Making Your Money Work for You
Knowing very few of us can go into our boss's office to ask for and receive a raise, financial life is more often about making your money work for you. No I'm not talking about pensions, annuities, or 529 plans. I'm speaking about managing your budget, squeezing every cent out of what you are doing already.
While cash may be considered king in real estate, on the day-to-day most of us carry none - using instead debit and credit cards. We all know carrying debt is not a good thing, so assuming you will pay the balance in full every month, make your money work for you by finding and using a credit or debit card that gives an incentive by way of cash-back or another reward of your choosing. To get the biggest bang for your buck, first decide what you want: points toward a future purchase as with airlines, or cash which you can spend anywhere. Unfortunately methods of calculating earnings aren't necessarily straightforward, so it's helpful to have a calculator in hand to determine the real monetary value of the incentive offered. Look for sign-up bonuses which credit your account after spending a certain amount within a specific window of time. Can you do it? Next, look also for annual fees. Can you swing it? A very popular company raised the fee on their platinum card from $450 to $550 earlier this year. Obviously you can't make your money work for you if it's impossible to pull ahead of the fee by receiving more value than money paid. Remember too, reward credit cards typically have high interest rates. Do not use them if there's a chance you can't pay your balance in full.
Have a debit card? Is it making your money work for you? Probably not. At least not anymore as debit card rewards are just a mere shadow of what they were years ago. While it can still be had, it's very difficult to find a good cash back incentive with a local bank. I only know of one, and after considerable time on Google can find no others. This bank, (whose three word name actually begins with "Bank,") has chosen to adopt a merchant driven model for rewards so you must opt-in for "deals" and can pay using their credit or debit card. The cash you save is a monthly credit to your bank account. A more generous program requires online banking.
The best banking reward known to me has nothing to do with any card - debit or credit. If you want to stay close to your money and have branches at your disposal all over town, there's a bank (the first letter of its name begins with "C") that's paying serious cash for new accounts. How much? Between $200 and $500 depending upon your chosen banking relationship. Strings? Yes, of course. But if we compare the offer to "cards," you'd have to spend $10,000 to earn $200 in a rewards program paying 2% cash back, or $20,000 if only 1%. As of today this offer doesn't appear to be an all or none proposition. Choose what's easiest for you to do, and win.
One last SqueeZe to make your money work for you is online shopping sites! Personally I like the one that begins with the letter "E," because they send me a check and offer $10 for signing up. I don't know how other shopping rebate sites work, but with "E" I log-in, choose a store, and get dumped on the company's website. Once transferred, the shopping experience is no different than going directly to the merchant. You can shop sales, use coupons, use the store's reward program, or sign-up if you aren't a member. There's nothing hard about "E" except remembering to use it. There are other perks too, but the site is just one of many offering shoppers a little "something" for their trouble.
While synergy is best, any of these will make your money work for you. It's your choice of how much or how little. The worst that can happen? You spend 20 seconds signing-up and get a $10 rebate check for buying something you would have purchased anyway.