Category Archives: Manic Mutterings

The Cheap Bastard Guide To Frugal Summer Travel

Cheap Bastard Guide To Frugal Summer TravelIt’s the summer travel season and we’re all looking to hit the road. But the Fed just raised interest rates, gas is over 3 bucks a gallon, and nothing’s going to be cheap. Lucky for you, I’m not just a Manic Impressive – I’m a Cheap Bastard too.

I once made it from Calgary to San Francisco on less than $40. Okay, things were cheaper back then, and I was hitchhiking with a full backpack and slept on the ground. But when I got down to my last two traveller’s checks (remember those?), I stuck out my thumb and made it back to San Francisco with several bucks to spare.

But that was then and this is now. 

6 Tools Cheap Bastard Uses For Frugal Travel

The family frowns on hitchhiking and sleeping on the ground. So I’ve mastered these tools to vacation in a style they can enjoy.

Airline Miles

We use credit cards for everything throughout the year (groceries, utilities, doctors, insurance) to rack up free airline travel. The bills are paid in full each month automatically with Auto-Pay, so we’re not paying interest and running up debt.

Last year we flew free to Maui, Nashville and Phoenix, and this year we’re flying free to Orlando, all with airline miles. We get rental cars free too. Just gas for the car and a few bucks in fees per airline seat.

Chris Guillebeau is the master of this. Check out his website for the latest mileage deals and tips on how to use credit cards to fly free.

Priceline

William Shatner may be a hack actor, but he truly is the “Negotiator.” The Cheap Bastard secret to Priceline is the bidding feature. I know, it’s scary to book a hotel without knowing which one you’ll get. But we’ve stayed in Hiltons and Marriotts for pennies on the dollar by bidding.

You need to work it a little. They rate hotels by “Star” level (1 Star = Crappy, 5 Star = Luxury), so learn which hotel chains land in which “Star” levels for the area you want. Then check their “Express Deals.” We’ve gotten good deals here without bidding, but mostly you go here for research.

Once you know which hotels they have, pick the Star level you want and start lowballing. They’ll reject you flat-out if you’re too low. That’s okay. You’re establishing the going rate. They limit your bids to once per day per account. But Cheap Bastard is sneaky. He has multiple accounts, so he can bid multiple times per day.

Bid repeatedly, a few bucks higher each time. When you get close to their best rate, they’ll actually tell you how much to bid to get what you want.

A little research and you can master this site. This is how we got a suite at the Anaheim Hilton, a mile from Disneyland, for just $64 a night. Bid low, then creep upward until you land your deal.

A Coffee Grinder

Let’s be honest. I’m a coffee snob, I’m totally addicted to caffeine, and I bring my own coffee when I travel. Partly because I’m particular, but mostly cuz I’m a Cheap Bastard.

It’s crazy what hotels and Starbucks charge for coffee. A pound of whole beans costs me $16 and lasts about a month. You couldn’t last a week at Starbucks on $16.  I travel with freshly ground beans, filters, and the skill to jerry-rig any hotel room system to brew my own. I get way better quality for a fraction of what most people pay.

So consider taking coffee with you on the road. You’ll get a better fix and save enough for a fancy dinner out.

The Nutri-Bullet Blender

Amazing what you can fit in a suitcase. I pack my Nutri-Bullet and portion my protein powder and fiber in little zip-lock baggies. Pick up strawberries and kale along the way and you can start each day with a healthy breakfast smoothie.

Hotel Mini-Fridges and Barbecues

Eating out with the family can run hundreds for a week’s vacation. So do what Cheap Bastard does. Make breakfast in your room and sandwiches for lunch. Use your hotel mini fridge for smoothie ingredients, yogurt, or milk for cereal, and the microwave in the lounge for oatmeal. Hit a grocery store when you land, pick up a cheap (bastard) cooler, get all the ice you need for free at your hotel, and cut your food expense in half.

Most hotels also have barbeques you can use. Take advantage. We often grill at our hotel, meet our frugal neighbors, and enjoy a nice sunset over dinner.

My friends Molly and Raul once flew to Hawaii with an ice chest of steaks, fish and ribs packed in dry ice. They ate in style their whole vacation for what you’d probably pay for one fancy dinner out.

Follow these dining tips and you’ll save enough to splurge on some nice restaurant meals without stressing over the tab.

Cheap Bastard Travels Well

I’m not the only Cheap Bastard around. Learn from the frugal, use your creativity, and you’ll be able to travel more, eat better, and give your credit cards a rest.

Now, take a moment and share your Cheap Bastard travel tips with the rest of us…

The Gift of a Chance Encounter

Chance Encounter
My Beach Haul

Yesterday was my birthday, so being a good Manic Impressive I did the only reasonable thing. I ditched work and drove to the beach. My particular piece of heaven is San Gregorio State Beach, just 39 miles from my front door. It’s where I go whenever I need to relax, recharge, and get inspired. Or get a gift of a Chance Encounter.

Before I could even get out of the parking lot, a man called out to me and struck up a conversation. He was out from Connecticut visiting his daughter at Stanford, and decided to check out the beach as a little adventure on his birthday.

