For those of you following the March Mile Madness Tournament Yesterday was the first day of competition. Others have filed their Day 1 reports already, and I wanted to do the same. Most of my updates from here will be on Twitter–so make sure you’re following @Milenomics for all the details of my shopping sprees. I also may do a weekly post on the subject, but I haven’t decided on that yet.
Day 1: Not So Fun
The idea of the Tournament seemed fun–I’m already spending money every month on Miles and Cashback, so this couldn’t be too much different than that. Let’s just say I might have underestimated things a bit. My goal yesterday was to spend and cash out as close to $5,000 as possible. I fell short of that spending goal by $1078.15.
Part of the problem was that I almost never cash out my purchases the same day–I’m always buying at night and cashing out in the morning. This is most efficient for me because of my eye on Cost Tracking. For this tournament if I delay and cash out my purchases the next day I’m in essence tying up my $5k bankroll for 2 days, cutting my ability to earn in half.
Another part of the problem is that I rarely like to make special trips for Milenomics Mileage Runs. However, this contest is all about special trips. I had to be at my office yesterday for a few hours, and decided to do most of my spending on the way there, and on the way home. I had hoped this would limit my time (at my T-Rate) spent as well as miles driven.
Distance Covered-25+ Miles
I used the trip to my office as the basis of my shopping for the day. I’ve outlined the shortest distance from home to work, and also the route I ended up driving:
I called it a day after just shy of $4,000 in spending because it was becoming a terrible waste of my time as well as my driving costs. I estimated that I spent 1.75 hours of time, which is $43.75 at my T-Rate of $25. Add in the pouring rain and all I wanted to do was get home to some soup and a warm change of clothes.
The Cash-Out Dilemma
At this point I was holding $2,000 in prepaid cards which still needed to be cashed out. I decided to make a trip on my way home to Wal-Mart and unload this $2000. Unfortunately I didn’t unload any of it at Wal-Mart. I foolishly forgot that it was March 1. The first of the month is a super busy day for check cashing at Wal-Mart Money centers, and today was no different, the line was spilling out of the Money-Center. Needless to say I walked into Wal-Mart and turned right back around and left.
This is where the tournament really came into play–with my normal spending pattern whenever there is a long line I won’t bother with Wal-Mart. I also usually go at 8am so I don’t hit any such lines. With the $5k bankroll I can’t just hold $2000 overnight, because if I do I’m stuck with $2000 less to spend the next day. Some quick thinking and a Rite-Aid within walking distance to my house helped to get rid of $1k, and free up precious spending room for Day 2. I’m still only able to spend $4,063.05 today (day 2) because of some items still not settled, but that’s $1,000 better than only being able to spend $3,063.05 today.
This game has already challenged me in ways I hadn’t expected. I foolishly forgot about the negatives of holding any prepaid cards overnight, and just assumed my usual “purchase at night, cash out in the morning” routine would work well. I’m having to re-work my strategy on the fly now, as I try to spend my full $4k today and cash it along with yesterday’s $1k out to allow myself a full $5k bankroll tomorrow.
Today (Day 2) will see an earlier visit to Wal-Mart, and my purchases will hopefully be of items which can all be cashed out today. I really need the whole bankroll to be free tomorrow. I may attempt an Office Max run, but my store manager has been known to pull the $200 cards during promotions, forcing purchases of $100 cards.
Increasing Marginal Cost
My standard focus is to churn about $2k a day, which takes me about 15 minutes and means driving just a few miles outside my normal pattern. Yesterday I did this first $2k churn successfully in about 25 minutes due to longer lines. The next $2k are where things really ground to a halt for me. I’ve covered this before when we discussed “Removing Inefficiencs in your Churn and MMR.”
The Lack of day to day float is also hurting my Cost Per Mile. If the tournament rules didn’t apply I could hold Saturday & Sunday’s purchases and cash them out on Monday, when I drive right by a Wal-Mart on my way to work. Instead I’ll have to make a special trips on Saturdays and Sundays to do this now. I haven’t yet figured the best way to remove these costly obstacles from my churn, but I’m going to continue to try!
This contest is already reminding me of a month last year when I needed to earn 80k miles in one program in order to make a booking happen. That month’s churn felt like a full time job–and I’m expecting this one to feel the same way. I need to refocus my efforts as I strive to win the tournament, but I also need to keep a close eye on my time, travel and fees spent.
