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July Savings

August 3rd, 2017 at 01:38 am

Received $50 bank interest for the month of July.

Snowflakes to Bills:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $53 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $3 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card.

Other snowflakes:
--$10 (sold old skateboard on Craigslist; MM got a new/bigger one for his birthday) ~ I set this money aside to pay for gymnastics (it's cash only)

Savings (From my paycheck):

**skipped $200 to investments**
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
- 500 Dentist/Medical/New Glasses(DL)

{Note: MH has no wages during summer months}.

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**Interest should bump up to $55 per month. I found a savings account that pays 3%. (This month was only a partial month, so a little less).

**I am always a month behind on savings withdrawals because anything I charged in June will be settle up in July. July was a birthday/Murphy month and also had a $600 insurance bill come due, so that will reflect in next monthly update.

Because it was so expensive this month (which reflects more in August), I decided to skip funding investments this month. It's not something I do lightly. But I seem to be doing this (skipping investments) about once per year. I don't mind cutting ourselves some slack since we generally err on the over-saving.

I redirected our snowflakes to cover bills. (I do usually invest snowflakes).

I've already paid all of the August bills (which were mostly July expenses).

I guess not much else to report. August and September will be spendy months. August will be paying off all this birthday/Murphy spending (which I've already done). September will be paying for August Europe trip.

Credit Card Rewards Update

July 18th, 2017 at 01:47 pm

2017 TALLY:

$500 (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$500 (Citi Thank You, MH)
$484 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$1,684 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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In the end, we are on track for one of our best years: on track for $3,000. I think what put us over the edge is using travel rewards. We usually stick to cash and gift cards. Travel rewards don't do much for us because we mostly avoid flying and can get a free hotel room regardless, so not something I expect to do a lot of in the long run.

I just activated the Citi card. That one is a bit of an experiment. It seems MH should be able to get $500, but we've done that one so much it makes me wary. (Technically you are supposed to wait 24 months in between).

Will see!

Anyway, I logged in online and that credit card is going to close tomorrow (monthly cycle). I was going to pre-pay a couple of months of health insurance, so figured I'd wait a day or two so I don't have to actually pay those for an extra month.

In the meantime, MH got a direct mail offer for American Express Gold. Spend $1,000, get $250. I find those really hard to come by. But I thought I recalled those were a "once in a lifetime" reward. MH got a kindle in 2010? Was from an AmEx Gold reward.

Anyway, since MH *just* applied for three cards, I figured I'd look up the rewards and see if I really want to bother. In the end I found this:

https://www.uscreditcardguide.com/amex-premier-rewards-gold-...

$500 reward if you spend $2,000. I tried a few different browsers and I got the $500 offer to pop up! I really don't recall ever having this card and I did check my blog. I figured they would deny me since I never get these offers. But in the end I was accepted! Woohoo!

I've got three months to do the spend. I usually just charge up these cards when I get them. Very little brain power. But in this case, I am going to pre-pay 2 months of health insurance already. Do I want to pre-pay 4 months, right now? I suppose it probably doesn't really matter. It just complicates life in the interim. Maybe it is easier to just wait 30-45 days before I do that one.

I have to remember to close this card within a year. It has an insane annual fee for the second year. I will make some notes in Quicken and in my calendar so that I do not forget.

Oh, the rewards are still very so-so on this card, but last time we enjoyed them more than I thought we would. So I will stock up on dining out gift cards and some gift cards to give as gifts.

On the Citi, MH was starting to eye the Best Buy gift cards and was thinking of funding some larger purchases. So might be $500 "ridiculous electronics splurging" (which we tend to do with these rewards) and $500 "restaurants and gifts."

I don't know that I see the point of doing any more rewards this year, except my 24-month clock has reset on Citi and I should really take advantage if I can find a $500 reward for that one. MH's was a direct mail offer. It would figure if that one would work right now. I really only do these things "one at a time" generally. Maybe it is just something I will keep an eye out for once the dust settles on these two rewards.

Edited to add: Look what I saw just posted TODAY?

https://www.citi.com/credit-cards/credit-card-details/citi.a...

It's $4,000 spend for $500 reward. We usually spend $3k for these rewards so definitely will pass.

Credit Card Rewards Update

July 2nd, 2017 at 08:43 pm

2017 TALLY:

$481 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$681 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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There is a 24-month wait to re-dip a Citi Thank You card. I believe I passed 24 months a while ago, but I haven't seen a worthwhile bonus since then.

In the end, MH received a direct offer for a $500 bonus (same card). I read through it carefully and checked some of the credit card reward blogs, and it looks like it's exempt from the 24-month rule. WOW! I told him I kind of hate to use it since we are almost there (he could have applied in a few more months). But I don't know when he will ever get an offer again, either. So will just bite the bullet and try.

If this one works, I will have $500 to add to my tally. In the end, it will be a better credit card bonus year than I would have expected.

