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Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019 (Final)

January 9th, 2020 at 03:31 am

2019 TALLY:

$550 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
$ 70 Amazon Gift card (Amazon Prime, MH)
-----------
$770 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:
$ 29 Citi Price rewinds (RIP)

Ongoing rewards:

+$320 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$83 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$177 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)
Ended up also using for groceries in Q4 (3% cash back)

+$887 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,266

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 2017/2018).

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
Year 2018 = $2,096
Year 2019 = $2,266

Total 9 Years = $25,128
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***


MM(16) also earned a $150 sign up bonus, a $10 credit for switching to paperless statements, and 5% back on gas for one quarter.

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

***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.***

December Savings

December 29th, 2019 at 04:00 pm

Received $60 bank interest for the month of December.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (maxed out 2019 grocery rewards).
--Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $33 cash back on dining/gas card; used for grocery rewards this month

Other snowflakes to Investments:
+ $231 Re-Invest Dividends
+ $ 8 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $355 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$1,400

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,100 MH Income
+$ 500 Bonus
-$ 250 Charity

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 482 Flood Insurance
-$ 195 AAA
-$ 160 Vacation Expense
-$ 125 Yearbooks (2)
-$ 100 School Concert

TOTAL: $4,053 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Vacation expense was $100 fuel and $60 eating out, MH's LA trip. We planned to spend a wee bit more on that trip, but I ended up sick at home instead. We canceled the one hotel night we were going to pay for, he used his parents' timeshare for two nights.

$100 school concert ~ $60 to buy tickets for us and all the grandparents. We also ended up spending $40 to feed everyone the night of the concert. This is the art school we pay -0- to, so I am always happy to contribute monies. I save a bajillion dollars with all the free/public art classes.

I guess MM(16) was sick that night (before he gave me his awful flu). Always someone can't make it last minute and I give away the $9 tickets. It always makes someone so happy. So when we got there I went up to the box office and told the lady buying tickets I had an extra student ticket if she wanted it. She didn't even look at me or say Thank You. I told MH, "Wow, that was really unsatisfying." Usually the response is more like, "Really????!!! Thank You!!" She looked so stressed out buying those tickets, I'd like to think I made her life a little easier.

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So... I am completely dumbfounded by this update. This was our level of savings when I was working second job. But I guess that it comes down to getting my raise and getting that $800/month back. I wouldn't have thought it was going to be a particularly lucrative month, was more just our typical savings kind of month.

But... This probably sums up pretty well how I ended up with an extra $3,000 that I felt comfortable throwing at the mortgage. I decided quite unexpectedly and last minute to knock that goal out. Sidebar is updated. (Had $3k+ cash left over after setting aside $12k for IRAs; we also have a 12-month emergency fund).

401k was a little extra this month because I received a 3rd paycheck 12/31 (my small business employers always advance the last paycheck of the year for tax purposes). I did also receive a bonus, which bumped up my 401k contribution.

The bonus is a new thing I have never had before. I didn't blog about it because it was not too exciting. I mean, it's EXCITING. But... I didn't pay any taxes in whatsoever for my self-employment income this year, so I put most of my bonus to taxes. It was a choice that I made. (This had been my plan all along, but I had expected a summer bonus to cover it). It's nothing like it sounds. My tax rate only ended up being about 10% on all that side income. Because I ended up with $8k orthodontist expenses to offset my income. I know there is definitely a huge element of financial savvy and strategy that comes with my tax knowledge. Like knowing I can just withhold my SE taxes from my paycheck, and it's all the same in the end. (Which I felt was prudent because I had no idea where on earth my taxes would land this year, until I got confirmation of bonus this month). But... Honestly 90% of the time it is just being in the right place at the right time. I had $10k of write-offs I wouldn't have had in prior years, between the ortho and tax law changes. So I made out pretty well.

I still had $500 left over (from bonus) after that, which I threw at savings.