So Far I’ve spent $3,921.85, of which $9.90 were fees (I hate fees!). I’ve earned 3,863 miles and $79.74. However I’m still holding about $1,000 from yesterday which I need to cash out today. That could increase my fees by another $.70 overall.
Wow. Seeing tour map took me back 20 years. I used to live near South and Woodruff…
….more importantly, I see that on your path you are able to hit Joe Jost’s for a schooner on a regular basis…. sigh…..
(ok, off to OfficeMax for some card games)
Between you and TJ I feel like we’re all neighbors here 😉 Joe Jost’s is still a popular place, especially on the weekends.
Glad to hear it was raining, at least.
Question: you have three Freedom cards and Chase checking, I assume. Do all three cards get the 10% bump?
Correct they are enrolled in Chase exclusives. I didn’t use them yesterday, I went with my USDM, Amex gold, fidelity and an A visa.
Okay, can you explain a bit more about (1) why you have a float problem? Specifically, I don’t understand lines like this: “For this tournament if I delay and cash out my purchases the next day I’m in essence tying up my $5k bankroll for 2 days, cutting my ability to earn in half.” (Why do you need to immediately (or next day) clear out your cards? Are you close to your credit limits or something?)
(2) How did you use RiteAid to clear $1000?
Blue: for the tournament we can spend up to $5k per day, but until it is cashed out it cannot be spent again. Because of this restriction any money held overnight (say a gift card not cashed out) is off the table. Once cashed out it can be used the next day. I’m constantly paying my cc bills so I won’t have to worry too much about space on the cards.
As for rite-aid cash out… I’ll have to tell you that one in private, at least until the tourney ends. 😉
Okay, did not realize it was a tournament rule. (For us who are not following it too closely, you might want to link to the rules and put a little “TR” next to a “Tournament Rule” so we know you are being “restrained” in a special way.)
I’d be curious about the Riteaid cashout too, but can certainly wait until the tournament ends.
I wonder if maybe they should cut the tournament to two weeks. I realize that is changing the rules midstream but I have a feeling that the players may get weary of the daily push and what seemed like fun will not be quite as much fun as the month wears on. I see on Twitter that OM is having troubles with their special on GCs and that will just increase everyone’s weariness factor today.
Alternatively, maybe they could allow $5000 a day spending, and everything must be cashed out by the week’s end….
Doubting they will change the timeframe, I think this contest will be a little like a marathon, and creativity at MS may in the end be less important than stamina and how much time folks are truly willing to put in to “win.”
Shh! [Don’t tell the others but I am routing for you!]
Hi Elaine, Maybe we should compare notes, as I know you are in the PDX area too (and we are CVS-challenged).
Elaine: I Don’t think we’ll be able to change the rules, but you bring up good ideas. The emails setting the rules were pretty epic–one email chain “broke” gmail it was so long, with so many “Reply all” comments. 😉 At this point I’m hoping everyone else tires out and I hit my stride as the month wears on. It is a Marathon, not a sprint afterall.
Are you doing VR? Funny you were $1000 short, as you were 1 block from my CVS, who limit VR to $1000, but in return are nearly always stocked.
Total VR Purchased: 0. I’m not incorporating VR into my strategy for the tournament.
“Man trying to churn this much everyday is going to be exhausting…I’m already loosing momentum and it’s only day 2! On a positive note, I’m working on getting a 3rd Bluebird so this will help alot!” – Giddy for Points
Giddy went on to say she needed a nap! I knew it would take its toll. I am getting tired just reading about all the OMs the contestants are visiting! Meanwhile, our friend Matt of Saverocity is watching whales and flying in F!! 😉 But that’s OK. Their “babymoon” behind them, they’ll be tired parents pretty soon! 😉
How was your Day 2?
Elaine: Day two for me was office max free… I did reach my spending goal, spending my entire $4063.05, and a little more that is “off the books.” I left about $1200 uncashed out, but I will cash that out tomorrow. I feel like today was a very repeatable day… Much less time spent than yesterday and similar miles earned: approx 4,075 miles earned and $17.94 cash back earned. I also spent exactly $10 in fees today bringing my total fees to $19.90. I’m only free to spent $3800 tomorrow unless I cash out something else tonight. Final numbers won’t be set until I can do a full accounting. I have to say I only spent 45 minutes today, and far fewer miles driven. Tomorrow I’ll be earning miles from my desk online, and hopefully some profits too. 🙂
Sounds like your strategy is a good one. Your competitors reportedly spent lots more time (and gas!) running around from one OM or gas station to the next.