June Savings

July 1st, 2017 at 05:15 pm

Received $39 bank interest for the month of June.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $48 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $5 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$15 Savings from Target Red Card
--$7 refund from Amazon (some sort of settlement)
--$140 Dividends
--LESS: $70 diverted to Europe Trip

Snowballs to Europe trip:
--$481 credit card reward (travel credits applied)
--$200 credit card reward (cash)
--$200 sale of old TV
--$ 70 Diverted from Snowflakes

Note: $0 cash out-of-pocket needed for Europe spending this month

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
- 425 Misc. Expenses**
- 90 Dentist

{Note: MH has no wages during summer months}.

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**Misc. Expenses: Had some time to do some catch up shopping, and had some little things come up. Bought a (fancy) sleeping bag for MM(13) because he had a field trip coming up and outgrew his old one. I figure he will keep this one for a LONG time. Gave some money to the kids' school to top off our "hours" requirement. We were generous with Mother's Day gifts this year. MM needed some clothing. (These were all May charges, which is when my work let up a bit).

With that, I've pretty much exhausted our short-term savings. The second half of the year will all go to property taxes, insurance, car maintenance, and the dentist. For summer, I will keep pulling form short-term savings and will just figure it out at the end of the year. In Fall, will have to pull from MH's paycheck if anything comes up. (I expect his paycheck to cover kids' clothing, and stuff like that. Since they are growing and we need a bigger clothing budget now that they are getting to be adult sized and I can't just buy everything on clearance for $3). What this means is a very tight summer. We pretty much did all our splurging for the year already, so this is the flip side of the coin.

That said, it is some give and take. We are still at "peak liquidity" and will continue to be as long as no huge expenditures come up. I am probably going to spend a lot on MM's birthday (taking 6 kids to the expensive water park). It's not the kind of thing we do very often, but it seems silly to say "no", given our current means. In the end, the admission is way cheaper than I expected, but I imagine the food in the park is where they get you.

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I am still working on 3% savings account. Having some technical difficulties on that. Will probably have the money moved over around July 5th.

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I decided to just pull from snowflakes this month, to cover the rest of the Europe money. If we can still add $400-ish to investments, then it is all good.

{I still will work on selling a couple of items from around the house. Will just invest the snowflakes like I usually do, or can maybe use for some fun summer money}.

Credit Card Rewards Update

June 3rd, 2017 at 03:13 pm

2017 TALLY:

$481 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)
-----------
$681 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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Just doing an update to add in the $200 cash back reward.

All of the above is earmarked for travel expenses. I was able to use the Travel reward for a tour that we booked in the UK, so it looks like we can pay for all our tours that way.

I can see using this travel card again (getting one in my name) next time we plan a trip. I expect this to end up being a $500 reward (total), with the spending we plan to do in UK. (Mostly just food and public transport, but that will add up over 10 days).

May Savings

May 31st, 2017 at 05:44 am

Received $36 bank interest for the month of May.

(I did lose higher interest CD, but I guess that is offset by parking OT in savings.)

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $26 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$7 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-1,000 London Hotel
- 140 passport expenses
- 100 wireless router (issues with old one)

In addition, we pulled $600 from mid-term savings to cover the rest of the hotel.

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We've already tapped out our regular vacation budget. We had no plans whatsoever to fly anywhere for the foreseeable future. I still really think we will revert to our modest vacation budget (future years). Knocking out Europe with $2,600 hotel/airfare was just too good to pass up. We could have paid less, but were willing to splurge on the unexpectedly affordable hotels. We didn't even look at anything with less than 5-star reviews.

Our short-term savings is pretty weak right now. We usually vacation in the fall. & we only prepaid the hotel because of the favorable exchange rate. (I decided to hedge my bets on "most favorable exchange rate in 30 years"). Anyway, usually we build up more before we spend down, but I expect the timing to just work out a little differently this year. It doesn't really matter. It will all even out by the end of the year.

The rest of our London expenses will come from savings, or MH's job. We've allocated about $500 from his job since we will save $500 by not traveling during his work season. Credit card rewards should cover most of our tours.

Credit Card Rewards Update

May 29th, 2017 at 02:52 pm

2017 TALLY:

$465 Travel Rewards Cards (Capital One Venture,MH)
-----------
$465 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

**In addition, various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

---------------------------------------------------

In the end, I have already surpassed last year's credit card (one-time) bonus total. Maybe 2017 will be better than 2016?

For the travel rewards card, I have a few days left to apply the $465 to our hotel charge. We have 60 days from date of purchase. My plan today is to book our Paris excursion. I'd like to just cover that with the travel reward. But I am not completely sure it will count as a "travel" expense. This card seems pretty liberal with the travel category so I think it will work. But if "tours" don't count than we aren't planning to spend $462 on any other "travel" expenses this year. (Most our remaining expenses will just be food while we are abroad). In that case, will throw at the hotel. I realize for the most part it doesn't make any difference. If I apply it to the hotel right now I will receive a $462 credit to apply to travel tours (or to anything). But, the hotel is a refundable rate and so I wanted to use the free money to cover non-refundable purchases. Just for a worst case scenario if we have to cancel or change anything.

