Kill Your Television…No, wait! Don’t! He never did anything to you! Just get rid of your cable.

By special request from my Aunt Becky, here’s how we live without cable and watch everything we want to watch for less than $50¬†a month (including high speed internet):

  • Fight with your internet company.¬† Don’t actually fight, but kill them with kindness until you threaten to leave. ¬†Every time our bill goes up, I immediately call our internet company and ask if they can do anything to help us save on our internet. ¬†If they say no, I tell them that I can’t stay with them if I am paying full price for internet because it’s too expensive. ¬†My trick, though, is to be as nice as humanly possible to everyone I talk to and try to joke around and make small talk with them. ¬†These people are in call centers being yelled at all day. ¬†I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “Wow, thanks for asking how my day is going. ¬†People don’t usually do that.” ¬† I actually had to call this week and was able to lock in a $30 discount for two years without every having to threaten to leave. ¬†The first person I talked to told me he was only authorized to give discounts on bundling (no, I don’t want to pay extra for DirectTV or a home phone…you’re missing the point, guy), but said that since we’ve been with the company for two years the loyalty department would be able to find me discounts on internet only. ¬†After 3 minutes on the phone with the loyalty department rep, I had a two-year discount locked in that was the same as our intro price without having to add any services. ¬†Total time commitment: 10 minutes.
  • Get a streaming device.¬† We spent $30 on a Roku three years ago during an Amazon sale and we can stream a huge number of channels to our TV. ¬†It has a remote for maximum laziness. ¬†We have friends that use Chromecast and Sony, and they basically do the same thing. ¬†Find what works for your preferences and try to get it on sale to cut your initial costs.
  • Netflix and Hulu+. ¬†We survive on these two subscriptions. ¬†Each is roughly $8 a month. ¬†Paying for Hulu+ allows us to stream to our Roku. ¬†If we were watching on our laptop, I’d probably stick to regular Hulu. ¬†The convenience of watching it on our TV is worth it. ¬†Netflix is life so no explanation necessary.
  • HD Digital Antenna.¬† Andy likes football. ¬†Football is hard to stream from the internet, if not impossible without a cable subscription…UNLESS you have a digital antenna. ¬†We can get Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS over the airwaves and that covers quite a few sporting events. ¬†We also get PBS and a million Christian channels so we could have church in our living room all the time. ¬†(http://www.ourladyofperpetualexemption.com/) ¬†We initally went to Best Buy where they sold us a shitty antenna for $35 that didn’t pick up¬†ANYTHING. ¬†We returned it and they told us we’d have to spend at least $100 to get a roof-mounted setup. ¬†We went to Target, spent $30 on a digital antenna with an amplifier, and now we have channels. ¬†Antenna TV will always be affected by location, the weather, solar flares and other strange phenomena, but we can generally get the channel we’re looking for out of either Denver or Cheyenne.
  • Find out who you know that pays for cable or¬†satellite. ¬†Andy’s parents pay for cable and HBO. ¬†We have friends who pay for DirectTV. ¬†We can go to their houses to watch anything we can’t stream. ¬†We may or may not use their logins… ¬†If you are from a television provider, we most definitely do not use anyone’s login information.
  • If all else fails, find a sports bar with specials.¬† We like college sports, especially CSU and Wyoming. ¬†Their games aren’t typically shown on major channels. ¬†If we can’t stream it, get it on our antenna, or find a house where we can watch it, we’ll head to a bar with reasonable prices and ample TVs. ¬†Road 34, The Bar, CB & Potts, Tap N Handle, Blind Pig, Ryan’s, and Taps have all worked well for us in the past. ¬†The CSU Alumni Association usually hosts watch parties for games so you can watch in the company of other fans and have the game day experience.

How do you save on TV? ¬†If you only read and work out and are generally better than us TV addicts, I don’t care.

Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries

The biggest chunk of my flexible spending each month is definitely food, whether that’s groceries or eating out. ¬†I love food, especially really great food, so it’s worth it to me to spend a little more sometimes. ¬†I want to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck though. ¬†Here are some ways I maximize my food dollars each month. ¬†This post has my grocery rules, and part 2 will have tips for eating out on a budget.

