December 1, 2012

Studying Abroad and Staying Healthy on a Budget

Studying abroad during your university years can offer several opportunities to grow professionally, academically, and personally while going on a once in a lifetime adventure.

For me, studying abroad seemed unrealistic. I was focused on work-study programs and figuring out the best financial aid options or looking for a part time job while trying to keep my weekly expenditures down.

I think it was during one Christmas feast when my mother's brother, my uncle, told a story about his oldest three children (6 total!) and their experiences studying abroad and how they did it.

My wonderful mother finally talked me into going to the study abroad office and looking into it. It turns out this was the hardest part of starting (until now) my greatest life-changing event. There are several ways to travel abroad with little or no extra tuition payments and reimbursing travel costs, like airfare. In fact, some universities even pay you to go abroad!

I had to decide between Japan (6 weeks for a summer Semester and a separate cost of roughly double my tuition) or Spain (4 months in the Fall and the only paying in-state tuition). Japan's program was more prestigious and I have always wanted to go visit Japan because I find the culture extremely fascinating. I knew nothing of Spain, little Spanish, and Germany, Scotland, or Ireland seemed to be way more "right up my alley."

Ultimately, being here in Spain has been amazing and I recommend to study abroad anywhere you can get the opportunity to and I want to share some of the things I've learned on staying healthy while travelling and living abroad on your own for the first time.

An image that appeared on my facebook during my time in Spain. The Erasmus program is for higher education students that is open to European students. The social aspects of it mirror that of similar organizations back home like Fraternities, and take on the same feel of starting college for the first time. Scary and exciting, to name a few emotions.

Given my past experience with the Freshman 15 (in my case, the freshman 40) I was severely concerned with gaining weight back having to live abroad in a new country and experiencing city-life (Valencia has a population of around 2 million) for my first time.

While I cannot join erasmus, several of the events like free Paella mixers and organized travel to nearby cities in Spain are open to all students of the Universities here in Valencia. Given an erratic daily schedule, Roman Numeral number IX scared me to death. After all, I had worked really hard for 6 months on losing weight!

What to do and what not to do

When you arrive in a new place for the first time, it's natural to explore. Use this natural tendency as an opportunity to find health stores and gyms as well as recreational areas like parks that you can use in a pinch.  Valencia is a beautiful city with several green areas and lots of small parks.

As a student, start looking around school for clubs and organizations that are free to join and engage in the activities you enjoy. If there aren't any, establish a group of friends that like to stay active.

To the right is a picture of our small group one weekend in the mountains just outside the city. We spent all day hiking a trail and got to visit several small towns along the way. We found a small tavern run by an old man that had the best Paella I've eaten in Spain.

A group of International classmates on a weekend trip to the woods for some friendly paintball!

Find out where the local farmer's markets are located. Valencia has several that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, farm raised chickens, and fresh caught seafood (I'm really going to miss living in a coastal city!) not only will you be supporting the locals you'll get some great deals. I bought almost a whole salmon for 9 euros which equals around $12-14. Many stands had whole chickens (medium seized because they were naturally raised) for 2 euros each. That's like $3.50 a chicken!

Living in a city, it's tempting to want to get a bike. I think this is a fantastic idea if you are going to be working there as cycling is a great form of aerobic exercise. However, for the student on a shorter stay, I recommend using your legs to travel everywhere. You get to take a more leisurely stroll and enjoy the sites while at the same time helping break down those pesky triglycerides (especially if you are fasted). I never got around to buying a bicycle saving me 60 euros.

Your first time abroad and away form the family will be scary, but will give you an opportunity to grow personally. Living independently for 4 months means I am now so much better at managing my budget to save up for the things I want to do like Travel or going to concerts. There are several cheap options to travel in Europe. Check out sites like  that offer ride shares. A friend of mine traveled to Madrid from Valencia for 12 Euros using this service. If you want to explore a new city and the hostels or hotels are all booked up, why not try couch surfing?

According to Volume 34 of Society and Economy in Central and Eastern Europe, the most competitive industry today is the discount airline industry. Use companies like RyanAir or Wizzair to make connecting flights. These two companies compete with each other driving costs down. They also compete on service, RyanAir boasts that it is always on time, in fact they will take off early if everyone is boarded (but be careful they will leave people!)! You may have to hop on a train to get to another city to fly out again that night but when you save $165 dollars for that trip to Ireland you always wanted to take, the extra searching is worth it.

This is me arriving in Malta, a small island similar to Hawaii. A flight with Ryan Air that cost only 43 euros.
Our group of 12 booked a hostel for 8 euros a night, it just doesn't get any better!

Through studying abroad I've also become better at having better health and making good long term decisions. Because Mom and Dad aren't around to watch your every step or criticize every decision the temptation is there to go do things you never would before, like buy that expensive purse. You also realize though, that you are on your own for the very first time. The path your life takes ultimately rests on your shoulders.

How did your study abroad experience turn out? Where are you planning to study abroad? What are some of the pros and cons to studying abroad? I want to hear you thoughts and opinions.

