Reducing Credit Card Spending One Month At A Time

Airplane On TarmacAfter January/February’s credit card spending blow out of around $3,100, I’ve successfully reduced my latest credit card spending by 61% to $1,200!  $1,000-$1,500 is the target credit card spending range I have every month.  If I can spend just $1,000 one month, it’s like building a $500 buffer to be able to spend $2,000 ($1,500 upper range + $500) the next month.  By spending $1,200 in Feb/March, I “gain back” about $300 from the $3,100 credit card blowout in Jan/Feb.

So what changed this last statement?  Well, I didn’t go on vacation to Hawaii, which saved me $500-$700 right there in flights, food, and extra discretionary spending.  The other thing I learned after meeting my accountant is that some of my expenses can be classified as business expenses.

For example, if I am to write about the best resorts in Lake Tahoe, technically, the costs associated with going to Lake Tahoe (gas, lodging, meals) to do my due diligence is expensable.  Think about the workers of The Lonely Planet and Rick Steve’s travel guides.  Of course all their travel expenses are business expenses!

Hence, I should really write more about the places I love and the things I like to do.  Nobody says I can’t enjoy myself while working.  In fact, one of the main goals is to find work that you enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like work.  This type of enjoyable work is writing online!


FoodMcDonald’s Double Cheeseburger$2.18
FoodFarmer’s Market$8.47
BeverageWine Bar$18
BeverageBar in The Mission District$43
FoodFrench Café for two$29.30
BeverageBeers at Bar$12
FoodOrganic Restaurant For One$13
TennisTennis Grip$7
PostalUS Postal Service$2.80
TaxesH&R Block State Filing$19.95
PostalUS Postal Service$5.95
FoodWok Tossed Prawns$10.85
FoodOyster Po Boy and Guinness$20
TennisTennis Club$150
FoodOrganic Beet Burger$12.91
InsuranceCar, home, umbrella, etc$285
FoodOrganic Food$13.50
FoodFrench Bakery$3.80
FoodNasi Lemak For One$9
FoodFarmer’s Market$11.00
TennisStrings and Guest$85
FoodFrench Bakery$6
FoodTofu Skewers For Two$18
FoodOrganic Mushroom Burger$12.91
TennisStrings and Guest$87
FoodClient Lunch (Reimbursable)$49.50
DentistTeeth cleaning, etc$175
TennisNew Tennis League Team Fee$25
FoodFarmer’s Market$9
FoodSushi lunch$11
FoodFrench Bakery$2.75
Total$1,216.37 ($1,165 net)


I’ve really narrowed my credit card expenses to food, tennis, insurance, and health.  Insurance and tennis costs alone cost about $500-$600 a month, which I considered fixed costs that cannot be avoided.  Tennis is my favorite hobby that also counts as my necessary exercise outlet to stay in shape.  Good health and fitness is priceless.  Hence, spending $200-250 a month isn’t that much.

I’ve noticed over the past three statements that I don’t spend much on material things at all.  It’s partly because I’m trying to declutter the house, which also means that I have everything I need and then some.  The main material items that keep recurring are tennis rackets, tennis shoes, baseball caps, and strings.  Other than that, there’s not much else!  I’m on a mission to keep credit card spending between $1,000-$1,500/month on average all year because I anticipate an income decline in the future.


* Reveal your spending goals. By publicly writing these credit card reports and highlighting exactly what my monthly target range of spending ($1,000-$1,500) is, I’ve become much more conscience of my spending habits.  I’m tethered by your expectations, and my own expectations and don’t want to be a donkey and fail.  Seeing is believing and motivating.

* Consolidate your credit cards.  I’ve only got a company card and a personal credit card now.  There’s no mental games of spreading out costs across various credit cards to make myself feel better.  When you’ve only got one personal credit card, it makes your spending that much more real as you can see all spending in one place.

* Carry many types of bills.  I suggest carrying about $100 worth of $1 dollar, $5 dollar, $10 dollar, and $20 bills in your wallet.  Make the wallet feel nice and full.  You feel a little richer that way, and a little more shocked at the transformation of your wallet into a skinny old flap once you’ve spent all your money.

