Manufactured Spending

A Follow-Up On THAT Money Order Post

My last post on unloading $40,000 worth of money orders got a lot of people riled up. I could have called all Mexicans rapists and gotten less heat than I did over that post. The problem centered around depositing money orders into bank accounts, while trying to stay under the radar. Some people pointed out that keeping deposits under $10,000 per month to get around reporting requirements is considered structuring, which is illegal. I was misinformed by an article I read before publishing mine and did not intend to mislead anyone. Nor did I advocate this activity. Turns out the mere intention of circumventing reporting requirements is illegal, and it applies to money orders and cash alike. So none of us should do it or we’ll get into trouble.


That being said, I want to point out that up until this point, I’ve rarely ever had to deposit more than $5,000 per month into any bank account since I was either doing small amounts of ms or I had prepaid cards to take the load off. 

When the first few tweets came in, I was having lunch with my family and wanted to look into it rather than blindly accept what some blogger was tweeting. I tried to explain my side and that’s when the a**hole parade came to town. I’m fine with people saying, “This is illegal, here’s a link explaining why” but when people (some of whom didn’t even bother to read the post) made unfounded claims about my activities or resorted to name calling, I responded in disagreement. This was largely perpetuated by bloggers who are constantly clamoring for relevance by policing the community. As well as the lackeys who exist purely to stroke their egos. 

A lot of guys got bent out of shape over my audacity to explain myself and responded with classic lines like, “don’t get all riled up,” “just do as I say,” “guys, she doesn’t understand” and my personal favorite – “This is what happens when woman [sic] blog about finance.” One person psychopath calling him/herself “Pain” from Beverly, Massachusetts left two comments in German, threatening to set me on fire and hang me from a tree. You would have thought I was advocating for girls to go to school or something. Nope, someone is mad about the possibility of me “advocating” illegal activity. So he’s threatening to commit a crime to teach me a lesson. The internet is nothing if not a gathering place for intellectual powerhouses.

The reaction by some people on Twitter was equally absurd, not to mention concerning to any mental health professional. Not that I felt personally insulted by a bunch of lackeys living out their midlife crisis on Twitter. But when the opportunity presents itself, I enjoy being mean to people who clearly deserve it. Things backfired for them (and worked out in my favor) when some of those people linked to my post on Twitter. Thanks guys, for making this the second highest traffic day ever!

Personal insults and threats aside (most of which were lame and highly unoriginal), there was some misinformation spread that I want to clarify (i.e. that I stagger $40,000 worth of money order deposits, that I told people to do the same, etc.). But then this post got too long. The last thing I wanted was to waste time explaining my manufactured spending habits to people who, based on their reaction to the original post, can’t read past headlines anyway. 

In conclusion, staggering deposits under $10,000 to avoid reporting, for any reason, is illegal. So even though we’re not cocaine dealers laundering money, we can still get into legal trouble. The last thing I want is for readers to get into trouble because of something they think I advocated, so don’t do this.

There, that should put the fire out. If you’re still upset and can’t get over this tragedy, then make a hashtag or stand outside screaming “Stella!” repeatedly. I hear it’s cathartic and highly productive. If a bunch of people in white coats show up to take you away, just scream louder.

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  1. “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”, When anyone gets into trying to leverage opportunities like we have all been trying to do, we each are 100% responsible for our own actions. Personally I believe your posts have been in the spirit of helpfulness and I appreciate them.

  2. i love your posts. you’re blunt, you’re obviously super-smart, and i love your style of writing. please don’t change …!

  3. Ariana, I didn’t follow the whole Twitter debacle, but I did see the comments in the previous post. Let me say the hateful mysogenistic remark is beyond absurd and reflects the issues that still plague this hobby. The comment in German, well, that’s just disturbing on so many levels. I’m sorry you have to read such vicious vitriol. It’s one of unfortunate side effects of blogging. There’s no excuse for this type of behavior, which is why I felt compelled to leave a comment.
    Your post was intended to be helpful. As soon as you found out about legal implications you wrote a follow-up article. Hopefully, people will move on. We all make mistakes and I don’t think it’s nessassary to keep beating this issue into the ground. Nobody was killed or injured, and the earth is still spinning. Please, ignore vicious attacks from trolls. I haven’t always agreed with you on everything, but this is completely out of line.

  4. OMG i love you for posting this! absolutely have to meet you now since we missed the opportunity at Chicago seminars. will you be at FTU Vegas?

  5. Ariana, your posts are great and helpful. Honestly, didn’t know that there was such a huge discussion in the comments until I saw this. Nasty comments should be removed. This isn’t youtube if you ask me.

