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Return on investment is a focal point in real estate investing. We’re always crunching numbers to see if a new property will meet our return criteria, and analyzing whether or not it makes sense to renovate. The fact of the matter is if you are a real estate investor, you’re likely spending a good amount of money on your properties.
Over the years I’ve been looking for opportunities to benefit from our high spending, especially on expenses where we can’t get a return on investment. For example, I cannot charge one of my tenant’s higher rent if I have to buy them a new refrigerator. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I instead focus on finding ways to get a return on that spend in other ways…
In addition to the expenses for our rental properties, we have regular living expenses such as groceries, utility bills, gas, etc. that are necessary to everyday life. In this article, I’ll share all of the ways I’ve found to achieve a return on investment (or rather a return on spend) for everyday items that don’t require spending a ton of time or clipping coupons.
Cash Back & Mileage Earning Shopping Portals
Last summer I was mowing our 1.5-acre property, using our older riding lawnmower. I accidentally high centered the lawnmower in the front ditch, and couldn’t drive or push it out.
When we finally managed to rescue the lawnmower, it was damaged beyond repair. The whole thing would shake, and sparks were flying. It was entirely my fault, but it also didn’t run well, to begin with.
So it was time to purchase a new one.
Once we knew which type of mower we needed, I went about researching online for the best price. Home Depot was having a sale on mowers and had the best price. We could have just gone to the store to pick it up, but what I did next ended up helping us achieve a decent return on the spend.
I went to cashbackmonitor.com, typed in Home Depot, and noticed that British Airways was having a promotion where if you used their shopping portal (easily accessed from cashback monitor) that you would earn 6 BA miles per dollar spent online at Home Depot.
We ended up spending $1800 and earned 10,800 British Airways miles just by using their link. That’s enough for one plane ticket from Seattle to the East Coast and valued at a few hundred dollars that I wouldn’t have earned had we just went to the store.
Credit Card Reward Points
We charge everything we can on credit cards to earn points or miles and pay it off every month. This allows us to fund our travels using points and miles while making the expense tracking simple and seamless.
In the lawnmower example, I used our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card for the riding lawn mower purchase, which offers 2 miles per dollar spent at home depot. On this same purchase, we earned an additional 3,600 Ultimate Reward points on top of the British Airways miles.
Ultimate reward points offer flexibility through their partner programs. You can also use them to book travel using Chase’s travel portal, redeem for gift certificates, and more.
As an example, I redeemed 75,000 UR points for three business class tickets from Ho Chi Ming City Vietnam to Denpasar Bali, which would have cost $1800.
We also used 150,000 Alaska Airlines miles to book three business class flights from Seattle to Phuket with a 3-day stopover in Beijing. We earned those miles by a combination of sign up bonuses from the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa, and by transferring SPG points to Alaska Airlines. Credit card reward points are my favorite way to fund our travels.
American Express Offers & Benefits
Because both my husband and I have American Express Platinum cards, which comes with a $550 annual fee, we make sure we’re getting the full benefits.
One benefit of having an American Express Platinum Card is its offers & benefits page which offers discounts and deals from multiple retailers. The offers change every month, and we’ve taken advantage of several.
As an example, I needed new contacts and my optometrist is 25 minutes away. In the past, I’ve ordered through 1800contacts.com, and before I went to place an order, I quickly double-checked my Amex offers and noticed there was an offer of spent $200 at 1800contacts.com and receive $40 back.
After completing the purchase, the credit will show up within a week. We’ve saved a few hundred dollars by using the offers & benefits feature with American Express.
Shopping at Walmart & Target
For everyday household items, I shop at either Target or Walmart. I prefer to shop at Target over Walmart, especially when they have special offers.
While I’m perusing Target, I usually scan through the Target app and look through the Cartwheel offers. I learned about cartwheel offers from The Krazy Coupon Lady, and I now use it for every target trip.
You just scroll through the app, add which offers you want to use, and then make sure to have the cashier scan the bar code for them to apply. Once you’ve used Cartwheel offers a few times, it will remember your favorite items and will organize the top items you buy in a for you section.
In the last few months of using this feature, I’ve saved $59.48, with 21 offers redeemed.
Another benefit of shopping at target is their gift card offers for certain category spends.
