Category Archives: My Story

Maui Vacation Field Report #2

Maui Vacation
Aloha from day 6 of our Maui vacation!  I’m writing this post on my phone on the Kahului Highway. We’re headed to the Hana Highway, although we don’t plan on driving all the way to Hana.  Because of the hotel switch we started the journey a bit late to do the whole trip to Hana and back.  We’ll see some of the sights along the way and then turn around.

Hotel Switch

Today we said goodbye to the Andaz and moved our stuff to the Grand Wailea.  The Andaz was amazing so it was sad to leave, but our room at the Grand Wailea is also super nice:


Since the last field report the weather has improved greatly!  Even the rainy day we had was not bad at all; we just hung out on the lanai and in the pools/hot tub.  The rain on the south/west coast was forecast to continue through Friday but we haven’t been rained on since Thursday.  It’s been sunny and hot for the most part.  Today it’s cloudy but still hot and humid.

Well, we just pulled into a parking spot in Pa’ia town.  We’re going for a late lunch at Pa’ia Fish Market.

As always, look for frequently updated photos at the ValueTactics Facebook pageAloha!

Maui Vacation Field Report #1

Aloha from paradise!  It’s day 4 of our Maui vacation and I know many of you have been checking out our photo uploads on Facebook.  But for the non-fb crowd I figured I would do a quick update on the blog here.

Where we are now

We spent the first night at a hotel near the airport.  We are now halfway through our 4 night stay at the Maui Andaz in Wailea.  The room and grounds couldn’t be any more beautiful!  The service has also been very friendly and helpful.  Of course it’s even sweeter knowing that the $30 daily valet fee is all we’re paying for our stay here!  (More on that later, in the full trip report.)

Maui Vacation - Andaz at Wailea


We’re on the dry side of the island.  The weather usually comes from the northeast and drops its rain on the mountainside.  There’s no moisture left when the air gets over the hill, meaning sunny skies most of the time for the south and west sides.  Rain showers are frequent but rarely last longer than an hour.

. . . Except for this week.  Maui and most other Hawaiian islands have had an unusual amount of rain the last few days.  Yesterday it rained most of the day here, which is very unusual based on what everyone has been saying.

Despite the weather, we’re having a great time!  When it rains, the smart people all pile into the hot tub.  In fact, I’ve already had some good points and miles discussions with some fellow enthusiasts in that hot tub.  Great minds think alike!

Today is looking a bit sunnier.  Nicoleen is already out by the pool, sipping orange juice.  I’m not going to keep her waiting any longer.

So long for now!  Aloha!

South Dakota Road Trip

Last month Nicoleen, I, and the 4 oldest kids embarked on our first real family vacation. We anticipated some challenges in traveling with 4 kids aged 8 and under, so we planned a pretty simple and straight forward trip. The plan was for 5 days and 4 nights in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We wanted to camp primarily, but I couldn’t in good conscience plan a whole vacation without getting something for free, so we looked for a hotel in Rapid City where we could recharge after our first day which would mostly be spent in a cramped car.


After the fun traveling Nicoleen and I have done over the past couple of years, we thought the kids deserved to get in on some of the action too.  They are ages 8, 6, 4, 2, and <1 so they are just getting to the age where they will appreciate and remember their travel experiences.  We figured for our first attempt at a family vacation we should do something simple, so flying and dealing with a rental car were out of the question.

We also didn’t want to push our luck on duration, so we settled on a long weekend trip.  Pretty early on in the planning discussions we decided to leave the baby with grandparents.  She would not enjoy the trip, would be a hassle and a half for us, and would take up a lot of space in the car with all her baby gear.  That left us with 2 adults and 4 kids in a Honda Pilot; cramped, but manageable:
Living in the Minneapolis area, South Dakota seemed a logical choice.  There’s plenty of stuff to do in any kind of weather, and the 10-11 hour drive is short enough to make in a single day, yet it puts you far enough away to really get away and change the scenery.


