Fresh Start – It’s Gonna Be May!

Empty Desk Calendar - Green

We may not have gotten all of the April showers that I am use to having here on the east coast but, I am looking forward to those May flowers.  It is time for a fresh start.

The end of March and all of April were filled with tests and trials of the financial and non-financial type.  I am looking forward to getting back on task and taking back control.

In March, during Spring Break, we visited the grandparents in the Seattle/Tacoma area.  It was a great visit but I always get a little out of control in relation to food when I leave my “home” zip codes.  For instance, we ate lovely Dungeness crabs at Pike’s Fish Market.  The experience was about $70 for 3 of them.  Yikes!  Still, I wouldn’t have given back one bite because it was awesome!

In April, thanks to the generosity of her grandparents and as a reward for her great grades, Thrifty Image, Jr. was able to get a new fancy schmancy phone.  We continued to use FreedomPop, just upgraded her device to AWESOME.  We took advantage of all of these department store Friends & Family sales to outfit Junior for Summer camp – t-shirts and shorts and undies, oh my!

I also indulged in buying A LOT of product for my hair this month.  I have naturally curly (and dry) hair and I have decided to grow it out.  Healthy hair requires a commitment and some of that is in dollars and cents as well as time.  So, I have purchased many, many, many conditioners, leave-ins and styling creams to help in my journey.  My plan is to spend a little more on products healthy hair from home rather than spending A LOT more for healthy hair from the salon.

And the snacks.  I have over indulged in everything from Oreo’s and DeMet’s Turtles to the new Frosted Coffees from Chick Fila.  OMG has anyone else fallen in love with those?  I am hooked on those the same way I used to be hooked on McDonald’s Sweet Tea.  Oh no, now I want some Sweet Tea!  Spring came and my self-control seemed to have fled. What is interesting is that I have been busier than ever so I am not even sure how I had the time to devote to so much snacking but apparently, where there is a (lack of) will (power), there is a way.

Well. To not quote NSync “It’s Gonna be May!” And I have a plan.

Beginning May 1 – 30 day water challenge drinking one gallon per day.  I found when I did this in January, not only did I get the benefits of the additional hydration, I had less desire for processed sugar.

Join a gym – There is a new You Fit in my neighborhood and it would just be un-neighborly to ignore it.  I am going to have Junior join with me.  Soon, school will be out and I need her too tired to think up mischief or to use the word “bored”.  Did I mention we are going to Jamaica later in the Summer using my Rapid Rewards points?  I have a couple of months to get beach body ready.  More on how I scored a practically FREE vacation with points in another post.

Yard Sale – A May yard sale would be a make up sale for the one that was rained out last Saturday.  Even with the rain we made $12 because buyers knocked on our door. So I think that next time, we should do well if the sun shines upon us.

Test new recipes – In an unusual move, I got caught up in fast food and restaurant eating way too much over the last 5 weeks.  Well, enough of that.  It is my least favorite expense when I look at my Mint account.  I think it is because even when we eat out, it doesn’t correlate to my spending less time in the kitchen.  There is no benefit because Junior and the dog are ALWAYS hungry.  So yes I will cook more but, I will save more – both my money and my cholesterol levels. This is thanks to Aldi’s consistently low prices and bonus – now that they accepts credit cards, I can use my Chase Freedom card this quarter to get 5% cash back of grocery purchase up to $1,500.

Even with my wayward ways in April, I still maintained my savings levels and charitable commitments so no regrets there. However, Junior and I will be having a chat about potentially lowering our cable/internet plan soon.  Expect to hear the sobs.  Like me, she loves her television shows (her-Disney, me-National Geographic).

I have a chicken that I will roast tonight, a half bottle of white wine and some trash tv shows to get through between now and April 30 – tomorrow!  Then, I am back in frugal mode because

It's Gonna by May

Have a great weekend!

Thrifty Image

Taking Financial Advice – Credit Cards

Welcome to my new series – Taking Financial Advice –  where I share financial or money  advice I have been given and give feedback on how that worked out for me.

 

Credit-Card-Logos

For years I have operated with one credit card.  Discover Card with 1% cash back. This wasn’t always the case. Before aligning myself with the one card rule, I had several cards. An American Express from my college days. 2-3 store cards that I got in order to receive the in-store purchase discount and a random Visa that showed up in my mail one day.

But then I started listening to a professional money-head, probably Suze Orman, and the advice was, to have just one card and pay it off at the end of the month.  So I did. And I was always pleasantly surprised to receive a credit that I could apply to my future balances one the credit reserve was large enough.  I see now, while not exactly harmful advice, not stellar advice either – at least not for me.

What I did not do was research.  I took some advice from someone “in the know” and reaped the rewards – or rather lack of rewards – from that advice.

What went wrong?

#1 Closing established accounts

Closing my oldest credit accounts stripped me on my history of long-term credit relationships. This is a ding on credit reports.

#2Higher credit use ratio

Also, because I only had one card, the likelihood of having an unattractive credit utilization rate was ongoing.

Now in all honesty, I was not paying pay attention to my credit reports back in the day and had never heard of FICO and had no idea what terms like Credit Utilization or “balance-to-limit-ratio” even meant. That wasn’t the money-head’s fault.  I should have known or should have researched the technicalities behind the advice. This just goes to show that everything is an iceberg.  The advice that floats on the top and, the information that is swimming under the surface.

#3 Sacrificing rewards opportunities

This is the one that is most disheartening.  I have left so many rewards and points on the table because I thought I was taking the smarter, nobler steps of keeping just one card and paying off that card at the end of each month.  The truth is, I could have still been smart, and pay my balances in full at the end of each month. But just with more cards.

The lesson for me is, listening to advice is great and necessary.  There are so many resources that know or can offer more information than any one of us can know on our own in a single lifetime.  The real problem was not in taking the advice but in not doing more research or understanding what my real needs were and what opportunities I could benefit from.

And when it comes to our finances, only we care the most about them.

And because I care about how I can arrange my finances for things like excellent credit scores, fun vacations and cash back, I have new cards that I LOVE and these are the rewards that I received when I signed up:

Chase Sapphire – 50,000 points (can convert to free hotel nights)

IHG – 60,000 points (about 6 free hotel nights + plus a FREE night each year on my birthday)

Southwest Rapid Rewards – 50,000 points (2 round-trip tickets to Seattle for Me and Mirror Image to visit my father)

Chase Freedom – $150 Cash Back

Barclays MasterCard – $250 Cash Back

And I still pay my bills, in full, at the end of each month so as not to pay finance or interest fees.  And with these cards, as with my beloved Discover Card, I can get cash back or points/ rewards on the things I would have purchased anyway.

Thrifty Image Mirror