How To Use Credit Cards To Earn Cheap/Free Vacations

How To Use Credit Cards To Earn Cheap:Free VacationsBack in March, I published the article Are Rewards/Bonus Credit Cards Right For You? This is a personal finance blog, and I know that many are against credit card use.

However, while there are negatives to using credit cards, if you know how to use them to your advantage then there should be no negatives. Using credit cards to your advantage is a huge positive.

One of the main positives of using credit cards is that many nowadays have a rewards system in place (such as the one at the bottom of this article – Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard) to earn free rewards such as gift cards, cash, vacations, and more. [Read more…]

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard Review – Get $440 For Travel

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard Review - Get $440 For TravelThe last credit card I applied for was the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. I currently have a few other credit cards (you can read the articles How I Plan on Getting $2,500 in Airfare to Las Vegas for CHEAP and Are Rewards/Bonus Credit Cards Right For You?) as well.

I plan on using this new credit card for most of our wedding expenses and also for our normal day-to-day expenses.

I’m hoping to earn enough points to pay for our next vacation, or at least a part of it.

We still have a lot of wedding expenses left, so I know we will be able to reach the $3,000 limit with the Barclays credit card with no problem.

If you sign up for the Barclaycard MasterCard, you can enjoy 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. [Read more…]

Reasons You’re Still In Debt

4 Reasons You're Still In Debt Money PictureNow that I’m no longer semi-anonymous with my finance blogging, I tend to have a lot of friends and random people asking me finance questions.

I have people pouring what seems like their heart and soul to me because they really want to change and improve their situation.

This is something that I love about being a personal finance blogger – the fact that I can (hopefully) help someone change their life and teach them how to manage their money better.

Many of the questions I receive involve debt and what they can do to change their situation.

Someone told me they had over $200,000 in student loan debt, another person recently told me they had over $100,000 in credit card debt, some are hiding their finance problems from their families, some have told me that they are beyond house poor and they don’t know what to do.

The list goes on and on about the stories that I have heard.

I think the first thing a person needs to do when it comes to eliminating their debt is to realize WHY they are in debt in the first place (the next step is to actively reduce your debt – read How To Eliminate Your Debt). If you don’t know what your problem is, then it would be hard to make a positive change. [Read more…]

Staying Motivated After You Get Out of Debt

debtToday I have a post from a fellow blog friend Ben. He is full of financial information. When I asked for guest posters last month, he gladly jumped to the occasion to help me out. Thanks again!

I started last year with over $3,000 in credit card debt. Depending on your own experience with credit cards, that may sound like a lot or a little to you.

Either way, you can probably understand why one of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to become debt free in 2012. It really is no fun having debt, and I would actually even go out on a limb and say credit card debt is the least fun kind of debt to have.

So… how’d I do? Pretty well! I was able to pay off my entire credit card balance and reached my goal in July of last year.

But as soon as I had paid off my debt, I ran into a new problem. It was hard to maintain the good financial habits I had developed once I knew that my debt was gone! These habits included:

  • keeping track of my monthly expenses in a budget spreadsheet
  • having a frugal mindset and avoiding retail stores
  • saying no to activities or events that cost a lot of money
  • bringing lunch to work instead of grabbing food at a nearby cafe or restaurant
  • trying to earn a little money on the side by selling things on eBay and renting out my car through a local car-sharing company

 

These were the habits that helped me pay off my credit card debt quickly – even faster than I expected – and it felt good to know that my behavior changes had helped me reach my goal. Which is why I found it troubling that these habits started fade away once I became debt free.

Why It’s Hard to Stay Motivated After You Get Out of Debt

The truth is, getting rid of debt is an extremely urgent goal. It’s also very hard to ignore. Those two things made it easy for me to stay focused and commit to the habits listed above. Once I was out of debt, the urgency and the focus were not there anymore. I started to feel more positive about my finances (which is good) but that positive feeling lulled me into ‘easing up’.

I stopped using my budget spreadsheet for awhile. I went back to buying lunch out of the office everyday. And I no longer looked for ways to make extra money.

Tips for Staying Motivated After Getting Out of Debt

After reviewing my progress (or lack thereof) for the last few months as part of my preparations for the New Year, I identified several practices that will help me get those good habits back. Hopefully these can help you as well, no matter what your goal is:

1. Create a goal: There really is nothing like a goal for providing motivation. In fact, I think there is something about our human psychology that requires this type of focus on a single objective to create any lasting behavior change. So… what’s my goal? I’ve decided that I want to save at least 20% of my take home pay this year.

2. Envision your future: Your goal will be more powerful if it is associated with a vision of where you want to go. For me, the long-term vision that motivates me is having financial security, which means an emergency fund of at least $12,000-$15,000 and to eventually have some measure of financial independence, which means enough money saved up to retire early (I know that’s a reaaaally long term goal).

3. Have monthly targets: In addition to your main ‘big picture’ goal, you need monthly targets. These will show you whether you’re on the right track and they help you maintain that sense of urgency every month. In my case, the monthly targets are to save 20% of my take-home income each month and to know exactly how much I spent each month.

4. Allow yourself small rewards: One of the things that tripped me up after getting out of debt was that I really wanted to reward myself for accomplishing that major goal, and that resulted in some additional spending. The problem wasn’t that I spent a little extra for one month, it was that I continued to spend a little extra. That’s why you do need to give yourself rewards (i.e. one dinner out or one trip to the movies – whatever makes you happy). The trick is to enjoy those nice things and to look at them as special treats rather than things you can do all the time.

5. Spend time with like-minded people: It may sound strange, but you are who your friends are. Research has shown over and over that we tend to act in ways similar to those around us. If you’re spending time with people who don’t have financial goals and/or who like to spend well above their means, you’re going to have a difficult time sticking with your plans because you’ll be trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. On the other hand, if you spend more time with people who share your financial goals, it will be easier to stay on track.

For anyone who is still working on paying off their own debt, please check out our Credit Card Debt resource center, our Student Loan Debt resource center, and our Debt Consolidation resource center. And anyone can get some great tips from our Budgeting Tips resource center. If you’re looking for a community of like-minded people as you pay off debt in 2013, don’t forget to check out the Debt Movement where we’re trying to pay off $10 million in 90 days together!

Benjamin Feldman is a personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a startup company that is helping people pay off debt with their free online tools. You can follow him on Twitter @BWFeldman and at the ReadyForZero blog.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping Up With The JonesesDo you ever feel like you are trying to keep up with the Joneses? It seems like everywhere I turn, a big purchase is happening to someone I know. A massive 3 story house, nice cars, fancy vacations, a new iPad every other month and everything else.

When a friend goes out and buys the next greatest phone or buys a new car every couple of months, it kind of makes you wonder, and maybe it makes you jealous?

I’m not going to lie, the jealous monster takes over my life every now and then. This is something that I am working on and something that I need to change in my life. Am I the only one? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who is jealous and no one else has these crazy feelings. Since my extra income seems to be continually increasing, sometimes I feel the urge to spend it.

Maybe the jealous monster has taken over your life as well and you are trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We know someone who isn’t showy with his money, he is careful with how he spends his money. He doesn’t buy all the latest gadgets that don’t mean anything to him. Instead he spends money on his family, vacations, making his house into a home, family gatherings at his home, and other things that truly mean something to him.

He is the perfect example that just because you “might” have money to spend, it does not mean that you should. Buying all of the newest things all of the time doesn’t always mean everything in life.

[Read more…]