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How to Earn Extra Rewards and Savings on What You do Anyway

As people pursuing Financial Independence, it becomes more and more important to cut expenses. However, when you do spend money, you can ease the hurt on your wallet by making sure you are earning back points and rewards as well. In this post, we’ll list a few ways to get more from your spending and doing right now.

Grocery Discount Programs

Start simple and sign up at your grocery store’s rewards program. Do continue to shop around for groceries, but be sure to pick up the discounts on those purchases you need them.

Use Rewards Credit Cards

When you are not trying to earn a travel reward, it is still a good idea to put your spending on a credit card for both tracking and the rewards. You should be aiming to get at least 2% back on each purchase, so use at least a Citi Double Cash card or a Paypal Mastercard. If your credit score isn’t good enough for those, try going for cards with 1.5% back like the Capital One Quicksliver card or a standard 1% cash back if you have to.  Remember, you need to also pay your credit cards in full each month and not get into credit card debt.

Cell Phone Discounts Just for Working

While you are still working, check and see if your company has a cell phone discount. All you have to do is put your work email address into the discount site (search online for the one for your carrier) and see if you can get one. If not, talk to your HR or IT departments and see if they can get you a discount (generally these cost the company nothing to sign up for). Here are a link to a few of the US carriers and their discount programs:

Get More Cashback/Points When You Shop Online

If you need to shop anywhere online (when you aren’t buying used items) or even book a hotel, don’t just head straight to the site. A lot of shopping web sites have partnerships with airlines and other cashback sites, so you could be earning a few extra points with your purchase. To see which ones, checkout Cashback Monitor, which aggregates all of the cash back portals and shows you which site will get you the best points/cash back. You then can visit the highest cashback shopping portal they link to and collect some cashback/points on what you are buying.

Cashback Monitor
Before you buy anything online, look for more points through Cashback Monitor.

Use a search engine with Rewards

I shock most of my friends when I tell people I use Bing rather than Google. Why do I do that? Simply for Microsoft Rewards, which give you points for searches on your desktop and mobile devices. These points generally add up and can be used to get gift cards at Amazon and other retail outfits. If you are feeling a bit more altruistic, you can also use Goodsearch or Ecosia, they will pay money to charity when you use them to search.

A collection of gift cards on the Microsoft Rewards portal.

Restaurant Rewards

In case you are going out to eat, you can also earn cash back and points in a couple of different ways, mainly by adding your credit card to a rewards program. Ask Sebby did a great job breaking down the variety of apps that can be stacked to gain cash back at restaurants including Yelp Cash Back and restaurants on the Rewards Network, which powers most airline dining programs. Keep in mind, though, you can only tie one credit card with one Rewards Network program, so you can’t for example get American Airlines miles and Southwest miles on the same card. However, you can get Yelp Cash Back and the miles on the same card though.

Amazon Smile

Something slightly more altruistic is going through smile.amazon.com rather than regular Amazon.com. By going there, Amazon will pay a charity at no cost to you for every dollar you send on Amazon.com. This is also available in the UK as well.

More Travel Points

Here’s a couple of extra rewards you can get for travel:

  • Using Lyft for Delta and Jetblue miles: Lyft has partnerships with both Delta and Jetblue where you will gain points for rides you take on Lyft, though Jetblue only gives you points on airport rides to and from.
  • Earn points with Airbnb: Airbnb doesn’t offer their own rewards points, but as Head for Points mentions, they do partner with airlines like Delta and Qantas.
  • Mileage Plus X: For in store shopping, check out using Mileage Plus X for extra United Airlines points at select stores.

Any other tips I may have missed out on? Please let me know in the comments below.

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – August 2018

journey to FI on a winding road

Welcome to another post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This month, I am covering August of 2018.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.

How Moving to Another Country Changed Got Me on the Path to FI

I’ve been thinking about how I got into Financial Independence and why I decided to pursue it. I think part of it was actually moving to London for a short time. Why was that? Well I wanted to write about that how I became more into FI.

Less Stuff

When I moved, I didn’t bring a lot of things I had accumulated like my books, my electronics, and a few other things I couldn’t take across the ocean. By doing this, I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of the things I had accumulated over the years to live a good life. Granted I did miss a few things I grown accustomed to, but I also learned ways I could get around it.

Started Watching Less TV

Britain requires a TV license to watch live TV, which is essentially a tax I didn’t want to pay. So no TV meant, I had to rely on other things for entertainment. Good thing was London has a bunch of free things to check out like museums, but also there’s plenty of good stuff on podcasts, YouTube, and the Library. Not having a TV meant I ended up reading more as well, and some how I stumbled onto FI with the reading.

