5 More Things The Middle-Class Do For Money

As I stated in an earlier post “5 Things The Middle-Class Do For Money“, the advice below is not intended for those at either ends of the financial spectrum — very rich or poor. This advice is intended for those who are “solidly middle-class” who sort of have their financial lives in order but need to maximize their savings to maintain a “middle-class” lifestyle.

We earned enough credit card rewards to pay for one airline ticket to Mexico.

We earned enough credit card rewards to pay for one airline ticket to Mexico.

1) Points Game – Many people use their credit card to get airline miles. While airlines have tight restrictions and black-out dates, it can still be worthwhile if you or someone in your household is a frequent traveler. I’m not an expert at this because 1) we don’t travel enough and 2) when we travel, we are not loyal to any particular airline.  For us, the priorities are cost, number of stops, flight time, and NOT having a connecting flight in Newark, otherwise known as “hell on earth”.

2) Credit Card rewards – If you pay off your credit card in full, you’ll be a fool not to use a rewards card, which is simply a credit card that rewards your spending with points. These points can add up quickly and be redeemed for gift cards, travel, cash back and more. Since I started paying attention to these rewards, I estimate that we earn about $200 – $400 per year.  One year, the reward was enough to pay for a plane ticket to sunny Mexico.

Use Ebates to earn cash when you shop online.

Use Ebates to earn cash when you shop online.

3) Ebates –  I’ve earned over $254.65 back since signing up years ago. It’s not a life-changing amount but it’s great to get extra money just for buying online. Once you sign up, you earn cash back on online purchases at participating stores. Percentage of cash back varies by store.  I think this is a no-brainer way to earn ‘extra’ money and I admit to sending referral links to friends and friendly acquaintances.

Tip: More than once, I’ve had to follow up with Ebates about giving me credit for the purchase. This can happen because it takes time for the store to report the purchase. I believe there is a delay to make sure people don’t just buy and return, yet get the credit.  Just something to watch out for!

4) Referrals – Speaking of referrals, every time I sign up for a new service, I check to see if there is a referral credit. I love forwarding referrals to friends. Most of the time, you and your friend both get a reward (if your friend signs up and spends X-amount within a certain timeframe).

5) Mail-In Rebates – While some people hate rebates, I don’t think it’s really much of a bother to do this.  All you have to do (usually) is complete a simple form and send in the receipt and UPC code. I do this soon after purchase so I don’t miss the deadline. I’m hoping more companies follow the lead of Johnson & Johnson’s rebate process. All you had to do was take a photo of the receipt and text/email it to a special inbox or number.

As for dollar amount, I prefer to go after rebate $15 or higher. I generally do not purchase things I wouldn’t normally buy, unless it’s something I wanted to try already.

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5 Things That The Middle-Class Do For Money

The advice is not intended for those at either ends of the financial spectrum — very rich or poor. This advice is intended for those who are “solidly middle-class”.  My definition isn’t perfect and there are variables like cost-of-living, family help, and more but key characteristics are: likely employed, not living paycheck-to-paycheck, have some retirement savings, and able to leverage their money in small ways.

Credit cards1) The Credit Card game – There are two main ways to play the credit card game. If you’re still paying off charges, you can switch to a lower-interest card every so often to reduce payment amounts.  You do have to read the fine print and make sure that there are no sneaky fees associated with the switch, or that any fees will be worth it due to a much lower interest rate.

The second way to play the game is to sign up for new cards if there’s a compelling offer.  I would be aware of having too many cards but if you pay them off in full, and the deal is enticing, it’s an easy way to earn extra money.  And if you’re considered a “good” consumer, you’re probably bombarded with tons of offers.  In addition to my main Visa card, I have a Amazon card ($30 credit for signing up) and a new American Express card ($200 statement credit if you spent X amount in 3 months and a free year of Amazon Prime, a $99 value).  This particular Amex card has no annual fees and was definitely worth getting!

2) The “Bank Game” – I’m not sure there’s a name for this tactic, but banks often provide incentives to switch banks for selected customers. This year, I finally opened at account at Chase bank. The incentive was just too good — $450 total for a savings account and checking account (with direct deposit).  I wasn’t very happy with my bank because I had chosen it a few years ago due to an incentive for new customers which they never gave me.

3) Call cable, internet, and other services to get better rates – When you first sign up for cable service, they give a great deal and throw in a gift card or free premium channels.  Same for internet, wireless and many other services with monthly billing.  What happens after that honeymoon period? Your rates go higher and higher while they go on to woo other new customers.  To combat this, middle-class folks call customer service at least once a year, or whenever the last promotional period ends, and ask for a better rate. If necessary, they will  call the company multiple times or threaten to cancel service.  This can add up to huge savings and I highly recommend this tactic.

4) Buy in bulk – Cash flow is essential to take advantage of super deals.  All major retailers have clearance deals and if you stumble across these, it’s a good idea to stock up.  I’ve stocked up on everything from toilet paper to diapers to Brita water filters.

Another popular option is Costco, which is swarming with middle-class folks who love deals and often have room to stock up on bulk purchases.  While I’m not sure it’s always financially wise to stock up on foods, non-perishable goods are a good bet.

cvs5)  Sign up for Store Loyalty Cards –  I would love to see the average household income for drugstore loyalty cardholders. I assume it would have more appeal for middle-class folks, who have to evaluate time and money savings on a constant basis.

These type of programs have different benefits but in general they offer lower prices in-store just for cardholders and let you accumulate rewards toward future purchases (ex: $4 off $20 purchase).  You may also receive special coupons that can be used online or in-store.  With CVS, I like the ease of uploading coupons to my card so that both my spouse and I can take advantage of coupons. It’s very handy if a spouse tends to forget or hate using coupons.

I am well aware that the above “tactics” are used by those not in the middle-class.  However, I think some of these are easier to take advantage of and more appealing to those who fall into this socioeconomic status.  What do you consider typical money-saving tactics for middle-class households?