Category Archives: Meta-blogging

Zeroth World Problems

First World Problems vs. Zeroth World Problems

You’ve probably heard the comment, “wow, that’s really a first world problem.”  Maybe it’s when you curse after getting some dirty slush from a puddle on your brand new Uggs, and then notice the homeless guy across the street with holes in his shoes.  Or maybe it’s when you’re feeling very put out by the fact that your remote is missing and you had to get up from the couch to turn on your 65″ TV.  These are problems that billions of people in the world wish they had.  First world problems.

"Hey! This Gulasch mit Spätzle had TWO sprigs of parsley garnish in the menu picture. Take it back."

“Hey! This Gulasch mit Spätzle had TWO sprigs of parsley garnish in the menu picture. Take it back.”

Lately I’ve started using the term “zeroth world problems” to describe ‘problems’ related to the free travel game.  These are problems that most of the first world wished they had.  Hang around blogs like this one and similar forums and you’ll know what I mean.

Poor me!  I just found a free flight to Europe with a lie-flat seat, in business class like I wanted, to the destination I wanted, on the date I wanted.  BUT it has a long layover at an airport where I don’t have free lounge access.” (This was actually a thought I had a few days ago.)

“I have 4 free nights expiring soon so I had to plan a free trip with my wife to Aruba.  What an inconvenience!!  (I’ve actually heard this one too.)

“There are just too many good credit card offers out there right now.  It’s going to be so much work to figure out which ones to get for the most free money and travel.”

What a rip-off!  I’m using OVER HALF the points from ONE CREDIT CARD BONUS and all I’m getting for them is 2 free international flights.”  (I’ll claim this one too, just yesterday.)

You get the idea.  These are zeroth* world problems.  Actually complaining about this stuff and calling them problems is pathetic.  If you’re fortunate enough to have the credit score and the information resources ( to maximize this game, you shouldn’t be complaining about anything.
* I like the alternate spelling “zeroeth” but google likes it the other way.

wine selection - a zeroth world problem

On our free first class flight last summer I could have had any of these wines for no charge. But I was utterly disgusted that they weren’t offering any California Champagnes by Paul Masson.

Travel snobbery is nothing new, but it’s usually reserved for those who are paying an arm and a leg for first class seats and luxury hotels.  This is somewhat understandable.  I could also understand complaining about major issues with free flights or hotels.  But traveling for free and complaining about tiny inconveniences or flaws?  Please. . .

You can’t be a travel snob if you’re getting it all for free!

Zeroth world problems

Sure we are staying at this $500/night hotel for free . . . but one-legged birds? Seriously? I’m calling the BBB.

We ValueTactical warriors might try and complain about such ‘problems’ on blogs and forums, but they aren’t really problems.  They are just challenges to overcome when trying to maximize value with these programs.  So take on the challenge with the help of websites like this and others!

Much to be Thankful For

Those of us in living in developed countries shouldn’t complain about first world problems like the exact temperature of our Starbucks coffee.  Likewise, those of us in the zeroth world of maximizing value, free money, and free travel shouldn’t complain about zeroth world problems.  We should be thankful that there is a ‘zeroth world!’

I said earlier that complaining about zeroth world problems is pathetic.  Fortunately when I make comments like those above, it is almost always tongue-in-cheek.  I do realize how fortunate I am.  Learning the value tactics I present on this site has allowed me to do some amazing things.

Enjoying a dinner in Frankfurt with the German exchange family I've known for 18 years.

Enjoying a dinner in Frankfurt with the German exchange family I’ve known for 18 years.

I’ve been able to visit friends on the other side of the world, reduce my commuting costs by 20%, get lots of free stuff, and extract thousands of dollars from points programs.  Nicoleen and I have been able to escape the craziness of daily life, take the family on vacations, and celebrate our anniversaries in style!

Nicoleen and I in Jamaica, 2015

10th anniversary vacation 1 of 2. Couples resort in Negril.

Sure, some of the details don’t always work out perfectly, but that’s nothing to complain about.  I am very thankful I have had the opportunities to do these things at all!

Do you want your own zeroth world problems to worry about?  E-mail me or message me on Facebook for free advice on which credit cards to get and which frequent flyer programs to join.  I’ll have you complaining about the free champagne selection on your free flight in no time!

