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Archive for December, 2017

Final Credit Card Tally 2017

December 31st, 2017 at 02:56 pm

2017 TALLY:

$500 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, Moi)
$525 Gift Cards (AmEx Gold, MH)
$545 Gift Cards (Citi Thank You, MH)
$499 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture,MH)
$200 Cash (WF Wise, MH)

Other Rewards:
$21 Citi Price Rewinds
$30 AmEx insurance payment rebate
$ 5 AmEx for mobile app login

Ongoing rewards:

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

+$114 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$86 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$698 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $3,578

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much. (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2017).

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585
Year 2016 = $1,906
Year 2017 = $3,578

Total 6 Years = $20,766
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***

Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. I have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade or so.

***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 treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of late fees or interest.***

At this point in my life I just pay the balances off the end of every month so that we go into each new month with -$0- credit card debt. This is really simple because there is no remembering bills or due dates or any of that. I just go in and pay them all the last day of every month. I have set all my credit cards to close for the month around the 28th of the month, so that the statement is closed by the last day of every month and every charge for the month has been posted. (I can just voluntarily pre-pay any charges that didn't make it on the statement for the last week of the month). From an accounting standpoint, anything else would drive me crazy, maybe especially since we do have so many credit cards that we use every month for rewards. This way, I just don't have to really keep track of anything and I know they will always be paid several weeks before due date. This also keeps all of our charges on a monthly cycle, which lines up with our monthly paychecks and my monthly accounting.


I expect 2018 to be more like 2016, but you never know. I don't feel like we need to put as much emphasis on the credit card rewards with MH working and with interest rates (on our savings) increasing. We really relied on these to boost our income and to stretch our dollars further when MH was home with the kids. I also have something like $1,000 unused gift cards laying around, which is about $1,000 more than usual. (In the past we mostly redeemed cash back, but those are harder to come by and it seems it was mostly gift cards and travel rewards for this year). If all I can do is gift cards next year, I imagine I would probably scale back but might consider focusing on those more for charity. If I had gotten this last $500 in time for Christmas, I would have donated those gift cards.

This & That

December 11th, 2017 at 12:49 am


**Spent $85 on tickets for DL's vocal performance next week. I guess this is the flip side of all this free instruction. The tickets are $10 per ticket, just to see a standard school recital. But that said, it will be no ordinary school recital.

I bought some tickets for grandparents, which probably worked out because I got some group discount with offset some ridiculous ticket fees.

In the spring we might have to do the same + there will be a band performance. But again, I don't have to pay for all his drama, band, and vocal instruction. Being from that world, I know I come out FAR ahead.

**MH spent $20 on an electronic newspaper subscription. He gets lots of free movie tickets through the newspaper website rewards, but they changed it that you had to pay for a subscription. His initial reaction was, "Nevermind," but then they had some Black Friday type deal.

{He doesn't need this for most of the free movies he sees, to clarify. But for some of the movies, it's another avenue to get tickets}.

We will come out far ahead. MH already won tickets for us to see George Takei. It was part of a Speaker Series, so the only way to get tickets otherwise was to pay $600 per person for the whole series. So, $20 for THAT and a whole bunch of free movies? That is a no brainer. MH is going to try to get tickets for the next speaker in the series. I don't know the odds, but I saw a lot of people upset because they *just* wanted to see George Takei. I can't imagine very many people would be interested in the other ones. But I guess the flip side of that is they may not even have those tickets to offer. Will see...

**For Target gift cards, I bought $20 x 5 gift cards for gifts, while 10% off. We did that last year and it worked out nicely.

**Took the van in to the shop on Friday. It's been somewhat wonky the past couple of years, probably largely because we are/were between shops. Anyway, imagine my surprise that it was just a $10 repair (new radiator cap).

Clearly I have failed at shifting from "newer car" mode to "old car" mode. "Old car" mode was my first 10 years of driving; I am well trained in checking fluids and so on, but I just *never* think of it since buying new-ish cars (didn't need to look under the hood for 10+ years). I am embarrassed about how long it took me to check under the hood this time. I thought to check the oil but then I noticed the coolant was low. I feel extra aware how much money that saved me because the last two times we had coolant leaks they were far bigger repairs. Since clearly I can't remember this on my own, I will put it on my calendar to check at least once per month. As I get into that habit again, it will be more front of mind as problems arise.


I completed giving tree shopping.

**Bought one requested item for retail price online

**Went in person to Target to buy $100 gift card at 10% off. {I went when Target opened; no crowd or lines}.

**MH picked up about $75 worth of books for $2.50.

Dropped all of this off while MM was volunteering at the shelter. Phew!

