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Viewing the 'Credit Card & Bank Rewards' Category

Woohoo!

July 29th, 2014 at 01:05 pm

Woohoo! I finally got the $200 bonus for dh's Chase checking. Phew! I set up another ach transfer from a less popular financial institution, but when I checked to see if the transfer had come through the $200 bonus was already pending. (I wasn't expecting that!) So, maybe it worked the first time. (Though that was well over 10 business days!). Or maybe they just deposited the $200 when they saw the transfer coming through. I don't know, but it did work without a real "direct deposit".


2014 TALLY:

$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
-----------
$1150 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Notice that these are ALL Chase rewards? Yeesh!

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So BM survived his backpacking trip. We ended up spending about $350 on backpacking gear. I am relieved to get the $200 bonus as I will throw that at the gear.

I would like to say that I was depositing all these rewards to our mortgage or investments, but I think it *all* got spent. Just one of those years. We happened to have a couple of things break just as we got the rewards. IF not for this bonus, I'd pay for the gear out of the vacation fund. But, if I can leave the vacation fund robust it gives us more options for the rest of the year. We leave for the beach next week and I will definitely relax more and not worry about how much we are spending.

It is what it is. Always easier for us to splurge extra money or "Free money". I am certainly glad to have it!

Rewards Update

July 8th, 2014 at 06:29 am

2014 TALLY:

$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh) - ?????
-----------
$1150 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$550 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)**

+$450 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 85 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 75 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Grand Total = $2,310

BUT, I still don't know if dh will be able to get the Chase Checking reward. So I put "?????" next to that one.

Avalanche Month

June 10th, 2014 at 06:54 am

I am waiting on a $500 reward (Still crossing my fingers if this double dip will work).

I am waiting on a $200 reward.

Both of those are dh's and a little iffy. Technically we don't qualify but so many people online said this or that worked that we gave it a go.

I qualified for a focus group. It's been YEARS - I don't remember the last one I did. $85 for 2 hours. It's the day we get back from camp. We should get back pretty early and its a paid vacation day for me. So I figured I might as well get double paid. The focus group is in the late afternoon.

More Credit Card Reward Ideas

June 3rd, 2014 at 06:50 am

I saw this today which was interesting:

Open a Bank Account With a Credit Card

http://millionmilesecrets.com/2014/06/03/fund-a-bank-account...

I saw this trick mentioned in regards to the HFCU 6% CD deal, but was too chicken to try this. Did NOT want to get stuck with a cash advance fee. It was the first time I had ever heard of opening a bank account with a credit card charge.

This post gets further into which banks accept credit cards to open accounts, and how most do not classify these as cash advances. But, if you are still a little wary, you can ask your credit card holder to set your cash advance limit to $0. So basically the transaction won't go through if it is considered a cash advance.

We have enough medical bills that I doubt we will ever do this (not scrounging for ideas to charge up credit cards). BUT, if I saw this article first, I would have opened up my last bank account with a credit card. At the least, it would have been worth $40 cash back to do so.

More Snowballs

May 31st, 2014 at 07:27 am

I figured I better do a 2014 credit card reward tally because a lot of little things are starting to add up.

In the past I labeled this category "credit card rewards" because I had never done any "checking account rewards". But, I have been getting more "easy peasy" bank account rewards in the past couple of years. I suppose I could rename this category to "credit card and bank rewards".

I am going to do the Chase Freedom card offer. I have not done that one before.

2014 TALLY:

$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$225 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
-----------
$1125 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$550 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)**

+$450 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 85 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 75 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Unfortunately, all of dh's rewards are kind of up in the air. The SW Chase double dip is not a guarantee and we don't have any direct deposits for his Chase checking offer, but I am trying to get around that. So fingers crossed on one or both of those.

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

For May, I had $50 rewards deposited directly into my ROTH and $25 rewards deposited into our investments (ongoing rewards).

American Express Blue card shorted our rewards as they ALWAYS do. I am keeping an eye out for another rewards card to replace this one. They make it a huge hassle to even complain about it, which just adds to my frustration about this card.

Some Snowballs

May 29th, 2014 at 06:48 am

**I received $200 from opening a Chase checking account. I already transferred that into my savings account.

**While checking dh's Southwest Chase card I saw that he was getting an online offer (to apply online) for a Chase checking account for $200 bonus. (I had scoured his spam when I got my offer; he didn't get the same offer I did).

The catch? This one is a direct deposit offer. I am printing it out and setting it aside. I saw enough stories of success with bank account transfers (in lieu of paycheck direct deposits, which is what the fine print says it should be), that we may give this one a whirl. Worst case, he doesn't get the bonus and we just close the account after a few days. Not a lot of effort to try.

Will probably just save or invest this $200.

**We need to spend $2,000 on the Southwest Chase, with hopes of being able to double dip for a $500 reward.

I already charged $950 for health insurance and yearbooks. (I try to avoid small charges on these things - less to keep track of. But, the yearbook was an unexpected expense and so I figured, "what the heck". Since I know we will get to $2k quickly).

I have a $800 charge to bill for work that will be reimbursed. So, that just leaves about $250 to come up with. I will probably just prepay some health insurance and be done with it.

**I got my 6% CD set up finally at HFCU. Like I can actually access my acounts and transfer money. It was really a PITA. I think they got overwhelmed by the number of new customers they attracted.

All of the above makes me really appreciate our local credit union. It is the best of all worlds. Way ahead of its time (have always had online bill pay and online deposits and yadda yadda, long before the big banks were able to implement for their bigger customer base). My CU's website is so intuitive and easy to use. Customer service is A+. HFCU was just kind of a mess and I was starting to regret opening the account. Maybe more of the credit union stereotype? But, now it's squared away. & as to Chase? I could only internally roll my eyes as they went over all their fees when I had to sign up in person.

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

Ting Update:

With my new phone I accidentally used a big pile of data (due to some settings on the new phone). This added $7 to our bill and $3.50 to our half. I guess we will survive. Wink

Of course, the family was filled with crazy medical drama this month and I have been using minutes more than usual with my car upgraded with bluetooth. I saw my parents last weekend and told them no big deal, but if they didn't need to make calls to just cool it for the next few days. (Mostly didn't want to pay $9 for the entire tier for going over just a few minutes). But if not, whatever. But we are all four savers by nature and so we made it through. (I think this would be hard to do with different personality types, but we all cared enough to remember and to not make unnecessary calls).

In the end, we didn't go over our usual minute usage. Total bill will be around $60. $30 for our half. Not bad for a high volume minutes and data month. Ironically, this is like the first bill that we actually have to pay. By far the biggest one we have had. (We only paid $10 for the entire first 6 months). I do have a couple of referrals in the works, so will see. Maybe next month will be free.

6% Interest Deal

May 8th, 2014 at 06:30 am

Well, I am well on my way to tripling our bank interest this year. Without any credit card rewards. Literally, just talking bank interest.

**Chase

I got a direct mail offer form Chase, that I have yet to redeem. I will probably do it this weekend. (The offer expires in July. All I have to do is open an account and I will get $200 in 10 days. The kind of offers they sell on Ebay. Fine print is I have to keep $1500 in the account for 6 months to avoid any fees and to keep the bonus. That works out to a 26% interest rate on my $1500 for 6 months. I will take it!)

So, that *doubles* the bank interest income I expect to receive this year.

**Hanscom Federal Credit Union

This one is a little more complicated, but the timing is kind of perfect for me.

The details are at My Money Blog:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/hansom-federal-cu-thrive-review.h...

Check out the referral link and read his blog post. He did a fine job summing it up.

The short explanation is that this CU is offering 6% interest for 12 months. It's called a Thrive account. It is kind of like a C.D. The max you can put into this account is $500 per month.

You need to open a savings account and keep $25 in the account to be a CU member. You need to open a checking account and keep $1 in that account, because you have to fund the Thrive account with the checking account. You can then transfer up to $500/month into the Thrive account. No minimums in the Thrive account, but there is a penalty for withdrawals. These are basically no-fee accounts.

There is a $30 sign up bonus if you use a referral. On the flip side, if you don't qualify otherwise, you have to pay $35 to join some organization, to qualify as a CU member. But these two pretty much offset. & you can potentially earn additional $30 referrals.

