Discounted Gift Cards
For people who eat out often or are frequent shoppers, discounted gift cards can offer great savings.
“To me, a discounted gift card is just like getting free money—turning $20 into $25, for example,” says Bryan K. Chavez, the Denver-based national deals editor for Living on the Cheap. “I find most of my gift card discounts online at various deal sites, local and national,” he says. “However, I have also taken advantage of discounts via grocery store promotions. The trick is that discounts are rare, so you always have to be on the lookout.”
Discounted gift cards can be bought directly at the retailers at specific times of the year or from gift-card resellers year-round. Chavez’s discounted gift card strategy involves consistent savings and good timing.
“I set aside money every month for use during December when gift card discounts are the most abundant,” he says. “Every year it gives me around $600 to splurge on a gift card shopping spree. With this plan, I’m able to make a ‘profit’ of around $150 every year.”
Avoid purchasing discounted gift cards from individuals because these are often scams. And when purchasing them from legitimate discounted gift card resale sites, make sure to understand the terms and conditions to avoid redemption issues.
Some gift card resellers offer money-back guarantees if users run into problems. Raise offers a one-year money-back guarantee, GiftCardGranny says it guarantees its gift cards “work for life and will never lose value,” and CardCash offers a 45-day guarantee. Amazon.com also offers a mix of full-price and discounted gift cards.
Discount Shopping Sites
Discount shopping sites, browser extensions, and grocery store email lists can also be good money-saving tools.
There are also various deal trackers that can be connected to your browser as an extension. They seek out and compare deals across the web, and apply discounts, if available, while you shop.
Honey scours the websites for deals, while CamelCamelCamel, specifically seeks out Amazon.com deals. Some financial institutions, like Capital One, also offer these types of extensions. Consumer Reports offers a browser extension that presents you with recommended products and the best time to buy.
Many grocery stores and food brands offer coupons digitally. If you have a favorite supermarket, make sure you get on their email distribution list so that you can get digital versions of their circulars and be aware of any deals as soon as they’re available. Some name-brand grocers now also have their own apps, where they’ll offer users coupons and discounts.
For finding discounted activities, try Groupon. In addition to walking tours and other activities, here you can also find deals for goods and services such as spa treatments and hairstylists.
Credit Card Rewards
Don’t forget to maximize your credit card rewards. You can stretch your dollars further by combining discounts with a good rewards credit card, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.
“For example, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express gives 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets,” he says. “If you’ve been using cash or a debit card and getting zero rewards at the grocery store, this 6 percent rebate goes a long way towards offsetting food inflation.”
Rossman points to other examples, such as cards that give 5 percent cash back on gas, travel, dining out, your Amazon purchases, etc.
“I typically earn at least $1,500 per year in credit card rewards,” Rossman says. “Of course, this tip only works if you can pay your bills in full and avoid the high interest rates, and about half of cardholders typically do that.”
A related idea is to stack discounts, Rossman says. “For instance, combine a rewards credit card with a shopping portal such as Rakuten or Shop Through Chase,” he says. “Some financial institutions, like Chase and Citi, have shopping sites connected to retail partners where users can earn bonus points on their credit card when they make purchases. Or at the gas pump, load a rewards credit card into the station’s payment app, which gives an additional 5 to 10 cents off per gallon when you pay that way.” He adds that many grocery stores have rewards programs that can provide discounts on groceries and/or gas. (Find out whether a gas credit card is worth it.)