About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

More articles by Harlan »

10 ways to make the most of self-isolation (Quarantine and chill edition)

quarantine and chill

We’re all staying at home during this pandemic. Because self-isolation is a must. It’s weird to not have the option to go out for a meal or grab a drink. And I miss hanging out with friends.

But, I’m dealing like everyone else. Washing my hands, staying inside, and taking long (socially-distanced) walks with the pupper. He really is my best friend right now. We quarantine and chill.

quarantine and chill

And we are staying worked out and hydrated throughout this thing, ok?

Here are 10 things getting me through this lockdown.

May the lord open.

10 things to do during quarantine and chill

Read More

Taking a $25,000 beating & dealing with panic in a bear market – March 2020 Freedom Update

This year has already been difficult in many ways. So I’ll have to unleash a whole lot of not great news. Of course, everything is down right now. And I’m fighting my HOA about a roof repair and thinking about renting an apartment nearby and trying to sell my current place.

All that’s been going on in the background as everything I’ve worked to save in the past year or two has been wiped out in the stock market. I’m hoping I can sell before my property value suffers too much. I will never, NEVER live in a place with an HOA EVER again.

That said, I’m grateful to have a job that’s allowing us to work from home. But this – all of this – moving, renting, selling, and making repairs to my current place (including the roof and ceiling!) are going to cost me everything I have. Like, everything.

But I have to try.

March 2020 Freedom Update

I few weeks ago, we lived in a different world and I was in Cabo. How quickly things change

For a second, my finances are going to spin out of control. And oddly enough, it’ll all be OK.

March 2020 Freedom update

Read More

One IRA maxed, a return to credit cards & up $10,000 – February 2020 Freedom Update

Hello my droogs. How quickly things change in a day.

I started this post with such excellent news to report: big gains, strong performance, and hard work paying off. As I write this, I fear I’m about to go into battle with my HOA over repairs that haven’t been made for a month – right before my (nearly free) Cabo trip. So I’ll try to put myself back into my previous headspace and vent about the rest later. Because I need to vent.

The good news is a continuous upward trend. Though I fear coronavirus is about to give my stocks a hell of a beating, I’ll have to see it as an opportunity to buy more at a discount. Because it’ll pass and that’s what it is.

This month finds me almost done maxing out my 2019 Roth IRA. Then I can finish paying my credit cards and turn attention to the 2020 Roth IRA. All according to plan.

February 2020 Freedom update

I’ll be back in Mexico at the end of this week, a lot further ahead than I was before – even if it doesn’t feel that way right now

The HOA stuff might throw a wrench in my progress soon, and I hate that. But life, right?

Sigh – going back to previous headspace again. As it stands now, my overall net worth is up to $137,88528% of the way toward my $500,000 goal. Baby steps feel so good.

February 2020 Freedom update

Read More

Citi retention offer: A quick call got me 3X ThankYou points everywhere (up to 35K)

I’ve written how everyone with a Citi card should call at least once a year and check for a Citi retention offer – particularly if the card has an annual fee.

My Citi Prestige annual fee recently posted. I called, and no joy. This week, the fee on my beloved AT&T Access More card posted, so I called again.

This time, I got my favorite retention offer so far: an extra 2X Citi ThankYou points on all spending, with a max of 35,000 points.

That breaks down to 3X points per $1 spent on up to $17,500 spent in non-bonus categories. And 5X points per $1 spent for online purchases (which are a bonus category with this card). Wow.

Citi retention offer

Gosh I love this card

I immediately queued up mortgage, HOA, and car payments with Plastiq (because it’s a MasterCard, which you can use for those payments) and moved the card into my wallet – a place it hasn’t been for a looong time.

3X Citi ThankYou points for everyday spending is an awesome return. I value that at 6% assuming each point is worth 2 cents each.

Morever, earning an extra 35,000 ThankYou points is worth $700 to me by that same metric. AND this card earns an extra 10,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend at least $10,000 in a cardmember year. Because this offer will also trigger that bonus, I value it for an additional $200.

So yes, this quick call recouped the card’s $95 annual fee nearly 10 times over. And is a great reminder why you should always always call Citi about retention offers.

Note: The Citi AT&T Access More card is no longer available. Nope, not even for product changes.

