Life: March 2016 Archives

Philly2Hoboken2....Nyack?

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My office is moving soon to Orangeburg, NY.

This isn't new to me, I have known about it for about two years. My commute now is 25 minutes door-to-door. It's Hoboken to West Village. From Hoboken, the Orangeburg commute will be about 45 minutes by car. 

I don't own a car. I haven't owned a car for 8 years. Now I need a car.

Plus parking. Plus insurance. Plus gas.

I'm not thrilled about this. Only good news is my company is helping me out financially a bit with buying a new car, which is pretty sweet. Still, i'll be on the hook for the majority of car costs. 

Then I saw a property in Nyack, NY, a 1 bedroom condo even bigger than my current condo. Total cost? About $210k. I could sell my condo tomorrow and my mortgage, maintenance costs and taxes would be about $800 less per month when compared to what I pay in Hoboken. $10,000 a year in my pocket - or $10,000 a year I can spend on vacations, a new Porsche Macan, my retirement - whatever I want. 

It's a big leap. I'm used to Hoboken. I have been here since 1995. I like living here, but I think the "spark" that I used to like about Hoboken is long gone. Maybe when you are in your 20's or even 30's the idea of NYC and the metro area is a cool and fascinating place, with new bars and restaurants to explore. 

Timeout. This is not to say i'm not still going out and doing things. I have a full slate of fun things to do this year, like...

  • Seeing Bright Star, the new Broadway show from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.
  • Going to Pearl Jam in May.
  • Seeing The Cure in June.
  • Seeing Peter Gabriel & Sting in June.
  • Bradley Beach summer-share in effect again.

But, to me, where I live was important when I worked in NYC. I paid more to live in Hoboken because it was a place where I would go out and drink and hang out with my friends. Most of my friends have moved on from Hoboken, with only a handful of them left here for me. Most weekends I don't go out to bars anymore. Just not my thing. Most weekends i'm staying in, even going to bed by 11pm or 12am. Yeah, I know "old man", but to me my house is just a place to relax and sleep.

Which gets back to...why should I live here?

What, specifically, keeps each of us here is dependent upon multiple factors. My original reason for moving to Hoboken was the proximity to work plus my social life. I still enjoy doing the Eagles Club at Mulligan's. Also moving to a place like Nyack means I am further away from Philadelphia, which kind of sucks. 

I was trying to figure out a way to work out of my Princeton, NJ office, and move closer to Philly, but really had a hard time finding a "Walkable City" like Hoboken that was close to my Princeton office. From what I have read, Nyack has a nice main street, with shops, restaurants, even a Cigar shop, and my commute would be 15 minutes to work by car rather than 45 minutes. 

Part of me wants to move. Part of me wants to stay. We will see. 

Awesome, And Cheap, Trip to Barbados

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barbados1.jpg

My friend sent me a text, "Hey...any interest in going to Barbados for my 40th Birthday party?"

I had been trying to save money lately, since I have to deal with the whole new car thing that is coming up for work. But...I kinda needed a vacation. I really haven't been on a real vacation since my quick trip to Costa Rica in 2014 with the Hoboken Crossfit gang.

My friend Clarie already rented an AirBnB in Barbados, which was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and $180 a night. She was staying for 9 nights, so total cost was $1620 for the condo...which had 3 bedrooms, or $540 for basically 10 days/9 nights. Was it a four star hotel...no. But if you check out the pictures, it was decent enough, plus had a kitchen, so you could make your own meals if you wanted (across the street was a market).

I was only going for 5 nights, so I would pay $300. That's not bad.

Then I had to consider airfare. Last year I got the Capital One Venture card. 2x miles for every purchase, and 40,000 miles when you sign up. I use my card for most purchases & bills, so the miles really add up fast. I used Capital One's website to book the airfare from JFK to Barbados, which was about 55,000 miles. So this ticket was free, essentially. I paid an extra $80 each way for the extra leg room seats. Totally and utterly worth it when you are 6'4 like me. Plus, since the tickets were free, paying $160 for tickets to a sunny beach sounded like a deal.

Well...$160 for airfare...$300 for room/board...what about Rocco??

Fortunately he is a popular pup, and I had a nice friend take care of him for the trip - for free. Many thanks to Bonnie, who adores Rocco, and I was kept up-to-date with many Rocco pictures of their adventures together. 

Getting to the airport for the 8am flight on Wednesday was a bit of a hitch, but my plan was to take the PATH train to Christopher Street, then grab a yellow cab which have flat rate prices to JFK for $53, rather than pay for the tunnel toll and a cab - or use Uber. I'm a big fan of Uber, but when I woke up at 6am, they had no cars available. I saved some extra money doing this, and it worked out fine.

