Money Hacks

A dollar shouldn’t be worth only a dollar.

Yes, you read it right and no I’m not crazy. Having a good paying job and living frugally will help accelerate your journey to FIRE. But did you know learning how to maximize your dollar value will also tremendously help you grow your money?

Your dollar spent SHOULDN’T REALLY be a dollar. If you are spending money, make it worth as much as you can.

Here are a few money hacks we live by to maximize our money.


Credit Card Rewards

Some people say you should pay in cash whenever you can. This is so you don’t overspend and buy stuff with money that you don’t have. While I agree with the sentiment of not overspending and going into debt, one should simply develop a good spending habit rather than avoiding the benefits credit cards have to offer.

We find almost no reason to pay things using cash or checks unless credit card weren’t accepted, or there are discount incentives for paying with cash. Many credit cards out there offer security and insurance on your purchases, and they actually pay you to spend money.

The credit cards that we use currently in priority order are:

  • Chase Freedom (Visa): 5% cash back on qualified purchases in bonus categories (categories change every quarter). This is a refer-a-friend link and I will receive a small compensation if you apply for the card using it. Let’s be friends?
  • Citi Costco Anywhere (Visa): Because we’re avid Costco shoppers. We mostly use it for 4% back on eligible gas worldwide and 2% back on purchases from Costco and Costco.com.
  • Amazon Rewards (Visa): We love and do a lot of our shopping on Amazon.com, so we use this credit card for a nice 3% back.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa): 3x points on dining and travel. Since 1 point is equivalent to 1 cent, it’s effectively 3% back. However, if we use those points toward travel instead of cash back, those points are worth 50% more! So it’s more like a 4.5% return for 1 dollar spent. This is also our catch all card for foreign purchases sinceit has no foreign transaction fees.
  • Citi Double Cash (MasterCard): 2% cash back on all purchases. We use this card if our expense doesn’t fall in any of the above categories.

Let’s say I spent $1,000:

  • $300 on grocery shopping at Costco, $200 on grocery shopping at HMart (Korean grocery store), $200 on Restaurant, $100 on Amazon, $100 on gas, and $100 on misc items.

I’d get $31 back.

  • $6 (2% Costco) + $10 (5% Chase Freedom Bonus category) + $6 (3% Chase Sapphire Reserve) + $3 (3% Amazon Rewards) + $4 (4% Citi Costco) + $2 (2% Citi Double Cash)

If I spent $10,000 in a year, I’d get $310 back. At minimum, assuming I didn’t maximize Chase’s 50% more in travel redemption and cashed out instead. Compare that to straight up spending cash or using credit card with no rewards!


Sign Up Bonuses

Do you believe in the saying money makes money? If you don’t, start believing in it now, because money DOES make money. I’m not saying this in the context of stock or real estate investments, or eCommerce, but in the context of a rather simple process that EVERYONE can take advantage of, as long as you have some money and good credit score.

That is sign up bonuses!

Now, there are plenty of sites out there that compares all the different products that offer good sign up bonuses, so I see no need to replicate that information here. My favorite site to read about these information is from The Points Guy.

We’ve only recently started taking advantage of this, so I’ll share what we’ve personally done and why:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred for 50,000 points
    That’s $500 ($750 if used towards travel redemption) for a card with no annual fee the first year, then $95 after. This is pretty much free money.
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserved for 100,000 points (now only 50,000 since promo ended)
    $1000 sign up bonus comes with a steep $450 annual fee. But wait, they give you $300 in travel credit every year, so you’re actually only paying $150 a year. And this card gives higher points reward than Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  3. Chase Savings/Checking $500 sign up bonus
    We got $300 for opening a Chase Total Checking account, and $200 for opening a new Chase Savings account. That’s $500 simply for opening accounts and redirecting some of your cash and direct deposit there.

You may think the spending requirements of some of the credit cards are hard to meet.

For example, to qualify for the 100,000 points CSR offers, you must spend $4,000 within 3 months. $4,000 is a lot for some people to spend in 3 months.

Here’s what we did (don’t do this if you don’t have money to pay off the card): we prepaid our car insurance, phone bills, utility bills etc for few months! That really helped us with hitting that spending requirement.


Groupon

I use Groupon quite frequently to score deals for some of our favorite restaurants, or for the occasions where we want to try out new local eateries. If we were going to eat out, we want to maximize our money and get the most food out of it. The other day we tried out a local Mexican restaurant using a $17 for $30 worth of dinner Groupon. That’s $13 saved right there!

Another personal rule I go by is to never purchase a Groupon unless I have a promo code to use. Fortunately 20%-30% promotions happen quite frequently!

Sign up for a free Groupon account and get 25% off on your first groupon with the code WELCOME. If you use my link I will get referral bonus and will appreciate your generosity to treat me to some yummy food 🙂

Groupon Promo