One more item we can add to the list of certainties, along with death and taxes, is that people like to save money. Not everyone, but as a whole, it's a natural instinct to want to do the best job you can and that includes procuring goods and services for ourselves and our families. This topic has so many leads to it, that's it difficult to find a starting point. We'll begin with the easiest, most common sense rules first. Many places and vendors give monetary breaks to students, people actively in the military, senior citizens and children or people purchasing in volume. Some places even recognize you being a woman (if you happen to be one) as a reason to give you discount. The best example of this is your local ladies' night happy hour and I've even seen some mechanic shops, such as Jiffy Lube, hold Wednesday‘s as ‘women's day' for a lower rate on oil changes. Membership Has Its Privileges... Inquire before buying if your vendor discounts for AAA members (again, if you happen to be one) or Costco membership. There are probably many other memberships you might also be eligible for obtaining a better price, but the key is that you have to ask or research yourself before you walk in. The worse thing they can tell you is ‘No' but even if the answer is a ‘No,' they may suggest other ways to save you money that you didn't know about. A good article I recently read suggested that there are also more apt times to purchase things than at other times. For mall shopping for example, it is said that Thursdays, late in the day, are best to go at because retailers will begin marking down their items for the anticipated weekend crowd. Also, department stores typically discount their items after they've been on the sales floor for more than 6 or 7 weeks, just to make room for incoming new merchandise. Incidentally, the same article relayed that on-line shopping is best done on Tuesday through Thursday, for the same aforementioned reasons. Specifically for automobile shopping, the end of the month is the best time to buy. Car salesmen need to make their quotas and they're usually willing to make larger concessions to make their managers happy! Please for once, take advantage of them. Also, walk into the dealership with your own financing in place. This will save you loads down the line, as most car financing creditors have a special arrangement in place with the dealership and both make unnecessary money off of unprepared and/or desperate customers. An excellent financing option might be your local credit union (again, membership has its advantages) or your local banking branch that you've been going to for a thousand years. FYI, Mid-Atlantic FCU offers membership to anyone working or living in Montgomery County, Maryland. And speaking of clothing and other mall store items, you can sometimes get a substantial discount for ‘open box' or ‘display' items, or even items that stores deem damaged goods. For example, I've bought large ticket items at such places as Best Buy, at a phenomenal discount, just because it was the last unit they had in stock and I was asking for the display item. As long as it's still cosmetically clean and functional, why not buy it at an additional 10-15% off its sales price. It should still be under the same store warranty as a fresh, out of the box item, if anything goes awry. And if you're looking at a piece of clothing and its missing a button or something else easily remedied, ask the manager or store clerk if you can have a small discount to make up for the fact. They're usually authorized and more than willing to give you up to 15% for such circumstances. Something Substantial... With the same mindset, if you're hedging prices off the itty biddy items, why not aim yours sites a little higher. If you happen to have good to amazingly excellent credit (history), call your credit card company up if you are dissatisfied or would like to question your current rate. Kindly tell them that you can take your business else where, if they balk and remind them how long you've been a valued customer with them with a good, clean payment history. Food for thought, its best if you're one of the few people who do happen to pay the bill off monthly, not to mention this, as they will already see this when they review your history and they haven't made as much money off of you (when you do this.) Good for you, not for them. Chi-Chi's, Shakey's and the Sombrero Remember the embarrassing attention you used to get when it was your birthday and you went with a group hell bent on announcing your special day to everyone? For the trouble you'd go through, the restaurant would usually reward you with a free dessert or appetizer. Well, a lot of restaurants will still do this for you, but you need not go through the actual embarrassment. With the insurgent of companies going on-line, if you merely sign up for their newsletter or go one step further, and place their link on your personal webpage, some places will send you birthday freebies and special on-line promos that ordinary folks aren't privy to. SportsAuthority.com, for example, will give you royalties (8%) if someone goes through your website to make purchases on their site. You get 10% off your next purchase, if you just sign up. Most