Edited to add: We did our "gift from in-laws to Charity" thing over the weekend. I ended up making all of our donations Sunday night, and realized I was about $250 short of what I Wanted to do. Which makes sense, because we used to allocate my old Christmas bonus ($250) every year to charity. {I guess I consider that more of a "Christmas Gift" than a "Bonus". My bonus this year was a few thousand dollars, which is the very new and different part. I have absolutely never before had an employer give me extra money "just because". To clarify why I said I hadn't received a bonus before}. I ended up subtracting $250 from bonus above and updating numbers.

Another CC Reward

December 25th, 2019 at 03:17 pm

2019 TALLY:

$550 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
$ 70 Amazon Gift card (Amazon Prime, MH)
-----------
$770 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:
$ 29 Citi Price rewinds (RIP)

Ongoing rewards (through 11/30):

+$320 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$70 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$144 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$804 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,137

I am just doing an update because I did another reward.

I am so insulated from consumerism (average middle class consumerism, it's not like we don't buy anything...). But I sometimes feel so insulated that I am exposed to it more on SA than anywhere. Every once in a while someone will mention something I haven't heard of, or something that sounds really cool.

Well, it happened. $150 happened. There as some mention in the forums of electronic gadgets. Most of them I hadn't even heard of and I marveled a bit since we clearly like our electronics. But I guess more "useful to our needs and wants" electronics, versus "what everyone else has" electronics. My husband did buy some expensive bone conducting headphones earlier in the year but I considered that more of a disability purchase. (He only has hearing in one ear, can't reasonably wear one ear bud and hear anything going on around him). I was dumbfounded when he told me he was not able to listen to anything at his job and he felt it would make his low-skill job more bearable. I was completely horrified, like yes you have to buy this yesterday! He's been listening to books on tape and I think makes the work day much more bearable.

But... I didn't think anything beyond that until I saw a conversation on SA about the same headphones. Yeah, I don't have any headphones and I could probably use some. But I have never liked ear buds. So I had my light bulb moment and asked MH to buy me some. It looked like they were on sale significantly from what we paid, but he did choose the premium ones. I told him, knock on wood, honestly I never lose or break my things and I just wanted to get the premium ones too. (He had bought some in the past he did not like and didn't keep. So there was definitely a huge step up in quality with the higher end ones that were worth the money).

He was looking on Amazon a couple of days ago, but it would be like $80 instead of $150 if we signed up for the Amazon Prime card. IT's not a card we have ever had, so it was a no brainer. MH was kind of, "Really?! I thought you wanted to slow down on the rewards. I thought you wouldn't do these things for less than $200." Pffffft. It doesn't get any easier than signing up for a credit card to instantly get $70. I don't need to do anything. We didn't even need to put the charge on the credit card. I could probably cancel it tomorrow and be done.

It's most likely I will just cancel the card very quickly. It does come with 5% back on Amazon purchases, but we already have a 4-card system and it's becoming more of a 5-card system if we are going to use MM's credit card to max out our grocery rewards. I don't want a 6-card system. We don't shop enough at Amazon to bother.

{How I manage is I set all my cards on a monthly cycle and just pay them all off the first of every month. No tracking statements whatsoever. I also use Quicken/transaction downloads so I have all our charges/balances compiled in one place. & I pay them all out of my bank bill pay, so just one place to track and one place to make all the payments every month. Still, I don't want a 6th card}.

I am sure I could have saved more money (I later saw the Amazon store card was $100-off sign up bonus). I am sure I could have strategized or planned better. But in the "this will take a couple of minutes of my life and save me $70 right now" category, it works for me.

I will have to update our December rewards next week, but will probably end up at $2,300 for the year.

***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.***

Gift Card Balances Dec 2019

December 8th, 2019 at 06:59 pm

Just tracking my gift cards. Usually I have more credit card rewards, but not so much this time.


GIFTS:
------
$ 20 x 6 Target


MOVIES:
--------
$100 Regal
$ 25 AMC


RESTAURANTS:
------------
$50 Ruth Chris
$50 Cracker Barrel
$50 Olive Garden
$ 25 x 2 Jamba Juice (Birthday Gift)


RETAIL:
---------
$50 Kohls (Christmas Gift)
$ 50 x 4 Target

Note: Edited over time to remove used gift cards.