I pulled out my driver’s license, shoved it at him and said, “you mean our birthday?” My instant new best friend Terry and I spent the next hour enjoying each other’s company. I gave him a tour of my favorite spots while we reveled in the beauty of the beach and our serendipitous meeting.

A Chance Encounter

What are the odds? Two men from opposite sides of the country who share a birthday, meet by chance on that very day. I could not get past the amazing coincidence. Neither of us were planning on being in that spot at that time. I only decided to go 90 minutes earlier. He was just wandering down Highway 1 on a whim. Continue reading The Gift of a Chance Encounter

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure As I’m grinding through my clutter, I’m tempted to hold onto things and sell them. I know my trash can be someone else’s treasure, but this urge is often just a stalling tactic to protect my hoard.  Yet every now and then it works.

Like when I got up on a stepladder to inspect the beams in our ceiling.  Turns out they were not rough-hewn hardwood as they appeared. They were fake molded styrofoam. They’d fooled us for years, but the minute my wife found out they weren’t real, they had to go. Stat.

So we removed the beams and scraped the “popcorn” texture ourselves, to save money before hiring a painter to re-do our ceilings. It turned out to be a tough, messy job.

But I ended up with over a dozen of these cool fake beams. I was mesmerized with the possibilities. They looked genuine but weighed next to nothing, and you could cut them with a putty knife. I could build a fort, a cool 4th of July float, or sell them for gobs of cash. Continue reading One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

The Lost Art of the April Fools’ Prank

April FoolNext to Halloween, I’ve always found April Fools’ Day to be the most delightful celebration. To pull a good, clean April Fools prank that doesn’t hurt anyone is high art. These days, a high, lost art.

So if I give you some ideas will you help me on this? Will you go out there and bring some fun to your little corner of the world? Manic Impressives everywhere are counting on you.

Shave Something

Self-deprecating pranks never hurt anyone else. If you do something goofy and get people laughing at you, you’ll be their hero for the day. And if we need more of anything in the world right now, it’s heroes.

So try doing something unexpected this April Fools’ Day. Shave something off. If you’re a dude, don’t be conventional. Don’t shave off your beard. Shave off half your beard. Continue reading The Lost Art of the April Fools’ Prank

If You Want to Work Hard, You Need to Play Hard

Play HardHere we are, one week shy of the end of the first quarter. How are you doing on your goals?  Still going great guns? A few dips here and there?  Any answer is okay at this point, as long as you’re still at it and working hard. Oh, that’s the bell, time for recess. Cuz after you Work Hard, it’s time to Play Hard.

Recess is important for school kids. It’s the reason they can sit still and work hard all day, five days a week. They need the break and the fun to so they can keep at it. The harder they play, the harder they can study.

Recess is just as important for us adults. Maybe even more important. We adults have so many responsibilities beyond work, that we sometimes go from task to task without recess. This is not good for anyone.

I Deserve It

I’ve made great progress on some of my goals for the quarter, and I’ve struggled with others. But regardless of my results, I need and deserve a recess.

So it was with great planning and precision that I took my recess last week. Okay, at about 9 Wednesday  morning I threw a bunch of stuff in the car and took off. Sometimes the best play is spontaneous.

While you were slogging through your hump day, I took off and hit the slopes. Hard. I bombed down the hill as hard and as long as I could. I needed to play hard.

You Need To Play Hard

We Manic Impressives need to play hard so we can work hard. Other types of people can work hard for the sake of working hard. But us creative types need our recess to recharge and remember why we’re working to be more than we are.

The notion of Work Ethic, the idea that people should be conditioned to keep their noses to the grindstone and never stop, is a good guiding principle for some. But it doesn’t work for me.

Now thanks to Forbes, I have the science to show I’m on the right track. Work Hard Play Hard is a lifestyle that works for playful folk that are passionate about doing good work.

The Science Behind Play Hard

Professor Lonnie Aarssen did a study that showed “a strong correlation between attraction to accomplishment and attraction to leisure.” The key factor was “mortality salience.” The more a person accepts they’re going to die one day, the more motivated they are to succeed in life.

An interesting note was the role of religion. Forbes concluded that religious people are less likely to Work Hard Play Hard. Perhaps that was because the study was of 1400 Canadian college students. Or perhaps it’s that going to church is bad for your fun life.

Either way, if you want to knock it out of the park, you need to remember that you’re playing a game.

Schedule It!

So make your Play Hard as important as your Work Hard. Set your goals, check your progress each day, and win or lose, schedule your play. It’s as important as your work.

Take a look at your progress for this quarter. Pat yourself on the back for your wins. Acknowledge your failings and vow to do better. Then get out there and have some fun. Play Hard!

And thanks for going to work last Wednesday so I could drive to Tahoe without traffic and ski without waiting in a single lift line. I really appreciate it.

Now it’s your turn.

Out Of Gas

\Out of Gas

Tell you a little story I will, and then I have an admission to make. I’ve been struggling a bit this week, and it reminded me of the time, one of many, when I ran out of gas.