  • Buy whole foods. ¬†This is pretty simple. ¬†Buy things that only have one ingredient: the thing you are buying. ¬†My¬†list tends to include¬†produce, meat, tofu, eggs, grains, beans, etc. ¬†To do this, though, you have to…
  • Learn to cook. ¬†I feel very fortunate that my mom taught me how to cook when I was young so that I’m not dependent on frozen and boxed food now. ¬†Not only do we eat healthy because I’m cooking with whole foods, I can find ways to use up all the food I buy so that we’re not wasting anything. ¬†Cooking is also cheap therapy. ¬†I love cooking because I can zen out in the kitchen and not think about anything else, so it’s ends up being like a daily meditation time. ¬†I’ve learned that if I try to multitask while cooking I will probably burn the house down. ¬†About a month ago I put 18 eggs on to boil and then went to weed the yard for a few minutes. ¬†Two hours later, I had weeded most of the front yard, but then was reminded about the eggs by the smoke alarm and the most acrid smell¬†I’ve ever smelled. ¬†It took an entire scented candle and three sage smudgings to get the smell out of the house.
  • Leftovers.¬† I try to cook dinner most nights and then we eat leftovers for lunch. ¬†Buying lunch out is a huge expense. ¬†I know people who eat out every day and I honestly don’t know how they do it. ¬†Near CSU you’d pay roughly $8 a day for a meal on average for a fast-casual meal. ¬†That’s $40 a week, and $160 a month to eat. ¬†If you’re eating at a sit-down restaurant, the cost goes up to around $240 a month. ¬†For $160, I can buy groceries for two people for three meals a day for at least two weeks.
  • If you need to buy processed foods, look for better options.¬† We buy frozen burritos. ¬†A lot of them. ¬†I could make burritos and freeze them, but I generally don’t have time and they would all be consumed in two days. ¬†I know this from experience. ¬†But we used to buy the “fancy, healthy” burritos, until I realized that a) they were averaging $3/burrito, and b) they were filled with preservatives and junk. ¬†I can buy a package of La Favorita burritos for $7/pack of 6 and the ingredient list includes things like “tortilla,” “beans,” “eggs,” “green chiles,” etc. ¬†They are also a Colorado company so we’re supporting a local business, getting better food, and saving almost $2 per burrito!!!! ¬†There are quality convenience foods that will save you money if you shop around and are smart about what you buy.
  • Coupons.¬† I am not a crazy couponer. ¬†I don’t have time for it and people who coupon like it’s their job end up with processed garbage food like a pantry full of Hamburger Helper or 47 bottles of steak sauce. ¬†But I shop at King Soopers with our membership card so they track our purchases and send coupons for things we actually buy. ¬†My ¬†personalized coupons usually include things like mushrooms, spinach, avocados, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, etc., and I get some in the mail almost every month. ¬†I have a little coupon file that I put them in and throw in my purse before I go grocery shopping. ¬†They usually send a couple of coupons for free things each time. ¬†We generally get free eggs or frozen vegetables, but this last time we got a free bag of whole wheat bagels (The Boy loves¬†bagels and it saved us 4 bucks). ¬†I also make sure to log on to our King Soopers online account and load any e-coupons that are available that I might buy. ¬†They will usually have something from the produce, dairy, and meat departments available. There are so many times when I’ll forget I loaded a coupon and it will magically save me money at checkout.
  • Shop generics and sales–always look at the price per unit!¬†¬†I do a lot of comparing costs while I’m shopping. ¬†For example, if I’m buying beans or oats or coconut milk,¬†there is usually a generic brand and a name brand and a lot of times they will be in different sizes. ¬†If you look at the cost per ounce, you’ll figure out how to get them most bang for your buck. ¬†Most of the times the cheapest per ounce is the generic, but not always, especially if the name brand is on sale. ¬†This is usually in tiny type on the shelf price tag. ¬†Sometimes the units are different so you may need to do math. ¬†Luckily for us, we all have calculators on our phones so it’s not so bad.
