Author: Happy Camper

Catching Up With… Happy Camper

Catching Up With… Happy Camper

It’s been too long since I’ve been made a concerted effort to blog, so… in sticking with the program of sticking with a program, here’s what’s been going on in our world while we’re Working on Happy…

MuffinWagon Died & Reborn

Ahh… the MuffinWagon™ – Our 10 year old minivan we’ve taken on hundreds of trips for over 100,000 miles — DisneyWorld, Stone Mountain, Washington DC, Nashville, Cocoa Beach, the Everglades, and much much more.  Well, after all that crazy living, the harmonic balancer (whatever in the world THAT is) decided it needed to die.  The rubber gaskety thing that balances harmony got old, vulcanized, and the thing went “kerchunk”. This killed all the power transfer to the air conditioning, power steering, and alternator.  Suddenly the van was SUPER hard to steer, and the battery light came on.

A few months ago, the dealership told us, when we took it in for the “free oil change”, how we were leaking power steering fluid and “any day now” it would just give out and we’d Thelma and Louise right off of a cliff.  They gave us a ludicrous estimate, so I wanted to hold off on that, realizing that while we’d lose the POWER part of the steering, we’d still have steering.  When I took it in to get its harmony balanced, the mechanic said there was no sign of a leak and the power steering fluid was full.  I’ve always been fairly confident that the dealership “free oil change” was just a BS way to get us into grubby mitts and find or make something wrong, and this only reinforces my distrust.

I cleared all of our normal stuff out of the van, loaded up my 10 speed mountain bike, and drove the MuffinWagon into town for repair.  On the way back home, it started raining, and I bailed when driving through what appeared to be a puddle.  That left me with some nice road rash on my shoulder and calf, and a HUGE bruise on my hip and bruised my ribs a bit.  Did I mention “ouch?!”  I got up, screamed a few profanities at the birds nearby, and finished my ride.  Later that evening, they had the diagnosis and an estimate for repair of $850.  I acted alarmed at the price, shouting far fewer profanities than the birds experienced, and asked if they had any sort of discounts available: AAA, AARP, veteran’s… ANYTHING.  After the mechanic hemmed and hawed a little bit, he offered a 5% discount, which with taxes and everything brought the price down to around $800.

The next morning, I pedaled my bruised butt back there and picked it up, after dropping off $800 in their custody to repair and replace said harmonic balancer.  So, now we have one deluxe minivan!  And we ended up paying less to fix an actually broken part than was estimated to fix a leak made up by the dealership.

RV Shopping

In staying in the hotels at client sites over the years, I’ve noticed that no one really has the same standards for cleanliness that I do. Combine this with the opportunity to visit and share some of the better places to live while Working on Happy, Princess Muffins and I have started looking at RV’s.  These accommodations will physically pull us out of the dog-eat-dog rat race of the (sub)urban assault, and give us a chance to be a part of the natural world that we were born a part of.  We spent nearly all day looking at different sizes and configurations.  It looks like we’re going for a 30 foot class A.

We (mostly the Princess) are not that eager to participate in stealth camping, so the fact that the Class A looks like a small tour bus doesn’t matter to her.  I like the fact that it’s 1/10 the size of our house of which we’re barely using 90%.  This will allow us to have a place to stay when our McMansion is sold.  Until then, I can stay in it while working at client sites or en route.

Since the 2018 models have recently come out, it looks like we’ll be able to get a “brand new” 2017 with warranty and everything.  But, as a bonus, we’ll take the first year’s “as soon as it rolls off the lot” depreciation right off of our cost by suffering with last year’s model.

Binging for Delta Miles (aka Triple Stacked Dining Deals)

The past week has been quite an effort for me maximize my dining deals.  Here’s my situation: I get a $40 daily meal allowance.  However, I only get reimbursed for as much as I produce receipts. If I fast all week, no one cares – not a “Thank you for saving us money” or “Did you eat anything?  Are you okay?!”  If I spend $40 a day on lattes, no one bats an eye either way.  So, I’ve been thinking… and that’s when things get crazy… Why not max out the benefit to me, personally!?

So, I’ve been working a deal with Delta SkyMiles Dining and Mogl along with whatever coupons I can muster to get miles, and cash back.  So far I’ve eaten every allocated meal this week at a restaurant that provides both SkyMiles and Mogl cash back.  It’s actually been pretty complicated to line up a relevant establishment for each meal type near where I plan to be at that time, while simultaneously maximizing the Mogl rebate amount.  Of course, I put it on my miles-earning card.  After all of that, I get reimbursed for the amount shown on the receipt.

Just as I was binging myself to death with my $30 dines for the maximum bonus dining miles, I realized it made more sense to do my 12 dines to get to VIP status first, so that my final $30 dine would earn 5x miles per dollar, rather than the mere 3x miles of the bourgeois “online member”.

Here’s how I’m doing so far:

Day Coupon Spend Miles Rebate
7/31 None $25 76 $1.78
8/1 None $30 90 (+500) $2.43
8/2 Free chips from joining mailing list $34 104 (+1000) $2.11
8/3 None $9 27* $1.35*
8/5 $5 Welcome Back $25 N/A $2.03
8/7 AARP 10% discount $7 $0.47
8/7 None $9 $0.59
8/7 None $11 33* $0.75
8/8 None $11 33* $0.66
8/8 None $8 24* $0.58
8/8 None $16 48* $2.38
* Award not yet received, but estimated

Overall, it’s actually been difficult for me to spend all $40 every day.  It’s a bit like Brewster’s Millions with food.   I figure I have an annual food budget of about $10k.  If I spend all of it, I get 50,000 bonus miles a year.  If I get an average rebate rate of 10% from Mogl, that mean $1,000 rebated to my credit card every year.

Stacked Discount Shopping For the WIN! – $10 Bonus Cash!

Stacked Discount Shopping For the WIN! – $10 Bonus Cash!