It's not the worst thing to get things nailed down. We leave in less than 3 months. So maybe this is extra motivation to nail down our itinerary. In our true fashion, we really belabored choosing a hotel, but for the most part rather figure out the rest when we get there. Over-prepare and then go with the flow. That's just how we roll. We plan for the BIG things but not for all the minutiae. But... we do realize we need to make reservations for tours and such. MH had wanted to lock those in a couple of months ago. Then we lost momentum, somewhere along the way.

I had decided to look for a smaller credit card reward when PS mentioned the $200 bonus she applied for. It was a Wells Fargo card. I did apply and it was weird. They got very detailed about employment (as PS mentioned). I finally decided to just put "homemaker" for MH and that he had access to household income. After belaboring if I should put that or all his employer info (for his like $8k income), they approved the card instantly. We will use this reward for another England tour.

When applying for the new card (a couple of days ago) I had wanted to close my prior one-time reward card. I only kept it open this long because we were still going through rewards. It took us like 9 months to get through $250 restaurant gift cards. Kept it open in case there were any problems with the gift cards. Anyway, I logged in to AmEx a couple of days ago and they had no contact info or chat link. ??? If I log into MH's AmEx account it's all there. I know it would have been faster to call versus all the time I spent poking around trying to find a chat option. !! But I gave up since they didn't even have a phone # to call and I don't know where the card is. I always do paper statements for these one-time bonus cards. As a reminder until I close the accounts. I finally decided to just call when I got the paper statement. Then I'd have the account info and any idea who to even call.

So today I logged on to MH's AmEx and it looks totally different than it did a couple of days ago. There's also a huge chat button at the bottom of the screen. I really didn't expect much because both logins were completely different the other day. But on a whim, I logged in to my AmEx account, and the same chat button was there. Woohoo! It was like a 1-minute chat to get that card closed. Glad to get that taken care of.

April Savings

April 29th, 2017 at 02:30 pm

Received $35 bank interest for the month of April.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $65 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$20 Savings from Target Red Card (made a big purchase)
--$40 Insurance refund

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
+$500

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

+$3,000 OT to savings (will fund my mortgage goal)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,000 airfare London
-$ 500 life insurance
-$ 400 Drama Camp

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I had a CD mature this month, so a little less interest income. Since we do want to replace our vehicle, I think I will keep this CD money in our savings account. There is that, and I am also just completely exhausted with work. Maybe in a month or two it will sound appealing at all to jump through hoops to earn more interest. For now, I am over it. (Now that I think about it, I haven't done one of those since MH was unemployed. We've had this "nice and simple" CD for 22 months. Though my exhaustion speaks more to my work situation than his. So we will see in another few months).

I had a complete DOH moment today. American Express is really finicky with their gas rewards. They often don't give rewards for gas stations they clearly label as "fuel" on their statements. ??? I has a DOH moment today as I recalled we might have gas rewards on other cards. We do! In the end, we can get 3% back on our CU Visa. It will take me a while to remember, but MH is really good at keeping track of all this madness. I'd rather use our credit union than the big banks, any day. So this is good.

My last entry I mentioned OT status, so nothing new there. I don't know when I will literally transfer the $3k to our mortgage. Maybe soon, since I also have all this cash that had been tied up in a CD. I just need some time before I tie up money indefinitely. I will put it to the mortgage sometime between now and January 1.

From short-term savings, I paid off the London airfare. I did also fund drama camp, apparently a full month earlier than last year. Drama Llama LOVES his drama camp.

Neither kid was interested at all in other summer classes. We didn't push it. I think us parents just need a break. We will have a very lazy low-spend summer. It sounds absolutely divine!

March Savings

April 2nd, 2017 at 03:09 pm

Received $40 bank interest for the month of March.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $53 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $0 cash back on Visa/dining card.
(Didn't eat out)

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$4 Savings from Target Red Card

Snowball to investments (MH Paycheck):
$1,000

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
- 280 Auto Insurance
- 140 cell phone for MM
- 100 car maintenance

----------------------------------------------------

Other Snowflakes:
--$25 Focus Group

I didn't invest this snowflake; I donated it to DL's school.

----------------------------------------------------

MH's work has been slow, which is nice because my work has been *completely insane*.

I still needed to get $1,400 "tax savings" over to our investments. For now, I am just hoarding MH's paycheck to that end. I have $1,000 to throw at that today and will probably have $400 in another couple of weeks.

It probably works out that I will get that funded by April 15th. Around then I should get my OT for the year and we will have to look at our tax situation and figure out the rest of the year.

Travel Credit Card Decision

March 26th, 2017 at 03:04 pm

I ended up applying for the Capital One Venture card that Buendia recommended. I didn't get much input here, and didn't have a lot of time to look into it, but it seemed probably the best card for our purposes.

When the credit card arrives, we will book our hotel. We haven't decided anything but seem to have infinite options. I think it is most likely that we will rent an apartment with a kitchen. It's just so cheap right now with the favorable exchange rates.