November 30, 2012

How Fasting and a Frugal mindset helped me achieve happiness

For over a year now, I have been preparing to enter the real world. This preparation has focused mainly on financial planning and lifestyle changes that I want to carry with me throughout my entire life. I grew up relatively poor and fat. I was sad on the SAD (Standard American Diet) diet. While there will be time for my story later (I can remember sitting in the kitchen eating spoonfuls of sugar! YUCK!), I want to explain one habit I changed in my diet and lifestyle routine that has significantly impacted the way I look, how I feel, and how I spend money.

I have been on the fitness and diet journey for a while, several years in fact. The first time I lost weight going from 270-280 (122 kg) down to 200 (+/-100 kg) in a very unhealthy manner. I lost a lot of hard earned muscle mass, but I got my first ever serious girlfriend! Yeah, we were in love, things were great. Until I started gaining weight again. The stress of a long distance relationship, typical first year of college diet, and general lack of knowledge led me down the road that most people all over the world (Im studying abroad in Spain as I write this post and I am seeing the exact same mistakes in the gym and on diets and diet knowledge that invade the fitness industry) take in regards to diet and health, buying into the next big trend. 

So, I got on the web, joined some forums, picked up a muscle and fitness mag and did what everyone does, jumped on the treadmill like an experimental mouse. In fact, as the fasting methodology is beginning to take hold coupled with my time spent living in a city with more daily activity along with my terrible history of diet and exercise I sometimes feel like I am just a mouse being used in these experiments.

Anyway, Financially this was a big mistake for me as I was spending so much money on supplements for weight loss and muscle gain. I was buying trendy diet food items like shakes and bars. Purchasing fad diet pre-boxed meals. This money could have been spent on a nice dinner date or stowed away for a future plan.

Alas, I mindlessly plugged away over training and over eating. Wasting precious time, energy, and money. When I could have been treating my taste buds a delectable fresh salad with chopped turkey breast, ingredients totaling ~$1 I was instead trying to enjoy every last bite of the $2.50 "natural" protein bar.

College budgeting was always tough because I go to school in a typical college town. Desert town in the summer with nothing to do but in the fall and spring traffic jams on the small country highway are frequent during peak social hours. Part-time jobs are seasonal, this may be a reason I turned to blogging and trying to find ways to earn money online. I remember having to forego going out with friends or buying a new whatzit because I had spent it on a textbook 3 days prior. Forced to stay at home and study or play a video game, I'd take a shower, look at myself in the mirror, and wonder why I was still fat and still struggling with money. I was a finance major, this should be easy! I keep doing what everyone tells me, eat 6 small meals, cut carbs, work this, etc. etc. 

No wonder so many of us burn out! Why do we regain weight after "dieting" and return to our old spending habits after weeks of successful planning and budgeting?

I think most of us just haven't taken the time and patience to find out what works for them by doing the research and making the necessary lifestyle changes.

This is me before I started on my final journey in weight loss to where I am now

Weighing in around 250 pounds

In the following, I'm on the very left:

In mid-november, I was making great progress at losing weight and becoming healthy again. I was taking a cross-fit class and really focusing on my diet. I was basing it all on the knowledge I had used before, the same knowledge we all probably use. But then, I hit the nightmarish plateau. This time though, I was ready. I had tried the "muscle confusion" B.S. before and had since found out it was just a sales tactic. This time, like every time, I hit the internet. Scoured the forums. Talked to my good friends in Exercise Science. How to get through it. What to do differently.

Looking back, it was destiny. I somehow got referred to Martin Berkham's website and his methodology of Intermittent Fasting. 

"Ok, I'll try it, but I dont like it. It goes against everything I've ever been told."

I was legitimately worried about going into "Starvation mode" and retaining fat being so food deprived during the day that I was going to be no fun to be around.

I was completely wrong. After 1 week, I dropped 10 pounds. The weight loss slowed, but that's because I was still making a few dietary mistakes here and there, but I stuck with it.

Here I am almost a year later before a major milestone:

 In the next few weeks, I would go on to set a new Bench max: 375# Deadlift 495# and Squat 365#

I would later implement reverse pyramid training because these ratios are way off. I am now focusing more on legs and deadlift. 

Not only has leangains worked extremely well for me, Martin's site has been one of the biggest driving forces in my reignited fervor for making Frugal Son a better resource.

My weight loss was further accelerated when I changed my diet even more. On my first year of Intermittent Fasting I was still eating a bunch of crap focusing only on method and numbers.

During my semester abroad in Spain, I injured my shoulder playing rugby. I thought this would greatly set me back, and yes, I did allow myself to binge eat and skimp on the diet just a tad. I gained some weight back, but I would later learn this was due to major glycogen depletion and overtraining. The shoulder injury was a result of going too hard, too long.