Do NOT buy the 2018 Entertainment book until you read this!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Entertainment book.  There are tons of restaurant deals on there for 50% off all over town.  My parents started buying it when I was a kid, and I’ve been addicted to it ever since.  But, there’s an even better way to save all that, and I aims to tell you about it.


Here’s my Golden Rule of Frugal Shopping: Always Shop At a Discount!

Back in 2010, I became a member of a site that shares a portion of their affiliate income back to the shopper. I thought it was pretty novel then, and they’re still around! I know, when you’re considering doing business with someone, it’s always a little sketchy when that new “Order Your Contact Lenses Online” store has only been around for 5 months.

So let’s say you’re interested in shopping at Macy’s for something, you go to this site I’m about to share with you, find the store at which you want discounts, click the affiliate link to the store, and you get cash back into your account, after you’ve made your order. I’ve saved about $500 over the years. I’ve started shopping a lot more at Amazon, which doesn’t really give a discount through these guys. But Macy’s? Sure… you can get 6% of your cost rebated to you.


The Savings Really Stack Up!


And it stacks!

You can stack this with your miles/points card. The 6% rebate doesn’t come off of your purchase price.  It comes back to you as a rebate, so your purchase price appears as full price and get all your miles for the purchase.

Let’s say you’re traveling for work. Hotels.com absolutely kicks butt for finding hotels at a cheap rate.

When I was traveling to New York City for work as an freelance consultant, where my hotel was burdened into my hourly rate, I’d click their affiliate link for Hotels.com, book the travel, get my Hotels.com rebate form for booking 3 or more nights from my Entertainment book, and book the whole thing on a miles credit card. I ended up paying so much less than I would have without stacking those savings.

  • Full Price of the Hotel on the rewards card
  • 6% Rebate by using their affiliate link
  • $20 rebate for booking 3 nights

Sure… but where can I shop?

Oh, and that contact lens example above? 1-800 Contacts – 5% rebate.
The Entertainment coupon book?  A 17.5% rebate!! (and a free shipping coupon code)
You can link your credit card to In-Store savings at Brick and Mortar places. Like Bed, Bath, and Beyond… When you’re getting new towels to use that 20% off coupon they’re always mailing out, you will get another 2% rebate when you use your linked rewards credit card.


It’s actually pretty amazing how many places have discounts running here. It’s pretty much everywhere you’re probably already shopping. So, instead of giving you affiliate links to high priced products and trying to convince you how awesome they are, here’s my advice and plea to you:

Sign Up At Ebates and Save!

If you actually buy stuff through their links after signing up through that link, I get $5 and YOU get $10. At a minimum, if you never use them again after buying the Entertainment book, you get $10 for using them once! This is insane! Now, they’re hoping you’re as excited about their deals as I am, and you’ll just keep buying stuff through them. They share the wealth, and they just keep making their affiliate cash hand over fist because of their profit sharing process. If they weren’t so confident you’d love their deals, they wouldn’t be willing to give you $10 for just signing up.

Now that you know about them, it’s silly to ever shop the normal way again! Am I right?!





Going Greek for Miles (and cash back)

Going Greek for Miles (and cash back)

Athena Kouzzina – Frugal Vegetarian Takeout Review

Overall Rating: Most Excellent

As a reminder, the chief criteria of this challenge are to:

  • Stack as many discounts/points as possible
  • Pay as little as possible for as much food as possible
    • thus takeout, to avoid drinks, desserts, and tip and “atmosphere
    • thus vegetarian, as meat-free food should be less costly
  • Find decent places to eat on the company per diem and take home as much money and points as possible

Vegetarian Friendly: Quite so

  • There were quite a few items available to pick from including Angel Hair Pomodora, Feta Ravioli, and Basil fettucini. I chose a few of my favorite items from the menu and thought I’d try a new one. Nearly every pasta dish on the menu with a “before meat” price, so meatless was a cheaper and obvious option in all cases.

Take Out Friendly: Pretty good

  • Had to place the order over the phone. No web or app-based ordering. I walked in, said I was there to pick up my order, paid for my food, and walked out, without any hassle whatsoever. Napkins and tableware were included.

Accuracy: Perfect

  • When asking for vegetarian preparation, or extra sauce in this case, there’s always a chance something will go wrong. When ordering over the phone, there’s one more chance that something will go wrong with the order. Not a thing went wrong.

Value: Pretty Good

  • The amount of food and prices charged weren’t quite the same value as eating at home, but for restaurant food, the prices were pretty good, and the portions were far from stingy.

Timeliness: Great

  • I was told the food would be ready in 15-20 minutes. I got there in 20 minutes and the food was already bagged and ready. The cashier immediately saw me  and was out of there in mere minutes. When I got it back home, it was still plenty warm.

Service: Excellent

  • The phone was answered quickly to place the order. The order was taken accurately and politely. The wait time was nearly zero.

Food Quality: Pretty darn good

I ordered a few things, because some of the sides/starters were pretty affordable, and I had to get $30 worth in order to get my Delta bonus points. (which I failed to do at Tilted Kilt)

Greek Salad – Crisp iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperoncinis, kalamata olives, Feta and our exclusive Athens dressing.
Greek Eggplant Dip – Roasted eggplant, fresh garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Spanakopita – Phyllo dough filled with spinach and cheese with Yia Yia’s [do I know this person?] syrup on the side.
Eggplant Parmigiana – Kouzzina-style eggplant Agnanti [what’s that??] served with linguine and tomato sauce.

The Greek salad was exactly as advertised and generally as expected. The lettuce was quite crisp, the tomato (though sparse) was ripe and delicious. However, pretty much everything other than the dressing, iceberg lettuce, and cheese was pretty sparse. I actually had to dig through to figure out where/if the onions were. The dressing was so-so: a whole lot of olive oil, and generally light in flavor. The freshly grated feta cheese was so fresh, it was actually hard to believe it was feta. This didn’t taste like your store bought feta, that’s for sure.

The Greek Eggplant Dip was pretty thin and mayonnaisey. I really couldn’t taste much else over the overpowering mayonnaise. I would have expected a bit more grilled eggplant or garlicky flavor. It was decent, but mostly seemed like mayonnaise with eggplant seeds in it. The accompanying pita wedges, however, were fresh and light and tasty.