    • I’m glad you think so Mike. People make mistakes, apologize, and move on. As for the nasty comments, they’re more a reflection of that person’s poor character than mine. So I’ll let them speak for themselves.

  6. Keep up the great informational blogs! I look forward to them every week. Your detailed explanations of your MS experiences are immensely helpful.

  7. I have no problem with this at all. I too would like to know how to manufacture a few points when the time arises to get me over the amount I need for a trip. It does seem like alot of work though.

  8. I’m German and just found the supposedly German comment you’re referencing. FWIW: It very much sounds google translated; someone figured insults are even more aggressive when presented in auto translated German. Very smart.

    Thanks for running the blog!

    • Thanks Jan! I’m sure that person was just trying to deliver an insult/threat to me while avoiding looking like a lunatic to other readers. Doing it in a foreign language that I speak is the perfect solution.

  9. I personally find your blog, your posts and your insights very helpful. It’s up to you readers what they take from them and what they leave, so please don’t get discouraged by this and keep posting.

  10. Louise Bied......

    OMG! More people threatened by an intelligent woman. I think we may be in trouble if they are registered voters. I would hate to think USA could be “trumped”. Thank you for everything. Sharing your wisdom and standing up for yourself. I’ll bet your family is proud.

  11. You made a dumb mistake and got yourself in a hole and yet you’re still digging. Pointing out that some comments about the post were cruel or unfair gains you nothing, since the main thrust of those critical comments was accurate. Structured transactions are illegal, as every bank teller, used car salesman and real estate agent in America could have told you. You broke it, you bought it. Take responsibility for it, apologize and move on.

    • Digging? How so? If people can call me out for being wrong (which I acknowledged), I get to tell them when they’re out of line with their sexist, disgusting comments and death threats. Welcome to the internet, where everyone is allowed to air their opinion, not just the trolls.

  12. While I certainly thought your advise was misguided the trolling behavior is pathetic.


  14. I find that the criticisms leveled against you are misguided and selfish. These people want to keep everything secret and not share the tricks that you have graciously given to your readers. Don’t stop!

  15. I’ve always understood structuring and currency transaction reporting (CTR) to apply specifically to cash transactions. Have you seen any credible sources to suggest that it applies to other monetary instruments e.g. money orders?

    If there is no cash involved (in this case depositing money orders), why should your bank care? The burden should only fall on them when you are trying to convert money orders into large sums of cash or deposit large sums of cash.

    If you used a lot of cash to acquire the money orders, the reporting requirement would fall on the institution that issued the money order. In this case, an act of structuring could be driving around to multiple stores to avoid detection. Can someone provide information proving otherwise?

  16. Don’t pay attention to the nay sayers. They always have 50 reasons for not doing something.

  17. Don’t give in, just be who you truly are, I love your blogs and always read them with pleasure. Back to the MO, I don’t think there’s nothing to be afraid to SAR. A year back, before Suntrust shut me down, I was buying well over $100k each month with their generous Delta debit card, and only deposited to 2 or 3 banks (one is next door to a WMT, how convenient!). I’m not shy about how much I was handling and not sure how many SAR’s have been filed on me. In the end, nothing happened, not a single IRS or FinCEN call. I understand people try to avoid the hassle to deal with government agencies, but if what you are doing is not illegal, you should not be afraid.

  18. I love your posts. I’m coming here every day because your posts are interesting, smart and it’s fun reading them. You’re definitely the best blogger.

  19. Jeez, people need to get a grip!
    I really enjoy this site; I find the tips and humour well worth my time. Others need to just get over it.

  20. I’m with MYOLDSMOKY, just be yourself! I think you’re a great blogger. You wrote a follow-up post and that should be that. People shouldn’t blindly follow any advice from anyone, they should be smart enough to figure out whether it’s the right thing for them to do.

    I am a long-time reader of many blogs, but only comment once in a blue moon. I can’t recall posters/bloggers picking on a male blogger the way they all picked on you. This whole MO thing has made me come out of the woodwork to say, “Keep up the good work! Haters gonna hate…”

  21. You are awesome. What a stressful day it must have been, and you took it so well with grace and humor.

    • It wasn’t really stressful – I enjoyed the Twitter banter. Nothing more hilarious than a bunch of grown men my dad’s age who lose their sh** and start calling me names because I wouldn’t bow at their feet.

  22. Your response is truly classic. Awesome post as always.

  23. The comment from “Eusticetilley” sums it well. Yesterday’s post should NOT have been there. I dont understand why you wrote several paragraphs complaining about people’s comments, granted a couple of the comments are nasty. It seems that you are more upset about those comments than your BIG mistake of yesterday’s post. Note, I did NOT leave any comment on your yesterday’s post.