Barbados was, in a word, great. I highly encourage people to look into trying Barbados, especially since the direct flight was only 4 hours. JetBlue rocks, I watched Star Wars & Creed flying back.

WiFi is in use everywhere on the island, most stores, shops, and restaurants have WiFi so you are "always connected". The AirBnB had a WiFi router, full cable, and I was able to watch Villanova play basketball on Miami's FOX station.

The picture above was my view from the AirBnB balcony. Barbados has very lax laws. You can drink anywhere. On the beach. In a car. Driving a car (I don't encourage that, we took taxis). But if you are going out taking a "road soda" didn't matter. 

As a cigar smoker, I liked how you could basically smoke anywhere - except in restaurants or other enclosed places. I was able to get about 5 different Cuban cigars and enjoy myself with a cigar on the beach - something that NJ has banned. It was glorious to sit on the beach, drink a beer, smoke a stogie and just stare at the blue ocean. 

Snorkeling was great, highly recommend you bring snorkel gear. I was able to see sea turtles on my 2nd to last day and swim with them. 

Also to save time I only brought a carry-on bag with my clothes. They had a washing machine at the AirBnB, so I would just use that to wash my clothes to save space on packing. 

We were able to golf while there, and we rented clubs. Did a tour of the Mount Gay Rum distillery. Hit the Oistins Fish Fry. Went out to a few restaurants, including Lone Star Restaurant, Nishi and The Lobster Pot. We went to Nishi twice because it was so good. 

Crime is pretty low there, but we did witness a thief steal someone's purse. If you are "city-savvy" you should be fine.

Getting around Barbados is mostly from taxi drivers or you can use the Reggae Buses. The Reggae Buses are not for older (read: fussy) folks. You have to be kind of laid back to take those, but they are like the NYC subway - very cheap and easy to get around the island. All taxi drivers can be negotiated. I didn't quite realize that until the end, and we found a very good driver to use there, who was a nice kid. 

Other things to know is that the islands electricity is the same as the U.S. - so no need for converters. Also their water is pure and clean, so you don't have to worry about drinking water or ice usage there like you do in Mexico or Costa Rica.

The Zika virus has been a concern for many Caribbean nations, and the CDC did report some activity on the island, but its extremely low. During the day we wore Off bug spray and each bed had a mosquito net to sleep under at night. I didn't consider it to be enough of a concern to stop me from going here.

If I had to buy "one" thing at the duty free when I visit, it would be Mount Gay 1703. It drinks like a good scotch. Even the Mount Gay XO is worth buying. These are not rums you add to coca-cola! If you want that, get the Mount Gay Black Barrel or even Eclipse.

I can't stress enough this one thing - eat fish if you visit here. I don't often eat a lot of fish, I mostly like sushi and rarely order grilled fish at restaurants in NYC. I'd rather order something else. In Barbados, it's like the freshest, tastiest food on Earth because you are basically eating fish caught about 4 hours ago, not something that's been flash frozen, put on an airplane and sitting in a freezer for a couple of days. If I lived in Barbados I would be eating fish 3-4 days a week. On my trip I only ordered fish and loved trying fishes that I never/rarely had before like flying fish, kingfish or blue marlin.

I said it before but everyone there is extremely friendly. Not just store owners, but everyone. They very much take pride in their island and enjoy tourists. I only met one sour person on the island and I told other Bajans (people from Barbados are called Bajan) about him and they said, "No, no. He can't be one of us. He was a tourist."

Barbados was one of the few places where I felt like I needed to go again. Much like my semester living abroad in Florence made me fall in love with Tuscany (and three visits back again!) - having this trip to Barbados made me wonder...why aren't more Americans going here?

If you are looking for a cheap getaway, with nice people and absoultely stunning beach views - Barbados is where it's at. 

 

My Current Dilemma: What Car To Buy

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In the next month or two, I need to buy a car for work. My office is moving to a new location that does not have public transportation (seriously), and I need to buy a car.

If you need to know anything about me, is that when I need to make a decision on something, I kind of go in depth on researching a product. Buying a HDTV? I will study every factor needed to get the "perfect TV". Buying a new PC? I will know CPU, RAM, video card specs and every nuance of what i'm buying. Half the reason why it took me so long to buy a condo was that I was convinced the housing market was going to tank...and that mortgage rates would rise. I bought about 1 year too early on that, and the rates dove, I couldn't believe I was wrong on that.

Anyhow, back to my dilemma. I'm all over the place on buying a car. It isn't as simple, for me, to pick a basic car with high gas mileage and call it a day. When I bought Rocco, I considered adopting first, but at the end of the day I wanted a Frenchie as my first dog, and even he was, for the time, very expensive - but six years later he was worth every dime. There is NO buyers remorse with him.