My wife and I were driving back to the Bay Area from Fresno. Just my girlfriend back then, I’d taken her to meet some family.

She drove us in her fancy Cadillac Seville on the way down, so being a gentleman, I offered to drive on the way back. She accepted, handed me the keys, and off we went.

Here’s where we learned something important about ourselves. Since she wasn’t driving, my wife didn’t bother to tell me we were low on gas. She figured I’d check it myself. Since it wasn’t my car, I didn’t bother checking the gas gauge, since I figured she would have told me.

Both of us figured very, very wrong. Continue reading Out Of Gas

Work Already Performed

Work Already PerformedMartin Eden, a retired sailor, lived in Oakland, California in the early 1900’s. Despite his lack of education and working class roots, Martin was determined to become a published author. He was also determined to marry Ruth, a beautiful and highly educated woman from a wealthy family.

Martin proposes and Ruth accepts. But Ruth puts off the wedding until Martin becomes successful enough to win her family’s acceptance. He works hard, submits manuscripts, gets rejected by publishers, but eventually, he gets a book deal.

Then Martin blows up, makes a fortune off his books, and becomes a celebrated member of the artistic class.

Unfortunately, his success came a little too late for Ruth. Though he already submitted the manuscripts that would make him rich and famous, she loses patience with his progress, and after two years Ruth breaks the engagement. Continue reading Work Already Performed

How Procrastination Leads To A Life Of Crime

ProcrastinationI recently got to thinking of all the stupid, awkward and even dangerous situations my Manic Impressive behavior has gotten me into over the years. This was a long thinking session. As many embarrassing and regrettable chapters of my life flashed by, I noticed a theme.  All these incidents were caused or triggered by Procrastination.

Like the time I knocked off a dry cleaner.

Back in the mid ’80’s, when I’d elevated Procrastination to an art form, I spent three months convincing the good folks at Xerox that I would make a great addition to their sales staff.

They had a dress code. Suit and tie everyday, no exceptions.  So I’d gone out, bought a whole new wardrobe, and took everything to the dry cleaners at the mall. Gotta look good for the first day.

Being a master of Procrastination, I of course waited to the last minute for all this.  So the night before my first day of the new job I’m heading back to the cleaners to pick up my clothes. Due to good planning, I walked in a whole ten minutes before closing.

Only the lights were off and the closed sign was lit. The door wasn’t locked, but when I walked in the girl said she was closed. I responded that it was ten minutes to closing and I had to have my clothes for my first day on the job. She said she couldn’t help me and turned away.

That’s when I looked over and saw my clothes on the overhead rack. Continue reading How Procrastination Leads To A Life Of Crime

Why It’s Good To Be A Wannabe

WannabeHappy New Year! I hope you had a joyous holiday and are ready for 2017. I’m off to a flying start, thanks to the folks who joined me for the 2nd Annual Resolution Invitational. These folks demonstrated why it’s good to be a Wannabe.

I’m a Wannabe. I wannabe more than I am today. That’s why I gathered like-minded people to help me plan my future.

I assembled a great team – Don, Terry, Ed, Robert, Peter and Nicole. We gathered around my dining room table (five in person, two online) and together we celebrated 2016. All our struggles and all our wins. It was a powerful exercise.

Powerful because we tend to forget most of what happens to us each year. When we reflect on our success despite all the adversity we face, it gives us the strength to wannabe more than we are today.

The Science Behind It

Then we studied the behavioral science of setting and accomplishing goals. How Self-Efficacy (your belief in your ability), an Inner Locus of Control (believing you control your outcomes), and the Hope Theory (that we’re not on a doomed planet hurtling toward the sun) are the critical qualities we need to succeed.

Yes, there is a scientific path to your dreams. And a surprising amount of it has to do with belief. What we believe about the world, what we believe about ourselves, what we believe is possible.

Benjamin Hardy, a blogger I follow, posted a brilliant article on this last week. I couldn’t not use it for our Resolution Invitational, and I highly recommend it for you at home. Continue reading Why It’s Good To Be A Wannabe

The Best Christmas Present Ever

Best Christmas Present EverIt’s crunch time for you Christmas shoppers. Just two days left to get the perfect gift for that special someone on your list.  I hope you do as well as my grandmother did when I was 14. Because that was the year she gave me the best Christmas present ever.

The Backstory

It started out as more of a protest than a Christmas present. Grandma came to our house for dinner in February with one of her famous cakes. She baked it from scratch as she always did, without that cheatin Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mix. Grandma was a purist and took pride in her desserts.

After dinner she started to dish it out and was shocked when I declined a piece. To her horror I announced that I had given up dessert for Lent, a practice encouraged by my Sunday School teacher to earn brownie points in Heaven.

I tried to convince her that it was my own decision, but she was having none of that. She was convinced there was a conspiracy at play. Another attempt by my overly strict parents to to deny us both the pleasure of her baking.

While the rest of the family enjoyed her cake, Grandma sat in stony silence. What kind of family would do such a thing to a child? I was clearly the victim of the worst type of parental abuse. Continue reading The Best Christmas Present Ever