The interest earned on the Thrive account will be in the realm of $3,000 x 6%. Around $180 total interest. Since you have to fund it slowly throughout the year. This in effect *triples* my total bank interest for the next 12 months.

At the end of 12 months, the Thrive account is swept into your savings account, I believe, and you will get a renewal notice about interest rate. Which is otherwise about 3% right now. You then start over at $0.

If I had any doubts about the PITA factor of this account, there was an extra bonus for me. My kids have a 7% interest account that cap out at a $500 balance. My elder child is well on the way to $500. SO... I figure in one year if the interest rate on this account reverts to 3% or so, it would be an excellent place to save up kids' money. & heck, 3% isn't a bad deal for myself either. But yeah, I expect it to be a long while before the kids have $6,000 ($500 x 12). So, it might be a good place just to pool some of their savings and track it in excel or something like that.

{My kids have been REALLY motivated by the higher interest rate, but are well aware they won't earn much, anywhere, after they hit the $500 cap. So, I think this will help motivate them to keep saving}.

Minors (over age 8) can also open these Thrive accounts. I didn't look into those details.

I wish I had my referral code to share, but I don't think I will receive it before this promo ends. 6% Promo ends Saturday.

March Snowflakes + Ting + Carpool

April 7th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

**Earned $25 credit card reward (will add to next mortgage payment).

**Earned $50 credit card reward - deposited directly into ROTH.

**American Express did mess up my rewards *AGAIN*. As they do each and every month.

BUT, I also had a mystery $25 show up in my account. ??? Never got around to complaining. So it was really and truly a mysterious $25. I just noticed my rewards balance was higher and I could redeem another $25. I even checked my spam folder to make sure I didn't miss any e-mails about a bonus reward.

So, how is that for random?

**Mortgage snowflakes totaled $85 for March:

--$25 credit card reward
--$25 mystery credit card reward
--$20 carpool savings
--$15 Internet savings
--Total $85

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

I will share my Ting referral code again because I am desperate for one more month free. Big Grin

https://z181d126bt4.ting.com

We did get our March bill. My dad was traveling a lot (lots of minutes and data) and has nothing but travel plans the rest of the year. But we stayed at $53 for our combined bill. $26.50 for our half. I think that is mostly what it is going to be for the rest of the year.

We will probably owe $25-ish cash for April usage (for entire family). As our credits will be all used up with the next bill. So, if I can get one more referral, it will officially make our service *free* for the first 5 whole months.

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

Our carpool is defunct because our carpool buddies divorced and returned to work full-time.

I've been eking out the $20 carpool savings anyway, for the mortgage, but I think I will stop adding that $20 this month. I think I just had the wiggle room since we have been paying nothing for cell service. Though of course I will just switch to throwing cell phone savings at the mortgage. As a placeholder for that bill. (The first few months were breaking even with contract termination fees and new phone purchase, but we are past that now).

It's just a couple of more months, and then next year will be a new year to figure out. I am overall pleased with the wear and tear and gas we saved this year already. For the most part we rarely picked up the kids by car the first 75% of the school year. So having to pick them up all the time the last part of the school year, is okay. Not very many weeks left.

Nice Weekend & Snowflakes

February 2nd, 2014 at 08:30 am



Another gorgeous weekend in San Francisco. WOW!

I met up with my bff since we couldn't mesh our schedules last weekend. We had lunch and drinks with a beach view. The time went too fast.

We actually had some rain last week and might get more this week. Phew! (Not enough, but it is something).

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

**I redeemed $25 credit card reward and added to mortgage payment. Also added $20 for carpool savings and $15 for internet savings. Total $60 snowflake for 2/28 mortgage payment. I will pay it at the end of the month.

I also expect a $200-ish insurance rebate (we get every February) so will add that to the mortgage payment as well.

**I updated side bar for total January interest received. No other savings this month since it was only a one-paycheck month.

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

I think we pulled off a no-spend weekend. We went down to Bay Area for FIL's birthday. The car already had a pretty full tank (filled up when we got home last weekend). I spent money on lunch, but MIL slipped us a $50 gas card when we left. She often gave us cash when gas prices were very high and we were dealing with dh's medical problems and so on. BUT, it has been a long time. Not expected in the slightest.

So, if I spent about $20 on lunch, and I got $50, then it nets out to a profit. FIL took dh and the kids to the movies while I had my girl time.

I wasn't expecting to make out so well this weekend. Was just expecting to spend.

It's carpet cleaning weekend at work. I should probably work from home. I should probably do some errands. But, I think I will torture myself by doing nothing. Will mean a crazier schedule next week, but am looking forward to a breather before things get REALLY crazy. Maybe if I relax all day I can work up to a little shopping tonight. I have $90 in Kohls gift cards, and only need some nice pants (my work pants are getting pretty worn from so much wear). So, not expecting to spend any actual cash or to use up all my gift cards.

Credit Card Rewards Update

December 29th, 2013 at 08:28 am

I updated the numbers below. I will still have to tweak a few numbers as statements come in.

I did also add the $75 we earned from the AmEx Amazon deal.

If I add the Cap One ($152 savings bonus) I added this year, the grand total is $2,775 for the year. VERY close to last year's number. The Cap One wasn't a credit card, but it was really the same difference (but easier, since I only had to open the account and do nothing else). I won't officially include it in my totals because it was not tax-free. But for all intents and purposes I think it belongs in the same category.

{I don't have direct deposit and don't like/trust debit cards so have never been able to do any other checking account or savings account type bonus. I know there are ways around direct deposit rules, but then it is often "at your own risk" and seems like way more work than it is worth. May be re-evaluated in the future, if credit cards dry up. Since Cap One had no direct deposit or debit hoops to jump through, it was *super easy*}.



2013 TALLY:

$580 cash (Chase Sapphire triple dip moi)*
$430 cash (Chase Sapphire triple dip dh)*
$250 cash Citi (dh double dip? Triple dip?)
-----------
$1260 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$ 525 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)
+$ 25 cash back Fidelity Am Ex (bonus for some alternating category?)

+$475 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$ 75 American Express Rewards ($25 x 3 cards)

+$ 85 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$ 178 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities; had 2% reward for a couple of months this year - woohoo!)
----------------------------
=$2623 Total CC REWARDS 2013
----------------------------

*triple dips = rewards redeemed for the third time. We redeemed once every 12 months or so.

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

Total 3 Years = $9,569
**Tax-Free Income!!**

Caveat: I don't recommend using credit cards at all unless you have the discipline to pay them off 100% within grace period. I have never in my life paid a fee or any interest to a credit card company. I don't think it's a big deal if you don't spend money that you don't have and therefore pay off the balance each and every month. This strategy has worked fine for me for full two decades.

2013 Credit Card Reward Estimate + Other Income

December 5th, 2013 at 06:05 am

2013 TALLY:

$580 cash (Chase Sapphire triple dip moi)*
$430 cash (Chase Sapphire triple dip dh)*
$250 cash Citi (dh double dip? Triple dip?)
-----------
$1260 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$ 525 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)
+$ 25 cash back Fidelity Am Ex (bonus for some alternating category?)

+$450 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$ 75 American Express Rewards ($25 x 3 cards)

+$ 85 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$ 178 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities; had 2% reward for a couple of months this year - woohoo!)
----------------------------
=$2598 Total CC REWARDS 2013
----------------------------

*triple dips = rewards redeemed for the third time. We redeemed once every 12 months or so.

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,598

Total 3 Years = $9,544
**Tax-Free Income!!**

Caveat: I don't recommend using credit cards at all unless you have the discipline to pay them off 100% within grace period. I have never in my life paid a fee or any interest to a credit card company. I don't think it's a big deal if you don't spend money that you don't have and therefore pay off the balance each and every month. This strategy has worked fine for me for full two decades.

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

Other income this year:

$152 Capital One Savings Bonus
$500 Focus Groups (all dh - just a lucky year!!)
$300 Grandma paid me to do her taxes (kind of a gift really)
$220 Amazon sales/Craigslist Sales/Rebates
------
$1,172
------

In addition, I earned $7,000 overtime.