  • Bulk bins. ¬†There are some things I almost never buy at our King Soopers because the one closest to our house doesn’t have bulk bins. ¬†I will go to Sprouts for things like old fashioned oats, nuts, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, and spices because I can almost guarantee that the bulk price will be less than what I would pay for that item in a package. ¬†Curry powder in a small shaker can cost up to $8, but I can buy a sandwich bag full from a bulk bin for less than $2.
  • Rewards cards.¬† This means two things: membership card and rewards credit card. ¬†I use our King Soopers membership card to get sales and coupons and gas points (10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend on groceries…not a lot, but it helps). ¬†I also have an American Express Blue Cash Rewards card because it pays 6% cash back on up to $6000 of grocery purchases a year. ¬†That’s up to $360 back on things I’m already buying to live. ¬†It pays 1% on all other purchases and 3% on gas. ¬†There’s a $75 annual fee, but I typically earn that back in the first three months.
  • Get a CSA share. ¬†We purchase a CSA share every spring. ¬†It’s an investment up front, but will save you in the long run and support local agriculture. ¬†It’s also really nice to not have to pay for produce during the summer–it feels free, but we already paid for it. ¬†I’ve shared this before, but we have a market share through Native Hill and it is the greatest.
  • Freeze things.¬† We can get bulk boxes through our share for things like green beans and roma tomatoes. ¬†Last year I prepped green beans and tomatoes and froze them for use over the winter. ¬†An afternoon of effort means no shopping later on and you’re essentially locking in the best price. ¬†If I find something at a store for a really good price, like BOGO Red Bird chicken, I’ll buy as much as I can fit in my freezer. ¬†Last summer I purchased a 30¬†lb box of ¬†Hatch green chiles from Whole Foods when they were on sale for $14.99 a box and then Whole Foods roasted them for me for free. ¬†My mom helped me package them in individual freezer bags and¬†I am still making green chili with them. ¬†It definitely beats $3-5 a baggie at the farmer’s market or buying canned green chiles.
  • Stock up on pantry items when you find an unbeatable price. ¬†I buy Kroger whole grain pasta. ¬†It’s healthier than regular pasta, it tastes better to me than regular pasta,¬†and the only ingredient is whole wheat (some brands’ whole grain pastas are only 51% whole grain). ¬†It typically is priced at $1.00-$1.20 a box. ¬†Last month I found “closeout” prices for $.75-$.88 a box so I bought all the spaghetti and rotini they had. ¬†We’re going to buy it anyway so might as well stock up while I know the price is unbeatable. ¬†And I swear, Kroger, if you actually stop carrying whole wheat pasta, I will never forgive you.
  • Use it all up. ¬†When I chop vegetables, I save the odds and ends in a bag in our freezer for making stock. ¬†If I cook a whole chicken, I save the skin and bones for stock as well. ¬†It all goes into the crock pot together and I know that I REALLY got my money’s worth and I don’t have to spend $8 on the equivalent amounts of aseptic box broth later.
  • Eat your pantry/freezer.¬† I am often tempted to just pop over the the store to pick up new items for dinner. ¬†This adds up. ¬†My solution is to try to come up with meals entirely from what we have on hand. ¬†It’s fun, in a frugal weirdo sort of way, to try to go as many days as possible without buying something new. ¬†If you have a stocked up pantry and freezer, it’s easy. ¬†But when you’re getting down to the odds and ends you have to get a little creative. ¬†I have a can of salmon that I’m terrified to eat because the last one I opened had an entire spinal cord in it. ¬†I also have a bag of frozen figs that I really want to use and I don’t know what to do with. ¬†We’re probably eating fish spinal cord fig salad or something at some point.

