January was a really strange month. I deliberately overpaid over $6k in federal income taxes on a credit card in order to trigger a 25k mile spending bonus and set myself up for another 25k mile bonus in another month or two. Since it's just about tax season, I'll be getting almost all of that back as a refund in a month or two, minus the 1.87% credit card fee. Totally worth it for the extra travel I'll get from it.
Speaking of travel, I booked my annual trip to Japan this month using miles, hotel free night certificates, and my massive hotels.com gift card balance that I bought at discount. Booked a round trip to Japan on JAL for 60k BA miles + $178.86 in taxes. In addition, I got a domestic round trip ticket to Kyushu from Tokyo for 9k BA miles + $5.14 in taxes. My Hyatt and IHG cards each got me a "free" night (quotations because the cost is really the annual fee) at hotels worth $530 (total for both nights) at the time of booking, but the annual fees only cost $124 in total so that's a savings of $406 over the cash price! Finally, the remaining hotel nights cost about $1078, but because I paid with discounted gift cards and taking into account the 10 night hotels.com discount, it only cost me about $781 out of pocket ($297 savings). So in total, I got flights and lodging for the entire 13 night trip worth about $3,331 if paid at full cash price for about $1089 + 69k BA miles. Ignoring the value of the miles, that's a savings of over $2,000 cash that I didn't have to pay out! Just goes to show how being clever with miles and discounts can supercharge one's travel abilities.
I'll close with an observation on the incredible stock market returns to start off the year. I'm under no illusions that the market will continue to perform this well going forward, but I also don't believe that anyone can predict how the market will behave in the short term with anything approaching precision, so it's best to stay the course. And try not to look at your balances.