The kids were a bit restless on our long drive from eastern Minnesota to western South Dakota.  I will definitely have to spend more time reading Mommy Points and Points with a Crew for some tips on traveling with kids.  By the time we reached the Badlands we were all ready to stretch our legs and burn off some energy.  We took the Badlands loop highway (Hwy 240) and got out to climb around a bit.  The heat in early June was downright oppressive.


The first night of our trip we stayed at the Holiday Inn at Rushmore Plaza in Rapid CityClick here for a full review of the hotel and for some of my logic on choosing it.  We arrived long after the kids’ bed time and had a challenge getting the little buggers to sleep in our oversized room.  But eventually they succumbed:


Those are some tuckered out kids!

The hotel was more than we expected in terms of amenities, cleanliness, and decor.  Read the COST BREAKDOWN down below to see what a deal we got (HINT: it was free!)


Overall the Black Hills is a wonderfully diverse and accessible area for kids and adults alike, with plenty of variety in recreation opportunities. I had been to the Black Hills several times as a kid, and Nicoleen and I went there together in 2004. For the main segment of our trip we set a few ground principles:

  • We won’t try to see everything in one trip. First of all it’s impossible. Second of all, it relieves the pressure to make it to any given attraction; we can always hit it the next time we’re here.
  • We won’t plan our days in advance. Especially because the kids are along, we need to stay flexible. This will also help us deal with any bad weather we might get. Having one or two rainy day activities in the hopper at any given time will help greatly if the skies don’t cooperate.
  • Let’s not fill up every day with activities. The campground has a pool and lots of rocky areas to explore. The kids will have just as much fun roaming around as they will on a structured outing, and mom and dad will probably need some down time to just sit and have a beer.

These principles ended up being pretty helpful. Of course we did a few of the must-see attractions like Mt. Rushmore, the wildlife loop at Custer State Park, and Needles Highway.

The whole family (less the baby), squinting for the camera at Mt. Rushmore. It was in the upper 90s by noon.

The whole family (less the baby), squinting for the camera at Mt. Rushmore. It was in the upper 90s by noon.

Rushmore cave

Rushmore cave

. . . but the kids’ best memories of the trip will probably be of swimming at the campground pool, climbing around the rock outcrop behind the campsite, swimming, meeting little friends from neighboring sites, and swimming.


For our three nights in the tent, we chose Rafter J-Bar Ranch Campround outside of Hill City, SD. I have stayed at Rafter J-Bar on most of my previous Black Hills trips and year after year it continues to deliver.

We stayed in the main camp, at site #2, which is right across the road from the office/store and pool. The whole place is very clean and well taken care of. Our site with no electric was $43.95 +tax per night. That’s spendy for a tent site, but still cheaper than a hotel.
Nicoleen and I were disappointed to find out that the campground was no longer a “ranch campground,” as they emptied the stables several years ago and no longer offer trail rides. However, we were happy to see that not much else has changed. The staff is still friendly, the pool is still wet, and kids still enjoy exploring the natural areas.

Rocks don't change. Me in 1992 and my kids in 2016!

Rocks don’t change. Me in 1994 and my kids in 2016!


Lodging (hotel): $0.00
Lodging (camping): $139.10
Fuel cost: estimated $175
Food, Shopping, Entertainment: estimated (very ballpark) $300

Total cost for 4-night road trip to South Dakota: ~$604.10
Savings from using value tactics: at least $215.55


Although this trip didn’t utilize a lot of free travel tactics, we used value tactics throughout.  We put all our spending on credit cards to earn more points and miles and we bought a cooler full of food before we left home, to keep our dining costs down.  We also realized that with all these young kids along, simple activities like the swimming pool and campfires would be just as fun for them (and free) than trying to cram every day full of paid entertainment.

Travel Cost:
sdpilot_smNicoleen’s loaded down Honda Pilot got around 17-18 mpg on average.  The constant air conditioning and many hills brought the fuel economy down.  We spent about $175 on gas.  There weren’t any Super Americas along our way, so we were unable to utilize our normal free gas tactics.


