Month: September 2014

365 Days of Frugality Day 5: Take advantage of credit card rewards and offers

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


 

As I wrote in a previous article, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great tool to get cash back on everyday purchases. These points can be used for travel to all inclusive resorts for free, gifts, or even straight cash back in the form of gift cards or a check. In today’s age of digital safety, credit cards also give your purchase protection, in that money does not come directly out of your account when a purchase is made. This will save you from fraudulent activity in the case your number gets stolen. Overall, with cash back on every purpose, it would be stupid not to take advantage of offers like these.

So far this year, these tactics have resulted in me receiving around 300,000 points with minimal efffort by taking advantage of credit card offers. This has translated into multiple hotel stays and basically being able to book my upcoming honeymoon to all inclusive resort at no cost. The possibilities are nearly endless with a little research and effort, and can result in $1,000’s in free travel.

More Seniors Carry Student Loan Debt into Retirement – DailyFinance

Crazy article indicating that there are some seniors that are still carrying student load debt. Taking into account the fact that college prices have only risen, it would be expected that these numbers will only go up in the future. This is another reason to pay additional amounts on your loans when you are young by living frugally to avoid the astronomical amounts of interest that can be paid over the life of the loan.

 

More Seniors Carry Student Loan Debt into Retirement – DailyFinance.

The Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus September 2014: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign-Up 40,000 Points Bonus

Overview
There are two ways to get points on credit cards: the first is to spend as you normally do, and the second is to obtain bonus points by making a set amount of purchases within a certain time frame. The latter is most often more lucrative as credit cared companies will entice customers with large amounts of cash back in exchange for the customer to sign up for the card. As I am a major component of responsible credit card spending, I see these offers as a great opportunity to receive bonus points that can applied to travel, cash back, and even statement credit in some cases.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
In this post I am going to go over the Sapphire Preferred Card that is offered by Chase, and the associated sign up bonus. This is one of the best cards out there due to its large sign-up bonus, flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards program, and the face that the card is a Visa Signature Card, which can be used almost anywhere throughout the world. In addition, one of the perks of the card is that it does not have foreign transaction fees.

Bonus 
As of the time of this writing, the readily available bonus for the card, which can be seen below, is 40,000 points after $3,000 of spending in the three months after opening the card. This is easily obtainable by focusing your spending on this card. In addition, there are various ways to “Manufacture Spend” and hit this goal without any financial outlay. A quick google search will yield plenty of results on this topic. When these points are used for travel on the Ultimate Rewards website, they have a cash value of $500. Additionally, these points can be taken as cash back, with 1 cent equal to 1 ultimate reward point, which would result in $400 in cash back.

Ultimate Reward Flexibility
Overall, one of the largest benefits of the Ultimate Rewards program is the ability to transfer points to Hotel and Airline partners. These include United, Hyatt, Marriot, and many other useful travel options. This means that you can take advantage of these programs to get the most out of your Ultimate Rewards points, as this offers tons of flexibility when it comes to redemption.

In my case, I was recently able to book a stay for an upcoming wedding that I will be attending in September at a Hyatt property. The hotel would have gone for $229 a night, but I was able to book the room with 8,000 ultimate rewards points, which resulted in a value of almost 3 cents a point! By utilizing this rate for the bonus on initial sign-up, you can see just how much the 40,000 points could potentially be worth.

First year fee waived
An additional bonus of the card is that the annual fee is waived in the first year, which would be $95. This essentially makes signing up for the card a no-brainer. When the end of the promotion period comes, you can decide to keep the card and continue to receive the great benefits that come with it, or you can simply downgrade to the no-fee Chase Sapphire card or even the Chase Freedom Card.

Conclusion
Overall, based on the flexibility of reward points, high amount of bonus, waived fee in the first year and relatively obtainable minimum spending amount required to receive the bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great candidate for the credit card with the best sign-up bonus at this time.

How to Take Advantage of Cash Back and Discount Websites to Receive Goods for the Lowest Possible Price

By taking advantage of cash back and discount websites, you can receive good for tremendously low prices. As I am in the process of moving into a new apartment, I am in need for a moderately sized television for the living room of the new space. As the move is about a month away, I have recently started the process of searching the internet for deals that would be the most beneficial. The following is my step by step process to receive the best deal possible on an item.