This credit card has no fee for the first year. We will close the card before the year is over. If we like the card and it is useful, it is something to keep in mind for the future, especially for a less impromptu trip.

I just want a card without foreign transaction fees. It looks like we may also be able to get a $400 travel credit, which I am not sure is going to be very useful in our situation. But, if it works, we will save $400.

For now, I just want to get the credit card so that we can finalize a hotel.

Travel Abroad Credit Cards?

March 21st, 2017 at 07:31 pm

Does anyone have any credit cards they recommend for using in the UK? Hear of any sign up bonuses lately?

We have a credit union credit card that has no foreign fees. In addition, we get 3% back on dining out, which would probably be our primary expenses while we are out of the country. So we are good to go already. But, I wouldn't mind having a backup credit card while we travel.

Chase Sapphire: We both opened and closed this one several times for the cash bonus, so I doubt we could get this card. I was denied the last time I tried. But if we are charging up hotels and excursions, I wouldn't mind paying -0- foreign fees and working towards a bonus. It's been long enough it would be worth a try.

Barclay Arrival Plus: The rewards don't seem useful on this card, but it might be nice to have a chip+pin card in a pinch. I also saw feedback though that their fraud department was over-zealous and this card was denied too often. So I guess I am curious about any feedback. If we only use it in a pinch, I'd want it to work in a pinch. (This one has an annual fee after the first year, but we wouldn't keep the card for more than a year).

Any other cards to consider?

2016 Final Rewards Tally

January 2nd, 2017 at 02:34 pm

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
-----------
$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

$41 Citi Price Rewinds

Ongoing rewards (through 12/31):

+$50 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance charged to this card)
**PHASED OUT AND REPLACED WITH CITI 2% CARD**

+$355 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$97 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$92 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

+$788 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments. Also, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

Grand Total = $1,906

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us since we don't use debit cards and don't have direct deposits (the usual hoops that you have to jump through). & the hassle factor is significantly more than it is with the credit card bonuses. Thus, we did not do a single bank bonus this year. I think this might just be where we land with MH working and not needing the extra boost so much.

All of the big bonuses we had been doing with the credit cards (doing the same $500 over and over, between 3 credit cards) have completely dried up. We did okay because our expenses were very high in 2016. But is not generally *how* I Want to earn my credit card rewards. Wink

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585
Year 2016 = $1,906

Total 6 Years = $17,188
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

2016 Rewards Tally

October 30th, 2016 at 03:11 pm

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
-----------
$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

$40 Citi Price Rewind

Ongoing rewards (through 10/31):

+$50 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance charged to this card)
**PHASED OUT AND REPLACED WITH CITI 2% CARD**

+$375 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$65 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$74 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants, inflated by large vacation spending this year)

+$628 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $1,715

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Probably one of our worst years in a long while. I expect there is some element of MH working and not needing to seek out the extra snowflakes as much. BUT... I think more to the point is our lack of eligibility for the usual cash back cards that we use. Chase won't give us any rewards.

I suppose the timing is okay since we are less reliant on rewards for extra breathing room.

One of us is eligible for a Citi Thank You reward but I even read somewhere that those are drying up. But, with the recent $500 splurge on VR, I'd really like to cover that purchase with a credit card reward. So I will continue to keep my eye out. The year is not over yet!

Credit Card Rewards Update

October 3rd, 2016 at 12:33 am

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
-----------
$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

$25 credit AmEx (For Hulu)

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

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I signed up for an AmEx offer where if we charged $25 Hulu expenses we would get a $25 credit. After I "redeemed" the offer and had MH switch Hulu to that credit card, I saw that the fine print was that it was only for new Hulu users. Since the bill had charged like the day MH switched it over, I figured it wouldn't hurt to just let it run through to $25 and see what happens.

So... imagine my surprise when I saw the $25 credit today.

I could technically do the same on my AmEx card but I will just let it go since it was a fluke..

----------------------------------------------------

I finally received my $250 gift cards.

We ended up choosing 3 x $50 gift cards for restaurant chains. (I feel like it will take forever to get through these, but was the only thing we would ever even use).

We did also choose one $50 gift card as a gift for Christmas.

& we choose one $50 gift card for a fancy restaurant. We were thinking to use for our anniversary but we didn't get the card until Friday (a week too late) and we were too sick of eating out when we drove home today, or else we might have stopped for lunch at this restaurant. We will probably just do lunch there some day when MH has a weekday off. (Wouldn't be until December? Or Thanksgiving week?) Will have to remember to use it...

Credit Card Rewards Update

September 11th, 2016 at 04:57 pm

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
$250 Gift Cards (AmEx Green, Moi)
-----------
$458 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*


Other Rewards:

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

-----------------------------------------------------

I have not gotten the $250 rewards yet, but the pickings were pretty slim on that reward card and not much I really want. Which is why we decided to pass up the $500 reward offer that we recently got from AmEx.

