The 7 Credit Cards We Have and Why

 Photo by  Vitaly  on  Unsplash

Photo by Vitaly on Unsplash

By Derek Reimherr

Growing up, my parents always told me to stay far, far away from credit cards. For a long time, this was really, really good advice. If I had owned a credit card in college, you better believe I would’ve spent money on things I didn’t need, namely a gaming computer. There were so many times I looked at my bank account and said, “I can do this. I have enough money.” But I couldn’t bear to part with the money. A credit card would’ve opened up all that sweet, sweet high-resolution gaming goodness.

This is why until I was 22 years old I threw away every single credit card offer that came in the mail. RIP dozens of Discover It! cards.

(Side note: I still haven’t found the right justification for dropping $1,500 on all the equipment I need for a gaming computer instead of going on a vacation. Harry Potter World feels more important than being able to play desktop games instead of PlayStation.)

Over time though, I proved to myself I was (somewhat) financially responsible. And eventually, a credit card made fiscal sense. Once we started looking, we realized we had several criteria a new credit card had to meet before we made the leap.

  • Sign-up bonus
  • Rewards/Points
  • Perks
  • Exclusive offers/discounts/coupons
  • Interest rate

You might be asking yourself why the interest rate is our least important criterion. It boils down to the biggest reason why we even own seven different credit cards.

We pay off our balances at the end of every month. In 4 years, I’ve only paid interest twice. Both times were due to mistakes when setting up auto-payments.

The internet term for how we use credit cards is “churning.” Basically, we take advantage of ridiculous sign-up offers and perks credit cards offer. But because we pay off our cards every month, we never deal with the absurd interest rates.

In fact, if you don’t have the discipline or ability to pay off your credit cards every month, click away now. I’m not going to even mention interest rates in my discussion (but you can read more about money tips here). In my opinion, you shouldn’t have a credit card if you’re going to flirt with 15-30% interest rates, depending on the card.

Some people will say you should carry a balance on a 0% APR credit card to build credit. I would ignore those people.

Some people will suggest using a 0% APR sign-up offer to float yourself during hard times. I would say ignore that advice unless you’re in dire financial straits.

(Note: If you ever “need” to do this, I highly recommend the Chase Freedom card. I’ll talk more about this later.)

We didn’t go out and sign up for a bunch of credit cards in one year, though. We built this collection at a rate of roughly two credit cards per year. So let’s walk through what we did chronologically.

1. American Express Green Card

It doesn’t get any more baby steps than this because it’s a charge card. You don’t get a choice: the payment is due at the end of every month. I initially got this card for business expenses and I used it for years exclusively for this purpose. I still have one for work now. The annual fee is only $95 and it’s a “foot in the door” card for many Amex members. I would not recommend having this card for personal reasons except in two cases. The first would be as a way to practice using a credit card and the second would be to have a basis credit card for purchase protection.

2. Delta Gold American Express

Remember that “foot in the door” card thing I mentioned? That’s how we both ended up with Delta Amex cards. The annual fee is still $95, but the direct tie-in with Delta limits your rewards and points.

We signed up because of the Delta SkyMiles bonus sign up offer. This was a major boon for us: Maggie and I were in a long distance relationship at the time. Our sign up bonus netted us about 3 round trip plane tickets. This card is great if (and only if) you fly Delta a lot. If you do, you get triple miles on all Delta expenses, 1 skymile per dollar spent otherwise, Zone 1 boarding perks, free checked bags, and bonus miles for using your card on Lyft (this might be temporary). I hesitate to recommend this card, though. Delta SkyMile redemption rates and Medallion Member rewards have  deteriorated over the years. For these reasons, we’re planning to cancel our Delta Amex cards. We predominately use a different co-branded airline rewards card instead.

3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Chase VISA

Once again, the sign-up bonus drew us in. In this case, it was 40,000 miles each after spending $1,000 in three months. On Southwest, 80,000 miles can be worth 5 or more round trip plane tickets. We’re waiting to get our second Southwest card until we book our spring trip to Los Angeles to visit friends.

I was never a big fan of Southwest because of the boarding process. In case you’re unfamiliar, you get a boarding position based on when you check-in. Then you go stand in your position at the gate and board in order. I like to roll up at the very last second and walk onto the plane 15 minutes before take off (which Maggie HATES). Southwest doesn't work with this strategy.

Anyway, we’ve stuck it out with the Southwest card. You get double miles on Southwest purchases and one mile per dollar spent otherwise. Southwest flies bags for free and doesn’t have rewards miles blackout dates like other airlines. The big draw for keeping this card is the “cardiversary” bonus. There are two slightly different tiers with this card: Plus and Premier. The Plus card nets you 3,000 points every year and the Premier card pulls in 6,000. The annual fees are differ, with the Plus running at only $69 a year and the Premier at $99. The only reason to get the Premier, aside from the extra annual miles, is you won’t pay foreign transaction fees. So if you’re a big international traveler, spring for the extra $30 a year, no question. I give this card a big thumbs up.

4. Chase Freedom Cash Back Card

This is the good stuff right here: cash back cards. Almost every major bank or lender offers them, but we’ve stuck with two different Chase Cards. With the Freedom, there’s one simple reason: rotating quarterly 5% cash back. Every 3 months, a fresh set of categories come down the pipe. All you have to do is sign in and claim the reward. Q3 of 2017’s bonus cash back categories are movie theaters and restaurants. Yeah, so that’s a 5% discount at ANY restaurant for 3 months. See how great this can be? The best part is that the rewards are points, not straight cash. Chase Ultimate Rewards points redeem at a higher rate than any other card provider (1.5 cents vs. 1 cent per point) when you redeem through its portal.

There’s no annual fee, plus you get a $150 sign-up cash bonus after you spend $500 in 3 months. And if that wasn’t enough, Chase offers 0% APR for the first 15 months. If you find yourself in a bind, you can sign up and put yourself on a 15 month payment plan, interest free. Make sure you pay it off in full before interest hits and always pay the monthly minimum.

As a side note, there’s also the Chase Freedom Unlimited card that gets you 1.5% cashback on all purchases. We Reimherrs like to maximize our rewards, so I don’t think that’s good enough. But if you don’t want to segment all your card usage like we do, that’s a fine option.

5. Department Store Credit Cards

Even though I'm a millennial, my love of a good deal outweighs my pride. So when we signed up for a wedding registry at Macy’s and they told us all the savings we’d get with a Macy’s card, we were sold. When we returned duplicate gifts off of our registry and bought new ones, we racked up tons of coupons. Those coupons funded new swim trunks and shoes for our honeymoon. The same can be said of the Loft credit card Maggie has. That’s her favorite store for business casual clothes. When she was building a professional wardrobe, it paid for her to be brand loyal. My buddy just scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and was constantly going to REI. It made perfect sense for him to get REI’s credit card.

If you regularly shop at the same stores, don’t feel bad saying yes when that cashier asks you if you want to open a new account.

6. Chase Amazon Prime Rewards Card

The Reimherr household is obsessed with Amazon Prime. So when I went to buy a bicycle online and Amazon offered me a $100 credit to get a Amazon Credit Card, I was all over it. The card also offers 3% cashback on all Amazon purchases - respectable, not extraordinary. Then in January of 2017, Amazon created a new tier for the card based around Prime. If you have Amazon Prime, you get 5% cashback on all Amazon purchases. I’ve had Prime since 2011, so we were upgraded.

We are deep in the Amazon ecosystem and buy all these things online:

  • Household items - toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies
  • Gifts for almost any occasion
  • Groceries, both fresh and nonperishable
  • Toiletry items like toothpaste and shampoo

Oh and you also get 2% cashback on dining, gas stations, and drugstores. And one more thing: it's a Chase card. The cashback points are rewards points meaning they can be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards at the higher 1.5 cent rate. See why we love it so much?

7. Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is it, the mack daddy of our credit cards. So far, we’ve touched on rewards cards, a rotating cashback card, co-branded retail and airline rewards cards, and a co-branded cashback card. By early 2017, we were well on our way to being credit card ninjas. The last category we were considering was a premium travel card. We were living in Boston at the time traveling back and forth to the South frequently. We had also settled on how important vacation travel was to us as a couple. Getting a premium travel card made sense.

A friend of ours presented the Chase Sapphire Reserve card as the best option. Chase introduced it in late 2016 and it made a huge splash. The biggest reason? A $450 annual fee. If you’re intimidated, so were we. But after 15 hours of research, I came to believe the card was worth it due to how frequently we travel. Look at all these perks:

  • A $300 annual travel credit that automatically deducts from your balance.
  • 3x points on travel and dining. That includes Airbnb, Uber/Lyft, baggage fees (which you should be avoiding with either Southwest or a co-branded airline card), hotels, rental cars, flights, and ALL restaurants.
  • A $100 credit every 4 years to get Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check.
  • Access to Priority Pass airport lounges. These lounges are at almost all major airports. You check-in and get access to all the food, drinks, and alcohol you want. We get about $40 in value every time we go to an airport.
  • Discounts on National, Avis, and Silvercar rental cars.
  • 50% higher point redemption through Chase Ultimate Rewards than other Chase rewards sources (like the Freedom or Amazon Prime cards).

See what I’m talking about? We generate thousands of rewards points a month.

Oh and I forgot to mention something. When you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, you get 50,000 rewards points. These are worth about $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. We signed up when the offer was 100,000 points aka $1,500. That deal expired in January of 2017, unfortunately.

Sign-up bonus aside, you need to spend about $3,300 a year on travel and dining to make this card worth it. So if you book a trip through Cheap Caribbean once a year and eat out a few times a month, this card is worth it.


If you’ve seen a trend throughout this blog post, it’s that we lean heavily on Chase Rewards cards. For travel, they’re hands down the best points.

I didn’t even have a chance to touch on the general benefits of using a credit card instead of a debit card. The list of benefits is long:  fraud prevention, purchase protection, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, rental car insurance.

What credit cards are you thinking about? What’s holding you back? Let us know!

My Wife and I Are Obsessed with Amazon

By Derek Reimherr

I’m addicted to Amazon. There, I said it.

It all started in 2011 when Amazon Prime was still picking up traction in the public mainstream. They had a special deal on the annual subscription (I think it was $20) for college students. I soon realized I could buy textbooks on Amazon Prime for a lot cheaper. That was only the beginning.

Naturally, I started feeding the Prime beast by ordering more and more things to take advantage of the 2-day “free” shipping. “What?” I would ask myself, “You have to get your money’s worth.”

Then they added Amazon Video. Now if Netflix or Hulu didn’t have it, Amazon probably did. That logo was always there just waiting for me on my PlayStation or Roku home screen. “Why not rent a movie here?” it would ask. Slowly, other on-demand movie rental subscriptions fell by the wayside. Amazon Prime Video became our new Blockbuster.

Then we got Amazon Prime Rewards credit cards. This was truly the beginning of the end for the Reimherr household. All of the sudden, we got 5% cashback on all of our Amazon purchases. Why buy gifts at Target when I could get free 2-day shipping on the exact same thing, probably for a better deal AND I would get cashback?

Soon after we made the switch to the new credit card, we heard about Dash buttons for the first time. Apparently, Dash buttons were physical buttons that tied directly to ordering a specific brand’s product. You pick out your button, Amazon sends it to you (complete with $5 off your first purchase using the button), you pair it to your WiFi, and you’re set.

Now when we are running low on toilet paper, Maggie just opens up the bathroom cabinet and there it is, lying in wait. She presses the button and the small light blinks green. Soon, one of us will get a notification through our Amazon iPhone app saying, “Your Charmin toilet paper has shipped!”

What madness hath we wrought upon ourselves? We thought we were at the point of no return. There was no lower we could sink.

And then there was the Dash Wand.

Amazon has iterated on the Dash Wand numerous times, never quite hitting the mark. In the summer of 2017, the team finally struck gold. The 3rd generation Amazon Dash Wand has Alexa voice recognition built in and a barcode scanner attached….for only $20.

But for a limited time only, the $20 Dash Wand came with a 3-month trial of Amazon Fresh (worth $15 a month), plus a $20 rebate off your first purchase. Amazon was giving me $45 to buy their latest gadget. Our Dash Wand now hangs silently off the provided hook next to our chalkboard in the kitchen.

In Boston, we didn’t have access to the fresh food delivery service because we weren’t close enough to the city center. In Atlanta, we live roughly two miles from the literal center of the city. Amazon was closer than ever to having a remote office in our home. It didn’t take much research to sell us on the service completely.

Soon our free trial will come to an end. But for only $15 a month (on top of our annual Prime membership), we’ll continue to have access. We can peruse all of Amazon’s fresh meat and produce, plus other perishable and nonperishable items, and get an attended or unattended delivery right to our doorstep. Perishable items come in brown paper bags with insulated liners and cold packs to keep our cilantro and basil fresh. After doing a price comparison, it’s roughly the same price, plus the extra $15 for the subscription.

As it turns out, bell peppers are extraordinarily cheap with Fresh. Curse you, Amazon. We love bell peppers.

 Photo by  leonie wise  on  Unsplash

Photo by leonie wise on Unsplash

I shudder to think how much longer it’ll be before we have Amazon Echos strategically placed throughout our home. Soon, I’m sure. I bet the Cyber Monday deals will be amazing.

Now our life is an amalgamation of convenience and brand loyalty.

Whenever we’re running low on milk, I pick up the Dash Wand and scan our Horizon Organic carton. It’s automatically separated into our Amazon Fresh Cart. When Maggie does our meal planning on Sundays, she makes sure our cart costs at least $40 so that the delivery is free.

On Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the delivery time Maggie selected, we’ll get 3 or 4 bags of food handed to us by a nice delivery person. Since I put on pants for this delivery, I decide to walk down to our package room and check the mail.

Oh, we have a package. I sign in to our delivery lockers - it’s an Amazon box. I guess Maggie pushed the Dash Button for our Tide Detergent Pods.

After dinner, Maggie is brushing her teeth with the toothpaste we ordered on Amazon after we forgot to buy it at Publix last week. I’m sitting on the couch watching Man in the High Castle via Amazon Video.

I’ve got my Amazon iPhone app open casually browsing daily deals. Apparently, we have $50 in Amazon Prime Rewards points from all these Amazon Fresh purchases. I decide to cash them in and buy a new boardgame. It’ll be here in 2 days.

As Maggie and I are laying in bed preparing for sleep, she asks if I want to go see “The Big Sick” starring Kumail Nanjiani. We just finished binging Silicon Valley, so we’re very interested in seeing the movie, especially since it received outstanding reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. We buy tickets for Saturday night.

We’re sitting in the theatre a few days later. The previews end and the opening credits roll.

The movie was produced by Amazon Studios.

Dear God, what have we done.

The Power of the Weekly Budget Meeting

 Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

By Derek Reimherr

When we moved to Atlanta, we encountered a major problem.

I got a great new job opportunity, and so did Maggie. Commission is part of her pay structure, so for a little bit we’d be working off of just her base salary. But our household income was still very respectable for a young couple in their mid-20s. We didn’t move to Atlanta for jobs, though. We came back because we missed our people! And the first few months were great.

