My most recent “real” job was working for a large publishing company. My employer’s total annual sales exceeded $6 billion. Needless to say, that gave my employer a great deal of clout when it came to negotiating contracts for employee benefits. For example, we had a great health insurance program, generous dental insurance and very good eye care insurance. It was very easy for me to keep track of the insurance benefits that I enjoyed and, over the decade or so that I worked for my company, I very much appreciated those benefits every time I had to go to a doctor, dentist or optician.
Unfortunately, I was rather passive in accepting the benefits that my company offered. I used my insurance benefits because every year my company would walk me through the enrollment process. What I learned very late in my employment, however, was that there were a tremendous number of benefits of which I was completely oblivious and that my failure to use those benefits, had cost me a lot over the years.
In particular, my company offered its employees group discounts on a tremendous number of products and services. Employees received a 10% discount at Barnes and Noble, for example. I regularly visit Barnes and Noble with my family. It is around the corner from my home and we like to browse. When my kids attend a birthday party, that is where they usually buy the gift that they will bring. When my wife wants a book (since she tends to read sometimes obscure 19th century fiction which is not available at our library), she will often order it at Barnes & Noble. We really could have used a free 10% discount over all of those years that I worked for my employer but failed to read up on my benefits. (We still got a 10% discount but I had to pay $25 per year for the privilege – about $250 during the time that I worked for my employer)
There were a lot of other employee discounts available. Theme park discounts, insurance discounts, travel discounts, restaurant discounts and a host of others. Sadly, I did not realize I could enjoy those discounts until I was getting ready to walk out the door for the final time. As I walked out the door, however, I began to wonder what other discounts I might be missing based on my membership in various organizations. I was surprised to learn that there are several.
Alumni Discounts: I graduated (twice) from a well known university. There are many, many thousands of alumni from my school and our alumni association definitely wants to keep us healthy and to preserve our money so that we can make donations. I’ve learned that many alumni associations offer group rate discounts on many insurance programs that they make available to alumni without regard to how long the alumni have been out of school. Check your alumni website to determine whether your alumni association offers such programs.
Professional Association Discounts: Similarly, there are many discounts offered to members of various professional organizations. One organization to which I belong offers insurance discounts, publication discounts, educational discounts and a host of other discounts and free benefits. If you are a member of a professional organization or association, I suspect your organization may also offer such benefits to you.
Member Organization Discounts: Whether you belong to AARP, AAA or any of a host of other organizations, member organizations are always on the look out to provide their members with money saving discounts. How often do you truly explore the benefits offered by the organizations to which you belong? Whether you are in a Union or a recent retiree who has joined AARP or a newly licensed driver joining AAA, if you are paying a fee for the privilege of membership, you should also take the time to discover all of the benefits for which you are paying.
Credit Card Discounts: Did you know that your credit cards may entitle you to certain discounts when you shop? Many do. MasterCard, for example, offers a host of discounts at many different retailers. A full list of discounts is available on line and I expect that you can find similar lists on the Visa, Discover and American Express websites as well.
Church Discounts: Whatever faith you may follow, if your place of worship publishes a weekly or monthly bulletin or newsletter that includes advertizing, take the time to read the ads. Many times, there will be discounts made available to anyone who mentions the bulletin. One local pizzeria gives a 10% discount to anyone who mentions the bulletin from our church.
Any time you are part of a large group of consumers, businesses want to cultivate your patronage and the patronage of all of the other members of your group. Take the time to learn what discounts are available to you as a result of your employment or your membership in any of the groups that I have described in this article. You may save a little or you may save a lot, depending on the groups to which you belong. Regardless of how much you save, I bet you will save something!
Tell us about the groups to which you belong. What groups do you recommend people join? Which groups have not been worth the effort? Where have you found the best group discounts?