Keeping Track of “Bonuses”

money stretchedI thought it would be interesting to keep track of bonus earnings – money, gift cards, rewards etc. we earn from using savings websites like TOPCASHBACK, for credit card cashback or bonus programs, from participating in company programs (eg. the safety program at Jay’s work, or my company’s B-Fit program), rebates, health insurance reimbursements, etc.

April has been pretty good:

  • $250 for our American Express Blue Preferred bonus
  • $25 cashback from our American Express Blue Everyday card
  • $30 from our American Express Blue Preferred 10% cashback for Verizon
  • $40 from United Healthcare for our monthly fitness reimbursements
  • $73 for two rebates that arrived in the mail
  • $100 Macy’s gift card from Jay’s work for working the storm the other week (in addition to all the overtime)
  • $40 Macy’s gift card (I had purchased tons of stuff online (which I mostly returned) and got $40 in my “wallet” but their website wouldn’t let me use it so they sent me a gift card instead).

That’s a total of $558 and the month isn’t even over yet! Granted, this is more than we will usually see. The $250 bonus is a one time thing, and the Macy’s gift cards are unlikely to occur again. Other month’s totals are $40 for January ($1,540 if you count the HSA seed money from Jay’s company), $835 for February (another good month with a credit card bonus and a $450 recreation reimbursement from our city), and $130 for March.

It is definitely worth the trouble to sign up and submit the necessary paperwork for things!

Uber Organized

clean deskBoy, does it ever feel good to have my office and files so organized! I’ve been even more effective than usual. I just finished my Canadian passport renewal application which had been languishing in a pile since November. I went, yesterday, to get the passport photo taken. And I’ll be dropping it in the mailbox later today. It so easily could have languished for another six months and then, guess what, my old passport would have been a year expired and I wouldn’t have been able to do just a renewal. I would have had to apply, which requires a guarantor’s signature and is more of a hassle. I applied for a ten year passport (new to Canada). It was such a pain having to do it every five years!

I’ve also made an appointment to get our wills signed and notarized next week. This has been on my To Do list for a year! We subscribe to Legal Shield and I’ve decided to drop it once we get this done. I kept thinking I’d bring all the docs into Jay’s office and have one of his colleagues (a notary, obviously) notarize it all for us. But, luckily, I read the instructions and we need two witnesses which would be a pain. And I never managed to make it happen, anyway. I don’t care that the law firm charges $140 to do it. We will get it done. They will do it correctly. And I can cancel our subscription, which has been costing us $25.95/month.

Still on my To Do list is reapplying for Canadian passports for each of the kids.

Loving New American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

blue cash preferredI’m loving our new American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. We’ve already gotten the $250 bonus cashback credit and the first 10% credit for Verizon, which came to just over $30. We’ll get that amount every month until we hit the $200 max.

I love the way they just credit the amount directly to your balance. I’ll be interested to see how they process the regular (ie. non bonus cashback) and how much the 6% cashback for grocery store purchases ends up being. I’ll be sure to always buy things like stamps at King Soopers from now on. And gift cards. I think everything at grocery stores counts.

I know from experience that Target purchases used to earn me double points on my old United MileagePlus card, which earned 2X miles for grocery store purchases. But I’m not expecting to see 6% at Target on my Blue Cash Preferred card. I’ll test it out, of course – because, if I do, I won’t have to use my Target credit card anymore. That would be awesome. But, I’m betting they use a different set of MCC codes for determining what qualifies.

Snow Day

patio snowWe were snowed in this weekend. Well, not completely – Jay has a big truck, so he was able to get out and about. Plus, we lost a tree out back, which he started to cut up. So, he went outside.

But I just stayed indoors. I decided to tackle my office. I started by dusting and ended up going through drawers and piles of paper. I must have thrown out 30 lbs of old documents. Was it interesting to look at the paperwork from 1970, when the original owners of our “old” house purchased it for $38K. In a way, yes. Do I really want to keep it? Duh – we don’t even live there anymore!!

My office looks SO nice now that I’ve decluttered it. Also, I bought some curtains at Pier1 last week that I’m really pleased with. The first time one of my friends saw our house, almost five years ago, she said she would replace the heavy burgundy ones that were there. I have to agree that she was right! The room is much lighter with the new ones.

Primary Residence Capital Gain Exclusion

lowes home depotWe bought our house during the summer of ’11, before the housing market had rebounded. The plan was to stay for seven to ten years and, hopefully, realize a “buy low, sell high” scenario, without having to pay any taxes. The IRS allows you to exclude up to $500,000 (married – filing jointly) on the sale of your primary residence, something you can do every two years and one day. (I’m wondering if they are ever going to increase the amount above $500K, since it’s been that for years.)

See https://www.irs.gov/publications/p523/ar02.html#en_US_2015_publink100010750 for details.

Well, who knew how quickly that might happen! We haven’t done much to the house in the four and a half years we’ve lived here, but the property has probably appreciated $400K already. The metro Denver housing market has come back like crazy. So, while this is awesome, I’ve been fretting that we should sell in the next year or so rather than spend money fixing up the house because I don’t want to go over the $500K capital gains exclusion.