We fell in love with our new workplaces and we fell back in love with having more of our friends around (but shout out to our amazing Boston friends, we still miss you).

Wait, none of this sounds like a problem. Well, what I’m leaving out is that we were so excited about being back in Atlanta that we were doing all of this:

  • Living in an expensive, bigger apartment in one of the most desired areas of Atlanta
  • Decorating our new apartment because we wanted to host our friends as often as possible.
  • Hanging out with our friends 3 or 4 nights a week
  • Eating out at all of our new neighborhood restaurants 3-4 times a week

And then on top of that, all of this was also going on:

  • Had major routine maintenance done on our existing car
  • Paid off THREE tickets that a jerk New York State Trooper gave Maggie
  • Bought a new car (more on that another time)
  • Booked our fall trip to Denver

As you can imagine, you throw all that together, and we were having major cash flow problems. We were still saving money and contributing to our 401Ks, but we were wasting a lot of money.

Enter the Weekly Budget Meeting.

Some people like to make dates out of their budget meetings. Some people do it on Friday before the weekend starts, some do it on Sunday before the week starts.

The Reimherrs? We grab a seat at our kitchen counter every Tuesday night at 9pm. We figured we would rarely be out of town on Tuesdays and neither of us have standing Tuesday night commitments.

So how does this thing work? Do we sit around and talk about our five year plan and pick index funds to invest in? Nah, y’all give us too much credit. We spend 15-20 minutes looking at our budgets in Mint. That’s it!

We’ve recently pivoted from having little budgets for everything to going to the Zero Sum Budget model or as I refer to it, the Flex Spending Budget. It looks like this:

Income - Mandatory bills (rent, utilities, student loan payments) - Flex bills (groceries, gas) - Monthly savings goal (yes, you should have one) = Flex spending amount

Here’s an example:

$2,000 - (Rent - $400, Utilities - $100, Student Loans - $200) - (Groceries - $200, Gas - $100) - ($400 - saving goal) = $600 flex spending

Our idea is that we want to put all of our dollars to work before we go out with friends, buy some new shoes, or plan a trip. So during our weekly budget meeting, we look at our spending over the past week, ask questions, categorize transactions, and discuss ways we can improve.

  • Hey, what was that $40 on Amazon?
  • By the way, I have a doctor’s appointment next week. Our co-pay is $30 and I think the medicine will cost about $40.
  • Let’s not go out this weekend so we can save more for our Harry Potter World trip (SO EXCITED) in the spring.

The goal is to have an open, honest discussion about finances. Talk about the things that are coming up soon. Look to see if you’re wasting any money. Spot trends in your expenses. 

You will be AMAZED by the headway you can make on your finances when you take the time. This is crucial for us to avoid incurring interest on the various credit cards we carry. In fact, today we canceled several subscriptions and changed our PlayStation Vue package, giving us $100 more to save each month.

What strategies have you tried with your finances? We’d love to hear and try them out ourselves!

Everything You Need to Know About Cordcutting

BY: DEREK REIMHERR

I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with cable companies for a while. Who hasn't? You get locked into contracts, have random price hikes, and often your apartment/home only has one provider option.

Because of this, I've been working on cutting the cord for a while. In fact, since high school, I’ve only had a full TV lineup for one year. Instead, I’ve had Hulu and Netflix since 2009 and 2010 (uninterrupted, mind you). I got Prime Video when it debuted with an Amazon Prime subscription. So when Maggie and I moved to Atlanta, I was chomping at the bit to take it a step further: no cable contract. Luckily for us, our new apartment complex is wired for Comcast, AT&T, AND Google Fiber.

There are several things you need to know before we get started:

  • You NEED a good internet connection to reliably use streaming for everything. I would say around 100 MB/s is a solid speed. The streaming companies say 30 MB/s but I don’t think that’s good enough.
  • Depending on the promos for cable companies, cutting the cord entirely may not be cheaper. For example, Comcast often offers basic channels and HBO with 75 MB/s internet at a cheaper rate than just getting the internet.
  • If you live with someone (roommates, significant other), don't start making changes before chatting. They may not care - Maggie didn't - but be safe and ask.
  • If you’re doing any kind of streaming, you need a streaming device. This could be a Roku, Chromecast, gaming console, or Smart TV. Before you pick your path, know the platform compatibilities of the streaming service.

So, why do people even care about cord cutting, especially if it might not be cheaper? The biggest reason is the flexibility - streaming services don't have contracts. Comcast often has 3-year agreements and DirecTV is usually 2 years. Don't even get me started on Charter or Time Warner.

Assuming that cordcutting involves some type of television access (whether live or on-demand), there are 3 distinct ways to get TV:

Antenna

Yes, these still exist. And yes, they can get you a good number of channels. Plus, they’re not ugly anymore; take a look at this Vansky transparent antenna. Essentially, you set up one of these bad boys, plug it into your TV, and BOOM, free HDTV. The issues are they usually only pick up channels broadcasting within 50 miles or so and you’re stuck with live TV ads. This Lifehacker article has some more info if you’re interested. 

On-demand streaming TV

These are the options most people are familiar with. Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime are the primary ones. You pay anywhere between $8 (the monthly cost of an annual Amazon Prime membership) to $20 (HBO Now) for access. Set up an account and turn on your app and you’re rolling. Some are better than others, but keep in mind that you can always stop and start service based around the release of your must-see shows (like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black).

Live TV streaming services

These services are the primary focus of this article today. Most people trying to cut the cord are looking for ways to get live TV without a cable subscription. In the past 2 years, several options have popped up like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.


All that said, there are several areas of concern when cordcutting that many people don’t think about or consider.

Okay, but how am I going to watch sports?
Many people don’t care about live sports. For someone like me who’s an Atlanta Falcons fan and a diehard University of Georgia Bulldogs fan, sports channels are required. These people are looking to have live TV at least in the fall and winter. This was the biggest motivator for me to cut the cord - I wasn’t going to pay $200 (or more) a month for Comcast’s internet + TV sports package. If you’re interested in sports, look closely at a streaming service’s channel lineup before making the jump.

But what about ads?
This can be tricky. Even though I’m in marketing, I can’t stand TV ads, so being able to fast forward (or avoid them altogether) was important. Some plans from the big on-demand services let you avoid ads, but any live TV options and first-party streaming apps (like CW or AMC) cram them down your throat. Luckily, several of the live TV streaming services have DVR with commercial-skipping features.

I heard Google Fiber was coming and it’s gonna be awesome!
Don’t get your hopes up. I was thrilled when I learned our new apartment was pre-wired for Google Fiber. I got on the wait list immediately knowing it would be 2-3 months until we saw a technician. That’s okay, I can wait for such a good deal. Unfortunately, at the 3-month mark, Google still didn’t have an ETA on my technician. I dug around and found that Google has more or less given up on their Fiber network rollout. They were hit with lawsuits from AT&T and Comcast for appropriating existing cable infrastructure and then realized they were unprepared to do the work themselves.

I’ve read rumors they’re working on some new wireless TV technology, but I would wager that’s at least 3 years out. If you’re in a city like Atlanta, Nashville, or Louisville waiting on Google Fiber, don’t hold your breath.


Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to meet the biggest Live TV contenders. For more in-depth overviews comparing specific channel breakdowns, check out the below articles. Keep in mind that channel lineup will differ slightly based on where you live.

Hulu Live TV

 Source: Hulu 

Source: Hulu 

  • Cost: $40
  • Channel lineup: Put in your Zip Code to find out
  • Sports: All ESPN and Fox channels, NBC Sports, and CBS Sports
  • DVR: 50 hours, 200 hours with Enhanced subscription.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: Yes
  • Devices: Apple and Android mobile, Xbox One, 4th Gen Apple TV, and Chromecast
  • Value prop: Includes normal Hulu subscription. Pay $5 more for no-commercials plan with on-demand shows.

