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Like all of you, I’m horrified by the events of the last few weeks. In hindsight, none of us should probably be surprised after seeing what happened in China just a couple of months ago.
And yet, it seems crazy just how quickly life “as we know it” has changed in this country. So, I figured I might as well put a post with some random thoughts on the matter.
Not surprisingly, all of my travel plans within the next few months have been cancelled. Unfortunately, that includes my carefully planned trip to Japan and Hawaii. I was hoping to at least salvage the Hawaii portion, but 14-day quarantine for visitors has squashed that thought.
Technically, the quarantine is currently in effect until May 20th, but I have every idea that it will be extended. Plus, I don’t want to be in the first batch of visitors anyway. I’m not sure it would feel like a vacation when all the locals are giving you a stink eye.
It’s obviously not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, and it would be tone-deaf to whine about a lost trip. But I would be lying if I said that I’m not disappointed to pull the plug. I’ve spent a lot of time planning the itinerary, booking the award tickets, etc. This is my fourth trip in a row to be cancelled/modified. But it is what it is. As Bill Gates has recently said, it’s tough to go on with your life and “ignore that pile of bodies in the corner.”
Long term, I’m fairly sure that things will return to semi-normal. When? It’s hard to say, but I predict that a successful treatment for the new virus would be a game changer, at least when it comes to flights and land vacations. If that happens, I might even try to rebook a trip to Japan at the end of July of this year. But it’s very unlikely.
I believe that airlines may do temperature checks and even require taking a coronavirus test as long as it’s widely available and not cost-prohibitive. Obviously, that won’t happen next week or even next month, but I predict that by the end of summer the airlines will start increasing capacity, though with new barriers to entry.
I’m not very optimistic when it comes to cruises. I honestly believe the industry is in a terrible spot, and there will be several bankruptcies resulting from this crisis. As I’ve told Nancy, I don’t think I would be comfortable going on a cruise until there is a vaccine.
Accumulating miles and points via credit cards
There will be minor changes to my strategy. If I see a good deal, I will still sign up for a card. Why wouldn’t I? Crisis or no crisis, there is never a bad time to collect miles and points at a super low cost, aka switching credit cards. Anybody who says otherwise is being ridiculous.
But what if you lose your job? That’s an even bigger reason to sign up for the card now, while banks will still approve you. Of course, if you suspect that you may need to move and apply for new mortgage, that’s a different story. If you can’t control your spending, then don’t be tempted either. Otherwise, why pass up on a good deal, right?
Sure, signup bonuses may increase in a near future, but that’s like trying to time the market. So, if you are eligible for new bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred, there is no good reason to delay applying.
Speaking of, the main change I was referring to earlier has to do with the type of currency offered. For example, it would take a lot to tempt me to sign-up for Cathay Pacific credit card from Synchrony bank. I’m not convinced that the airline will stay in business due to this crisis.
One exception is United miles. I highly value this currency, especially after I used it for last-minute tickets to Europe, so my parents wouldn’t have to live in Frankfurt airport for weeks or possibly months. I plan to use Plastiq (my referral link) to prepay the loan on my husband’s Ford Mustang, so I can collect an additional 25k United miles sign-up bonus on my new Chase United card. A sliver lining for a foolish yet fun purchase.
I also don’t need any more hotel points or certificates. I can’t even use up the ones I have because of stay-at-home recommendation. On the other hand, flexible points and cash are king in my neck of the woods. That’s true for normal time, but especially so now.
I’m ruthless when it comes to renewing credit cards with annual fees, now more than ever. I’ve said before that I only keep products that give me some perk upfront. That’s why I have a small collection of hotel credit cards that give points or annual certificates. If I can’t maximize them, there is always a Hyatt Place an hour away where my kids can enjoy the pool and a hot tub. I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. This year has definitely been the worst. Worse than worst, in fact.
I currently have several hotel certs that will expire in a few months and I’m not sure I will be able to use them, to be honest. Fortunately, Hilton has extended the expiration of weekend certs to next August, so that helps. Your next move, Hyatt? I’ll probably be able to come up with a few local getaways this summer, but perhaps I should trim my credit card collection going forward.