I had done my due diligence and checked that there were useful gift cards, but I guess the info I checked was old and they changed their offerings. This seems to be in conjunction with AmEx offering a batch of larger rewards. So they made the rewards crappier but have been offering a lot more of them.

Plus, they are being really slow to let me redeem the rewards. So I haven't even been able to order my gift cards yet. I will probably just pick up some big chain restaurant gift cards. We can get use out of those, but it will probably take us a long time to get through them.

I think I am eligible again for a Citi $500 cash bonus, so I will keep an eye out for that.

More Credit Card Rewards

July 22nd, 2016 at 01:46 pm

It might be another $2,500 year after all.

I got an AmEx offer for a $250 reward and then the next day dh got an offer for a $500 reward. His offer was an American Express Gold, which is generally a business card offer or has a very high fee. Is the first time I've seen it with the annual fee waived.

$250 credit card reward

July 20th, 2016 at 01:51 pm

I got an offer (targeted offer) for an American Express card with a $250 reward.

Woohoo!

I should also be eligible for a $500 Citi reward in a couple of more months.

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I saw today that the wildlife encounter that we did is completely booked through 2017. I am surprised it took that long to get that booked up, but it was just a matter of time. I am so glad we squeezed it in last year.

2016 Rewards Update

April 28th, 2016 at 04:58 pm

2016 TALLY:

$208 Cash (Barclay Card, Moi)
-----------
$208 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*


Other Rewards:

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.


I expect this to be a slow year.

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I am not sure what I will do with the $208. I charged up $500 insurance and already received a $208 statement credit (before a statement was even issued). The thing is I usually charge this bill around now (on May billing cycle) and would pay off June 1. So in the end, I don't get the benefit until June when my bill will be $208 less than usual. (In the meantime, I will probably be pre-paying this bill in May).

I'd like to just throw the $208 into our investments. But I expect I will be paying airfare in June (around $2,000). So I wouldn't be surprised if I'd rather have the $208 for that expense.

Will see...

I know I am long overdue for a blog update. Where I am at with things is work finally slowed down. Today I can breathe! I am just slowing my pace and letting it all sink in. Tomorrow I will just work a half day. The following weekend I will be able to take a 3-day weekend.

Oh, and I will have a huge savings update this weekend. Which is the flip side of being so busy. Lots of money being saved...

We are already thinking of many ways to spend down our money. Blog posts for another day. But we are moving forward with a planned home improvement. Work we did plan to do this spring or summer. It feels pressing though because it's long overdue and we are so flush with cash. The thing about home improvements is I really have no idea how much they cost. But if it's not too terrible, we are thinking of moving an unpractical wish list home improvement item up to our current to-do list. I guess the stars just seem to be aligning with that. But again, it depends how much it cost. If it's more than I expect, then it can go on the impractical wish list for another decade. Will see. I guess we may be moving it up the list significantly just long enough to get some quotes. Will see how we feel about it from there.

I am sure I will shortly have time to bore you with all of the details of all of the above. That is the short version, for now.

Credit Card Bonus

April 10th, 2016 at 03:59 pm

I just signed up for the first credit card bonus (one-time) for the year. I expect it to be a slow year, but last year surprised me at the end. So... Who knows!

I got an offer to spend $500 and get $200 cash back. It's an offer that dh did late last year.

While at it, I closed his credit card for that deal.

I actually spent some time this morning evaluating if we were eligible for any bigger offers or direct deposit offers. Since dh has direct deposit for his paychecks, it opens up more rewards for us. But I didn't see anything worthwhile.

Completely striking out, I did remember that I had a direct mail offer.

Though I am kind of feeling "meh" on current offers, I don't think my work/benefit analysis has changed at all with dh working. We usually only do $200 minimum bonuses and try to maximize with the $500 bonuses. Those are all still VERY worth it. I just don't foresee getting a lot of those type offers this year.

Edited to add: Waiting to be eligible for Citi Thank You bonus again in late September 2016. Might be a $500 bonus that we can do this year.

2015 Rewards Final Tally

January 3rd, 2016 at 12:37 am

2015 TALLY:

$525 Gift Cards (Citi, dh)
$300 Cash (Chase checking reward, dh)
$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
$200 Cash (Barclay card, dh)
-----------
$1,225 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**$85 Citi Price Rewind

Ongoing rewards (projected through 12/31):

+$200 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance charged to this card)

+$340 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$100 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$40 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants)

+$555 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere)

Grand Total = $2,585

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585

Total 5 Years = $15,282
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

2015 Rewards Update (Ummm... Bought a CAR with Rewards!)

November 7th, 2015 at 01:44 pm

2015 TALLY:

$525 Gift Cards (Citi, dh)
$300 Cash (Chase checking reward, dh)
$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
$200 Cash (Barclay card, dh)
-----------
$1,225 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**$85 Citi Price Rewind

Ongoing rewards (projected through 12/31):

+$200 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance charged to this card)

+$300 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$100 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$40 Visa Rewards (3% back at restaurants)

+$525 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere)

Grand Total = $2,515

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,515

Total 5 Years = $15,212
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

-----------------------------------------------------

We have utilized credit card rewards for decades. It's only in the past 5 years I have been tracking them so closely in my blog because they started to get so substantial.