on-line venues work like the latter, giving you a special ‘next purchase' rate for signing up, but the royalties perk hasn't caught on just yet, but it's just a matter of time. On-line coupons are just one facet of how the internet is affecting commerce. Where in the past, most people have cut out physical coupons from the newspaper, on-line perks and special privy promos are all the rage now and sometimes you can research yourself to near exhaustion, two clicks from death. That's a mild extreme, but you get the picture. Below, we will list some of the more lucrative sites worth looking at and hopefully you will be able to maintain a stable of favorite go-to's for your daily shopping routine. We'll try to break them down into easily identifiable categories: General Merchandise www.Retailmenot.com www.Currentcodes.com www.Keycode.com www.Rather-be-shopping.com www.Pricegrabber.com www.Shopzilla.com www.Nextag.com www.Dealcatcher.com Shoes www.zappos.com www.holabirdsports.com Clothing for Children (swapping, not retail) www.freepeats.org Cars www.edmunds.com www.kbb.com www.carmax.com (not just for buying, but good place for reference) Gas ** www.gasbuddy.com www.autos.msn.com www.gaspricewatch.com www.gasprices.mapquest.com Dining www.Restaurant.com (be sure to read the fine print before purchasing) Entertainment Theatre: www.broadwaybox.com Movies: www.redbox.com www.hulu.com Education FREE college courses at distinguished universities (Degree credits do not apply, sorry) www.ocw.MIT.edu www.webcast.BERKELEY.edu/courses.php College: (besides the 529 savings plan, research these) www.upromise.com www.babymint.com Textbooks: www.textbookx.com www.chegg.com www.booksprice.com www.Gutenberg.org other Books: www.Paperbackswap.com www.Swapacd.com www.Swapadvd.com www.Swaptree.com www.Bookmooch.com Language courses: www.bbc.co.uk/languages www.freelanguage.org Besides the aforementioned websites, the Entertainment book can be bought relatively cheap at certain times. It runs November to November, so if you wait to the Spring and purchase it at a substantial lower price, you'll still have a good amount of time to use your coupons. We don't mean to sound like their advertising team, but the book does truly pay for itself in about 2-4 uses. We noted a Gas category, but it would behoove of you to remember that it's probably not cost or time efficient of you to drive out of your way, an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to save ten cents a gallon. It's best if you know what's generally in your driving area, where you'll already be in. Also note worthy, is that it used to be an excellent idea to make a day trip out to one of the major discount outlets for shopping sprees. With gas prices and everything else going up, it's no longer cost efficient, especially considering that most of the time you can now find the same, if not better deals, right here near home. Make them Bring It To You! Most places you can now order on-line. If you've researched your stuff and know exactly what you want, go ahead and trust the virtual vendor. Most of the time they go out of their way to offer you the best on-time shipping, guaranteed for your holiday delivery. Don't forget to ask about or google the free shipping option. Competition has almost made this a staple among on-line merchants. Rebates are another excellent way to save on items you would normally have to purchase anyway. For example, I recently purchased a $100 gift certificate from restaurant.com for 40% off. I further googled restaurant.com coupon codes and got an additional 20% off that price with the code and because I used http://www.fatwallet.com/ to go to the restaurant.com site, they gave me an additional rebate of $3 back. So essentially, I got a $100 gift certificate for only $9. Now, the downside to this deal, if there is one, is this... READ THE FINE PRINT. Although restaurant.com does give you a HUGE discount on nice local restaurants, you still have to dish out a minimal purchase amount, so this site might not be as good to use for other people's gifts as simply using a certificate directly from the restaurant itself. Also, the choice of restaurants, depending on area, is limited. This is something to consider before purchasing, but if your situation fits the parameters perfectly, this would be quite a savings for anyone! Lastly, we will leave you with this, yet another circumstance to ponder. I worked for a big company where they were holding their annual holiday gala. There was a discounted company rate for staying at the same hotel that the event was being held. Some of us were curious and called to get the anonymous walk-in rate for the same date. With one phone call, we found out that the offered company rate was much more expensive than the outside rate. They had actually uncharged the company employees; Just something to remind you to use your common sense before you commit. Again, we hope this helps you and as always, we thank you for the time you've spent with us here!
From all of us at Dr. Siegel's Office of Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we wish you and your family a Happy New Year!
(Dr. Siegel wishes to acknowledge readersdigest.com as a contributor to this article. Thank you.)