Back in April I announced that I was leaving my pretty casual employment in New England to move halfway across the country. I'd been in a long-distance relationship for way too long and it was time to cut down the distance. Rather than look for a new job, I decided to rededicate myself to my two favorite pastimes: blogging and taking money from banks.
My original announcement was titled "Everything (nothing) is changing," and I think I hit the nail squarely on the head. In case readers hadn't noticed my somewhat-more-frequent posts lately, I'm now settled into my new lifestyle, and I'm loving it. Three weeks into the move, here's where things stand.
One (the only) good thing about my former position was that, besides giving me a flexible schedule and plenty of time to both travel and hack, it also gave me a regular paycheck. The money was enough to live on, which meant I could manufacture spend on miles- and points-earning credit cards "opportunistically," as Frequent Miler put it in the comments here. That is to say, I didn't mind foregoing cash back speculatively, since I knew I would be able to pay my rent no matter what happened to my American Airlines balance.
While manufactured spend gives me access to unlimited liquidity, given the constantly changing nature of the game I'm unwilling to use that liquidity to pay actual expenses. That means I've set myself the goal of earning enough cash back each month to meet my (honestly, pretty minimal) expenses. Fortunately, I'll still be receiving a nominal sum from my former employer for the next month or two, so I'm not leaping in completely without a parachute. It sure feels that way, though!
And in case you're wondering why I would have trouble manufacturing enough cash back to live on, I'm happy to share: my American Express gift card orders have been declined ever since the move, presumably because my new billing information hasn't populated to whatever database they use to validate orders. Unless those orders start being approved in the next few months, I'll be relying on brute force to earn enough to pay the rent.
What hasn't changed
My impression is that most people who quit their day jobs to write travel blogs full-time do so because they realize how much they're earning from credit card affiliate links, and decide it's enough to live in the manner they're accustomed to. Of course, the really big players earn enough to hire employees and merely phone in the occasional (16-part) post.
I don't have any credit card affiliate links. This site is entirely reader-supported, by readers who buy or borrow my ebook from Amazon, use my signup links for travel-hacking-related services, and most importantly sign up for PayPal subscriptions using the subscription button on every page of the website.
Why do I say PayPal subscriptions are the most important, when a single Uber signup might offer $10 or $20 in referral credit? Simple: the trivial amounts you sign up to contribute each month (subscriptions start at $2 per month, and top out at $10 per month) add up, and give me a kind of base income I can more-or-less rely on each month. You probably won't notice PayPal deduct your $2 subscription each week or month, but if just 200 readers like you subscribe, that's $400 in rent I can worry a little less about manufacturing each month. In other words, it's a small thing to you that makes a big difference to me.
Plus it gives you access to my occasional subscribers-only newsletters and the recently-launched complete archive of past newsletters.
As my readership has grown, a number of readers have reached out to me for one-off help consulting with them on how to develop or refine their own miles-and-points strategy. That's been a really exciting development and I've been able to help a few people out now, in addition to the help I'm always happy to provide readers here on the blog and through Twitter or e-mail.
Meanwhile I guess I've entered into the same summer funk I was in last year when I asked "Has affiliate blogging gotten worse?" because I've cut way back on my consumption of other travel hacking blogs. The simultaneous disappearance of both American Express affiliate links and articles about American Express cards is the kind of "coincidence" that helps you realize just how shameless many of those blogs can be. Of course there are exceptions (the crew over at Saverocity are still putting out great content), but I'd rather be hacking than reading most bloggers writing today.
Finally, one thing that's been fun about the renewed intensity of my manufactured spend is that it's put me on the front lines of recent changes that I've been able to share with my readers in real time. While the biggest news eventually makes its way to the blog, I've come to rely on Twitter for real-time reporting of developments, and there's really no substitute for a great Twitter feed.
I want to thank all my readers for reading, and for giving me the courage to take this pretty radical step with my life. See you in the comments!