Grand total of side income = $10,692

Chase $550 Bonus

November 20th, 2013 at 08:56 pm

Yes, of course Chase upped their bonus considerably right after dh applied!

But, I kind of figured that would happen and I am up for a double dip or a triple dip myself (I don't remember off the top of my head). & we can also always ask them to match the offer on the card we just applied for.

Anyway, here is the 55,000 bonus I just stumbled across today:

http://www.creditcardwatcher.com/chase-sapphire-preferred-ca...

I already applied.

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Dh's total bonus will be $430, and mine should be $580, for a total of $1,010. The reward is CASH.

I am going the "super lazy" route:

For one, I don't think I will bother to ask them to match on dh's card.

Secondarily, I have to come up with $6,000 to spend in the next 3 months for both of these cards. It's not really a big deal because gas + groceries + health insurance is about $2k per month for us. So, we could charge anything and everything and make it work. BUT, that is a lot of accounting on my part.

I've already got dh's $3,000 spent, so the easiest way to do mine is to charge our property taxes. We will pay a $50-ish fee to do so, but this will be infinitely easier in the grand scheme of things. That is one charge versus an entire month of charges to track on some random card we will only keep for a few months. Anything more than that is too complicated for my sensibilities.

So, this is what we did:

--Charged $140-ish to AAA this month.

--Dh's card closes next week (billing cycle closes) so after that I will charge November health insurance, December health insurance & home insurance and flood insurance.

This brings us about exactly to $3,000 (with the bulk of it due January 31). I already have every single one of those bills set to pay after next week.

My new Chase Sapphire Card:

--Charge Property taxes $2,000
--I will probably pre-pay January's health insurance. Or just charge it in January since it is well within 3 months.

--Dh will have to do one small charge for the extra 5,000 points. Hopefully something really small.

& that is how we will spend $6,000 in like one month, so we can get these rewards in hand ASAP.

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

Rewards Spending:

--$400-ish is going to dh's new phone (why I applied for the other Chase card in the first place).

--I still owe $350 for BM's field trip for this year so will just knock that out.

--Leaves about $200-ish after the property tax fee. Might just use that to shore up our beach weekend. I didn't pay the entire hotel yet, and will have the kitty hotel. & eating out always adds up so quickly (since we are so used to such cheap home cooking).

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

While I am doing a credit card reward post...

Progress on our ongoing credit card rewards:

--Will earn about $600 this year from Fidelity AmEx (Deposited to ROTHs)

--Will earn about $500 with our gas/groceries reward card (has all gone to mortgage)

--Earned $160 on our CU visa (we racked up a lot of charges last month because they had a 2% cash back promotion - I don't get this reward until January - it accumulates all year and we usually don't use this card much - will probably throw the $160-ish at the mortgage when I receive it).

--I looked and we saved $80 at Target this year. Once I get the year-end total I will throw this sum at the mortgage. At 5% back this works out to about $1600 purchases. The bulk of that is groceries.

The credit card reward grand total is going to be close to $2600 this year.

Nexus 5, Ting, Updates

November 10th, 2013 at 03:16 pm

**Dh and I had a nice lunch date last week. It had been a while, for whatever reason. Maybe just busy busy busy dealing with life.

We had a coupon so spent a whopping $11. I had leftovers for dinner the same night.

We had gotten the coupon at the last school fundraiser. We also scored an hour of free bowling and $20 in arcade credits (at bowling alley). That will be something we should go do Thanksgiving week.

**That reminds me, I did get our post Thanksgiving vacation booked.



After one heck of a year and more than one ruined vacation, I am a little wary. BUT, since my birthday fell on that weekend it sealed the deal for just going. We went last year and had the entire hotel mostly to ourselves. IT was DIVINE. I figure this year we will get rained out or a flat tire or something. But, will try!! Trying to be positive.

**So, how about that Nexus 5?

It's a $400-ish non-contract phone that works with most cell carriers.

I don't know if dh would care so much, but his phone broke and he really HATES the one that he is making do with.

So yeah, he is all over it!! Which is making me think this broken phone thing was a blessing in disguise.

Because... He is ready to switch to Ting!

Last we ran the numbers it just wasn't working, but I think it was mostly because he didn't want to. We were probably assuming all new phones, and higher prices of phones. So, this Nexus 5 changes things dramatically. In addition, if we switch now, the rest of us can just keep our current phones (barely 18 months old, so no need or wish to upgrade).

One final point - we weren't quite sure on data usage before we tried out our latest cell phone plan. BUT, since the sprint network sucks so much our data usage has been pretty small. Our current actual usage puts us around $30/month for two phones. (Before taxes and fees). I would expect we will use more data with time, and so did not factor this low usage in our past calculations. (Which is fine - even if we quadruple our data we will still be saving a ton on the monthly bill).

We are on a family plan with my folks and are all on the same page. If we stick with Sprint at all, might as well just go to Ting and pay half as much for the same crappy coverage. Either that, or let's just splurge on Verizon and actually get decent cell service.

But the Nexus 5 does not carry to Verizon. So, that seals the deal. Dh's love for the phone and kicking the big guys (and contract BS) to the curb is trumping all else. Plus, maybe he is a sucker. We are supposed to get 4G any day now. (So they have said for the entire past 18 months). I am just relieved he is willing to wait it out.

I would not be surprised if we eventually end up with Verizon, but am happy to save money in the interim. Environmentally, we are really opposed to upgrading all our phones just to switch carriers again.

Anyway THANK YOU to the SA Ting guniea pigs. I really appreciate it. It's an easier choice having heard so much good things about it.

I will have to do a numbers post later. We are terminating our contract 5 months early, so somewhere around December 1, or maybe a little later - depends when we get dh's new phone. Though since there are no activation fees, I am pushing to just switch December 1. He can sort out the new phone later. Anyway, Ting will pay 25% of our termination fees, so that is cool. We will still come out ahead regardless, terminating early and cutting our monthly bill for those 5 months.

**One final thing. That new phone is not going to cost me a penny. I was waiting for the Chase Sapphire card to bump back up to a $500 reward again (I think it was $500 earlier this year??). But, I give up. The $400 reward came to mind as a great way to pay for this phone. So I already applied, and I have enough insurance bills due to hit the $3,000 spending requirement by 12/31. I hope to get that $430-ish reward check by the end of the year.

Holy Cow

July 11th, 2013 at 09:04 pm

**Dh saved a phones message for me today. He said, "Tell me what you hear." Not very clear, but sounded like a focus group offering $700.

Holy Cow!?!

They ruled out dh immediately because he just did that big $400-ish study a couple of months back. (Which I thought was the Holy Grail of focus groups, at the time).

Dh asked if I should call back later, but they said it was for 3 whole week days. I should probably call back and find out more details. As is, it was probably the only 3 week days in the entire next 3 months or so that just don't work for me. FIGURES!!

I don't even know if dh or I would have qualified otherwise, either. IT's probably easy to assume not.

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I saw an interesting point of view that I don't think I thought of before. I saw someone in another forum mention that they had made enough in credit card rewards (in one lifetime) to pay for their last car purchase.

!!!!

I suppose I have done the same...

It's a huge sum and I am aware, but I just never thought of it in exactly those terms. Next time someone bothers me about how we can afford having two cars, I should throw that out there. "Paid for by credit cards." Not quite in the way that sounds. Wink

My LIFETIME credit card rewards? Heck if I know. I've had a rewards credit card for almost 20 years?

Rough and dirty estimate:

$1,000 2013
$7,000 2011 & 2012
$5,000 2006-2010
$1,000 All years prior
-------
$14,000 LIFETIME TOTAL
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Yup, that more than paid for my current vehicle!!

I just recall credit card rewards ramping up and doing well in the years since I had this blog. Earning $1,000-ish per year. & I have hard figures in this blog for the past two years (which were totally insane). I really don't remember racking up a ton of rewards before that and don't have the records. I am sure I am probably under-estimating though as I remember having 1% cash back. Then again, we didn't charge anything and everything like we do now. Maybe $1,000 is about right, for all the years prior. If there were better rewards to be had, I didn't know and/or I wasn't spending enough to get them. As far as 2013, the year is young.

I have to go wrap my brain around this now. WOW!!

