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I’ve mentioned many times how important it is to calculate true costs of this hobby. Overall, I can say for a fact that it has made our life better and brought us closer. My family has been able to travel more, get away for a weekend and stay at a beachfront hotel when we feel like it, and the list goes on. Of course, most importantly, it has helped me bring my parents to United States on a semi-regualr basis.
Unfortunately, travel has also cost us a good bit of money and recently, became a major budget buster. During my parents’ last visit to US I ended up charging close to $2,000 on credit cards. With 6 people it really didn’t take a whole lot to get to that point. I tried to cut corners whenever I could, but I also wanted them and us to have a good time. That meant eating out in restaurants, visiting Kennedy Space center and a whole bunch of other things which were not cheap.
In addition, my final bill of $3,000 for our Alaska cruise came in the same month. So I had to pull out $1,500 from our emergency fund, otherwise we would be in debt. We have been living beyond our means. This was a major wake-up call.
While I certainly think it’s important to bring my parents so they can see grandkids, we don’t have to go on Alaska cruise. I normally try to save money for vacations, but simply miscalculated this time.
It’s not as bad as it looks
Right now you are probably thinking: “Why did this crazy broad sign up for two Amex Platinum cards then?” After all, it involves paying $900 in fees upfront. That’s fair. The simple answer is: This deal was too good to pass up. And there is a decent chance that in the next few months I’ll burn all of my traditional miles. Stay tuned.
Secondly, we are not in debt and do save money each month. I’ll be able to pay $900 off without digging deeper into emergency fund. This was a perfect storm of $5,000 in bills hitting us simultaneously. It’s very unusual and hopefully, not something that will repeat itself this year.
Our cruise tips and shore excursions will be mostly covered via sign-up bonuses from Barclaycard Arrival Plus. One night stay in Seattle is taken care of via IHG card renewal certificate. Of course, there will be some expenses, but not a tremendous amount.
Also, if the need/emergency arises, I’ll go ahead and sign-up for a card with 0% promo on purchases. After that, I’ll funnel everything I can towards paying off the debt. No eating out at Carrabba’s and no trips out-of-state besides visiting my family.
At the moment, I happen to have 40,000 UR points that can be cashed out for $400. I also have $760 in Southwest gift cards that I bought to maximize my annual credits on Citi Prestige. Speaking of, I should be getting two checks from Citi for a total of $450, a pro-rated refund of annual fees.
I also have about 120K Rapid Rewards points, with another 100K coming my way in a month or two. I could redeem this amount for $2,200 in Walmart gift cards due to having Chase Southwest co-branded Visa. We will need to eat regardless, so these points are almost as good as cash. Hey, the situation is not as bad as I thought!
That said, I really want to return my emergency fund to its prior condition. We are a one-income family (trust me, blogging isn’t as lucrative as trolls make it out to be). We live in a small town with very few jobs. We also have $12,000 out-of-pocket maximum on our health insurance policy.
Besides, I would rather save my Southwest gift cards for times I can cash them out at face value. And I would prefer to use Rapid Rewards for, wait for it, flights!
The way I look at it, I have three choices:
1) Get a part-time job with a steady paycheck.
2) Peddle, I mean, enthusiastically market my affiliate links to anyone with a pulse.
3) Find easy ways to make/save money from the comfort of my home.
I really don’t want to look for a job right before my kids are off for the summer. Besides, this blog is making a little bit of money, and I would rather invest my time into something I actually enjoy. Obviously, I’m not going to do the second thing I’ve mentioned. The third option is the winner!
So, these are my resolutions for making/saving $1,500:
1) Maximize high-interest savings accounts
I’ve already signed up for Netspend savings account which currently earns 5% APR return. I don’t have to do anything aside from making sure it has some activity now and again. I also set up automatic direct deposit of $1 from my regular checking account each month in case I forget. Read my post on Netspend, and here is my referral link where both of us will earn $20 after you sign up and fund it with $40. It does not involve hard inquiry.