Hulu Live TV is pushing to be the best option out there. The main issue? The number of platforms are super limited. You can’t use it with Fire Stick, Smart TVs, Roku, or Sony/Nintendo gaming consoles. Heck, it isn’t even on desktop yet. Additionally, if you watch a bunch of shows, the DVR is rather restrictive without an upgrade. There are also reports that the interface isn’t user friendly. However, it’s still in Beta. When it goes live on Roku or PlayStation, I’ll seriously look into it.

Sling TV

 Source: CNET

Source: CNET

  • Cost: $20-$40
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package - more info
  • Sports: ESPN + Fox and NBC regional channels with Sling Blue or combined package
  • DVR: Yes, if you’re a beta customer and only available on Roku, Android, and Amazon devices.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS mobile devices, Xbox One (but not 360), Amazon devices, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: The cheapest option at $20 a month.

Sling TV’s biggest advantage was its “first” status. I used Sling Blue ($25) last fall during football season, but I found the stream to be extremely buggy. The video would frequently freeze with the audio continuing to play. I usually had to back out of the app and reopen it once every 30 minutes on average. To its credit, it has some of the most available devices. So if you’re looking for a cheap Live TV option, this could be it.

DirecTV Now

 Source: TheVerge

Source: TheVerge

  • Cost: $35-$70
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package -more info
  • Sports: Most channels in basic $35 package
  • DVR: No
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, Amazon devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: Easy transition from cable and no data usage if using AT&T for your phone provider.

To be fair, I have no experience with DirecTV. Personally, I find that these packages have the most bloat. Plus, the upper limit is quite expensive. While there isn’t any DVR option, many channels have a “3 day catchup” feature which is nice, but still doesn’t compare to the perks of a true DVR.

YouTube TV

 Source: TechSpot

Source: TechSpot

  • Cost: $35
  • Channel lineup: One package - more info. No HBO integration.
  • Sports: Most channels included, but no NFL Network.
  • DVR: Yes, recorded videos expire after 9 months with unlimited storage.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: No
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, and Chromecast
  • Value prop: Free Chromecast after you pay for your first month and the most DVR storage.
  • CAVEAT: Only available in certain cities - more info

YouTube TV is the newest addition to the bunch and is still rolling out. Many expect it’ll have the best adoption rate due to the massive existing audience YouTube has. Plus, in addition to live TV, you’ll get access to YouTube Red original programming (not that there’s anything great there yet). However, HBO and YouTube aren’t playing nice. That’s not a huge deal, but it means you’ll have to get a separate HBO subscription to watch Silicon Valley or Veep.

Playstation Vue

 Source: Destructoid

Source: Destructoid

  • Cost: $40-$75
  • Channel lineup: Depends on package - more info
  • Sports: Most channels in basic $40 package. Everything included in the $45 package
  • DVR: Yes, tag shows as “My Shows” and every future occurrence will be recorded. Recorded videos expire in 28 days.
  • Skip recorded content commercials: Yes
  • Devices: Desktop, Android and iOS, Amazon devices, Apple TV, PS4, Roku, Chromecast, and some Smart TVs
  • Value prop: Has the most compatible devices and a great DVR system.

Recently, PS Vue increased its price making it the most expensive option. However, keep in mind you have a built-in DVR which I found is the absolute best version out of all the streaming services. The main issue this service has is the PlayStation tag - it confuses consumers. As you can see, it actually has the most available devices with the only exceptions being other video game consoles (Xbox and Wii/Switch). Additionally, PS Vue provides the most access to NFL games. Only Sling TV can compare, unless you have someone’s NFL pass for streaming in an internet browser.


So who’s the winner? For me, it was PlayStation Vue. The biggest factor is that it has the best DVR. Yes, YouTube TV has more storage, but you can’t skip commercials on recorded shows which is (in my opinion) the ENTIRE POINT of DVR. Hulu TV could be the move for us in the future, but I’m not going to buy any additional streaming devices (Chromecast, in this case).

With all of this being said, what does an actual cordcutting mix look like? I’ll give you our breakdown and explain some of our choices:

  • Internet: AT&T Gigabit Fiber - $80/month
  • Streaming services:
    • Netflix Ultra - $12/month
    • Hulu Ad Free - $12/month
  • TV service: PlayStation Vue Ultra - $65/month
  • Total: $170

Now, if $170 sounds like a lot, it is. But keep in mind a couple things. For starters, I’m getting the faster internet available to a residential property. You could easily save $30 a month by getting 100 MB/s internet. Secondly, I plan to cancel both of our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions once we finish original programming shows like Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, and Sherlock. I can always start them back up later when a new season drops. Finally, I’m paying for the most expensive Vue plan because of HBO. When we’ve finished Silicon Valley and the newest season of Game of Thrones, I’ll drop down to the $45 package. In theory, you could be paying $100 for decent internet and a Live TV streaming service with sports and DVR.

And remember, the biggest reason to cut the cord is this: it’s totally flexible. Aside from my internet plan, I can drop any of these services at any time or change my subscription. THAT’S why we cut the cord.

So, do you have any questions before you take the leap? I’m happy to help out. Drop us a comment below, send us an email or shoot us a message on Instagram

The Summer Purchases You Won't Regret

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By Derek Reimherr

In case you missed it, we recently moved from Boston to Atlanta. And there’s nothing like upgrading to a 2 bedroom apartment with a giant patio, walk-in closets, and full-size bathrooms to make you realize how much you do (or don’t) have.

Being an interests guy, there are many things I love in this world. Surprising no one who knows me, two of them are entertaining and decorating. Something something gender roles, whatever. As we looked around at our new apartment, Maggie and I got the itch to start buying stuff we probably don’t need to make our new home feel more comfortable and entertaining easier.

Some of that stuff we definitely didn’t need (like a mousepad with a Rambo cat riding a fire breathing unicorn), but several of our purchases have been really, really great.

So as you’re gearing up for the summer, we’ve got a few (non-sponsored, no one is paying us for these) recommendations based on our recent purchases. We think they’ll make your home a lot more fun, cozy, and comfortable.

1. New bar stools for your kitchen

In the south, people gather around food. Lucky for us, our new kitchen comes complete with a nice, long bar. Unfortunately, it’s been sitting naked for the past several months. No more! Target came in clutch with these really slick stools that perfectly fit our apartment aesthetic, and at only $180 for 2 pairs.

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2. Decorations for your patio. Extra points for copper.

All copper everything. I don’t even care how ~basic~ it makes us, we LOVE copper in the Reimherr household. Our patio is perfect for summer sitting since it doesn’t get much direct sun and we want to spruce it up with unique lighting features. One trip to Target yielded this copper lantern and following Kinja Deals on Twitter served us these copper wire lights for a steal. The lantern is on our patio set (also from Target) and the lights are now strung through our patio fence/railing.

P.S. Be careful with Kinja Deals. Every time I click on their daily deals, I have something in my Amazon shopping cart 5 seconds later. Speaking of Amazon….

3. Amazon Prime membership

If you don’t already have one, what are you doing? You’re too busy to run to the store for every little thing this summer. 2-day free shipping has been a major time saver for us. But wait, there’s more! Amazon Music, Amazon Movies and TV (like Man in the High Castle - so good), and early access to deals. What are you waiting for?