Disclaimer: I have never paid a penalty or a cent of interest to any credit card company. My reward calculations are net of any "annual fees" that I have paid to earn rewards. IF you can't easily beat the credit card companies at their own game, then I wouldn't bother trying. Something like 90% of the population fails. Unfortunately, I understand that sharing my successes might sound like a credit card commercial. If this sounds like a good idea, proceed with extreme caution.

More Snowflakes

May 3rd, 2013 at 10:13 am

**Redeemed $25 credit card reward (cash) and so added $25 to next mortgage payment.

I changed the due date of groceries/gas card so that I Can charge/pay easier on a calendar month basis. I believe there was a $5 charge between closing date and the 30th, and I decided to just pay that next month. *shrugs* It doesn't really matter either way.

I should do the same with my other credit card. I kind of like the later due date. But it's not due late enough for me to consider paying with the next payday, so it probably makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. I have to pay it off well before payday, regardless. I think it would make life easier. I should just shoot them an e-mail while I am thinking about it.

I got this idea because my Visa just happens to close around the 25th of the month. I always pay off the charges from 1/1-1/30 or 1/1 - 1/31, on a monthly basis. So it was this aha moment that I could still pay off the monthly charges even if all the charges don't make the statement cutoff. This makes calendar month credit card managing infinitely easier.

The credit card companies tend to process this request by "due date." So I have to ask for an "earlier due date." I don't imagine they get that kind of request very often. Big Grin

**Tomorrow I should be able to redeem $50 credit card reward to my ROTH.

**Next week dh has a $120 focus group. In fact, today I think he was doing a follow up to last focus group (online?) for $50.

**Craigslist sales are not going well, but I am happy to donate that which we can not sell.

**I'd really like to take some time to declutter around the house. I don't expect there is much we can sell. We are way too efficient for that. Big Grin But I think there is probably some junk we can get rid of. {Who knows - will see what I find}. Dh has got a bit of the declutter bug, which is motivating me to do another run-through of my own crap. With the changing weather and nearing summer birthdays, is probably also about time for a clothing and toy purge for the kids.

This weekend maybe I should just focus on the kitchen. We should get our tupperware delivered today and there are some cabinets in the kitchen we should probably go through.

It's only the past year or so we have talked very seriously about downsizing back to a condo once the kids are grown. So I think I am going to hit the de-cluttering with that mindset, this time. From here on out, I'd like to be ready pick up and move to a condo. Tomorrow. If that is what we so choose. It's a different decluttering mindset than I had before. More extreme, I guess. Before I felt a little bit of, "Meh, we have room for all this crap, so whatever." (Actually, I think my mindset before was, "We have way less crap than everyone else," but I don't think that is good enough).

Rewards Update

February 6th, 2013 at 06:14 pm

**The upside to the spendy January is I was able to redeem another $50 credit card rewards to my ROTH. Don't expect to do that too often this year. This card mostly pays for Health Insurance, some utilities, and miscellaneous. (Might average $50 every other month, for most the year).

My parking ticket contributed $1.20 to this bounty. I can look on the bright side.

**Right after I last posted, I got an e-mail that my new AmEx bill was ready. I marveled how it was only $500 when I realized it closed on the 4th as I had originally asked. ??? I am not sure if this is the new closing date - my online login says it isn't. But it's a little too coincidental, so maybe it is. Will save me an e-mail. !!

Thank goodness, because I still squeaked by about how I thought we would. I don't think we bought anything this week, so not like it helped me much to close early. BUT very happy to have all the credit cards on a calendar month. The 4-card system is MUCH easier than it sounds. But it is a must that they all just be on a calendar month. Then I pay the little ones off the first of the month and the bigger ones the middle of the month. It just works; not much to think about. Easier than I Expected. This one card is new and they would only move up the date a few days at a time - I figured I'd get it straightened out eventually.

This month they are all BIG, except Target was only $100 for Groceries. The new AmEx actually was small enough at $500 - I may just pay it this week. Gas/Groceries for 3 weeks or so. The visa had all sorts of insurance, school lunch for 6 months, so was large. Usually it is only $200 for some utilities.

**Out of ALL The credit card rewards I have done, this AmEx Blue is the only one that makes you wait a full extra cycle to calculate and redeem rewards. So I need to go through and double check their calculations. Is not a big deal with Quicken - I just pull a report and check their gas and groceries category matches my records.

Since I had asked them to move up the cycle a few days, they gave me a two month cycle to do so. SO, I *finally* got about $75 rewards with this last statement. Rewards I earned in Nov. and Dec. I can not redeem quite yet, but hoping tomorrow.

I haven't given it *any* thought. The other AmEx rewards go to the ROTH because that is the only way I can redeem that reward. SO, I am thinking of just automatically putting all these rewards to my mortgage. In fact, I should also match the ROTH rewards into the mortgage. It's not like we need these to max out our ROTHs - will do it anyway. But this may be a solid $800 extra to our mortgage this year, if I match the other AmEx rewards into the mortgage.

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As for one-time rewards, haven't seen anything terribly enticing, and giving the credit a bit of a break.

Reminds me, I don't know what the heck list dh got on. We got some weird "Borrow $6,000" offer that looked payday loan-ish. Never got an offer like that before???

& I swear Citi has been sending him a 0% balance transfer offer every single freaking day. They still hate me. I could double dip on the Citi, but they so did not seem to want my business last time, and never send me any good offers. No idea how I got on their bad list, and how dh got on their good list. So, I have been kind of saving that double dip for WAY last. But anyway, I don't know what their angle is. If they send this balance offer 20 times in one month, we will cave and say yes? We have no balances to transfer, so besides looking closer the first one or two or three times to see if there was any other rewards offer, it just goes immediately to the shred pile.

Credit Card Rewards Update

December 8th, 2012 at 02:19 pm

Honestly, the credit card rewards were way higher than I realized this year. I haven't been keeping as close track. I actually mentioned earlier in the year I shredded absolutely *everything* one-time credit card reward - the paperwork was getting to be too much! But I very quickly pieced all this together between my blog (for gift cards) and Quicken (cash deposits). In addition, I know I received a few $10 or $20 gift cards here and there, but I did not track those carefully and so did not add these to the total.

FINAL TOTAL:

2012 TALLY:

$532 cash Chase Sapphire
$420 cash Chase (Chase Sapphire double dip*)
$150 cash Flagstar
$500 Amazon gift cards (Citi double dip*)
$250 Amazon gift cards
-$125 annual fee (Citi)
+$115 annual fee refunded when closed card
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$1842 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$ 600 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)
+$ 25 cash back Fidelity Am Ex (bonus for some alternating category?)

+$ 95 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$ 68 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)

+$ 80 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel - new card for 2 months only)
+$ 150 New AmEx (new card bonus)
-$75 annual fee on new AmEx
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=$2785 Total CC REWARDS 2012
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*double dips = rewards redeemed twice. We redeemed both these rewards in 2011 initially, and waited 12 months to redeem a second time, in 2012.

Year 2011 = $4164
Year 2012 = $2782

Total 2 Years = $6946
**Tax-Free Income!!**


Three more things:

1 - I have always always always utilized credit cards for rewards. No year in the past 20 years has come anywhere close to the years 2011 and 2012. I was maybe averaging $1000 cash back per year the few years prior.

2 - CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless your credit is excellent, and you are in full control of your credit card spending. I can 100% honestly say I did not charge anything that I wouldn't have just paid for in cash otherwise. I am wired to treat my credit card as if it were a debit card, basically.

3 - The one-time rewards cards have all been cancelled and cut up. I generally close the cards right after I receive the reward.

Also, I suppose I should clarify that both my spouse and I have been utilizing these rewards, so have been able to double up significantly (versus if I were just single - we have both applied for several of the same offers. I also no doubt have many more expenses, supporting a household of 4 people versus just myself).

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What have we been doing with all this money? We advanced several months of ROTH contributions so that we are maxing out by 12/31 this year (versus taking out time until next April). We have paid down an extra $6,000 to our mortgage, as well. We have certainly splurged some of the rewards too, but I have no doubt our financial goals have gone very well in otherwise financially trying times, due to these significant windfalls.