The spanakopita, or spinach pie, was where things really turned in Athen’s favor. The phyllo was crisp and flaky. The filling of spinach and onion was so flavorful, rich, and savory. Combined with the accompany honey sauce (made by Yia Yia, I guess)… it seemed, at the time to embody the perfect food. The only flavor “missing” was sour, but all of my taste buds were dancing with delight with each bite. I’d never had a spanakopita served with a honey sauce, so I was eager to see what they had in mind, and I was delighted to have gone to visit Yia Yia. I recommend you do the same.

The Eggplant Parmigiana was a great finish to the meal. The breading on the eggplant was light and occasionally crisp, despite being soaked in the tomato sauce (of which I asked for extra). The pasta was to al dente perfection, and the sauce, itself was flavorful and intense with a bit of a kick to it that you could only feel in the aftertaste.  The only thing wrong was a bit or two of eggplant that were slightly under-cooked.

The Discounts and Deals

I expect to receive a stacked deal of:

  • 7% cash back from Mogl (got an immediate acknowledgement when the transaction hit the clearinghouse – just like last time)
  • Since I spent over $30, a bonus of 500 Delta SkyMiles as part of their Delta Dining bonus
  • 3 miles per dollar from the Delta SkyMiles Dining program from Rewards Network, since I’m an “online member” (getting their spam)
    • now up to 2:12 required restaurant visits to count toward 5 miles per dollar VIP status
  • 1 mile per dollar from my Delta American Express card

The Experience

Overall, the vegetarian items were plentiful. The pricing to leave off meat was obvious and fair. The ordering process was easy. The food was delicious. What else can you say really? I’d absolutely go again [on the company’s dime].

This is the entry way. It’s in a mall, but they still made it cute.
Mall dining area
$34 worth of Greek take out!
Greek Salad, but of course!
Eggplant dip with pita wedges
Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
Eggplant Parmesan with linguine












Delta SkyMiles Dining Bonus

Delta SkyMiles Dining Bonus

If you are collecting Delta miles to save up for a trip, you can join SkyMiles Dining for up to 3,000 Bonus Delta SkyMiles.  All you have to do is register with their program earlier than September 30, 2017, spend $30 or more at each participating restaurant, and write a review within 30 days of each bonus dine.  After dining out three times, you get their maximum reward of 3,000 Delta SkyMiles! Even if you’re already participating in a RewardsNetwork dining program like iDine or FuelRewards, you can switch over to the Delta program juuust long enough to get your big bonus, then go back to your preferred program.

3,000 Bonus Delta SkyMiles with SkyMiles Dining

This dining rewards program lets you get Delta SkyMiles each time you dine at restaurants participating in their program. After twelve dines, you start earning 5 miles for every dollar spent dining at participating venues, until then you get 3 miles per dollar (as long as you sign up to get their spam).  Delta does not expire their SkyMiles.  As a result, you can get these SkyMiles and hold onto them until you need them.

How to Earn 3,000 Bonus Delta SkyMiles:

  1. Join SkyMiles Dining by September 30, 2017 – it’s free!
  2. Within 30 days of signing up, make a $30 or greater (incl. tax and tip) purchase at any participating location.  All you have to do, is pay using your credit card that you register as part of the program.
  3. Complete a review of the place within 30 days of your spend.
  4. Each visit earns you a progressively bigger bonus until you get a total of 3,000:
    • 500 bonus miles for your first visit to a participating restaurant, then another
    • 1,000 bonus miles for your second visit to a participating restaurant, then another
    • 1,500 bonus miles for your third visit to a participating restaurant

This bonus available to new SkyMiles Dining members or those members who, at the time of registration, do not yet have a “dining profile”. They say it can take between 4 to 6 weeks from the completion of your survey for the bonus miles to make it to your SkyMiles account.

How to Write a Valuable Review


It’s hard to be upset about free miles, and this deal is pretty darn good.

How to Write a Valuable Review

According to the Rewards Network, here’s there guide on writing a review.  Note that “value” isn’t one of their key considerations.

Spill the beans. [Ha, I see what you did there!] We encourage you to be creative in your review and let your personality shine. The most meaningful reviews contain colorful descriptions of the food, service and ambiance. Here are a few tips to help you provide feedback that is the most helpful:

  • Food and Drinks
    After all, it`s what you came for. [And that’s all — except no highly marked up drinks] Be sure to tell us what you liked about what you ordered or your thoughts on the menu. Was that soup just like Grandma used to make it? Tell us about it.
  • Service
    Was the service polite, helpful and efficient? Did your server help make your meal sparkle [No thanks, I would rather not pay the 35% tip expected for sparkling service, thank you very much] by checking in at the appropriate times or anticipating needs?
  • Ambiance
    Tell other diners what you thought of the mood. [Like I care… These things add to the cost, which I do not want] Did it match the food and service? Was it casual enough for a family outing or romantic for a first date?
  • Constructive Feedback
    If your visit was less than perfect, be sure to remain constructive in your review. Avoid using offensive or distasteful comments. Share information you feel would help the owner improve upon future experiences.






Frugal Vegetarian Breastaurant Takeout Adventure – Very Stacked!

Frugal Vegetarian Breastaurant Takeout Adventure – Very Stacked!

Tilted Kilt – Frugal Vegetarian Takeout Review

Rating: Not Quite

This is my first frugal vegetarian take-out review, so I’m making up these criteria as I go along. But overall, I’d give it a “not quite” 2/4 stars.  As a reminder, the chief criteria of this challenge is to:

  1. Stack as many discounts/points as possible
  2. Pay as little as possible
    • thus takeout, to avoid drinks, desserts, and tip and “atmosphere”
    • thus vegetarian, as meat-free food should be less costly
  3. Find decent places to eat

Restaurants this week were found using the RewardsNetwork restaurant list.  However, when I was searching for coupons to stack for this week’s restaurants, I found another program that ties into one’s credit card called MoglUnlike the RewardsNetwork programs, when I signed up for Mogl, I didn’t get any “only one program” emails from RewardsNetwork, according to my research, it might just stack!  There are quite a few restaurants on both the RewardsNetwork as well as Mogl, so they could be running the same program, but they might not.  Only time will tell.  Yelp also offers a cash back program, that uses the Mogl infrastructure, so Yelp and Mogl cannot stack, but either can stack with RewardsNetwork.