While I could be saving more money on groceries, I know a lot of people “playing the grocery game” end up buying a lot of processed garbage or things they’ll never use, simply because they are free or dirt cheap. ¬†These methods save us money on healthy items we will actually use and don’t take up all our time.

Condiments and packaged garbage for years…

How do you make your grocery budget work?  What tips do you have to save a little extra but maintain your life?

Fort Collins Passport

Frugal in FoCo Pro Tip: BUY A FORT COLLINS PASSPORT 

Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Reasons why you need to do this immediately:

A. You get 2-for-1 drinks at 30 different places around Fort Collins.

B. There are other goodies in the passport. ¬†For example, last year’s included a free wheel of MouCo Cheese¬†and a free burrito at Illegal Pete’s. ¬†The Passport folks also do periodic parties for passport holders.

C. It’s good from Memorial Day to Labor Day, aka the greatest time to be in Fort Collins because it’s beautiful and most of the students are gone.

D. It’s on sale for only $15 until May 22, and then only $20 after that. ¬†If you think about what you get for the investment, it’s a screaming deal, especially if you were planning on doing some patio drinking anyway. ¬†You basically get 30 drinks for the cost of 3.

E. It’s like being in a secret society. ¬†When you get your passport out at a brewery or restaurant, everyone else with a passport is like, “Hey! Me too!” and then you can have discussions about your best passport adventures. ¬†You can plan special passport outings with your passport-holding friends and then you can all Instagram your drinks and passports together (see above).

The Passport is also available for other cities, so if you’re¬†in Boulder, Brooklyn, Colorado Springs, Denver, LA, Santa Barbara, DC, or Columbia, MO, you can drink on the cheap in style too.

How to be frugal? Win some shiz

First of all, I am on day 6 of not spending anything on non-necessities.  I have a lunch tomorrow with a friend that I scheduled a month ago, but then back on the wagon.

Second of all, you should be reading Feasting Fort Collins.  This blog is the best place for food-related news in Fort Collins.  The author posts restaurant reviews, news about openings and closures, happy hour deals, special events, and anything else you might want to know about the food scene in FoCo.  Also, the Scoop Blog Network (of which Feasting Fort Collins is a part, and is the OG blog) has a contest each year called Celebrate Fort Collins.  AND GUESS WHO JUST WON?!

Part of the deal for winning is that I need to share photos of my adventures enjoying my prize package at all of the awesome businesses in Fort Collins that donated. ¬†So I’ll share my experiences here with all of you too. ¬†Get ready–there are 36 of them.

Basically, it’s easy to be frugal when people give you a bunch of free shiz, but I’ll provide info on great deals and how you can support these local businesses while still living on the cheap(er).

Also, Frugal in FoCo Pro-Tip: Enter internet contests, especially local ones.  You just might win.

The Purge Continues (Endlessly)

Somehow I am STILL purging unwanted items from our house, but now I am managing to make some pretty good money off of it. ¬†I switched up my selling game from strictly Craigslist and local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups, with a fall-back plan of consignment, and tried my hand at eBay. ¬†Let me just say that I am still very much an eBay novice, but I have sold things for way more than I could have gotten from any of the other ways I’ve tried.

I probably would have gotten maybe 10 bucks for these boots at Plato’s Closet or around $20 or so selling on Craigslist or Facebook.

2014-09-14 20.01.31

 

But I sold them on eBay for $60!!!!!!!! ¬†That’s double what I paid when I bought them new. ¬†Turns out that Naughty Monkey leather boots are not in high demand in FoCo, but are everywhere else.

My other big eBay win is selling this Carhartt vest.  2014-12-09 17.18.03 CGCHWV001_-00_carhartt-brown_front_Womens-Carhartt-Sandstone-Mock-Neck-Vest-Sherpa-Lined_23

I bought this in Steamboat for around $20 about 7 years ago because I guess I felt like I needed some workwear??? ¬†Who knows… ¬†I wore it approximately twice for things like riding in a car and sitting in a chair (hard work). ¬†I went straight to eBay with this when I noticed it still hanging in the closet (not sure how it survived so many purges). ¬†While my favorite discount gear store had it for sale in pink and purple for $37.50, the MSRP is $79.99, and Carhartt Brown is almost impossible to come by in women’s vests…except on eBay. ¬†In under a day, I sold it for $60.

I am certainly not just selling things like crazy on eBay. ¬†It all comes down to pictures, keywords, and timing. ¬†It took me two listings to sell a silk J. Crew dress that I wore to my first black tie optional event while working for CSU Events, and I think I ended up selling it for $15 (half of what I paid, so I got my money’s worth). ¬†I am also trying to unload a pair of Steve Madden boots and a couple of Moosejaw jackets, but I haven’t had any bites yet. ¬†I’ve gotten some views, though, so I think I need to take some better pictures.