This year started out kind of slow and I Wasn't expecting much for this year. But as the rewards started to pile in for the last quarter of the year, I decided to do a tally.

& I realized, WE BOUGHT A CAR WITH CREDIT CARD REWARDS. Seriously! The $15,197 we amassed the passed 5 years was more than enough to pay for our most recent car purchase.

WOW!!

That said, I can not stress the CAVEAT part of this post enough. We personally have extreme fear of debt and have never paid a cent to a credit card company (no interest or late payments or carrying balances or whatever). I know not one penny of that $15,197 went back to the credit card companies in the form of any kind of interest or fees. The bulk of what I charge up for rewards is our health insurance (a bill we obviously are going to be paying regardless). Also, groceries and utilities. We charge up the fun stuff too, because we charge up everything, but I've never justified a splurge for a credit card reward. That would defeat the whole purpose.

If you are going to end up paying one single cent to the credit card companies, or can't treat your credit card like simply like it's an ATM card, then I would never recommend going for these kinds of rewards.

On the flip side, if you avoid debt like the plague and you have the personality for it, it's really not that big of a deal. You know, in response the DR mentality that it's impossible to win with credit cards. To that, I say: I got a FREE CAR! Big Grin

P.S. On average I'd say the earning power on these rewards is about $1,000 per hour of time and energy. This is the most efficient income stream that we have, by a mile. Least effort/most reward.

Doings

November 1st, 2015 at 05:10 pm

**Dh got a small video gig. He seems to be a money magnet lately. (Just more stuff falling out of the sky).

**Of course dh's phone shipped the day before the credit card cycle closed. Just because it's the most annoying timing. (It was not supposed to ship for another week).

I ended up diverting his first full paycheck (received this week) to cover that.

**My kids have been wishy washy about Halloween. They were initially "too old." But with the Saturday Halloween I guess they got more invites to Trick or Treat. Since we had some Amazon gift cards (+ a free Prime year) we appeased them with some last minute costumes. In the end they had a blast with their friends and so I am glad it worked out.

**Reminds me, dh told me that we now get 2 hour prime shipping in our city (on some items). I never foresee using that. !! Like seriously, it can wait. I still haven't gotten used to 2-day shipping. We ordered a couple of non-prime items that showed up yesterday. !! One of them was a monkey dress costume I saw (a more feminine compliment to our monkey costumes we bought last year). I couldn't wear it because it was a heavy fleece and it was so HOT yesterday. We ended up turning on our AC for a bit. This weather is insane. Thankfully we are due for some much needed rain today.

**We did also redeem the last of our gift cards for our last credit card reward. I redeemed $50 for a school fundraiser and we got some movie theater gift cards, Best Buy (since they price match Amazon) and a Panera gift card. I think we got $50 for the movies, so that should last us a while. Dh seems to be in a bit of a movie lull.

**I am phasing out my American Express 2% cash back card (since so many places don't take American Express). Will replace this with my 2% Citi card. I haven't done this sooner because the limit was so low on the new card. (Initially was like a $3k limit?? Most our limits are $15k-ish?) But I had asked them to up the limit at some point and they did. I apparently should have asked them for a bigger limit. Anyway, I took the time this week to move any lingering bills over to the new credit card. The only thing I have on the AmEx is our health insurance (which is more than out mortgage - it's a big bill). I am going to ask for another limit increase before I move that last bill over. I hear they are phasing out this AmEx reward card anyway. It always eventually happens, so I am glad I have found an even better replacement card in this case.

I've not been a fan of managing 5 credit cards, so I look very much forward to simplifying. That said, it hasn't been a big deal with using Quicken. I've taken to paying all the credit cards off the first of the month because it's just simpler. (Then definitely nothing is ever forgotten. I've moved very far away from "waiting for bills".) I might stick with that habit even when I consolidate a bit. I had wanted to add an extra $3k or so to our emergency fund to cover "last month's credit card charges", but I think paying off the end of every month is a simpler solution to that.

I will still have 4 credit cards. It is the way with rewards these days. Each card has a great reward for just one or two categories that we utilize. Then the 4th card will be for 2% back on everything else.

Lots of Snowflakes/Snowballs

October 25th, 2015 at 03:20 pm

I am piling up some nice bank & credit card rewards to finish out the year:

**No sooner than I mentioned that I need to pay more attention to checking rewards (now that we have direct deposit), we got a $300 cash bonus offer. Woohoo! We will set that up next weekend.

**Dh is getting a $200 bonus for spending $500. It was a direct mail offer for a brand new credit card offering.

**We bought an appliance from Best Buy a couple of months ago and Citi sent me an e-mail about Price Rewind. I guess they monitor the sales prices of the same item online for 60 days and refund you the difference if they find a cheaper price. For most of the 60 days there was a $5 refund showing, but I just checked on Friday and now it's $85. !!