1. Set Up Alert On Price Monitoring Site – Amount saved: $100
Process: This is a crucial part of the process, and is the reason why this process can’t be rushed. The purpose of using a price monitoring site is to find the best possible price of an item, not just at a given point in time, but for the life of the product. This would be very cumbersome if you had to do it manually, and I wouldn’t even know where to start. The site that I like to use for this process is slickdeals.net. This website allows you to set “deal alerts” for specific products or even categories of products and let you know of any deals that are occurring within that product or category. In addition, there is a ranking assigned to the deal, so that you can set up an alert so that only the best deals are noted. As deals are posted to the very extensive forum, you are alerted by email, text, or other forms of communication that the deal is going. Although this is an indirect form of price monitoring, the members of the forum do a great job of alerting the forum to deals as they occur, and I have come across some fantastic bargains through the site.

Example: In my case, as I was interested in flat screen televisions, I set up an alert on slickdeals that sent an email I’m any instance where a deal hit the front page related to HDTV’s. In this case, I set the alert to send deals with 4/5 thumbs up, which indicated a very good deal. For this particular tv, the usual selling price is in the 400+ range, but there is a special going on that brings the tv down to $299. This is where the real fun starts, as the cash back percentage is dependent upon this price.

2. Take advantage of any store specific rebates or discounts Amount saved $100
As mentioned in 10 Easy Ways You Can Save Money Today, one of the best ways you can save money is by taking advantage of coupon sites. Once you have figured out what site is going to give you the lowest price on the item, you need to take into account any discounts or rebates that are offered by the store. These can be percentage discounts off specific items or rebates that are given in the form of discounts in exchange for purchase, and will save you easy money for little effort. Some sites, like Amazon, will also offer free shipping. One of my favorite tools to discover these kinds of deal is retailmenot.com. Befrugal is also a great resource. This is an online website but is also an iPhone and android app. You simply type in a store and it outputs the current deals that are ongoing. There have been numerous instances where I have been standing in line to purchase and item and have pulled up a 10% discount to be used at the register.
Example: For this purchase, dell, the site where I purchased the tv, was offering a rebate in the form of a gift card on purchases of televisions in the amount of $120. This was a great deal because even if I wasn’t in need of the gift card, I could sell it on various online gift card exchange sites that are abundant these days. My favorite gift card exchange site is giftcardgranny.com, which is a gift card exchange site aggregator, which means that it rounds up deals from the various gift card sites. This allows you to get the most out of your mooney. Even if I am able to get 75% value for the gift car by selling on the site, this will result in $90 in my pocket.
3. Use payment specific discounts to receive additional cash back Amounts saved $30
Once you have taken advantage of the store specific discount to get the purchase price as low as possible, it is time to focus on how you are going to pay for the item. You may think that the choice is pretty simple, credit or debit card, right? That is not the case. There is an additional layer of savings that you can build onto your purchase, and that is lowering the actual cash outlay of your payment method. This can be accomplished many ways, including cash back portals, credit card reward sites, and even cash back from a credit card. The purchase can also go towards earning sign-up bonuses, for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Example: In my example, due to having multiple credit cards at any given time, there is usually an offer on the website that will yield a percentage back just by going through the cards’s website link to the store. In my case, you don’t even have to use the specific card that the website is for. It just so happens that Discover, of which I have the fabulous IT card, was offering 10% off any purchase at the Dell website. By going to the discover portal and clicking on the Dell store, I would recieve 10% cash back, just like that. This was is a tremendously easy way to get cash back with just a few seconds of work.

Summary: Overall, using the three ways noted above, setting up alerts on price monitoring sites, taking advantage of store specific discounts, and using payment specific discounts to receive additional cash back, I was able to lower the price of the HDTV that I purchased from a $400 to about $170 when all is said and done. Using these techniques can result in hundreds of dollars of savings on almost any item that you can imagine, and help you stay within your budgeting goals.

