Smart FI Ranch: Week 3

Although our recent weather would disagree, summer camp is a sure sign that summer is well underway. From green grass to USS Butterscotch Sundaes, this is what is happening at The Smart FI Ranch: Week 3.

Did you miss Smart FI Ranch week 1 and 2? You can catch up right here.

Smart FI Ranch: Week 1

Smart FI Ranch: Week 2

The calendar says its July but our weather has been anything but Julyish. We had record-setting rainfall this week with record humidity. Uggh!. Did you know the Pacific North West has some of the lowest humidity in the country? The cold water of the Pacific Ocean keeps the air cool preventing it from absorbing moisture. The colder air, can’t absorb moisture, thus we have low humidity. Can you tell I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was a kid? Well, that didn’t pan out, I became a male nurse instead.

So when the humidity hits 90% in Seattle, it doesn’t take the glistening sweat beads on your skin to know this is unusual.  Nonetheless, summer rolls on and there are some benefits to the record-breaking July rain.

I still have not turned on my lawn sprinklers and my grass is starting to turn green again. Happy dance happening right meow! This saved us about $50 last month and $25 dollars so far this month. More importantly, the forest fire danger has decreased dramatically with the extra precipitation. For the last couple of years, by the time we get to August, the whole damn place is on fire or filled with smoke. Visibility is terrible and the air quality is even worse. Hopefully, this year will be much better.

Summer Camps

I read somewhere on Instagram recently that our children are living the life we never dreamed of. I say Amen to that! My mom didn’t have two nickels to rub together when I was growing up. Summer camp was not an option and never even discussed.

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Our version of summer camp was to take a hatchet out into the woods, kill some baby trees and build a fort. When we got bored with that, we caught crawdads in the creek until our backs were so badly sunburned they stung.

In 2019 though, summer equals sleep away summer camps. My oldest son was gone all week, having the time of his life. This is his third year in a row and he looks forward to this week every summer with about the same enjoyment as I get from eating tacos. That is to say, he really likes camp. LOL.

The $400 dollar camp price tag has become something of a given each summer. While we have now begun to budget for this camp expense, what we did not budget for was my youngest son’s vision of a treat week.

While my oldest son was at camp all week, his younger brother successfully leveraged his ability to get special treats like, lunch dates with mom and the USS Butterscotch sundae from Baskin Robins (as seen on Netflix’s Stranger Things). Let’s just say they were both living their best lives this past week.


I have a love-hate relationship with Ibotta. If you aren’t familiar with Ibotta it is a phone app where you can scan receipts and earn real money for your purchases. Here is a link to the app.

  • What I don’t like

The products that have cash rewards tied to them are often name-brand items and are usually more expensive than store brand items. For example, I bought popsicles yesterday. The name brand popsicle had a 50 cent cash reward but the store brand was still cheaper.

Also, there is occasionally a requirement to buy two of a product. If I don’t need two of the same item, this forces overspending, and food waste. You are not saving money if you throw it away a week later.

  • Here is What I like about Ibotta

If you are going to spend money you might as well earn cash for buying the stuff you needed to buy anyway. This is where Ibotta shines. They have a category called “any item.” This category usually covers essential pantry items like milk, eggs, cheese, etc. This is where most of my cash back earnings come from. Each visit to the grocery store usually amounts to less than a couple of dollars in cash back rewards but over time this adds up.

The main reason I bring up Ibotta is that they have a new feature I am in love with. It’s called “pay with Ibotta.” This is how the new feature works. This example from yesterday when I was at Home Depot.

After shopping for my home improvement needs. The store clerk rang me up and said, “that will be $49.” I whipped out my iPhone, opened my Ibotta app. I clicked pay with Ibotta (Home Depot) button and typed in $49. The store clerk scanned the bar code and pin that appeared on my phone screen and I walked away.

Behind all that cool tech, here is what is really happening. When I enter the purchase price ($49) Ibotta buys a Home Depot gift card with a credit card I have linked to my Ibotta account. The bar code on my phone is actually from the virtual gift card. It is super slick. Currently, there are about 30 participating retailers and the list is growing.

Within one minute I had a notification on my phone showing I earned 2% cash back from Ibotta. Additionally, the credit card I have linked to Ibotta also gives me 2% cash back. In total, I actually received 4% (Ibotta and my Credit Card) cash back for my Home Depot purchase.

This gamification of spending is not for everyone. It can be an additional hassle that might be too much for some people. For me, I see it as free money for very little work. If you use my referral link you can get $3 just for signing up. There is nothing to lose! Sign Up with Ibotta.

Thank you for reading Smart FI Ranch: Week 3. How is your summer going? You can head over to The Smart FI Facebook Group to share your tips. If you don’t want to miss any of future Smart FI Ranch updates, sign up to get on the email list in the box above.

One thought on “Smart FI Ranch: Week 3

  1. We are excited about sleep away camps but still have one more year for our kid to be allowed to go. My husband and I both loved them as kids and it’s in our FIRE budget to send our kid one week each year. So many good memories!

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