….yes, that Dave Ramsey. Wait…what? Now that I have your attention.

I’ve been dabbling with miles and points in one form or another since high school. I joined the Piedmont Airlines Frequent Flyer Bonus Program in the 1980s, took my first flights in First Class thanks to that, and I’ve been at it ever since.

I started to hit my stride in the 90’s when a big bonus for the Citi AAdvantage cards was in the 5 or 10,000 mile range. 🙂 Ha. At the time I was employed by American Airlines, but that did not stop me from trying to earn AAdvantage miles. I had a 75 percent travel job, with much of that international, and I did not want to leave miles on the table. Obviously, I wasn’t buying very many plane tickets, but all of my work related travel expenses were charged to my Citi AAdvantage card as were my personal expenses. I redeemed my first award, a roundtrip upgrade, on a personal flight which I had paid for because I was traveling over Thanksgiving. Had to go to the airport with a paper coupon back then. I walked away grinning like a cheshire cat. 😀 Then I hit the holy grail…. a 45,000 mile domestic first class roundtrip redemption. Might’ve been a paper coupon for that one too. The joy! Stop laughing! I was young and hadn’t yet discovered a website called FlyerTalk.

I discovered FT the year before I left the airline for more stable employment. I’m convinced if I’d been with FT from the beginning, I would be a lifetime AAdvantage Platinum now instead of lifetime Gold, but I appreciate what I have. Of course, there are even more great sources of information out there now – BoardingArea.com, Milepoint, and many many other blogs. More miles are now earned from credit card spending than flying. Things have evolved.

Where does Dave Ramsey fit into all this? Little known MJ fact – I’ve been known to be tight with a dollar. One or two people I know are laughing now. My grandmother taught me not to spend every dollar I made early on and that’s a habit that stuck. Most readers are well aware of how lean things were in the airline industry following 9/11. Bankruptcies, pay cuts, IF you got to keep your job, etc. Suffice it to say that I moved to a cash only (gasp) operation during and after the 2003-04 financial “reset” I experienced. Yes, I even used a debit card for spending!

But alas, life goes on. I got a new job, and began traveling more. I decided it was time to step back in, but I did so in a way that stuck to the principles of paying my bills on time and managing money as well as I could. I budget and track every penny I spend. There are a number of ways to do that, Quicken, Mint, and the other software programs, or even an old fashioned accounting ledger. Once upon a time, I even settled my accounts on a weekly basis, but I’ve found bi-weekly to work just fine for me nowadays. Finally, I don’t jump at every good deal I see, even 100,000 AAdvantage miles (though I’m admittedly tempted on that one). Something else will usually come along, and because I play from ahead of the game, and not behind, I can jump on it.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, and this is just mine. It probably won’t win any money management contests, and it’s certainly not an envelope system – but it works for me. YMMV.

-MJ, February 11, 2014