The campground was $139.10 for three nights.  This seems expensive for camping but it’s a tourist area so all the rates are higher.  Even so, it’s not a bad price for 3 nights’ lodging for 6 people!  The hotel was a different story: we got a room that retails for $215.55 and paid $0.00 for it!  It cost us 35,000 IHG points, for a redemption value of 0.62 cents per point.  Not a very good rate, but it was still nice to get the hotel at no cost!

Food, Shopping, and Entertainment:
This part is very subjective and reporting my costs here is pretty meaningless.  You can spend what you want on these parts of the trip.  We were pretty frugal and only spent around $300.  It seemed like we got little snacks along the way whenever we wanted, so in that sense we didn’t hold back.  But I think bringing that huge cooler full of food and drink really helped this cost stay down.

OVERALL this was a very fun trip!  The kids were a challenge sometimes but I think they really got a lot of good memories out of the deal.  Road trips are hard to work value tactics into, but the free night at the hotel was definitely a welcome segment of the trip.

My Last Chase Card Application Ever?

A few nights ago I had an AOR (app-o-rama) and applied for 3 cards, including the Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase.  Unless something changes in Chase’s 5/24 policy, this may be my final Chase application for the rest of my credit card career.  As I discussed in this post, the policy says that if you have 5 or more new card applications (from any card issuer – not just with Chase) in the past 24 months, you will be summarily denied on any Chase application.

I have opened 9 new credit cards in the past 24 months, so I’m well beyond the 5/24 limit.  But the rule goes into effect for Chase co-branded cards some time this month (April), and I applied for the Marriott card on March 31st.  I didn’t particularly want this card but I figured it was my last chance to get any Chase card for the foreseeable future, so I picked the best current promotion that I was eligible for and gave it a shot.

My philosophy is to never apply for just one card so I shopped around for the best current promotions at other banks that I was eligible for, and here’s what I came up with:

  • The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card: 80,000 Marriott Rewards points (+7,500 for adding an authorized user) after spending $3k in 3 months.  $85 annual fee not waived the first year.
  • The Spark Cash for Business from Capital One (gasp!): $400 cash back (+$90 for meeting the spend) after spending $4.5k in three months.  Annual fee waived the first year.
  • The Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express: An unprecedented 35,000 point bonus after $3k in 3 months spend.  MASSIVE FAIL (read about it here), so instead…
  • The Hilton HHonors card from American Express: 75,000 Hilton points after spending $1k in 3 months.  No annual fee.

And here’s how the applications went:
Two out of three instant approvals at this stage in my card career isn’t bad!  If I end up getting denied for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier it will be very interesting to see what the reason is.  Will the 5/24 rule be applied when the application is reviewed even though the application occurred in March?  When exactly in April will the rule go into effect?  Well, for my sake I hope these remain a mystery because I want to be approved 🙂

No matter what the result of the Chase application I have some serious spending requirements to meet in the next three months.  If I have to get creative it will probably be a good time to write an article or two on how to meet minimum spends.  As always, I’ll keep you posted…

Links to the card offers mentioned here:
Chase Marriott Rewards Premier
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
American Express Hilton HHonors card (offer expires 05/04/16)

3 Years of Collecting Points Could be Worth $77k

I recently tallied up all the cash back, deferred interest, purchase reimbursements, airfare, and hotel stays that we’ve received from 3 years’ worth of points-earning credit cards.  The results shocked everyone who’ve seen them, including myself!  Jump ahead to my data or read some background information on how I derived these numbers…

Quantifying the value of points and miles is difficult.  Many bloggers regularly publish lists wherein they try to estimate the value of a variety of points and miles.  These are useful for comparing the relative worth of different points and miles, but sometimes I question the absolute values they come up with.  They base their estimations off theoretical redemption values, which is tricky to do accurately.