During my post injury depression the imagined weight gain drove me crazy. That's when I discovered Mark Sisson's website. After just a month of healthy, clean eating through natural food, yet with the allowance of some junk food post training (this is mostly due to the college/young person lifestyle) I'm looking better than ever before:

Weighing in at 85 kg (roughly 187 pounds)

Due to the muscle atrophy during my 3.5 week hiatus from lifting heavy and I'm still struggling with heavy bench and almost any form of Incline bench exercise. The injury has really been a blessing in disguise. I have been able to slow down and focus on building quality muscle using the Pyramid method Martin Recommends.

I may not be throwing up 375 pounds on flat bench anymore, I'm still much stronger than the other gym-rats (more like gym-mice) I'm definitely looking better than ever and feeling fantastic. Thanks to what I consider the Holy Trinity in Weight Loss and Exercise: Berkham - Sisson - Taubes. Taubes is the least important, he's like the Holy Ghost. You only hear about him once in a while and you know some stuff about him is important, but you largely pay him no mind. I respect Taubes for his (somewhat over-zealous) fight against obesity and his research skills. Sisson and Berkham are the like the Holy Father and Son ( I am not going to prioritize here)

So how does the story relate to Finance and Frugality?

Remember in my hay-day, I was chomping down on protein bars pre-workout and guzzling protein shakes with 3 raw eggs and 6 oz. of whole milk post workout?

Now, I skip both. Opting instead for an easy fast of anywhere from 12-20 hours. Drink 10g of BCAA's pre-workout. Post workout I take a fish oil and multi vitamin with plenty of salad and lean meat. On rest days I enjoy more fat heavy meats and lower carb options. 

I buy several ingredients for my salads: Tuna, Turkey, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, and nuts. Sometimes broccoli, peppers, onions, etc. 

The greens cost no more than $2 each totaling $6 and through rationing and guess work when it comes to calorie restriction, they usually last me 5-6 days depending on how frequently I eat. That's a $1 a day. We will trade that for the $2.50 vitamin bar I was previously eating.

Tuna in cans is really cheap, and I consider one small can of tuna in water to be negligible in the fact of any mercury content.

Turkey is around $6 for 2 pounds of breast filet and will last me 2-4 days depending on days I eat white fish or chicken or turkey as the main course. It's tough to say what i eat as I ultimately eat primally as possible. We can trade the lean meat and eggs for the sugar rich protein shakes.

Without getting to intensive on budgeting and number running (which probably gets boring to read anyway) 
I haven't been to the ATM to withdraw money in the last week and a half and I've still enjoyed going out to eat with friends and socializing almost every night. The point I'm making is that eating healthy and being healthy is not expensive like the madhouse the fitness industry would have you believe.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Well yes, it is. I never said it isn't! But my definition of breakfast isn't the same that multi-million dollar fast food and restaurant franchises would have you believe. My definition is the concrete term of "breaking the fast" hence: breakfast

Skipping breakfast means skipping the bacon, egg, and cheese McMuffin saving me my health, time, and money (and idling gas expenditure). The $2 coke and $3 sandwich I just skipped let me sleep in or gave me time to take my dog for a walk.

As Brad Pilon says in Eat. STOP. Eat.

"The fitness industry doesn't want you to fast, they can't bottle it up and sell it. How can they sell a habit?"

A habit that leads to naturally reduced calorie intake, better mental awareness, and the following straight from Brad Pilon's book, which I highly recommend:

In dozens of published peer reviewed scientific studies, short-term intermittent fasting has been found to have the following health benefits:
• Decreased body fat & body weight
• Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
• Decreased blood glucose levels
• Decreased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity
• Increased lipolysis & fat oxidation
• Increased Uncoupling Protein 3 mRNA
• Increased norepinephrine & epinephrine levels
• Increased Glucagon levels
• Increased growth hormone levels.

I never want to hear the excuse "Losing weight is expensive!"

It isn't.

I spend less than one hour in the gym and for only a few days per week. Allowing me to save time and energy. This extra time has allowed for me to pursue my passions and increase my knowledge. Im able to spend more time now doing what I want, which is figuring out a what I want to do with my life after college.

That's becoming more and more clear every day, and that's why this post exists...

I eat less food. I don't have the urge to spend $1 at the coke machine anymore. I skip the drive-thru. No more late night eating after a night of drinking with the amigos.

Not only that, during the lunch hour while everyone is clamoring to find a place to sit and eat, I'm in the library brushing up on the latest trends in utilizing Social Media for E-business, one of my current consultancy jobs.

Several resources exists to help you get a better understanding. My recent favorite is the Salk Study that took two similar groups of mice and fed each group a diet comprising of 60% calories from fat, this is like eating potato chips and ice cream for each meal! One group was allowed to eat ad libitum all day while the other group was restricted to a feeding window of 8 hours, when they were allowed to eat ad libitum. Control groups were fed a diet consisting of 16% calories from fat. Groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily and after 100 days of observation the fasted group showed better health markers and remained 28% lighter.

What are your ideas on fasting? What sort of diet choices do you make to help make the end of the month a tad bit easier? 

