The Personality of a Points Addict

I’m frugal, but I’m not cheap. And I’m betting that if you’re reading this, you’re probably very similar dealing with your money.

Here’s my deal: I HATE paying full price for anything. This is just built in to me, likely because of my parents who were extreme couponers when they first moved to this country (and yes, they do have the “only $15 in our pocket” cliche story). I was taught to save and save and save. I was taught to keep the lights off during the day, and turn them off when I left the room at night. I was taught to not bother with name brand items, because generic stuff was just as good.

That’s not to say my family was poor when I was growing up. My parents worked really hard so that we could all live a comfortable life, and we did/do. Which brings me to a different point: even when my parents became “successful,” they kept buying the generic stuff and kept saving money. It was built in to them.

I, however, am a bit more materialistic. I notice the difference between a dress shirt bought from Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers vs one bought at Sears or Kohl’s. The thing is, I’d much rather pay $20 for that dress shirt than $75. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say I wouldn’t buy that $75 dress shirt unless I could get it at half off. So I’ll wait for a sale, combine it with a coupon, stack it with a discounted gift card, and earn credit card points for the purchase. With everything stacked I get the product I wanted for a much more palatable price.

Before I lose you, let’s compare that to the travel and points game. We know how much a normal flight from LAX to JFK costs…about $350+ if you just randomly look a month in advance. But we, as savvy travelers, don’t like regular price – we want the $220 fare, because we know it will become available eventually and because it’s a great deal. It’s the reason The Flight Deal’s website exists, because there are better deals out there, and they use an objective measure of that value. It’s the reason we have CPM (cents per mile) measures, and even the new Miles per Minute measure that Mr Pickles created.

In terms of points, a round trip business class ticket from the US to Europe is usually $5K. But again, we don’t like regular price – we want a deal. We know that 100K points can be had for A LOT less than $5K. In fact, with the right credit card sign-ups you can end up paying just $5 out of pocket for that ticket (as long as you never carry a balance). I’m no mathematician, but $5 is better than $5K when you’re the one paying!

The Frequent Miler takes our obsession to a different level, because the gift card churning game can literally create points for free (plus time and effort), and that’s why everyone loves him. He showed us another avenue to feed in to our obsession to save more money, something other than credit card sign up bonuses. He helped change the game, and we all love playing the game.

Back to my original point: I’d bet that many of us that are part of the points community are the same way in our normal lives as we are in our points lives. We want a deal, and regular price is for the uninformed. But I’m sure we all know people that we shake our heads at because of their purchasing decisions. You know, the ones that we see paying cash (gasp!), paying MSRP at Banana Republic (omg!), or even combining the two (WTF!).

What we do is definitely not a bad thing. Our points obsession is time consuming – there’s no question about it. Whether it’s keeping up with FlyerTalk, taking the time to read all the blogs every day, or driving to several Office Depots or CVSs, there is a significant time commitment. The way I see it, we all value our time differently, and we all have different amounts of money. I, and I think many of us, would rather spend more of my time to figure out how to save more of my money to fuel my travel hobby. Of course there are many cases in which paying more to save time is worth it as well, but everyone has their own calculation.

By the way, this is where that Miles per Minute calculation comes in handy. We all dream of creating passive income for ourselves, so why not create a passive points income as well? It’s a different, intriguing way to think of the game!

So tell me – am I right or wrong? Are you different from what I described, and do you have different reasons for playing the points game?


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10 responses to “The Personality of a Points Addict

  1. You hit it right on the money :p I hate paying for full price for anything and consider myself a mild couponer. Not wanting to pay full price for airlines & hotels got me into this points & miles hobby 🙂

  2. I definitely see parallels between the the characteristics of the classic immigrant and points/miles fanatics. In order to thrive, both have to be frugal, hard working, and ambitious. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for anything. Even as a kid, I used to haggle with the ice cream man over the price of a drumstick…

    • Wow I wish I started that early! Haggling is definitely a skill that needs to be learned and comes in handy, especially when traveling!

  3. Well that really isnt like my upbringing. Yikes, whats my excuse??!!

    • Haha I don’t think it necessarily has to do with the upbringing. Regardless of how we got here, it seems like we’re all more or less the same now!

  4. I think you are reading my mind about what I am thinking about writing in my blog! I was thinking of writing about this being a way of life, like Mr. Pickles once said. Some people get high on drugs, exercise, team sports, cooking (not me), eating, stamp collecting, soccer (me me me), flying, you name it. When they engage in these activities, the dopamine in their brain gets stimulated (or something like that, not a scientist at all!). It’s that HIGH feeling. It’s like the high you get when you buy a stock and you see it triple…there is NO feeling like it. So……,in our little hobby, we get high in scoring deals & traveling in such a manner that is at a fraction of the costs that OTHERS traveling with us are paying! When I lay out in my first class seat and see others go past me back to coach…I get HIGH by that. Of course upgrading to the FC seat and others next to me may have paid thousands of dollars is dopamine friendly too! Same with luxury hotels. Same with visits to Office Depots and scoring everything 5x. Same with cringing with others who just don’t get it! It is about MAXIMIZING your experience at the least possible cost. Being a rebel, beating the system….Of course some take it too far (hogs!) and should be stoned to death, just kidding. I also agree with the time constraints. I could afford the trips and the stuff…I just enjoy the hunt and the “scores”, it is our dopamine. I tried to quit, could not do it. I think I will die with this disease. Sometimes I think it is ridiculous what we do…Maybe I will write a post about that, the most ridiculous things I ever did for miles.

    • I agree with every word! There is a feeling of self-satisfaction you get from knowing you got the same exact thing (or something better) for cheaper than someone else did. You’ve beaten them, in a sense. You were more efficient, more cost-effective, and are a better manager of resources. We’re all CEO’s of our own little point-generating companies!

      With that being said, I still hope you decide to write your version of this article! I’ve only been heavy in this game for a year or two…I’d love to hear your thoughts as someone with a larger knowledge base!

  5. Pingback: Travel Summary – 11/28/12 | Travel Summary

  6. Pingback: Inside the Mind of a Miles Addict - Street Smart Traveler

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