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We never ended up using any of the restaurant gift cards last summer, as planned. I think we are just not "eating out" people, but is probably compounded by "kids busy with their own things."

Will get through these eventually, but may not be tempted to get more restaurant gift cards any time soon.

I did pick up $300 worth of Target gift cards today, 10% off. For several reasons, I never did the full $300 before. But today I just bit the bullet. I always keep a stack of $20 gift cards to keep on hand for last-minute gifts. The rest, will use towards grocery purchases. (Still have one $20 card left over from last year, there were some others from last year that we used this month. I kept the one because it was a "happy birthday" theme).

Edited to add: Received a $25 AMC gift card. Strange gift since we have no AMCs in our region. Will add to the re-gift pile with most of the gifts I have received to-date. We decided most likely we will hold for FIL's birthday after Christmas, so I wanted to make sure I wrote it down and did not forget.

November Savings

December 8th, 2019 at 02:26 pm

Received $60 bank interest for the month of November.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (maxed out 2019 grocery rewards).
--Redeemed $59 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $30 cash back on dining/gas card; used for grocery rewards this month

Other snowflakes to Investments:
+$100 Birthday Cash**
+ $30 Surprise gift from credit union
+ $ 6 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
- $95 Annual Fee on grocery card

TOTAL: $130 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$775

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,100 MH Income
+$ 215 Self-employment income

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$5,750 Property Taxes
-$ 432 Disability Insurance
-$ 227 Car Registration
-$ 85 Museum Membership
-$ 50 Medical Expenses

TOTAL: -$2,314 Net
(Invested +$905, -$3,219 from cash)


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**I decided to add my birthday cash to investments. Otherwise, I'd only have a $30 deposit, which is probably below the minimum that I can add to investments. There is absolutely nothing I want or need, so is probably the best use of Birthday money.

I was just going through the kids' accounts and saw that they also both received $10 from our credit union. Nice for them!

November was another month from hell. I was so sick that I missed work for 2+ weeks.

We had to cancel our LA trip. Well, MH went for a couple of days and MM(16) stayed home to take care of me. I feel pretty *shrugs* about it because we were maybe going to go twice in the first half of next year. I mean, it's a bummer and I had been really looking forward to the adults-only trip, but we may get a redo soon enough.

I've got a lot of friends and family going through some very tough stuff, so that is the stuff I need to tend to when I feel a little better. On top of everything else (which has been way too much), GMIL had a stroke on Thanksgiving. (I think she will be fine). There were other worse things that happened...

On the flip side of the coin, net worth is up $90k+ for the year. Finances just keep swimming along in the background. It will be interesting to see where things land 12/31.

Credit Card Rewards Tally 2019

November 30th, 2019 at 04:05 pm

2019 TALLY:

$550 Gift Cards (Citi, Moi)
$150 Bank Bonus
-----------
$700 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:
$ 29 Citi Price rewinds (RIP)

Ongoing rewards (through 11/30):

+$320 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/streaming services)

+$70 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$144 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$804 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,067

I usually do a tally in November because I have my Target card year-to-date and it might disappear before I look at it again. Since it's a discount, it's harder to track than the cash back rewards.

It looks like 2019 rewards will be about the same as 2018.

***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.***

October Savings

November 3rd, 2019 at 03:15 pm

Received $70 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes:
--Redeemed $39 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $133 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $18 cash back on dining/gas/grocery card.

Other snowflakes:
$ 5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

{Note: Did not put snowflakes to investments this month,applied to large expenditure}

401k Contributions/Match:
+$750

Snowball to Savings:
+$ 900 MH Paychecks
+$ 100 MH Focus Group
+$ 265 Self-employment income

TOTAL: $1,265 snowballs to savings

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Mid-Term Savings (cash saved for non-annual expenses/emergency):
-$ 3,700 Orthodontist**

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 460 Car Insurance
-$ 260 Electricity^ (for prior year, electric car)
-$ 190 Misc.
-$ 120 Prepay school lunch

TOTAL: -$695 Net
(Invested +$750, -$1,445 from cash)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

^Electricity expenditure ~ we have balanced billing and so though we added an electric car to our household we haven't really been paying for it. Had a $260 accumulation I could have spread over next 12 months, but I just wanted to pay it off and be done. I didn't want to spend the next 12 months paying for the last 12 months of car charging.