The thing that is extra sweet on this is that we went with Best Buy because it came with free installation. In the end, I don't know that we paid more than $5 than anywhere else (as evidenced by the first month or so of the Price Rewind - we bought on a sale weekend). But in the future, we could make the decision to pay more for free installation and still get a Price Rewind if the product is sold cheaper elsewhere without installation. A strategy to keep in mind...

This $85 is not in the bag. I have to upload my receipt and they have to check that the $85 refund they found is legit/comparable. But I am excited about the potential snowflake.

**Yesterday I received $70 auto insurance refund, for dropping the full coverage on our older vehicle.

**Oh, and the biggest snowball of all...

Dh was hired for 7 months out of the year, per his offer letter. He had to ask a few times to get a Holiday schedule. Once he got that he started asking more questions about the seasonal schedule. I was guessing he probably would not work Thanksgiving week. He had been told there would be no work in December or January. But this was apparently not true. !! So I am glad he asked. It's a bit of a bummer since we thought he would really ease into things more slowly. But since he asked far enough ahead of time I think he is mostly okay with it. It's the summers off that are important to us, and for now they won't give him any specifics but said that they do get the summer off. Oh, and as to winter they are VERY family friendly and flexible. So he gets the holidays off with the kids regardless, and it shouldn't be any problem to get their other winter break off. They were just kind of like they work those months, but he can take whatever time off he needs.

It would be nice if they had been more clear. Dh already moved his dentist appointment and jury duty to December, thinking he'd be free, so he will ask for time off for those things as needed.

It seems he will probably be working 9-10 months out of the year, which is more money than expected. For now it's actually complicating our taxes quite dramatically and is giving me a headache. I will figure it out in January. Will see where dh's head is at and what our incomes will be at that point. & I will have to run the numbers. The reality is far more complex than any cookie cutter advice on the internet. I don't think it would be so complicated if I had a crystal ball. But we have to balance what we want/need now and what we guess the future will look like. I can't even muster up the mental energy to figure it out until I know for sure dh is working next year. & so we figure it all out in January.

-----------------------------------------------------

Spending:

**Dh ordered a new cell phone. Is kind of his working splurge I guess, though honestly he'd buy it anyway. I had just told him earlier in the year that it would be easier to wait until December. (Basically, let his parents pay for it, with the Christmas cash they will give us).

Of course he couldn't wait, but since it wasn't to ship until next month I was fine with it. Won't have to pay for it until December.

Anyway, people are saying online that they shipped early. Dh doesn't think it will ship until after Tuesday when our credit card cycle closes, but I am betting money it will ship Tuesday. It's not that it really matters - we have the money - it just messes up my flow!

If he likes the phone then he may give his old phone to my dad. Thank Goodness! He keeps hoarding phones and driving me crazy. I think this is the only way I can get an old phone out of the house. (He's otherwise hoarding them "for the kids some day").

**Speaking of hoarding electronics...

I got a new kindle yesterday. I guess Kindle is one of those things you already have or you don't want. So this is an easy raffle or auction item to win.

We put a $150 bid on a whim, for an ads-free paper white Kindle + $75 Amazon gift cards. The total value of which was basically $200.

We didn't really expect to win, but figured what the heck.

{Dh already won a FREE Kindle Fire this year in a raffle. We noticed no one was putting their tickets to that so we just went "all in" for the Fire, and won. We have never paid any cash for any of our Kindles before; one raffle and credit card rewards otherwise}.

In the end, we did win.

I suppose the plan is to phase out my Nook. My Nook does not have the backlight so this is an upgrade I did want eventually. Dh has been wanting me to switch to Kindle forever. The new Kindle has fixed everything I didn't like about the original, BUT it's still less compatible with our library system. So I like the idea of having the Nook around to easily borrow library books (without dh having to do all this stuff to get it to work) and we will probably keep it a while in case BM ever wants an e-reader. (BM isn't interested so far, and dh already gave LM his old Kindle).

I also have to check the balance on my B&N gift card and should probably use that up. It was a credit card reward I just had on hand for e-books that I couldn't find at the library. I don't remember the last time I used it or what the balance is, so should probably just use it up and be done with it. When I initially got my Nook the library selection wasn't even a small fraction of what it is today; I haven't been buying any e-books in recent years.

Update: I have $25 to spend at B&N. I will try to find something useful to spend it on.

2015 Rewards Update

October 2nd, 2015 at 03:10 am

2015 TALLY:

$525 Gift Cards (Citi, dh)
$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
-----------
$725 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at 12/31.

2015 Rewards

June 20th, 2015 at 06:38 pm

Not much to see here. I'm phased out of some of the $500 rewards until next year and I haven't seen the Sapphire card for a full $500 bonus this year. In addition to that, we don't need the extra boost so much this year and I don't think it's the worst thing to rest the credit a bit.