Vegetarian Friendly: Not really

  • The “vegetarian option” of black bean burger can be substituted or you can “leave off the meat” that you’re certainly paying full price for.

Take Out Friendly:  Not so much

  • Had to place the order over the phone. No web or app-based ordering. The goal here is to minimize the amount of imposed “service” to create reciprocity and expect a tip. There was no take out zone. It was not obvious who to talk to in order to pick up the order. When the waitress finally came over, she was intent to butter me up as fast as possible for her tip.

Value: Pretty Poor

  •  Burger and (six) onion rings for $15 is a little more than I would expect. I’m thinking that guys aren’t coming here for the food or the prices.

Timeliness: Fair

  • I was told the food would be ready in 10 minutes because they were pretty slow. I got there in 12 and the food was ready in 20.  I’m not looking for fast food, just accurate estimation.  If you tell me it’ll be an hour, and I come get my food in an hour, I don’t expect my food to have been sitting around for 45 minutes, getting cold.

Service: Not so hot

While I was placing the order, I had a very hard time hearing the order taker, because they have their phone right where the music is loudest in the restaurant. When I arrived, no one came to assist me for about 5 minutes. I had to walk around and find someone, who then went in back to tell MY waitress (the one who took my order) that I was waiting. While I was waiting the (not my) waitress offered me some water while I waited, which was pretty nice. When my waitress arrived, there was a large flurry of “how was your day” type banter, meant to make me feel engaged. She went through all of the boxes to make sure they hadn’t screwed anything up, which is as expected.

Food Quality: Some good, some mediocre

  • The burger itself was actually pretty good. The problem was that there was already so much salt from the starter, that the bleu cheese was just way too salty. After letting my palate get over the excessive saltiness of the “Irish Nachos”, I was able to experience the subtle flavor combination in the “black and bleu burger”, and it was really well done.
  • The onion rings, all six of them that were included in my order, were actually pretty tasty. Unfortunately, there was no offer of any condiments to accompany them, nor were any provided.
  • The “Irish Nachos” were actually awful. First, they were way too salty.  I could feel my blood pressure rising, and this was takeout, so it certainly wasn’t because of the “atmosphere”. Second, the “cheez” on it seemed more like cheez-whiz, and added even more salt. Third, it seemed about 1/4 of the chips were from a prior batch made in some rancid oil. Once I got a snootfull of that, it was pretty hard to recover. Finally, the decision to remove the beef chunks (with no cost accommodation provided) must have been the coup de grâce that just made them far from what was originally intended, but quoth The Raven, “nevermore”.  The tomatoes, however, were of decent ripeness and flavor, but this strength did not redeem them.

The Discounts and Deals

I expect to receive a “stacked” (keeping in line with their tongue-in-check mammary-related humor) deal of:

  • 7% cash back from Mogl  ($1.78)
  • 3 miles per dollar (76 miles) from the Delta Skymiles Dining program from Rewards Network, since I’m an “online member” (getting their spam)
    • 1:12 required restaurant visits to count toward 5 miles per dollar VIP status
  • 1 mile per dollar (25 miles) from my Delta American Express card
    • There are better credit cards to use for steeper dining rewards, such as the AARP and CostCo Visa which each give 3% cash back on dining with no annual fee, but I don’t have either of those right now.

In the future, I hope to interleave some Restaurants.com or Entertainment coupons on this goodness, but I didn’t have time to line those up for this week’s travel dining.

Also, since Delta is running a bonus program, I was hoping to get a bonus of 500 miles on this first, but I didn’t spend $30, only $25. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the terms. However, I should still get the regular miles listed above. Here are the details of the Delta Dining bonus good until September 30, 2017:

For a limited time, join SkyMiles® Dining and earn up to 3,000 bonus miles right out of the gate. Just sign up, register your credit and/or debit card, and within the first 30 days, after completing an online review:

  • Earn 500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more at any participating restaurant.
  • Earn 1,000 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your second participating restaurant.
  • Earn 1,500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your third participating restaurant.

The Mogl app is actually pretty sweet.  This is especially in contrast to the utter lack of an app for the Delta SkyMiles Dining.  I was able to call the restaurant straight from the app, and the moment that my credit card was swiped through the register, I got this little notification:

Mogl notification dialog of Tilted Kilt purchase.

I understand that the RewardsNetwork can take up to a few weeks to show up on their site.  The official statement on the site is to allow 5 to 10 days for miles to show on your statement.  It ended up taking three days.  Ate on Monday night, showed up on my SkyMiles Dining profile on Thursday morning.

The Experience

Hidden under the section of the menu labeled Big Arse Burgers, lies the option to make the item a “Skinny Arse” by substituting a spicy black bean patty. Every burger, whether with a big or skinny arse, is served with the choice of side. I went with the Beer Battered Onion Rings.  I love onion rings.

Now, finding something vegetarian on this menu is quite problematic. Most of their burgers come with bacon, and I’m not a big fan of paying for something as part of the base price, then having them just “leave that off” without giving me something in return. So, the following burgers with other meaty things added were out to the question:

  • BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger – Apple wood smoked bacon [it needs more meat, right?], cheddar cheese, Guinness, BBQ sauce, crispy shiestring onions, leaf lettuce and ripe tomato.
  • F. A. B. Burger – Golden fried burger patty, apple wood smoked bacon [bacon, again!], cheddar cheese, kilt burger mayo, leaf lettuce, ripe tomato and red onion.
  • Pub Fried Egg Burger – Apple wood smoked bacon [definitely needs bacon], a fried egg, American cheese, leaf lettuce, ripe tomato and red onion.
  • Wicked Boston Burger – Maple pepper bacon [ooh! a different kind of bacon!], American cheese, Samuel Adams Boston larger, caramelized onion relish, burger sauce, leaf lettuce and ripe tomato.
  • Hot Mess Burger – A fork and knife burger with TK chili [it probably has bacon in it] and cheddar cheese all smothered with Monterrey jack cheese sauce.
  • Double D Burger – Served with boasts two deep fried patties, apple wood smoked bacon [whew… I was worried it might not have bacon], cheddar, kilt burger mayo, leaf lettuce and ripe tomato.