So, the factors to be are this, in ranked order:

1. Enjoyment To Drive: I want a car that everytime I get in it, I have a big smile on my face. Growing up, and having a Jeep Wrangler (especially at 17), I can't tell you how much I fucking loved that car. Hat tip to great parents who provided me a wonderful life. So, I want a car that I like. Not a Prius or SmartCar that I wedge myself into to save the planet and get high MPG.

2. Keep Within My Means: I have always been a big proponent about keeping my costs down, and living within my salary. My biggest splurge each year is my shore house or Crossfit. Otherwise, I really don't spend too much money. I did the math, and a few factors crop up. I have $5,000 to put down. After that, i'd like to spend $400-500 a month on a car. Parking will cost me $185. Insurance will be ~$120. 5 years at 1.9% on 25,000 is $437 monthly on a car. So that kind of ballparks me to a $30,000 car, with a few nudges I could justify a bit more than that, like $33,500 would cost me 500 monthly ($5000 down, 28,597 at 1.9%, over 5 years).

3. Lease isn't a (real) option: I could write about 5 reasons here, from mileage to the simple fact that in 1 year I could find myself back in the "NYC office" again. Mileage is the biggest factor, i'm looking at ~50 miles a day, 20 business days a month, ~1,000 miles for work alone a month, not including personal use. My guess? I'll be at 15,000 miles a year. Sure, I could get a lease for 15,000 miles, but don't want to be locked in for 3 years. So lease is out.

4. Ford = a good deal: A friend of my family works at Ford. They will let me buy any car on the lot for $500 more than "holdback". It's a very sweet deal, I can get a car probably $3000-5000 off MSRP, depending on make and model (obviously on more popular cars, not as much savings).

5. "Needs": My car needs this: All Wheel Drive (AWD) or 4WD. The reason is that I have a job that getting to work is a MUST and its kind of in the higher elevations, so the potential exists that during winter months I may be driving on bad roads. Also i'm about 6'4 and I need a car with headroom, which is either a "full size car" or "SUV". Which brings me to my other need - I need a SUV. I can't stand driving behind other SUVs and I can't see the road, especially in New Jersey were people have no idea how to drive. Minor needs...i'd like leather seats. Believe it or not the MPG thing for me is minor. With gas prices in the next two years, my expectation is that fuel costs will be not as terrible as years past.

6. Other factor: Cost-to-Own. One of the problems with luxury cars is I certainly can afford a (certified pre-owned) Audi Q3/Q5 or BMW X3/X5 - but the ownership costs for little things, like oil changes or a minor ding/fix are very expensive. Oil change for a Ford is $30-40, Oil change on a Q5 is $100. So, my issue is that every mileage update and any basic repairs will cost more money than it's worth to own. Trust me, I love the Audi Q5 and its a very serious contender.

Here's the cars i'm considering:

Ford Fusion Titanium AWD. I have driven these before. Roomy. Comfortable. So-so MPG (25 or so). Probably can get a real good price here. Enjoyment factor: 6 out of 10.

Audi Q5: I have been in a Q7 before, but never actually drove a Q5. But falls into 'dream car', everytime I see one, I stare. I really love the styling and I get the same feeling about one as I had with my Jeep Wrangler, I really love this car. Downside is that I probably can only afford a 2 year old certified pre-owned. Also really worried about upkeep costs. Also in here is the Q3, but the only knock on a Q3 is the engine 0 to 60 is 7.8 seconds...a bit slower than what I want. If they had an engine option here for a V6, the Q3 would be a major contender.

Ford Edge: Haven't driven this, really like it. Problem is with options, new, 2016 Edge with AWD and either the Sport or Titanium, is around $37,000-40,000 if not more, even with the friend at Ford. What happens when I think about it - why spend that much on a new Ford, when I could get a Q5 which I love for $33-35k? This is where my Analysis Paralysis starts to kick in. If I get a "cheaper" Edge, then it really doesn't have the bells and whistles I want, like a good engine.

Ford Escape: The new 2017 Ford Escape has some new styling and features which I thought looks nice. Haven't driven it. This kind of falls into the Ford Fusion scale of enjoyment. I'd like to test drive one. Also with options and such would be a good price. I don't necessarily need a car as large as an Edge or Q5. Given the 2.0 liter engine it does 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds.

And...that's about it. I keep going back and forth between a Ford Escape, Audi Q5 and Ford Fusion. The Edge keeps peeking in there, too, but just seems to be too expensive. Oh, and Jeep Grand Cherokee waves at me, I really like the styling but it is too much car.

My heart says Audi Q5. My head says Ford Escape....or Edge. Fusion is there only because I have driven these before from Avis and they are a solid, dependable ride. I think if I got the Escape, I wouldn't be happy. Aren't we supposed to be happy? Then I go back to being fiscally responsible...don't spend too much, keep costs down....and the cycle continues. Very annoying.

Thoughts? Email me.

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