Wondering How to Make the Most out of What You Have

Recently I came back from a trip to Spain with my son. In a previous posting I discussed the use of my points from One Pass Program and I received inquiry in how that works and how to utilize the point system. I will discuss that in full and through the series of blogs I will share with you some of my secrets to success.
First, what made me look at this way to conduct business for travel? Well, to tell you the truth it was while I was in debt up to my eyebrows that I wanted to be free of debt forever. How many times have you seen websites that promise to help you for free but with the price tag of $4.99 for shipping you will receive this “free” CD or what ever.
Being a really resourceful person with time on my hands I began the slow process of going to the library to look up books on how others made money.
I researched finance. I researched mutual funds, etf, stocks, bonds, equity funds, and other ways to make your money work for you. I even learned how to buy stocks on-line from the company such as GE and have my dividends be reinvested instead of receiving a check. This is called a DRIP (Dividend Re-Investment Plan).
I have my own Denise Mutual Fund and for investments of approximately $125.00 they have increased to $3,200.00 not overnight but over time. Some of my stock have split and I have more stock than I started out with. That is just one small example of how you and only you can fend for yourself.
If there is real interest in this subject I will discuss it further but I am digressing
Back to the story. Here I was sitting with debt. What to do? What to do? There is not an easy answer. I worked two jobs and on occasion a third just to have extra income. I made a detailed list of my expenses and what I needed to live with and what I did not need.

I decided that I needed to be honest with myself and I just did not have the money to go around. I needed clothes for myself and my son. I was tapped out with paying bills and doing without cable, internet and other money wasters at the time I needed to be real. So I loaded up my son in the car and when about going to Good Will and Thrift shops. They became my best friends. My son wore Osh Gosh and I found Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, and other designers I would pass at the store. Washing clothes or sending them to the cleaners was easy. I spent my money on good shoes for my son. I was a member of AAA best little card to have if you are shopping for 10% off shoes at various stores. I was big on 2 fers.

Buying food was a necessity so I thought to myself I bet there are even ways to save when buying food. I asked a store manager if there are discounts that they offer at the store . Food that is still good but not at full price. Well he explained to me that at the beginning of the day there are discounts on meats, vegetables, fruits and bread. So there I was when I was off work I would be there at the opening of the store and head off and pick up my groceries. Saved lots of money

I would also grow my own or go to the farmers market. Buying spices in bulk. There are supermarkets such as Food Basics that offer BIG discounts on name brand food, liquors, wine and beer.

Having BBQ’s and dinners at home with friends saved a ton. Besides how much fun is it to have friends over. Its lots of fun. Walking to the store is exercise and cuts down on buying too many groceries. Doing as many home projects that I could on my own. Coupons and buying only those things I needed. Stocking up on items that were definitely worth the price when on sale.

How did I handle my credit card debt? Well as I stated before I really searched every available resource I could find. The only one that made sense was to “Snow Ball” my debt. I took the credit card with the highest balance and paid it down with making payments twice a month. Anyone can do this. You can set up with your credit card company to keep your checking account on file. You do not accept automatic payments. You have control over when you send the payment. This way you are making 26 payments a year. Yes folks I am right – divide 52 weeks by 2. Technically we are paid for working 13 months if you are paid bi- monthly you receive 26 checks. It was not easy. I took the money out of my paycheck (cried a little) and paid every two weeks. At $120 a payment for a year I paid $3120.00.

Then on to the next credit card. I paid the same amount. It took three years to pay off over $12,000.00 remember you are paying interest that cannot be declared on your taxes. It was worth it to me to be patient. If you owe more than give yourself more time. If you can pay say $150 every other week you will have paid $3,900.00. Pretty amazing. I tell you this you may need a second job. I used the second paycheck to pay all the credit cards.

I know this sounds pretty drastic but, I am now debt free. I have a mortgage and still am looking at a small loan from college for my graduate program but, I am certain in the next 5 to 6 years I will be a homeowner who has no mortgage. Did I mention my mortgage is locked in at 3.5% (OH yeah!!) As soon as you get ready to do this you have to put your credit cards away. Seriously, I lived without credit cards for three years while paying them down. Now when I use my cards they are paid off as soon as they come in. Now I get happy to see my credit cards are another form of saving plan for me. I see my cards as way to travel. I wish started earlier using my credit cards and attached them to an Airline Loyalty program I would have had more free trips than I knew what to do with.

While you are thinking about what I just wrote I want to tell you this as well. The day I began to go credit card free I learned to save and purchase only those things I could afford. It is a really different head space. I bought a car for $6000.00 cash. It had 30,0000 miles on it and I have had that car now for 6 years. I have had to put in brakes, new tires, oil change, windshield wiper blades and a new battery.

My other car is VW Jetta. 50,000 miles price tag $2,500.00. Put some money into it but I have no car payments. My car insurance with my son included is $168.00 a month. No kidding.

You are wasting tons of money leasing and buying new cars. I have not had a car payment in 18 years. I take that same amount of money that I would be paying for a car and put it into savings.

Think about what you are spending money on people.Who is more important than you. When I teach my college students I tell them not to become consumer slaves rather become intelligent consumers and buy what you need.

Back to the airlines. I use Continental Airlines. I am now a Silver Elite Member. Silver Elite allows me to have free upgrades to first class if there is available seating on domestic flights only. My credit card has given me 35,000 points to join with the membership I get free access to the Presidents Club at the airport. I also am allowed 2 free bags per trip plus up to 3 members in my party if I use my credit card to purchase the tickets. Plus lots of incentives for reduction in price at hotels,events and car rentals.

I also belong to Veterans Advantage Program which takes 5% off of my airline tickets to Continental Airlines. WIN-WIN. The credit card I have also awards me 2 points for every dollar I spend on my airline tickets. 1 point per dollar I spend. So here is the magic friends. I buy everything I can on my credit card and pay it off as I go along. I use my credit card like you would a debit card. I make payments as I use the card. I pay out of my checking account. So instead of writing checks to pay bills I use my credit card. Your utility company allows you to pay by credit card. POINTS. Your child is in college and you buy books. POINTS. Food shopping. POINTS. Gasoline.POINTS. Dinner with friends or family. POINTS. Presents for birthdays, weddings, christenings, holidays, bar mitzvahs, Christmas, Chanukah, you name it POINTS. What you need to realize is that over the years you have probably spent enough money to have flown first class by POINTS.

Three years in a row my son and I have flown to Europe for free. We recently flew to see my mom for free. It would have been $505.00 each to fly from Newark to Del Rio, Texas. Look it up yourself on line.
I am telling you there are ways to enjoy life with using what you have. I have searched the internet and found ways to rent a car in Europe with all the insurance they offer and you need to get it I will explain why in another blog but for 11 days for under $400.00. Just for grins and giggles look up the price yourself including all the insurance and look at the tax. I can make a penny scream.

So the secret to travel for the most part are points. When you do not have enough points then book ahead of time and pay it all off before you go on vacation. Book your hotel or condo. Condo is cheaper if you are staying for a week. More about that later on.

There is an interactive chart for mileage if you go to the ONE PASS website. You will see how many points you need to travel It adds up fast points that is if you know how to make the most out of what you have. Peace to you Denise.

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