Every points/miles redemption comes with opportunity costs.  Every points transfer comes with risks.  The cash price of award seats and hotel stays fluctuate in the time between booking and flying/staying.  For this reason I decided to do my analysis empirically instead of theoretically.  The data set I used was Nicoleen’s and my history of points and miles redemptions from the first three years (roughly) after getting the sign-up bonus on our first points-earning credit card.

How I measured value
As I discussed in this post, there is no perfect method of measuring the value of redeemed points and miles.  For certain types of redemptions (most notably business and first class airline tickets) one could make the argument that the amount of money I saved by using miles to book the ticket has to be less than the cash price of the ticket.  After all, had I paid cash I wouldn’t have paid the exorbitant price of the business or first class ticket; I would have bought an economy class ticket.  On the other hand, I did receive the benefits and experience of flying in the premium cabin, so looking at it this way is an argument for counting the cash value of the actual experience I received.

Furthermore, without using value tactics to book the flights and/or lodging, there are certainly several trips I wouldn’t have taken at all.  In those cases, you could argue my savings was $0.00.  I saved nothing on the trip because I wasn’t going to pay for it in the first place.  But then you could just as easily argue that since the whole trip was a “bonus,” it was actually more valuable than the cash price because of the excitement of going on a trip I couldn’t normally afford.

In my own case, I redeemed some miles for extremely high mile:dollar ratios, such as the $9821 one-way, first class tickets to Europe last summer.  I also had some fairly wimpy award redemptions, like when I used a free night certificate on a $198 hotel stay.  The same certificate could have been used at properties with $1000+/night price tags.  The efficiency level at which I have spent my points and miles is varied, but all in all I think I have a pretty reasonable redemption profile.

One last note before I present the data:  Although I tallied up all our redemptions and come up with an overall average value per point, this figure is really just for fun.  The real purpose of this post is to silence the skeptics and show that messing around with credit cards, points, and miles IS WORTH IT!  As I tell my friends over and over, the effort they see me put into this game does not represent the effort they would need to exert to get the same results.  I have the additional tasks of writing this blog, helping others with points redemptions, reading enough other blogs and forums to fake like I’m an expert, and developing tracking tools and spreadsheets specifically so that you can skip the “is it worth it” assessment.  I’ve done the math for you and it’s worth it!  Read on for proof…

The Data

Here’s the summary table.  Explanations are below.

Totals is pretty self explanatory.
Cash Totals includes all cash or cash equivalent in the forms of bonuses, reimbursements, category cash back/reimbursements, etc.
Airfare Totals is self explanatory.
Hotel/Lodging Totals is self explanatory. I used the room rate for the premium room if the stay included an upgrade to that room type as a result of status we only had by having active credit card accounts.
Aggregate Point Totals includes only redemptions paid for with points. For example, free night certificates were not included because no points or miles were used.

I added our current point balances to the total points we already spent. This number represents the total points we earned in about a 3 year period. I then applied the average aggregate value per point to this number to come up with the $77,178.80. This is the value of points redemptions we could theoretically receive with our three years of playing the credit card game!

I also totaled the estimated savings we got by shifting our revolving balances to cards with interest free promotional periods. I use the interest rate we were paying on the single card out entire balance was on when we started getting new cards as the bench mark. We’ve saved an estimated $1,774.94 in interest in 3 years of opening new cards!

3 year chart

Stay tuned to a future blog post where I will delve deeper into which cards and programs earned us the most value, how much our average credit card application was worth, what this has done to our credit scores, and more!

Bonus Redemption Plans for our New Cards

In the previous post I explained our recent round of credit card apps and why we chose those particular cards.  The main purpose of our choice was to end up with 4 free nights at any Hyatt property and 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton property.

The Possibilities

Finding Hilton and Hyatt luxury resorts nearby one another is pretty easy.  But with 6 free nights between the two, I want to get a good bang for the buck (or absence of bucks, as it were).  Two of the locations that show up in every list of where to use these certificates are Hawaii and the Maldives.  Both Hyatt and Hilton have amazing properties on both island chains.  The Maldives is home to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, both of which are ridiculously awesome.

