Category Archives: Musings

Anti-Shopping Spree

I don’t get traditional shopping.  Just as I feel betrayed when donating money to an organization with a poor operational overhead ratio, spending my hard earned cash on highly marked-up trinkets and goods that will either rapidly depreciate or end up contributing to the organizational nightmare occupying my basement just feels foolish. The best way to avoid the curse of buyer’s remorse, is to go “un-shopping”, whereby one takes advantage of Capitalist America’s commercial incentives and credit card reward offers to leave each store with more money than before.

An intro to Manufactured Spending

I’ve been experimenting with “Manufactured Spending” and “Travel Hacking” for the past several months, and the topic itself deserves an entire post – if, that is, the effort is even worth the time.  There are so many other bloggers out there covering this topic that I doubt a novice has much to contribute in terms of adding to the overall science and technique of this…hobby.

That said, there is value to be had in anecdotes, so here is an example of a recent shopping trip on mine, and a breakdown of how the different elements of manufactured spending worked together to produce a nice little bonus for the day’s hard work.

To take full advantage of most of these offers, a cornucopia of different credit cards are required, though even with only several, one can still come out with a decent haul.

Staples $200 MasterCard gift card
– $6.95 (fee for gift card)
+ $20 (10% off $200 cashback with Bank of America credit card offer)
+ $15 (staples rebate for buying a gift card of at least $100)
+ $2.07 (Miles of credit card at 1% on all purchases)
$13.05 cash (arguably, the staples gift card could go here as well)
$17.07 Non-cash equivalent (Virgin Atlantic miles, staples GC)

Note that the value of the gift card is not counted, as we can liquidate it without any additional fees – more on this in a minute.

Marriott $600 gift card
– $0.00 (fee for gift card)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 1/3)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 2/3)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 3/3)
+ $2.00 (miles on credit card 1/3 at 1% on all purchases)
+ $2.00 (cash back on credit card 2/3 at 1% on all purchases)
– $72.00 (cost of liquidating cards on
$80.00 cash
$2.00 Non-cash equivalent (delta miles)

Gift cards can be a tricky business, and I have tended to shy away from them.  An easy $80 was difficult to resist though, and I soon succumbed.  Be sure to check the going exchange rate for cards before buying them, as liquidation can be difficult – or expensive – if you get caught unprepared and have to sell at a loss.

JC Penny $100 Subway gift card
– $0.00 (fee for gift card)
+ $10 ($10 off $50 cashback with Amex offer, card 1/3)
+ $10 ($10 off $50 cashback with Amex offer, card 2/3)
+ $0.50 (Miles of credit card 1/3 at 1% on all purchases)
+ $0.50 (cash back on credit card 2/3 at 1% on all purchases)
$0.50 cash
$20.50 Non-cash equivalent (discounted subway cards)

Hopefully I won’t be regretting this in a year or two (or be completely sick of subs).

Target REDCard $5000 load (2 cards)
 + $0 (liquidation of $200 MasterCard GC)
+ $105.60 (2.2% points on $4800 Barclaycard Arrival+, redeemable for travel)
$0.00 cash
$105.60 Non-cash equivalent (reimbursement for any travel)

There tend to be new ways to liquidate prepaid gift cards that rise and fall with their own popularity and the exploits discovered by manufactured spenders.  In the wake of Amazon Payments, Bluebird and many others who have died or become heavily restricted, Target’s REDCard is currently the best way to get rid of prepaid cards, meet spending goals to get credit card bonuses, or simply to earn points on one’s credit card. Once loaded, the REDCard funds can themselves be liquidated to a bank account directly, or indirectly by check, ATM, or bill payment.


So, for a short trip around town, I came out ahead by $238.72.  The breakdown?  $93.55 in cash, a further $35.00 in gift cards for stores I frequent and would otherwise have paid out of pocket (essentially cash-equivalent) and $110.17 towards future travel expenses ($4.57 of which are airline miles and not immediately useful).

You can see why this can get addicting.

Outsource it to Fiverr

Recently, the topic of personal outsourcing made it into the news when a software developer doing security work for Verizon outsourced his own job to China, earning praises for his apparent superhuman productivity while he actually spent his days browsing Reddit and Facebook, and keeping atop the latest lolcat memes.

While the security implications of outsourcing your work to an unknown 3rd party are probably dire enough to get most anyone fired from their day job, there is something to be said for the availability of cheap, skilled labor within a few clicks from a google search.  Arguably the most popular of these sites is Fiverr, offering – as its name implies – almost any service you can imagine for $5.

Some of the unique offerings that caught my attention included:

  • Graphic designers – custom logos, banners and even basic website designs.
  • Proofreading services – Hire a professional copy editor to proof your essay or article of up to 10,000 words.
  • Need a .edu email address?  There’s always someone selling them for those who want Amazon Prime for $10/year.
  • Referrals – Have someone do the dirty work of boosting your free dropbox account to 18GB.
  • Transcription – Google’s voice-to text not cutting it?  Hire someone to type out 15min of dictation for you.
  • Video clips – custom intros for your YouTube channel etc…


One of the great things about Fiverr compared to its numerous competitors is that it really incentivises value for your dollar by capping the cost of everything at $5.  Many of the services simply save time doing a tedious task, but there is a surprising amount of talent out there as well.


Hello internets!  I’ve been meaning to start a blog for ages, but as with all “big projects,” intentions go only so far.  Now that I am busier than ever with medical school, it’s only natural that I should find myself in need of things to feed the Procrastination Monster.

In a moment of desperation,  I turned expectantly to this long neglected website, and it rewarded me for my attention by consuming an impressive amount of time which could have probably been spent on the ever diminishing returns of studying.  As it turns out, setting up an Ubuntu server from scratch and installing WordPress, then finding and tweaking a theme to your perfectionistic liking can take some time, especially if you only dabble in things like PHP, SSH and linux terminals.

But the challenge was accepted, and here it is!  In the coming months, I will have a place to dump my thoughts, whatever they may be (hence the title).  I plan to balance my posts between my current “occupation” as a U.S. medical student, explore some of the experiences I’ve had since becoming a Private Pilot back in 2011, and detail some of the projects I’ve completed in the realms of Android, Home Automation, Car-PCs and Dash-Cams, Home Theater and technology in general.

That’s all for now, feel free to say hello in the comments.  I’m new to this launching-a-website business, and am curious how long it will take to start getting some page views.

Category: Musings