How Californians Can Make Money Saving Electricity with OhmConnect

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What if I told you that Californians can get paid to save electricity? I mean, we should all already be working hard to reduce our energy bills, but sometimes, during mid-summer night’s heat wave for example, the last thing you want to do is turn off the electricity. I get it.

Not to fret. This is not the blog of deprivation. This is the blog of wealth, in all aspects of the word. In order to get paid, all you have to do is participate in saving electricity one hour at a time during designated “OhmEvents” with OhmConnect. OhmEvents pre-determined time periods when energy usage is typically the highest.

How to participate? Easy. OhmConnect will send you a text (usually a day before) about an upcoming hour-long OhmEvent which you can choose to participate in. You can power down as many electrical appliances as you want, unplug your chargers, turn off your A/C, procrastinate a little longer on the laundry and the dishwasher (be real, you were already doing it), and take the kids or roomies out to the park to expel energy into the ecosystem in a completely different way. If you have a SmartPlug, you can turn off your electronics via an app even when you are away from home. You can also hook up your Nest or smart thermometer to Ohm and it can turn off your device during the hour, to help you save further. Depending on how much kWh you decrease your usage by, you will be awarded points which translates to cash.

How does OhmConnect have the ability to pay people money?

The government pays a stipend or perk to not have carbon-intensive power plants turned on. The way in which this is prevented is by not reaching a certain energy usage threshhold. Meaning, the more people participating in OhmEvents, the less energy is used, and the more likely that the government will pay the stipend, which then partially gets divvied up and dispersed to Ohm participants.

OhmConnect Promotes Slow Living

Aside from the benefit of having a positive environmental and financial impact, there is also the incentive to practice slow living. Participating in an OhmEvent means turning off the TV for an hour and perhaps picking up a book. If it’s hot indoors, it may mean taking the kids to the park or beach outdoors where you longingly feel for an oceanic  breeze. Maybe it’s your cue to commit to that weekly run you wrote in your list of resolutions months ago. Does the Ohm hour land in the evening time? Plan a candle-lit dinner to rekindle your relationship with a loved one. Or teach the kids how to make forts using blankets and read using flashlights.

The best thing about OhmConnect is that it improves your life three-fold – you are leveling up your bank account, your environmental impact, but also (most importantly), your relationships.

How to Earn Even More Money

Spread the word.

When you sign up using my referral link, you will automatically get $10 added to your account for your good intentions. Furthermore, you can help make a bigger difference by getting your friends and family to sign up using your own referral link. For the month of Plastic Free July, all referred friends that sign up for Ohm will result in $40 cash for you, $10 cash for them. They will not receive the $10 if they did not sign up using a referral link, which is why I provide mine here.

We have only been doing this one week, but to be honest with you, it’s very fun. I sent my referral link to my dad who already procrastinates dishes and laundry until after 9 p.m. in order to reduce the electricity bill, and he was stoked to save money and get paid doing it, too!

I think it’s kind of fun finding activities that revolve around zero-electricity usage. But hey, if you really want to, you can still use your laptop or iPhone unplugged.

After one week, I have earned $81 using OhmConnect! I love it, and I think many people would too.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

Frugality: Travel Hacking, An Introduction

From the get-go, when Mike and I were asked to lay down our priorities in terms of lifestyle and life goals, traveling was near the top of our list. It goes without saying that traveling comes with a price that can interfere with our equally important goal of gaining financial independence. It’s hard to commit to a trip across the world when I know I will come back to an ever-growing student loan. So I am so excited to share with you guys a way that allows us to travel the world, without breaking the bank.

We do something called travel hacking.

I first discovered Travel Hacking on Choose FI’s Podcast, Episode 9: Travel Rewards; How to Travel the World for Free (here). In less than an hour, they had me hooked! I remember coming home and re-listening to the entire episode with Mike. We forwarded the podcast episode to our core group of ten friends, in the hopes that they also would like to join us in this adventure, so that we may travel the world together. We continued to study Travel Hacking by taking the free Travel Miles 101 course. We reached out to our financial adviser to ask if it was too good to be true, and were happy to learn that he, too, dabbles in this life hack, and that it would be a very beneficial thing for us to do. I highly recommend anyone interested in traveling the world for (nearly) free to first listen to the podcast episode (in order to get a taste of what this entails), and then to take the free Travel Miles 101 course. I think it would be best to leave all the nuances to the pros and to simply refer you to these two sources, giving all credit where credit is due.

What is travel hacking?

