I Am Bismark

making money by… doing nothing

so my mom sent me a couple of books about personal finance, debt, budgeting, etc. it was part of my graduation gift to help me start being more financially responsible. actually i am pretty decently responsible now… i have no debt coming out of my undergrad, i pay off my credit card balance in full each month, and i have a bit of savings put aside. granted, its not as much as it should be (i like to eat out way way too much), but i’m working on it. anyway, since reading these books i’ve been thinking a lot more about how to make better use of my finances. one message i really enjoyed from the book i will teach you to be rich is to automate and simplify things. if i am doing it right, i can make my money work for me instead of just being something i give away to others.

so i’ve started automatically putting money into a liquid savings account and into a roth IRA investment account (sexy, i know, but sorry ladies, i’m taken). while i highly respect my friend tianna for being hardcore about finding bargains and couponing, i am not at a place in my life right now that i want to be investing that sort of time. the way i see it, since i am getting paid around $30 an hour at intel, my free time is worth almost double that to me. i would have to save at least $60 an hour by bargain hunting at various grocery stores for me to feel like it is worth it right now. and since i am not big into cooking at home or trying out new recipes, its just not my thing. so i found a different way to save myself some money, though now that that the initial research is done, it will take me all of 10 seconds a day. i’ve decided to optimize my use of credit cards! “now wait ryan,” you might say, “credit cards are bad!” and its true, in many cases credit cards can be bad bad things. but for someone who has always used credit cards responsibly, i’ve figured out a way to save a few hundred dollars a year just by using the right card. so how will i do it? well, i found a combination of three credit cards that earn me some pretty sweet rewards. i calculate i will average at least 3% cashback for all my purchases. of course this means i always have to pay the balance in full each month. just one card that accrues interest will wipe out a good hunk of those rewards. “but ryan, isn’t keeping track of three cards also using up a lot of your free time???” the thing is, i already keep meticulous financial records. i save every single receipt and i actually really enjoy marking off each one as i enter it into my budget program. since its almost like a hobby to me, i might as well make the most of it! so, here are the cards:

TrueEarnings American Express

my first card and what i plan to use for my main spending is the true earnings american express card from costco. i’ve been wanting a costco membership for awhile now (love the pizza!!) so this seemed like a good way to kill two birds with one stone. this card gives me 3% back on gas purchases at costco, which is pretty awesome. costco’s gas is usually about 7% cheaper than most gas stations, so that’s a good 10% savings! with gas hovering near $3 here in california, $.30 off of a gallon is pretty sweet. the card also gives me 3% back on restaurants (my vice), 2% back on travel, and 1% back everywhere else.

Associated Bank

my next card which i will use for “everyday purchases” is the associated bank cash rebates visa card (thats not actually it in the picture.. the card is kind of a secret!!). this card gives me 5% (!!) back on gas, groceries, and drugstores. niiiiice. associated bank is a small bank in northern wisconsin, but they put out this card through citi. this is what i will use to buy groceries with and pay for gas anytime i am not near a costco.

Citi MTVu

my final card is the citi mtvu visa card. i am going to keep this card for two reasons: 1) it gives me 5 points per dollar spent at restaurants, which is nice for places that don’t take american express. 2) it gives me 5 points per dollar spent at book and movie stores (including all amazon and itunes purchases!). the reason this card is not as great is because, as mentioned, it is a reward points card, not a cash back card like the other two. that means in order for me to get rebates, i need to earn a certain number of points and then exchange them for a check. and of course points dont have a 1:1 exchange rate. but if i use this card for just those 5x purchases, the card will yield around 3% cash back for both.

so there you have it, my trio of cards that are going to earn me a few hundred dollars in cash back savings just by me using them like i’ve been using my debit card this whole time (another bonus from this: i keep my money in my interest making savings account for the entire month until i pay off the card). and all i have to change from my current routine is to make a 1 second decision at the cash register of which card is the right one to use!

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