! No lie!

Here’s how.

Occasionally, I check the cost of flights from various mid and eastern cities in the U.S. to Buenos Aires: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami. Mostly they are all equally priced, with the cheapest round trip tickets fluctuating between $1,200 to $1600. When I got out of bed tonight I expected to see the same.

Instead, when I checked the flights from Miami, I saw “$815.” I did the requisite wiping of the eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from lack of sleep. It was still there: $815 web fare special rate for a round trip ticket.

I knew I needed to grab them immediately, but Maggie was asleep. I certainly was not going to buy the tickets without her knowledge. I’ve already learned that lesson! Should I wake her up or stay up all night and ask her when she wakes up hoping the special rate didn’t disappear? I decided to wait.

And then I remembered our credit card, which we use for everything! I logged into the rewards system and it said we had just over 77,000 miles. Using their internal flight search, I found the same flight I had found on

One ticket cost 75,000 reward miles or $750! I re-wiped my eyes and verified I read it correctly. What I thought was a good deal originally just got cut in half!

This time I had to wake up Maggie. Three-quarters asleep still, she said, “Why wouldn’t you buy that? Get it!”

So it turns out, our decision to get the overly advertised Capital One “No Hassle” Venture Credit Card paid off. You know that card. Just think of a viking asking, “What’s in YOUR wallet?”

The fact that we used that one card for about 95% of our purchases since being married helped us save a lot of money. I still can’t believe it. We just purchased one ticket completely with reward miles we’ve been accumulating for close to a year and the other ticket for only $762 (after the service fee was added). Amazing!

I guess we’re really going now. No turning back! We depart from Miami on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, for the beautiful city of Buenos Aires with a layover in Mexico City.

I do wonder if Maggie will remember me asking her.

If You Want to Save Money, Live in a Garage (of Awesomeness)

6 Jun

Most Angelenos cringe when they have to admit to family and friends who live outside of Los Angeles how much they pay in rent. Or at least, family and friends cringe on our behalf. Los Angeles housing is expensive.

Our first home was not cheap. Yet, we don’t regret living there, because for our priorities a year ago (a one bedroom place with a yard and dog door in the Silverlake neighborhood of LA) it was a really good deal and a perfect start for us. We even talked the landlord down $350 per month at signing.

When we made the decision to move to Buenos Aires, we knew we would need to move out as soon as the lease was up. We need as much financial cushion as possible until Maggie lands a decent job. So, this weekend we packed up and moved out of our home in Silverlake for cheaper rent as sub-tenants in Pasadena at the “Garage of Awesomeness.”

Living in the Garage of Awesomeness is saving us a good chunk of change. And yes, for a garage apartment the rent is still a bit outrageous to non-Angelenos.

BEFORE: $1650/month – One bedroom, stand-alone house in Silverlake
Add onto that normal utilities and internet and we were paying close to $1900 in basic home costs.

NOW: $775/month – studio Garage of Awesomeness
All bills are included, even cable TV, which we haven’t had before!

We’re saving an extra $900 or more per month for the next three months! That should afford us close to 6 months of rent in Buenos Aires if all goes to plan.