4. Cold brew coffee maker

If you haven’t explored the world of cold brew, summer is the perfect time. There’s nothing worse than hot coffee when it’s already 80 degrees at 9:00 am. Yes, you can make cold brew in a french press or a pitcher (with some finagling). But wouldn’t you rather get a super cheap, super easy to use cold brew maker instead? This one is 1 quart which is perfect for two travel mugs every morning. Yes, cold brew takes a lot more coffee beans to make, but it’s still about $0.75 per 10 oz coffee vs. $3.50 at the coffee shop across the street from us.

5. Self-care essentials

Maggie is all about the self-care and it’s rubbed off on me, too. For her, that means bubble baths, frequent trips to the library, and the occasional massage. If you’re partial to relaxing baths, here’s what she’s been using lately. While you’re at it, get a bath caddy to hold your glass of wine. I gifted Maggie one for Christmas and she loves it.

6. A good pair of headphones

Anyone that plans on bebopping (people still say this, right?) their way around coffee shop patios in the summer knows the value of decent bluetooth headphones. Alternatively, they’re great for air travel or long car rides. Trust me, your ears deserve better than those iPhone headphones. I have a pair of Bose on-ears but recently bought a well-reviewed and deeply discounted pair of over-ear headphones. Yes, there’s a difference.
 

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7. Portable battery/charger

Man, these things are absolute LIFE SAVERS. Get it, like battery life? From the research I’ve done, Anker is the undisputed king in this category. Their portable batteries come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of ports. I got the small model - it fits in my pocket and backpack super easily.

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8. Lightweight cotton sheets

Maybe you’re still using your sheets from college, but we were fortunate enough to get a set of 600 thread count sheets as a wedding gift. They’re unbelievably soft and cozy, but they retain heat like nobody’s business. This does not bode well in a Georgia summer.

I did some research recently and found Brooklinen sheets had the highest ratings. (This is a referral link btw. You buy anything and Maggie and I get some credit. Thanks in advance!) As an avid Casper brand evangelist, it pained me to go off-brand. One cannot ignore reviews, though. These 270 thread count sheets were exactly what the doctor ordered. No more waking up sweaty for this couple. Bonus points if you get polka dot sheets because you know your wife will think they're "cute." 
 

9. Game night options

We are big board/card game people. Okay, I’M a big board gamer and I’ve converted Maggie. Having a couple beers with friends while crushing them in not-Monopoly is the perfect Sunday night for us. (Seriously, Monopoly is the worst.) Not all game nights are created equal, though. Cards Against Humanity (or Exploding Kittens, Utter Nonsense, etc) is awesome for 6 or more people - we just bought an expansion for this exact reason. But nothing beats a rousing, yes rousing, game of Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, or Pandemic with another couple or small group of friends. Make sure you have options.

10. TV upgrades

What does this have to do with summer, you ask? Isn’t summer for going outside? Yes, but the night is dark and full of terrors. For all you non-Westerosi out there, Game of Thrones is coming back this summer. So is House of Cards. And Orange is the New Black. Invest in your binging viewing experience by grabbing a soundbar - your TV speakers aren’t doing Jon Snow’s brooding justice. There are options as cheap as $150, but I spent a bit more when I upgraded.

We recently bought a strip of bias lights. They’re supposed to reduce eye strain and increase the perceived on-screen contrast. Or something. I’m enjoying them so far.


There you have it. Go forth and shop. 

What are you planning on buying this summer? Let us know!

5 Money Tips for Millennials

By Butler Stoudenmire

Millennials have been put in a rotten financial situation. The job market is more competitive than ever, requiring everyone to obtain increasingly expensive college degrees, which are being financed increasingly through student loans. At the other end of the life spectrum, conventional forms of employer sponsored retirement plans are disappearing and Social Security cannot be trusted. I don’t say all of that to play the victim, but to set the stage as to why it’s so important that we millennials gain control of our finances ASAP.

When I did my loan exit counseling the month before graduating with my Masters degree, I was shocked. I was just shy of being six-figures in debt. After I collected myself off of the floor, I decided that I must focus and create a plan if I ever hoped to attack and kill the debt. Now, a year and a half later, I have managed to pay off 45% of my loan. I have learned a lot about myself- what I need, what I want, what I’m made of- and have had the opportunity to coach others who are on the journey of paying off debt. Below are some of the tips and tricks that I have learned and shared with others for taking control of personal finances, whether in debt or not in debt.

 

1. Calculate Your Interest

If you have no debt, skip this one (or read it anyway and be grateful you don’t have to worry about it).

Do you want to find motivation for paying off your loans as quickly as possible? Calculate how much interest you are paying on your loan each day. This was the first thing I did once I saw my balance, and let’s just say it didn’t make me feel any better. 

To make the math simple, let’s say you owe $100,000 on a loan with a 6% interest rate. That means that across a year, you will accrue a total of $6,000 of interest that has to be paid off (100,000*.06). As the interest accrues, you must pay it off before you are able to pay off your principal balance. Now, let’s divide that $6,000 by 365 days in the year, which equals $16.44 per day ($495 per month- yikes!). In my mind, I couldn’t justify stressing over a $2 pack of gum that will last me for two weeks, but not stress out about $16 per day that I was paying for literally no benefit whatsoever.  That was when I realized I had to pay this loan off as quickly as I possibly could. It should also be noted that a required minimum payment may be around $500 per month (or less), meaning that only $5 of principal is paid off (or none of it at all). Pay as much as possible on your loans each month!

 

2. Budget

Budget, budget, budget! The importance of budgeting cannot be emphasized enough. Budget! Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and company like to say, “Instead of ending the month wondering where your money went, begin your month telling your money where to go.” Whether you are in debt and trying to get out, or you have never been in debt in your life, the foundation to building wealth is developing and adhering to a budget.

One of the most effective ways to budget is to use zero-based budgeting. Every month, sit down with your anticipated income and your anticipated expense categories and assign every single dollar from your income to an expense category. You start with $0 in every expense category and you end with $0 in your income category. Start with Giving and Saving. Then budget for your Housing, Utilities, Transportation, Food, and Debts. Then you can put a reasonable amount in your other categories such as Entertainment, Shopping, etc. Based on your priorities, your budget may look different from someone else’s with the same income. For instance, while I am getting out of debt, my Restaurant category is less than $75 per month, and my Student Debt category is over $1,000 per month. Once my loan is paid off, that $1,000 will be allocated to other categories (Praise the Lord). 

Sitting down to do your budget each month is eye opening. I never realized how much I was spending in the cafeteria at the hospital where I work. Little meals and snacks add up across a month. Needless to say, I have been bringing my lunch to work much more often now (Yay rice and beans…). If you are married, sitting down with your spouse each month to review your expenses from last month and to discuss your upcoming expenses and financial goals is a great thing. Financial distress and lack of communication account for the vast majority of divorces in America. Having these discussions regularly with your spouse will ensure that the two of you are on the same page with your finances.

Quick Tip: Don’t bother with Excel or pen and paper. I did this at first and it was too much work. Download an app on your phone. I use EveryDollar; it’s free, user-friendly, and I can input my expenses immediately after I buy something.
 

3. No-Expense Weeks

 This is my favorite. No-expense weeks make me feel like a financial Olympian. Setting a difficult goal, sacrificing, emerging on the other side in glory—it’s a beautiful thing. No-expense weeks are exactly what they sound. During a no-expense week, you are not allowed to spend any money (unless your rent is due, bills are due, etc.). Here’s what it looks like:

Sunday afternoon I go to the grocery store and get all of the food that I’ll need for the week. I also make sure that my car is full of gas. And then I delight in the fact that I won’t be spending ANY money until the next Sunday. “Oh man, a Starbucks sure would be good right now.” Nope. “Oh my gosh, look at those shoes that are on sale.” Nah. “Honey, I really think we should go try that new restaurant tonight.” Nuh uh.

