At Outlets, Mom and Dad Can Save You Money

Outlet shopping is a pretty obvious way to save money when compared to shopping at regular retailers. But there’s a way to save even more on outlet shopping: bring mom and dad along. No, I’m not suggesting that you should have them pay for your new outfits so you can keep your cash, although I’m sure some parents are more than happy to do so. Rather, there’s a discount that only they can give you: the Premium Outlets chain – which includes the outlet malls at Gilroy (CA), Woodbury (NY), and Wrentham (MA) – offers a 10% discount to shoppers over 50 years of age, every Tuesday.

I learned this about a year ago, when my mom was visiting me. We decided to take advantage of the fact that I was on vacation too and went outlet shopping on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The Premium Outlets chain is by far my favorite outlet option since they not only have good brands but the malls are also outdoors and the stores are for the most part clean and organized. They might not be the cheapest outlet malls out there, but the way they are set up makes for a much more pleasant experience since I don’t have to dig through heaps of stuff to find good deals.

So there we were: my mom and I on a shopping outing, on what happened to be a Tuesday. As my mom was checking out, I spotted a sign on the counter that said something like

50 Plus Shopper Perks

If you are at least 50 years of age you can take advantage of an added 10% savings on Tuesdays by simply presenting a photo identification with your proof of age to the cashier at participating stores. [taken from the Premium Outlets website]

I pointed it out, and told my mom to ask about it since we were there on a Tuesday anyway. The cashier interjected, “Don’t worry. I already applied the discount to your purchase.” If I were my mom, who happens to be in her “young 50s,” I would have been mortified or at the very least upset. But my mom took it in stride and was just happy with her discount. In fact, she then asked me if I didn’t want to buy more stuff that day, seeing as I could get the discount only with her anyway.


Photo credit: F-oxymoron (Creative Commons)

The list of participating stores for this discount varies by outlet mall, but is fairly long and includes J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines, and even Samsonite. To see the list for the Premium Outlet you are planning on visiting, just click on it on this map, then go to “sales & events”> “50 Plus Shopper Perks.”

My mom is visiting me again in a couple of weeks, and since she wants to go shopping, I will make sure to schedule the outlet trip for a Tuesday. It should be a good mother-and-daughter bonding experience – I’ll help her pick out clothes and carry her shopping bags, she’ll get me a 10% discount.

Apple Calls – and Raises? – Staples’ Back to School Deal

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Staples’ current offer of a $100 prepaid card for students buying select laptops, which has since become the most popular post on this blog. As I argued on that post, despite all the hype, I don’t think it’s such a great deal, particularly since the offer is limited to 4 laptop models. But here’s a similar offer that might be worth getting excited about if you’re already Mac fan: Apple is giving a $100 Apple gift card to any student who buys a Mac (except for the Mini) by September 20, 2011.

The downside of this promotion as compared to the Staples’ one is that you get the reward as an Apple gift card, which can only be redeemed on the Mac App Store, the iTunes Stores, and the iBookstore, while the Staples deal offers a Visa prepaid card, which can be used anywhere. On the other hand, Apple’s offer applies to all new iMacs, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and Mac Pros – both laptops and desktops – while Staples’ deal is much more limited.

a screenshot of Apple's deal: Who qualifies? You might!

Then again, even the cheapest Mac is more expensive than any of the laptops that qualify for the Staples offer. But let’s be honest: if you’re an Apple fan, you’re likely not in it for the money. So if you’re going big anyway, you might as well get the $100 gift card with your purchase.

To qualify for the gift card, you must use the Education Pricing discount that Apple usually offers to college students, parents, and faculty, which means you’ll get the discount plus the $100 card. To get the deal, you can buy your new computer online through the Apple Education Store, at an Apple store, or at your campus store. If you buy your new computer through one of the first two, the gift card will come with your purchase. If you buy on campus, just visit within 90 days of your purchase to claim your gift card. There’s a limit of 2 gift cards per person during this promotion.

While Macs are definitely not the cheapest computers out there, I’m highlighting this offer in Money Under Your Futon because this blog isn’t just about saving; it’s about finding ways to save so you can live in style. If you’re a Mac fan, you clearly care about style. And if you’re eligible for this offer, you need all the deals you can get.

