Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!



Have a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your family.  I hope you have a peaceful and joyful day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Saving money with a Dependent Care FSA account


Our open enrollment is taking place right now for employee benefits.  For the first time ever, I looked into starting a Dependent Care Flexible Savings Account (FSA).  I’ve always heard that having an FSA is like getting an average 20 to 40% discount on dependent care costs.  Since our son is now in daycare, it’s the perfect time for me to sign up. 

The way that a dependent care FSA works is that you set aside pretax money for child care costs you anticipate for the upcoming year.  Since the money is set aside from your paycheck before taxes, you can save 20% to 40% on childcare expenses.  You won’t have to pay any federal taxes, social security, Medicare, or state taxes on this amount.  The FSA also reduces your adjusted gross income (AGI).   

In order to have a dependent care FSA, you and your spouse both need to be gainfully employed.  The FSA is intended to help people who are working and have dependent care costs that enable you to work.  Your dependent can be any child under 13, a disabled spouse, elderly parent, or any other dependent that is unable to take care for themselves (due to mental or physical disability).  If your spouse is a stay at home parent, you cannot participate in a Dependent Care FSA.  If one parent attends school full time, it is an exception. 

Married couples (like us) can elect a maximum of $5,000 annually, whether separately or jointly.  The annual election is front-loaded on January 1st, so we will have full access to the $5,000 immediately and then we will just “pay it off” throughout the year through payroll contributions.  Daycare expenses can then be paid either with your FSA debit card or you can submit for reimbursement online and get a direct deposit in your bank account.

One downside of the Dependent Care FSA is that the IRS only allows a maximum of $5,000 a year for individuals or married couples filing jointly.  Even if each parent has access to a separate FSA through their employer.  Another downside of the Dependent Care FSA is that there is no roll over of unused FSA funds.  Any unused funds are forfeited by the end of the year.  I know that daycare expenses for our son will definitely exceed $5,000, so I’m not worried about leaving any funds unused. 

In the future, our Dependent Care FSA funds can be used for summer day camp, before and after school care programs, and even payment to a relative age 19 or older that cares for our son.  I never thought I’d be so excited to save money on taxes; I guess I’m a real adult now.   Then again, saving over $1,000 a year on daycare costs is a nice break. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November side hustles 2015


The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Welcome to December, another new month.  There is only one more month to go now before we finish 2015.  This is the busiest time of the year for us.  For most people, I believe this is also the most expensive time of the year.   Did you score any hot deals for Black Friday?  While we are normally pretty frugal, we couldn’t resist on a deal for a cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner that I found online.  It should make cleaning up around the home faster and more efficient.     
With my wife starting work again for the last couple of weeks, we are back to a two-income household.  While it’s been sad for her to leave the little one at home (with me for the last 2 weeks), we know that two incomes will help us reach financial freedom much faster than one income alone. 

The little man starts day care today, and it’s going to be a sad day for all us.  We have been lucky to have almost 6 months of time to raise our son all by ourselves.  Now it is time to trust him in the hands of professionals.  I'm also sad for our dog Abby, who has been accustomed to someone home with her during most of the day.  I’m glad that his day care is only about 5 minutes from my office, so I will be able to check in on him during lunch for the first few days.  For the foreseeable future, I’ll be dropping our son off to day care in the mornings and my wife will pick him up in the afternoons.  She gets off work at 3:30pm.  Thinking about our son at day care is a huge motivator for us to continue to work hard and save aggressively.               

Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of November.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I am thankful for so many things this year


I am thankful for having all of our basic necessities met.  I’m glad that we have a place to sleep at night, food on our table for every meal, and reliable transportation to get where we need to go.  I’m happy to be alive and in good health.

I am thankful for my wonderful wife.  She has been incredibly supportive of our financial plans.  She appreciates the value of money and spends it consciously and with purpose.  She is intelligent, funny, and frugal.  She is an amazing mother.   What more could I ask for?  I’m blessed to have such a perfect partner to live and thrive with.

I am thankful for Benjamin, our precious son.  Watching him grow gives me hope for the future and makes me want to live a better life.  Due to my wife starting work and our day care being closed, I took the past 2 weeks off to raise our son at home by myself.  I was intimidated at first but I am glad that I took up to the challenge.  We did not have any family close by to help us, and we didn’t feel comfortable hiring a nanny to stay at our home alone with our baby.  It’s been a great chance for the two of us to bond, and I feel like my daddy parenting skills have increased exponentially.  I am especially thankful that he can now sleep through the night, anywhere between 8 to 10 hours consistently!    