Park Hyatt Hadahaa in The Maldives

Park Hyatt Hadahaa in The Maldives

A land room with pool at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa

A land room with pool at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Ithaa underwater restaurant at Hilton's Conrad Maldives - Rangali Island

Ithaa underwater restaurant at Hilton’s Conrad Maldives – Rangali Island

Deluxe water villa with private deck and whirlpool at the Conrad Maldives - Rangali Island

Deluxe water villa with private deck and pool at the Conrad Maldives – Rangali Island

However, although stays at ridiculously awesome resorts can be free, they come with another kind of price: travel time.  The Maldives is almost as far from Minnesota as you can get on this planet.  The average travel time to Male is 32 hours, plus the required seaplane flight to the resorts themselves.  The jet lag from that kind of flight time would severely reduce the enjoyment of the trip, so a night or two at a stop-over city like Hong Kong would be necessary.  With five kids, a dog, and two full time jobs it’s hard to get away for any amount of time, so this trip will probably have to stay on the ValueTactics bucket list for a while.

The Plan

So we’re not willing to make the Maldives work just yet.  What does that leave us with?  A whole lot.  Remember, these free night certificates are good for any Hilton and Hyatt properties so we have a few thousand to choose from.  Well, not really thousands since we’re not going to waste the certificates on the local Hampton Inn!

There’s another redemption opportunity including two resorts, one Hyatt and one Hilton, which are close to each other and which are both highly regarded properties in their respective luxury brands.  I’m talking about Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea and Hyatt’s Andaz at Wailea.  The rate for a standard room during peak season at the Grand Wailea runs $654/night + a $30 per day resort fee.  The Andaz runs $589/night + a $40 per day resort fee during peak season.  Resort fees are included when redeeming free night certificates so if we booked our 6 night vacation for late March we’d be getting a $3884 value for FREE!  (Or, for $95 if you want to count the Hilton Reserve’s $95 up-front annual fee.)

The Grotto Bar at the Grand Wailea

The Grotto Bar at the Grand Wailea

The three cascading infinity pools at the Hyatt Andaz on Maui

The three cascading infinity pools at the Hyatt Andaz on Maui

It’s hard to fathom that resorts like these are within our reach simply for signing up for a couple credit cards.  But that’s the beauty of being informed, and acting tactically!  You too can benefit from these and other credit card sign-up bonuses by staying informed: like ValueTactics on facebook and follow us on twitter. We’ll see you in Hawaii next year! 🙂

Our Fall 2015 Credit Card Applications

In the past few months we’ve added more new babies to our household than credit cards.  While babies are cute and cuddly, they tend to increase household costs.  Credit cards, on the other hand, are hard and plastic, but they can be worth hundreds of dollars in value.  A few days ago we got 4 new arrivals at the house and none of them was cuddly…but they were all valuable.  Here’s a breakdown of our latest round of card apps:

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

  • $95 annual fee due up-front
  • Two free weekend night certificates for any Hilton property worldwide after spending $2.5k in the first 4 months
  • 10x points earned on Hilton properties purchases, 5x on travel, 3x on all other purchases
  • HHonors gold status when card account is active

Citi Thank-You Premier

  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • 50,000 Thank-You points after spending $3k in the first 3 months (worth a minimum of $500)
  • 3x points earned on travel and gas, 2x on dining and entertainment, 1x on all other purchases

And we each got:
Chase Hyatt Visa

  • $75 annual fee waived the first year
  • Two free night certificates for any Hyatt property worldwide after spending $1k in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 Gold Passport points for adding an authorized user
  • 3x points earned on Hyatt properties purchases, 2x on dining, airfare and car rental, 1x on all other purchases
  • Anniversary free night certificate good at any Hyatt property, category 1-4.

The Rationale:

The Chase Hyatt card was the driving force behind our choice of cards for this round of apps.  The Hyatt card has been on my radar for a while because of the incredible value potential in the two free night certificates per card.  A pair of these cards could potentially be worth almost $4,000 in lodging.  Two nights at a fancy hotel hardly constitutes vacation though, so the obvious tactic to maximize this card is for both of us each get our own card; then we’d have 4 free nights.