November 29, 2012

Financial Freedom Milestone: A Major Step in Making a Million from Nothing

It’s been quite a journey thus far. Starting small with “Making a Million Dollars from Nothing: part 1” and “Part 2.” We’ve been working our 9 to 5. Blogging our butts off. Side Hustling until coach calls for a water break. We’ve established a Mutual Fund, and like kids on Christmas Morning, we eagerly open our monthly earnings report when it arrives in the mail. For some of us, we have reached Financial Freedom with the help of financial gurus like Dave Ramsey or even your favorite internet shaman like
Even if you haven’t, you still have a large chunk of change and maybe you want to celebrate (atleast do it Frugally!) or you are ready to take the next step and take a risk!
Now, more than ever before, is an amazing time to invest the stock market. While I was in New York for the QUINNEPIEC GAME Forum, one of the Wall Street workers gave an amazing speech but one tid bit I remember him saying was that market trend analysis shows that it is safer than ever to invest, yet companies and people are still scared because of the 2008 financial crisis. With the Eurozone crisis how it is, this fear is undoubtedly grounded in well-reasoned fear based logic. For others, the logic may not be there but the fear of the impending December 21, 2012 apocalypse might be just enough to keep your neighbor from taking the risk. I’d still go with the longer term option of selecting a few mutual funds for the long term and using whatever you deem as disposable income into a stock portfolio. (You are keeping atleast a simple excel spreadsheet, right?)

I’m thinking of something even more long term though, something that could be turned into a business if you so pleased to. But for now, should be a side-hustle, or atleast a very, very long-term investment.
I’m talking real estate.[url=] Home prices are starting to rise [/url] and I know you keep hearing that real estate interest rates are “Lower than Ever!” atleast I did, on the radio ad the other day. But a quick google search shows that, as of November 29th, 2012, a 15-year fixed rate is 2.84% (Uh… yeah I’d love to have my house paid off in 15 years at under a 3% interest rate!)

So why not bust out the rusty old Texas Instruments business calculator you had to use for that college level economics course and run a few Payment equations [VGC1] to find out if you can afford it?
So what do you do if you can afford it? If you’re willing to take the risk, I’d say take the plunge, but of course, be frugal and do your research. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme.

Find a property that is either right for you and your family (or your future family) or one that could be easily fixed up in a few months and flipped for a profit, if you are banking on the real estate market to bounce back. Which it will, it will reach an equilibrium. You’ll turn quite a tidy-profit. This same strategy can be used in the future too. Higher education is on the same path as the Tech Bubble and Real Estate bubble took. The key is studying the past to capitalize on the future.
Or, for the Side Hustle fanatic, buying a small property near a college town or somewhere nearby your humble abode and turning it into a rental property is a wonderful way to stay busy on the weekends while earning a nice chunk of income each month.
Real Estate is never a bad investment, especially if you finance the correct loan and never exceed 25% of your take home pay for house payments.
Good luck and stay Frugal!

I would love to hear your feedback about renting properties and your experiences. Tell me about your good and bad tenants! Or have you ever owned more than one house? What were they used for? How did you balance the budget?

Defining the Frugal Lifestyle

Frugality is more than just buying cheap stuff or being a penny-pincher. Sure, I may always pick up a penny off the ground if it happens to catch my eye because I can still hear my Grandmother, Mimi, saying “A penny saved is a penny earned” but that doesn’t mean I’m constantly scouring the parking lot for loose change. Like everything, frugality is a way of life that extends far beyond that of just physical money.
Frugality and leading a frugal lifestyle can be found in every aspect of your life from diet, exercise, work, family, future, time management, and even your hobbies. Behavioral studies show that people who are Frugal have the tendency to acquire economic goods or services in a patient manner in order to achieve a long term goal. While I wholeheartedly agree this is true, we love to save money for that nice new shiny trinket we’ve wanted since we were 7 years old, be it a laptop, car, house, massage, cruise vacation, or whatever your amazing mind can dream up, I believe that frugality is a mindset that transcends mere economic and spending tendencies.
We can extend our frugal tendencies into our diets, for example. Being frugal is what defines us. We can forego the McDonald’s $5 Big Mac and settle with two $1 McChickens instead. But why even stop there? Why not skip the drive-through entirely and benefit from a fast?
 We have the ability to wait a week or a month, maybe even years and go without a T.V. in order to buy the biggest and best. But we don’t stop there, no, we research our big purchase, we wait… Until just the right time and we pounce. We chase what we want with such fervor that nothing can get in our way. If I were an animal, I’d be a Cheetah, waiting, watching, enjoying the sun, then at just the exact right moment a chance to get nice big juicy antelope would present itself.
We feast.
We love getting the biggest bang for our buck. We are disciplined. Frugal folks and families like us don’t follow the crowd. We don’t mind hanging on to that old suit we had when we were fat or stopping to look at the dining room chair on the side of the road, so what if it has a tear in the fabric? I don’t care that someone shot me a funny look or grimaced.
It’s the end of the month and it’s your uncle’s birthday at the Ritzy Restaurant where you can only choose between Filet Mignon and Pan Seared-Salmon none of the main courses are under $25. It’s ok, I’ll settle for the house salad, soup, or split a plate with my brother, we’ve got bigger plans in the works.
We are contemplating and calculating but not devious or mischievous, that would not make us frugal. We do not need to lie to get a better deal. We will happily tip the waiter more because he gave us outstanding service. We don’t complain or argue because this would be a senseless waste of energy.
Whether or not we believe in a higher power, one entity or many, we find happiness in our way of life and we feel more virtuous for it.
Frugal philosophy extends into our work life. We make great managers and leaders. We are patient and forward-looking. We help cut costs and save the company money, but we aren’t brutal or cold. For us, just like any corporation, maximizing shareholder wealth is important. We are the shareholder’s in the happiness of our lives and the lives of those around us.
We are frugal and we are happy. We are free. We care about money and it is important, yes, but it is not main focus of every second of our lives. Because hey, we are Frugal, and we’ve already researched this and know that spending too much time on any one thing will ultimately lead us to failure.
For us, frugality comes naturally, even though we sometimes have to work at it. Check out [url=] The Path to Frugality [/url] if you are interested in more ways on making the lifestyle change to that of a more frugal one.
What do you think? I want to hear your comments about what being frugal means to you. 