This left me to choose from the following to replace the normal beef patty (making it a “Skinny Arse” as per their branding wit) with a black bean burger:

  • Big Arse Classic – Pickle chips, leaf lettuce, ripe tomato, red onion and served on a toasted bun.
  • Black & Bleu Burger – Blackened seasoning, melted bleu cheese crumbles, crispy shoestring onions, leaf lettuce & ripe tomato.
  • California Burger – Turkey burger with Swiss cheese, guacamole, leaf lettuce, ripe tomato and red onion.
  • The SOB (South of the Border) Burger – Roasted green chilies, pepper jack cheese, habañero salsa and cream cheese schmear.

In addition, since this place is allegedly “Irish”, thought I’d give the Irish Nachos (sans spiced ground beef) a shot. I never heard of such a thing. As ordered, it was “fresh-cooked crispy potato chips covered with melted cheese sauce and tomatoes”.  As noted above, I was exceptionally disappointed in these. The cheese was nasty, thick, cheez-food product, the chips were salty enough to pickle your tongue after a few bites, and a few too many of them tasted like they were “fresh-cooked” in rancid oil.


Tilted Kilt Take Out Order


Black & Bleu Skinny Arse Burger with Onion Rings


Rancid Arse Irish Nachos

Allegedly, from various Pinterest photos, one can get a black bean wrap from Tilted Kilt, as well. I’m not sure which of the two following menu items affords the opportunity for the substitution of their ubiquitous “vegetarian option”, the black bean patty, but the Tilted Kilt in my area didn’t have this item specifically mentioned or identified for substitution on the menu.

Chicken Tender Wrap – Hand breaded chicken tenders, provolone cheese, lettuce, ripe tomato and ranch in a grilled tortilla. Sauce em and toss em in one of our six amazing wing sauces.
Spicy Southwest Chicken Wrap – A grilled tortilla filled with tender grilled chicken, fresh veggies, cheddar and jack cheese and spicy southwest dressing.

Working my way through the burger section on the menu, the double entendre present in the Hot Mess and Double D Burgers are certainly a tongue-in-cheek shout out to their recruiting process, bikini calendar, and oh-so-snug apparel. I scoured the rest of the menu to find these two winners as well: Sadie’s Stuffed Breasts and The Big Rack. I had never actually been in a Tilted Kilt before and was rather surprised at the outfits. It was more than a little disgusting to see the hoarde of male patrons seated around the bar ogling the wait staff while I waited for my order. I felt like I was in… shall we say… not a restaurant. I was pretty happy to get out of there, as the overall energy is not what I expect in a restaurant. Perhaps “breastaurants” aren’t my bag. Good thing there’s takeout.

Restaurant Address: 1500 Satellite Blvd, Suwanee, GA 30024












Shell FuelRewards Dining Challenge!

Shell FuelRewards Dining Challenge!

When shopping at all, but especially dining, I try to get as much bang for my buck as possible.  To recap my frugal dining rules, which I’ve yet to actually post:

Dining Rewards Programs

A while ago, I belonged to a dining program calling iDine. It was a pretty good program back around the turn of the century, and then they started reducing their benefits substantially.  Combined with my traveling less for a few years and eating healthier, I just stopped participating.  Another interesting point to note was that I sent them to a “spam” email account, which resulted in my not reading their emails.  I didn’t want to waste my time reading about places they’d like me to go.  I preferred to choose not only where I went, but also how I spent my time.  They actually canceled my account because they demanded that their spam promotional emails be read.

Well, fast forward a decade or so, and I’m traveling again.  This time, however, blogging isn’t just a new thing, everyone and their dog has one.  But given that my blog has an “enjoy life, but frugally” theme to it, driving around seems to happen a lot.  I’m always filling up the MuffinWagon™.  I generally use GasBuddy to find the best gas prices, or fill up at CostCo, but sometimes, I just don’t have a lot of choices.  I’ve been filling up a lot at Shell, and thought I’d check into their new FuelRewards program, now that their FuelPerks program has died a bloody death.  And just today, I just got hassled at Winn-Dixie (where I hardly ever shop, because the shopping experience is generally unpleasant) because my old, “you don’t get the advertised price unless you carry our card” card was no longer their program, and new they’re doing this new “Plenti” thing.  So, how long until this new program is defunct?  Who knows…

After signing up with Plenti, so I could get my BOGO salsa, I bit the bullet and signed up for the new FuelRewards program, and researched a few restaurants to go to new week while traveling.

Then, in researching this blog post, I’ve discovered that the old iDine program is still around, as well as a few others flying the “rewardsnetwork” banner, such as:

I was really curious, at first, why the same restaurants were in FuelRewards as were in the Delta program, which triggered my research and here we are.  It’s all really one program.  So, I registered my cards with Fuel Rewards, Delta, and Plenti.   As soon as I registered with the second program, I got this lovely email:

You recently registered a credit or debit card which has been registered with another dining program administered by Rewards Network.  Credit and debit cards can only be registered in one dining program at a time.  As a result, you will no longer earn rewards through [the new program] when you dine and pay with this card.  Instead, you will earn rewards through the program you moved the card to.

While I’m a little confused, from that email, which program I am still registered with, its apparent that they don’t want you double-dipping.  And if you weren’t aware that you were, you’ll sure find out when you try.

The various programs break down like this.

