Finance Min. Maxing

Updated: 12/29/2019

Credit Cards

GETTING CREDIT CARDS IS ONLY WORTH IT IF YOU PAY OFF THE FULL BALANCE EACH MONTH. CARRYING ANY SORT OF BALANCE WHATSOEVER MAKES THE CREDIT CARD COST YOU MONEY INSTEAD OF SAVING YOU SOME.

I use autopay for all my credit cards and I highly recommend you do the same. I also only spend money I currently have. I check my checking account often to make sure I don’t spend what I don’t have.

How to Personalize Your Min Max

  1. Categorize spending (i.e. eating out, groceries, shopping, etc.)
  2. Look at the categories above $3,500 spent annually
  3. Find the best cards for each category

Example: Restaurants
In 2019, I spent over $5,000 eating out. I googled: “best credit cards restaurants” and found a few websites with lists of good cards for eating out. I looked at those cards and compared the benefits of each. One card offered 4% back on restaurants but had a $95 annual fee. Another card offered 3% back on restaurants but had no annual fee. If I expect to spend $5,500 on restaurants next year, then I can do out the math and figure out which card is best for me.
(5,500 x .04) – 95 = 125
5,500 x .03 = 165
Therefore, the card which pays 3% back looks like it is the best for me, however, there is another very key consideration.

How does the card pay you back?

Currently on the market, there are many cards which return 3% or even more for restaurants, all without annual fees. However, many of these cards do not give cash back, but rather give points. Amex cards give you Amex points, the Uber card gives cashback only for Uber purchases, etc. etc. If you would use Amex points because you travel a lot and know how to use those Amex points effectively, then an Amex card would probably be best.
I do not travel much, so accruing points and miles wouldn’t be worth it for me. For me, I prefer cashback. If you also prefer cashback, make sure you check to see that the card gives cashback and not some weird point system which you can only use on select items you don’t purchase anyways.

The reason I said to only try to find cards for expense categories over $3,500 annually is because it’s not really worth it to do for anything under that. At 3% back and $3,000 of expenses, you only save $90. You shouldn’t spend a lot of time and hassle to open a credit card to only save a little bit of money per year. In addition, you don’t want to have too many credit cards.

Last note: don’t open too many cards, and don’t apply to more than two cards in any 3 month period. If you plan to get 3 or 4 cards, do so over 8 months or more.

Article on categorizing spending: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/tracking-your-monthly-expenses/

I use http://mint.com for tracking my spending and categorizing all my expenses. I check it every week or two, go through all my expenses, and then categorize them using the labels available.

Restaurant Card: Capital One Savor One. $150 sign up bonus, 3% back on dining and entertainment, no annual fee, no foreign transactions.

Restaurant Card 2: Costco Card. If you have a Costco Membership already, or you plan to get one, then this is the card to get. 4% on gas, 3% on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco, no foreign transaction fee. The membership for Costco costs $60, so this card is only worth if you plan to have a membership.

Restaurant Card 3: Amex Gold Card. Okay, so this one is only worth it if
1. you spend a lot of money
and
2. you would get a lot of value out of the Amex points you accrue.
The card has an annual fee of $250, but you earn 4% on restaurants and supermarkets, 3% on flights, $10 dollars a month for specific eating establishments, $100 per year for flight fees like airplane meals and checked bags.
One thing to note is that a lot of shops and restaurants do not take Amex card, so take that into consideration.

Cash Card: debit card linked to cash app. free and easy to get, no credit history required. Has rotating bonuses: $1 off coffee shops (this includes buying only food from a coffee shop too. this bonus works no matter the charge i.e. $2 coffee will only cost $1. while a lot of other bonuses have rotated in and out, this one has remained ever since I got the card many months ago), 15% doordash (this one is pretty new, not sure how long it will last), $1 off in n out, 5% off whole foods, 10% off chipotle, and $1 off Panera

Update: as of now, it seems the benefits for the Cash card are rotating. The coffee benefit is set to expire in 4 days and I do not know what I will get in it’s place. As of 12/29/2019, the benefits are: $1 off coffee, 15% off doordash, $5 off one Wish purchase, 10% off Nike, $5 off one Grocery Store purchase, 10% off blaze pizza, 5% off CVS, 10% off wingstop, 10% off chipotle, 10% off subway, and $3 off Cinemark. As of now, these still seem like incredible benefits and it makes the card very worth it to get. All you have to do is check the app every week or so and use the bonuses when they come up.

Amazon Prime Credit Card: only possible if you have Prime. 5% back on all Amazon and whole foods purchases. If you buy a lot of things with Prime, this card is a no brainer. Also get 5% back on Amazon Fresh, the grocery store delivery service, which is pretty great too. No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee.

The regular Amazon (non-prime) credit card gives 3% back on Amazon and whole foods, still pretty worth if you shop there a lot.

REI Credit Card: 5% back at REI (on top of your REI rebate), $100 if you use your REI card within 60 days. No brainer if you shop REI even a little. Also, if you shop REI, become a member to receive 10% back. Definitely worth it.

So those are the cards I use currently. There are probably better cards for stuff like groceries at places other than whole foods or amazon fresh, gasoline, travel, and maybe some other stuff, but for me and how I live my life, these are optimal. Feel free to tell me what cards you use and why.

Investing

Stocks: don’t invest in stocks individually, unless you do it for a living (and even then, probably still don’t do it because you’re probably not maximizing your returns lol). Invest in ETFs and Index Funds. Those have historically received the highest returns. The best ETFs and Index Funds to invest in historically have been Small Cap. However, you can mix it up if you want to. Small Cap and Mid Cap could be good. You can also invest in small cap ETFs and index funds from other nations, developing nations, and so on. There are also ETFs and index funds which focus on growth in other nations. Those can be pretty good to diversify. Lastly, if you think you are wicked smart or are cool waiting for a longer play, you can try to invest a little more narrowly in a sector. Think cyber security will be the future? There is an ETF for that lol. But again, whenever you invest narrowly, you are pretty much saying that you think you know better than the smartest people in the world with the best tools, best educations, and insider knowledge. So yeah, hate to break it, but you aren’t shit compared to the institutions in place. Diversify, invest in the overall market, and you’ll receive the best returns you probably can.

Oh and if I get a message or comment saying “but my dad, friend, uncle, I got 50% returns on this one stock because big brainz”, I’ll say congratz, even an idiot can pull a slot machine lever and get lucky.

Real Estate: okay, so I don’t have enough money to directly participate in the real estate arena, so this isn’t that. However, I have found a way to invest in real estate indirectly through a third party. They promise 8-12% annual returns, which is pretty solid, and have very low fees. So far I’ve used them for 1.5 months and if I were to extrapolate my rate of return thus far (which again, small sample size, probably unreliable to do this, but whatever), it is : 5.19%, which is much lower than what they are promising, but again, it’s only been a month and a half, and I also have a high growth investment preference which may attribute to this as well. Investing with them is a good way to diversify your investments outside of just the stock market while still earning solid returns. The service I use is called Fundrise, but feel free to look around for others you like or prefer.

Bonds: lol I’m pretty sure this is a dead way to invest for most people

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