One of the toughest things about manufactured spending is keeping track of everything: There are large spending requirements that need to be met, gift cards to unload, credit card balances that must be paid off to avoid interest fees, and billing dates to keep in mind. If you’re doing all of this for more than one person, it gets even more stressful, not to mention the risk of screwing it up increases substantially.
I’m in the midst of an $82,000 spending challenge and have gotten a few emails from folks asking how I’m able to keep track of it all. My system isn’t very sophisticated. I used to write it all down in a notebook, though that can get tedious fast. Excel spreadsheets are an eyesore, so I’ve resorted to a simple table I created using a word document. Here’s a mockup of what it looks like:
Credit Card Balance Closing Date Due Date Payoff Spending Requirements Progress
Bofa Alaska $2,000 September 30 October 5 - Paid $2,000 on 9/29 $10,000 - $3,000 in July
- $5,000 in August
It contains all of the information I need to keep track of not only the progress I’ve made in meeting certain spending requirements, but also what the balance is on each card, when it is due and how much of it I’ve paid off. For example, if I’ve just made a $2,000 payment on my Alaska card using my brother’s Bluebird card, I’ll make a note of that under “Payoff.” At the end of each month, I add a note under “Progress” about how much of the spending requirement was met that month. This, along with the spending requirement due date helps me prioritize which spending requirements to focus on at any given time. It’s a fairly simple process and without it I know it would be much more difficult keeping track of my manufactured spending activities.
I also have a separate place where I keep track of all my gift card balances, including American Express, Visa gift cards, and Amex for Target. Occasionally, I’ll use a Simon Mall gift card for a student loan payment via Evolve that results in an odd balance under $5. I keep track of them all in an email file so that when I’m at Starbucks, I can refer to it easily and use the right gift cards to load my Starbucks card with. This is an easy way to track and unload gift cards with small balances, as well as larger ones.
Manufactured spending is becoming increasingly difficult hese days, with Walmart making it a hassle via their broken Bluebird kiosks, shopping portals pulling American Express gift cards, and other inconveniences. Once I’m done hitting my $82,000 in spend, I’m taking a break from it for a while. It’s becoming way too time consuming, inconvenient, and risky. More importantly, all of the hassles are taking the fun out of it.
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