  • iDine:  5% rebate up to $250 spent per year, 10% between $250 and $750 and 15% back on spending over $750, and unless they can prove you’re reading their spam, they kick you out.
    • $250 = $12.50
    • $500 = $37.50
    • $750 = $62.50
    • $1,000 = $100.00
  • FuelRewards: Earn 10¢ a gallon for every $50 you spend dining out, limited to 20 gallons per “fill up”, then you start over.  From reading the site, it seems there’s the same spam requirement.
  • Airline Miles: Read their spam and eat at RewardsNetwork restaurants 12x a year, you get 5 miles per dollar spent dining out.
  • Hotel Points: Read their spam and eat at RewardsNetwork restaurants 12x a year, you get 8 points per dollar spent dining out.

Overall, the miles program seems like the best deal, and you get your choice of a few participating airlines.  Right now, Delta is offering some pretty wicked bonuses for dining out and leaving a review:

For a limited time, join SkyMiles Dining and earn up to 3,000 bonus miles right out of the gate. Just sign up, register your credit and/or debit card, and Completing an online review of each restaurant within 30 days visit to earn bonus miles:

Earn 500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more at any participating restaurant.

Earn 1,000 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your second participating restaurant.

Earn 1,500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your third participating restaurant.

Triple Whammy

Now, being a consultant who is compensated for meals while traveling, I get reimbursed for these meals.  However, by participating in the reward program, I get airline miles for these meals as well.  And finally, as a blogger documenting my experiences of enjoying life frugally, I get a chance to experience and document my experience of these places for free.

My challenge: To be able to find decent vegetarian food at these places, get the food for take out, and document the experience on the blog.

First week’s agenda:

Athens Kouzzina

Athens Kouzzina takes its name from the Greek word for “kitchen.” Thus, you can expect a homey setting enhanced by vibrant colors and an open kitchen. Here, guests are invited to watch their food being prepared using fresh meats, seafood and produce to deliver home-style cuisine served with plenty of hot-from-the-oven bread. The casual yet inviting setting creates a backdrop that works for family celebrations, date night, or a get-together with friends. Like the atmosphere, the food has a traditional Greek warmth about it that is exotic but still familiar.

Wayback Burgers

What started as a simple desire to offer quality, fresh (never frozen) burgers has grown into the franchise sensation that is Wayback Burgers. Once upon a time (way back when) burgers were made fresh to order and served in a comfortable restaurant that felt like home. Wayback Burgers is bringing that back and is the place you want to be when the craving for “a really good burger” hits. Whether you want to create your own or try one of their signature burgers — like the BBQ Crunch, Double Bacon, or Philly — you’ll get a fresh, hot, and delicious meal. Also on offer are house-made potato chips, all-beef hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, and fresh salads. And try to save room for one of Wayback Burgers’ milkshakes, because what goes better with a hot, tasty burger than something cold and creamy like a vanilla, chocolate, cafe mocha, or Oreo mud pie milkshake? Every month, Wayback Burgers rolls out a new burger and shake of the month, so there’s always something new to enjoy and keep you coming back for more!

Tilted Kilt

The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery does a lot of things right. It has perfected five things which you’ll find each and every time you visit: plenty of ice cold beer (48 Draft), an interesting and delicious menu, every possible sporting event on a bunch of TVs, a vibrant atmosphere, and finally, a staff that is friendly and always smiling. When you’re looking for any of those things AND a place with a terrific Happy Hour and live music, then this is the place for you! Start your meal with the TK Irish nachos; with fresh cooked crispy potato chips covered in cheese sauce, ground beef and tomatoes, you’ll fall in love with this starter which is great for sharing. Then, dive in to one of their tasty dishes like the classic Big Arse hamburger; this 8-ounce behemoth burger is juicy, tender and delicious. Irish pub favorites include the Olde Dublin Irish stew and shepherd pie. With so many great dishes from which to choose, you’ll just have to go back again and again to try them all, and remember, the kitchen is open until late every night so finding late night munchies is never hard! For a festive and vibrant ambiance and a place that has a knack for putting a smile on your face every time, check out The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery today!

Achieve Your Goals with a Modern Twist on Ancient Greek Wisdom

Achieve Your Goals with a Modern Twist on Ancient Greek Wisdom

Having mentored quite a few folks in the art of leadership, I’ve found that metaphors are extremely helpful.  By attaching a parallel physical or familiar concept to abstract skills being developed, it’s easier to draw corollary conclusions, paths, and jumpstart success by realizing what does and doesn’t work in the more familiar or concrete metaphorical concept.

One of the mantras I follow as a life policy comes from ancient wisdom, “Moderation in all things”.  This timeless instruction comes from the inscription Meden Agan (μηδὲν ἄγαν) [Nothing in excess] in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, where kings would seek the wisdom of the Gods.

Temple of Apolllo at Delphi

The Mind-Body Link

It is fairly common knowledge that yo-yo dieting actually has deleterious effects, resulting in weight gain over the long run. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when someone goes on a weight loss diet, then stops, then starts again, then stops again, and so forth. What happens is that the period of reduced caloric intake pushes the body to believe it’s starving. The body responds by reducing metabolism, and weight loss plateaus (unless you go full anorexia – never go full anorexia!) After a while of this “Gotta lose weight at all costs!” attitude, then plateauing, it’s hard to keep up this sacrifice when there’s no obvious gain. So, after the restricted calorie window ends and caloric intake goes back to normal, the calories are now more impactful, since the body is now acclimated to fewer calories.

Similarly, in exercise, when performing the same actions again and again, such as running marathons, fitness gains plateau, as the body recognizes these patterns and becomes more efficient at what is now normal.  According to Dr. Arnold Lee, MD of San Francisco, “When you do the same activity all the time, your body gets used it and becomes very efficient. Eventually, that adaptation will mean that you burn fewer calories even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise.” Taken even further, and the repeated motion can start wearing down joints and connective tissue, and we’re back to deleterious effects of excess.

