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Archive for January, 2012

Decluttering is good for the mind and pocketbook

January 30th, 2012 at 08:47 pm

So often I read how people want to declutter and how good it is to do that, and lord knows I'm no different. I shan't go into the details, other than to say that ebay and craigslist are my friends. Extra space and extra money to invest (or spend on hobbies), who can complain about that?

Anyway, I have decided to see how much I can "earn" this year from credit card (and savings account) sign up bonuses. The decluttering comes in as I need to start to kill off some unused credit cards so I have more "need" for credit. Once your credit lines grow large they start to stop giving you new cards (boooo). While I got a new credit card this week (as listed below) I was told I was nearing a limit on what they would give on the credit cards, so I need to start pruning back my collection.

In the past four months I have gotten 50,000 miles for signing up for a Southwest Airlines card (good for $500 in gift cards), $100 bonus from Capital One (arrived today in the mail), $100 balance credit from Citi (fullfilled that by buying Exxon gift cards that gave me bonus gift cards!), and now I just signed up for another Citi credit card with another $100 sign up bonus. Now if I can trim off some unused CCs (especially from Chase), maybe I can get another bonus or two in the next few months.

And locally I can get a $100 bonus for signing up for a checking account at a regional bank (hmmm... I see myself visiting the local branch this Saturday). Keep a $500 balance for 3 months - yeah I think I can do that.

OK, that gives me $900 in less than half a year, I need to see if I can keep it going.

I love it when a plan comes together

January 20th, 2012 at 04:34 pm

Getting freebies is nice. Saving money is great. Converting freebies into money by combining both techniques - priceless.

With that said, here's the plan.

Step 1) I was able to sign up for a credit card associated with an airlines rewards program that gave me 50,000 miles for making my first purchase. Well I have the card, made the purchase, and now have the miles. Most of the things you can buy with the program are terribly overpriced, but you can get gift cards. OK, I shop about as much as the pope swears, but if I cash out that way I can get $500 worth of gift cards, which seems like the best bang for the buck (or in this case - mile).

Step 2) I have signed up at work for the flexible spending account (FSA) for medical expenses for years now. Usually in the past I have spent as much as I saved in this program, usually less than $1,000, so no problem. Its a nice tax saver, to say the least. This past year I ended up with over $400 still to spend. (BTW, my work gives you a grace period through 3/15 the following year). So I have spent some of the $400 getting needed glasses (at WalMart), and so now I still need to spend almost $300. Hmmmm, what to do?

Step 3) Here's where 1+1=3. I would love to get cash, not gift cards from the rewards program (cash always beats gift cards). And for my FSA I need to spend money, probably on more glasses (it seems like the best way to burn off the remainder). And it dawns on me --- Combine these together! The rewards program allows cashing out in WalMart gift cards. I need to check, but I should be able to use gift cards to get my glasses. If so I (1) get the glasses, (2) submit the receipts to the FSA, and (3) get paid back in cash. Voila! I turn gift cards into coin of the realm.

Yes, I love it when a plan comes together.

Tonight's episode: A good deed never goes unpunished.

January 9th, 2012 at 05:47 pm

Prologue) Previously on Single Guy (SG) - SG finally decides he needs to upgrade his falling apart 12 year old ride, and comes up with the money and finds a nice low milage car that is a very basic model, but does what he wants for a good price. Little does he realize the car comes with only one key - no duplicates are provided. As he drives away from the dealer he thinks "No problem, I'll get a spare when I have time. Its a basic key, nothing special about it."

Act 1) Months after his purchase, we find SG stopping at another hardware store. "Can you make a copy of this key?" Book is pulled out. Shuffle, shuffle. "Hmmmm, let see if we have it." Looks all through the stock of keys. "Sorry, it looks like we don't have that key blank in stock." SG heads out of the store with a familiar refrain in his head. "How can no one have this key blank? I sure don't want to spend $30/key at a dealership." Grumbling, he heads off for his car, still with his lone car key.

Act 2) That evening SG tells his girlfriend he's stuck out getting a key again. "Looks like the dealer is my only option." "For $30??? There's got to be a way to do this. Hey have you tried buying the key blanks yourself?" "I never thought of that." And sure enough, key blanks are available, 2 for $10 delivered. And we pull away as he makes his online purchase of key blanks.

Act 3) Key blanks in hand, we see SG driving toward a hardware store he rarely goes to as it is out of his way a few miles. However this time he has decided that he will try this store as it is a small hardware store that could use his patronage. He then pulls up to the store and walks in and is quickly greeted by the lone salesman in the store.

"Can I help you?" "Yes, I'd like to make a copy of my key here. I've had trouble finding any place that carries this key." "Here I'll do that, I'm doing most everything here tonight." With that they arrive at the key cutter. Book out, shuffle, shuffle, page with the needed info is found. A look to the board with tons of keys on it, looks at a blank spot where the key would be. "Nope, no key here sorry. You know the easy solution would be not to lose the key." SG does a double take at that comment. "Well this was a used car purchase and it came with only one key, so I didn't have a choice in the matter."

He then pulls out two key blanks. "Can you make copies with these blanks?" The person looks incredulously at the blanks. "You have blanks?" "Yeah, it seemed like it was the only way I was ever going to get keys made." "Where did you get them?" "Online, I had them sent to my house." "I've never had anyone bring in their own blanks before." Sort of in shock at this change to his routine the salesman starts to work on one key, only to realize he has no idea if he should do this, or if so how much to charge. After a few calls to management explaining the situation, he is told to make the keys and what to charge.

After a quick 2 minutes both keys are made and ready to go. As the salesman walks with SG towards the registers SG comments "Looks like we learned something new today." "You?" "No you, you know how much to charge someone that has their own blanks."

"Well I think bringing blanks is like taking a steak to a restaurant." Non-plussed, SG replies - "I was going to buy the keys from you if you had them in stock." "You couldn't get them at the dealer?" "For $30 per key, I don't think so."

The salesman stops. "Too many prople right away go to a store to get a key. They should go to the dealer or a locksmith." Surprised where this is heading SG tries to keep a non-commital face, waiting to see where this is goes. "There's this whole industry, locksmiths, yet no one will go to them to get their keys made. Its a real problem today." With that he heads off into the bowels of the store. We pull away as we hear SG thinking "Locksmith???? Really? I should go to a locksmith when all I want is a copy of a key? WTF???"

Epilogue) SG is seen heading out of the store, newly paid keys in hand. He starts to open the door with his old key, then realizes he should be using a new key to test it. It smoothly works the door lock, then once inside the ignition behaves like this key has always been used with this car. Driving away we hear this thoughts as he reviews what just happened. "I go out of my way to give this store some patronage. After a few minutes of work they earn a few dollars, yet the salesman behaves like getting the key done there was the worst thing in the world. I guess that saying is true, no good deed ever goes unpunished."