Monday, July 7, 2014

Staycation Planning

My employer shuts down its production line for two weeks every summer.  Ordinarily I continue to do my design work during this time, and I sell back my unused vacation time. The money I get from unused vacation helps pay semiannual bills such as home, auto and life insurance.  Besides I don't have air conditioning at home, so I prefer to work in the office during this hot and humid period. Finally, it's quiet at work during "shutdown," so I can concentrate on my most difficult work assignments without worrying about interruptions.

Unfortunately this year my boss insisted that I take my vacation during shutdown.  Taking a trip somewhere is out-of-the-question.  First, there's the cost.  Second, our daughter is signed up for a day camp during the shutdown.  Third, the animals will need pet sitters, which will cost additional money.  So I've decided on a Staycation.  I'm in the midst of thinking of activities that could bring in the lost income, or at least DIY projects that I can tackle to avoid paying someone else to do them.  The second class of activity would also include taking classes that could lead to better job opportunities.

So here's what I've come up with...
  1. Get a job consulting.  This would be ideal, especially if I can charge at least as much as my gross full time salary, and perform the work in the cool comfort of the client's office.  But it's unlikely that I could find the right client(s) with a simple-enough assignment that could be completed in two weeks.
  2. Home maintenance and repair.  Merely getting someone like a plumber to enter your home and tell you that you need a new washer for the faucet used to cost over $100 fifteen years ago.  By now I imagine it's much more, and the transaction might even require an attorney to act as a fiduciary.  So one can save a huge amount of money with "DIY" if one knows how.  Here are the projects I have in mind:
    1. Interior painting, walls & ceilings, especially the bathroom ceiling.  (But if it's too hot and humid, it shouldn't be done.)
    2. Roof repair.  I have some shingles that are starting to curl, and nails have popped up in a few spots.  I would hammer down the nails, staking them with RTV.  But how crazy do you have to be to go onto a black asphalt roof in Summer?  I think the soles of my sneakers would melt!
    3. Repair / replace the car speaker.  One of the rear speakers in my car is buzzing quite loudly, and I think it's blown.  I'm hoping I can just patch it with special glue and cardboard.  If not, I might just disconnect it.  Right now, I have the fader adjusted so that only the front speakers play, and the system sounds weak.  Having just one rear speaker playing would be better than neither one playing.
    4. Gardening / Landscaping.
      1. We pay to have our lawn mowed each week.  If I were to buy and use a cheap push mower just for the smaller front yard, I might get the guys to  skip our place every other week, and I'd get some exercise.
      2. Growing our own vegetables would save us from buying them.
      3. Install a drip irrigation system for the vegetable garden.  One reason the vegetables haven't been planted yet is because I don't think I'll be able to water them.  So I don't want to spend time and effort to produce dead vegetables.  A drip irrigation system would make it easy to water the garden, so I'd be more willing to plant it.
      4. The shrubs are blocking the entrance to our home, so they need pruning for good Feng Shui.
      5. I'm guessing there might be a law against this: Grow and sell tobacco.  Tobacco is in high demand and would grow well here.  I don't smoke, but if I could sell it legally, it would be a most lucrative crop.  Selling stuff on which the state imposes a "sin tax" and prohibits minors from buying, probably is not legal.
      6. Install rain barrels.  These are essentially 55 gallon drums that you position under the downspouts of the home's gutter system in order to collect the water for later use.  Right now we use our well water for watering the garden, and the cost is the electricity that's needed to run the well pump.
  3. Buy groceries that are incorrectly priced specifically in order to take advantage of Connecticut's "Get One Free Law".  I always pay attention to the prices that appear when the cashier scans our items.  I've gotten a few things for free.  The latest was a 12oz bag of gourmet, ground Arabica coffee.  Of course I don't know beforehand whether the scanner will proffer the incorrect price, so this is more miss than hit.  Still, I once saw a one-pound package of butter that was obviously mis-marked.  The price was $3.98 but the unit price was only $1.98 per pound.  So I pounced on it like a seasoned flea market shopper on a genuine Tiffany lamp. When I was charged the $3.98, I complained that it should be only $1.98, according to the unit price, and I did get it for free.
  4. Volunteer.  Well, this won't offset the loss of vacation income, but it might get me into an air conditioned environment.  And according to the Dalai Lama, the path to true happiness is through service to others, so it will bring me happiness.  A really cool idea would be a "VolunteerCation" in which you take a vacation (or sabbatical) in order to travel to some place where volunteers are needed.  I'm not sure, but I'm guessing travel expenses may be tax deductible under such an arrangement.  If you can get an organization to transport you somewhere, that would be even better.
  5. Hang out at the local Maker Space.  Nothing's guaranteed with this idea.  But I imagine if I went to the Maker Space, I might meet some interesting artists, craftspersons or inventors and learn something by watching them.  I might even offer my own expertise to them or collaborate on something with them.  And I'm pretty sure the place is air conditioned. 
  6. Hype my affiliates' products.  In particular, the Blood Type Diet products and the iHerb referral code bring in "coffee money."  But I don't advertise very much.
  7. Hype my online storage accounts.  For example..
    1. Join Dropbox for free using this link, and we'll both receive an additional 500MB of storage space.
    2. Join Copy for free using this link, and we'll both receive an additional 5GB of storage space.
    3. Join Box....  Well, you can join, but I don't use it, and I forgot my login credentials, so I can't promote it right now.
  8. Cat Dentistry.  The plaque build-up on our first cat's teeth makes it seem as though barnacles live along his gums.  The vet quoted us a cost of over $300 to have his (the cat's) teeth cleaned.  The vet's procedure would involve putting the cat under anesthesia, a lot of stress, and possible exposure to an infectious organism.  Would I actually attempt to clean the cat's teeth myself?  Yes.  And it's not as far-fetched as it seems.  Of course, I wouldn't be fooling around with anesthesia.  But the cat sleeps so soundly that I can poke my fingers into and around his mouth without bothering him.  Nor do I plan to use any kind of abrasive or motorized tool.  I might not need to.  One day, I actually used my fingernail to pick a barnacle off his teeth.
  9. Learn stuff.  How to write Android Apps, Working with Linux, Programming with Ruby are all great topics for career growth.
  10. Get all my medical checkups done.  The eye doctor, dentist, primary care physician (PCP) and Naturopathic Doctor are all overdo for a visit.  Those visits would take place in an air conditioned environment, but at the expense of a few co-pays.
  11. Cat Photo Exhibit.  This falls under the category of volunteering because the Cat Photo Exhibit would promote our favorite cat shelter.  If I were to sell any framed photos, I'd forward the proceeds to the shelter.  So I wouldn't made any profits, but I could recoup the expense of the frames I already bought.  The only additional expense would be to have the 8 x 10 prints made and perhaps business cards printed.
  12. Write really clever blog posts, provide a PayPal Donate Button, and watch the money pour in!  (I can't belief I managed to write that with a straight face.)  No, but seriously folks, I don't want to subject you to a "Beg Button."
It will be fun to review my Staycation Activities in a subsequent post.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, do you have any suggestions about what I should do on my staycation?


Rummuser said...

You Square Peg are a bad example. If my family read your post, I will be in deep trouble. Please keep this strictly between the two of us.

No, I don't have any ideas. I am a confirmed couch potato. I am too old now to change.

Square Peg Guy said...

Dear Rummuser, thank you for your comment! Rest assured that in this incredibly large interconnected web of computers, you and I probably are the only ones to read this post. But anyway, this is just a list of plans, and I'm more a man of Ideas, not action. ;)

I will gladly take couch potato as a suggestion.