We have always planned on both getting the Chase Hyatt card at the same time, but it’s still a stretch to call 4 free nights a vacation.  The other major card offering free nights is the Citi Hilton Reserve, with its two free weekend night initial spend bonus.  If we could find a vacation-worthy Hyatt property in close proximity to a vacation-worthy Hilton property, we could get a 6 night vacation split between two luxury properties, for the $95 annual fee paid one credit card!  I earned the bonus on the Citi Hilton Reserve last year so I was ineligible for the bonus again.  (Furthermore, the most I would have been able to add to the proposed vacation would be one free Hilton night, since the certificates are only good for Fri/Sat/Sun nights.)

I always try to apply for only one card per issuing bank per app-o-rama.  We both had the Chase slot filled with the Hyatt card.  Nicoleen filled the Citi slot with the Hilton Reserve.  But I still needed a second application, and Citi had some good card options.  I settled on the Thank-You Premier with it’s 50,000 point bonus.

It seems like a pretty good plan.  We have a specific redemption idea in mind for the hotel free nights, all three hotel cards compliment each other, and the Citi Thank-You will add some points to the general pool for when it comes time to find airfare.  So this was a hybrid of both basic strategies I wrote about in this post.

Application set-up and results

Chase has been getting stingy and seemingly capricious about approving credit card applications lately.  This is concretely seen in their Ultimate Rewards earning cards, which they will now outright deny to anyone who has had 5+ new accounts with any issuer in the past 24 months.  But there have also been an increasing number of denial reports with co-branded Chase cards.  i didn’t want to take any chances because the Hyatt free night certificates are only good for a year, so it was crucial that Nicoleen and I have as much time overlap in certificates as possible.

To prepare for the Chase application I requested credit line decreases in two of my Chase cards: my Sapphire Preferred from $11.1k to $5k; and my IHG card from $9k to $4k.  I made both requests via Secure Message a few days apart, and both credit lines were lowered within a day of the request.  I had closed my United Mileage Plus Explorer account with a $9k credit limit back in April, so I figured between the 3 credit line decreases I would have plenty of overhead left with Chase.  The thought was to remove “maxed out credit limit” as a possible reason for denial.  It worked!
hyatt approved 3

Nicoleen had also recently cancelled her United card and she has fewer Chase accounts than I, so we didn’t do anything in particular before her application.  Our luck continued as she was instantly approved too!

In my experience applying for Citi cards is much more of a push-over.  The only time I was not instantly approved for a Citi card was when I got “pending” with a business card.  The call to the reconsideration line for that card was quick and painless.

So with nothing more than fingers crossed we applied for our respective Citi cards and experienced the always welcome instant approval notices!
citi hilton reserve approved
citi thank you premier approved

Within a week we had all 4 cards in our possession:
november card round

Minimum Spend and Redemption Plans

With a specific goal to use 3 cards’ worth of hotel certificates on a single trip, some tactics need to be employed to maximize the probability of everything lining up correctly.  Number one is to get all the hotel certificates ASAP.  This means getting the spends on the Hyatt cards and Hilton card taken care of.

The Chase Hyatt cards’ spends are easy, with only $1000 per card to get the certificates issued.  AND they are issued as soon as the minimum spend has been met; not after the statement closes like with the Hilton certificates.  Furthermore, getting these done before the Hilton is tactically important because with 4 contiguous free nights we could still cobble together a vacation.  But if we got the Hilton certificates and booked a room, only to have the nearby Hyatt property become booked while we were still working on the Hyatt card spends, we would have to regroup and make different plans.  So . . . Hyatt cards first.

Since there are many airlines that fly to our destination (Maui) but only one Hilton property we have in mind, Nicoleen’s Hilton Reserve gets the next highest priority for our card usage.  While the 50,000 bonus Thank-You points would be a nice help to our plans, they aren’t as critical as the Hilton free night certificates, so the Citi Thank-You Premier will be the last bonus spend we complete.

