Beginner’s Guide To Credit Card Travel Hack

Travel hacking is something that I do to make the most of our vacation. I love to travel but I am not rich to be able to afford it.

Thanks to credit card travel hack, my husband and I were able to travel places that we would have to break the bank to afford them.

Learning how to travel hack takes time but it will be all worth it once you go for your dream trip without shelling out a cent.

With travel hacking, I was able to fly my husband and me to Paris, Amsterdam, Israel, and Italy. And this is with only a very minimal out of the pocket money.

I know people who are pro travel hackers, who dedicate all their time in this “hobby” and they get to travel every month and even a few times a month.

Now, I am a wife and I have a full-time job so I do not have the luxury of time to do travel that often.

I can say I am just a small-time travel hacker who chooses to travel when we have the time. We’re occasional travelers.

But I wanted to share my experience to those people, who are like me, who want to travel for less or even for free but do not want to dedicate all their time to travel hacking.

I wanted to share that it is possible to travel hack despite your busy life.


What is Credit Card Travel Hack?

A credit card travel hack is the process of using loyalty points, earned from using your credit cards to pay for airfare or hotel stays.

Airlines and hotel chains have their own loyalty program in which customers are able to earn points by using them.

Once customers earn enough points, they can redeem these points for free flights or free hotel stays.

Although travel hacking does have a bad sound to it, like cheating to be able to travel, it is actually legitimate.  It is just a skilled way to travel for cheap.

But before you get into the nitty-gritty of credit card travel hack, there are a few things to consider which can affect your success.

  • You should have a credit score of >700.
  • You should have a history of responsible credit use
  • You should not carry a balance on your credit card.
  • You should pay your bills on time.

How to Get Started with Travel Hacking

Set a Travel Goal

Having a goal set will help you stay organized. Think of a travel destination that you want to go to and from there work your plans.

I did not do this when I first started and I think I had wasted a lot of time. When you have a goal in mind, it will help you focus more and will achieve your goals sooner.

Register for Airline and Hotel Rewards

Research on what airlines fly to that travel destination that you picked and what hotels are there as well. Then start signing up for their loyalty programs.

Because I did have a goal in mind when I first started, I just started signing up for every loyalty program I ran into. Don’t do that! Start with 1-2 airlines and 1-2 hotels.

Sign up for Credit Cards

Now that you know which airline and hotel to use, it is time to choose the best credit card that will suit your needs.

Now, don’t go overboard though, do not apply for so many cards. For a beginner, it is best t start with 1-2 cards. When I was new to this, I started with this card and until now I still have it.

There are two types of credit cards to choose from, flexible credit card and the airline/hotel credit card. The flexible credit card earns points which can transfer to different airlines or hotels. This type of card is good for those who are just starting.

The less flexible card will be the airline credit card or hotel credit card. These cards earn points which can only be used on a specific airline or hotel chain. These cards are good for those who already know what airline or hotel they will use.

Keep track of Loyalty Programs and Credit Cards

When you signed up for loyalty programs and credit cards, there are a lot of things you need to keep track of. I used Excel and Google doc to stay organized.

I track the date I opened the card, due date, minimum spend, the date when minimum spend should be met, bonus, credit limit, and annual fees. Doing it this way will help avoid hefty fees.

Meet Spending Requirements

Most credit card offers bonus points when you meet a spending requirement within a certain period of time. Usually, it can be $3000-$5000 in 3-4 months.

If you are like me, you will think that is a lot of money to spend. But with a little strategy, these amounts are achievable.

In order to meet the minimum spend, put all your expenses in the card but make sure to pay off the balance each month. If your household expenses are $1000/mo then you will definitely meet your minimum spend in 3 months.

Earn Points for Everyday Spending

At this point, you will realize that using cash is a no-no when you are travel hacking. Every point counts so put all those cups of coffee expenses on your card.

Use your Points

Now the fun part. You accumulated enough points and now ready to use it. Check the airline and hotel you want and start booking. Make sure to book as soon as possible since award seats fill up fast.

Keep in mind that in travel hacking, you need to be flexible with dates. If you have a specific date in mind, then try to book in advance.

Tips for Success in Travel Hacking

Stay Organized

Keeping yourself organized when you are doing travel hacking will have a high impact on your success. It will help you avoid fees and will make your travel planning easier.