October 21, 2012

Turning a Hobby into a Side Hustle

What's your Shtick?

I have seen and learned so many things during my time here in Valencia, Spain. Last night, my roommate from Sicily invited me to a small celebration dinner for her friend's wedding. I was introduced to two gentlemen from Italy.
During the small talk, the redundant question, "What are you doing here in Valencia?" surfaced. After I explained European Project Semester and my work with a large frit and glaze and raw materials company, I volleyed back the same question.
I was shocked by the answer. They said for work and explained that they play poker for a job, that in Italy one of them, Mattia Del Dosso, was one of the best.
In fact, after this dinner the were going to go play. One of the benefits being you can play whenever, they said.
The original plan was to go to a disco, Umbracle. While aesthetically pleasing and modern, the club scene has never been my natural habitat. So I asked Mattia if I could tag along and watch the duo play poker.
My imagination was filled with scenes of a small, smoked filled room in some back alley apartment with grizzled old Spanish men smoking fat cigars trying to coax the dumb American into joining the table.
After getting out of the taxi, we arrived at an average looking apartment complex. The foyer was much nicer with (mimicked) marble, large glass panes, and polished hand rails. The elevator was large, shiny, and new (Most places the elevators are tiny, slow, rickety and old).
The ascent begins. My excitement peaking. The elevator opens to reveal large wooden doors to the flat entrances  The climax. The door opening. I expect my lungs to be filled with second-hand cigar smoke.

Confusion. This place is empty and well lit. There are moving boxes scattered throughout. The apartment was very large though. I glanced around to see two large computer screens (30 inches+) set up on a nice large desk with large mousepads. My heart jumped. I nerded out.

Through the broken English and Spanish it slowly began to dawn on me. As we sat down and they fired up their top notch PC's I realized these two guys play online poker for a living!

From here on out, it got really technical and detailed but the main gist is Mattia started playing online poker 5 years ago because well hey, he likes to play poker. The best difference from "gambling" at a table to the online version is that you have the ability to play 5, 7, 10, or more tables at one time allowing for a more rapid rate of play and more rapid rate of winning money. There are several online communities and forums surrounding these online poker websites. Similar to Starcraft or World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, Sudoku, chess, etc. there are strategy sections for players to help each other. As the community grew, the good players started coaching newer players on tactics to game the system.

From what I gathered, there are mods you can use to change the layout to make gameplay more efficient and easier on the eyes. As well as archiving mods that record other players percentage of folds, raises, etc. This helps you know whats going on in one glance while playing several tables.

Details aside, the story turned into Mattia doesnt really play this way much anymore. He coaches new players for a fee and is a partner on a website, VincoPoker. He also has videos, etc. He coaches using Skype and his website.

I didnt find any of this interesting until I found out how much money per year Mattia earns. He beat around the bush a little because in this type of work there is no average or typical income because of all the variables. Like a Doctor, I kept pressing until it hurt. Mattia revealed he makes just under $200,000 a year. but earns around $70,000-$120,000. Like any small Business Owner, he has to pay health insurance, retirement funding, wages, fees, losses, etc.

(this section will be edited later when I have access to certain material.)
It will pertain to how Mattia will give a player a test and see the skills of this player. if the player is good enough they will place him into a certain skill range giving this player $1,500 to play with. Of course, there are laws preventing them from any contracts so sometimes the players take the money and run.
The deal is, if you take the money, and lose its no problem and you don't owe anything back, but if you win you split 50-50. This is because you have invested nothing to get free coaching and free money. In fact, if you learn faster and win more the split increases. You pay back 40% or 20% while keeping 80% of the winnings from free money. The ratios ended up being incredibly similar to sales ratios. They explained that even though 2-3 people will take the money, 5-7 will lose it all, if just one of the players they do this for ends up winning, it pays for the losses and a profit is still made.