    • First, I wasn’t advocating anything in my post. I was misinformed by something I read and when I was made aware of it, I researched it, realized I was wrong, and corrected the post. Making disrespectful comments about women in general, calling me names, and threatening to set me on fire is a lot worse than me making and subsequently correcting a mistake. At the very least, these reactions deserve equal billing when we’re talking immoral/illegal behavior on blogs.

      • Watching this play out was ridiculous on several levels.

        1. Ariana, even a cursory search on the definition of structuring and a bit of Googling would point you the right way. It’s one thing to say you’re wrong. It’s another thing to say you’re wrong and blame bad info. What were your sources? The burden is on you to find good info and that info is readily available.

        2. Most of the people who responded to your post initially telling you that you were wrong were perfectly respectful. In response, at least on Twitter, you were stubborn and overly defensive which contributed to some of the later vitriol. Maybe there’s a prior history with these folks? Even if you find them pedantic and condescending (and a couple of them are), in this case, they were right. 100%.

        3. A small handful of idiots and trolls poured in with their two cents and you largely chose to engage with them instead of the respectful people trying to caution you about a really bad post. The trolls are cowards and clowns, but you’re playing the martyr.

        4. Spare us the strong women besieged schtick. You messed up and social media is all about piling on, unfortunately. Want to see a guy get trolled and attacked daily in the MS sphere? Go check out Million Miles Secrets sometime. Not that he doesn’t deserve it much of the time for being a simpleton.

        5. The guy who tried to “tell on you” and get you in trouble by tweeting @ some of the publications you’ve written for is a colossal baby and everything I hate about today’s Twitter world. His Twitter profile pic was….umm….as expected. OK, I admit I saw his Tweet, clicked on his profile and laughed out loud. Of course, I thought. Of course….

        I wish you luck and I’ve enjoyed the blog, but there’s room for growing up all around.

        • I’m not calling out people who were respectful. I’m calling out those who repeatedly tweeted insults out of the gate. I’m sorry if you think that’s acceptable behavior – I’m certainly not going to sit quietly when people say things like “this is what happens when women write about finance.” Even after I corrected the original post, the vitriol kept coming. And it’s stupid not to address it when it gets this out of hand. MMS doesn’t get called a whore or threatened to get set on fire, and nobody takes the narrative to “men are too stupid to write about finance.”

          • Most men ARE too stupid to write about finance. And Bowtie and various male bloggers get kicked around like a soccer ball on the reg. Threats and all.

            And…you’re still steering it back to the small handful of trolls (that you egged on) instead of examining your defensiveness in the face of respectful criticism. My post clearly stated it’s not acceptable behavior and I called them “cowards and clowns.” How can I be more clear? You’re still trying to make it about a small minority or morons instead of your petulance when you were called out RIGHTLY by a majority of people who can Google the word “structuring” and possess some common sense. These people – whether you understand it or not – were actually trying to HELP you. Yet you engaged the trolls and responded in kind to their stupidity. That’s interesting, right? Why would you do that except to create the condition you claim to lament?

            I understand you don’t see this persecution complex in yourself, as your response makes clear, but it’s a thing.

          • I don’t think financial savvy is gender related and bashing men doesn’t even things out. I engaged the trolls and I take responsibility for hurting their fragile egos. What I didn’t do is threaten to kill anyone or call them whores. “Whore” is not a valid response to anything another person says to you. Period. You’re allowed to defend yourself against vitrol without being labeled a victim or belligerent. I updated the post, apologized to my readers, and that’s that. Those guys were out of line and even the well meaning “helpers” were making up nonsense about my ms habits that wasn’t in the post. I’m well aware of what other bloggers put up with and would defend them against the trolls any day, regardless of whether they’re men or women.

          • @SF Ariana didn’t start it but dished it back. It was 10+ on 1 and she handled it like a champ. Stop excusing the bullies sick behavior. Nobody should take punches lying down.

          • Thanks Jade. I agree RE taking punches.

  24. As this is the week for the annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association, I’ve been too busy running back and forth from work to events to read the posts or the twitter commentary yesterday. I read some posts today, and I must thank everyone – regardless of wrong or right, I learned a lot – including some new legal concepts, doctrines and analysis that I was not previously familiar with.

  25. So, I understand (from Wikipedia) that a CTR report is automatically filed by the bank once its computers detect a transaction of at least $10k. BUT — is a report filed if the $10K is made up of smaller deposits during the month?? And by this I don’t mean the deliberate structuring of deposits during the month to break up a total of $10k into smaller amounts (that would be ILLEGAL). I mean if you’ve made a number of deposits over the period, and they just happen to total over $10K??