Prediction from last month:
October should be a good money month.

Things went as predicted. We would have had +$3,000 to savings/investments if it wasn't for another orthodontist surprise. (More Below). & to be clear, I am in "significantly reduced salary" mode.

Unfortunately, November will not be any prettier. I just pulled $5,500-ish out of savings so that I can get property taxes covered for the next year. I am paying a little early and pre-paying. This goes in the "simplicity" category. Don't want to think about it for another 12 months.

**Most of the Citi card reward was due to charging some orthodontist expenses to a credit card. It was very out of nowhere, so I immediately pulled from savings and just paid it off. (This is what we had decided to do for LM, but MH just presumed we'd come to the same conclusion with kid #2. He didn't even talk to me about it! Just came home to, "I spent $4,000 today.") MM went in for a consult and he was recommended a similar treatment plan to his brother. I think it's probably where we would have ended up but I was just dumbfounded that MH didn't discuss with me. (I think this is just a side effect of us both being so run down by life at the moment). On the flip side, he was in such a hurry to pay, he whipped out the credit card. That's good because I got about $75 cash back to offset the cost. Wish I had known for DL's braces. All their fine print was that there was a fee for credit card. Just another reminder that it never hurts to ask! I swear, fine print is usually optional, from my experience. When it comes to bigger purchases.

I had been planning to spend around $12,000 on braces this year (expected scenario) and we are up to about $8,000 so far. So, it was kind of *shrugs* in the end. It probably helped that I was being very cognizant this was precisely why we had so much extra cash and everything has been pretty zen lately. We over-prepared, as we tend to do.

I just threw all the credit card rewards (this month) to offset the ortho costs.

October was some crazy month from hell, as they all are any more. So honestly, this was probably the most boring thing that happened. In fact, that was a "calm" week. I remember thinking it was sad that waiting for MH's MRI results and getting a surprise $4,000 bill is what I consider calm.

& there is more. Now, MM(16) is being referred to jaw surgery. The saving grace is I have two boys. The surgery I had at 16, they don't do until 20s for boys. Because they are still growing. DL(14) has my same jaw and was referred to surgery at age 23? That is very grey area with "cosmetic surgery for medical reasons" and not sure how that will shake out. I don't know what the heck MM(16)'s deal is but it's not the same. I believe they said age 26 for MM. But, the Ortho did happen to mention that our insurance had never turned down covering this particular surgery (if he referred). So that was a nice heads up. Regardless, both cans are getting kicked *way* down the road. It really really sucks that they both have to deal with this, but I don't have any room whatsoever in my brain (right now) for "things that may or may not happen in another 10 years."

September Savings

October 6th, 2019 at 02:07 pm

Received $73 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $53 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.
--Redeemed $56 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $8 cash back on dining/gas card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
$ 3 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)
$ 20 Citi Price Rewind
$150 Dividend

TOTAL: $290 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$700

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 210 Car Maintenance (new battery/oil change)
-$ 160 Misc. Purchase MH (disability related)
-$ 70 Misc. Purchase MH

TOTAL: $2,573 deposited to cash and investments

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't think that things could be any more financially mellow. I am experiencing the reward of working my butt off earlier in the year. Phew!

October should be a good money month. MH received a 12%+ raise (minimum wage increase) and was asked to work more hours. It's becoming more obvious that we should just use his income to fund our IRAs. But 2019 is well covered so we will probably start that in 2020. I also have about $500 in side work to bill, so we will have a few snowballs to add to savings.

Anyway, I can tell you that money has been entirely in the background through all of this, but it's just even moreso right now. We had a lot of big expenses earlier in the year, but it's just a little slice of quiet and calm right now.