That said, I could see us each doing a $500 reward per year. Why not??

I took some time today to do some fiscal chores. Closed two credit cards (was able to close them simultaneously online with live chat). I called to get my ATM card renewed (it seemed to have not been renewed) and that phone call took less than a minute. I guess I had been putting off five minutes or so of chores. I like it when things are quick and easy!

I still need dh to close a CU account we opened last year for bonus. At that point I can start my list anew.

As I shred credit card bonus stuff for closed cards I don't care about any more, I figured I'd update and was surprised I've not even started a 2015 tally yet. & so here it begins...

2015 TALLY:

$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
-----------
$200 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at years-end.

Credit Card Reward Deal

April 15th, 2015 at 07:57 pm

See link for $20 Amazon offer, if you have an American Express card:

http://www.creditcardwatcher.com/amex-offers-get-20-off-20-a...

We were able to redeem $40 because we have two logins for the same American Express card. Woohoo!

$50

January 6th, 2015 at 03:23 pm

I redeemed $50 (credit card reward) to my ROTH today and added that deposit to my sidebar.

Nothing much else going on.

Credit Card and Bank Rewards 2014 - Final Tally!

December 18th, 2014 at 01:53 pm

Rewards Update...

Revised for actual numbers, year-to-date. I think I have everything tallied for 2014.

All the one-time accounts have been redeemed and closed. I got my real FICO score from Bank of America - is still 800+ though I opened a LOT of accounts this year. I think next year we can't do much - need to reset a year before we can quadruple dip some of these. Though I did time the Chase checking accounts so that we can do those again in 2015. Other than that, I think the plan is to focus more on travel credit card rewards in 2015. We are trying to plan a very low cost Hawaii trip in the fall. (Aside from food, I think most the expenses will be paid with rewards).

2014 TALLY:

$180 Cash (AICPA card, Moi)
$200 Cash (Citi card, Moi)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Moi)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)

-----------
$2030 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$150 Extra bank interest from a CD promotion (6%!)

+$400 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance & misc. spending)

+$375 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$60 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$48 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities. New bonus December 2014 - 3% back at restaurants)

+$65 Citi 2% card (new card, to replace Fidelity AmEx and/or Visa rewards)

Grand Total = $3,128

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128

Total 4 Years = $12,697
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


NOTE: ABOUT $550 FROM BANK CHECKING AND CD PROMOTIONS THIS YEAR. UNFORTUNATELY, THOSE ARE TAXBALE.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

Rewards Update

November 11th, 2014 at 04:29 pm

Rewards Update...

I revised my numbers to include extra interest I am getting from a promotional CD (6% interest). I highlighted the bank interest (taxable) rewards to differentiate them from the tax-free credit card rewards.

I also revised my Target and 1% Visa rewards for actual rewards numbers. I think those numbers are pretty good. We are probably done with the Visa for a while and I just estimated $200 more Target purchases this year (2 months x $100 grocery purchases).

I did not add the Citi rewards (double cash back) to my tally. I basically have no idea what I will get with that and it will take away from my 2% AmEx. So basically a wash. I will add it in when I have more firm numbers in early December. (This Citi double dash card is replacing the Visa; used for vendors that don't take AmEx).

2014 TALLY:

$175 Cash (AICPA card, Moi)
$200 Cash (Citi card, Moi)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Moi)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
-----------
$2025 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$150 Extra bank interest from a CD promotion

+$500 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance & misc. spending)**

+$375 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 60 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 45 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Grand Total = $3,155

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,155

Total 4 Years = $12,724
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


NOTE: ABOUT $550 FROM BANK CHECKING AND CD PROMOTIONS THIS YEAR. UNFORTUNATELY, THOSE ARE TAXBALE.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

Rewards Update

November 1st, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Rewards Update...

I received a direct offer for a $175 cash bonus that I have decided to redeem. (Spend $500, get $175 cash).

I went through all of my ongoing rewards and revised my 2014 projections. Most of them were lower than expected because have been diverting so many charges to the one-time rewards cards. (Target's website was not showing my YTD rewards so I will have to double check on that later).

{I also kindly let go of $60 in rewards this year, letting my in-laws charge up $3k in our medical bills for rewards. So I will be pleased if we hit the $3k reward mark even with letting go of that $60}.

2014 TALLY:

$175 Cash (AICPA card, Moi)
$200 Cash (Citi card, Moi)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Moi)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
-----------
$2025 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$150 Extra bank interest from a CD promotion

+$500 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance & misc. spending)**

+$350 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 60 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 45 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Grand Total = $3,130

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,130

Total 4 Years = $12,699
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


NOTE: ABOUT $550 FROM BANK CHECKING AND CD PROMOTIONS THIS YEAR. UNFORTUNATELY, THOSE ARE TAXBALE.

Yeah, our next car is going to be paid for with credit card rewards. Heck, if this keeps up, both of our next cars will be paid for with credit card rewards. (As of this moment, we only plan to spend $20,000 to replace our two vehicles).

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***


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