Maybe when this is over you can share how you earn miles at your desk…. I am also curious about this:
“My standard focus is to churn about $2k a day, which takes me about 15 minutes and means driving just a few miles outside my normal pattern.”
I have a feeling it might involve your trusty Delta debit card which would be too bad, since I don’t have one, but I can hope….
Elaine, how are you able to get a 3rd Bluebird? My wife and I are currently trying to get the minimum spending requirements for the Citi Executive and its pretty tough. Any help or advice would be great.
Jordan:Elaine was quoting another contestant in the Tournament (Giddy for points) who is trying to get a 3rd bluebird. There’s no way to get one without another SSN, so likely she is adding it via a friend/family member.
Jordan, I am making that spend too. I have had good luck with the prepaid cards Milenomics described – no fee and my Safeway will let me use a CC. I am in no great hurry to get to 100,000 miles so buy a prepaid card every week or so when I happen to be at Safeway anyway. I have been nervous about doing more that that, but this contest makes me think I am too cautious. Also try paying ahead anything you can like utility bills, car or life insurance, rent; even some doctors allow you to pay ahead for anticipated expenses. Good luck!
I can tell you not to bother with OM unless you are near the one in Milwaukie. 🙂
This point game is intense! I didn’t know people competed. It totally beats grinding on World of Warcraft. haha By the way, it’s great to see a person from my area of Long Beach doing this. I’m mostly on Dan’s Deals forum and Flyer Talk where most of them are in the East Coast. Where are you located? I’m by El Dorado Park. Not much grinders in my area, so I’m free to roam, but I just started last Sept, so Im still a noob. Please teach me when you’re done with this competition especially the Rite Aid trick. I’ve already maxed my wife’s and my BB accounts for the month, and I tried to use my parents for maximization, but they jumped on the bandwagon themselves. So, I’m stuck until next month. Let’s set up a group (assuming you’re not in one established already) in our area. There are lots of others interested in this. They just need a shepherd.
John, I’m near the traffic circle. Keep an eye out for more info and read, read, read. I’ve tried to make Milenomics an information store, and really have worked hard to make each post important. Longer term I’m working on a seminar in the L.A. area, hopefully here in LBC. Let me know if you have any questions, and welcome to Milenomics.
Oh, man you’re less than 15 minutes away from me. Sweeet! I have friends living over there, and I show homes in that area too. (I’m a Realtor/Investment Property Investor by day; point/mile grinder by night ;P) Yah, I enjoy your blogs, and I am constantly reading anything and everything regarding this subject.
The thing I like about yours is that you teach moderation as opposed to many who teach pushing the limits causing their followers to get closed down quickly, and in most cases, for good.
Keep me updated on the seminar. I can’t wait! I went to the DDF seminar in LA last year which was pretty good. But, they focused on East Coast scenarios, and were way too advanced. :/
Let me know how many people you are projecting to go so that I could maybe help find a hall to accommodate them.
Oh, yah! How do I get the notifications to replies? I did not get one for yours. I just happened to go back to this page. Thanks again!
John: There should be a little check-box below the reply window that says “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” Checking that and confirming your subscription will let you know when a comment is posted to the thread you subscribed to. You can also subscribe to be notified of all new posts on the same screen.
I’d rather keep a card open forever, being able to constantly go back to the well and draw against the card when needed. Relationships with banks are tricky: treat them like you don’t need them only when you’re sure you really don’t. People are always most boastful just until they get shut down–then their tune changes quickly to one of remorse. Also transfer out whatever you have in timely fashions, I believe I shared before that a friend of mine was shut down by Chase and he lost +1MM (1 Million) UR which were just sitting in his account.
Sam, did you really mean a seminar ON the LA area, as in MSing ideas specifically for LA, or did you mean a seminar IN the LA area, as in a seminar that happens in LA but is appropriate for, say, readers as far north as PDX…;) I for one am hoping you mean in…. if so, please count me in!
Elaine: Autocorrect strikes again! I didn’t even notice that it was incorrect. I’ve updated the comment now. I did mean a seminar in LA for all areas.
I’d take that one. I really want to work on fee removal.
Hooray! I sure was hoping it was a typo. Now I’ll start hoping it is at a time when I can come!