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I laugh a little at my daughter’s first day of kindergarten photos today not because the photos are funny, but because they capture a moment in time that looks so similar to previous first day’s of school on the surface, but just under the surface our reality is currently so different. When we took our “last day of school” photo just 2.5 months ago she was an only child who was being taken to and picked up from school by me every day as my husband was working about 90 minutes away.
Her and I got full nights of sleep, could get breakfast on the way to school if we wanted, come home and nap after school if we wanted, go to activities or playdates as we pleased, or do nothing at all (which usually meant I worked online and she watched cartoons). During her school hours I had the freedom to toil over miles and points for hours a day researching, perfecting our system, planning trips, etc. Then the “summer of change” happened and my husband is now freelancing/building his own thing/doing contact work from home and we not only have a newly minted kindergartener, but also a one month old at home who very much does not care what time her older sister’s school starts or ends.
Needless to say we weren’t 100% on time for the first day of school despite our best efforts since I was up five times at night with the baby and then overslept once I finally got two continuous hours to sleep. We could have overcome that, but then Baby S decided to wake up screaming with hunger right when I was trying to get out the door with my kindergartener. Oy vey.
Despite the background chaos, we still took the 15 seconds to get our “First Day” photo. It looks so simple and calm, but what was going on under the surface was just so much more complicated than it has been in previous similarly captured moments. Other than the job situation change, much of this increased complexity was easy to predict with a second kid on the way, so I simplified and streamlined our life wherever possible in advance.
I cleaned out closets, reorganized drawers, reduced our travel, and also reduced the complexity in our rewards credit card system. Don’t get me wrong, we need more miles and points than ever, and earning them via travel just isn’t happening right now for multiple reasons. However, I had to balance not setting ourselves up for failure with payments and such via an overly complex system, with still earning easy miles whenever we could.
To do this, in the months before Baby S was born I closed down a few card accounts that we no longer needed since that was a little bit less paperwork to keep up with each month. Then, we opened new accounts, but only to the extent that we could easily meet the minimum spending requirements for sign-up bonuses. I certainly didn’t have time for gift cards or reselling items or anything even remotely time consuming or stressful.
I knew we would have at least two chunks of large bills coming this summer, and I wanted to take advantage of those. First, I knew we had some pricy baby gear to buy in advance of the S’s birth. While there was plenty of things we were reusing from our first child, there were some things (like car seat, stroller, etc.) that had to be replaced. That amount was easy to put on one new rewards credit card and make good headway toward meeting the spending requirement in a very short period of time.
Then, we knew we would have thousands of dollars in medical bills both for me and the new baby. Those expenses are not fun at all to pay, but all of our medical providers have taken credit cards with no additional fees attached, so it was an “easy” way to hit another minimum spending requirement without having to do any extra work or strategy at all.
I hate getting these big medical bills in the mail day after day, but knowing that our decision to get a rewards credit card right before she was born and dedicate it for paying the the medical bills that come in has paid off. The minimum spending requirement was easily met without adding any complexity to our lives. We earned the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus, and knowing that each bill was getting us closer to that goal took a tiny bit of the sting out of paying for something we had to do anyway.
We may not have it all right at this moment in time, but I think our rewards credit card strategy is solid.