Friday, March 25, 2016

Two free one-way business class tickets from Virginia to Los Angeles

United Airlines domestic business class seats
My sister in law and niece are coming to visit us in June for our son’s first birthday party.  We thought it would be nice to book them free flights for their visit.  When I checked, I was surprised at how expensive it would be to fly over for a visit:

The cost of 2 round trip tickets would have been over $1,000 if paid by cash!  Booking the same flights were points would have cost a much more reasonable 63,436 points and $22.40.  Biggest downside of these flights were that they required a stop and plane change in Denver, CO. 

Just for fun, I also checked to see what flights were available.  When looking at available flights, I noticed that there was a one-way direct flight in business class that cost the same amount of points as a one way in economy: 50,000 miles and $11.20 for both tickets. 
I decided to snag two of those business class seats since our niece has never flown business class and I think she would enjoy the experience!  The same flight if booked with cash would have cost $2,502 ($1251 per person)!  
This flight includes dinner, a comfortable lie flat seat, free alcohol, Wifi, and an electrical outlet.  The same flight in economy class would have cost $422 ($211 per person).
Snagged some great seats towards the very front of the plane!
To book the flight, I transferred 49,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase account into my United Airlines mileage program (I only had around 1,000 United miles in my account).  The transfer was instant without any fees.  

Once I had enough points in my account I booked the flights.
We continue to earn plenty of Chase Ultimate Rewards points from our Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 point sign up bonus) and Chase Ink Plus (60,000 point sign up bonus) credit cards.  Both of these cards transfer points directly to chase travel partners such as United Airlines.
They can't wait to spend time with this little guy!

By booking the flight with 50,000 miles and $11.20, we saved a bunch of money.  If we booked the flight in economy class, we would have spent $422.  What are you saving your points for?  You don’t always have to use your points on yourself, you can share them with a loved one by purchasing airfare or hotel stay for them.   

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Another milestone reached: over 200K invested

I regularly check up on our progress towards financial freedom. continues to be my favorite resource for tracking investments, bank account balances, credit card balances, and our property values.  The website and mobile app are just so easy to use. has also helped us catch fraudulent charges on our credit cards (the most common one being waiters / waitresses secretly increasing the tip amount). 

We’ve been steadily following a simple financial game plan on our journey: earn more, spend less and invest the difference.  We both continue to hustle for more income, save over 50% of our income, and invest in index funds and real estate.   

When I logged into today, I noticed that our total investments have surpassed $200,000 in value!  This amount includes investments in our 401Ks, Roth IRAs, taxable accounts, and our son’s 529.  This does not include money in our checking and savings accounts, nor our home and rental property equity.  This isn’t enough to be financially free, but we are encouraged by the progress.  We’ve come a long way from when we originally started taking investing seriously around January 2012.  The last big financial update of ours was when our total investments surpassed $100,000 in value in June 2014.  I’m not sharing this information to brag.  If you don’t track your finances, you won’t be able to understand how to improve it.  

Personal finance is just that, personal.  Plenty of people our age have saved way more than we have.  It’s encouraging to have peers and friends who have become successful at a young age.  We will find our success in our own way.  At the other end of the wealth spectrum, there are many people who don’t have the opportunity to save.  I’m grateful for the opportunities that we have been given – growing up in the U.S. is a huge opportunity in itself.  If you have steady income from a job, there is plenty you can do to save and invest more.  You need to plan for a long life.  

I know I share this constantly, but I want to emphasize that investing does not have to be difficult.  We are not individual stock pickers or market timers.  We choose to invest in a simple Boglehead 3 fund portfolio consisting of 90% stocks (70% domestic / 30% international) and 10% bonds.  The stock market will go up sometimes and it will go down sometimes.  We regularly invest by dollar cost averaging during market volatility.  When the stock market drops, we will pick up more shares.  The most difficult part of investing in index funds is staying the course and making contributions regularly.

The last day to contribute into your IRA for 2015 is coming up on April 18, 2016.  If you’re not maxing out your 401K, you can always increase your contributions 1% at a time every few months.  How are your investments doing?    

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February side hustles 2016

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.

It was a busy February and seems like the time just flew by.  Work has been really busy.  I’m thankful that we both enjoy the work that we do, and that our commutes are short.  

Our little guy is almost 9 months old now – it’s amazing to see how fast he’s growing.  We took him to the Long Beach Aquarium a few weeks ago and he really enjoyed it.  

In disappointing news, the first tenants in our rental property decided to terminate their lease 2 months early.  They gave me their very late notice on Sunday, February 21.  Up until this point, they have been ideal tenants, paying for their rent on the first of every month, with a direct deposit into my bank account.  When investing in real estate properties, vacancies can be a real problem.  

If you have enough consecutive months without a tenant paying rent, you can lose out on a lot of your rental income profits.  My real estate investor friends tell me that they experience early rent termination regularly, once as short as after 3 months.  Small time passive real estate investors can’t get a write off or tax deduction for lost rental earnings.   

I re-listed our property for rent the same night that I received notice from our tenants and immediately started to get emails and phone calls from interested parties.  I’ve already done a few showings of the property and have a good feeling about getting new tenants to fill the vacancy soon already filled the vacancy with new tenants!

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

Award Travel
On 2.19, I redeemed Southwest Rapid Rewards points and Southwest gift cards towards two free round trip flights to San Jose, CA to attend a wedding.  We saved $491.92 on airplane tickets.

Cash back
On 2.1, I received a PayPal deposit of $57.42 from Mr. Rebates shopping portal
On 2.18, I received $25 cash back statement deposit on my old Lexus Visa Pursuits credit card.

Search and Win
On 2.12, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks (500 points = $5 Amazon gift card)  

Paid surveys
On 2.19, I received $5 Amazon gift card from Pinecone Research. 

Side Job
On 2.8, I received a check for $137.50 from the local university where I teach part time.  I still really enjoy teaching and continue to do a few hours every now and then.

Rental Income
On 2.1, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.  Unexpectedly, they recently told us that they are going to terminate their contract early by 2 months.  I have already put up advertisements and am currently screening for new tenants  Update: we filled our vacancy on the first of the month!

On 2.1, I received a check for $600 from our temporary new housemate.  This was her last month with us and we probably won’t be taking any new housemates for a while now.  It will be nice to enjoy our home with just the three of us.   

Miscellaneous Income
On 2.16, I received a $25 Visa gift card from KIA for a test drive
eBay sales

On 2.21, I received a net profit of $461.91 from selling two old items on eBay.  This net profit is after eBay fees, PayPal fees, and shipping fees.  It’s exciting to login to your eBay account to find that you’ve sold $515.01 worth of items!  Then you look closely to see that tons of fees really take a bite out of your profits.  That being said, it is still better to be up $461.91 than have some old items sitting around the house collecting dust.

Monthly Totals:
Our side hustles increased slightly in February.
We saved $491.92 on airline tickets
We received $82.42 worth of cash back
We earned a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
I earned a $5 Amazon gift card from Pinecone Research
I earned $137.50 from my side job teaching at the local university
We earned $1,030 from rental income
I earned $25 from miscellaneous income
I earned $461.91 (after fees) from selling old items on eBay.

All of this totals $2,283.75 from our side hustles for the month of February.   How did your side hustles go this past month?
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