In fact, at the end of 2010, I was thinking about getting some part-time or temp work. The bottom line has really been, "Why bother?" when I can make all this money with barely lifting a finger!?! It's been totally great timing for my family. My motivation to find a second job was to start paying down the mortgage more rapidly.

This & That

November 28th, 2012 at 07:02 am

Almost up to $300 in savings this month:

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/little-savings-add-up.html

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**I was trying to pay all my bills yesterday since the visa closed. Could not succeed. Time to renew IRS ID#, but the system was down. Time to renew home insurance, but I think they are still reprocessing it for a higher deductible. (Insurance agent just happened to call me about something else, and so I inquired. I made a split second decision to increase deductible to $5k. Really doesn't save a lot, BUT I would never make a claim for that little, so it seems I should take the savings no matter how piddly. I was going to call and ask, but he saved me the trouble).

I will try again today or tomorrow.

I also renewed my CPA license. Good for 2 more years. Employer already reimbursed me the fee. I am annoyed as it seems I have to pay by check. Next time I will ask employer to just make the check out to the Board. I am trying to go check-less, and have mostly been succeeding.

**Reminds me, HOA sent me the good news that I can now pay online, by credit card, etc.

Rolleyes Rolleyes

If... I am willing to pay insane fees with every payment. I honestly don't even see why anyone would do so. Their fee to pay by bank account was just as absurd. I was dreaming of credit card rewards, but my hopes were quickly dashed...

**We are obviously back from our beach weekend. We didn't think about it until Monday, but abandoned plan to drive home and visit family on the way, when we started thinking about the traffic. So we instead went the way the GPS wanted us to go (was about the same mileage either way). About 100 miles through hills and vineyards, and old abandoned farmlands, etc., east, until we hit the interstate. It was just a beautiful beautiful drive. The other way may have been more green and beautiful in its own way, but I have probably seen that road a thousand plus times. So, it was a nice change of pace. In the end we got home around 6:30pm and didn't see ANY traffic for the whole 5 hours. I didn't expect that! I figured we'd hit some traffic once we reached civilization.

Total cost of beach weekend:

$400 for beach view hotel
$130 Food
$ 70 Gas
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$600

I had $500 in credit card rewards set aside for this. The rest of the gas and food will just come from regular food/gas budget.

**I'd probably never pay this much for 2 nights in a hotel. Verdict on the ocean view? I didn't find it any more spectacular than last time we went and got "partial ocean" view. So, was definitely not worth the extra. But we splurged, and now we know. Anyway, I don't remember the last time we actually paid anything for a night in a hotel, so that was my justification for the splurge. & technically I didn't pay for it anyway - Chase did.**

**We are planning next trip. Dh really really likes the weekend away/no kids thing, and so we are planning that for his birthday. We settled on a date and are thinking Carmel (short drive). It will be after January so will be a nice mid-tax-season kind of break. We will get a free room and not spend much money.

I do not believe we did any nights away without the kids this year. ??? I am just at a spot where I don't find it that exciting. The kids are old enough we get "plenty" of alone time and all that. Maybe means more to dh since he is stuck with the kids more. We obviously had a few other vacation priorities this year!

**Reminds me, our beach weekend was a huge hit with the kids. I thought they might be a little underwhelmed right after Florida. They had a blast and it is possible we will make it a tradition of sorts. We talked about going there every October when the kids get off school. Staying more days mid-week when it is cheaper. I LOVE this idea. Post Thanksgiving wasn't a bad time either. The hotel seemed pretty full Saturday night but then everyone left and we like had the place to ourselves Sunday and Monday. Pretty sweet!

**Totally switching the topic, but I swear my conversations at work any more are about how insane health insurance is. I talked to client whose spouse was quitting job - so their insurance would be about $1,000 per month. I said, "meh, could be MUCH worse" as she is my parents' age. Just to give her some perspective - we talked about that. Then another client told me his wife was losing her insurance and his was about $2k/month for the family. He is my age. OUCH! It's a sign of the times. How and when this all comes to a head, I don't know. Everyone I have had this conversation with has the means to deal with it. I am sure many many many don't.

I have some novel to read about taxes and Obamacare - I have a headache just thinking about it. Probably some Christmas reading for me. !! So far all I have gathered is my medical expenses will be less deductible. *sigh* I honestly am not stating a political opinion and don't know all the details - just that the only part I am aware of to-date is how I will be worse off in the year 2013. Will see... I hope to read some good news in that big old tax novel. I suppose "job security." Is that the good news???

This & That

October 18th, 2012 at 07:09 am

**I applied for a new credit card, and so will have a 4-card system. I am sure I passed on it before because it has an annual fee, and because I don't want a 4-card system. But the 3-card system has been working well, so decided to give it a go.

New system:

-New Amex with 6% back on groceries and 3% back on gas. This is most of our spending, anyway.

-Old AmEx with 2% back on *everything.* Will keep this for insurance, utilities, misc. (Good thing is I don't have to change anything around - new card can just be swiped when used. This card is already set up to pay utilities and insurance).

-Credit union visa for 1% back on everywhere that does not take AmEx. (Mostly some utilities and insurance).

-Target card for 5% back on Target (used for groceries)

I am sure I would never consider this plan, but not for Quicken. With Quicken, I can download all the charges, and I just pay everything off the first of every month. It hasn't been a big deal, which is why I decided to bite this bullet. (I don't wait for statements - I just pay everything off when the month is over).

Oh, and the kicker is there is a one-time cash back bonus that would pay the annual fee for two years. I doubt this would be the best card in 2 years time - so will probably cover the fee for the life of the card. It seems we change our cards around every few years as rewards get changed.

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**I may also take a backseat with the one-time credit card rewards for a while. Nothing about the credit card activity (open, reward, close) seems to have affected our credit score much but this year all sorts of inquiries are showing up on our credit reports. The inquiries = ouch. (I don't know why none particularly showed up last year. We've been applying for the same cards over and over - same card issuers, etc.).

So, I am sure I can be enticed, but in the meantime there isn't anything spectacular and I think we will just work on this 4-card strategy for a while. At least until next spring? Let the credit scores bounce back a bit. Our scores are still A or A-, but rather keep them that way then get to the point where I literally can't get any credit I apply for. (If nothing else, we may want to refinance down to a 15-year loan in the near future). So, I guess we quit (or take a break) while ahead.

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**I am probably going to abandon mortgage payoff plan for the next year. I feel great relief about this decision. I am feeling much more pressure to build up cash reserves (personal circumstances, crappy economy). But also feel like we need to focus on the mortgage. & of course there are always too many competing financial goals. If we could always do everything we wanted, these blogs would not exist.

Anyway, the lightbulb moment for me is that I probably have about 1/2 our HongKong airfare saved up (was going to put to mortgage before year-end) and should have the rest by spring. I decided this was a good reason to hoarde up some cash.

So, yesterday I paid off our recent Florida vacation (had the money, but just waited for payday to not have to move anything around). For next vacation, hoping to have the money saved up a solid year ahead of time. Phew!

It's not quite so simple that I am overlooking mortgage for vacation. I think I am just changing the order of things. In fact, I am pondering using the money to max out our ROTHs in spring, and hoarding up money the rest of the year for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is not a new goal, so just means more can go to the mortgage later.

I like this idea because I can focus on cash a little more, and because HK kept getting pushed up so I Was unsure if I could come up with the money. Yesterday I looked at airfare to get a ballpark - it was much better than I expected. Though I can't buy airfare for another year, so will see!! Will save up far more as a cushion (whatever we don't need will go to the mortgage).

I was initially thinking maybe saving up $3k per year, for 3 years, for this trip. But, we have been talking more seriously about summer 2014, which was stressing me out! Less than 2 years away...

The kids will be spoiled. Grandma wants to take them both on a "once in a lifetime - anywhere in the world" trip when they turn 10. So, that covers 2013 and 2015. That leaves us 2014. We are going to visit a relative who isn't getting any younger and who will likely retire in the states. So, I think it is probably best to aim for 2014.

I may change my mind 100 more times in the next year, but don't be surprised if I abandon mortgage plans in the interim.

There is always more to the story. The plan to do 15-year mortgage isn't panning out so much (I really don't want to give up liquidity we have gotten this year - and there are only downward pressures on income and upward pressures on expenses - for forseeable future). Home value went up $50k+ over summer, so I am no longer scrambling to hang on to 20% equity. Rising interest rates and falling home values could alter my goals again.