  26. Oh and also — is this “$10K in a month” criterion a _calendar_ month (eg Jan 1-31), or over a _rolling_ 30-day period (eg Dec 1-30; then Dec 2-31; then Dec 3-Jan 1…etc) ??

  27. Ariana, please try to ignore those vitriolic comments. And try to remember that people who were absolutely innocent got a much worse treatment. It’s not you, it’s them.

    Having said that, please also try to be more prudent. I’ve read your blog for about a year and I very much appreciated your openness but sometimes I found myself shaking my head and saying that if I was you I wouldn’t have mentioned some details.

    Kind regards,

  28. This is a hobby, which I’m hoping most people are just doing for fun. The resort to threats of harm and name calling is out of control. You’re not stomping on kittens and puppies. I’ve put seemingly innocuous comments on other bloggers’ sites only to be met with vitriol and insults from other commenters. I’m sure these are the same types of people you see on the freeway who ride up inches from your bumper at high speeds, then change lanes and give nasty looks as they speed past.

    • It’s not a hobby to them – it’s their entire life. They’e sad, unemployed, lonely guys for whom collecting points and miles is the only reprieve from their mothers’ basements. They look for the opportunity to vent their frustrations and there’s no better place to do it than online.

      • I’m not sure if it helps that you’re being super passive aggressive about all of this. You know you’re just feeding the trolls, right?

      • “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” -Herman Hesse

      • For someone who keeps talking about Trolls and nasty people you sure seem to keep the ball rolling with the insults. I know its all good press for you and all but you might think of taking the high road (please dont take that as a threat by a male or someone telling you what to do).

  29. Typical white male bull shit. They love being patronizing to women.They’re used to coercing people of color into doing what they want. Kills them when they can’t get their way.

  30. Ariana,

    You have a lot of us’ full support. Your blogs are not only always helpful, but also extremely pleasant and fun to read! Please ignore all the hateful comments. Know that you have helped so many of us in so many ways! You are definitely one of my favorite 3 bloggers (you, FM and Mommy Points) and keep up the awesome posts! 🙂

  31. There are trolls everywhere on the Internet. Sadly it is a part of life. But actually engaging with them (and those non-trolls who were trying to be helpful by pointing out some bad advice in your post) in the manner that you did I found to be very unprofessional and definitely turned me off from wanting to read your blog in the future.

  32. What a difference a day makes =)

  33. Ariana, once again, you demonstrate why women shouldn’t be writing about finance. You, and your breed, are simply too emotional. A little criticism from males and you get your panties in a twist.

  34. this is what happens when ariana arghandewal writes about finance.

  35. this is what happens when my sister Ariana writes about finance. she’s an embarrassment to our family name

  36. hollyatclubthrifty

    People who do not write in the public eye have no idea what it’s like to be called a whore or threatened with physical violence. They think they know how you should react, but they have never been in your shoes.

    • I don’t take those threats seriously but pointed it out as an interesting observation that’s part of a bigger issue – male bloggers never get called whores or receive sexually explicit threats. It’s also interesting how much venom that observation alone received. Some people didn’t get hugged by their mothers enough (or maybe too much).

  37. Geeze, what happens when I skip a few days.

  38. I’d suggest updating your original post on unloading $40,000 of MOs to include a big warning or correction at the top. Without that it’s very plausible someone will read that and not realize that you’ve retracted it due to significant legality concerns with the proposed method.

  39. In some ways the pot is calling the kettle black, all of us who have been following these mileage and point blogs have been doing so in order to circumvent the the intent and rules of the credit cards. Blue bird and serve and Vanilla reload cards and the rest didn’t shut down because we were all doing the right thing. We don’t have conventions because we want to meet one another, we do so to find way to get over on the system. We call it a hobby but we really know what it is, its good old healthy and not so healthy greed, coupled with a bit of obsessive compulsive behavior.
    Beating up Ariana because she made a mistake and admitted it is abusive, reminds me of hyenas circling in on the wounded prey. Its not about being right its about enjoying being unkind and why would anyone want to be unkind? We can be so brave with the our mighty index finger as we hit send, never having to look someone in the eye. In any case I am off to Thailand and Burma next week, for free……………………

    • I agree – a lot of people in this hobby are engaged in shady behavior. That being said, it’s never my intent to advocate anything illegal. You hit the nail on the head with people enjoying being unkind (I, too, fall in that bucket sometimes). Enjoy Thailand and Burma!