Churn, Baby, Churn (credit cards, that is)

I love to travel. As in I have the travel bug all the time. I always need to know where I am going next. Or after that.

Many people ask me how I can afford where I am going and what I do. That’s when I get to whip out my business card binder filled with 12 credit cards (It used to be 16!) and explain the method behind my travel madness: credit card churning!

Oh, it’s fantastic. It basically lets me travel for (almost!) free. Each credit card has served its own purpose for me in terms of travel and there is a reason I keep it if it has an annual fee as well.

Here they are, friends.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
Not only did this give me 30,000 Starpoints upon signing up and spending a few thousand in three months, but it also gives me SPG Gold status at any SPG property I stay at. After August 11th, it’ll start giving all its owners “complimentary” Boingo Wi-Fi and Sheraton club lounge access.
It’s given me SPG Gold Status and a free stay at the brand new Westin Jekyll Island (with points, of course).
Annual Fee after the first year: $65

IHG Rewards Club Card
I got this when there was an 80,000 Priority Club point sign-up bonus after spending a certain amount in 3 months. This card also comes with one free night annually and no foreign transaction fees.
This year, it gave me a free night at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Boston Garden hotel, which goes for $260 /night, so I think the annual fee is definitely worth it.
Annual Fee after the first year: $49

Hyatt Credit Card
This gets you two free nights. This was an amazing experience, as I used the nights to get a suite at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The bathroom in that thing was bigger than my room in the city now! I keep this card because of the annual free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel.
Annual Fee: $95

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
You get two free weekend nights after completing the minimum spend in a few months after signing up. Thanks to this card, I was able to have a wonderful stay at Rome Cavalieri (a Waldorf Astoria property) during the weekend of JPII’s sanctification in April 2014. We stayed at the same place where many heads of state were also staying, so that was cool to see. You also get a free annual weekend night with this card.
Annual fee: $95

Chase Ink Bold
I received 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after meeting the minimum spend. Whoa baby! UR are my favorite thing to play with since you can transfer it to many airlines and hotels 1:1. Solid! With this card, you receive lounge passes and rental car insurance. There are no foreign transaction fees and you receive 5x points per $1 at office supply stores and on cell phone, internet, and cable services. I transfer all the points 1:1 to United miles and book my flights that way. It makes for a lot of fun trips! This gave me roundtrip tickets to Ireland last summer!
Annual Fee: $95 after the first year

Barclay Arrival Card
I downgraded to this one after getting the Barclay Arrival Plus because I didn’t want to pay an annual fee. The Plus card gave me $400 back on travel, so I used it for a flight and hotel for a trip I took to Virginia last year.
Annual Fee: None

Club Carlson Visa
I also downgraded to this card after having the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card. That baby gave me bonus award nights to use at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin. What a beauty! If any of you watch Bachelorette, that was the hotel they stayed at this past season. Unfortunately, they took that benefit away, so I got this one to not pay an annual fee.
Annual Fee: None

Blue Sky from American Express
I downgraded to this card after having the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. That was a fun card, but I switched to this one because I did not want an annual fee. This one is pretty good, too. It gets you 6x points per $1 spent at grocery stores. And we all gotta eat, so this is my go-to card whenever I’m grocery shopping.
Annual Fee: None

Discover Card
I got this when there was a $500 bonus for meeting the minimum spend. Now, I just keep it because there is no annual fee.
Annual Fee: None

Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card
I got 75,000 HHonors points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. This gave me enough at various hotels along my East Coast road trip this summer, including the Hilton on the beautiful river walk in Wilmington, NC.
Annual Fee: None

Chase Freedom
No annual fee and 5x points per $1 spent on certain categories throughout the year? YES. You bet your bottom dollar I’m using this guy at gas stations and Kohls right now.
Annual Fee: None

But, my every day card is the first card that got me into this hobby…

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
I got 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend and received an additional 5,000 points after adding an authorized user. It has no foreign transaction fee, so this is the card I bring with me when I am abroad.
Annual Fee: $95 after the first year #worthit

My strategy for churning is applying for 4-5 cards every 90 or so days. I make sure to apply to different banks and utilize all the benefits. I usually cancel them after a year if I do not want to pay the annual fee. Those with annual fees that I keep are obviously because I believe the benefits outweigh the cost of keeping the card.

Do you churn cards? What are your favorites?

July 2015 Net Worth: $120,524.37

It’s time for the net worth update for July 2015!

Net Worth Update: July 2015
Cash Savings 977.27
Brokerage 50.09
403b 44,519.74
IRA: Roth 24,478.02
IRA: Traditional 9,806.02
More Vanguard Fun 42,637.07
Car 1,206.00
Credit Cards 3,149.84
Total Net Worth: 120,524.37

Well, my birthday month was pretty solid. $120,000 was actually my goal for the end of this year, so I’m glad I’ve made it halfway through the year.

Here’s how the month went down…

Cash Savings: This got depleted since I maxed out my Roth IRA this month. It probably isn’t the best idea considering I’m a teacher and don’t get paid over the summer. But, I try to do it early in the year every year, and I haven’t done it so far, so…

Brokerage: This is from some Capital One promotion a few years back. I should probably transfer this out and put the $50 somewhere where it will actually make money.

403b: 60% of each of my paychecks go into this until I max it out ($18,000 for 2015).

IRA Roth and Traditional: Not too many changes here, other than I maxed out my Roth (Woohoo!).

More Vanguard Fun: I may look into playing around with the asset allocation in this one.

Car: According to KBB. My first car. I’ve had her for 10  years. She’s a champ!