Citi retention offer details

Read More

FoundersCard Review 2020: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

Time to update my FoundersCard review for 2020! I’ve been a member for 6 years by now. Each year, they add more (and more useful) benefits, keep the best ones, and refine their partnerships based on member demand and use.

The upshot is making the most of even ONE perk can outweigh the $395 membership – and the rest is gravy. And when you sign up with my link, your rate will never go up.

I’ve used the 15% AT&T discount, Hilton Gold elite status, and Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status (which is back this year through January 2021!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2020!

FoundersCard review 2020

Wow, has it really been 6 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again as a Charter Member and yes that’s a really old picture

Here’s everything to know before you apply for membership.

FoundersCard Review 2020

Read More

Booked: How I used points to save $2,000+ on five days at FinCon 2020

fincon 2020

Dang, conferences are expensive these days! Especially if you’re paying for it yourself and not getting reimbursed from a job. But FinCon is one I’m happy to self-finance.

I’m genuinely interested in the content, meeting like-minded peeps, and immersing myself in a world of ideas about money. Now that I’m FIRE-ing up my efforts more than ever and missed last year in DC, I simply had to go. But I didn’t want to pay the piper.

So I burned a batch of old Marriott points for a five-night stay only four minutes from the conference hall, plus a few Amex Membership Rewards points. And used Citi ThankYou points and statement credits to fly there and back. The only thing I’ll pay for is food, rideshares to/from the airports, and dog boarding. 💥

fincon 2020 points

There’s yours truly among the revelers at FinCon

All told, I think I paid ~$100 for the flights and hotel. FinCon, here I come!

FinCon 2020 with points

Read More

Booked: Four all-inclusive nights in Cabo worth $2,600 for $202 + 145K points (1.8 cpp)

hyatt ziva los cabos

For the third year in a row, I’m heading to a Hyatt all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with an old friend from Chicago. The past two years, we’ve gone to the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.

This year, we’re switching it up and visiting the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos! I’ve never been to Cabo – and a look at all the restaurants at the hotel was all the convincing I needed.

We could’ve booked PVR again – it all lined up with points – but said nah, let’s visit a new property. After this trip, I will have been to all the Hyatt all-inclusives in Mexico with the exception of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. And if it’s anything like the past two years, it’s going to be an amazing beach chill-out.

hyatt ziva los cabos with points

Y’all know I can’t pay out-of-pocket for this rn

But I have aggressive financial goals to raise my net worth to $500,000 in the next five years. So there was no way I’d remotely consider paying for this experience.

Instead, I used my points arsenal for flights on Alaska, American, Southwest, and United – and the Hyatt stay itself – with help from Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.

Here’s how I saved $2,637 and paid a cool $202 out-of-pocket. A much better price!

Los Cabos with points 2020

Read More

Invest Vs Pay Down Credit Card Debt & Up $11,000 – January 2020 Freedom Update

Most of my thoughts recently have been on money instead of travel. Now that I have aggressive financial goals, I want to meet at least a few milestones before I take another big trip.

I’m seeing the juncture of points & miles with personal finance so clearly. I’m understanding how much you can really save on travel by accumulating credit card rewards – and sinking the extra funds into investment accounts.

Of course, I’ve always known how awesome points are if you’re passionate about travel. And you bet your bottom dollar I’m gonna treat myself to a nice big award (!) trip to celebrate soon enough.

January 2020 Freedom Update

Travel will always be my #1 passion. Now I’m wondering: where is the intersection of traveling cheap and living frugally?

This month, I was waiting for the right time to post this update. But there is no perfect time and things will always be in flux.

With that in mind, let’s dive into what happened in January!

January 2020 Freedom update

Read More

Balance transfer cards 2020: A godsend when you need more time (but don’t fail the test)

Hi lil lovies. The holidays were wild, eh? I’m writing this in a medicated haze with flu-like symptoms. But I wanted to write. And I’ve been meaning to talk about is how I’m using balance transfer cards to:

  • Meet my current financial goals (which I need to update)
  • Smooth out large, unexpected expenses (like when my AC quit in July and I had to get a new HVAC system)
  • Give myself a jump-start to purchase big items when I want them (I bought myself a rowing machine because I really really wanted one and I’ve been using it regularly)

This is because I didn’t have enough in a savings account, which will change this year. So hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future.