Glad to cross that off my list with little effort, because I will be working a billion hours this month. Is why I don't generally participate in these things. This was early enough that I could pull it off.


Money Mustache had a timely post on charitable gift giving. He mentioned

Text is The Life You Can Save and Link is
The Life You Can Save

The mission of The Life You Can Save is to help change the culture of giving in affluent countries while dramatically raising annual donations to highly impactful nonprofits that reduce suffering and premature death for people living in extreme poverty.

The website lists charities where you can have the most impact. We are considering these charities for our charitable gift. (I think we have mostly narrowed down, but have not finalized yet).

Gift Card Balances December 2017

December 3rd, 2017 at 06:02 pm

Just tracking my gift cards. Not *all* credit card rewards, but most of them are.

$100 Benihana ($50x2) **SPRING 2018?**
$ 20 x5 Target


$50 California Pizza Kitchen **Ecard**
$75 Chili's
$50 Olive Garden
$50 Seasons 52
$100 P.F. Chang's

$100 Staples ($50x2)**School supplies next summer?**
$100 REI **For MM's rafting trip supplies**
$200 Home Depot ($50x4)
$75 Kohls ($50 + $25) **to replace kids' shoes?**

Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards

Frugal Doings

December 3rd, 2017 at 12:15 am

That's a $4 flower bouquet that I bought the day before Thanksgiving. I just took the picture, it still looks gorgeous. I love treats like this. Just a reminder of "thinking outside the box" versus "doing without".

Which I guess is the theme of my post today.

{In this case, our high end grocery store sells very fresh flowers at a great price. In warmer months, the farmers market works too}.

MIL asked MH to pick up some discounted books for her. There was a specific box set one of my nieces wanted. MH gets 1/2 off? & these books are already 1/2 off? Anyway, he didn't even know, but I guess there was a set on the "damaged" shelf because it lacked shrink wrap. It was otherwise pristine. When he tried to buy one from the "new" shelf, his co-worker pointed that out. I believe the entire book set cost 50-cents in the end.

Since I was requested to buy books for a baby (giving tree), I asked MH to check the "damaged" shelf. & to pick up some other books too since I have to buy new in this case. In the end, he had been given a $25 "gift certificate" and didn't know when he would use it. (I can't transfer the gift certificate; I'd just donate it if I could).

I was otherwise waiting to see if Target did 10% off of their gift cards. (They are ~ woohoo!)


Black Friday Shopping:

I ended up ordering season passes for the local water park (was 45% off retail). This was for the premium season passes, which gives us access to the Bay Area location (we like that water park a lot more). I hadn't realized when I bought them, but the premium pass also includes free State Fair admission. I guess that's an additional perk. Going to the fair in the middle of summer is not on my list of fun things to do (and why we mostly never go). But, I am documenting in my blog so that I don't forget. Not having to pay admission x4 might tilt the scales a bit.


In the end, we did get free passes to see Disaster Artist. I really liked that one. The book was better, as always.

MH *finally* got his movie pass. {$10/month for basically unlimited movies in the theater}. We know it was lost in the mail about 7 weeks ago. He ended up getting (a replacement) movie pass last Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). We went to see three movies already. (I had the week off). He still earns loyalty rewards from the theater as if he paid, and so already earned a free ticket. I guess we might go back tomorrow. I will be done humoring him at that point. Just happens to be a lot of good movies out right now. I have some gift cards to cover my tickets. In the long run, will probably stick to the $6 showings. I am only entertaining going this weekend ($$$$) because I have a free ticket. Beyond that, usually he sees just about everything and tells me not to bother. I usually go to movies in the theater just a few times per year. I don't see that changing too much. Was just an unusual set of circumstances.


That reminds me, Thanksgiving went about as well as it could have. 90+yo Grandma used to insist on driving up at dawn to stuff the turkey. She wasn't doing so well a couple of years ago and was one reason I really wanted to drop hosting. In the end I think she switched Doctors and/or meds and is doing much better since. They did rush up last Thursday but ended up doing the stuffing separately?? I told MH to tell them NOT to come so early next year. Yeesh. (When I brought it up, he was kind of like, "Yeah, I didn't think about that.").

We went to see the art school production of Christmas Carol last night. Was a cross between that and the Nutcracker I guess, since it was a musical and they incorporated the dance company. Makes me want to see the Nutcracker. Anyway, it seemed very fitting to watch A Christmas Carol while the Senate rammed through their ridiculous tax bill. *sigh* (Republican Senate = Scrooge right now).


In my last post I mentioned Best Buy recycling of e-waste. I know it got buried so felt it was worth mentioning again.