(Money Noob is a series of posts targeted at those of you who recently graduated from college and have little to no clue how to properly take care of your money. Yes, I’m looking at you. Don’t be shy)
Gee, super specific title amirite? This post will teach you how to buy things, mostly from chain stores such as Macy’s and Banana Republic at a discount. You might be whispering to yourself, “Just buy things on sale, duh.” But it ain’t that simple. Now, listen up:
Rule #1. Buy things on sale. Ok ok it is that simple, except not really. Sometimes a sale is not really a sale, you know? Let me show you an example:
- A week ago, Hollister was selling a pair of dope cargo shorts with eleventy pockets at $30. Starting today, they are running a “20%” Off everything sale, and the same dope shorts are listed at $40. Real quick math here, 20% off $40 is $32. Not all “sales” are good,so keep an eye out on the things you want, and keep an eye on the price. Know what a good price is, and bite as soon as the iron is hot. Or something.
Rule #2. Use Cashback sites. Most of you probably don’t know what those are. Some examples of cashback sites are Ebates and Mr. Rebates. If you click a button on those sites and get redirected to your favorite store, and then make a purchase, you get a certain amount of money back. So let’s say you have your eyes set on this Urban Decay Naked3 Eyeshadow set at Sephora, and it retails for $54. Ideally you should wait for the 25% off for Beauty Insider sale a la Rule #1, but I understand if you need it real bad. The next best thing to do is go to Cashback Monitor, a comparison website for all cashback programs, and check out who offers the most. If you search for Sephora, you will see this:
As you can see, it divided the cashback sites into four major categories, Cashback, Miles, Card Points, and Other.
Cashback is the most straight forward, so for Splender, every dollar you spend at Sephora via the Splender portal gives you 8 cents back. Usually you have to accumulate a certain amount before you can deposit the money into your bank, but the minimum amount is usually small, like $5. That $54 eye shadow will become $49.68, not too shabby huh?
Miles makes more sense for you if you value them more than straight up cash. I value the American Airline miles at a little over a cent each, so it’s not worth it compared to Splender. But if you choose to go that route, you can just click on the site and be taken to the shopping portal there.
Card points only make sense if you have one of the specified cards, as you can only get those extra points if you pay for your purchase via that card. But is 5 Chase points worth more than 8 cents? Maybe.
Anyway, let’s operate under the assumption that you picked Splender because they give you 8%. First thing you should do is register an account with my referral link there. Then you search for Sephora on that site, and follow these steps: http://screencast.com/t/rsWqttn5 and just check out like usual. Pretty easy, right?
The process is the same for all the other Cashback sites. You search for the store, click the link, and checkout. Make sure you have Cookies enabled and have AdBlock turned off, otherwise it might prevent you from getting your money. The Cashback sites I use are Splender, Ebates, TopCashback, and Mr. Rebates. I’m sure the other ones are legit, but I’ve not tried them, so if they don’t pay you, don’t blame me.
Rule #3. Use Giftcards. And no, I’m not talking about the gift cards your uncle gave you for your birthday because he has no idea what you like. I’m talking about Spending Money to Save Money, or SMTSM for short. In order to SMTSM, you just go to a gift card vendor comparison site like GiftCardWiki, search for the store you want to buy stuff from, and see who sells the gift cards at the best rates.
For example, let’s say you have an urge to buy this hideous shirt from H&M, and it’s $29,99, not on sale. Then you check Rule #2 and find out that H&M doesn’t work with any cashback sites. Do you pay full price like a chump? NO. You go to GiftCardWiki, search for H&M, and see that some vendors are selling H&M gift cards at as high as 38.4% off:
You see that the Vendor SaveYa is selling it for 38.4% off, but Shawn told you he has never used that site before. Now what do you do? You GOOGLE the shit out of it. After you do that you will see that people have generally bad reviews of the site, so you go to the next highest, AbcGiftCard. Now this site is on Shawn’s disapproval list so you keep going down the list until you find a vendor that Shawn had good experiences with, such as Cardcash, and buy the card.
Now that you have a $113.53 H&M gift card and only paid $70.33 for it, go ahead and buy as many of those ugly shirts as you want.
Oh almost forgot, my list of GiftCard sites with good experiences:
Cardcash (Though they are owned by AbcGiftCards, I don’t know why my experience differed so much)
Cardpool (These guys takes their sweet time in delivering you your electronic Gift Cards, mine usually arrives in 48 hours, but if you have a limited Sale to catch, skip these guys)
AbcGiftcards (They called me a day later to verify my payment info for a $30 AMC card, wtf. So I just cancelled the order)
Finally, if you combine rules #1,2 and 3, and a rewards credit card, the end result would be devastatingly delicious. Check out my Banana Republic Double Monk purchase
Two pairs of leather double monk shoes and one white sneaker, $92.68 after sales and coupon codes. Not bad right? Wrong. The gift card I used to pay for them was purchased at GiftcardZen for 16.6% off, so that’s $15.38 saved, then I had 3% cashback from Mr. Rebates, an additional $2.78, and then 2% cashback on the gift card purchase of $77.03, at $1.55. So in total, the three pairs of shoes cost me 92.68-15.38-2.78-1.55=72.97. A total saving of 21.3%. On top of the sale Banana was running. $24.33 per pair of BR shoes. Now THAT’s a Bargain.
PS: If you need to return something, the money will be refunded via the gift card, obviously. And the cashback site you used will take your cashback back (heh).
(Disclaimer, most of the cashback site urls above are referral links. None of the gift card sites or stores’ urls are referral links)