Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sale on Top of Sale, Plus a Coupon

Some time ago, I blogged about a shopping coup at Talbots, where I found irresistible savings on wonderful spring basics.  Well I'm happy to report that I had a similar experience today at Coldwater Creek.

I'm a big fan of the online outlet at Coldwater Creek.  The discounts can be quite steep and since there is a store in my area where I can make returns (thus saving the return shipping costs), I don't have to worry too much about the vagaries of color and size that can otherwise make online shopping so troublesome.

I browse the site pretty regularly when I want a break from other things.  I'm a pretty careful shopper and although I might frequently fill my virtual cart, I wait until I'm really sure I want something and that it is truly well priced before I make any purchases.  This means that it might be weeks (sometimes even more than a month) before I actually check out.  I've found though, that while I occasionally lose items that I would have loved to another customer who buys while I'm mulling over my decision, my luck just as often goes the other way: something that I've been thinking about is discounted even further, so that my hesitation is rewarded with extra savings.  That's what happened today.

I was thinking about some tailored jackets and cotton pants, plus one of those no-iron shirts that I love.  But I wasn't really sure that I wanted to spend the money.  And then this morning I noticed that the site was offering an extra 40% off the discounted prices.  Plus I had a coupon for an additional 25% off.  That meant that I got a jacket that originally retailed for $119 for a mere $20.37; pants that had once been $59.95, I got for only $6.79; and so forth.

A bit of advice: if you want similar savings, you better jump over to Coldwater Creek now: the sale ends tomorrow night at midnight.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ebates and ShopAtHome.com - An Easy Way to Save

I'm a big believer in taking the easy way out.  That's why I like using "frequent buyer" cards offered by many drugstores and supermarkets that automatically give you the value of store coupons when you check out, and/or provide money back after you reach a pre-determined spending level.

For similar reasons, I like the Ebates.com shopping model.  Once you are logged on at ebates.com, you can shop at hundreds of e-tailers and get money back for every purchase.  E-tailers pay ebates.com a fee for referring you to them, and credits you back a portion; usually from 2 to 20 percent of your purchase amount.

ShopAtHome.com works much the same way.  Sign up and log in to receive savings online and checks in the mail (in $20 increments) for rebates for e-tailers who partner with ShopAtHome.com.  The site also offers printable coupons and the largest collection of free shipping offers on the web.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Extreme Couponing

I've now watched three episodes of the TLC reality series Extreme Couponing.  It is oddly compelling to watch folks show off their hoards of packaged goods (usually neatly shelved and organized), and then plan and execute a multi-hour super-shopping spree.  I find the producers' attempt at wringing drama out of whether or not they will be able to save as much as they expected a bit forced -- these are people who spend up to 40 hours a week on their couponing (and have the detailed spreadsheets to prove it!), so of course they will be on (or at least close to) target!

But as you see the train of grocery carts headed for the check-out, and then see the shoppers load up their vehicles, and finally watch them unpack and put the items away, it is hard not to mentally compare the extreme couponers to the compulsive accumulators on Hoarding: Buried Alive (another TLC show).  After all, who really needs years and years worth of toilet paper and canned goods on hand at all times?  Let's be honest: only the truly obsessed can shop that way.

As amazing as it is to see the register drop the total from, say, $1200 to just over $5, I doubt that I would want to eat so many processed foods myself.  And as I watched a couple buy 20 gallons of milk and dozens of pounds of cheese (one of the few non-boxed or canned purchases), I wondered what would ultimately happen to it: their family wasn't so large that they could be expected to consume so much within its expected shelf life.  (And having once be exposed to the horrors of frozen milk, I wish that on no one!!)

A member of my extended family has trouble just using up items she buys in bulk on sale or at Costco, even with a family of five.  We've come to expect that her parties will feature soda that has lost its fizz (it takes less time than you think) and she once gave her son food poisoning by using mayonnaise that was far past its prime.  I can only imagine what it is like to be part of a family that is forever eating stale breakfast cereal and decades-old mustard (because they believe the latter lasts indefinitely).

I truly believe it is better to plan in terms of weeks (or maybe a month or two) rather than in years, when supermarket bargains come your way.  Most items have a sale cycle of four to six weeks, so you really only need to buy enough to last until the next time the price drops.