I am thankful for Abby, our wild dog.  She gets me up early every morning to exercise.  Daily jogging and walking has helped me maintain my fitness.  I know I’m not going to live forever and my metabolism is going to slow down as I continue to get older.  Eating healthy and exercising regularly helps me invest in my own health, which should pay off with less medical problems in the future.  We have met a lot of our wonderful neighbors just by taking Abby out daily to meet other dog owners.  She is a handful and requires a lot of time and attention, but we wouldn’t trade her for the world.  She loves us unconditionally no matter what. 

I am thankful to have a career in healthcare that I love.  I am proud to show up in the office everyday.  I’ve worked with some of the same people for the last 7 years, and things have only improved along the way.  People are always amazed when they find out how much I love going to work.  I have a passion for helping others; it’s not just a job.    

I am thankful for my family and friends.  While we don’t get to see our family very often, the holidays always bring us together.  I have known some of my best friends that I still see on a weekly to monthly basis since I was 8 years old in the 3rd grade!  I’m glad that we have plenty of credit card points and miles to allow us to travel and visit far away family members and friends regularly - for free. 
     
I am thankful for all of the technology that is available to us.  The Internet and smartphones provide endless information and entertainment.  It’s easy to stay connected to friends and family from all over the world online.  With our Roku, we stream movies and TV shows with Netflix for only $7.99 a month and we rent pretty much any movie we want on Amazon for a few dollars.  Mint and ClearCheckbook help us easily track our finances online. 

I am thankful to have easy access to all of my online mentors and discussion forums.  Mr. Money Mustache keeps me thinking frugally and helps me become more badass financially.  Bogleheads forums help us stay on track with our investments towards reaching financial freedom.  Slickdeals provides me with plenty of hot deals.  Flyertalk helps me navigate through the complexities of credit card miles and points.  The Frequent Miler and Doctor of Credit keep me updated on all the newest credit card points bonuses.  Reddit keeps me entertained and aware of all that is going on around the world.   


Having gratitude helps me to appreciate all that I have and accept that which I cannot change.  From our family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hot Deals on credit card and points promotions

It’s been very busy at home with our 5-month-old baby boy and our 2-year-old dog taking up most of our time. 

Caring for an infant is very time consuming and involves an incredible amount of responsibility, patience and love.  I’m constantly surprised at how fast our son is growing up.  
Our boy gets hungry every 2 to 3 hours.  He just started eating rice cereal and oatmeal this week!  As his brain is developing, we are reading to him, talking to him, and singing songs to him every day.   The little guy is so curious and wants to touch everything and put everything into his mouth!  
We are helping him develop his motor skills and hand-eye coordination by watching over him as he plays with his toys.  He needs a diaper change every 1-2 hours.  No one said raising a child was going to be easy.  That being said, we have no regrets and couldn’t imagine our life without our son.   

Taking care of our dog also involves a lot of dedication and love.  Our dog Abby wakes me up every morning around 5:50am to 6:00am.  Without fail, I take her out for her morning jog and walk every single day that I’m home.  We spend around 20 to 30 minutes enjoying our morning outdoors.  For me, it’s the best way to start the day.  I know very few people that get to exercise regularly, let alone every single day.  

Abby gets to meet other dogs almost every day, sometimes more than once a day.  We make sure she gets to go outside at least 3 to 4 times a day.  This keeps all of us healthy and as an added bonus has helped us meet and develop relationships with our neighbors.  

We groom our dog ourselves, which involves bathing her once every 3-4 weeks, cutting her nails every 2-3 weeks and giving her a hair cut every month.  For those thinking of dog ownership, I highly recommend reading this post by one of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Money Mustache.  He talks about the many downsides and offers a contrary upside opinion (from his sister) about owning a dog. 

Anyways, my family has been keeping us busy and that’s why there has been a slowdown in blog posts.  While I’ve slowed down on posting, many bloggers continue to post the best deals in credit card rewards, bonus points promotions, and other hot deals to help you save money.  I’d like to the share my 2 favorite bloggers who regularly post hot deals on credit card and points promotions.


The Frequent Miler has always been known for posting the most detailed information online about manufactured spending.  He offers a “Quick Deals” mailing list you can sign up for.  Up to several times a day, he will send you the latest and greatest hot deals that will help you earn points and save money. 