But for now, they’ve helped me consolidate a lot of balances spread over several cards with big interest rates. I paid a one-time balance transfer fee, and have a 0% APR rate through April 2020. So I haven’t paid a dime of interest since. And honestly? It’s been the one thing that’s given me time to get caught up.

balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards aren’t a perfect solution. But they’ve bought me time and helped me avoid a ton of interest while I got my plans together

The test, of course, is paying them back before the 0% promotional rate expires. If you don’t, you’re right back to where you started. 🌀

The good thing is these rates are a year or more (usually more). A lot can happen in a year.

While I’m glad balance transfer cards have been available to me as a financial tool (which is absolutely how I think of them), moving forward I want to depend on savings rather than having to buy myself time.

Balance transfer cards 2020 – should you, could you, would you?

Read More

Freebird Promo Code for $10 Cashback: “OUTANDOUT”

Here’s the latest Freebird promo code you can stack for up to $10 cashback on Uber and Lyft rides booked through Freebird.

Here’s how to do it. After you download Freebird, enter this.

Freebird promo code: 

  • OUTANDOUT” – $10 cashback ($5 for each of your first 2 rides)

Freebird lets you book Uber and Lyft rides through their app – and you’ll earn points on each ride. Once you earn 5,000 points, you can cash it out for $10. So you can potentially do even better when you add points to the mix.

freebird promo code

I love using the Freebird app for Uber and Lyft rides

Plus, any Uber and Lyft credits and promos stack with Freebird!

Freebird promo code powers up your Uber and Lyft apps

Read More

My First Month of Diligent Saving & Net Worth Is up $20,000 – December 2019 Freedom Update

November was the first month I got down and dirty with my new financial goals. Having them in mind gave the month shape and purpose – I felt for the first time in a while that I was working toward something urgent and real and palpable that I could measure.

If naming things is empowering, creating a plan is getting superpowers. I watched as each dollar flowed into and out of my accounts.

Slow and steady wins the race, but I have an out-of-control, flaming emergency! I have GOT to pay off my credit cards by April 2020 before the 0% APR rate expires. And I’ve got over $14,000 left to go.

Last month, a combination of strong market and aggressive payments boosted my overall net worth to $115,806 – a full $20,000+ increase.

And while it’s nowhere near the $500,000 goal I want to hit, it’s an awesome start. And to that end, this is my first Freedom update (Freedom is what I call money). I hope I look back on these posts and marvel at my progress. One day…

December 2019 Freedom Update

Getting started on my FIRE in a big way – getting rid of credit card debt is my #1 prerogative right now

I know “never say never” buuuut… I will NEVER have credit card debit ever again as long as I live. In the future, I’ll dip into my healthy savings account. Because this hurdle really freaking sucks.

December 2019 Freedom update

Read More

It’s Official: SoFi Money Will Reimburse All ATM Fees Worldwide, Even Forex Charges

sofi money review

Welp, that’s it. Now that all SoFi Money ATM fees are gone, SoFi Money is officially the best checking account available today. It’s great right out of the gate, requires no futzing or maintenance, and now, they’ll even reimburse Visa’s forex fees internationally – so you get free withdrawals with absolutely zero fees worldwide.

They’ve tried hard to overcome any hurdle to be the best checking account around. You get:

  • Free, unlimited, and INSTANT ATM withdrawals worldwide. Even if Visa charges you a forex fee, they’ll reimburse that too
  • 0.2% APY on any balance you carry
  • Zero fees, no minimums
  • Easy to use app and website
  • $75 bonus when you open an account and make two direct deposits of $500 each – bonus appears in a day or two and it takes 2 to 3 minutes to set up

I’m proud of their efforts. And I’m switching to make this my full-time checking account after my next pay cycle.

Well how ’bout that?

Yes, I’ve had a Chase checking account for over a decade. And I’ll keep it because it’s free, and for the incredibly rare times I need to do something in a branch. But for everyday banking, bill payments, and my financial clearing house, I’m going all-in with SoFi Money. #officiallyconverted

SoFi Money ATM fees – nothing to see here!

Read More