This was so intriguing to me. This entire set up. How you can go from playing poker in your free time to being a partner in one of the largest online poker websites in Italy. How old is Mattia? He was born in 1988. He's 25 years old and makes more money in an hour than I make in a week.

It's an interesting way to turn a hobby into a full time job you enjoy. Mattia's story is special and I haven't had enough time to figure it all out, but it proves that there's always a market, there's always someone else who needs help. Becoming a master in your hobby is one way to make money from it.

October 4, 2012

The Singing Cerveza Salesman

Everyone needs work. Humans are inherently happier when they are busier.

This semester, I am studying in Valencia, Spain on a world-wide collegiate program called "European Project Semester."

I have been keeping a moleskin journal on some of the experiences which may be unveiled in the months to come on Frugal Son.

The initial phase of the project semester has been simple, yet difficult as students from Holland, Sweden, India, Germany, and many more are suddenly given a language barrier to work around and a large team project to complete.

Several ideas were presented including a project to construct an ecological, green friendly outdoor theatre on the University grounds, a new product line of toys for children, work on improving the micro-brewing process, an ever-growing industry, and many more.

The project I chose involves working with Torrecid, a frit and glaze company known for it's innovation and customer service. Our team is slated to do research into the new markets they are trying to emerge in: North Africa, India, and China. At the same time, we are going to help them change their logo and if it is economically feasible to do so.

Spain is undergoing hard economic times as the European Sovereign Debt Crisis is in full-swing. From a financial standpoint I have never lived in such a scary situation. Before the trip here, I was told the best option would be to set up a bank account. Now, I'm glad I didn't (

The unemployment rate is incredibly high here (I have my own ponderings and musings as to why, but we'll keep those silent for now). Of course "blue-collar" work is plentiful as I was offered a job at a local bar to do heavy lifting and cleaning work. Surprising, because my Spanish was terrible at the time of this offer.

We have talked in the past about "Side-Hustles" that you can do to increase secondary income. While some of these options are unavailable due to legal reasons in the United States, I wanted to expound on some of the business models employed, how it relates to the sales industry, and how you can construct similar models and succeed.

Due to the economy of surrounding countries in the Middle East and North Africa, immigration into southern Spain (legal and illegal) is a major issue for the governments here. The language barrier prevents many of the immigrants from attaining jobs and the other is possibly due to cultural differences and an inherent distrust of people from these regions by the locals. The downtrodden laborers must resort to selling items they can afford, or services they can do. These items often include, but not limited to: sunglasses, bracelets, fake roses, necklaces and beads, water, various snack foods, beer, and knick-knacks.

As I wander out of my apartment for evening strolls in the historic center of Valencia, I noticed one of these salesmen who looked like Harold Perrineu, or Michael, from the series "Lost":|7;d|PMUlQ5VH3PNRMM:

He sold several sun-glasses and trinkets a-plenty. Michael looked healthy and happy the first time I saw him. Making a few sales to travellers out for an evening of fun in Valencia. Then two weeks later, I saw Michael again. This time, he seemed to have gray hair and gained a few pounds. As he approached a group of tourists to make a sale, they waved him off. A frown appeared on his face and an audible sigh could be heard. How any salesman can relate to this. A week of no sales weighs so heavily on you you lose control and express your unhappiness! This is a mortal sin in sales and on your happiness. No wonder Michael looked terrible, his mind was portraying how he felt: defeated by the tourists, a hard life, not thriving at all!

Meanwhile, the smiling salesman two groups over is selling bracelets and beer a-plenty. And this brings us to the singing cerveza salesman we met on the beach.

One of the big side-hustle industries for many of the emigrants is selling beer for 1 euro to the turistas and party-goers. A common cultural habit in Valencia and Barcelona (I have not seen other cities, but I hear this is typical Mediterranean culture) is the Botellon, which literally translates to street party. The cities here have small parks all over and it is common for young people to gather at a Botellon and talk, be merry, and enjoy spirits.

When the botellon starts and the students gather, your side-hustle starts. After a long day of keeping your small store open, selling anything you could find in a convenience store, you grab the ice-cold beer to take out and start selling. You don't know Spanish or English, but you can read the top of the can, "Birra, cerveza, beer, bier, cervesa" so you hope as you read it, someone will know what you are selling.  It's dangerous work, the police can arrest you for it, but there's a market. Thirsty tourists and penniless party-ers turn to you in times of need, willing to pay the 1 euro premium for a can of sub-par, super-cold beer. The competition is fierce, there are several other cerveza salesmen surrounding you and around the corner. Your success is largely based on luck and timing.

How do you set yourself apart? After you learn a few more words: fria, cold, and hello beautiful, how are you? you can interact much better with your prospective parched clientele. When out and about it is not uncommon to be approached several times within 1 minute by different salesmen. They are all carbon copies of each other saying "cerveza, beer-a?" in monotone, no smiles, no cheer. You turn them away with a wave of a hand and they move on to another group hoping to make a sale.