No-expense weeks are a powerful tool for immediately putting money in your pocket. I try to do at least two each month. And I won’t lie; it can be difficult (Olympians must have discipline). One time during a no-expense week, I went to a happy hour with some co-workers, and I took a Ziploc bag of tortilla chips in my pocket. Everyone called me Napoleon Dynamite (think tater tots). True. Story.

 

4. SINK Your DINK

Here’s one for the married folk that we singles can only dream about. Harnessing the power of your DINK (Dual Income No Kids). DINK is a wonderful place to find yourself; however, it can also be the beginning of unsustainable financial habits. Often, new couples will use one of the incomes to pay the essentials and then use the other income as fun money. Three trips across the country, five trips to Pottery Barn, and fifteen nice dinners out later and you have made no financial progress. Once the kids come a few years later and you’re accustomed to your lifestyle, it can be really hard to cut the lifestyle to afford all of the expenses associated with the kids.

What if instead of living a lifestyle equal to your dual income you decided that you were going to live on only one income and put the entire other income to your goals: paying off debt, saving for a house, investing, or whatever you may want to do? What a way to get a headstart! You would be living the SINK lifestyle with DINK security. This also allows you to easily transition to one parent working and the other staying home if you do have children later down the road. The great news about SINKing your DINK is that you can stop at anytime and enjoy your DINK. If I end up getting married, I am going to try to convince my wife that we should SINK our DINK for our whole working life so that we can retire early (check back in a few years to see how that’s working for me).

 

5. Don’t Mortgage Your Life Away

There are many criticisms of millennials that I disagree with; there are some that I do agree with. One such criticism is that we expect the same lifestyle that our parents currently have. I am guilty of this. I want a nice car and a house with hardwood floors, granite countertops, and a master bed and bath suite. The problem is that when most of our parents were in their 20s/30s, they were living in a duplex with shag carpet and linoleum countertops, and were driving beaters. Therefore, the temptation is great to buy a great big nice house when you’re living that DINK life (and maybe SINK life, if the income is large).

Let’s say you give in to this temptation and buy a nice $350,000 house on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. 

You have just locked yourself in to sending the bank a check for $1,600 every single month for the next 30 years. Then the kids come and you go from DINK to SIK (Single Income Kids). Things can get tight.

Now let’s imagine you don’t give into temptation. You decide that with just you and your spouse, you don’t really need a 4,000 square foot house. You decide that for the next 5 years you are going to enjoy living in a reasonable, yet comfortably sized and quality house, townhouse, or condo. You pay $120,000 for it and decide to make the smart decision of a doing a 15-year mortgage. That’s around $900 per month for half of the amount of time. If you SINK your DINK, you can pay your house off in three years. How quickly could you build wealth with no mortgage or rent payments? Then once the kids come, you can sell, take your equity and all of that cash you’ve accumulated while having no payments, and buy a bigger, more comfortable place (either in cash or with a small mortgage).

 

Putting it Together

Making smart financial decisions now is the key to financial success and stability later in life. Get out of debt, live beneath your means, give generously, and watch your investments compound across a long, happy life. 

5 Times Public Transportation is Absolutely Worth It

By Maggie Reimherr

When I moved to Boston, one of the things that most excited me was commuting to work on the train. I hate driving for no real reason that I can figure out except that I’m not great at it. I take it as a personal affront every time Derek asks me to drive instead of him. Plus, commuting on the train would give me a “true city experience.”

Here are my top 5 reasons why public transportation is the best:

  1. You can read books on the train. I live for worthless achievements. So being able to hit my GoodReads goals and up my number of books each year to 30 gives me a silly amount of pleasure. What else am I going to do for an hour and a half each day?

  2. You feel good about being eco-friendly by not driving a personal carbon dioxide machine. You may or may not actually be reducing your carbon footprint, but hey, it feels good to try.

  3. No road rage = a greater sense of calm. TBH, I’m one of those drivers that causes road rage by doing awful things like driving too slowly, forgetting to check my blind spot, etc. But for those of you who actually know how to operate a vehicle well and really, really hate driving around people like me, taking the train will really help you freakin’ relax (looking directly at my husband on this one).

  4. People watching. The other day, I saw a dude strike up a conversation with a cute woman. She was nice to him because he wasn’t totally creepy, but she was just trying to get to work on time. She was also wearing a wedding ring. No bueno. When she exited the train at her stop, he walked with her and asked her for her number. All the ladies around me and I had a nice laugh. (Unrelated pro tip to people everywhere: Always check the ring finger.)

  5. You might save money. Now that Derek and I both take the train, we’ve reduced our gas budget to $30 a month. 30 FREAKING DOLLARS A MONTH. I used to pay 4 times that for just my little Corolla driving to work every day.

And on the flipside, of course there are a few issues with public transportation, those being...

  1. People are dumb. This thought runs through my mind most days on the train. Like, yes, please just continue to wrap your entire body around that pole that other people clearly need to use to steady themselves on a crowded train. Please block the space right in front of the door. Please don’t move to the center of the car when the train gets crowded. Um, no. Please don’t. (For my UGA people, it’s so much worse than the Orbit bus.)

  2. The train is not an office. When I first moved, I thought that I would be able to get loads of things accomplished on the train, like journaling, reading my Bible, and answering emails. As it turns out, it’s really hard to write when you’re standing up, holding on for dear life or when you’re squished next to someone in your seat, trying with all your might not to graze them inappropriately. It’s also really hard to connect to the interwebs when you’re underground.

  3. You have to make physical contact with strangers. On particularly crowded mornings, you're going to be crammed into the train car like sardines. You're going to touch, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's uncomfortable.

  4. It's not uncommon for delays to make you 30 minutes to an hour late for work. On multiple occasions, I've heard this sentence: "We're stopped due to a disabled train at South Station. Passengers stand by." Thanks for being reliably unreliable, MBTA.

 

So while riding the train has definite advantages and disadvantages, the pros outweigh the cons, placing me on #TeamPublicTransit. Now if only the South would get it together and build up more robust public transportation options...


Commuters, we want to hear your funniest, weirdest public transportation stories. Leave us a comment!

More on #MillennialMarriage:

City Living: Our Narrow Avoidance of a Rental Scam
8 Reasons Why DINK Life is the Best Life
Budget Basics: Where Did All My Money Go?

That Time We Got a Mattress from the Internet

By Derek Reimherr

Among the many things that I knew I was unprepared to face in adulthood, buying a mattress was not one of them. My parents bought the mattress I had used all the way up until marriage in middle school. It was slightly sloped towards the middle and probably had several pounds of sweat stored away, but it was home.

And yet somehow, even though I’m 5’ 8” and my wife is 5’ 1”, she demanded that we needed a king bed. You might think, “Well that sounds unreasonable,” and you’d be right. I quickly realized, however, that this little girl I was marrying took up approximately 70% of a queen bed. How…what…I just don’t understand.

Luckily for her, we did actually need a new bedroom set. I eventually conceded that having an ocean of sheets between us would be kind of nice. Who doesn’t love being able to reach out in either direction and feel only registry-gifted 600 thread count sheets? It’s a luxury that only a hobbit-sized married couple can enjoy. “Let’s upgrade to a king,” I said.

So we set out on a Greater Boston area hunt for bedroom furniture and mattresses. We referenced the radio ads from my previously long driving commute to guide us, each Boston-accented store name more hilarious than the last. We wandered from Jowredan’s (Jordan’s) to Burneigh and Phal’s (Bernie and Phil’s) to Bahstan Interiors to Bahb’s Discount Furnahtah.