Credit Cards: I pay these off in full every month, of course. Spent a bit on the East Coast Road Trip. #worthit

How are you doing with your net worth goals?


Spend your money on experiences, not stuff.


My birthday was yesterday.

I received wine, a pair of yoga pants, a canvas bag, and a clutch.

But you know what I enjoyed the most? The experiences.

-Running a half-marathon with my sister and roommate (both who were doing theirs for the first time).

-Spending time with friends at brunch.

-Attending a concert at night.

Experiences are something that I do not feel bad spending money on because they are something that can always be treasured and remembered. I feel that “stuff” can sometimes get lost in a pile or forgotten about.

But the feels you get with experiences? They’ll stay far after that experience. i really don’t think you can put a price on experiences.

I am a minimalist. That is, I only bring stuff into my life that brings purpose or meaning into it. 

As a teacher, I tell my students, “A place for everything and everything in its place!” It’s important I adopt that motto, too. Minimalism helps me do just that.

It puts the right things into perspective, too.

Here’s to another great twenty-something frugal year in the city filled with great experiences.

Make every dollar count.

I saw this canvas at Kohl’s the other day and almost jumped at the chance to get it. After all, it was 50% off and I loved the inspirational saying. $15? I’ll take it!

I told myself, “This is just an impulse buy. Stick to what you came here for.” Just as the cashier was about to ring it up, I asked her to put it back for me.

Sticking to your financial goals makes it all worth it. Sure, it was only $15, but that $15 can be combined with the next $15 I save on the next (almost-impulse) buy I choose not to pursue.  All that saving can turn into waiting to buy something that you actually need or money that can be put away into a mutual bond to help you retire earlier.

They’re all little steps. But we all know every journey begins with a single step.

Oh yeah, and always stick to your shopping list. 😉

Job Hopping

I’m a job hopper.

After college, I couldn’t find a teaching job anywhere in IL, so I moved down to FL for two years. That was always the plan: two years and then I’d move back to Chicago.

So that’s what I did. I lived in FL for two years and moved right back in June after the school year ended…without a job lined up. Was that the smartest thing? No, it pretty much goes against the holy grail of switching jobs advice: don’t leave a job until you have secured a job somewhere else.

But, I was young and naïve and figured the world was my oyster, blah blah blah. Luckily, I received an offer in Chicago in July, so it worked out. But, that job only lasted a year because of cuts after our district had a strike.

So, I went looking for another job. I had an interview on my birthday and got the job. I’ve been at the same school for the past two years. Actually, that’s the longest I’ve been at any school.

I’ve taught for 5 years in 3 schools.

And now I’m looking for the next best thing. I mean, I’ve got my reasons: I want to live car(e)-free, which would save me $2,000-$3,000 a year. I would like to move somewhere with less expensive rent. Right now, I’m paying $825 a month, and that doesn’t even include the bills. All of this would mean moving to a school closer to where I am now.

Sometimes I wonder if job-hopping so much will hurt me in the long run. I haven’t been somewhere more than two years. But, remember, no one cares about your money more than you. So, if you see it as a good investment in the long run, the numbers make sense, and you are confident in  yourself and your abilities, then go for it! You will be glad you did.

Are you a job hopper?

I am a frugal road trip warrior.

Many of us have heard that THIS is the time to take a road trip, with gas averaging $2.76 across the country. My cousins and I are taking a road trip to Cedar Point for a few days next week. It’ll be my first time there. I’m excited!
Traveling is one of my passions. Although I love to travel, I make sure to do it in a frugal way whenever I can. There are a few things we have taken into consideration and agreed upon before going on the road trip to cut costs and still have an amazing time. Here are 3 of them.

1. We’re not staying at a swanky hotel. For me, as long as the hotel has at least 3 stars, I’m good. Really, the hotel is just a place to crash and put your stuff while you explore, so why pay so much for it? I realize some people love the brand names and are all about the luxury, but I like to save that for rare and special occasions. I’d rather spend my money on an experience outside the hotel.

2. We’ve each designated who is bringing what snack on the road trip so we don’t pull over and impulse shop our way through the next gas station or rest stop. This will keep our mouths and wallets happy. 🙂

3. Finally, we are maximizing our spending when we need to use a credit card. Right now, the Chase Freedom card is 5% cash back on any purchases at gas stations and Kohl’s from now through September. So, you bet your bottom dollar, I’ll be bustin’ out my Freedom card at each gas station we stop at!

One thing I’ve realized is nobody cares about your money as much as you do. Only you can make your money work for you.

What frugal road trip tips do you have?

My FP on PF (First Post on Personal Finance)

Welcome, personal finance friends!

I have been wanting to start my own PF blog for a while, and now I am actually doing it! Summer has freed up some time for me to start on my next great endeavor.

A little background information on me: I am a 26-year-old teacher with no debt, and I love personal finance! My goal with this blog is to pass on personal finance information I have learned and learn from you as we all embark on our own personal finance journeys.

I have lived in the great city of Chicago for the past 3 years. Although I love living in the city, the high rental prices are having me look at buying something in the near future.  I am also applying to different schools for this upcoming school year, so I can ditch my car while living in the city.

What made me start this blog is listening to family members and friends around me talk about their financial worries. Many of these people began to come to me for advice, so I wanted to share that financial knowledge in another way.

I also think I bring a different perspective to the table. A lot of personal finance bloggers are married or have a family and their net worth looks a bit different from mine, as they are a dual-income household. I’m a single lady (holla Beyonce!) living in the city, trying to reach my goal of becoming financially independent by the time I am 35.

Thanks for reading this and being a part of the beginning of what I know will be a great journey!