Mastering Credit Card Tips: Introduction

 
Mastering credit cards took on a whole new meaning when our finances took a turn for the worst in the not-so-great depression of 2008. We went from being middle class to becoming part of the former middle class. The Introduction to my first eBook, The Poor Middle Class Crisis, details what happened to us. As a result we had to find new ways to survive. We created a financial survival toolkit. One of the most essential money making tools became credit cards,the ones we had and new ones we have gotten since then.

mastering credit cards
My two published eBook on Amazon.com that cover our financial history over the last decade
Our Financial History Over The Last Decade

Over almost the last decade, we have had to develop credit cards mastery as our invaluable this financial survival tool. It turned into an active endeavour, even an art this year due to the need to visit family in Colorado. That’s when travel rewards credit cards really came into the picture. Before that, our focus had been primarily cash rewards credit card. Due to the need to find a way to afford our trip, we had to learn to master the travel rewards cards.

Earning Credit Card Benefits

The first step in mastering credit cards is learning about them. So that is exactly what I did. I did research locating the best sites and blogs about mastering credit cards. Then I practiced and learned how to do it myself. As part of the process, I created a ‘cheat sheet’ that I could easily refer to. It is called, ‘Tips for Mastering Credit Cards’.

Tips for Mastering Credit Cards

Even though I continue to gather more helpful tips, I think that the ones on this list give me and anyone who reads them a pretty good start. What I would like to do for the rest of this post is go over them and explain any that are not completely transparent already. The detials will cover several blog posts because there is so much information to share.

credit cards mastery tips
The List of Tips for Mastering Credit Cards

1. Pay credit card bills in full before the report date and by the due date

The companies that you have credit card and other ‘debt’ with report the amount of that debt. They usually report the current amount of debt to the credit report agencies on a monthly basis. To have them report $0 debt, pay in full before the reporting date. Your credit card companies are supposed to provide you with that date if you request it. Make sure you do and keep track of that date, the due date and the closing date.

2. Learn to build and maintain excellent credit

There are many resources for learning to build your credit. They are listed at the end of this post. Notice the colored sections in the image above. They indicated credit levels. Excellent credit is the bright green bar.

mastering credit cards
A visual of credit card history as reported monthly by my credit card company.
3. Get new credit cards with cash or points bonuses

Many credit card offers include a promotion of either cash or travel points. This is in addition to the regular cash back % and points that they acru. Be sure to compare offers. There are several variables. This includes the promotion, the amount that must be spent to get it, and the regular benefit. The best ‘investment’ I have ever made was a $200 bonus on a $500 required expense. That’s a 40% return. Where else can one get that kind of a deal. It also happens to be a very decent cash back credit card. What a way to use a credit card. This is why we want to learn to master them.

Mastering credit cards
The Best Offer I Have Ever Gotten on a New Credit Card

Note the cashback % on this card: 3% restaurants, 3% gas, 1% the rest. Later in this post I will discuss credit card pairing. Therefore if you buy groceries more than you eat out, you can use another card for groceries at 3% like the BoA Cash Rewards card. If you pair these two, you get 3% for both groceries and gas. Then you can really benefit by using the Quicksilver card as one examples which pays 1.5% across the board for other expenses. This will be elaborated on later in this post.

Please note that this post is in several sections and will continue with Mastering Credit Card Tips: Part Two.

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USING CREDIT CARDS

 

Credit Cards
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.

credit cards are a financial survival tool for the poor middle class crisis
Credit Cards from Linkedin.com

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.

the poor middle class crisis financial survival toolkit
The Chase Freedom Unlimited Cash Back Visa
* Mention of this card is in no way an endorsement of it.

 
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.
Financial Survival Toolkit for the poor middle class crisis
Five Star Sky Miles Credit Card
* Mention of this card is in no way an endorsement of it.

 

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.

Excellent Credit Scores:
Excellent Credit Score Cards

Cash Back:
Best Credit Cards for Cash Back | Compare Cards

Travel:
Best Travel Credit Card-BankAmericacard Travel Rewards

Credit Karma | Best Travel Credit Cards

General use:
Best Credit Cards for 2017 | Compare Cards

Credit Karma | Best Credit Cards

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THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS CRISIS FINANCIAL SURVIVAL RESOURCE GUIDE

 

OVERVIEW
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’.

An example of a Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit Being Built
A Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit Being Built with Suggestions from this Resource Guide

 

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:

Part 1: The Poor Middle Class Crisis

my poor middle class financial survival toolkit
The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans from My Secret Shame from The Atlantic by Neal Gabler

Part 2: A Budget Is A Crucial Financial Survival Tool For The Poor Middle Class

financial survival toolkit for the poor middle class
Free Online Accounting & Bookkeeping service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Using Credit Cards

using credit cards
Credit Cards from Linkedin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 4: More About Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Tools

My Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit
Bottle and can recycling machines from recycle | ecycler

 

Part 5: Poor Middle Class Thrifty Shopping Tools

Thrifty Shopping Tips
A Homemade Piggy Bank to Hold Your Savings from Thrifty Shopping Tips, Homesthetics.net

 