When sales take a turn for the worse and you realize it's time for a new tactic, what did one salesman turn to? Singing! Although hardly the melodious harmonies or your favorite singer, with no essence of timing or rhythm, it was annoying at first. Our group had just finished working for four hours on the Logo and Tile research. We wanted to relax on the beach, not listen to another cerveza salesman sing clashing cantations of "very very very coooooooold beeer. freeeee-aahhhhhh ceeeeervayyyysaaaaaa~"

A few members of the group started to poke fun at the singing salesman. On his third pass, I was taken back to my youth at a minor-league baseball game where the aisle-workers sold cotton candy, drinks, and Budweiser. You can hear them now as the make their rounds, up and down the stadium stairs, "Cotton candy here!, Ice cold Coca-cola." A guttural, "Budweiser, Bud Light, Cold Beer! Get your cold beer here!" As I had the quick trip down memory lane, I couldn't help but shout them back as he sang. Not understanding, he approached our group. Instead of giving up when we waved him off, he squatted down near us, and started singing and interacting, he tried two times, three times, four times to sell us a beer. He would leave disappointed as it was too early to start drinking!

After he left, we began discussing how atleast he is trying to set himself apart from the monotone, carbon-copies of his brethren. I felt respect, I wanted to buy a beer for this alone. Here is a guy who is trying. Alas, I hadn't eaten, a beer and no protein first? Blasphemy! Plus, there was a party planned with the rest of the European Project students that promised free food and drink. I wasn't ready. Marshmallow test time.

I went for a walk on the beach and came back, ready to relax some more. Not even a few minutes later could I hear the sing-song rhythm of the cerveza salesman. He joined our group, and playfully interacted with us again, offering beer, coca-cola, or potato chips.

"Not yet." I thought.

Renz and Ben bought a beer after the salesman's third try.

"Ok, maybe." I allowed myself the temptation.

Then Tom bought one too.

I heard myself say, "Ok, well if everyone else is going to start..." and forked over one of my sweetly saved euros.

I took the can, icy-cold to the touch. Popped the top and took a few sips. The beer, Amstel, was refreshing. The beach was hot. After a 16 hour fast, the calories were needed by my body. It felt good.

After some time, I finished the beer and I told myself, "no more, you need to eat!"

Woe is me, for the salesman returned shortly with the same consistency as before. We all bought another one, even though we had been approached by several other beer-men in the meantime. The Singing cerveza salesman won our hearts. We only wanted to buy from him.

Our group later talked about how we remember this man's face and how his simple tactics won us over in the end.

There's a very important lesson in this story that can be applied to all areas of sales and even life.

On the days it feels like you're on the hot beach, wearing jeans and a polo, doing your best to look presentable. You're tired, sweaty, upset. If you keep a smile and playful attitude your clients will love you. Be original, find a quirk and capitalize on it. Adjust your sales-pitch to your audience even if you can't speak the language.

To turn this into a Side-Hustle you can set up outside of a stadium after a major sporting event and sell bottled water and cold drinks. Maybe some cheap snacks. The people just leaving will feel refreshed to see much lower prices than they were just exposed to inside. This can spur someone to action.

Be happy, the parents are upset because they just spent $6 on a coke and $18 on hot dogs and pretzels for the kids. They don't want to see the same financial misery in you as you try to sell them a bottle of water for $2.

Have fun. Having a side-hustle should be entertaining and fulfilling for you. Thrive on the fact that you are helping people save money from the "evil corporate giant" or imagine you are living the American dream, because you are!

October 3, 2012

Expect More Truck Advertisements.

As the stock market and economy is beginning to pick up, I thought it was time for a post on how to invest money. More specifically, where to invest money.

Car advertising is everywhere these days and I'm sure you are just as tired of it as I am. So ask yourself, "How can I take advantage of this?"

While browsing through email, I received the nightly update from, "The Evening Wrap." As I browsed the titles and articles, one caught my eye: "Toyota, Honda lead car sales gains." No need to read the article to guess what it means for the auto industry.

As the green movement picks up there is an inherent demand for more ecological, gas friendly cars. These just happen to be mostly passenger cars.

Over and over again, 2 years ago, I heard how Toyota was toying with the idea of electric because they were suffering in the auto market, more than Ford. Honda was hunkering down from lack of sales. The earthquake in 2011 did not help sales for the struggling companies.
As they fought tooth and nail to emerge on the top, they arrive victorious in quarter 3 with a 42% and 31% gain, respectively.
What does this mean for Ford and GM? More importantly, what does it mean for you?
Just like any good giant corporation is going to do when faced with a problem of posting 4th quart profits, what do they do? They throw money at the problem.
To attain the holy grail of the corporate machine of posting a profit in the 4th quarter (Important for every corporation) you must show an increase in sales and value added to the stake-holder.
Now's your chance to earn some extra spending money for the after Christmas sales. Ford and GM are going to be marketing their current truck line-up into the stars and pushing next years models. Not only that, they are expecting solid growth in the next few months. Faced with this current slap in the face from their Asian competitors, you can bet that they are about to crank up the heat on selling more trucks. Ford and GM want to earn their fair share and they have more incentive now.
With Ford stock selling for just under $10/share and GM for just under $24/share, an ember is about to be ignited into a fire to post profits.
Pick up some stock in the companies today and expect to sell them around January 1st (or after Christmas to beat the "Holiday Effect") and enjoy the post-holiday sales with the extra money!
WSJ article

Don't forget to review your mutual funds to see where your advisers are allocating the money. If the foreign or off-shore investments include Toyota or other Japanese car-makers, you might want to write a quick email or make a phone call!

