My Introduction to Gambling in the Big Easy

So I recently visited New Orleans for the first time. I had a lot of fun and experienced a lot of firsts for me. One of those that I thought would be worth discussing here would be gambling at the Harrah’s casino. I have never been to a real casino. The closest I have been to a casino was a family trip to Las Vegas as a child where I went to the shows and sat by the pool all trip. And while that was an amazing trip, it wasn’t really gambling. So when some friends and I were in New Orleans and they were interested in going to the casino I was excited to tag along and see what all the excitement was about.

The first thing I noticed in the casino was it was a dizzying blur of sound, light, and distracting glitz. Clearly meant to try and make the process of losing money at various speeds more palatable. I learned from my friend that you want to look for machines that have a decent payout rate. For instance a machine that pays eight times for a full house and 5 times your bet for a flush is a good machine. A machine that pays 6 and 5 is a bad one. My friend put in 20 bucks in the machine, played a few hands, caught a couple full houses and cashed out up ten bucks! Fifty percent return, not bad!

We then went to the penny slots which were an overwhelming array of rules. What I learned is even though it says penny, you are paying a penny for every line you can possibly win on and that 40 lines is a minimum. Another thing I learned is that even if you can win on 40 lines, it’s still very easy to not get any decent combination even though there are 40 ways to win. The rate at which the penny slots pay out is much less clear than the video poker as well. Apparently with the payout rate the poker machine had it would pay out 97% of all money put into it assuming proper play.

The penny slots are not as forthcoming so I think they are intended more as entertainment, which then makes the goal to find the most entertaining the machine possible to feed money to. The wizard of Oz machine did all sorts of fun things with the different characters and sometimes the ruby slippers would come out and give you free spins and wilds, and a fun Lord of the Rings machine next to us would show the one ring which would reveal some sort of multiplier. Or you could play a machine like Cherry Mischief which appeals to different interests.

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All in all it was a really fun time to see how everything worked at the Casino machines. I don’t think they are really my thing in general – I would rather a home poker game where everyone puts in a nominal amount to play and socialize all night. I wasn’t a fan of the amount of people smoking in the casino either, but I can understand that that might be a perk for smokers who don’t have many places they can smoke indoors. My friends ended down a few dollars for over an hour of play, and when you factor in the fact that if you played for 30 minutes you were comped the eight dollar parking fee the cost of playing was basically nothing. All in all an interesting experience that proved educational to my understanding of Casinos.

07022014

June 2014 Budget and Blog Stats

I knew June was coming for my budget and boy did it hit hard.  This is my first month in quite a while where I ended it in the red. Well okay technically I did save a hundred bucks but it still felt like I was in the red since that was part of an automated withdrawal to a retirement account that I won’t see for another 30 years and I spent more than my paycheck deposits into my bank account.  Sigh.

So how did this happen?  Well, I paid off my August cruise for almost $700.  I bought a queen frame and mattress for around $400.  Combine those expenses with a nice set of towels, sheets, mattress pads and other incidentals for my upcoming Airbnb hosting adventure let to a spendy month of June.  I knew what the cruise would cost when I scheduled it so I’m not too worried about that.  Cruises are my favorite type of vacation by a long shot and having the opportunity to share that with Ms. TSD should make for a priceless experience.

Time will tell on the Airbnb related expenses but I am determined that anyone staying in my home will have an amazing experience so I tried to purchase items to that effect.  Here’s the breakdown of my spending so far totaling approximately $650.

Bed Frame 150
Queen mattress 229
Towels 76.76
2x Queen sheet sets 32.38
2x Waterproof Mattress Pad 45.98
New door handle with lock 13.48
Comforter Set 40
Patio Umbrella 60
Curtains 20

 

On the plus side the trip to Boston at the start of the month turned out to be more affordable than I had anticipated and hopefully the upcoming trip to Nebraska will prove to be similar.  Regardless I’m glad I had a little bit of a cushion to absorb a less than optimal month.  With the vacation paid for and the home improvements in the rear view mirror I assume things will get back to normal here as the summer progresses.

Onto the blog.

For those interested in the statistical progress of the blog, the May stats are as follows:

Alexa Rank: 311,948 Uh-oh I’ve gone backwards since May.  I’m not sure how this happened since June was my best traffic month to date.  I have been focusing pretty hard on Airbnb prep as opposed to researching Alexa ranking stuff so perhaps that has something to do with it.  Not going to sweat this since if people are enjoying the blog, that’s enough for me!