Stay Disciplined and Responsible

Having a lot of credit cards gives you higher spending power. It will be tempting to spend those dollars because you know you can. However, falling into this trap will lead to the biggest disaster in your lifetime.

Check out How To Create a Monthly Budget to help you know how much you can really spend.

Staying disciplined on how much to spend and being responsible to pay off the outstanding balance every month will help you succeed.

Stay Flexible

To be able to travel for free, there will also be trade-offs. The date you want to travel might not be available at the time you want to book it. So it is very important to be flexible when booking.

The Last Thing You Need To Know About Travel Hacking

The best way to start travel hacking is to start slow at first. It will be overwhelming early on but once you got the hang of it, then you can start signing up for more.

How To Make A Monthly Budget

If you are looking for a step by step guid on how to make a monthly budget, this post is for you.

Today, I am going to show you the step by step guide on how to make a monthly budget.

I remember when I just started budgeting, I’d go from blog post to blog post reading how to correctly plan a monthly budget. It was time-consuming and frustrating.

It took us three months to finally polish our expenses and be able to stick to our budget. Although itt was not perfect, it still worked.

And in this no-nonsense post, I will show you exactly how to make a budget without taking too much of your time.

What Is A Simple Budget

A monthly budget is a detailed overview of your income and expenses. It shows you exactly how much money you are bringing in and how much you are spending.

The budget helps you track your savings as well as your spending habits.

A monthly budget has never been my priority. It was not until later that I realized that earning money is fantastic, but knowing where your money went is even better.

Why Do You Need To Budget

Before you start budgeting, nail down your purpose on why you need to budget. This will help you stay motivated when you get stuck once the road gets tough.

Here are some of the top reasons why people budget.

Pay Off Debt

If you have debt, budgeting will help you find extra money to add to your debt payment, which will cut your repayment time shorter.

Build Up Savings

When you have a budget, you will be able to save more money because you have control over where your money is going. Your savings will help you save for emergencies, afford your first home or prepare for retirement.

Stay Out Of Debt

A monthly budget makes you aware of how much you can afford. Therefore, it will keep you out of debt.

Check out this post to learn more about the benefits of budgeting.

What Should You Budget For

Your monthly budget should include your needs, your wants, and then your savings or debt repayment.

Learn more about budget categories and percentages that you can include in your monthly budget.

Not that you know and understand the basics of budgeting, it time for me to show you how to get started with it.

How To Make A Monthly Budget

#1 Get Organized

The very first step in creating a budget is to have all the paperwork you need, pay stubs, bank statements, and all types of bills that you pay every month or every year.

#2 Figure Out Income

Then, you figure out how much your household is making. The total will include earnings from your full-time job and other side hustles as well as your spouse’s.

However, make sure to separate fixed income and variable income. In that way, you will only be budgeting on the money that you are sure to receive that month.

If your income varies from month to month, it is recommended that you take the average and budget on that.

For example, if your income for the past 3 months were $3500, $2500 and $3000, your average monthly income will be $3000.

$3500 + $2500 + $3000 = $9000

$9000/3 months = $3000

You can also take the average for the whole year if your income has a significant difference.

#3 Itemize Expenses

Now, it’s time to see where your money is going. You will need to figure out your expenses in the last 30 days. 

To do this, you will refer to your bank statements, credit card statements, and PayPal statements if you use one.

Next, you will then categorize each expense. It can be food, utilities, mortgage, car, loans, etc. 

By the time you are done, you will see that pattern where the bulk of your money is going.

#4 Identify Fixed And Variable Expenses

Now, go back to the categories of your expenses and categorize them further into Two categories, fixed and variable.

Fixed expenses, expenses that you cannot change like savings, mortgage, car loan, student loan, utilities, etc.

Variable Expenses are the ones that can vary every month like groceries, dining out, personal care, etc. This is a category you can tweak as you work on your budget.

#4 Create A Budget

Now it’s time to budget.

Use this budgeting worksheet from the resource library to start making your monthly budget.

Start with your fixed expenses. List them all down, and then next to it, write the corresponding amount.

Now, take a look at your variable expenses and list them all down. Next to each expense, write down the monthly average amount that you spend in each of the categories. 

You can also get the average based on how much you spent in the last three months.

