Earlier today I had to buy a backpack. I had to buy a backpack because my high school aged son managed to break his current backpack. Now, I am not really sure how one breaks a backpack. Indeed, until today, I did not believe that one could actually break a backpack. It was neither torn nor, to my knowledge, was the zipper broken. Nevertheless, my son assured me that it was broken and my wife agreed with him. Accordingly, I went online to purchase a backpack.
After searching around for the best deal that I could find, and working my way through various coupon and rebate sites, I finally settled on a purchase from eBags. I selected the items that I was going to purchase (adding a couple of items that we admittedly needed so that I could get to the free shipping threshold) and went to the check out section of the site. Before checking out, however, I paused to sign up for eBags Rewards program. Now, I have never been to eBags before, and I do not know that I will ever shop there again, but I do know that for today’s purchase I have earned a 5% credit on my next purchase. Whether or not I ever use the credit is irrelevant. It is nice to know that I have it.
I also went food shopping today. My son (the one who somehow managed to break a backpack) mocked me at the checkout line because I pulled out so many different money saving tools before I actually paid. I had coupons which I had clipped from the paper, a UPromise card, and a credit card that offers rewards. My son thought that I was wasting my time and everyone else’s time by not simply paying and getting out of the store. I, on the other hand, rather enjoyed knowing that I had saved over $50 on a $105 purchase.
There are a lot of ways to save money when you shop, but many of those money saving opportunities require an investment of time and organizational skills just so that they can be tracked and used when appropriate. That said, I feel it is worth the time to take every money saving opportunity that I can get, even if I may never use it. Just as I would gladly accept all of a friend’s foreign currency if he were to give it away, even though I might never visit the country where I could spend it, so too will I take every “gift” that merchants may offer me. There are an awful lot of opportunities out there. Here are some that you should consider, if you have not started using them already:
Frequent Visitor Rewards: A tremendous number of merchants offer frequent visitor rewards. Buy nine coffees, get one free. Purchase eight sandwiches, get one free. Spend $100, get a $10 gift card. There are as many reward models as there are programs and I try to participate in all of them. Even if I do not believe that I shall visit a particular store again, I will take the time to find out whether it has a frequent purchaser program and I sign up for it. I have not lived in Boston for close to a decade, but I still have an organized stack of reward cards that I will bring back with me if ever I visit.
E-mail Rewards: Early in the days of e-mail, many of us were overwhelmed by unfiltered and uncontrolled SPAM. It turned me away from giving out an e-mail address to businesses for fear that the business would then include me on an e-mail list that it sold to third party Spammers. Thanks in large part to privacy laws and adherence to privacy and e-mail policies, I now feel it is safe to give out my e-mail address, and I do all the time. Every day I receive e-mail messages from a lot of businesses with discount offers and I use many of them!
Purchased Discounts: I am a frequent shopper on Amazon.com, largely because of Amazon’s Prime program. For $79 per year, I receive free 2 day shipping on everything that I purchase directly from Amazon. Last year, I made over 110 Amazon purchases so the $79 amounted to less than $1.00 in shipping costs per purchase – for two day shipping! I also belong to the Barnes and Noble rewards program. For $25 per year, everyone in my family enjoys a 10% discount on everything that we purchase at Barnes & Noble. There are a lot of programs like that. Starbucks has recently started such a program as well. Although we all try to spend our money wisely, we still have to spend it and if you know that you use a merchant regularly, you should explore any frequent shopper discounts that you can purchase.
Store “Member” Discounts: Several grocery store chains offer sale prices and special prices to “members.” For example, CVS has a very well established program that gives great deals to customers who present a CVS “Extra Care” card at check out. I use my CVS card every week and enjoy huge savings. I have similar cards for various grocery stores, apparel stores and other merchants. Admittedly, it can be at times burdensome to try to remember every discount card that I need to bring to each store. Moreover, it can be pure frustration to find myself making a purchase at a store for which I have a discount card but which I do not have in my wallet. Nevertheless, the savings are far greater if I try to take the time to obtain every discount available and plan my shopping around my discount options.
What do you think? Is it too much of a hassle to manage a giant stack of discount cards or do you try to sign up for each card that is available? Do you track e-mail offers, remember to get your frequent visitor card punched and find yourself spending more time paying for your purchases than you spent in selecting your purchases?