Those of you who have cards with $550 annual fees, maybe it’s time to let them go. What good is Centurion lounge access if you aren’t able to fly anywhere? Uber credit is nice unless there is a stay-at-home order.
Since my husband and I got married, we made a point of keeping our overall expenses and debts low. We paid off our mortgage at 33 and bought cars with cash. Though I did break that rule 3.5 years ago when we purchased my husband a brand new Ford Mustang via 0% financing loan. I’m a sucker and wanted to make him happy. Personally, I drive a 2009 scratched up Toyota Sienna with 160k miles on it.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, the reason we try to keep expenses low is so we can always live on one income. You never know what may happen, especially when you have kids. Our county’s schools are currently closed, and will likely stay that way until the end of the school year. So, somebody has to be home with the kids and teach them stuff. Or something.
Fortunately, my secular work was flexible enough that I could walk away when that happened. While my income provided more flexibility in the budget, it wasn’t essential. And I will be able to go back if I choose to do so. The point is, our relatively lean budget affords me the luxury of staying home, and I am so grateful. I’ll probably be keeping my old Sienna for years to come.
Our society is obsessed with having the newest gadgets and spending money like there is no tomorrow. Consequently, when a crisis hits, many aren’t able to weather it. To be clear, I’m not referring to low-income families who are barely making ends meet as is. That would be obnoxious.
But if you are an upper middle-class family with no savings, I urge you to make some changes right now. Maybe forego a major vacation next year and set up an emergency fund instead. This is especially true if you have young kids at home. Last month has shown us that you should always expect the unexpected and not get too comfortable when it comes to your paycheck.
I recommend setting up a Roth IRA via Vanguard.com for an emergency fund, so you can have the best of both worlds. Just don’t put it in stocks.
Speaking of, I’ve just funded an IRA and put money in a high-dividend mutual fund. I don’t plan to touch it for many years, so if it loses value in a short term, I’m not super concerned. Cash is king right now, but I don’t think it’s wise to give up on stocks completely. YMMV.
The news items and images we are seeing are disturbing, to say the least. And the worst is yet to come. I’m referring to toilet paper shortage, of course! Well, I’m ready.
This photo is from three years ago (just an FYI due to some comments I recently got)
All joking aside, it’s very unsettling time right now for the whole country. Plus, several of my husband’s relatives work in healthcare, and Florida is one of the hot spots. That said, it’s important to remember that we can only control so much.
Mental anguish and obsessively following the latest disturbing news isn’t going to cause this virus to magically disappear or make my family more safe. But staying home and foregoing all travel for awhile can. Just ask the celebrities who can’t resist posting selfies in their luxurious mansions.
I highly recommend reading this article: A letter to the UK from Italy: this is what we know about your future. It might as well have been addressed to the world. While our county is not under “stay at home” order (for now), I could relate to the author’s feelings.
“First of all, you’ll eat. Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do.”
This is such an Italian thing to say, but it happens to be true. I find myself eating more than usual, maybe as a comfort mechanism. And I’m seriously addicted to stuffing my face with Belarus candy that my mom brought me recently. Maybe because it takes me back to my childhood when I didn’t have to worry about keeping my family safe from a pandemic.
“Many of you will fall asleep vowing that the very first thing you’ll do as soon as lockdown is over is file for divorce.”
My husband has been working from home for the last week. It’s been wonderful and miserable at the same time. I love my husband very much, he is my best friend. But we definitely bicker more than usual. While I’m most definitely not filing for divorce when all this is over, I plan to cherish my alone time. You bet I will.
“Your children will be schooled online. They’ll be horrible nuisances; they’ll give you joy.”
“You will try not to think about the lonely deaths inside the ICU.”
“Being locked up in a house with a pretty garden or in an overcrowded housing project will not be the same.”
I’ve never been as grateful as I am now to NOT live in a large city. Having a yard and a porch to sit on is something I normally take for granted.
I can’t even imagine being stuck in a tiny NYC apartment, I would lose my mind. If you are in this situation, my heart goes out to you.
“…When all of this is over, the world won’t be the same.”
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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.