Be realistic! It should be a comfortable amount. If you’ve been spending $500 on groceries in the past three months, do not go to the extreme of budgeting, only $100.

If you drastically reduce your expenses, you’ll most likely not stick to it. Work on reducing your expenses gradually.

Confused on how to make a monthly budget? Here is a step by step guide on how to create a monthly budget that works for you.

 #5 Use A Zero-Based Budget

Now that you know your total income and your total expenses, you can now apply the zero-based budgeting.

Zero-based budgeting is a method of budgeting in which your expenses match your income. So, if you have a $5,000 monthly take-home income, your expenses should also total $5,000.

You can do this by subtracting the total expenses from the total revenue, and the difference should be zero.

WHAT IF THE RESULT IS NOT ZERO?

If your result is a POSITIVE NUMBER, Congratulations! You are doing good in spending. 

You will now create a plan for what to do with your leftover money. Your plan should align with your money goals.

If your goal is to pay off debt, use the extra money to pay down your debt. Likewise, if your goal is to build an emergency fund.

If the result is a NEGATIVE NUMBER, that means you are living beyond your means. But don’t panic! That’s why you are starting to make a monthly budget to make sure you are spending wisely.

Go back to your variable expenses and check every single item. Reevaluate if you really need to have that expense. If not, eliminate it.

But if you do need it, see if you can reduce it.

Now, after you made some adjustments, retake the difference between the total income and the new total of expenses.

The difference should be 0 or more. If you are still on the negative, go back to tweaking your variable expenses until you get to at least zero.

If you get to a point where you cannot reduce any of your expenses anymore, consider supplementing your income. Start a side hustle in your spare time.

#6 Use Extra Money Towards Money Goals

For those who have more than zero results, it is time to take care of the leftover money.

It is always best practice to tackle your debts when you have extra money. You can put some additional payments on credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc.

One of our family’s priorities is an emergency fund. This money is to be used for future emergencies. 

If you still do not have an emergency fund, this is the best place to put your leftover money. You can learn more about emergency money here.

If you already have one in place, then continue funding it until you reach three to six months’ worth of expenses. Consider putting in a bank, where you can earn interest.

You can also add the money to any of your sinking funds like a house, car, vacation, etc. and then just prioritize them accordingly. You can also just spread it out equally. 

How To Stay On A Budget

Once you start a monthly budget, it can be exciting at first, but you’ll soon find out that sticking to it is the real challenge.

Here are some of the tips that can help you stick to your budget.

Start Your Budget Before The Month Begins

As you start budgeting, you’ll find out that every month needs a different budget. Some months will be more expensive, especially during the holidays and some months you can stay under your budget.

And by starting your budget before the month begins, you will be prepared on what is ahead. As a result, you will not go over your budget.

Review Your Monthly Budget Regularly

At the end of every month, find time to review your budget. You’ll notice that there are some categories that you can still trim, and there will be those that you might have to increase a little bit.

By doing this, you will increase your chances of not blowing your budget every single month.

Focus On Your Money Goals

Keeping your eyes on the prize usually does the trick. When you want to reach your money goals, you’ll find that you are willing to do everything to achieve those goals.

You can learn more tips on how to stick to your budget in this post.

How Do You Budget On A Low Income

Making a budget on a low income is no different than any budget. You’ll want to focus on the income that you have and reduce your expenses to match your income.

And when you found that you’re consistently blowing your budget, consider picking up a side hustle.

Budgeting is not set in stone, you’ll always be tweaking it to match your family’s finances, regardless of the amount of income.

If you are paid biweekly, check out this guide on how to set up a biweekly budget.

There you have it! You can learn more about how to improve your finances by checking out this book.

Creating a budget is not hard at all, it is the ability to stick with that makes it a struggle. The first few months won’t be perfect, but you will get the hang of it. 

Until now, we still have months that we go over our budget, and we’re also continually tweaking our monthly budget.

If you are ready to take your budgeting to a serious level, here are some of the best budget planners that you can choose from.

Now, did you find this post on how to make a monthly budget helpful? Let me know in the comments.

Want to learn the simplest way to create a monthly budget? Here is a step nu step guide on how to make a monthly budget.

Best Tips On Money Management (You Should Not Ignore)

The best tips on money management to improve your personal finance.

Money management should never be taken for granted. Earning money is awesome but being good with money is even better.

