Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category:
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I’m busy (aren’t we all?), but also kinda lazy (maybe it’s just me). Here are three things that are saving me sanity, time, and in some cases money, and I’m super-thankful they’re in my life right now:
I’m now on Fix #4 and I’m obsessed!
I tried this styling service once back in 2014, but I wasn’t ready for it. Of the five items I received, I liked two. I sent them back because I thought they were a bit pricey for what they were (I think $48-58, if I recall?), and I ended up regretting returning them. I liked that top and cardigan, and I didn’t find others in store that were quite the same, either. Whoops.
On a whim this year, I scheduled my second Fix. I changed my style profile to reflect my current aims, and I went into it with the understanding that yes, these items are going to cost more than I would pay at Target. I’m paying for a styling service and their algorithm the mega convenience factor, and some nicer-quality items. I ended up keeping all 5 items in my second Fix and received a 25% off discount for doing so. A $20 styling fee with each Fix covers shipping both ways, and can be used as a credit toward any purchase in that Fix. Return it all and you lose your $20, though.
My total with 7% sales tax and minus the styling fee was $196. Yikes! Comes to about $40 per item. Some of these were Stitch Fix (affiliate link, thank you!) house brands, and others you can find at places like Nordstrom. I was glad to see “made in USA” on the label of one of my tops.
If you bank with PNC, activate the Stitch Fix offer on PNC Purchase Payback. I jumped in on one offer before it expired and got $10 back on my $20 styling fee, and activated a new offer that popped up for an additional $10 back (which applied toward my purchase). The timing of both worked out to $20 off that Fix, plus 1.75% cash back on my purchase by using that PNC Visa. If you don’t bank with PNC, try Cash Back Monitor to see current extra offers for new customers. Oh, and I would certainly appreciate it if you used my referral link! I’d get $25 credited to my account. Thank you!
I left feedback for my stylist, requested her again, and I turned around and scheduled my 3rd Fix since my wardrobe really could use some help. I was more picky about what I kept. I received pants, a scarf, and three tops. The pants were too tight and I didn’t like the color, the tops were cute but not on me, but I liked the scarf a lot. The scarf was the only thing I kept. You have the option of exchanging for a different size at no charge. The size was fine but I just didn’t love the tops or pants.
For Fix #4, I requested the same stylist. This Fix was another 5/5! I don’t expect that all of the time; I think 1-2 items kept is still doing well. I received white Kut from the Kloth jeans, Henry & Belle skinny jeans in a teal color, two tops (both USA!), and some denim shorts. Nothing was from my Pinboard specifically, although I had very similar styles pinned. The Kut pants are priced the same or better as what I’m seeing on Nordstrom.
I like the clothing I’m receiving and that I’m trying things that I wouldn’t think to pick out on my own, but still feel like me. I like that I do not have to set foot in a store. I really don’t have time to do that on my own, and if I brought kids along…I wouldn’t have the greatest outcome in terms of what I selected for myself. Shopping for clothing in a store just overwhelms me and I don’t enjoy it.
Further, in a store or online, I tend to gravitate toward huge sales and the clearance section because that’s my nature. In doing so, I might miss out on nicer things that sell out quickly. For example, my stylist sent me white cropped jeans, since she saw that I had pinned some similar and she said white sell out fast in their inventory. I believe that, as I have never been able to find white jeans that I liked on my own.
So typically, I browse online and order from some retailer and either keep it or return it on my own. I will still do this for some items, but it does take time to find what I want. Working with a Stitch Fix stylist and their data has them take care of that part, too. Oh, and have you seen the style cards that come with each Fix? They are yours to keep, and I think they are really helpful.
Check out my Stitch Fix Pinterest board to see some of the items I’ve received and what I’m saving as inspiration.
P.S., Stitch Fix now has a wider range of sizes: maternity, plus (as of February), and men’s.
My Instant Pot
Is the Instant Pot worth the hype? Oh, yes ma’am, it is. I got one when it was on sale last year for around $70ish, and if you set a price alert on CamelCamelCamel, you can be notified the next time there’s a price drop.