In both of these situations, a “good thing” becomes a “bad thing” when taken too far or for too long.  I believe the same to be true in the pursuit of happiness.  For example, it makes me very happy not to go to work as a wage slave. I might be able to give that up for a year or so and live off my savings, but after the money is all gone, what will I do? At some point, I might find I need some money for fundamental needs, such as food, shelter, gas,  etc.  And then, I have to work again, but what work will I do, when I’ve been out of my lucrative field for the past year.  How will I explain that gap on my resume, assuming I’m even given the chance?

In the pursuit of wealth, I can scrimp and save every penny, and spend my time clipping coupons, visiting deal sites, and but what does this do to my overall health and happiness, if I take this to too much of an extreme?  Most coupons are for crap food that fewer and fewer people are eating, so these products need additional incentive to keep the product moving.  So, I stock up on garbage food that cost me next to nothing?  What if I become so conditioned to not spending money, that I don’t enjoy my life while I still have it?  What good is a huge bank account at 40, if I die at 45 because of the stresses I’ve imposed on my body and mind during that time?  What good is “retirement” at 65, if I’m only going to live 5 more years?

Proven Solutions

Yo-yo dieting fails because of the mind-body issue associated with deprivation combined with the body acclimating to new caloric levels.  The “slow and steady” approach with everything in moderation results in solid weight loss that sticks.  Increase exercise, decrease intake (many different perspectives on which intakes to reduce and how much), and slowly, but surely, the weight will come off.  Come on, you didn’t get fat in one month, did you?  How long did you think it will take to lose it?

In Personal Wealth terms, though, this seems like the “Work Your Whole Life for a Pension” plan.  And we’re back to “What good is it to retire at 65, so I can die 5 years later?”  There has a be a better way, right?

Hacking the System

I’ve often used this metaphor when a client attempts to use “averages” to make decisions, but completely ignores the persistent huge swing back and forth.  If your head is in the oven, but your feet are in the freezer, “on average” you’re comfortable, right?

If slow and steady wins the race, is there some way to turn up the heat (as it were) on the process, and still keep an “average” that results in expedited progress?

The Cycle Diet takes our natural metabolic processes, and turns them in our favor.  Without going into all the detail, periods of reduced caloric intake create the weight loss, but then there’s a weekly binge to throw the pattern off.  This doesn’t just keep your body from thinking it’s starving, it actually triggers what’s called situational hypermetabolism.  Quite a few programs are now leveraging the findings of the Cycle Diet.  The Four-Hour Body and Paleo diet, for example, similarly work this same angle, though each works a bit differently.  The key point is that the program becomes more effective, at least partly, because rather than feeling deprived, there’s a reward waiting at the end of the tunnel that makes each day of “suffering” a bit more tolerable.  Then on cheat day, you can eat that piece of cake or have that date night at the fancy Italian restaurant.  In fact, if you’ve been having a hard time making time for that special moment to rekindle a mature relationship, having a cheat day makes you put date night on the calendar.  Mine is Saturday, and we use that as our chance to visit the restaurants we review and blog about. We can have the decadent dessert, appetizers, and the works to get a full appreciation of the menu and still be on program.

If you haven’t heard of the P90 Workout, it’s an exercise regimen that works for muscles just like the Cycle diet works for the metabolism. Through a process called “muscle confusion”, the efficiencies that Dr. Lee warns us about are averted.  New muscle groups and movements are rotated through so that you get a complete workout yet the plateauing phenomenon is bypassed.  The boredom of constantly Sweating to the Oldies or Tae Bo’ing to the same DVD for months on end is also avoided.

As Yogi Berra said, “90% of [the game] is mental”, and this is the same with any program requiring you to change your behaviors, especially if it involves some form of austerity, such as a cash fast.

Hacking Your Psyche – For The Win

If doing without is just too hard to stick with, and all that sacrifice results in a backlash of horrific eating, spending, or loafing — maybe we can learn some lessons from the successes in the Cycle Diet and P90 regimen.

Here’s an idea:  After a month of cutting out fancy coffees, dining out, and cigarettes, use half of that big chunk of savings to take a day trip.  Make it a reward for all that hard work.  Knowing what’s waiting, after success, might just make it easier to say “no” to those expensive habits.  Then, after those habits are broken, the motivational tool becomes less and less necessary, at the pace that makes cents.

Maybe progress won’t be as fast as going on a 90-day cash fast.  But, if you don’t make it through the cash fast, it becomes easier to label yourself a failure, and just give up on the whole thing – the dreams, the goals, and the effort required.  Slap on the shackles and head back on into wage slavery. It’s a gilded cage, right… that’s not SO bad…

Being able to set goals at which you can succeed are key to accomplishing anything long term.  The first time I physically fasted, I had no idea what to expect.  The same thing for the first time I ran a 5k, then 10k.  I’m sure you see where this is going.  Little wins create confidence that turn into the big wins.

Have you found a way to hack yourself and wire yourself to win in some other area?   Do you think you can leverage what you’ve learned about yourself to win in the new and scary place?  Share the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below.






Cash Fast! Making It in the Modern World

Cash Fast! Making It in the Modern World

It’s as pervasive as the wind, and it’s as old as the hills… Make a ton of money and retire early! Become Financially Independent and Retire Early.  Master the market and become a day-trader.  Invest in real estate and become a tycoon.  More money, more sex, more parties, more… More… MORE!

Are you ready to make your cash-flow get HYPER!?

Read More Read More

Three Words That Guarantee You Pay 4x Too Much

Three Words That Guarantee You Pay 4x Too Much

Words are powerful.  Quoth Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  And these three words have more power than you might realize.  When you utter them, chances are you are rushing headlong into an experience guaranteed to launch dollars out of your wallet like a T-Shirt cannon.  You turn to your special someone and utter these magic words of spending commitment …

Three Little Words

Go… Out… For…

Hey, would you like to:

  • Go out for drinks
  • Go out for a bite
  • Go out for a coffee
  • Go out for breakfast
  • Go out for lunch
  • Go out for dinner
  • Go out for a movie

When you “go out for an experience, you’re easily spending four times what you would at home for the products you are consuming.  In some cases, it’s as much as ten times.  How much does a cocktail cost when you mix it at home vs. paying $15 (before tip) to experience it “on the town” (three more magic words), at a smoke-filled bar where you can barely hear one another.  “THIS IS GREAT, ISN’T IT?!”   “NO, I THINK IT’S APPLE!!”