However, I can’t sell everything on eBay and I lucked out yesterday by leaving a post up in the Fort Collins Trade Swap ¬†group on Facebook. ¬†(Pro-tip: if you are looking to sell things in Fort Collins, this is the place to do it because the 6700 members all get real-time notifications of what’s for sale in their newsfeed). ¬†I have been trying to sell this gem of a bike since this summer:

2014-08-08 13.18.54

This picture does not do the ridiculousness justice…it has huge rearview mirrors, a giant bell, the back tire is super fat, and the seat has a velvet checkerboard pattern.

Lo and behold, my Christmas present came early and a guy found the post from August, offered me $150, and gave me the money before he ever looked at the bike.  It was somehow exactly what he had been looking for all over Northern Colorado.  Goodbye, chopper bike!  I told the boy that we are now a 6-bicycle household, and then it felt like all the purging progress went out the window.

Moral of the story: when you’re selling things you no longer want, figure out where you’re going to get the best deal. ¬†If it’s a brand name and easily shippable, try eBay. ¬†You don’t pay anything until you sell, the listing fees are reasonable, and it’s SO EASY. ¬†You’ll get way more money than if you consign it or take it to a place that buys on the spot. ¬†Definitely read up on selling tips to make sure you’re reaching potential buyers. ¬†If you can’t easily ship it, check out a local facebook buy and sell group. ¬†The Fort Collins group is very active and everything shows up in the newsfeeds of your potential buyers.

When you’ve made some extra cash, sock most of it¬†away in your emergency fund¬†or¬†put it toward paying off a debt, and use some to have a little fun. ¬†I hear there is a new trampoline park that is awesome and on Tuesdays, 2 can jump for the price of 1. ¬†I haven’t been there yet, but it sounds ridiculously fun (and like a broken spine waiting to happen).

It’s the little things that add up

Andy has been annoyed with me for hoarding aluminum cans in our garage for a couple of months now. ¬†I decided I would start saving cans to cash in after I saw a coupon in the Valpak¬†for an extra 5 cents per pound of aluminum cans at a scrap metal recycling place. ¬†My parents always saved cans when I was growing up, and then we’d go cash them in once we had filled up a trash bag. ¬†After seeing the coupon, I realized how many cans were just going into the recycle bin at our house–money being wasted! ¬†After having Andy’s birthday party, I fished a ton of, ahem, soda cans out of the recycle bin (yeah, we’ll go with soda…craft soda. ¬†We were most definitely not drinking Genesee…) and had enough to fill up a big trash bag when it was combined with my hoard from the last few months. ¬†I convinced him to go with me so he could see how easy and painless it was, and that we could make some money back off the cost of the “soda.”

A dramatic reenactment of what our garage looked like pre-cash-in.

It took all of 30 seconds for the guy at the scrap place to weigh the bag of cans and give us a slip for $6.00. ¬†We took that to the cashier, gave them the coupon, and walked away with $6.60 in cash! ¬†That is basically a free burrito, people! ¬†Andy quickly forgave me for all the can hoarding and sifting through the recycle bin, and got excited about all the potential money to be made off of…soda. ¬†We decided that all can money will go directly into Change Jar!, which is what we call the Carlo Rossi jug that we put all our spare change into. ¬†We love Change Jar! so much that it has an exclamation point in its name because that’s how excitedly we talk about it.

Change Jar! has played a critical role in vacation and house funding. ¬†When I was scraping together everything I could for the down payment on our house, we were nearing the top of Change Jar! and cashed it in for a couple extra hundred bucks that we didn’t have in our wallets before. ¬†After that cash out, we made it a rule to stop raiding it if we needed quarters for pinball because we were missing out on the best change. ¬†It also helped that we were no longer living within walking distance of both Chipper’s and Pinball Jones, so the temptation has been mitigated. ¬†When we went to Boston this summer, we cashed in Change Jar! again for a couple hundred to help feed us while we were out and about. ¬†It wasn’t even nearing the top! ¬†Amazing how much some quarters can boost the cash value.