Part 6: The Poor Middle Class Housing Crisis

My Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit
Foreclosure Defense from Christie D. Arkovich, P.A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 7: Poor Middle Class Housing Alternatives

alternative housing
A Tiny Home Design from The Tiny Heirloom Company

Part 8: Poor Middle Class Affordable Housing

my poor middle class financial survival toolkit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 9: Alternative Living Resources


Franklin Caravan Renovation Project

 

Part 10: The US Homeless Housing Crisis

living off grid
The U.S. Cities With The Largest Homeless Populations by Niall McCarthy from Forbes.com

 

Part 11: The Poor Middle Class Nutrition Crisis

nutrition crisis
The Poor Middle Class Nutrition Crisis, Food Waste

 

Part 12: The Poor Middle Class Healthcare Insurance Crisis

 

Part 13: Our Story: One Day From Homeless
is under construction.

 

 

 

Sources & Resources*

The Viper Tool Storage Company

A Facebook group called, The Poor Middle Class Crisis

A Facebook Group Called, Next Level Minimalism

*All other sources and resources are within the blog posts themselves.

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MORE ABOUT POOR MIDDLE CLASS FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOLS

 

MORE ABOUT FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOLS
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.

savings tips for the poor middle class
Large Change Jar from YouTube.com

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.

recycling as a poor middle class financial survival tool
Bottle and can recycling machines from recycle | ecycler

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.

TRAVEL
Refer to the post The Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Toolkit to learn about using travel specific credit cards.

PERSONAL EXPENSES
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.

financial survival tools for poor middle class
Discount coupons from Google

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This series continues with, The Poor Middle Class Housing Crisis

 

 

 

SOURCES & RESOURCES
Save on Household Expenses

Change in a Five Gallon Water Jar

Save Money at CVS

Best List of Senior Discounts

Best List of Senior Discounts for Restaurants

Military and Veteran Discounts

AARP list of discounts

Shop At Home

Buy Second Hand Clothes Online

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A BUDGET IS A CRUCIAL FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOL FOR THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS

 

The Importance of A Budget

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.

How to set up a budget
Free Online Accounting & Bookkeeping service from www.accountingdiy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
• FOOD
• TRANSPORTATION
• PERSONAL
• FUN, ENTERTAINMENT & VACATION

Within each of these major categories, we have set of subcategories that reflect our expenses:

HOME
• Rent
• Household
• Utilities

Budget for housing is a crucial financial survival tool
Senior Housing from https://mortgagelawyers.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/distressed-underperforming-senior-housing-projects-turnaround-management-loan-workouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOD
• Groceries
• Breakfast/Lunch/Snacks

A Food Budget is a crucial Financial Survival tool
Cartoon Food from Clipart kid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRANSPORTATION
• Auto Insurance
• Gas
• Maintenance
• Public transit

A budget for transportation is a financial survival tool
Transportation from Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSONAL-HUSBAND & WIFE (EACH HAS THEIR OWN LISTING BUT WITH THE SAME CATEGORIES)
• Personal items/hobby
• Rx copay
• Medical
• Dental Care
• Supplements
• Life Insurance

A budget for the family is an essential tool for the financial survival toolkit
Man and woman on the couch from Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN
• Eat Out/Celebrate
• Entertainment/Culture
• Vacation

a budget for fun, entertainment and vacation are essential for a financial survival toolkit
Island Vacation – Cartoon Island With Seagulls from 123RF.com

What’s Next?

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.

 

 

 

Sources & Resources

Debt Free Adventure

Beginner Bookkeeping

Debtors Anonymous

Senior Housing Turnarounds

The Viper Tool Storage Company

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THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS CRISIS: Introduction

 

INTRODUCTION
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 poor middle class blog
45 million Americans rely on food stamps, 1 million about to lose them – report from @Jim Young/Reuters

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.

poor middle class crisis
‘The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans’ from ‘My Secret Shame’ from The Atlantic by Neal Gabler

Financial Survival
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.

poor middle class crisis
From ‘Americans on Food Stamps’

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.

 financial survival toolkit for the poor middle class crisis
A Financial Survival Toolkit for gathering all my Finaincial Survival Tools that can be bougt at the Viper Tool Storage Company in mnay cheerful colors

Financial Overview
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.

The Poor Middle Class Crisis And Solutions
There are plenty of financial survival tools following this post in the series, The Poor Middle Class. The next post is A BUDGET: THE MOST ESSENTIAL FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOL FOR THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS. Read it and others on The Alison D. Gilbert Blog.

 

 

 

Sources & Resources
I’m Middle Class and Poor: It wasn’t supposed to be that way

5 Charts That Show How the Middle Class Are Disappearing

Americans on Foodstamps

Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Lest We Forget: Why We Had A Financial Crisis

The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans

My Secret Shame from The Atlantic by Neal Gabler

Your Stories of Financial Struggle

Americans are trapped in a ‘cycle’ of financial insecurity

Young Invincibles, Financial Health

Report on Financial Health of Young Americans

How To Combat The Senior Poverty Epidemic

White Working Class Poverty

Parents Taking on Child’s College Debt and Putting Themselves at Financial Risk

5 Great Jobs for Retirees

Viper Tool Storage Box aka My Financial Survival Toolkit

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