Doctor of Credit also writes very detailed and informative posts about all things related to credit cards: sign up promotions, manufactured spending, as well as hot deals on points promotions. 

I highly recommend signing up for both of these newsletters.  They offer plenty of hot deals to keep you busy earning points and cash back.    I’ll be posting more articles soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October side hustles 2015


The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Welcome to November, another new month.  Did everyone have a fun and safe Halloween? 


It’s been a busy month here with our baby boy.  It’s amazing watching his reflexes develop.  He keeps getting bigger and stronger.  Seeing him grow gives us the motivation to work hard towards reaching financial freedom ASAP.  My wife is going back to work in a few weeks, and not looking forward to that.  Time passes by so quickly.  Things will be very different with balancing our work schedules, daycare drop off / pick up, raising our son, caring for our dog, and enjoying a social life.  Luckily, both of us have short 10-15 minute daily commutes.  But it’s still going to be tough finding time.

Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of October.

Award Travel
On 10.4, I redeemed 12,555 Rapid Rewards points (mostly converted from Chase Ultimate Rewards points) towards one free round trip flight to San Francisco, CA saving $209.80 after paying flight taxes and fees.
On 10.9, I redeemed 48,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points towards two free round trip flights to Portland, saving us $694.62 after paying flight taxes and fees.
On 10.21, I redeemed 7,000 Starpoints towards a free one-night stay in Agoura Hills, CA, saving us $126 in hotel room costs.

Cash Back
On 10.1, I received a $33.35 PayPal deposit from Mr. Rebates
On 10.20, I received a $35.74 deposit from my Citibank Double Cash credit card into my checking account


Search and Win
On 10.7, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
On 10.20, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
 
Swagbucks keeps giving me $5 Amazon gift cards!
Paid surveys
On 10.21, I received a $3 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research
On 10.26, I received a $6 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research
On 10.29, I received a $3 PayPal deposit from PineCone Research

Side Job
On 10.13, I received a check for $137.50 from the local university where I teach part time.
On 10.29, I received a check for $137.50 from the local university where I teach part time.

eBay Income
On 10.5, I received a profit of $713.47 from selling some old healthcare equipment on eBay.  This is net profit after eBay, PayPal and shipping fees.
On 10.11, I received a profit of $182.45 from selling my wife’s 2 year old Samsung Galaxy Note 2 cell phone on eBay. 
On 10.11, I received a profit of $166.47 from selling some old healthcare equipment on eBay.
On 10.14, I received a profit of $258.41 from selling some old healthcare equipment on eBay.
Selling these items on eBay has been helping us declutter our home.

Rental Income
On 10.1, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property

Miscellaneous Income
On 10.29, I received $12.02 deposit from Amazon for being an affiliate for promoting Amazon products that I use. 

Monthly Totals:
Our side hustles increased slightly in October.
We saved $1,030.42 on award travel by redeeming points towards free flights and hotel stay
We earned $69.09 in cash back
We earned $10 worth of Amazon gift certificates from Search and Win sites
We earned $12 in cash from paid surveys
I earned $275 from my side job teaching at the local university
I earned $1,320.80 of income from eBay sales
I earned $12.02 from miscellaneous income
We earned $430 from rental income

All of this totals $3,159.33 from our side hustles for the month of July.  Most of these side hustles take little to no work.  Are you doing any hustling on the side for extra income?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

5% cash back on purchases made at Amazon with Giving Assistant until November 1st


I’ve been testing out the hot new cash back site called Giving Assistant.  One unique feature this cash back site offers is that you can choose to donate a percentage of the cash you earn towards a charity of your choosing.


You can earn cash back via debit card, PayPal deposit, or check. 


The best part of Giving Assistant so far has been 5% cash back from purchases made at Amazon.com.  No other cash back site can beat this.  You can combine this with the 5% cash back from purchases made with your Chase Freedom card.  Some users report being able to double dip by getting 5% back on purchasing an Amazon gift card, and then getting another 5% back on using the Amazon gift card to complete your next purchase at Amazon. 

Unfortunately, 5% cash back on purchases made at Amazon will expire on November 1st.  This means you still have more than a week to earn 5% cash back from Giving Assistant at Amazon.


There is a referral promotion where everyone you refer gets $5 cash for signing up.  Once they earn cash back you get $5 and there is no limit to the amount of cash you can earn through referrals.


You can sign up for a Giving Assistant account here (my referral link).  
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