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ETA: I updated the sidebar to reflect this change of goals. Total savings goal is the same, but just shifted some of it away from the mortgage. I also put down 2013 goals for future reference.

Double Dip Worked

September 24th, 2012 at 10:37 am

I have been checking, because waiting for the first billing cycle to close on my latest Chase card. Today I logged in and it hadn't closed yet, but I happened to notice my reward points already posted. !! That is the first time I have seen points post before a statement, though it is possible the statement is there now. Maybe they were processing it when I peeked.

Whatever the reason - woohoo! I can redeem my $420!
We are using it for a hotel stay in November, on the beach.

This means I will seriously think about more double dips. We already did a Citi double dip.

On to the triple dips!!

Financial Juggling

September 1st, 2012 at 06:58 am

**Woohoo! I got my Chase card. Phew! Was hoping to get in time to pay some 9/1 bills (was willing to pay a couple of days late, but might have given up by Tuesday).

Also, the due date was October 20th for the first Chase bill. Big Grin SO, I paid 2 months health insurance ($800 due today - paid the 10/1 bill too). Since I usually charge those around the 30th and pay off around the 20th. Doesn't mess me up *at all.* No juggling or re-arranging.

Auto insurance was due Monday - I paid it today.

This leaves me $75 to charge. I will probably use it to fill up the van next week - which will put me a few dollars short? But maybe I can give it to dh for when he gets gas.

What I don't understand is why they made me call a live person to activate the card. It's the most annoying/time consuming part of these credit card rewards. Everything else is so computerized/instantaneous. I can't get across how little time I spend to reap these rewards. BUT, today I sat on hold five minutes, and they didn't even try to sell me anything. Rolleyes What a waste of time! When I am done I just e-mail them to close the card. & I am putting the October 20th payment in Quicken right now so I don't have to remember anything. The hard part is done...

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**Holiday weekend is really messing me up. I have to be vigilant with the checkbook, since I don't get paid until Tuesday and probably won't get the deposit in until Wednesday. I paid the piano teacher and just hope I get MIL's check for the piano teacher. Today. Even so, I will remote deposit and will have to make sure it is there Tuesday. & if not I will have to do a transfer. I just generally don't like to cut things tight/deal with it. BUT, I also try to avoid every moving money over for this kind of stuff. I can, but just try to arrange it that I don't have to. It's just another layer of complication. Admittedly, "move the money and forget about it" is probably less complicated. But it's just a little vigilance that I usually don't have to deal with. Which is easier than moving money and back and forth, I guess.

It's probably good though, because while I Was looking at the calendar and figuring when I could pay things, I remembered that next month will be worse. We will be on vacation and so I won't get to deposit my check until closer to the 10th. !!

BUT, with this credit card, I don't have to pay our health insurance until October, so buys me an easy $800 buffer. I think that might do!! I don't have many bills due the first of the month - just a few small things. 1st of the month is generally 90% to savings; mid-month payday covers the credit cards and mortgage. Which means I usually pay the mortgage and credit cards around the 30th, and then the few small things/transfer to savings after the first. Which means a whole lot of nothing most the month.

But I will have to pay all the bills before we leave. So just another chore to remember.

Who knew this credit card reward deal would make life a little easier? It bought me a $800 buffer for vacation. Which is more than ample to cover a very late payday.

Double Dip

August 21st, 2012 at 06:56 am

I decided to double dip the Chase Sapphire Card. My Money Blog had a good offer today. The reward will be $400. I am sure I could wait for a $500 reward, but this should be an *easy* one!

Spend $2k in 3 months, for $400.

Will try to get this card by the first. If I can pay this month's health insurance, next month's health insurance, and the car insurance, it will be DONE! So, that is why it's an easy one. I can hit the $2k spending limit the day I get the card. This month's insurance is due the first, and it doesn't really matter when I pay next month's - I usually pay it sometime during the month so the credit card payment is due the following month. Car insurance is due around the 4th. It is cutting it tight so if I don't get the card by the 1st, will just have to wait another month to redeem or find something else to charge.

I was going to just apply for dh too. I could get my reward immediately and we could use his card for gas and groceries, etc. for a couple of months, but he literally just redeemed this one - I figured not to bother. HE just applied for and closed 3 credit cards, so probably best to let his FICO rest a bit. Double dipping might work after a year - probably not after just one month. Wink (Fine print basically says "no double dipping," so it's a crap shoot either way. But I think if I closed the card a year ago, then I have a better chance).

We'd probably use this money for Florida - the timing is good. This would give us a *lot* more wiggle room on the eating out there, and the car rental, and probably ensures we won't have to touch savings for any of the trip. Big Grin

Back to Work & Random Stuff

August 13th, 2012 at 06:41 pm

**I haven't worked substantially this summer - many days off. I figured this week would be a big adjustment - but it feels nice to have three full weeks to get caught up.

**Our weather has been extraordinarily mild the last two years (yes - as it has been anything but, everywhere else). We've got some heat wave this past week (several days of 105+ degree temps), but frankly it hasn't been bad. I say that because I have no reason to be outside AND it has been cooling off at night. Usually it only gets so hot because it doesn't cool down at night - and that is the *worst.* 5 or so nights of this and I haven't even flipped on the fan. (I don't know if we ever particularly run the air all night, but usually during heat waves like this the fan is a must to get any sleep). Feeling grateful for cool nights in extreme heat...

**I just noticed that last credit card bill equaled my paycheck. What are the odds of that? Easy come, easy go! It is the only bill I have to pay until September, so whatever. We are having a low-spend month to make up for "too much fun" last month. {The credit card balance is not much indication of that, since it has more than just monthly spending - like medical bills, dental bills and insurance already saved up for - but reminds me we are keeping it low key this month. Maybe next month too}.

**Briefly contemplated driving 200 miles roundtrip for a Weird Al concert tomorrow night, but it was *really* expensive. I decided to add Weird Al to my FB instead so I Would see updates on future tours and doings. Seems to me he usually isn't so expensive at the Fairgrounds. We have seen him before and he does a *great* show, and we have been looking for a good first concert for the kids. Would have been perfect! But, I am sure we will find something a little more reasonable. It's not just the cost - it was a bit much with the hassle factor. & the convenience fees for this one venue were *insane* - even if it was a favorite venue of ours. Maybe we have overlooked for 2 tickets - but the fees were about $50 for 4 tickets. Ouch! All his other better-timed/kind of close shows will be while we are in Orlando. So we decided to let it go.

Our other contenders are suddenly doing a lot of 21+ shows - Rolleyes - but dh and I still plan to enjoy!

Actually, we were just talking about finding a concert to take the kids to because dh went to see Iron Maiden and he saw a ton of little kids there. Go figure! We were thinking something a little more mellow. Big Grin

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**I had a really quiet weekend since dh took the kids to San Jose. I got many chores done. Of note, I shredded absolutely everything related to the "one-time credit card rewards bonanza of 2011 and 2012." We are in a lull and I closed all of the cards, so I figured best to get rid of the piles of paper. It was insane. There will be more, but am enjoying taking a break.

This & That

July 25th, 2012 at 06:43 am

**Our new mortgage took several months to show up on our credit report (post refi). In the meantime, our credit scores have taken a bit of a dive. Lending heavily to my theory that our mortgage seems to be most of our credit score (having a mix of account types; maybe extra so for us since we don't have other types of loans beyond credit cards). Of course, we are still 740+ - most of that coming from 100% on-time payments. We kind of do everything else "wrong," but can usually boast 780+ regardless.

Anyway, I noticed the mortgage showing up and our scores still lower than I have ever seen them. But I figure it will work itself out quickly, so went ahead and closed 4 credit cards. I don't like the hassle of all these unused/open credit cards so don't want to wait any longer. We are holding off on any new one-time rewards until our FICO scores rebound. So that round is done and we won't be applying for more cards for another month or two.

I didn't have to ask - Citi gave us a pro-rated refund of annual fee. YAY! (This seems the industry standard to just refund it).