Not our Change Jar! but very similar.

Now we’re starting to throw in bills to help maximize the money we save with Change Jar! ¬†A certain someone who shall remain nameless but is the only guy who lives in our house has a tendency to leave pants wherever they may fall after he gets home from work and changes into comfy clothes. ¬†So I instituted a rule that if either of us finds clothes with money in them not in our room, we can put the money straight into Change Jar!, even if it’s all bills. ¬†It has cut down on the frequency of finding pants on the couch and adds up. ¬†Money found in the laundry also goes to Change Jar! ¬†Now that can money will be added in the mix, we hope we’ll be able to use Change Jar! to help save up for something a little bigger, like a weekend getaway or something. ¬†It’s not money we miss in our day-to-day lives, collecting change and cans require very little effort, and it all adds up. ¬†Plus, it’s really fun in a super nerdy kind of way to watch the change go into the hopper at the bank and watch the counter go up, and really fun in a sadistic kind of way to show up with huge bags of coins and hand them over to the bank teller to be counted.

Frugal in FoCo pro tip: If you’re in Fort Collins and decide to save cans to get a little cash, look in the Valpak that comes to your house for a coupon for additional $$$/lb to maximize the amount you receive. ¬†And New Belgium sells canned craft beers, along with many other craft breweries, so you can maintain your standards while saving the planet and getting some cash back.

Building Credit

What I really wanted to title this was “Building credit is a giant pain in the ass and sometimes you have to cry on the phone to get what you want.”

This terrifying finger puppet is probably what credit would look like if it had a face.

This terrifying finger puppet is probably what credit would look like if it had a face.

Now that I am like an adult or something, I have decided I need to build my credit. ¬†While I started my interest in¬†personal finance after doing Financial Peace University and watching Dave Ramsey‘s show, I have since concluded that while I do believe in not carrying “bad debt,” I am not going to swear off credit cards or loans for some things. ¬†It’s necessary in our society to have and maintain credit and use it responsibly. ¬†Would I like to be able to pay for things outright all the time? ¬†Of course, but that’s not always an option. ¬†Sometimes you need a more reliable car or a furnace. ¬†The trick is to be smart about credit and loans. ¬†Part of that is making sure credit is available when you need it, and thus comes the credit building process.

I have always had excellent credit, but not much credit history. ¬†I started out with a few¬†store cards and a mortgage in my previous life. ¬†Then I got a car loan, and¬†with¬†the history with my previous mortgage and car loan, I was able to get a mortgage for our current house. ¬†A few months after buying our house, the furnace went out and I applied for, and received, an American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. ¬†I chose this card because of the sign up bonus and the cash back rewards on groceries and gas–what I primarily use the card for. ¬†It is also interest free until 2015! ¬†While it does have an annual fee, the sign up bonus was twice that and the cash back rewards easily cover the fee in about three months of my regular spending with it. ¬†Half the furnace was paid by my emergency fund, and half went on the card so that I wouldn’t completely drain my emergency fund. ¬†My one complaint with¬†having an American Express card is that it’s not accepted everywhere because of their high merchant fees. ¬†I can’t depend on this one card in my wallet if I happen to have some sort of emergency while I’m building my emergency fund back up.

I had thought a lot about getting a Visa or Mastercard credit card so that I would continue to build credit and have something more widely accepted in case of an emergency. ¬†I knew, though, that I wouldn’t be approved for a new card until the furnace was paid off because my credit utilization percentage was high and was knocking my credit score down. ¬†Once the furnace was paid off (Wooooo!), I decided it was time to find another card. ¬†I read up on the best cards on sites¬†like Nerdwallet, and picked the Chase Freedom card as the next card in my credit arsenal. ¬†It has a great sign up bonus, good rewards (not as good as my Amex card, but still pretty ok), and has a cash back option. ¬†It also has no annual fee, no interest for a year, and is generally available to people with limited credit history. ¬†So I applied online.

