WARNING, using credit cards can be like carrying a loaded gun. At the same time, they can be financially beneficial if you know how to shoot. On the other hand, they can be deadly if you don’t. In fact, many people do end up in debt using them. The interest that accumulates can make it impossible to ever pay them off. Groups that help people get out of debt prohibit their use altogether.
But in my case, using credit cards is part of my financial survival toolkit. With this caveat, I also strongly suggest the following. If you are not able to be vigilant using them by never missing a payment, do not include them in your financial survival toolkit.
How I Make Money Using Credit Cards
Yes, I have actually learned how to accumulate cash or credit towards purchases using my credit cards*. So far, I have discovered two ways to create income. If you know of others, please let me know. I have the following cards:
• a cash rewards card
• a travel points card
* The ‘income’ from them, the cash rewards are not taxable because the money is a discount or purchase rebate, not income itself.
Cash Rewards Credit Cards
Some banks offer credit cards that accumulate cash points for purchases. The points are a percentage of the expense. They range between 1% and 3%. I have been able to earn about $20/month with this system.
Travel Rewards and Sky Miles Credit Cards
I signed up for a travel rewards credit card when the bank had a special promotion. If I charged a certain amount of purchases within three months, I would receive 20,000 in travel points. I did this. The travel points will go towards a trip out of state to see family and friends.
Sources & Resources
Here is a list of the best credit cards for a variety of categories. You can explore these websites for even more suggested card categories.
The Poor Middle Class Crisis is real and it is serious. This Financial Survival Resource Guide can help individuals and families alleviate the effects of the Poor Middle Class Crisis. The guide consists of a series of blog posts. The goals of this Financial Survival Resource Guide are:
1. to make people aware of tools to help build a financial survival toolkit
2. to encourage people to form ‘financial survival support groups’ or communities with other poor middle class people
3. to share our experience in the day-to-day survival as poor middle class people to give other people hope for survival
At this time, the guide is a series of blog posts written by me for people like me, the poor middle class. This post is an overview that introduces all of the blog posts in this guide. Because I am a visual person and I love tool boxes, I am using this great lime green tool storage box as the storage box for my ‘Financial Survival Toolkit’.
LIST OF BLOG POSTS
Each blog post title is an underlined link to the post itself. Click on it to view a post that interests you. They include:
I continue to refine and gather more financial survival tools for my middle class poor financial survival toolkit. I have to. Financial survival continues to be more challenging. Social Security will go up $5 for us on January 1, 2017. Our cable bill went up $6. So we will start 2017 with a dollar less. Situations like this require continual accumulation of new financial survival tools.
MAJOR CATEGORIES AND FINANCIAL SURVIVAL RESOURCES
First I would like to mention some general tools. Then I will get into major expense categories and tools that are specific to them. Here are some general tips:
• save change in as large a bottle as you can find
• avoid monthly fee checking accounts
• avoid credit card fees
• join groups that offer discounts to members
• make use of discounts you are entitled to for being a member for a particular organization such as AARP, the military and many more
• buy in bulk, only when things are on sale and always look for discounts
• make a purchase with a no fee promotion credit card that requires set payments over time
• use EBATES, GROUPON, etc.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
BOTTLE REFUNDS This is probably one of the most important resources for not only the poor middle class but everyone. Redemption of bottles and cans is probably one of the best known tools for creating income through recycling. People in all kinds of circumstances do it. You paid for the bottle. You deserve to get the fee back whenever you can. Those nickels will add up. This is not income and it is not taxable. You are just getting back money you already paid out.
CLOTHES, FURNITURE AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Depending upon your financial status, you can make use of food pantries. They often have clothes in addition to food. For people who can afford to pay, thrift stores are a great resource for finding furniture and all kinds of household items.
Clipped paper coupons, online coupons and text discounts proliferate. Get into the habit of only buying things on sale for a discount.
HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS EXPENSES
I learned to make my own laundry detergent. It is amazing how much money it saves. The guideline is to make your own whenever you can instead of buying prepared products. It is easier than you think and saves so much money.
SHELTER, FOOD AND HEALTHCARE
These are three categories that can be the major areas of expenses in the budget of a member of the poor middle class. They are so important that a separate blog posts will be devoted to them.