**My ROTH transfer is complete and so we have greatly simplified our retirement holdings.

I am not feeling the pinch losing 10% of my compensation (was full "retirement match") because I also lost all the fees and expenses that came with that. IT's been about 2 years since I have received a contribution (Final 2009 contribution was received late 2010). & no doubt we have scrambled to max out our ROTHs since then. But, I had no choice in the work retirement investments and they were invested very conservatively. I feel like I have closed most the gap contributing more, avoiding fees, and investing more appropriately for *my* age. IT kind of boggles the mind. Anyway, we are now heavy in admiral shares at Vanguard - which means the fees really can't get any lower than that. I keep reading that fees are a huge indicator of retirement saving success. I am clearly seeing why.

**On the retail front I found a nice hike with some swimming holes and thought to myself that I probably should get a 2-piece swimming suit. I checked my allowance status (though obviously I could put this as a "need" of sorts). I just wanted to see where I stood on my spending for the year. The last 3.5 months or so I have bought zero. zilch. nada. Not even any credit card rewards purchase of late.

I am not sure if I am just that *content* or if I am subconsciously hoarding up money for our Orlando trip. Probably a little of both. The credit card rewards have really allowed us to catch up with everyday purchases around the house. But I do generally allow myself a *little* retail therapy. Just haven't needed it, I guess.

I suppose I can splurge on a new suit!

**Saving for Florida (foregoing our usualy staycations) has been *no big.* We managed an amusement park trip anyway, and summer flew by for the kids (school starts in just 2 weeks). We've kept really busy with birthdays and people visiting us from out of town. I think we have room in the budget for a camping trip and a trip or two to the beach (basically just gas for expenses). Kids are also being kept occupied by playdates.

I underestimated how occupied and content we'd be with a -$0- vacation budget this summer. & I also didn't realize how much we'd be catching up with friends and family from across the globe, here at home. They did make it easier.

**On the *BIG* purchases, all I Received was a $200 bill for dh's MRI. They usually bill $1000-ish. I have no idea what this means. I was initially concerned this was only for the IV (because they insisted on using an IV, and all I could see was $$$$ when dh told me that - he said it wasn't very helpful just took more time in the end. They usually just give you a shot of contrast dye). Anyway, but when I got the final bill it looked like it was more for the MRI than anything else. SO, fingers crossed??Especially since this is an infinite annual purchase for our future?

If by some miracle we don't max our deductible this year, that money is going to the mortgage. I won't hold my breath. Wink

**The Big Picture?

Feeling really *caught up* financially.

Savings level and savings pace is reaching our coveted pre-kid/2-income savings baseline. Basically there. It's not particularly apples to oranges as we aren't grossing near what we were last we both worked, but our take-home is probably there (we pay a LOT less in taxes). Our health insurance cost about 10 times what it did a decade ago, but we also have several sources of other income lately. (For example, credit card rewards have been fruitful and tax-free).

Success!!

I am just talking shorter-term type savings. I could keep a steady retirement savings clip and stay out of debt, but it's the middle stuff like paying extra on the mortgage and saving to replace our cars that has been difficult on one-income. I am feeling much more confident with these mid-range goals today.

Doings

June 23rd, 2012 at 10:03 am

**Just redeemed the last of our current one-time credit rewards. (& received that $500 check already).

I will have to tally them all up some time. Off the to of my head, I believe we are up to $1700. & the year is young...

I also received a $0.30 statement credit on my regular American Express - some reward - I have no idea why. I must have spent $6 on some rotating category that I didn't pay attention to (because I figured I wasn't spending in that category). ??? No idea what the category was.

**We did manage to take some nice family photos yesterday. Found a Japanese garden in San Jose that we didn't even know existed. My parents live next to some beautiful gardens, but the gardens were closed (???), so forced us to find another solution.

The place was just BEAUTIFUL! I haven't seen the pictures, but my dad will bring me a CD tomorrow. I am going to re-print their anniversary photo book with a few minor changes, a few asked-for pictures I could not find, and will close with one of these "family reunion" pictures.



**We went to the amusement park where dh and I met - probably the first time I've gone since I worked there (15+ years) and first time for the kids.

I am glad we scoped it out because they added a "second water park" - but to be frank they just threw in a couple of water slides and market it as "2 parks in one." I am less enthused to get season passes just for their water park, in the future, (so we could skip water park season passes at other places), but admittedly it would work. It is a nice addition.

Six Flags last year was such an awful experience. There was just a lot that annoyed us, and I thought it was a sign of the times. In the end, this park is just infinitely more laid back. I just looked up out of curiosity and the water raft ride that the kids could ride by themselves at 46 inches or so at this park had a 56 inch minimum requirement at Six Flags.

In fact, the kids could ride ALL of the water slides unsupervised. Even the 6 year old. LOVED it. This worked out because it was a beautiful day, but a bit of a chill in the air. Was not interested in getting wet. So we sent the kids alone on all the water stuff. Of course they did not mind the cold.

Actually, we hadn't even planned to do the water park thing, but once we were inside there were several kiddie water play areas, and we realized they didn't need us for the big slides. I just happened to have swim suits, towels and flip flops in the car - mostly because we had planned to go to the beach last weekend and never made it. It really made the day - glad we had them!

**I found a coupon online that saved us $40 on admission. We somehow didn't even eat lunch in the park. ??? Don't ask me how. I still have what feels like a lifetime supply of cotton candy. The bags were just HUGE. Anyway, we really didn't spend much beyond admission - just ate dinner outside the park when we left.

**WE are home now, and I just noticed that salmon was on sale - about 30% off. Our grocery spending is so slim this month, too. So we will probably pick up some sushi and salmon fillets.

I told dh I would make meatballs today since we got home too late last night. He wanted some for leftovers the day we get back from camp. It's a simple recipe that uses frozen meatballs, so I get off pretty easy.

Dh is working Scholastic all day. Will work for books. (Gives most of them back to the school and teachers).

**Not overly looking forward to camp. We got a bit of a cold spell. It's going to be *Brrrrrrr.* I am sure regardless we will have fun. Just won't be a lot of lounging in the sun for me.

Credit Card Doings

June 18th, 2012 at 07:16 am

**Today is pay day - so I can pay off that final Citi card (opened solely for rewards). Woohoo! The balance is more than my paycheck, but I have money in my account already, and no more bills to pay this month.

**On the "refund after month end" deal, I think I will just pay the full 5/31 balance. The return was about $1,000 (it posted closer to 6/10), but I spent $1,000+ in airfare this month.

Anyway, our utilization was insane last month (finished two $3,000 spending rewards in May, plus one return did not process in time) and so I think it's probably best to just pre-pay most the airfare and knock down the balance a bit. I don't think it probably matters at all, but then I don't have to worry about the credit card company being difficult. Our utilization should be back to normal levels too.

Of course, I am relying on a $500 credit card reward to do this without having to move *any* money around. If the $500 doesn't come in time, doubt I will sweat it.

**Still waiting for that $500 check and about $25 in gift cards. As SOON as we get those we will cancel this round of credit cards. Hopefully this week.

I will e-mail Chase to close the cards, but dh can call Citi. Last time Citi kept offering him $100 to keep his account open for 5 more minutes. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for more offers like that!

DOUBLE DIP WORKED!

June 12th, 2012 at 06:56 am

**I was still skeptical up until redemption, but the $500 gift card balance now sits in our Amazon account. Big Grin I quickly applied them before Citi could change their mind. Wink

The Double Dip was a success!!

I don't know if it made a difference that dh received a direct mail offer for this card (& oh yes, he will receive more - Citi sends him offers what seems like every freaking day). I am wondering now if I should try an unsolicited double dip.

Anyway, I redeem $500 cash tomorrow from Chase and $150 from another bank next week, and I think we will be done for a while. Not because there are no good offers out there or I am fatigued by this "barely lifting a finger" for a ton of tax-free cash. BUT, because our new mortgage is still not showing up on our credit reports and our FICO scores are diving a bit. I've always felt that the mortgage substantially inflated our FICO, and there is apparently much truth to that.

I think this works out well to take a breather in between deals. We will get these credit cards all closed before we entertain applying for a new one. Soon enough our mortgage will show back up and we can return to being far more carefree with the endless opening and closing of credit cards. But a little forced breather is nice.