Rookie mistake #1: I failed to realize that it takes American Express about a decade to report to the credit bureaus so it still showed I was carrying a high balance in relation to my credit limit.

Instead of getting the “congrats, we’re sending your new card” message I was expecting, I got the dreaded “your application needs further review because we’re too polite to just say you got denied” message.

Another ding to my credit score as a hard inquiry on my credit report and nothing to show for it. ¬†But as it turns out, according to my good friend Google, many people have had success calling credit card application reconsideration numbers and talking to a real human. ¬†I called the Chase reconsideration line, followed all the tips, and tried to charm a lovely girl who confirmed that she was denying me also. ¬†But she did say that American Express tends to be late in reporting and I should call back in a week or so because they keep my application open for 30 days. ¬†I tried to explain my situation and that it was all paid off. ¬†Then she quizzed me on why I no longer use my Maurice’s card or my Victoria’s Secret card. ¬†Because I’m not 17 anymore and I’m all good on undergarments, thanks. ¬†(Pro tip: Never mention you only got the card for the discount back when no one thought about those things and then never used it again.)

Rookie mistake #2: calling back too soon, but not soon enough.

I read forums about other people’s experiences with Chase reconsideration, practiced my plea, called back after about a week, and talked to another lovely customer service agent who once again denied me because of my lack of history with credit cards and a high utilization rate on the one I do have because Amex STILL hadn’t reported updated info to the credit bureaus. ¬†I explained my situation once again, and emphasized that I already have an auto loan with Chase that I am paying back ahead of schedule so I was already deemed creditworthy by them once. ¬†The lovely customer service agent told me that that did not matter because they only look at actual credit card history.

THIS IS WHY BUILDING CREDIT IS A GIANT PAIN IN THE ASS. ¬†You can buy a car and a house, but we don’t think you’re responsible enough for a card.

Because I had called back before Amex had reported, but after their last credit inquiry had expired, I had another hard pull on my credit.  Goodbye, halfway decent credit score.

I used Credit Karma to then monitor my credit report to see when Amex finally reported.  And my new credit utilization ratio came through at the beginning of the month!  Hurray!  I celebrated by pulling my credit reports from Transunion and Experian to verify that they both reflected the change as well.  Then this week I got brave and called back.

Rookie mistake #3: thinking there is anything logical about how credit card companies work or that they have access to up-to-date information in the digital age.

I talked to a third customer service agent who confirmed that she would have to pull my credit report again (that’s three hard inquiries that will be dinging my credit score). ¬†That’s ok! ¬†I checked and it should be all good now! ¬†WRONG. ¬†Their systems evidently need an ADDITIONAL 15 DAYS to get access to updated reports because they are on the slow boat from Transunion headquarters and then they depend on a really unenthusiastic cat to type the report into their computers whenever he gets around to it.

It looks a little something like this.

So what did I do? ¬†That’s right, I cried on the phone.

Pro tip: If you EVER cry on the phone with a customer service agent make sure to say, “I know this isn’t your fault and you’ve been really helpful.” ¬†This will get you everywhere.

I said the magic phrase, explained the entire saga, as well as how I have a loan with Chase and I am just trying to build my credit with a company I already trust (remember, you have to charm them), and she responded with, “I know this is frustrating. ¬†Let me see what I can do.”

Less than 30 seconds later, she gets back on the phone and says, “Congratulations! ¬†I was able to approve your application and you’ll receive your card in two weeks.”

Holy hot damn!  Not only was I approved, but I was approved for a higher limit than I ever expected.  I told her that she just made my week, thanked her profusely, and hung up so I could celebrate with some awkward dancing and arm flailing.

Pro tip: PERSISTENCE. ¬†Bother them enough and you’ll get what you want, or something like that.

If you aren’t using Credit Karma, sign up now. ¬†It is a free and secure way to access and monitor your credit report and score. ¬†It also has a credit score simulator so you can see how certain decisions (both positive and negative) will affect your score. ¬†My score at the end of this whole debacle is projected to be a 718, which is respectable. ¬†I won’t need to apply for any more credit anytime soon and I’ll have the tools in my wallet to build my credit, so it will only go up from there!