How to Receive a Vacation at an All Inclusive Resort for Free

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One of the best ways to travel these days are by the way of all inclusive stays, because who wants to worry about money on vacation. Like most things however, this type of convenience often comes at a high price. To get around these fees, I was able to take advantage of credit card sign up bonuses to book a room at a Caribbean resort for no charge. This is one of the key items mentioned in my previous post on easy ways to save money. This is because both the room and food are included with the room booking.

Hyatt Credit Card 
The first step in this process was singing up for the Hyatt credit card through Chase. This credit card gives you two free nights upon spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening, which is pretty obtainable by putting regular spending on the card. You can also use methods like Amazon payments, American Express Serve, and gift cards as noted in my previous article on manufactured spending. Once this is done, you will have two free nights to use at any Hyatt hotel in the world, which could have a value of up to $1,000 a night for some of the more luxurious properties. For this post we will focus on the all-inclusive options, but see this post for some other ideas on where the reward can be used.

Hyatt All-Inclusive Properties
Hyatt has recently gotten into the all-inclusive resort game, which is a great thing for those of us who have accumulated Ultimate Reward, Hyatt free nights and Hyatt points. Not only will the reward cover the room, but it will also include all food and beverage during your stay. This is fantastic for a frugal travel as you will avoid the often high costs of food while traveling, as you are often in a tourist area with high prices, which is often the case when you are out of the country.

The property that I will be focusing on is the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, which is a luxurious adult-only all-inclusive resort in Mexico. The Hyatt also has the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, which is family friendly. The Hyatt Zilara, with rave reviews on the service, location, and food, which makes it a no brainer for a great vacation. Every room has an ocean view, and the surroundings are paradise. In addition, the rooms hover around $500 per night, which gives you a great value when using your free stays. In addition, you can book rooms for 25,000 points/night by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points (sign-up offer) or Hyatt points earned through the card.

Rooms can be booked by calling into the Hyatt Gold Passport customer service, which can tell you availability and book your room very easily. Overall, this is a fantastic value and a reason alone to sign up for the Hyatt Credit Card.

Conclusion
I hope that this post has proved that traveling luxuriously can be obtained on a budget, as the above solution results in two nights at a fabulous all-inclusive property for nothing out of pocket. Hyatt’s entrance into this space is a welcome addition to the hotel scene and is a very reliable way to take advantage of reward points that have been earned through responsible spending.

365 Days of Frugality Day 4: Go for a Run or Walk

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day-to-day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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This one isn’t directly related to finance, but getting good exercise on a daily basis will pay huge dividends to your financial situation. With the rising costs of healthcare, it is in your best interest to keep your body healthy, which in turn will reduce costly office visits and procedures. The best defense is a great offense, and this is no change when it comes to your health. Get outside and breathe the fresh air once in a while. In addition, it doesn’t cost you a dime!

For my fitness, I like to make use of technology to aid in my progress. One of my favorite ways to track my runs is using the Nike+ running app on my Iphone. This is a free tool that keeps track of how long you have run, and also maps your route and the number of miles that you have covered. It also provides motivation on your run through audio cues and has a great interface to control your music during your run.

How to Get Your Credit Score Free On a Monthly Basis

A credit score is something that is somewhat elusive and cryptic in personal finance, but simply ignoring your score can harm your finances, and potentially lead to financial ruin. Although advertisements for services such as FreeCreditReport.com proclaim free access to your credit, these often do not come with an actual score, and often lead to monthly fees. One of the trends that has been occuring within the credit card companies is to offer a free score every month with your statement. This is a great tool to take advantage of as it will give you an updated score on a regular basis to use for your resource. Listed below are credit card companies that offer your FICO score on your monthly report and a recommended card for each.

One of the best things that Discover has going for it is their customer service. All of my dealings with the company have been nothing but pleasurable. In addition, they offer an online chat service in which you can directly chat with a representative that is more than willing to address any questions.
One of the great things about the BarclayCard is that points can be used for any travel expenses, which can include hotel stays, flights, and even taxis. This means that, unlike many other rewards systems, hotels and flights can be booked at a discount from sites like Kayak or Hotwire, and the points are then used to reduce the amount on your monthly statement. This is a great resource for thrifty travelers as you save the hassle of booking through the specific reward sites, which are often cumbersome and timely.

