Manufactured Spending Costs

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I talked about the cost of points and miles yesterday, but there are more costs associated with manufactured spending that should be taken into account. Those costs are time and gas.


How much is your time worth? That’s the million dollar question. It’s useful to take your time into account when MSing, because at some point, the time spent could outweigh the miles earned. There isn’t a perfect formula for this, so you will definitely have to find your own comfort level.

Your CPH (Cost Per Hour) doesn’t really matter, if this is a hobby of yours. Most people will spend hours on hobbies they enjoy, without taking the value of their time into account. This may be the case for you, I know it is for me. So, if you MS strictly as a hobby your CPH does not matter. If you MS strictly for the rewards, here’s some hypotheticals for you:

The closest Walmart to your location, is 50 minutes away. Driving to and from would take a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you add another 20 minutes to wait in the customer service line, you have a total of 2 hours spent MSing. For this example, let’s say you were going to load $1,000 to your Bluebird account, the gift cards cost $4.95 per $500, and you valued your time at $10 per hour (CPH).

Card UsedPoints EarnedCPPCPP w/ CPH
1X10100.98 cents2.96 cents
2X20200.49 cents1.48 cents
5X50500.20 cents0.59 cents

As you can see when you add in your CPH, the CPP goes up significantly. The equation for the CPP w/ CPH column is: ((CPH * Time Spent) + Gift Card Fees) / Points Earned.

Gas is a big cost that is not usually taken into account. If you don’t pay close enough attention to your gas expenses, you could easily be paying too much for your points and miles.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say I have 2 – $500 gift cards that I want to buy money orders with. My car gets 22 MPGs and gas is currently $3.70

The closest Walmart to my house is 8.3 miles away (16.6 miles round trip) and money orders cost $0.70 per $1000.
The closest Meijer is 3.7 miles away (7.4 miles round trip) and money orders cost $0.65 per $500.

Gas costs going to Walmart: (16.6/22)*$3.70 = $2.79
Gas costs going to Meijer: (7.4/22)*$3.70 = $1.24

Money Order cost at Walmart: $0.70
Money Order cost at Meijer: $0.65*2 = $1.30

Total cost at Walmart: $2.79+$0.70 = $3.49
Total cost at Meijer: $1.24+$1.30 = $2.54

As you can see, even though the MOs cost more at Meijer, the gas needed to drive to Walmart makes Meijer the best option. For kicks and giggles, let’s look at the CPP.

If both of those $500 gift cards had a $4.95 fee and I bought them with a 5X credit card,
The CPP at Walmart would be: (($4.95*2)+$3.49)/5050 = 0.27 cents.
The CPP at Meijer would be: (($4.95*2)+$2.54)/5050 = 0.25 cents.

Both of those options have a great CPP, so instead, let’s look at the same scenario with a 1X card.
The CPP at Walmart would be: (($4.95*2)+$3.49)/1010 = 1.33 cents.
The CPP at Meijer would be: (($4.95*2)+$2.54)/1010 = 1.23 cents.

Using a 1X card would be far less profitable. At that price, the time/gas spent to MS those 1010 points would be far from worth it, especially if you are using a 1% cash back card or a card where the points are worth less than 1.3 cents each. In that case, you would be losing money from the MS process.

It’s important to note, that the cost of gas goes down to $0.00 if you already needed to go to the store. I don’t like floating money, but I usually will until I have a reason to go to Walmart or Meijer. That way I can avoid calculating gas prices into the CPP.

These are just a few extra costs that could increase your CPP. It’s important to take all costs into account while MSing, so you are getting a great return on the money you’re spending.

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