Creating and sticking to a budget is the poor middle class financial survival tool that allows for clarity and transparency. It is crucial. The best way to start is with pencil and paper. Determine your major budget categories. Transferring them to a computerized bookkeeping program is simple. We have actually set up our computerized bookkeeping system based on the following categories plus additional subcategories. It works very well for us. But you can stay with a manual spreadsheet if you prefer.
Setting Up Expense Categories
This is how we have been able to come up with a budget. We set up a bookkeeping system. First, we add up our income. From there, we have a clear picture of how much there is available to spend. Then we set up our expense categories. Everyone has their own profile based on their life, family and needs. These are the major categories we use: • HOME
• FUN, ENTERTAINMENT & VACATION
Within each of these major categories, we have set of subcategories that reflect our expenses:
HOME • Rent
FOOD • Groceries
• Auto Insurance
• Public transit
PERSONAL-HUSBAND & WIFE (EACH HAS THEIR OWN LISTING BUT WITH THE SAME CATEGORIES)
• Personal items/hobby
• Rx copay
• Dental Care
• Life Insurance
• Eat Out/Celebrate
You may find, as we have, that your expenses exceed your income. As seniors on fixed incomes, as young people working more hours but earning little money, as breadwinners who has lost their livelihood, this may be your challenge too. The additional posts in this blog series will be devoted to a solution. That solution is building and implementing your financial survival toolkit.
The Poor Middle Class Crisis is the story of The Poor Middle Class. It is designed to be a resources guide for the Financial Survival of the Poor Middle Class. This guide is an instruction manual for building resources known as a ‘financial survival toolkit’. It also encourages readers to start or find and participate in a ‘financial survival support group or community’.
The Poor Middle Class, itself, is a relatively new phenomenon. Our personal membership was precipitated by the 2008 stock market crash the same week as a primary income earners job layoff. For others families, becoming affected by the poor middle class crisis may have been due to the subprime mortgage scandal. It cost many families their homes. The Poor Middle Class are composed of people who were once middle class, who likely have college degrees or advanced degrees, had careers and good jobs, had homes with equity in them, had pensions, had good health insurance and savings.
The Challenge for The Poor Middle Class
Financial survival has become a critical issue for the Poor Middle Class. This is a crisis that has led to the growing need for new, resourceful financial survival tools. These tools are not exclusive to one demographic, one age group, a particular sex, or one location. But because I am a ‘senior’ living in New York State, some of the tools and resources may apply specifically to people in this demographic.
As a result, I especially welcome your comments and additional suggestions to expand the resources for anyone’s financial survival toolkit. Therefore, I invite you to visit and participate in my companion Facebook page, The Poor Middle Class Crisis & Resources.
Now, we have almost nothing left of that life. But we are not technically poor. Therefore we do not qualify for the level of government benefits reserved for those living in poverty. But we are no longer middle class, either. We are in a place where we cannot meet the obligations of a middle class lifestyle. But we are not poor enough to get enough assistance to survive, either. We also are unable to find or maintain jobs like we had before the financial crisis began. The result is that we need to become very resourceful to survive. Therefore, I needed to gather new financial survival resources. I have created a ‘Financial Survival ToolKit’ in my mind to transform this crisis into an adventure rather than a place of fear.
My Financial Survival Toolkit
It has taken me years to compile the resources, tips and suggestions I have in my financial survival toolkit. In addition, I continue to add to it. I am a visual person so I find it helpful to choose visual tools to help me implement concepts and ideas. I love the cabinets and tool boxes created by the The Viper Tool Storage Company. Therefore I chose one of their set ups to be my virtual financial survival toolkit. Many of my real tools are based on my own experience. Some are based on ideas and tips I have gathered on my financial survival journey. There may be resources that you already use. Other tips and tools may be new, hopefully useful suggestions. I also welcome any input and suggestions you may have. Please enter them in the comments section.
I keep an overview of my monthly finances at all times. This means that I monitor my income and expenses with the benefit of online banking, automatic bill paying and computerized bookkeeping. It includes payment of most of my bills by autopay after my monthly income becomes available. There is a flow to all of this. It has taken me some time to create a system to coordinate the ins and outs of it. Sometimes I feel like a juggler. At other times, I still feel like a beginner.