Geographically Specific Deals and Offers

I sometimes get comments related to the fact that some of the deals and tactics I outline on this site are not available in certain geographic areas.  While I can’t promise to cover all deals/promotions available everywhere in the world, I can tell you I feel your pain.

The Problem

No awesome in-branch-only credit card offers for me! (I live in Minnesota)

No awesome in-branch-only credit card offers for me! (I live in Minnesota)

On more than one occasion I have seen credit card offers only available at Chase branches, but I live in a state (Minnesota) where there are no Chase branch locations.  I once tried to execute a currency trading tip I was given and I ran into roadblock after roadblock.  It turns out the type of trade I wanted to do is not allowed using U.S. brokerages.  These and other are other examples of tactics I am unable to employ due to where I live, and it’s frustrating every time.

I’m sure many of you feel the same frustration.  Two of the free money tactics I promote on this site involve retailers only present in the Midwest (Super America and Menards).  And if you live outside the U.S you’re out of luck on most of the credit card advice on this site.  The credit card deals I post about are generally limited to U.S. customers.

Menards store locations are concentrated in the Great Lakes region.

Menards store locations are concentrated in the Great Lakes region.

Good deals are everywhere – The strategy

The geography of available coupon deals, credit card promotions, and other savings tactics is much like the timing of credit card sign-ups: you’ll win some and you’ll lose some.  The good thing is that the overall strategy can easily be exported to other regions with different tactical opportunities.  Once you start learning how to evaluate deals and sort through the spam, you’ll find it’s easy to spot what might be worth doing and what isn’t.

I don’t claim to be a clearinghouse of information on the best deals and offer around the country, but I welcome tips my readers have about similar tactics available where they live.  E-mail me or comment on the relevant posts when you know of non-Midwest, regionally specific tactics.  Let’s band together to capture and create value across the nation globe!

Regrouping After a Hiatus

hiatusI just got done with a string of 70+ hour weeks (not counting my 3 hour daily round trip commute). April is the busy part of the year for three different aspects of my work, so it’s always go time. This year was especially bad, with a very active fire season and more acres than usual of tree planting to supervise. In order to survive the work-storm, I basically had to ignore the rest of the universe. So how do I clean up the mess left by 3 weeks of neglecting everything? Piece by piece. I’m using this blog post to both organize my thoughts, and to offer tips to others like me who have had to put there value tactics on hold for a time.

First of all, throughout the work-storm I knew nothing too horrible would happen. I have automatic payments set up on all our credit card accounts. As long as my minimum payments are made on time, my credit score is secure.

While my credit score was safe, there are 3 aspects of my hobby that suffered in varying degrees from my neglect. The first is tracking and recording. As I pointed out in these blog posts maintaining records of everything related to your value tactics is not really necessary. But for me, tracking and recording is part of the fun, and it’s also how I get the data to prove to Nicoleen that all my obsessing is worth while. It’s not that hard to catch up my spreadsheets, but it does take some extra diligence and motivation.

The second aspect that suffered is evident to anyone reading this right now: It’s been almost a month since my last blog post, update, tweet, or facebook activity. As someone trying to run a website and get the word out on these great deals and tactics, a dead zone like that really hurts. There’s nothing I can do about that now, so it’s time to move on…

The third aspect I fell behind on during my hiatus is all the new deals I have been missing! I managed to keep up with Menards free-after-rebate items, but there have been credit card offers popping up all over the place, and I didn’t so much as read a single blog post about them in the past 3 weeks. Becoming re-apprised of the current card offer situation takes a little extra time and a little extra reading, but it can be done in an evening. I’m not out of the woods yet at work, but hopefully as the pace slows down in the coming weeks I can catch up and pass along the awesome deals and offers to you, my faithful readers!

The road to recovery
I have to keep reminding myself that it will only get harder and harder to catch up with things every day I put it off. Piece by piece is the way to do it. I took my own advice and forced myself to write this blog post tonight, even though I really wanted to just go to bed! Hopefully you’ll be reading more of my catch up blogs posts, including a big weekly update, shortly!

Thanks for reading.