We were super #blessed enough to have the cost taken care of as a wedding gift from family, but we were still working within a budget. The bedroom furniture set was easy - we both liked the same style.

When it came to mattresses, however, apparently our butts have some high standards. Because here’s what we quickly learned about the ~cloud~ we hoped to sleep on:

HOLY !@$% MATTRESSES ARE EXPENSIVE. Like really, really expensive.

 Via giphy.com

Via giphy.com

You want your bed to not feel like a funeral pyre? Start at $800.

How about a little softness? $1,000.

Maybe some memory foam in there? $1,500.

All memory foam? At least $3,000.

The first one we laid down on was more than $5,000. I asked my friend Collin, an automotive journalist, what kind of whip you can buy in that price range. “How about a used Mazda Miata or a late 80s BMW?” I’m not even a car guy, despite having previously worked for a car company, and I would rather have one of those than a freaking Sleep Number. “You can sleep in a car, but you can’t drive a mattress,” he says. Touché, good sir.

But then a long forgotten conversation magically reappeared in my brain. “Yeah, Daniel just convinced Alyssa to get a Casper,” Maggie once mentioned.

The friendly ghost? Not quite, although it IS a pretty friendly company. Casper is one of several mattress startups that are trying (and succeeding) to disrupt the sleep industry. You may have heard of Tuft & Needle, Yogabed or Loom & Leaf - it’s all a similar concept.

Here’s how it works: They cut out the middlemen (your local Mattress Factory or whatever) and make beds out of varying compressible materials. Casper makes its beds out of memory foam and latex, for example. They stuff these mattresses up into a very small refrigerator sized box and ship it, drastically reducing the logistical cost of transportation.

Maggie wasn’t so confident, though. Apparently the idea of “don’t try before you buy” freaked her out. It’s a reasonable apprehension to have, but here’s the beauty of these mattress startups: they all offer some type of 90 or 100 day return policy. Casper will even come pick up the bed from your apartment/house if you don’t like it. With that insurance policy in mind, we pulled the trigger.

I LOVE MY CASPER MATTRESS. It’s easily one of my favorite purchases/gifts I’ve ever received. It took a couple weeks to break in, but we love it. The best part? A king size bed is only $1,000. It almost feels like you’re cheating getting a mattress for that price.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in. Whether you’re a recent graduate, getting your first apartment, moving in together, or marrying your sweetie, you will eventually need a new mattress. If you ask us, do yourself a favor: buy a Casper bed. If you don’t trust our opinion and want to try a different company, go ahead. But for the love of all that is comfy, don’t go to a mattress store. Your wallet will thank you later.

Bought a bed recently? We’d love to hear about your experience. Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us a message on social.

Budget Basics: Where Did All My Money Go?

By Derek Reimherr

The day I left Athens, GA - where I went to college - I had $50 to my name. My fun involved free beer from friends and video games given as Christmas presents. My dates with Maggie usually involved RedBox and leftover food. And at this point, the gravy train from Mom and Dad was officially dry.

I was lucky enough to have a well-paid job lined up with a large, soul sucking corporation. They relocated me to Los Angeles where I found a room in a house one mile from the beach at the unreasonably cheap rate of $800 a month including utilities. Then on my first day, I found out I would be in a position that was overtime eligible AND required overtime. Those crazy California laws rule. Soon, I had more 0s in my bank account than I knew what to do with.  

Suddenly our dates consisted of weekend gallavants (if the word is good enough for Theon Greyjoy, it's good enough for me) around LA - brunches in Hollywood, shopping on Rodeo Drive, beer festivals in Long Beach, you name it. We ordered rounds of $15 Moscow Mules without batting an eyelash. Okay, maybe we batted a singular eyelash.

The problem was, it didn't last. I moved to Boston where I didn't get overtime and where 1 bedroom apartments cost as much as mortgages on 4 bedroom houses in Georgia. Every time I checked my Mint.com account overview, I wept silently as I transferred money from savings to checking every month. I was blowing my cash like Aaron Carter, circa 2003, faster than you could say “I want Candy.”

I needed a freaking budget.

The “b” word tends to get thrown around a lot as something “everyone knows they should be doing” but no one actually is. There’s something about that sweet, sweet first paycheck that makes you want to ball out.

The biggest roadblock? Us. “There’s no point starting a budget, it’s not like I’m going to stick to it anyway.” Why is the struggle to keep a budget so real?

1. Your categories aren't realistic.

Stop living in Cloud City, kid, you aren't Lando Calrissian. Life doesn’t always fall in line with our ideal, narrow budget categories. You’re going to spend more than $150 a month on groceries unless you love grilled chicken breast and...seasoned salt.

2. You're not committed.

Just because you have a steady job doesn’t mean you can do whatever, whenever. Ever want to actually relive your study abroad dreams and go back to Barcelona? You’re going to need to cool it on the Starbucks rewards program and brew a few cups of joe instead.

3. You're not self-monitoring.

Setting up a budget is great, but you still need to log in and look at your money. It might be funny for @TheFatJewish to say he never checks his bank account, but he’s got White Girl Rose. What do you have? Track your spending.

4. You're leaving stuff out.

Remember your Mom’s birthday? You should probably get her something. Car maintenance? Those donut-tires on your car probably aren’t safe. These are things that don’t happen all the time, but you need to be ready when they do.

Think you need a budget yet? I did then and I do now. The difference is that my income has changed and so has my lifestyle which means different budgets for different times. Here are the 3 that I've used and Maggie and I employ at different times depending on our goals. 

  • Bare Bones: AKA only the essentials. New clothes (non-work related)? Nope. Eating out? Unnecessary. Brewery tours? Sadly and tragically, non-essential. This is probably not your everyday budget. This is for aggressive debt repayment, hardcore savings, or hustling to get that first real job. This is the “roll up your sleeves” financial system.
  • Fun Money: The most basic of budgets I would recommend. It focuses on the simple idea, “How much money is left after paying bills, taking care of the essentials, and saving some cash?” What’s left is your fun money - you don’t even need to bother tracking it.  You might spend more (read: waste) than you should, but you at least you took care of business first. This is what we end up using most of the time without realizing it.
  • Zero-sum: This is the ideal to me and what we (try to) use. The Simple Dollar, a blog I read, talks about exactly why you should use a zero-sum budget. At its core, a zero-sum budget assigns every dollar a job. You’re trying not to live paycheck to paycheck because you one saved up one month’s expenses in your bank account and won’t go bankrupt from paying bills. It takes some discipline, but it’s worth it.

The entire point of doing a budget is to change behavior. Poppin’ bottles was cool for us cool when we had the budget of Leonardo DiCaprio, but otherwise, sticking to a plan is better. If you don’t want to fall to shambles when life happens (been there 👋), don’t go through the motions and actually try the process.  It'll be worth it. 

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What budgeting tips and tricks have you used? We're always needing new ways to not blow our money shopping on Amazon Prime.

More #MillennialMarriage posts we think you'll love:

10 Lessons Learned in 3 Months of Marriage
City Living: Our Narrow Avoidance of a Rental Scam
Fixer Upper Taste on an IKEA Budget

Fixer Upper Taste on an IKEA Budget

BY DEREK REIMHERR

In a traditional gender role shattering revelation, I am the interior decorator in our marriage. Shocking, right? No, it’s 2016 people, open your minds. I’m a dude who likes to pick out color schemes, arrange furniture, and make gallery walls. Don’t get me wrong, Maggie knows what looks good in an apartment or home, too. But as they say on HGTV: “I have an eye for design.”