Twitter Followers: 700!  You guys are awesome!

Thank you to everyone who is enjoying the blog!

06282014

Travel Tip – Talk to the Locals

When in Boston, Ms. TSD and I found ourselves occasionally faced with situations where we didn’t really know where we were going. This happens all the time when travelling since by definition you are unfamiliar with the local area. Since I have the tendency to get lost even in areas that I am very familiar with, I can easily get incredibly lost in unfamiliar areas. Now combine my tendency to get lost with the fact that I prefer to use the guess and check method of finding the correct direction to varying degrees of effectiveness, I can get quite lost rapidly.

Lucky for me Ms. TSD tends to ask locals for help when unsure of a travel decision and I realized the error of my ways when this proved to be a spectacularly effective way to get to the right location quickly. We were navigating the local T underground train system, which was my first experience with a Subway system. She would ask people for where you were supposed to wait for stops and try to keep appraised as to when and where our stop was letting off where I would generally tend toward over researching the problem on the Internet.

The best use of local insight was in asking our desk attendant at the hotel the best method to get to the airport at the end of our visit. We had already planned out the route were going to take to get the airport via the T system so it seemed to me unnecessary to reconfirm information we already had planned out. Turns out it’s never a bad idea to get a second opinion from someone who might know something different. The attendant directed us to a bus service leaving from a T stop that utilized our all day pass anyway and went straight to the airport with zero excessive stops. He saved us the mess of the trains during rush hour and cut an hour off our travel time.

So lesson learned, consult with locals when travelling even if you think you can do it yourself. You might get better information and in general will have a better sense of direction. By combining the information of those with vast amounts of it in comparison to yourself, it’s like an internet made of actual people instead of zeros, ones, and possibly magic.

On a completely unrelated note, since we are at the end of June to those of you with investments that give quarterly dividends such as my Vanguard Total Stock Market, happy dividend day!

Until next time!

06242014

The Danger of Being Right in Investing

As I discussed earlier this year, I made a fairly sizeable transaction with my retirement funds.  I made a purchase with new money in my Roth IRA as well as a sizable shift from bonds to stocks in my existing retirement accounts.  I decided to make these transactions on a day when the markets were fairly down compared to what we had seen so far on the year.  So far it has turned out that that day was the lowest point to date for the Wilshire 5000 index in 2014 which is basically what Vanguard total stock fund tracks.  As a result of this, all year my purchases have done nothing but increase in value.  This would generally be fantastic news but where something like this can turn dangerous is in how I approach my next purchase based on this success.  What I want to talk about today is the danger of being right in investing. Continue reading

06212014

My Airbnb Hosting Adventure – Almost Ready to Go!

It’s been a while since my last Airbnb update on how my hosting endeavors are progressing.  I wanted to share my progress since I am getting ready to launch and list my house on Airbnb!  In my recent trip to Boston I stayed 2 nights in an Airbnb rental along with 5 other people and It really jump-started my desire to get my Airbnb plan back on track.

I have been getting my house together in preparation to list on Airbnb and get renting.  I made the following list in preparation and have steadily been checking items off.  Here is my progress on each item currently. Continue reading

06112014

Is the Amazon Fire TV Worth the Money?

I recently helped my folks set up an Amazon Fire TV streaming media player and I thought I would share my thoughts so that anyone thinking about purchasing one would have some idea what they are getting into.  First off, what is the Amazon Fire TV?  Basically the device makes your TV into a smart TV in the same fashion that a Roku or an Apple TV does.  It allows you to wirelessly stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and any other streaming content straight from the internet to your TV. Continue reading

06072014

Top 3 Tips for a Frugal Road trip

I recently took a road trip to Kansas for a wedding and it got me thinking of how to optimize the perfect frugal road trip. A road trip is generally more frugal than a plane flight since plane tickets, parking, baggage fees, and rental cars generally dwarf just filling up with gas every several hundred miles but there are some key steps you can take to really make your next road trip a frugal one. Continue reading

05302014

May 2014 Budget and Blog Stats

May, yikes.  My Mint report pretty much says it all when it reported that I had spent over$200 in travel during the month of May when I usually spend $1.  This was a pricey month and I didn’t save as much as I would have liked but with all the fun travel plans coming up I feel this will be a trend for the summer.  The $135 I paid for a passport and the $100 deposit for the August cruise ate up the bulk my higher than usual spending.  The other $700 for the cruise that will be spend before August will probably heavily influence my budgets for the summer months. Continue reading

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