Sunday, August 2, 2009

lazy oscar traveling

I like to travel. I like to travel internationally and have been to such cities as Rome, Madrid, London and other big cities in Europe. One thing I don't like to do is plan out my traveling.

So this is what i like to do when I get to a big city, I get a one day pass for the hop on hop off sight seeing bus. these hop on hope off buses generally travels in a circle and stops at major attractions. whats great about this is that you can get off and on at any time for the whole day. So you could go around in circles all day or spend all day in one spot. I used this tour bus as a way to check off all the must see tourist spots and also gave me idea if I want to come back to a certain area. Usually, I would see the sites all in one day and then use rest of my vacation based off what i saw from the bus tour to stroll around the city, hang out cafes or restaurants. the bus tour is particularly handy if you're only going to be in the city for one day or two.

Here is another tip if you plan to stay longer then a few days: buy a guide book. Not necessarily to use, but as a back up plan. I'm guide book hater and prefer venture out on my own. A few years ago I was in Rome and after venturing out to several crappy restaurants, i was ready to find something that was good. I grabbed the guide book that i brought but never opened and found a nice small restaurant that was off the beaten path. Turned out to be great and I wouldn't have likely find it out without the book.

Another tip is to use the guide book to tell which bus tour you should take. Not all are the same and hotel's recommendation won't necessarily be the best one. I also found that out in Rome when i went with the hotel's recommendation. They were really nice about booking it but when i got to the beginning stop where all the bus tours start, I realized the tour bus that they had booked was the most run down out of all the tours. So if you do decide to go with hotels recommendation, wait on purchasing it until you see the bus and the set up.

Happy lazy travels!


Saturday, August 1, 2009


My Story:

10 years ago, I was over 40 thousand dollars in debt and living with a roommate. I was working at a job that was paying really well. Life was good. I didn't feel like I was struggling financially, but no matter what i did i couldn't get out from under my financial debt.

How I got there:

It took a long time to find the lazy oscar approach to finances. I had tried many things cash only, budgeting, a ledger, computer software like money and quicken but for me none of these methods worked because it required too much time and effort. The simple formula that worked for me is to save a set amount of money every month and put into a separate account. That set amount of money had to be reasonable and something that you agree to yourself. I don't believe in the 10 percent or universal number approach because they will fail if you don't agree that number is reasonable. I tried the 10 percent approach but what happens is that for the first few months I might succeed but later that number turns to 5 until eventually the savings ratio disappears altogether. For me, it was because it was a number forced upon by some expert that I reluctantly agreed to and then eventually rebeled against. If you honestly come up with a number yourself the less likely you'll rebel against it. This means you have to be honest with yourself. If you get overly ambitious and go i'm going to start saving 20 percent and thats not realistic particularly if you've never saved in the past, its likely going to fail. Better to start off small and then build from there.

First steps:

You may ask well how do I know what percentage to save? The next few months spend like you normally do and see on average if you have anything left over. That will be your savings target. So what if you don't have anything left at the end of month thats probaly why you haven't saved. You need to figure out how much you spend on necessary items (rent, food, car etc.) and stuff that are not so necessary (new clothes, cds, eating out, starbucks etc). The easiest way to do this is to either put all your purchases on your credit card or a debit card and using a tracking tool such as or your banks website see where you money is going. Look at your non-necessary items and see how you can reasonably reduce it by a certain amount. You maybe shocked at how much you spend on small items that just add up. For example, I used to buy a 4 dollar coffee everyday before work which added up to 80 dollars a month! Thats 80 bucks that i could have put into a savings account.

But the lazy oscar way is not about depriving yourself. If you find that you can only save 40 dollars a month because you must have your 4 dollar bucks coffee once in a while then set your savings at 40 dollars. If you can't live without your occasional latte and you set it at 80, you'll find that you'll break your goal pretty quickly and eventually once you do that, you'll likely stop saving altogether. I know this is what happens to me, best to start off small and accomplish that goal then being overly ambitious right off.

I still can't save!

So maybe you've evaluated your spending and you still think there is no way you can do without the coffee or cds or anything else thats what makes life worth living. And you the idea of brewing your own coffee to save a few bucks is just not tolerable. I totally understand that and if you set a arbitrary hard number that you can't live with then more likely you'll break it. If you feel that you just can't save anything, start with one dollar. You may find that one dollar is ridiculously low number if so, then make it 10 and move up to a point where you go whoaa thats too much.

The Foundation:

Once you have a number open up a savings account and set up automatic withdrawls to be taken out of your checking account. I use ing direct but there are numerous of online banks that are no fees and no minimum. You want to put into an account where you don't have instant access to your money such as through an ATM machine. This separation has stopped me from impulse buys because while you can get your money pretty quickly from online banks, it still took 2 days and that was enough for me to reconsider my impulse buys. If this is not enough of a barrier, you may want to consider letting someone else manage the money. While its best to develop your own self courage, I know someone who had limited ability to not tap into that account that he had his father manage this account. An extreme case, but if you fall into that situation you may want to consider.

The method:

Here is the gist of the system. If your paid 10 dollars and you save a dollar, you have 9 dollars to spend on whatever you like, but you must fall within the 9 dollars that you have. What you'll find is that you'll spend more on one thing and if you spend like you usually spend on other items, you will go over your 9 dollars. Since you only have 9 dollars, you'll have to make some choices either sacrifice in another area, get another job or try to sell something. I usually resorted to sacrificing in another area such as maybe eating ramen for a week. What this taught me was to be a mindful spender. So when I would make a big purchase that I normally don't have, I would think about the ramen I ate for a week. Sometimes a major purchase was worth the ramen for a week and sometimes I decided to wait a few months until I could afford it. Not only did this method teach me mindful spending, but also the benefits of delayed gratification.

Putting it all together:

Use tools such or use your banks' debit card website, but get in the habit of looking at your balance every day or every other day. This will reinforce the mindful spending mentality and you'll find that the more you practice it, the more you'll be able to save. Ultimately you'll realize that most of your material purchases don't add to your life, but are just ways to distract yourself.

My Situation NOW:

I've paid all my debt except for a mortgage and have built up my assets. I still use the basic lazy approach to saving, but i've added to it investing and using software to show a snapshot of my net worth. I will write a future post about how to invest easily and cheaply and how to show your net worth.


Friday, July 24, 2009

lazy oscar way

What is the lazy oscar way of doing things? Its not zero effort or not necessarily very little effort ,although at times that may be the case, its about the getting the most from the least amount of effort. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? Thats the rule that 20 percent of anything creates 80 percent of the productivity. So for example, 20 percent of the customer of a company maybe account for 80 percent of the sales. So if we know this we focus more on spending resources on the 20 percent. Thats what I try to do in life focus on the 20 and this blog is about what i've done to do this in various areas. Sometimes it took alot of experimenting to find out how to get that least effort process, but once achieved it has made my life alot easier and lets me focus on things you may rather be doing. So check out my articles and if you see an idea you like feel free to steal it!