In my next post it’s on to the fun part: sign-up bonus bonus redemption plans!

Flea Market Round Up


Earlier this summer, as I mentioned in the June 16 weekly update, I hauled my empire of acquired stuff to Swappers’ Meet flea market in Wright County, MN.  The goals were to reduce volume and make some profit.  I had some random items to sell, including the balls and pumps mentioned in a previous post, but the majority of my wares were the fruits of my Menards free stuff tactic.

Our display tables at the flea market. 90% of the items for sale were Menards free-after-rebate items.

Our display tables at the flea market. 90% of the items for sale were Menards free-after-rebate items.

Over the previous two years I had bought about $5000 worth of free-after-rebate items from Menards.  Of course the “street value” is quite a bit lower.  I priced most of the items at 20-50% of retail value.  My philosophy on second-hand pricing is to try to find the sweet spot where it’s high enough to make it worth my while, but where it’s low enough where price is basically eliminated as a factor in a buyer’s thought process.  To give you an idea on how much stuff I had up for sale, my dad’s Chevy Tahoe, a 4X8′ trailer, and the bed of my friend’s truck were all packed full.


Swappers’ Meet is one of the biggest flea markets within easy driving distance and is open Saturdays during the summer.  I had only been to a few flea markets before this, so I did a lot of research online to make sure I didn’t break any rules, got their on time, got a good spot, etc.  We got there at sundown on Friday (July 14) and found what seemed to be a good spot right across from one of the permanent food buildings.  Apparently the regulars can get fussy if newbies like us “steal their spot,” but we never encountered anyone hostile.

We set up two 12×12′ canopies and half a dozen tables and started unboxing our items.  Since a lot of my stuff was new, in box, and from a retail store, having a pegboard to hang the packages on was a great way to display several items in a small amount of floor space.  Lesson learned: next time have more pegboards.
We continued to set up for half the night, and tried to get 2-3 hours of fitful sleep in the back of our respective vehicles.  As soon as the sky began to lighten, cars started rolling in and early shoppers started perusing our mostly-set-up spread.  As the morning wore on, it got busier and busier.  We didn’t inflate one of the giant soccer balls until a little before noon.  Having something so huge and unusual out there really helped draw people in.  There were customers who probably wouldn’t have even stopped by if they hadn’t noticed the soccer ball. We also didn’t sell a single ball or pump until we had the display one inflated and up front.  Lesson learned: put unusual or interesting items up front to draw people in.


It seemed like a busy day to me but according to some others we talked to it was a relatively slow Saturday.  Things really started winding down around 2:00 pm and most vendors were packed up and gone by 4:00.  We did $295.70 in total revenue, with the following breakdown:

  • 205.75 in Menards stuff
  • 74.50 in balls and pumps
  • 12.25 in my personal wares (non-Menards)
  • 3.20 in toys (my kids had sent some along)

The entrance fee was $15, which we split proportionately among all of the above-listed categories.  Because our revenue was almost $300, I consider the fee almost negligible.

As far as what sold well: some of my predictions were correct and some were wrong.  I rightly guessed that the kitchen supplies and plastic tumblers would sell well.  I thought more of the hand tools and LED lights would sell.  The paint brushes were popular as expected, but I sold almost no 3″ brushes and almost sold out of the 2″ angle brushes (opposite of how I had stocked up).  I was pleasantly surprised that I sold a few gallon jugs of deck wash, but I sold none of the driveway degreaser jugs.  Of course all of the American flags sold 🙂

All said I offloaded 6 boxes of stuff.  Not a huge volume reduction but a welcome one.  I consider the flea market a moderate success.  If there was no setup or tear-down involved, and I could simply drive out there every Saturday and start selling, it would definitely be a worthwhile method to get the Menards stuff sold.  As it stands though, with the effort of moving/unpacking/packing up all the merchandise, it’s probably not a very efficient use of time.  More analysis on this will be forthcoming when I write my Menards experiment analysis.