Sometimes money, if we are not careful, can have control over us.

So today, you will learn tips on money management that you can apply in your financial life.

A healthy financial future is not based on how much we make but it depends on how good we manage and plan.

So it is imperative that if we are good at managing our money then we will have a headache-free and successful financial future.

If you've been struggling with your money management, here are some beginners tips on money management that you can start doing.

What is Money Management?

Money management is pretty much how you control your money, where you want them to go and what you want them to do. This includes earning, spending, saving and investing.

Better money management involves careful planning of these things. Creating a budget, saving for an emergency fund and tackling debts are all part of better money management.

Some people may think that better money management only consists of saving a fixed amount every month or paying bills on time.

They are not wrong, however, it does not stop there. It is about everything you do with your hard-earned money.

Best Tips On Money Management

Here are the best tips money management for beginners.

Keep Track of All Income and Expenses

The first thing you want to do is figure out how much your household is making. The total will include earnings from your full-time job and other side hustles.

The total will also include your husband’s income and side income.

Knowing how much your household make will give you a sense of how much you should be spending.

Sometimes we spend lavishly thinking that we are earning enough to cover whatever we are spending on. To help you jumpstart your journey, here are some good reads.

Create a Monthly Budget

Now that you know how much money is coming in, it’s time to see where your money is going. You will need to figure out your expenses in the last 30 days.

In order to do this, you will have to print out bank statements, credit card statements, and PayPal statements if you use one. Next, you will then categorize each expense. It can be food, utilities, mortgage, car, loans, etc.

Check out the Best Guide to a Monthly Budget to know more about how to set up a monthly budget.

Now that you know your total income and your total expenses, subtract total expenses from the total income and the difference should be the left-over of your monthly income.

You should always aim for a zero difference, but a positive difference is even better.

Pay your Bills on Time

Paying bills on time not only saves you from those hefty late payment fees but it will also help build you a better credit score. One way to pay bills on time is through automatic payment, either through your bank or through the billing company site.

I used to be against automatic payment and was doing it on my own but when I tried it, I wished I’d started sooner.

Save for Emergency Fund

Emergency Fund is simply an amount of money saved to take care of unexpected emergency expenses. These expenses include home repairs, car repairs, medical expenses, loss of job and etc. It is always recommended to have at least $1000 in the emergency fund.

For an expense to be qualified as an emergency, it should be necessary, urgent and UNEXPECTED.

Tackle your Debts

It is always best practice to tackle your debts when you have extra money. You can put some extra payments on credit cards, student loans, personal loans, etc. The faster you get out of debt, the earlier you can start building your wealth.

For example, when you get that annual bonus or that tax refund, put it straight to debt payment. You’ll be glad you did.

Bonus Tips On Money Management

Positive Mindset

Having a positive mindset will help you reach your goals faster. Changing your ways of managing money will not be easy, there will be bumps along the way for sure.

However, you should not be discouraged, instead, take each mistake as a lesson and focus on the goal.

Discipline

The success of learning to manage money better depends on your discipline. Better money management is not hard at all, it is the ability to stick with that makes it hard.

The first few months won’t be perfect but you will get the hang of it.

Live Within Your Means

Part of having the discipline is to learn how to live within your means. You already know how much money is coming and how much is going out.

Use this as a guide to be able to identify if you can afford an item, a restaurant dinner, a Broadway show, a new car, etc.

FAQ About Better Money Management

  • How much emergency fund should I save?
  • Can I save and pay debts at the same time?
    • It is recommended to pay all debts except mortgage first before saving.
  • When should I start budgeting?
    • The right time to start budgeting is NOW.
  • Is using a credit card still part of better money management?
    • Yes if you practice discipline to not carry a balance on the credit card every month.
  • What are some reliable budgeting apps?
    • Everydollar and Mint are some good ones.
  • When should I start saving?
    • Best to start saving once all debts except mortgage are paid

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Better Money Management

As I have said, the first few months won’t be perfect but you will get the hang of it. In fact, I myself still is not a master of money management but it’s ok at least we are in control of our money, not the other way around.

To learn more about managing your money, check out this book.

How about you, how are you managing your money? How are you sticking with your plan?

Related Money Management Articles:

Here is your beginner's guide to better money management that you can start now.

Best Tips On Money Management