Investing money can be fun, what are some of your experiences? Where have you had success investing in stocks and what kind of stocks did you invest in? What are the best stocks to invest in?

September 30, 2012

The new direction of and what it means for you

I began my adventure when I was just a freshman in college. Not knowing where I wanted to go, but knowing there has to be a secret to getting there. Trying to find the secret is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in the dark and there's several haystacks to choose from.

Ive been spending a lot of time in this dark field and I've come up with some pretty solid explanations of why there is a good reason to keep moving and looking.

Defining the Title
What is frugal? Frugal is making economical choices in the expenditure of resources. Frugality translates to all of life in our finances, well-being, health, and social interactions. We make minor adjustments here and there depending on the situation, hoping for the best. But the best never comes.

We spend so much time letting the problems distract us. All of our problems are on a similar system akin to inflation. We put them away and they feed off each other to create more problems. We have forgotten when the original deposit was made and if it even exists anymore. We have forgotten why we deposited the problem, where it is, and how it came to us.

This lack of focus then requires us to spend more emotional energy on the problems we didn't even know we had! Therefore we must be frugal with our emotions. Quit overspending angry only to have anger returned to you, inflated.

Stop sending sadness and depression to the proverbial bank only to get a big depression filled tax return.

Send daily deposits of happiness so you can get a return of happiness tomorrow when you wake up.

Rack up on positivity points and store them away to get a positive point filled purse at bonus time.

The trick is not to chase wealth, health, and happiness.

The trick is to tell yourself I already am healthy, wealthy, and happy.

Through frugality of your emotions you can do whatever it is you want to.

I'm going to make my dream come true.

September 14, 2012

Updates Coming!

It has been a while since I've had to time to structure an update. Mostly, because I designed Frugal Son to be a journey blog, not a daily or weekly journal. Coupled with a busy Spring Semester and Summer work, I was unable to bring you weekly updates; however, I have discovered some new and fantastic ways to update the site.

Hopefully in the next few months I will deliver new material and updated material regarding:

-Life choices and Philosophy behind personal and Financial success

-New ideas and strategies to having a "Side Hustle"

-Utilizing strengths to achieve personal success

-Insights on different lifestyles and changes I made to save money and living the lifestyle that makes me Happy

-Resource sites and more data

I am excited to bring new information to the site. Expect more frequent updates soon!

February 8, 2012

Why Insurance is a must

As most of you may know, I spent a summer doing an Internship for Northwestern Mutual. While I spent most of my time learning the ins-and-outs of Life Insurance, I took a course through Tennessee Tech University covering Insurance and Risk management. I learned a lot about the importance of having all types of insurance. Recently, a fan of the site sent me an email asking to post a guest article regarding the importance of insurance, a topic I would love to cover in detail later. Enjoy!

Insurance is a classic example of "have it and don't need it" versus "need it and don't have it." Although paying for insurance that you never use is a hassle, it would be a bigger hassle to forgo insurance coverage and then wind up needing it.

There many reasons why you need all types of insurance. You need homeowners or building insurance to protect a structure and its contents from fire and to protect your possessions from theft. You need auto insurance to protect your car in the event of an accident or theft and to protect yourself in case you incur liability for a collision. Health insurance pays your medical bills if you get sick or injured, while life insurance protects your family and your assets in the event of your untimely death.

You might think it's OK to go without renter's insurance or to carry only liability insurance on your car. Of course, if someone steals you car or breaks into your apartment and steals your big screen TV, you'll be kicking yourself that you didn't fork out a few extra bucks a month to protect those things.

Although each individual insurance policy, with the exception of health insurance, isn't that expensive, usually costing around $50 a month or less, put all together the costs can be a burden.

One way to reduce your costs on insurance is to compare companies on a price comparison website.

For example, you can use a 
buildings insurance comparison site to find the best and most inexpensive homeowners or renter's insurance policies. In addition to a buildings insurance comparison site, there are comparison sites for all other types of insurance. You can go online and compare car insurance, life insurance -- even health insurance policies. Using these sites could easily save you several hundred dollars a year.

Another way to save money on the cost of insurance is to bundle services with the same company. The most common way to do this is to get your auto and homeowners or renter's insurance with the same company. However, you could bundle any types of insurance a company sells to get discounts. By bundling multiple policies, you could save up to 25 percent on the premiums.