How to Make Fast Food at Home from the Chefs’ Themselves

A pillar of FI is lowering your grocery bill and lowering your eating expenses. Today, I wanted to spotlight some fast food favorites and show how you can make them at home, with directions from the head chefs at these eateries themselves. Now I know there are a lot of copycat recipes online, but to be as authentic as possible, I wanted to spotlight recipes made by folks working at these restaurants themselves. With that, let’s take a look at some of these.

McDonald’s Big Mac

The Big Mac is the signature hamburger of McDonald’s. Dan Coudreaut, the former head chef at McDonald’s, shows you the basics of making a Big Mac burger. He even shows you a recipe for the special sauce using ingredients you can buy at the grocery store.

My Top 4 Financial Independence Books

old books on a shelf

A common thread in the financial independence community is reading books. It is one of the best ways to learn, relax, and grow. Some of the most successful people in the world are voracious readers, and even say that reading everyday is key to success.

So, where should you start? I believe that there are 4 books that everybody should start with on their path to financial independence. Don’t get me wrong – these 4 books are not the “best” books, nor are they the only books you should be reading. I simply believe that these 4 books are a great starting point to achieving financial independence. Without further ado, let’s get to reading!

DISCLAIMER: The post will contain affiliate links that gives The FI Guys commission.

Travel Rewards 101: British Edition

Travel Hacking Tool Kit

I covered travel rewards a few weeks ago and commenter Mr. Robot asked:

This sounds pretty awesome but I’m guessing this only applies to US residents and not European?

The answer is yes, though with some caveats:

  • Two of the major flexible rewards providers, Chase and Citi, do not offer credit cards outside the US.
  • The sign-up bonuses are not nearly as good as the American cards.

However, it’s totally possible to travel hack a free trip with cards. I thought I’d take the opportunity to demonstrate one with the same tools I used before in my previous post, though with different cards. This time, we’ll take a trip from London, England to Prague, Czech Republic.

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – July 2018

journey to FI on a winding road

Welcome to another post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This month, I am covering July of 2018.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.

Before diving in, I just want to give you a heads up on what you are going to read. This month, the main focus was experiencing life a bit more than usual. My wife and I had some profound conversations about money and life, which was reflected in July’s overall spending. I’ll explain more below!

Taxes and Investing as an American in the UK

As I mention in my last post, I currently live in London, England. However, as an American citizen living abroad, reaching financial independence becomes more difficult as I describe below. So what does that mean for folks who want to be financially independent? I’m going to run down the steps I’ve gathered from information sources around the net and speaking to several advisors. Hopefully this helps you with your investments like it did for me.

(Disclaimer: Please note the standard disclaimer here applies. I am presenting my own experiences that have been presented to me by others who have researched this topic. I have done my best to distill it down as a simple action plan. However, as I illustrate below, there are a surprisingly large amount of people willing to trade their time to help you. Please do consult a professional with your situation.)

The Main Problem – Taxes

If you could boil it down to one problem, though, it would have to be taxes. Unlike most countries in the world besides Eritrea, the United States government taxes its citizens and residency card holders even when they are not living in the US. So Americans working and living abroad have to worry about taxes in two different tax jurisdictions. One break you do get from the US government though is the foreign earned income exclusion, meaning you won’t be taxed on any of your income if you make less than $103,900 in 2018, but you’ll still have to file taxes every year.

Because of the tax reporting requirements of American citizens living abroad, most investment companies (even American ones like Vanguard) don’t want to deal with Americans living abroad. They won’t just shut down your accounts of course, so if you’ve been investing you will be ok. But for the beginners, without a US address (or for those of you who attempt to have your mail sent to your new address), you won’t be able to open a new account.

There are also all sorts of tax rules involving investing in index funds in other countries. Those tax rules can negate the gains greatly. I don’t want to go into it here, because I don’t really understand it well, but look up Passive Foreign Investment Company or PFIC when you get the chance. Please note this doesn’t apply to individual stocks though, but we all know how hard it is to pick individual stock

The FI community starts with a do it yourself attitude, and while admirable, this is probably not the place for it (at least not at first). Your UK taxes will be easy as the government does your taxes for you. However, you are going to want help filing your tax returns in the US from one of the US expat tax firms out there (there are a few of them out there).

Update: I found a pretty good guide on taxes for US citizens living in the UK.

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – 2018 Part 1

Welcome to the first post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This being the first post in the series, I will cover the entire first half of 2018, so it might be a longer one. Every post after this will cover one month, with the next post covering July.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.