I definitely see more rewards for 2012!

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Yesterday was busy and productive.

**Picked up a Father's Day gift (just something silly for $5 that we know dh will like).

**Picked up flowers for LM's teacher. Dh is going to manage a few Scholastic hours for her too (volunteered for set up this week).

Dh did a video for BM's teacher (to end his 3-years with the kids) and we had a good Craigslist sale run a couple of weeks back so I already handed $20 cash to room parent towards Amazon gift card.

It is possible I just deleted or missed the e-mail, but no requests from LM's room parent. Phew! Last year they wanted to get airfare for the teacher - ??? - I never heard an explanation why. It would be one thing if she said, "Teacher does a lot of travel" or "Really wants to see her family," or something along those lines. She has also taken to only listing the families who contribute when presenting gifts. Which is probably just a matter of personal preference, but I find it really tacky. Not all the kids can financially contribute, and I think a class gift should be a class gift. Actually, what it really strikes me as is immature. That is the word I am thinking of. It is possible I feel totally alone in my feelings. Just seems to me if we want individual credit we can do individual gifts.

Which is maybe precisely what was decided this year...

**Got out invites for LM's party. I am kind of having a personal issue with the bowling alley he chose, because they say "no party decorations or cake" without a reserved party. So, me bringing 5 kids to go bowling (quite some business, but not enough to make a party) means I can't celebrate in a birthday way. Really??? Reminds me when I checked with McDonalds on their policy many moons ago and their manager looked at me like I Was crazy and said, "It is a free country!" Yes, it is, but private businesses have their rules. Put McDonalds (or at least this particular manager) on one end of the spectrum. Bowling alley on the other end. Dh said maybe we could just get birthday jerky. LOL! We will figure something out. I Wasn't going to bring decorations, and we can celebrate without a cake, for sure. I think we can think of something (probably not jerky).

No Cake for You!!

Seriously, I should check if they even allow outside food. Could be they just don't. Though it's funny they mention only the cake then.

**I am trying to wing BM's birthday with like a one-week notice, as this is the only way to take advantage of free play time at his favorite play place. I am not sure how well this plan will ever work. Planning anything short notice just does not work for the people I know. Actually, his best friend's family is pretty chill, but they are on vacation. Summer just adds that element of impossibility. Which was why we were trying to do it THIS week, before everyone went off on their vacation and day camp ways. Will figure it out... I am thinking we should just arrange a day with his best friend - because that will be far easier.

**I got a $200 MRI bill. I have the feeling this is not all of it. I initially got a $5,000 bill (it was glaringly incorrect; billed as if dh was uninsured). Reality is probably somewhere in the middle. They told him $1100 at time of service, which is more what they usually charge. In the meantime, it's the parade of random bills...

Pay Day!

June 1st, 2012 at 07:09 am

**Half the time I forget it is payday. I don't have everything on automatic pilot, but most my bills are paid enough ahead of time that it is a rather non-event. I rather *get to it when I get to it* than trip over myself every payday, I guess what it comes down to.

But, I am very happy that today is payday, because boy do I have some BILLS to pay.

I will pay off the Chase Sapphire card and our regular credit card (basically just furniture purchases). I already funded ROTH for June (had some cash) and paid off the other reward credit card (a whopping $20).

NEXT payday I can pay off the Citi.

The non-credit-card bills are already set to pay - there aren't that many. Just glad to get all those red negatives out of Quicken (red negative = credit card balance).

Now we just wait for rewards. Should be $1200 to redeem this month!

I think the second we get our rewards, we will just close them all. DONE! Then it is done and over and I don't have to ever think about any of these credit cards again. I like it simple. There are no new cards on the horizon, so I expect by 6/30 to have all cards paid, all rewards redeemed, and all cards cut up and closed. Rewards can be slow sometimes, but here is to hoping.

Credit Card Update + Florida Plans

May 22nd, 2012 at 07:13 pm

**Redeemed $250 from Citi this year (one-time), will be $250 ($50/month) for Fidelity card, as of next week. Earned $500 from Chase, but they haven't given it to us yet. Probably around the 10th of next month.

Guess we are easily up to $1000!!

**Got the "make one purchase, get $150" card. I have no idea when I will make a purchase. Maybe will pay for lunch date this week (If *I* remember to pay!). I am thinking of just giving the $150 to the kids' school.

**On the double dip, we are probably done with the card. Dh bought a $2000 camera with it, today. (Crossing fingers for no returns, but medical bills/insurance will easily add up to $2000 if that doesn't work). I charged $500 today for continuing education (employer will reimburse). We had already ran up $500 in groceries, gas, utilities, home repairs, etc.

I think that took a whopping 8 days! Now we wait for our $500 reward.

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Dh returned camera #1. HE finally found some online resources that said the camera was a dog (as opposed to "the best thing out there."). So, there is HOPE!

This new camera is more what my parents had in mind, but will cost me another $1200, and does not include any accessories. Oh well!!

{If you missed it, my parents gave him $1,000 to put towards a $2,000 camera}.

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I suppose we need to get going on this rather impromptu Florida thing. Since the camera is going to cost *us* money in the end, I asked dh if we couldn't put off Florida to next summer. He doesn't want to, and I understand. But it was worth asking. I understand that we don't want our second trip of the year *to visit grandparents* to be rendered moot by a death. This is a very rare "Throw caution to the wind/live life" kind of move, for us. On the flip side, we are in an infinitely better financial position to handle this, than any year prior (since having kids). I am of course CAUTIOUS with the economy and all. In a perfect world I'd wait until next summer and get another overtime check - just use that money. A year or so to plan "the biggest vacation we've taken on, ever" would have been preferred! So big because it involves airfare for FOUR. & I won't be able to find $200/person...

But, by the same token, I think we will survive. It's obvious that speeding up the trip by 6-9 months won't make or break us. Which is why I am okay with it. It seems like a fitting celebration for making so many financial goals this year.

The plan?

Airfare: I think I can get airfare for around $1300 - $1500. Though we are going to Orlando, we will fly into Tampa to save a significant sum. Thankfully our home airport is on the cheap side, for flights to Florida. I'd much rather fly from our city, though would be flexible with many regional airports to save a bit. But, anyway, I am pleased I have found both cheap and convenient. A bit of a drive on the Florida side doesn't bother us... We will probably lock this down in a couple of weeks.

I will skip extra mortgage payments for 4-5 months to cover this.

Hotel: You guessed it - free room with MIL's endless timeshare points. But we have to get this booked!!

Rental Car, Disney Parks, Food, etc.: Will just use our meager vacation budget. It might be enough. Unfortunately means we probably can't do much else this year. I usually spread out this $1500-ish throughout the year for a lot more staycation-y/within driving distance kind of things. I'll just have to get over it, but it might make me cranky and remind me why I hate big vacations! !! I really do not enjoy condensing all that *fun* into *only one week out of the year.* Most people like vacations - it just makes me cranky! We will be feeling the pain all summer when we can't go to any amusement parks, camping trips, and such... {Sure, there were many years we had $0 vacation budget, but how quickly we forget!}

We have PLENTY of free things to do, so will get over it.

So, all in all, I am hoping not to touch savings at all for this trip. Though it will slow our mortgage payoff very temporarily. I think this is pretty darn optimistic, but worth a shot!

Figures!!

May 15th, 2012 at 07:03 am

Dh got his new Citi card in the mail yesterday. If I had any inkling, we could have put off our furniture purchase by a few hours (or a day or two, or whatever).

We don't need any big purchases to make our goal, so we will survive. This just would have been a lot *simpler.*

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Life is CRAZY and I can't quite put my finger on it. We try so hard to keep things "simple," that I feel like I am failing a bit, but am too busy to sit down and think about what is going on. I think it is just LIFE. It has been one thing after the other. end to this, tend to that, fix this, do this favor, on and on and on. Usually my To-Do list is not so crazy. These days it feels like it never ends.

& I cringe thinking about June, because we have so much going on (Family celebrations, vacations, etc.). I am hoping things will slow down in July??

The past month is one of those times I could not fathom dh working. At all. I don't know how the working folk do it!! But, I remind myself it could be worse, and we are pretty spoiled. Life has just been a second full-time job, of late.


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