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.
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Paying for Education, One Purchase at a Time

If you have student loans to repay to Sallie Mae or are trying to save for education through a 529 Plan, you may want to use Upromise to help you out.  Upromise is a service that gives you cash for certain purchases from grocery stores, restaurants, online retail sites etc., which can then be transferred to your student loan account or 529 Plan – essentially a cash back program under which the cash is redeemed for education expenses.

To be honest, the cash back rates for Upromise are generally lower than most other programs such as ShopDiscover.  However, Upromise covers a much larger number of merchants and combines different programs to generate even more potential rewards.  Discover’s 5% cash back at Target.com and the Apple Store, for example, beats Upromise’s 2% and 1% rates at these online sites, respectively.  Upromise, however, offers 2% cash back on eBay and 1% on several travel sites, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, while Discover has not partnered with those sites as of yet.  Furthermore, Upromise also gives up to 8% cash back on restaurants that belong to the Rewards Network (for a full list visit rewardsnetwork.com) and on in-store purchases at a few places such as Bed Bath & Beyond (1%) and the Sunglass Hut (6%).

Upromise also allows you to add your grocery cards to your account, so that you get cash back on Upromise for certain items on top of your grocery stores’ discounts and/or points.  Participating stores include Safeway, Harris Teeter, and CVS.

Now the best feature of Upromise I think is that it allows you to add friends and family to your network.  That is, if they create a Upromise account and add you as a beneficiary, they can use the cash back program to help you pay for your education.  Alternatively, for online shopping, you can simply send them a “guest shopping” link, so that they do not even have to sign up for Upromisem but you can still earn cash on the program whenever anyone shops through that link.  So if your mom usually does the groceries and uses store cards, you may want to have her sign up for Upromise and help you pay off your loans; and if your grandparents are coming to visit, you might to want to send them your Upromise “guest shopping” link so that their trip can help you get some money into your 529 Plan.