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Just as fences make good neighbors, a little structure makes your life easier to live.

An example: I am by nature a procrastinator. But if you procrastinate too much at work as a doctor, It can all snowball pretty quickly and you can end up with a mountain of unfinished charts .

So I instituted a simple rule to prevent the inevitable avalanche from ever happening:

I always must complete my dictation and paperwork as soon as I am done with a patient visit or procedure. 

Do I ever violate this rule? Of course I do, but not often. The rule is a norm that I respect and so most of my actions are affected by the rule. And the rule’s influence turns my behaviors into a habit. And so the rule just keeps on getting easier to obey. Which is a good thing.

The miles game is a particularly fertile ground for rule making. Why? Because it involves behaviors that are somewhat outside of the norms of society. This creates the atmosphere of lawlessness even though no laws are broken.

In such an atmosphere, it is easy to lose one’s sense of boundaries. There is no one around to take cues from, which can make it hard to recognize when you’re stepping over the line.

ghosttown-032711The Seeming Moral Landscape of the Miles Game

Since starting to play the miles game, several rules have organically manifested themselves without any real conscious thought on my part. Together they create a code that integrates the miles game into the rest of my life in a way that feels natural and unburden-some.

They are :

1. My monthly manufactured spending amount should never exceed my monthly salary.

The purpose of this rule is to stay true to my original conception of manufactured spend.

It seems inherently reasonable to me that every dollar that I spend should be on a credit card so as to maximize rewards.

I am more than happy to push this standard to its logical extreme so that the money that I am spending on items that cannot be put on my credit card (cheaply) is offset by pure manufactured spending.

I also think this makes it very unlikely that any of my credit card accounts will ever be canceled for perk abuse. By definition under this rule my manufactured spending total can never become out of proportion to my own lifestyle.

2. Avoid schemes that don’t pass the sniff test.

This means that doing things like buying items with credit cards expressly for the purpose of returning them is completely off-limits. That actually does harm to the business that you interact with.

Engaging in schemes like that don’t square with my conception of honest behavior. And behaving in ways inconsistent with my own internal compass, definitely makes me unhappy. Best to avoid this sort of thing altogether.

3. Always try to always offset fees involved in manufactured spending, even if it takes more effort.

The purpose of this rule is to keep my eyes on the prize. I got into this whole game to save money. Not to hoard miles.

This usually just requires a little bit of extra thought and actually makes the game more fun to play.

4. Don’t lie. 

Not on a credit card application.  Not on a phone call.  Not in an interpersonal interaction.

Lying makes life too complicated and requires too much memory. All in all it’s pretty counterproductive.

4. When in doubt, save money.

This rule reminds me that the primary purpose of collecting miles, for me, is not to make each mile worth the most it can possibly be worth.

It’s to expand my family’s world with travel, and to shrink my spending.

After all it’s all about freedom for me.

HundredDollarBillFreedom? Right.  (It’s all about the Benjamins)

So there they are. My rules.

It’s easy for me to live by these, because they’re consistent with my own values.

Maybe your goal in the miles game is to make the shysters at the credit card companies pay.

In which case your rules would  look different.

The point is that the rules themselves are not that important.

But living by rules that square with your own sense of the world, is important. It’s possibly even happiness inducing.

Which brings me to a question…

What are some of your own personal rules? Either within the miles game or without?

Please leave comments.

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2 Responses to “Code”

  1. Dan Smith November 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Wow, you’ve thought this through a lot more thoroughly than I have. For me the “rules” in the miles game are to stay connected with family and to a lesser degree friends (I guess that’s more the goal than the rule). If there are ways to compile miles through everyday spending, then not to do it seems like an opportunity lost (although I have friends who have no patience for miles programs in the first place). I completely agree with your smell test rule and I obviously avoid lying or cheating. I have generally sought those programs that are most beneficial to my family and me, but have been at times rather clumsy about it, and often frustrated by what appears to the me like a lack of adherence on the Airlines’ part to what appear like rules to the game, at least to me. Such as: if you have enough miles for a flight, you will be able to find one, and will be able to travel with loved ones. That is almost never the case, so I find myself feeling rather hoodwinked, and this has left me despondent about the whole “game”. I suppose I have tended simply to operate within the rules – or the spirit of the rules as I understand them – that the companies impose.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 30, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      Great points all Dan.

      I think the rules are not so important. What is important to me in this and all things is living in a manner that squares with my own view of the world.

      The rules are just a means to codify this squishy and fungible perspective. This makes it easier for me to live. Kind of a cheat sheet.

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