3 Steps to shop for the best deals and get the maximum amount of points online!

While shopping this holiday season, don’t leave travel points or rebates on the table! A lot of people, myself included, often will just go straight to Amazon or eBay for certain things without even thinking about shopping around for the best deal or what rewards they can get for a purchase. I must admit that I’ve bought things countless times off of those sites either going directly or using a link off of a deal site.

Shopping online is almost always better than shopping at a brick and mortar. It’s almost always cheaper at least. One thing about shopping online though is that you can’t touch the product, smell it, etc. That said, you can always use the store as a showroom – go to a store and do that and then order online.

Decide what you want to buy: If you’re just looking for a deal and not looking for something specific, some of my favorite deal sites are: slickdeals.net, bensbargains.com, deals2buy.com, and spoofee.com. When you’re looking for something specific, you should search the forums on slickdeals.net to see what others say as well. For some tips on saving money from Amazon, check out thebabbleout.com.

At the point where you’ve decided on what you’re going to buy, do NOT just add to cart and buy. That won’t give you all the discounts or points you want.

Use Gift cards: First off, do you have any gift cards? If not, would it be worthwhile to buy one and get some points off of it? The best way to acquire gift cards is by seeing if there’s one you can get at a significant discount. A couple of ways to do this is via eBay or Gift Card Granny. Another one of my favorite ways to acquire gift cards is at 5% off. When the Chase Freedom card has 5x points on stores that sell gift cards, that’s when I go out and buy them. I bought a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards at Safeway the last quarter they had 5x points on grocery stores. That’s about 5% off right there. Another way I like to acquire gift cards is through Mileage Plus X. With it, you can get one or more United Airline miles for every dollar you spend on a gift card. I have learned whenever going to a chain store to check the app to see if I can buy a gift card for use.

Use shopping portals: When you’ve decided for certain what you’re buying and which store you’re buying from, if you’re buying online, you want to see if the store can be access via a  shopping portal for additional rewards. The site I like to use is evreward.com. It’s generally up to date, but sometimes, other shopping portals can run special promotions so that you might not want to miss. Also factor in bonuses. Sometimes, the shopping portals can run bonuses so you might want to buy from the same one, like if you spend X amount of $ using the portal, they can give you Y amount of points. The various shopping portals can give you points from a plethora of different loyalty programs, including cash back. Here are some of my favorites: Ebates.com for cash back, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping for AA miles – they’re generally more than United miles. There are other shopping portals, but those are my favorites. It just depends on which airlines you like to fly, hotels you like to stay at, or if you would just prefer cash.

Buy with the credit card that gives you rewards. Lastly, use the credit card that gives you the rewards you want. This could be the Target card that gives you 5% off, your favorite airline card or your favorite cash back card. Just remember that when you spend cash, you lose cash.

So, here are some examples:

Last year, on Black Friday, I foolishly went into Target and bought an iPad. It was a great deal. I think it was $400 for a 64 or 128gb. I tried my Target card, but forgot the pin. I didn’t want to get back into line again, so I just bought it with my regular card that probably gave me 1% back. That’s only about $4. Had I been able to use the Target card, I would’ve gotten about $20. That’s a significant difference, but had I bought online, where I didn’t need to even leave the house, I could’ve used the AA portal, at the time that was giving 3 points per dollar, and gotten my 5% + about 1200 AA points. 1200 AA miles is a mid distance flight! There aren’t too many discounts for Target gift cards, so I’m going to leave that to another example.

I was in need of a laser printer and for some reason, after perusing deal sites, I decided on a Dell. There weren’t a ton of deals at the time, but then I decided to use gift card granny, that sent me to buy a gift card from Raise.com. The printer cost about $100, 108 with tax. I paid $96 for the gift card, giving me $4 off. The credit card I used to buy the card gave me 2% cash back, so I took another $2 back on top of that. I again used the AA portal to give me 3 AA miles per dollar and got just over 300 points.