I haven’t yet found a cookbook that I love, but check your library to see if there are any good options for you. Here is a chicken and wild rice soup recipe that is delicious (my cousin shared this one with me). Keep your owner’s manual handy for a quick reference to cooking times.
I’ve used it to make rice, soups, stews, and just cooking up meat in a faster way. Frozen chicken breasts can cook up fast, and it regularly saves a day when I fail to plan ahead for dinner time. It is particularly good for inexpensive, tough cuts of meat. I could never get stew meat as tender as I can get it in the Instant Pot when cooking it in my slow cooker or on the stove.
I make hard-cooked eggs in it, and what’s magical about using the Instant Pot is the shells peel without drama. No matter what tricks I try on the stove, peeling eggs ends up taking forever and makes the eggs look battered. Not so with the Instant Pot!
Mine is a 6-qt model, but if you have a large family, I think it is probably worth getting a larger size so you won’t run into capacity issues for really big cuts of meat or a big ol’ pot of soup. I tried doubling the chicken and rice soup recipe and the results weren’t as good. Do not overfill.
I haven’t used my slow cooker since getting the Instant Pot. Not quite ready to get rid of it, but…I think its days could be numbered around here.
Kroger Click List
I’m trying out Kroger Click List as a time and money saver. The first three pick-ups are free and after that, it is a $5 charge. I’m on my 4th pick-up and plan to continue.
You make your list online, use digital or physical coupons, choose your pick-up time, and pull in to a designated parking spot during that time frame. Call the phone number on the sign post in front of you, and someone will wheel out your groceries and load them in your vehicle.
I. Love. It.
I’m an Aldi regular, but when you think about how many times you’re handling an item at Aldi, it just is a bit time-consuming: Grab item from shelf, put in cart, load onto conveyor, bag items, put in vehicle, bring into house, put away. Ugh. Contrast that with Kroger’s service, and I’m bringing in the groceries from my garage I’m putting the item away.
Kroger’s prices are generally pretty competitive, and if I take care to schedule a pickup for when I’m already out running errands, it is a huge time-saver and sanity-saver. Not having to take three kids inside a store? Yeah, there’s cost savings there, too, when you factor in the impulse things that inevitably make their way into my cart.
One weird thing — I ordered one pack of 12-ct chicken drumsticks. They gave me 3 packs, and charged me for all 3. I contacted customer service to let them know (and haven’t heard back). I can handle substitutions since they clear it with you when you check out, but I just don’t need that many chicken legs at once. Hopefully this was an anomaly.
Bonus time-saver: I can access previous purchases and quickly add regulars to my next cart.
How about you? Any sanity savers you’re loving right now?
We’ve added two more cards:
Chase Freedom Unlimited
We’ve finished the minimum spend for my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the points posted when the statement closed. He is keeping this card long-term as long as the perks don’t go away, and he recently opened a Chase Freedom Unlimited as well. The Unlimited card will give 1.5x points on all purchases and has no annual fee, so it also is a long-term keeper card. When paired with a Sapphire Reserve and used in the Ultimate Rewards portal, it becomes an effective 2.25% back. Further, the points he earns on the Unlimited can be transferred to partners since he has the Reserve. Without it, nope.
The Unlimited comes with a sign-up bonus of 15,000 points when you spend $500 in three months. Easy (and let me know if I can send you a referral!).
So now, all of his travel and dining purchases will go on the Reserve, and his other purchases will go on the Unlimited.
My Chase Sapphire Reserve
I opened my own Sapphire Reserve card. I went to a Chase branch because the in-branch sign-up offer is still 100,000 points when you spend $4k in 3 months (good through March 11 for the in-branch offer). It is 50,000 if you sign up online. This card gives you 3 points per dollar on dining and travel, and travel seems to be a broad category. It is 1 point per dollar on all other spending.
For reference, 50,000 points can be redeemed for $500 cash, or you can use it for 1.5x the value when booking something in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal if you have the Reserve. 50k points = $750 value in the portal. 100k points = $1,500 in the portal. You can also transfer your points 1:1 to many travel partners. If we transfer, it will most likely be to Southwest, Hyatt, or Marriott.
