As a family of 3 in New York City, one of our largest expenses are groceries. Groceries in the city are way pricier than in other parts of the country (boy, do I miss Jewel-Osco). We spend, on average, about $9,000 a year (or $750 a month) on food purchased from FreshDirect and other local stores.
One of the ways I hack this expense is by using the right credit. We exclusively use our Blue American Express because this card offers a whopping 6% on groceries (up to $6,000, max $390). When we had a car, we used it for gas (3% cash back) as well. 1% is earned on all other purchases. Each year, I make about $420 off groceries alone. FYI there is a $75 annual fee but it is quickly offset by other purchases. Interested in signing up? Email me and I'll send you a referral link so you can earn: $150 back after they spend $1,000 in purchases on their new Card in their first 3 months of Card Membership. They will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit (I get $50 per referral). Using the right credit card for the right purchases (or at the right time) is the key to many of my life hacks.
I've wanted a Canada Goose jacket for years but baulked at forking over $850. But I figured out a way to get buy one for a steal. Some of it was luck, but some of it was a hack. I finally purchased my Victoria Canada Goose Jacket in Military Green.
To start, I only purchase big ticket items from reputable sites with great warranties. Last year (when I wasn't ready to pay $800+ for a jacket), I bought an exclusive branded jacket from backcountry.com (Basin and Range) that had a lifetime warranty for $260. Unfortunately, 8 months later, my jacket started to rip at the seams. I contacted the company, sent the jacket back and was given a $260 credit on their site.
Having bought Jeff a Canada Goose jacket that was still in pristine condition, I finally went for it.
The ticket price was $850.
I had a ~$260 credit
Lesson #1 - only buy where you get a warranty
I paid out of pocket ~$590
But used Ebates for the purchase which offered a 4% cash back bonus (~$30 cash back)
Lesson #2 - make sure to use ebates before buying big ticket items.
Being inspired to check the backcountry link again (for some reason), I saw that all the Canada Goose jackets had been marked down 20%.
I called the company, told them of the mark down, and they credited my card the +$185 difference Lesson #3 - make sure to check the purchase website after buying the big ticket item. If the price has changed, demand a credit. And also, try only buy from websites to honor that.
Total cost of the jacket = $375.
Sadly, I returned the jacket because it didn't fit well and ended up with Long Bear Parajumpers Jacket (but because I bought (+30 cash back)-returned-bought (+30 cash back)-returned-bought (+60 cash back during double bonus cash back promotion) via ebates, I save an additional $120 on the price of the jacket. I also keep checking back to see if the price gets marked down further so I can call and get the difference credited back.
Bonus lesson - every time you buy through Ebates, even if you return the item, you earn cash back.
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Since January 1, 2017, I've made $157.66 shopping online buying items I needed, or returning items and buying a different size (like the purchasing and returning and then purchasing again of a winter jacket from Backcountry.com). Each shopping trip is a chance to earn money, even if you return the item in the end.
Since 2011, I've made $629.
By using a site called Ebates.com. Many of you probably know it already but if you don't, sign up (use my referral link, please - you get something and so do I) and start making money on purchases you were going to make already. Not only does Ebates give you cash back, it alerts you of sales and coupons on a variety of awesome sites (like Carters, Nordstroms, Macys, Expedia, and so many more).
Ebates.com acts as a referral site to online retailers and when you click and purchase through their site, ebates shares the referral bonus - so they get money and you get money. Total win.
However, it is often easy to forget to check ebates before you make a purchase so be sure to install the plug-in (it blinks if you are on a site that gives you cashback via ebates) and never miss a chance at saving/making money again.
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We take 2-3 international trips each year and people often wonder how we afford it. Our biggest savings come from airfare because we usually fly (coach) for free.
Through amazing credit card deals. While this strategy is not for everyone, it has worked amazingly well for us.
In the past few years, my husband and I signed up for the American Airlines Platinum Select card when the bonus was 50K miles each. And the American Airlines Executive card when was the bonus was 50K miles each. And the Chase Sapphire Reserve when the bonus was 100K thank you points and the Chase Sapphire preferred when the bonus was 50K thank you points. We also then use the cards to maximize the miles/points offered. For instance, the Reserve gives you 3X points on each dollar spent dining so all our meals/take out go on that card.
It is important to note that the cards usually require you to spend $3-4K within the first 3 months of opening, so I recommend staggering them and/or opening them right before you have to pay a large sum for something. In our case, our son's childcare could be paid via credit card so we opened one right before the amount was due hitting that card's minimum right away.
You also have to pay the balance in full each month. If you don't, you don't get the bonus points/miles.
While some of the cards have hefty annual fees, we find that they are often off set by the travel credits (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve - read about me signing up here). If the fees aren't offset or we find the card is not worth it after we earn our miles, we close the account. You don't lose your miles and I recommend trying to transfer the credit line to another card under the same bank (you can do it with the Sapphire cards, for instance).
Most importantly, we found that signing up and/or closing 1-2 cards every year or every other year does not significantly impact our credit scores.
With all that in mind, if you do it correctly, you can rack up some serious points and a LOT of free travel. Between 2014 and 2016, we earned over 210K+ miles on American Airlines and 275K+ thank you points. We flew to Europe 3X in 2016 and 1X in 2017 (and it is only April). We still have well over 250K thank you points so we are set for at least another year or two.
When spending our rewards, we found we could stretch our miles by flying off season. For example, we spent 50-60K miles each on round trip tickets to Italy (flying in) and Switzerland (flying out) in December/January. Or our trip to Vienna in March was also 50-60K miles each. Thank You points are just like cash credit so you can use them to pay for inexpensive flights or hotels via the Chase portal site. So again, you can maximize them buy flying when tickets are cheap.
All in all, this is one of our greatest life/travel hacks so keep an eye for amazing credit card deals.
keywords: travel hack, airfare, credit cards, cheap tickets, travel for free