There’s a local banya that I like to visit for hot tubbing and sauna. The typical entrance fee is about $50 for a 1/2 day. The place also sells a Groupon for about the same price for a full day. I never go for more than a 1/2 day anyway. Why would I buy a Groupon when there’s an expiration date and it’s no cheaper than going direct? Again, gift cards and shopping portal. I don’t remember what % off I got from Gift card granny. I might have bought it from Safeway @ 5% off. Then I took 3 AA miles/dollar @ the AA shopping portal. I’ve had up to 10 miles/dollar for Groupon via the United portal.

My last example is an interesting one. Capital One gives you a credit card number instantly after you’re approved when signing up for a new card. For this reason, I was able to use it immediately and knock out about $500 of spend before I even received my credit card in the mail. I keep a list of all of the automatic payments I made and when I get a new credit card number, I change them all immediately. I did this immediately after I applied and was approved for the Capital One Spark card. I then put the number into Mileage Plus X and went to the mall. There, we ate at Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery, bought gifts and Hollister and Bed Bath and Beyond. For all of those things, I bought gift cards with the Mileage Plus X card. Spent all this money without even getting the credit card yet.

Happy Spending! Hope this read saves you some money! 🙂

Please share any of your tips down below. 🙂

 

Making Bob’s Red mill pancakes palatable

I normally love Bob’s red mill products. I enjoy their organic soy beans, organic oatmeal, flax seeds, beans, you name it. That said, their multigrain pancake and waffle mix is just plain disgusting. I’ve followed their instructions on the package and it just comes out gross. Both, the pancakes and the waffles.

If you got some however, please don’t throw them out. Here’s how to make them taste better. I was watching an episode of Diner Revival where Amanda Freitag show someone how to make a gluten free pancake and used a banana. That inspired me to give it a shot and it worked well! When following instructions, add a banana to the mix before putting them in the blender.

It’ll add just the texture you want. They’ll taste almost like regular pancakes. Of course, add maple syrup or honey to your liking. 🙂

The United States of Spain or Mexico!?

I just bought a refurbished printer/scanner from the Epson store online and with it came a quick start guide and manual, but the manual only came in Spanish! WTF!? Did I buy the device in Mexico or the US!? What’s the United States coming to!? Last time I looked, the United States’ national language was English! You can confirm that here too! Then, I got a motion detector light because at my house, the street lights aren’t directly across from my house, so I can’t see where to stick the key in at night. Going by my sense of touch just wasn’t enough, so I decided to get one of those. It’s the model E100WSB-C made by EML Technologies, LLC. Why the heck did it only include instructions in Spanish!? Do they assume that most installers are Mexicans or of South American descent? I can understand having both languages, but really can’t understand Spanish only. It makes no sense to me.

If you can guess, I’m totally against education of subjects other than foreign language in a foreign language as well. I don’t see why school systems need to teach mathematics in Spanish or history in Spanish in the United States. I think that if you come to this country, you should be learning the national language.

Also, when was the last time you dialed into an automated system and heard, “For English, press 1”? I don’t remember not hearing that!

I’m open to comments. 🙂

2001 Infiniti G20 – NOT a transmission problem!

Strange problem, but it seems that it was reproduced by another car other than mine, so I would expect that it will happen to a lot of others as well. There’s an intermittent problem where car will just rev and not move very quickly as if it doesn’t get into gear or something. It won’t go past 60mph or so and it’s revved very high at that speed, so you’re wasting a ton of gas. If you stop and restart the car, it’ll run fine again. It’s really frustrating as you don’t know when you’ll run into this problem and when you won’t. It will get worse and worse as time goes on. Turns out, the problem is with the battery. If you just change the battery, it’ll run just fine again! Just $50 fixes the problem!

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Speed Scrabble® – what an awesome game!

I’ve been a Scrabble fan for a long time. Because I didn’t do well playing it as a kid, I figured, I’m a grown-up now – the same handicap I had back then no longer applies, so I’m going to learn and be the best I could at it. I think a lot of the skills I learned playing Boggle helped me in Scrabble as well.

Anyways, a good friend’s wife, Barbara, just introduced me to a game called Speed Scrabble. Here’s a link to the rules:

http://www.mrkland.com/games/spscrab.htm

We played pretty much that way except that we started with 4 tiles instead of 7.

I was instantly impressed after learning how much faster the game goes and how the flexibility of being able to rearrange tiles on the fly. There’s obviously a different strategy in playing the game and I’m probably going to play this game more often.