First, I think I’m obsessing too much over the tax ramifications. 😉 But, secondly, I just did some research and found out that I didn’t understand exactly how this all works. I didn’t think that improvements made would increase the cost basis, but they do. So, if we spend $25K redoing our driveway and landscaping, we can add that amount to the basis that we use to determine our capital gains. Yee ha! This really makes me excited at the prospect of making some much needed changes.

This also means I need to start keeping track of any qualifying expenses. And I also had to document all the improvements we’ve already made – the swamp cooler, some landscaping, a new chandelier, insulation, and the almost total remodel of the downstairs bathroom. Luckily, this was easy to do and all of it totaled less than $11K. I started a spreadsheet to keep track of this and everything going forward.

Jay has already ripped out the master shower!

Citibank Costco Anywhere Visa

costco citibank visaCostco is ending their relationship with American Express. Sometime in the next couple of months those of us with Costco American Express cards are going to be receiving a Costco Anywhere Visa by Citibank. It earns 4% cashback on gas, 3% on restaurants and “eligible” travel purchases (need to figure out what this is), 2% at Costco and 1% on everything else.

So, we’ll be using it for gas, restaurants and Costco. We’ll use the American Express Blue Card Preferred for groceries. We’ll use the United Explorer card for United travel. I might cancel our Ink Bold card as it has an annual fee. I’m not sure about that, yet. We have tons of miles at this time and I’m finding that, aside from flying to Calgary, we are often flying Frontier or Southwest – so United miles aren’t a huge issue for the time being.

I’ll use our Bank of America cards just enough to get up to $25 cashback (the minimum for redemption) and will then just hang on to them in case we ever need an extra card. These cards are still a good choice for our kids. Another card worth considering for them is the Citibank Double Cash card. I’m going to look into it for them.

Right now, as a matter of fact!

Shipping Refund

1314salomonwomensdiscoveryhoodedmidlayerblackI recently found a Salomon top, online, similar to one I got from one of my kids that I absolutely love and wear all the time. It was $59.47 with a 20% discount, bringing it down to $47.57. Shipping was free for orders over $50. Otherwise it was $7.95. So, due to the discount, I was going to have to pay shipping. 🙁

So, I called customer service and they offered to refund me the shipping cost, as a one time only courtesy. 🙂

It was worth the 5 minutes!

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

blue cash preferredI wrote about doing the Credit Card Shuffle a few months ago. I got an American Express Blue Cash Everyday card which gets 3% cash back on groceries and had a sign up cashback bonus of $300 once you spent $2,500 in three months. The timing was good because property taxes were due on our rentals. Denver (though, not Arapahoe) county allows you to pay via credit card without any fees. So I got the bonus the first billing cycle.

Anyway, someone tried to pay with their Blue Cash card at work the other day. We don’t take American Express, but I mentioned how great it was to get 3% back on groceries. He replied that he got 6%. I was like – what?!?! When I got home I looked through all of American Express’ credit cards and, sure enough, their Blue Cash Preferred card gets 6%! There’s a $75 annual fee, but I ran the numbers and I’ll save more than enough to cover that and still come out ahead compared to their Blue Cash Everyday card.

So, I applied for it and was immediately rejected because I so recently got the Everyday card. Darn!! I figured there had to be a way around it, so I got out my iPad (where there weren’t any American Express credit card application cookies) and applied for Jay. And he was approved and it arrived yesterday and I immediately ordered a free companion card for me. 😉

The Preferred card’s bonuses are even better than the Everyday one’s. We’ll get $250 cashback after spending $1000. And we get 10% cashback, up to $200, on our Wireless Telephone Provider charges in 2016. We should max that out as our Verizon bill is close to $300/mo and the card arrived just in time to switch our April billing over to it. Once the year is over, I’ll switch back to paying with our Ink Bold to get 5x points. (Assuming I keep it.)

So, in addition to the 6% off our groceries, we should see all of the $450 in possible cashback bonuses.

Win!

Martha Stewart Forks at Macy’s

forksIt’s alarming how we lose cutlery. A number of years ago I bought a 12 place setting of Wallace stainless steel at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I can’t recall what I paid for it, but I recall being really pleased with the deal I got. I think the box was damaged and it was on clearance.

Fast forward to a year or so ago, and we’d lost between one and four of each piece. Rather than get a whole new set I bought some place settings at www.silversuperstore.com. It was a lot less expensive than buying a whole set of something and ending up with way more cutlery than I need or want.

And, still, we continue to lose pieces! My guess is we accidentally throw them out when clearing the plates. Who knows?! I’m going to be much more vigilant about it from now on.

Anyway, I really want to have place settings for 12 (like I have with my IKEA dinnerware). I was buying some tops online at Macy’s the other week and somehow stumbled upon a sale they were having for Martha Stewart cutlery. The salad forks match my Wallace stainless very well. Not quite exactly, but almost. I got six of them for $7. I’m still short a spoon and will check the silversuperstore from time to time for a sale.

I feel strongly that, at 56, I can set a table with decent, matching glassware, dinnerware and cutlery!