365 Days of Frugality Day 3: Skip the Morning Coffee

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day to day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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Until you get to work, that is. That sentence alone without the second part could probably put some people in shock.

I walked into a Starbucks the other day and was  astonished by the prices charged for some of the items. $4.75 for a small frappuccino? Outrageous. Small indulgences like these add up to become major line items on a budget over a weekly and monthly basis. Instead of making the morning coffee stop, switch up your routine and make a thermos before you leave work. Even single serve Keurigs are a better deal than going to a coffee joint, and are very convenient. You can even buy k-cups off of Amazon as low as 61 cents each. (Donut Shop is my favorite, btw.) Better yet, take advantage of the office provided coffee for a few days. Yes, I know some of it is terrible, but caffeine is caffeine and even drinking this a few times during the week will save a few bucks. You may even end up liking the convenience and even learn to appreciate it black compared to the sugary mess that Starbucks passes off.

As an added extra, here is a recipe for how to make a pumpkin spice latte, for those that are addicted to the Starbucks offering during this time of the year.

Easy Ways to Use Manufactured Spending to Meet Your Credit Card Spending Requirements

Credit cards are a great tool when used correctly

Manufactured spending is a great way to meet hefty thresholds for credit card bonuses. As you may be aware, credit cards often run lucrative offers in which a certain number of “points” will be given after the user spends a certain amount within a set time period. This was the case with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card written about in this article, which gives 40,000 points after $3,000 in spending in the three months after card opening. But what if your spending habits do not support this level of spend? This article will give you five ways to meet this spending requirement, without actually spending any more money in the process. This is a process known as “manufactured spending”.

Amazon Payments
Amazon payments is a great way to meet spending requirements on a credit card by sending money to a close friend that also has an Amazon Payments account. The friend can then write you a check for the amount, which can be deposited back into your account and used to pay off the credit card. There is a limit of $1,000 per month that can be transferred, but by doing this for three months, your spending limit can be reached.

American Express Serve
Serve is also a great tool to meet minimum spending requirements. With Serve, you are able to load $200 per day up to $1,000 per month online from a credit card. Once this is done, you can then transfer the money to your bank account, use the Serve card as you usually would a debit card, or even pay off the credit card using the bill payment feature of Serve. As with Amazon payments, this is an easy way to reach a spending limit without actually having to leave the convenience of your home, and results in zero cash outlay and plenty of benefit.

Merchant Gift Cards
This method requires a little bit of planning and legwork, but is a very feasible way of meeting spend requirements if properly planned. As you may have seen, many merchants sell numerous gift cards to both their own and other establishments. By timing gift card purchases for common items to the time period in which your spending needs to be met, you can accelerate the time period in which the threshold is met. For example, buying gas cards in large amounts to meet the requirement. Additionally, online spending portals often offer cash back in addition to the points that you will earn from the credit card signup.  As this is a purchase that would be made anyway, there is little risk that the cards will not be used, but you are able to accelerate your spending to achieve the bonus.

As with any credit card activity, you should always be aware of the potential consequences of your spending and should keep an eye on your credit card activity, but these methods have the potential to meet spending requirements without actually spending. In addition, you should make sure to have your credit score in line before signing up for any additional cards, and know the potential effects on your credit score. See my previous article for the 5 factors of a healthy credit score.

Happy spending!

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365 Days of Frugality Day 2: Pay off your credit cards in full.

This post is part of the 365 Days of Frugality Series. Every day, there will be a new tip on how to bring frugality into your day to day life. Check out the postings so far here.


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This cannot be said enough. As noted within my post 5 Factors To a Healthy Credit Score, carrying a balance does not indicate a healthy credit profile, thus will not benefit your credit score in the long run. Even though paying the minimum on credit cards may seem optimal as it frees up your cash flow over a longer time period, this will keep you in perpetual debt and you will pay longer on the purchases. I like to think of it this way. Would I want to pay a 15-20% markup on this purchase from the moment that I buy it? If not, I will reconsider the purchase and make sure that I have the funds necessary to pay off the balance IN FULL. It is as simple as that.