Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Freebies (budgeting)

There’s money to be made, well gift cards anyway, for merely managing your money well. I have always tried to pay my credit cards off every month. My Mom told me when I first got one, at 18, it would keep me from getting “out of control”. Over the years I have had to carry a balance a few times, but for the most part I do as my Mom told me. Until about two years ago that money management didn’t get me anything.

A little over two years ago I took another hard look at rewards programs from the credit card companies. I had looked at them before and knew that lots of them had some kind of yearly fee. I had crunched the numbers and figured it wouldn’t be worth it if they had a fee. Times change. This time around after some hunting and research I found one that didn’t have a yearly fee. (There are several programs now that don’t charge a fee, if you just look.) The program is simple; I charge stuff to the card and collect points. The points accumulate till I have enough to exchange for a gift card. I can get a gift card to a variety of stores. In order for this to work and get me more than some lousy $10 gift card every year I have to charge everything. The “pros” tell you that this “charge everything mentality” is a sure fire way to lose control of your money and your mind. Charging McDonald’s… naughty naughty. I paid them no mind and set about charging groceries to auto insurance in an attempt to rake up points. And it has worked.

My wife and I have decided to use the gift cards on things that will last for awhile (no dinners out). The first year it was a digital camera and rechargeable batteries she wanted. I had to throw in $12 and the rest was gift cards. She was happy. There’s a great return on my twelve dollars. We are now saving points for a camcorder.

None of my friends are doing this. Many are still trying to get their money to what they want it to do (for some of them it is like herding cats). About the time I am feeling that we are the only ones doing this crazy gift card chase I hit upon an article the other day. Come to find out there are lots of people with this idea, so many in fact that it got a write up on MSN Money. (here’s the link) The lady that put her remodeling on her credit card takes the cake. I am thinking she has complete control of her money. Pulling this to a close I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the benefits don’t work out very well if you are carrying a balance and paying interest. If you are not, look around, there are rewards for good money management just waiting for you.

Do you participate in a credit card rewards program? How is it working for you?

That’s it for today. Here’s to free money. Keep watch over your charge slips and an eye on your EveryDay Money.

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