Just Because Staples and Dell are Offering $100 Off Doesn’t Mean You Should Jump for these Laptops

While I was watching TV the other day, a Staples commercial advertising a $100 prepaid Visa card to students buying specific laptops caught my attention. Qualifying for the rebate card is fairly easy, as you only have to show a valid student I.D. or acceptance letter, and the prepaid card will be mailed to you eventually.[1]

This seemed to me like a great deal at first, so I decided to check out the eligible computers. There are only 4 models eligible for the prepaid card promotion, though to Staples’ credit they all come from different manufacturers – Dell, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba – and are of different sizes, giving buyers some options. However, they are all at least $579 without the rebate. I am not a computer expert and I can’t evaluate the specifications of each of the models in this promotion, but I think that while $499 (including the rebate) isn’t bad at all for a laptop, it doesn’t qualify as an amazing deal unless you are looking for exactly one of these 4 laptops. Even Staples is selling some other laptops for less than that, and I’m guessing most people don’t need more than a simple laptop for school or post-school work.

Along the same lines, Dell is offering $100 off its XPS 15 and XPS 17 laptops (promo code 932N$0ZCCHWZB9, sent to my inbox). These, however, are fairly advanced laptops with 3D capabilities and HD screens, starting at $799 without the discount. Chances are that, unless you work with graphics or are a computer aficionado, if you’re looking to save money these are probably not the computers for you – as enticing as a $100 discount may seem.

With all the back-to-school deals around, flexibility will likely save you more money than a $100 prepaid card or discount on these select laptops ever could. That said, if you’ve been eyeing any of the 4 laptops eligible for the Staples prepaid card, or Dell’s XPS series, this may be a good time to buy. Neither promotion has a published expiration date, but acting soon is probably better.

And if you do make a trip to Staples to check out their laptops, here’s another published offer that’s actually a good deal, albeit less flashy:  300 free printed labels with the coupon linked here. This could be useful for labeling your own stuff (including your new laptop!), or for making return address labels for job applications, thank you letters, and “please send money” requests sent to family.

[1] The terms and conditions for this offer seem to have been hastily written, and the exact timeframe in which the card will be mailed is unclear. Per the T&C: “Visa prepaid card will be mailed 15 days 4 to 6 weeks after submission of easy rebate.” Also, the webpage listed on the Staples website for the easy rebate redemption,, is incorrect and leads nowhere; the correct page is (with an “s” in the end).

Lessons Taken from “Extreme Couponing”

Now that summer has arrived, I finally have the time to clean out my DVR and catch some re-runs.  Last month, I caught a part of TLC “Extreme Couponing” marathon.  For those who have never heard of it, “Extreme Couponing” is a show about people who have mastered and perfected the art of using coupons to stretch their budget.  For example, on the first episode, a woman walked away with $2,000 worth of groceries by paying just $100.  Rather than dismissing such people as “crazies,” I have come up with concrete reasons why the show, though entertaining, is inapplicable to younger professionals just starting out in the real world.

  • You must have coupons.  This is obvious enough.  In order to extreme coupon, well, you must have coupons.  There are different ways to acquire coupons.  Many of the people featured purchase multiple Sunday newspapers, up to 30 copies in one instance, for the coupon inserts.  Some dumpster dive.  Others use an online service where you can purchase already cut coupons for a fee.  And at least one woman had five computers in her house so she can print more online coupons (apparently you can print only two per computer).
  • You must have the time.  A lot of the people on the show are families where only one spouse is working, so that the other spouse can devote up to 60 hours a week planning their shopping trip hauls.  They are also willing to sacrifice and get up extra early to go to store before the store runs out of what they want to buy.  Further, some of these extreme check-out take up to two hours.
  • You must have a huge family or be somehow responsible for feeding  your friends and their friends.  Most of the people featured have families or extended families of four, six, eight, and ten.  And with the recession, it is absolutely necessary for these people to stretch their dollars, but they also have the body count to use up all that toothpaste, shampoo, cereal, and canned soup before they expire.  That said, not all these people are hoarders.  A lot of these people donate their hauls to charities, churches, and military families.  One woman lets her kid’s friends come over and take whatever they want.  If anything, these people are prepared for any sort of natural disaster.  Further, you need to bring along a helper so that (1) the two of you can push and maneuver three or four carts and (2) at check out, one can keep an eye on the cash register while the other continuously places items on the conveyor belt.
  • You must have the space.  These people’s stockpiles of groceries, health care and bathroom products will put most mini-mart stock rooms to shame.  This is simply not feasible for a younger person just starting out, living in a studio or one bedroom apartment.  By space, I also include your set of wheels.  No way are you carting home all that haul in your little compact car.  An SUV or truck is a must.