I realize there’s something special about going to certain places one can’t possibly, and shouldn’t try to, simulate oneself.  “Let’s go out for a drag race”, probably shouldn’t ever be in the comfort of one’s own home.  Seeing your favorite band on tour or a Mixed Martial Arts fight… not in my living room!  But, do you really need to do those expensive things every morning/night/weekend?

And I’m not suggesting you never leave the house.  Have a picnic.  Get outside.  Do Stuff!  But the markup on experience services is so ludicrous, it’s a habit that’s worth breaking — even if you just start cutting back a little.  Instead of “going out for a movie”, pop a bag of popcorn, watch some Netflix and chill.  Instead of going out to eat, get the same meal “take out” in the park and save on the expensive appetizer, bottle of wine, dessert, and tip.

A small start by cutting back on just one type of frivolous expense a week can ramp up into sensible habits that stick with you and turn into serious savings over time.  Who knows?  Maybe by cutting back on lattes for while, you’ll be able to pick up a cappuccino in Milan and have a truly memorable experience with your savings.

What’s one “go out” experience you know you can cut back on this month that you’re probably better off doing without forever?










Bald and Free: What would you be willing to do?

Bald and Free: What would you be willing to do?

On my journey of self, one of my first shifts in frugality that has actually stuck with me, was an investment in a nice set of clippers. I never went to fancy salons to get expensive haircuts by any stretch. But when I thought it through, shaving my head was about far more than saving a few dollars on hair cuts.  I usually went to a SuperCuts or Cost Cutters, so it was only $12 or so, before tip (unless I had a coupon). Recognizing that time is money, I had to drive there, wait for my turn, remit payment, and drive home, on top of paying cash for the cut and tip for the worker.

Barber Shop Sign

Barbers? Where we’re going, there won’t be any barbers!

When I started reconsidering my life and thinking about luxuries we might no longer have available if I lived off of savings in (aka “retired to”) the remote parts of Costa Rica or Mexico, I imagined that getting to the barber might be one of those little complications I could do without. I also considered that I might be able to use the money I was spending on haircuts for something more meaningful, so I went for it.

A few things made this easier for me than it might for others:

  1. I am male,
  2. I’m getting old enough that people don’t assume anything weird when I have little hair up top, and
  3. A career I had pursued early in life was as a cosmetologist, so I was familiar with the tools,
  4. Buzzcuts are in… The Rock, Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, Bruce Willis, et. al. are all sporting nearly hair-free, carefree, hair styles.

But this change wasn’t just about who cuts my hair, it was also about giving up my attachment to having “nice hair”.   My concern about people’s response to my new lack of hair was holding me back. Once I worked up the courage, I haven’t looked back. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter. I started with a size “4” guard, and now I’m down to a “1”.

Rather than getting a haircut every 8 weeks or so (looking pretty shaggy in those last few weeks), now I have a fresh trim every week. Just put the guard on, and swoosh it all over the noggin until it stop making the “cutty” sound. Every weekend, I touch up my ‘do, and look fresh as a daisy. Once in a while, I’ll notice a spot when rubbing my hand around on my head that maybe I didn’t do so well on and feels longer than the rest. That helps me improve my skills, and I can just go at it with the clippers and fix it in a jiffy.

How much does this really save?

With little hair, I barely use any shampoo and don’t need conditioner at all. My haircuts take about five minutes from the moment I decide I want to do it until it’s done. Rather than feeling an itchy back for a few hours after the cut, I can trim up right before I shower, and all of those itchy bits wash right away.

In hard hair cut savings, I’ve gone from

  • $15 every 8 weeks = $97.50 a year


  • $30 for the trimmers that have lasted 5 years so far

But when you factor in the ease of maintenance, lack of hair products, and time savings… it comes out to a whole lot more.

Metaphor for Minimalism

The reason I share this story is not necessarily with the intent of kicking off a sweeping craze of opt-in baldies like myself.  With this shift in my thinking, the change required, the courage required, and the shift of focus from ego and working to please others to that of attaining peace through minimalism, are representative of many changes you can make to reorient your world from rampant consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses, and other reckless spending.

With the confidence that these changes are okay, and that I’ll be okay after making them, I started making other little changes.  Little changes add up to big dreams getting closer and closer.

What will help you find your happy?

  • A tiny house?
  • To fulltime in your RV?
  • To attain peace in your life?
  • Good health?

No matter what you’re going for, one foot down the path is far better than both up on the sofa.  What small things can or have you done to start down the road to your life goals, that are actually attainable? Share your story in the comments below.








Photo Credits

One of my key aspirations is to express my creativity through capturing the beauty of nature through photography and videography.  All of the photos on this site were taken by me, The Happy Camper.


Because my wife and I still work for our wage slave masters, while I viciously attack the concept of such servitude in this medium, I will use a pen name and refrain from being directly visible in any of the photos or videos.  This is because “the man” isn’t terribly interested in having people work for them who aren’t in it for the “long haul.”  Just as companies can fire someone when it’s right for them, I reserve the right to quit my job when it’s right for me, and would prefer not to gain any unwanted attention from the overlords until then.

My Gear

Starting out:

Current Gear:


Amazon Link Goes Here

Affiliate Links

You can help me achieve my dream purchasing any products you would normally buy from Amazon using my affiliate link. The Amazon Affiliate program allows content producers (like me) to earn a small commission for any customers referred to Amazon.  The cool thing is that the customers don’t pay any more for their purchases than they normally would. This allows viewers and readers to help support content creators without incurring any extra expense.

Thank you for your support of my happy! Any money that I earn from these ads, whether from advertising or Amazon Affiliate sales, allows me to focus more on creating content and take my steps to escape from wage slavery.

Amazon Affiliate Link – http://amzn.to/2sRGOqL