For example, right now, they are offering a $5 Target gift card if you spend $20 on any health and beauty product. This makes for a great opportunity to stock up on items to hit that spend and get those gift cards for later use.
I only shop at Walmart on occasion, and if I’m looking for certain things. But what’s great about Walmart is their savings catcher app, if you use their app at check out, it will automatically upload a copy of your receipt, which will compare prices to other stores in the area, and you will be refunded if the app finds a lower price at another store.
For example, I’ve received $11.51 back in the form of Walmart eGift cards for when they’ve found lower prices on what I already paid. It requires no time or effort, just using the app at checkout.
Cash Back Apps
I don’t clip coupons because I don’t see the return on time spent, however, when it comes to spending 30 seconds to upload an iPhone photo of a receipt from a shopping trip where I can earn a few bucks, I’m in.
Fetch Rewards & Spent are the easiest to use, fetch requires a photo of the receipt, and spent requires your credit card login information and automatically tracks your spending and offers cashback discounts.
For example, in a few months, I earned $11 from Ibotta, $6 from Fetch, $3.50 from Checkout 51, $15 from Swagbucks, and $56.82 from Ebates. This totals $110.15 for a few minutes each month of work on items I’m already having to buy.
Rental Car Discounts
I often rent a car when I travel for convenience and flexibility, this is another expense that offers optimization.
I previously used Kayak or Expedia to search for the best deal, often finding myself spending a few hours to save a few dollars, which was not an efficient use of time. Then I learned about autoslash.com, and it’s not only saved me a ton of time, but I’ve saved a ton of money.
On my last trip to Oklahoma City in July, I looked on Expedia for a rental car. I saw quotes in the $30 a day range. Then I checked Autoslash, and the total quote was for $59.35 for 4 days! Autoslash has been a game-changer when it comes to saving money on renting cars.
Other Examples Of How I’ve Achieved A High Return On Spend
Last summer, I noticed that both Home Depot & Lowes were offering significant discounts on appliances, some up to 40% off. In addition to the discounts, both offered rebates on certain appliances if you spent a certain amount.
Around the same time, I saw a post on Doctor of Credit that Amazon was offering 20% discounts on orders up to $500 if Membership Reward Points (Amex’s point system) are used for the order.
What Doctor of Credit found was that you could get away with using a single MR point to get the discount, instead of having to use all points to get the deal. Furthermore, you could use the 20% discount for gift cards.
I ended up buying $400 in Amazon gift cards and $100 in Lowe’s gift cards, then using one MR point to get 20% off (the $100 Lowe’s GC free). I spent $400 to get $500 in GC’s, which is a pretty decent deal, but I took it even one step further.
The next day, I used my $400 in Amazon GC’s to buy $400 in Lowe’s GC’s using one MR point to get another free $100 Lowe’s GC. So in total, I spent $400 on my American Express card to get $600 in Lowe’s gift certificates, plus 400 more MR points for the spend.
I searched for the best sale on all of the appliances I needed for our new construction duplex, including 2 dishwashers, 2 ranges, 2 micro hood, and 2 refrigerators, and a nicer refrigerator for our house.
At checkout I used an Ebates link to get 1% cashback and used a new Citi card to meet it’s minimum spend requirement of $3,000 in 90 days to earn 60,000 American Airlines Miles. We met that minimum spend with this single purchase.
Here is the final breakdown:
With the discounts from the sale at lowes, the pre-tax price of two stainless steel kitchen appliance packages for our new duplex was $2970 or $1485 each (delivery was free). I earned a $500 rebate in the form of a Lowe’s gift card, deducted the $200 in free GC’s from my Amazon trick, and the 1% cashback from Ebates for a new total of $1,113.65 each!
This is not including an extra 4400 AA miles, and the bonus 60,000 miles for meeting the minimum spend from the card sign up bonus.
Had we purchased the appliances without all of these discounts, they would have been $2500+ for each unit, so this strategy saved a lot of money and earned free miles for future family trips.
Quick Ways To Learn About Deals & Offers
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t have time to search online for deals, clip coupons, or review fine print at the store to find loopholes. The great news is: there are plenty of bloggers and websites out there that do that full time.
I leverage these websites to quickly review deals that are pertinent to me, and will gladly use their affiliate links for their hard work in researching the deals.
I use feedly to organize and import the blog articles, and I can quickly sift through the headlines.