* Start a business.  Start a business because you have a business idea, and not because you want to load your personal expenses onto your business.  There are enough legitimate things you can write off before going overboard.  I have to warn you, starting a business can be a very painful process due to all the paperwork and taxes involved.  Here’s an example of how painful taxes are to small business owners.  The classification of some expenses as business expenses for some items such as transportation costs and my monthly smartphone bill help defray some of my personal costs.  However, I still have to pay them, just at a discounted price equal to my highest business marginal tax rate.  Just be careful not to use your business solely as a vehicle to load all your expenses on.


Check Your Credit Score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through, a company I trust. 30% of credit reports have errors, which could put a serious hamper on your refinancing or new loan borrowing abilities. I had a $8 late payment I didn’t even know I owed crush my score by 100 points come up during my last refinance. The average credit score for rejected mortgage borrowers has risen to 729 due to more stringent lending requirements. Do you know what your score is?

Barclaycard® Ring MasterCard® – 1% Back on Balance Transfers – This great card has the lowest APR I’ve seen in the market today at 8% compared to the average credit card interest rate is 15%. You get 1% back on all balance transfers made in the first 60 days of opening an account and there is no annual fee or balance transfer fee. There’s a fantastic social community of Ring MasterCard holders once you join to interact with and save money.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® – Hawaiian Airlines is hands down the best airlines in America. Their service is impeccable, they provide food, snacks, and drinks included in your air fare, and each seat comes with a USB charger. This Hawaiian Airlines card gives 35,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days, gives you one complimentary bag to check-in, and a one-time 50% off discount off your companion’s air fare! Round-trip ticket prices range from $450 – $1,200, so that’s a $225 – $600 savings right there to paradise! You also get $100 off a companion tick for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and North America each year, 1 point for every $1 spent, and 5,000 annual bonus miles after $10,000 in annual spend. The annual fee is only $89. Oahu is my home state and it is the most beautiful place to vacation!

Updated 11/27/2014

Photo: On my way to do some research. SD.



Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. Patrick says

    Interesting post, and breakdown of your spending habits.

    What are you doing with the “extra” money? I must have missed an earlier post as to what you are going to do with the money you save by keeping your spending under $1,500 a month.

    • says

      Patrick, I just feel the best when my CC spending is at $1,500/month or less. I probably spend about $300 a month in cash as well. It just feels good to save aggressively, it’s kind of addicting. My only other expense is my mortgage, but that’s a fixed cost. The CC is what I can really control, but I am refinancing my loan down lower.

  2. says

    Thanks for the business expense links. I have a full time job and I’m also a volleyball coach for which I’m an independent contractor/own my own business. This is the first year where I really went all out with my deductions and my ‘expenses’ were greater than my income :) I tried to do a lot of research on this but everywhere I looked it just told me to consult a CPA, no duh! Too damn cheap for that!

    • says

      One of the red flags my accountant told me was people starting business to load up all their personal expenses and run losses. Perhaps you should take it easy on all those expenses, and focus on generating more revenue first.

  3. says

    Nice job cutting back your spending! I did better for March but am anticipating a more expensive April due to travel and family stuff. Having a business does help with expenses but it definitely takes monitoring and not spending just for the sake of spending because it can be written off. California definitely comes after businesses for all sorts of taxes so it’s critical to keep track of cash balances. Thanks for the mention!

  4. Francis Rose says

    Hi Sam,
    I am new to your blog, I found you through Twitter, so forgive me if you’ve answered this question before. Why do you use credit cards? I switched to debit cards and found my spending went down even more, then switched to cash and spending went down again.

    • says

      Hi Francis,

      I use credit cards because they are convenient, provide a nice snapshot of what I’ve spent money on every month, and gains me points. I pay the bill off every month. CC expense is something I like to see and try to control, hence this series.



  5. says

    My March bill slipped too (around $1200). Coincidence, I guess! I use 2 other cards, Target for the 5% discount and Costco (gas/food).

    You may want to check with your accountant, but the tennis may be a legitimate business expense. Don’t you entertain clients? If you are not reimbursed, it is a business expense.

  6. says

    Larry, you can still get the Target discount of 5% by using your checking account. No need to use their credit card if you don’t want to. Just a thought.

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