Manufactured Spending

Prioritizing Manufactured Spending (When You Don’t Feel Like It)

You know that Bruno Mars song that goes, “Today, I don’t feel like doing anything…” that’s my mantra on the weekends. I still work full time while juggling freelance writing gigs, side hustles, and did I mention I’m working on a manufactured spending app? I’ve decided in addition to all of that, I’m going to force myself back into a regular manufactured spending routine. Why am I doing this to myself? Because it’s a healthier, more productive way to spend my free time than binge-watching Vox videos on YouTube.

Since I’ve had so much going on, I haven’t been to Walmart in over a month. While my ms-friendly store is halfway between home and work, it does require a bit of a detour. I don’t want to wake up a half hour earlier every morning and the line to buy money orders tends to be way too long in the evening. So I’m making a commitment to start churning gift cards at least one day a week – preferably Saturday. But not this Saturday, because I’m going to Southern California. And not next Saturday because I’ll be at FTU Seattle. The one after that.

What’s brought out this determination to pile more stuff to my plate? I miss the high of churning $10,000+ worth of gift cards in a day. While it eventually became “work” when I started overdoing it, I really miss getting those notifications from Award Wallet showing my airline account balances going up every couple of weeks. Plus, I feel super lucky to have found an MS-friendly Walmart and don’t want to let that go to waste. The only problem? Making gift card churning a priority when all I want to do in my free time is watch videos about why the Concorde failed and why the triple axel is such a big deal. So I’m putting a reminder on my calendar for every Saturday to go on a Walmart run instead.

In the past, I would write manufactured spending down on a to-do list, which is easy to ignore. I found that harassing myself with email reminders doesn’t work anymore either. When the emails start piling up, it just creates more stress and incentive for me to “take a break” from checking emails for a week or two. I’ve resorted to setting calendar reminders for everything. Just the sheer anticipation of that obnoxious pinging sound on my phone is enough to motivate me to get it done early, so I can delete the reminder altogether. It’s become an oddly effective incentive to get things done.  

As for buying gift cards, I’ve said it before – gift card churning takes time and exceptional organizational skills. At this point, I can’t realistically track thousands of dollars worth of orders every week. So I’ll probably just stick to buying $300 Visa gift cards in-store, at OfficeDepot. It’s easier for me to track gift cards with a paper trail than an electronic one. This will also give me a chance to take a break in the middle of the day, get closer to my daily step goal, and get my Ultimate Rewards balance up. Really, I’m getting three things done at once, which is a huge plus!

As other things are piling up on my plate, I realize the importance of not giving up on manufactured spending. It’s not just a great side hustle, I have fun doing it …when I actually dedicate time to it. I want to commit to prioritizing this over my occasional binge-watching habit, because it’s personally rewarding and productive. Balance is key and manufactured spending helps me achieve that.

I want to hear from you all: How do you prioritize manufactured spending as part of your daily routine?

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  1. “So I’ll probably just stick to buying $300 Visa gift cards in-store, at OfficeDepot. ” Surprised to see this reference. Maybe you meant Staples on-line? Since when did OD sell $300 VGC’s? (on-line or in-store?) And as for that “new” OD rewards program, wasn’t that DOA within days, if not hours of your post last summer? (the $4 limit?)

  2. Sometimes i burn out but wait a week or two and then I’m good to go!

  3. MS is becoming harder and harder with banks cracking down on gift card purchases, especially AMEX (theyve been inforcibg the T&C that exclides gift cards from being an eligible purchase) and US Bank (Altitude anyone?!).. chase last week grilled me for purchasing one (yes, 1) gift card even though I bought higher amounts in the past..
    What are your thoughts on that?

  4. its a grind but I do it nearly every day. $2k on the way to work and $2k on the way home. plus most weekends I go in the mornings and do $4k at two different WMs that are close to each other but are inconvenient during the work week bc of commuter traffic. Its a far cry from the days when the USPS had my MS bandwidth wide open and I could easily do 30k on a Saturday, but I just cannot let go from this. It feels like MS days are numbered and I may very well be sitting there a year from now with no ability to MS if WM and grocery store MO ends. So make hay while the sun is shining, even if its tough going in WM every day. On the plus side, I have access to cheap shopping constantly if something is needed at home.

  5. I’ve been on an MS break myself. Trying to find a reason to start msing again. Subscribing for inspiration.

  6. I haven’t started MSing yet, but feel like I should to get in before it dies altogether!

  7. I try and buy 10K of VGC on Monday’s. I like getting mine from giftcardmall because in the amounts I get they send to the post office for signing. Additionally, since they come pre authorized it says me time from sitting there and punching in those 16 + 3 numbers on each card. I head to WM, go through 2K, head home. Repeat the next day, but then go to the bank to deposit 4K. Depositing more than 4K causes my bank to hold them. I have a legitimate business and the bank thinks these are my payments. I also deposit a few other things in that account. I figure someone may wonder why the amounts are always just shy of 2K or 4K. If I am out of town and a bunch of these have arrived, then I have a number of WM’s and Krogers to get the MO.

    • @bryon

      how do you fill out the money orders ? I was using my name and a friends name. The credit union called me and told me to stop depositing mo or I would be shut down.

    • Activating the cards is a major pain. Unfortunately, I still can’t get GCM to approve any of my orders. For now, the OD route works just fine.

  8. Curious to the poster that said Chase grilled them for the gift card purchase… how? What were the details? They call? That’s very bizarre.

  9. Sexy_Kitten7

    I also haven’t been in a month since I only MS Staples/OM deals. I think the biggest risk is having cashiers forget who you are 😉

    It’s kinda sad. I like having a clean plate but I also like sitting on GCs. Much like MSRs, it gives my life meaning.

  10. I order card from @CM during the weekdays and I liquidate them during the weekends, sometimes I also purchase some simon on the weekends to liquidate them as well… 3-8K per week total

  11. I hope it doesn’t end too quickly. I have just gotten brave enough to start msing. And like Ariana….I love watching my UR numbers go up. THANK YOU so much for your willingness to answer questions and help others. I know its not always rewarding but I really appreciate it!!!

    • Sure thing! Happy to do it.

      • I literally just started small with my first $500 Visa GC purchase from the grocery store yesterday and bought a$450 MO from the closest WM. Paid the 88 cent fee and was out of there easy as pie. Baby steps. This is all thanks to you Ariana. Heard your guest speaking session on the FIRE Drill podcast and was so excited to dabble in a little luxury travel hacking. Appreciate you so much. I’m going to see if the nearby grocery store’s WU will accept debit payments for a MO (to mix it up).

  12. Any recommendations on what cards are best to MS right now?

  13. I take breaks too. I sometimes have to let my cc statements catch up to my spending and deposits.

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