Speaking of, I’ll admit it: I love HGTV. You know why? It’s so reliable, and not just in entertainment value. Go to pretty much any hotel chain for a night’s stay and I guarantee you that if you need a Love it or List It fix, channel surf and you shall receive. But the show to rule them all? Fixer Upper is king, no holds barred.

Chip and Joanna Gaines are my marriage spirit animal. They have a really admirable love for each other and an aspirational love for Jesus. Their children? The most precious angel babies that were ever on TV. He’s a giant goofball with a huge heart and can-fix-anything smarts and she’s a strong, independent woman with crazy design skills.

I’ll just put it this way: if my job paid me in shiplap, I wouldn’t hate it. (JUST LOOK AT THIS KITCHEN!)

It probably has something to do with my mom being a real estate agent. I grew up touring model homes and walking through housing developments. One of our favorite things each year as a family was to go to the Atlanta “Street of Dreams,” a subdivision of handpicked, mini-mansion floor plans from different builders. My mom redecorated some years in the summer when school was out, so I was with her at Main Street Interiors. I can’t explain it; it’s just fun to me.

So when the opportunity came to decorate my first apartment with Maggie, I was beyond stoked. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much. Our inventory:

  • Bedroom furniture

  • Target bookshelves

  •  

Luckily, I was very #blessed to have a relocation bonus through work. I thought I would be able to get all the things. You know what I quickly realized? Couches are expensive as hell. Pro tip: Don’t go to Crate and Barrel for your first set of furniture, it will reveal your true peasant status.

I quickly learned that factory stores and outlets were my friend. We found a local furniture warehouse where I furnished our living room (couch, lamps, coffee table and side tables) and bought the entertainment center for reasonable deals. I knew we’d want a bigger kitchen table down the road, so I got a one from a used, previously rented furniture store. It has some nicks and scratches, but it was super cheap.

Here’s where it got tough. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a “decoration budget” set aside. And I don’t have the time to go to antique markets to make Joanna proud. I had some expendable savings, and I knew that I could spare maybe $150 a month to make this apartment feel like a home. What could that get me?? Turns out, at IKEA, it gets you a lot.

3 canvas watercolor paintings for $17 - Check.

Custom desk outfitted with snazzy table legs and file cabinet for $170 - You bet.

5 pillows and pillowcases to go on the couch for $50 - Yes, please.

Weird translucent vase for $6 - I don’t even care, DONE.

I even bought fake flowers. I was so into it that I bought fake bamboo stalks that, as it turns out, are actually real. They’re now growing in our weird $6 translucent vase. Just the other day, I noticed they had leaves on them. IKEA HELPED ME CREATE LIFE.

I made two big excursions into that giant, beautiful warehouse - the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016. It’s so cheap that I don't regret buying way more than necessary (because options are key) and going back for returns. It didn’t matter that I was making 4-5 trips back and forth. When it got irritating, I just bought cinnamon rolls.

We now have a giant picture of bread in the kitchen because carbs are great, a mosaic of picture frames above our desk, and a lantern (why not?) as our dining table centerpiece. Our apartment has transformed from a bare bones, basic living quarter into a comfortable, inviting home to have friends over for Game of Thrones each week.

So what did we learn?

  1. IKEA is your friend. Cheap, young looking furniture and decorations.
  2. Factory outlets at large furniture stores are your friend. Thank you, $200 for a coffee table and two end tables.
  3. For higher dollar pieces you intend to replace soon, go to used furniture stores. I went to CORT.
  4. Chip and Joanna Gaines are always your friends.

Check out some of our ~high quality~ iPhone photos of our new items below. Please note the amazing $6 vase with bamboo in the couch picture. It is my pride and joy.

What do you think? How did you decorate your first place? Let us know in the comments or on social!

Measure Once, Buy Once: A Furniture Shopping Story

By Maggie Reimherr

In the summer of 2015, Derek and I fell in love at a furniture store. No, not with each other. We were already well on our way to marriage at that point. Instead, we fell in love with a gorgeous sectional sofa, marked down to fit snugly in our budget. It even came with adorable decorative pillows! It was meant to be.

We were shopping for Derek’s apartment that would become our apartment post-nuptials. As early twenty-somethings, we were pumped to get some fancy furniture that made us feel like real adults. We were armed with every possible measurement we could need. And this sofa, straight from our furniture dreams (yes, those exist), was the right size for our space.

We committed to the sale with one swipe of the credit card, and the next day, we packed it onto a pickup truck and drove it to the apartment. Here’s where the trouble began.

The apartment building, where we still live, boasts a concierge as one of its amenities. The concierge desk is run by a variety of people. At best, the concierge is a nice person who gives you your UPS packages. At worst, the concierge is the Official Enforcer of Arbitrary Rules (Massachusetts LOVES arbitrary rules). One woman in particular is the bane of our existence. Let’s call her Dolores for the purposes of this story.*

*not her actual name but inspired by Dolores Umbridge

As soon as we pulled up to the apartment, Dolores marched up from her post and shouted, in her thick Massachusetts accent, “Yah cahn’t bring that in heah!”

“Why not, ma’am?” Derek replied, laying the Southern charm on thick. She didn’t fall for it.

“Did yah even read yah resident manual?” Dolores said testily.

“Um, no. Sorry.” (Derek had totally read it.)

“Well, yah gotta reserve thah elevatah for deliveries. Read yah manual.”

How does bringing your furniture into your apartment constitute a delivery? If it was a delivery, Derek should’ve been paying himself.

Disregarding the obviously arbitrary rule, Derek called a friend to help us move the sofa in. The friend arrived, and we began our rebellious, rule-breaking expedition. Dolores immediately attempted to thwart us. She brought in her supervisor, a no-nonsense type who immediately said, “You’ah gonnah get fined fah this. I’m calling one-a-thah building trustees.”

We argued with him. Thinking about it is giving me heart palpitations - I hate breaking the rules. Arguing when I’m caught breaking the rules is just plain torture, so we checked the resident manual. The rules *technically* stated that you had to schedule the elevator for 1) a delivery and 2) your move in. This instance was neither, so we fought to the death on this technicality.

Here enters the trustee, a retiree in gym shorts and neon sneakers, clearly just trying to get his exercise on.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“They’ah tryina bring in this sofah delivery" - “IT’S NOT A DELIVERY!” we protested -  "without reserving thah elevatah,” said Dolores proudly.

“Well, that is the rule…” said the trustee. “But I won’t stop you...this time. Go ahead.”

Dolores visibly deflated in defeat, and off we went to the elevator.

We confidently thought the hardest part was behind us. Wrong. Derek and his friend tried to move the smaller section of the sofa into the elevator. Didn’t fit. Reposition and try again. Still didn’t fit.

Challenged but not completely deterred, Derek and his friend attempted to move the sofa up to the apartment via the very narrow stairs. The apartment is on the 9th floor. They made it to the 2nd floor before realizing it was an impossible mission.

Now we were defeated. We sadly moved the sofa back onto the truck (while Dolores smugly hovered around us) and took it back to the furniture store.

The next day, we bought a sofa that fit in the elevator. It wasn’t our dream sofa, but it gets the job done.

We learned a few lessons that day:

  1. Measure the elevator.

  2. Read the resident manual or face the wrath of the Official Enforcer of Arbitrary Rules.

  3. MEASURE THE ELEVATOR.

Afterwards, I was terrified to face Dolores every time I visited Boston (even weeks after I moved in). I eventually got over that fear and learned she’s actually a fairly amusing, sarcastic person. However, she still wears her title of Official Enforcer of Arbitrary Rules with pride, harassing our guests to sign their cars in when they park in a visitors’ parking space.

It was a trial by fire and our first lesson as a couple in adulthood. But hey, at least it makes a good story.