I highly recommend you put some of your emergency fund money here, up to $5,000. That’s the maximum amount that earns this unusually high interest rate. As of now, you don’t have to set up direct deposit in order to qualify for it.
I also went ahead and signed up for Insight account. Read the post on DoC that has all the details. Note that while instructions on initial ACH transfer refer to Paypal, any checking or savings account will do. It’s very similar to Netspend, except, you don’t get $20. But between both accounts, you can potentially stash away $10,000 which will earn 5% return. Can’t beat that.
Seriously, just do it. Easy 5% interest, which will add up to $500 per year on $10,000. And yes, both accounts are FDIC- insured.
2) Go after bank bonuses (sometimes)
This is something I plan to do sparingly. Most of them are a giant pain in the behind. In fact, that’s why I haven’t been doing it too much lately. I did sign up for Northpointe promo that was posted on Doctorofcredit, but it didn’t have any hoops to jump through. Even so, I had to make several phone calls in order to make sure it was funded properly.
BTW, thanks to Will and Chuck for being generous enough to forego their commission on this deal. As soon as I close my account and get the money out, I plan to split my $100 reward with them. It’s a promise.
I also did a promo with Iberia bank, but never got any kind of confirmation on funding. I called once, and after being transferred a few times, was disconnected. I let it go. Not worth the aggravation. And of course, let’s not forget my CitiGold fiasco. Like I said, I will do these type of promos now and again, but the juice has to be worth the squeeze. I mean, really worth it.
3) Maximize 5% credit card categories
Normally, I’m focused on new sign-up bonuses to the point that I mostly ignore 5% categories on my permanent collection of cards. No more! Recently, I’ve been trying to use Chase Freedom for groceries at Winn-Dixie. I also made sure to select “charity” and “gym” categories on my US Bank Cash Plus. Read my post on why you should investigate this card.
In a few months I plan to buy a new recliner and will select “furniture stores” category beforehand, so I can get 5% cash back on my purchase. Wait, what? Spending money on new furniture? All I can say is that it’s a home fashion emergency:
I figured if can’t quite meet the minimum spending requirements on new cards, I can always pre-pay my power bill and buy a Visa gift card for future expenses. It’s hard to say what kind of sign-up bonuses will be available later on, or whether I will get approved for them, so it makes sense to go with “bird in a hand” approach. See my post for more on this subject.
4) Give preference to cash back sign-up bonuses
This goes along with my previous point. Is it smart to accumulate hotel points or miles when you can’t really afford a vacation? I don’t think so. Obviously, I need to hit the spending on Amex first. After that, I plan to sign up for PNC credit card I’ve mentioned in this post.
5) Pay more attention to little/easy savings
This is something I’m very bad at. I hate coupons, messing with receipts etc. But last week I was reading a post written by Nancy, and it mentioned SavingsCatcher program from Walmart. I’m embarrassed to say, but I haven’t been taking advantage of it. And you don’t even need an iPhone. You can simply enter a receipt number online, which only takes 30 seconds.
Well, I already got $1.50 back, yay! Sure, it’s a tiny amount, but it only took 30 seconds. Those little things add up. Mind you, I’m not talking about 10-step strategies that involve hours of your time in order to save $10.
In spite of financial hiccup, this cruise could not have come at a better time. Last few months have been hectic and exhausting, and my husband and I both need a break, him especially. He has been working almost every weekend since March, one time for 20 hours straight.
Yesterday, my husband fell asleep while driving, and my daughter was in the vehicle. Thankfully, they were both fine, since the car just ended up in the ditch. I think we might be having a sanity emergency.
I honestly can’t wait to just sit on a balcony of the ship with my husband and kids nearby, while cruising the Inside Passage. No internet, no IT deadlines, no miles and points. Now if I can just get rid of my son’s horrible cough by Saturday…
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.