My Favorite Blogs could never be complete if I didn’t write a post about my favorite sources.  Anyone blogging about credit cards, points, miles, etc. is truly standing on the shoulders of giants.  I figured it might help my readers to learn where I get much of my info.
If you’ve been in this game for any amount of time, these websites will be familiar to you.  In our little corner of the blogosphere these are the heavy hitters, and without their influence, I would not have had the motivation to start my own website.  So, without further introduction:
Probably the best well-known blog of its type out there.  Brian Kelly, the site’s founder, definitely has the charisma and marketing knack to keep the site at the top of most google searches.  He and his team keep the site up-to-the-minute with new cards offers, airline and hotel news, and points strategies.

The Points Guy isn’t my favorite blog, but oddly enough it tends to be the first one I check when I need to get myself updated after a few days off.  I guess that’s a testament to google’s influence, and the site’s branding itself.  The blog just got a major styling overhaul, making it much more device-friendly, although the full version got a bit slower and resource-heavy.  Although The Points Guy is a good source for up-to-date offers and news, the frequency of more general interest travel posts often buries the headline blog posts.  Recently I’ve been doing more skimming than reading on The Points Guy.
Another giant in the points blogging world, Million Mile Secrets is run by Daraius Dubash and his wife Emily.  Like The Points Guy, this blog is a sure bet to find breaking points and miles news, and with about the same amount of filler posts.

I have always found the site’s visual style to be disruptive, but the content is quite good.  I especially appreciate that the primary author usually travels with his wife.  Their flight reviews are especially helpful to me, since I usually travel with Nicoleen.  Like The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets is heavily focused on funneling readers to commission-earning credit card application pages. But, to both sites’ credit, they provide ample disclaimers that they do earn profit off your card applications; and both sites will usually inform you if there’s a better offer than their affiliate-linked one for a particular card.
Milevalue is my go-to site for anything related to the airline miles side of things.  The author, Scott Grimmer is an expert at finding available award seats, planning itineraries, and generally maximizing  airline miles.  I especially like how deep his analyses are.  Milevalue gets more into detail on the best current flights and how to get on them for free.  I appreciate that it’s a bit more focused than other sites.  These isn’t nearly as much post filler as the aforementioned blogs.  As much as I enjoy and utilize the content, the recent revamp of the sites theme grinds on me and I find it much harder than the old site to navigate and to read articles.

Oh, and did I mention Scott Grimmer lives in Hawaii?  Yeah, he’s pretty much on vacation all the time; that’s borderline cheating 🙂
This is another great site to stay up-to-date on every little policy change, point devaluation, and card offer out there.  Founded by Rick Ingersoll, the site has a small team of writers, with Howie Rappaport the most conspicuous.

Frugal Travel Guy has by far the best looking and clutter free site design of the group.  (I’m quite envious actually.)  What I especially love about this website are the posts that are more reflective and mature than the average points and miles blog post.  There are many posts and articles here that are useful long after a particular deal is expired, because they offer a lot of good tips on overall strategy and decision-making.  For in-depth, non-time specific reading, Frugal Travel Guy is my favorite.

There are many other websites that offer different approaches and tips on points, miles, cards, etc.  Some of the honorable mentions are: Deals We Like (I recently studied up on the Chase IHG card here), Mommy Points, and Travel Summary.

All of the above blogs (and of course!) are great resources on saving money, getting free money, and traveling in style for free.  However, the undisputed champion of detailed info on card offers and miles programs is not a blog at all.  It’s a forum:   Flyertalk.
Flyertalk is basically the raw data whence the bloggers derive their content.

I use Flyertalk (I’m a major lurker) to find data regarding people’s most recent experiences with whatever I’m trying to do.  In the forum you can usually find daily reports of results from people trying to do whatever tactical moves you are interested in; be it applying for a card, fishing for a retention bonus, having offers matched, etc.  Whenever I find something I want to pursue in a blog post, I usually go to Flyertalk for further details.

Many of the sites I discussed in this post contain links to card applications and other services that earn the site’s authors commission.  After you’ve confirmed the link goes to the best available offer, consider using these affiliate links for your purchases and card applications.  Bloggers are people too, and need financial support to do what we do!  Although I don’t have much for advertising, I would appreciate it if you check out my current promoted card links, found in the left column (located beneath the posts on smaller devices) and using these links to apply to your card.  In any case, give your clicks to those referring websites which you think added some value to your endeavor!