On the one hand, some of these people do seem to be suffering from a combination of addiction and hoarding.  They obviously experience some sort of high when they are able to save more than 90% at the cash register and that motivates them to continue chasing after that high.  And they also love admiring their stockpile.  I understand that, without doing what they do, they may not be able to feed and support their families.  At the same time, however, there are some issues that need to be dealt with.

On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing illegal or even wrong with what these people are doing.  All their coupons are offered by the manufacturer or the store.  They want you to use their coupons!  These extreme couponers also check and follow each store’s coupon policy.  And even for the woman who saved $1,900, that is not an amount that will be entirely footed by the store.  That amount is borne by the manufacturers of all the products she purchased.  And the manufacturers and the store ultimately are not losing anything – they are still making a profit.  That said, there are some key lessons that everyone can take away from the show.

  • Wait for sales – I think most people have figured this one out.  There are few reason to pay anything full price – except maybe the bus fare.  Otherwise, no one should be paying $4 for a bottle of shampoo or $3 for a pack of toilet paper.
  • Stockpile – I don’t mean stockpile like the people on the show.  You do not need a thousand tubes of toothpaste or forty pounds of chicken.  But when something does go on sale, buy a couple more than you need so that when you run out, you don’t have to go to store and purchase something at full price.  And hey, you have waited for the sale, so you deserve to splurge.
  • Forego brand loyalty – This may actually be hard for some people, because we are a picky generation.  I recognize that we must put our foot down when purchasing certain items.  It might be a particular brand of coffee or soda or deodorant, but I find it hard to believe that there is a certain brand we must use for each and every single item.  For example, I never purchase Scott tissue toilet paper, but I am neutral among Charmin, Quilted Northern, and Cottonelle.  I only use Schick razors (which have never given me a nick), but say “no, thank you” to Gillette.  I really cannot tell the difference between Jif and Skippy peanut butter, or all those pasta brands.  So you see, while there may be a few products we are stubborn about, there are plenty others where the brand simply does not matter.  And if you are willing to be just a little bit flexible, well that is money in the bank.

In sum, the show “Extreme Couponing” was entertaining enough, but as the saying goes, we should do “everything in moderation.”

This Week’s Five Loyalty Deals

Loyalty programs are already set up to reward customers for their frequent patronage by offering points, miles, or exclusive discounts.  But sometimes there are periodic promotion periods in which the reward system is ramped up either to pick up sales during a down time or simply to encourage continued customer loyalty.  Either way, there are savings to be had or extra points or miles (eventually converted into extra savings or a freebie) to be earned.

Here are five loyalty deals for this coming week or longer:
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Don’t Worry If You Missed Out on Black Friday

While Black Friday is the traditional opening day to holiday shopping, this year retailers may have held back from unleashing their best bargains and deals.  So if you were recovering from food coma on Friday, there is still plenty of holiday sales and promotions to look forward to in the next few weeks.  Below are a few tips to help you make it through to 2010:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute – Retailers will be stocking less inventory this year, so if you wait too long, the only thing you’ll see are “Out of Stock” signs.
  • Don’t wait for the lowest price, but for the lowest price you are willing to pay – Sometimes these two may be the same, but often times they are not.  Whether a transaction is a bargain can be subjective.  And the lowest price always comes at a cost.  For example, you might get your netbook for only $200, but it might have a different color or slightly less memory.  Nothing is too trivial to make or break a deal.  You’re the one doling out the dough, so as long as you are willing, go for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a retailer to match a competitor’s lower price for the same product – Apparently, Wal-Mart and Target are happy to do so.  Competition are fierce this year, so I would not be surprised if it also works for places such as Best Buy and Staples.

This Black Friday, Get the Deals Before Hitting the Stores

As you sketch out your plan for Black Friday shopping this week, you may want to check the retailers’ ads to make sure that you visit the stores with the best deal for what you want to buy.  Even if you are shopping online, knowing what deals will be available may help you save time – an important factor if there are limits on the number of items available on sale or if the internet connection is slow because of traffic.

Many retailers, including Best Buy and Ikea (the latter is even offering a free breakfast coupon valid this Friday-Sunday), have already put out their Black Friday fliers.  But if you want to compare promotions or a sneak peak on fliers that have not been officially released yet, Dealnews has been tracking retailers for Black Friday fliers and posting them as they “leak”.  Visit dealnews this week to see compare Black Friday offers and optimize your shopping plan of attack.