I plan to get TSA Pre-Check with my card (an $85 expense fully reimburseable by Chase). My husband already has TSA Pre-Check, so our whole family will be able to go through the Pre-Check line since my kids are all under age 12. There’s a Global Entry option, but I’m not going to get it since we aren’t likely to go overseas much in the next 5 years (if at all?) and we’d need Global Entry for each family member.
I’m planning to cancel my AAA auto club membership if they will issue a pro-rated refund. The Sapphire Reserve roadside assistance is just as good or better than my AAA basic membership, and I don’t seem to get much in the way of discounts with AAA.
The trip cancellation/interruption, emergency evacuation, primary rental car insurance (so, you wouldn’t need to get your own auto insurance involved in a claim!), baggage delay perks for a 6-hour delay, trip delay reimbursement for a 6-hour delay, Priority Pass airport lounge access…the benefits of this card really are something to look at if you are a business traveler or travel a few times per year. These card benefits are better than the Sapphire Preferred. The Reserve is a better card, all-around.
Thanks to the huge sign-up bonus, the $300 calendar year travel credit (I can double-dip this for $600 in travel credit before my next annual fee is due!), and the general perks of the card, the math makes sense for me to keep this card for awhile, despite the annual fee.
Annual Reserve fee, not waived: $450 (gulp, right?)
Subtract $300 travel credit, good each calendar year brings the effective annual fee to $150. (Note that the $300 in travel spending to earn the travel credit will also net 3x per dollar, so that us 900 points or $9.) That puts it at $141.
Subtract $85 value of TSA Pre-Check and we’re at $56 for the first year
Pro-rated AAA refund ought to be about $50-60, so I could argue that my first year’s fee is basically zip. Feel free to disagree if you don’t think the AAA should be a factor.
I figure the minimum spend at just 1 point/dollar will get me to 104,000 points, but likely I will have some 3x per dollar for dining or travel in that first $4k. This is $1,040 if cashed out.
The total value of our points won’t be realized until we actually book trips, but the cash value of the Ultimate Rewards points is just a minimum of what we might see. At minimum, the sign-up bonuses with minimum spend for those two cards will be $1,200, but I think we can get it closer to $2,000 in value, if not more. So excited at the possibilities! Though some people cancel a card before the second annual fee hits, I will keep this one unless they strip the benefits. I could be an authorized user for $75/year on my husband’s card, but I’m planning on keeping it for at least two annual fees as a “thank you for the ton of points and upgraded vacations you’re giving me!”
A few weeks ago, I debated doing my own Reserve vs. branching out and trying another premium card to diversify our household points options. I considered the AmEx Platinum, but the recent changes to the card are not appealing to me for my travel purposes. The Citi Prestige or Chase Ritz-Carlton cards were also on my radar, but for now I am really happy with this combination of Chase cards that we hold.
I still have and use my AmEx Starwood card, and I won’t be surprised if the card goes away in 2018 when the Marriott merger is finalized. Just a wait-and-see.
Unless something changes, I think that’s it for new card applications for awhile. Between my husband and I, we have the Chase trifecta I’ve been seeking to maximize our regular spending (Reserve, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited). For now, the aim is to just bank up Starwood points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Eventually, I will likely add some hotel cards for the discounted annual night certificate and sign-up points (Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG are contenders). With Alaska Airlines coming to my home airport in Indianapolis, it is possible they will target Hoosiers for better sign-ups for their card. I signed up for their airline loyalty program to let them know I exist.
(Current Chase Freedom bonus promo: 10% back on hotels and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal through the end of March. Makes sense for certain hotel bookings, especially if you aren’t trying to rack up hotel loyalty points (I don’t think you can do both, but maybe I’m wrong). However, if my husband needs to rent a car, he needs to stick with the Reserve thanks to the primary insurance offered on the card. Way better than getting our own car insurance involved, should it come to that.