Travel Hacking entails using the benefits of Credit Card Reward Programs in order to gain points that can be used to buy flights, hotel stays, and even car rentals. The idea is to open credit cards and hit the minimum spend criteria in order to attain the massive 40k, 50k, 80k points. These points are incentives for the new cardholder to hit a certain spending within a certain amount of time (usually 3 months) since opening the card. So that is exactly what we do. There are multiple strategies in order to do this, which the sources detail really well, and which I won’t touch on in this post. If you’d like to learn some of these strategies, I refer you to the Travel Miles 101 course.

Keep in mind that while this is extremely useful and beneficial for traveling, it can be destructive if attempted by people who have not achieved disciplined, financial responsibility. The credit card companies win if you open credit cards, purchase products with them, and do not pay off the total amount in full. This leads to high interest rate charges that will lead to more financial harm than good. It also isn’t good if it results in you spending more than you would normally. The card holder needs to be well-restrained. Mike and I treat the credit cards as if they were debit cards. We don’t increase our spending for the sake of gaining more points. In due time, the points will come.

Alternatively, the credit card companies will also win if you fail to hit the minimum spending. You would have opened a credit card for no reason! This requires a very organized person who will keep track of minimum spends, and dates the credit cards were opened, and dates when minimum spending should be reached. So how do you responsibly meet minimum spend when your day-to-day activities do not meet it? There are many ways to ensure you hit your target spending before the time is up. You can use the remaining amount needed to buy grocery or gas gift cards, which could be used in the future. This is a way to guarantee getting the massive point-payout without reckless spending. Another way to meet minimum spend is to prepay bills, such as electrical bills for upcoming months. Having the bills off your mind is a big plus.

Why is this so great?

Imagine this scenario. You open a credit card that requires a $3000 minimum spend in three months. When you spend $3000, you will get a points equivalent to $1000 in flights, which is a 33% rate of return. You can’t get that anywhere! If you were to get that in a taxable investment account, you’d have to pay taxes on your gains. This is 100% tax-free. And may I say that 33% rate of return is not the best rate out there. This should be even more appealing for people who are in higher tax brackets. For people who make six figures, you are sitting in a 25% tax bracket, and if you add to that health insurance, FICA, etc., you may even be approaching closer to 40% marginal tax. For you to take a $5k vacation in a year, you will need to earn $7, 8, 9k to pay for that vacation. With travel hacking, you can do that for free. You can then keep that $7k available to other aspects of your life (aka student loans).

What’s the catch?

Our biggest concern, obviously, was credit rating. Even though we have absolutely no interest in signing up for even more loans right now, mortgages and car loans included, we still don’t want to completely obliterate our really good credit scores. Turns out, there is a very minimal impact on your credit score. Credit scores will go up and down, naturally, within 10 to 30 points within a normal month anyway. That’s just how credit scores work, and it is not a precisely fixed number. Now, if the people attempting travel hacking are financially responsible people, so their credit score would likely be around the 800 range. The maximum that it has dropped for some travel hackers is 25 points, which is irrelevant, because a score of 750 is sufficient to guarantee you most loans. And the funny thing is, these scores jump right back up, because you are constantly paying (in full) multiple credit cards. By spending responsibly, travel hackers can increase their credit score to more than what they started with in the course of a few years. Yes, initially, the hard pull when you apply for the credit card leads to a 2-5 point drop, but it is temporary and it is completely gone within 18 months. Now if you are, for some reason, extremely worried about your credit score or you have a low credit score, or you have plans to take out a mortgage or a loan in the next year, then this strategy is not for you. Do not do travel hacking if for any reason, whether psychologically or financially, you need your credit score to be a certain number.

For Mike and I, we started this journey with decently high credit scores. We decided that, even if our scores dropped as much as 30-50 points, would we be okay. The answer to travel hacking for us was a whole-hearted yes. If the trade-off is $6-7k worth of travel (for free), that would save us $10k (pre-tax) a year, which we can then attribute to other assets or to paying down debt. Since we have no plans to buy a house in the next year, we are not very worried with the short term negative effect it could have on our scores. And our credit scores would still be considered good, if not great! We are more excited about the long-term benefits.

So where has that led us?

We discovered Travel Hacking in October 2017, which is very, very late compared to a whole community of travel hackers who have been doing this for multiple years! It has been almost 5 months.

For 2018, we are able to book the following flights, for free.

Mexico City, Mexico

San Francisco, CA

Portland, Oregon

Calgary, Canada

Sydney, Australia

Melbourne, Australia (from Sydney)

Christchurch, New Zealand (from Melbourne)

Christchurch, to LAX

Pending trips: Costa Rica

The best part?

Slowly, our friends opened up to the idea of travel hacking too! Our trip to SF reunites our group of ten college friends, and the pending Costa Rica trip is being planned among a group of us, as well. It has increased our ability to grow with people we care about, and to spend time with them, and to just see the world.

Travel Hacking is fantastic, but not for everyone. So learn about it, to see if it’s right for you!