Christian Living


3 Easy Ways to Save Without a Sale


What's the best way to save money on nearly every purchase you make? Plan ahead and time your purchases to take advantage of sales and specials. But it's possible to save big on many items online, regardless of whether there's a sale or not. By utilizing the following online innovations, you can manage savings of 15%+ from a great number of retailers.

1. Buy coupons. I'm primarily referring to buying coupons on eBay. (It's perfectly legal to buy coupons from other people, though retailers don't have to accept them because it may void the terms of use.) Just search for a retailer's name followed by the word "coupon" and you'll see what's available. Many times you'll find 5-20% off coupons, or a specific dollar amount discount on a certain order size.

Also, you can save on grocery-store products by checking out sites such as The Coupon Clippers. You can also buy coupons that originated on sites like Groupon or Living Social among others.

2. Buy used gift cards. These can be found on eBay, though I prefer Plastic Jungle because they guarantee the transactions and have a huge selection. Search for the merchant you're interested in to find out what amounts are available, the percentage discount offered, the price of the used card, and if it's available as an eCode (in which a code is emailed to you for online use only). Most major retailers/restaurants are on Plastic Jungle.

3. Use cashback sites. Sites such as EbatesExtrabux, BeFrugal, TopCashBack, and Mr. Rebates allow you to register for a free account, then shop via their retailer links to qualify for percentage rebates on your purchases. Each site has its own terms of use and the percentage of cashback earned varies. 

Note that these accounts are free, so you don't need to limit yourself to just one. When looking to purchase something online, check all of these sites and go with the one offering the best terms at that time. Comparison sites like Cashback Monitor can help you quickly shop around in this manner.


Here are two recent purchases that illustrate how I've used this method.

Example #1: We were looking for patio furniture and we found some we liked from Crate and Barrel. But the price was higher than we wanted to pay. So we just watched and waited… and waited…and waited. Then, lo and behold, it went on sale. Our patience was rewarded! It was time to act.

But before buying, I went to eBay to look for Crate & Barrel coupons. For $4, I was able to buy one providing 10% off, and immediately received the code by email. Next I went to Plastic Jungle to search for Crate & Barrel gift cards. There were only two available and they only saved $8, but I bought them anyway.

Tip: If you know you're going to be buying something from a specific retailer, it might be smart to buy the used gift cards ahead of time, as the quantities available for sale can fluctuate widely. There were only two Crate & Barrel cards available on the day I ordered. But checking now, there are six available that would save a total of $51.50 — much better than the $8 I saved. Bottom line: plan ahead!

Finally, I logged into Ebates.com and used their Crate & Barrel link to get three percent cash back. During the checkout process, I was able to use the coupon code purchased from eBay, as well as the gift cards purchased from Plastic Jungle. And because I exercised the most important principle in saving money on purchases, I was able to time the purchase with a sale of 15%+ off.

Altogether then, I saved 15%, then another 10%, then $8, then another 3%. And it took me maybe five extra minutes to do so.

Example #2: I used nearly the same process, but this time at Lowe's to buy four light fixtures that normally cost $336. I went to eBay first and bought a "10% off" coupon for $2.75, which was emailed to me instantly. I then went to Plastic Jungle and bought a $332.78 gift card for $306.16, representing an 8% savings. A few days later the gift card arrived in the mail. Then I got lucky — just a few hours before I placed my order, a "$30 off $150" coupon from Lowe's hit my desk at the office. The only hitch was I couldn't use it online. No problem.

I logged into Ebates which offered 2.5% cashback at Lowe's. Using their link to the Lowe's site, I assembled part of my order: three lighting fixtures at $59 each. I added them to my cart and applied my 10% coupon code at checkout, using roughly half of my gift card.

I selected "Store Pickup" because (a) it was free, and (b) I had to go to the store anyway to use my $30 coupon for the remaining light fixture, which cost $159. I went to Lowe's the next day, found the light fixture, and checked out using my $30 coupon and the remaining balance on my gift card.

So let's recap the savings. The first three fixtures cost $177, plus I paid $2.75 for the eBay coupon. But I saved $17.70 from the eBay coupon, $12.74 from the Plastic Jungle gift card, and got $3.98 cash back at Ebates. My total cost was $145.33, an 18% savings. The other light normally cost $159, but my total was $118.68, a 25% savings. Altogether, I paid $264.01 instead of the $336 list price — saving 22%, without a sale! Sure, I lucked out with the $30 coupon, but even without it, I still would have managed an 18.5% savings.

You can do this too, but there are a few details to remember. (1) Some gift cards can expire and/or have balances reduced for inactivity. (2) When buying gift cards, try to match your final purchase price to the balance you're buying. In my Lowe's example, I was left with a roughly $50 balance on my gift card. I shop there enough that it's not a problem, but it's not ideal. (3) Don't forget to shop around the cashback sites. The same site likely won't offer the best deal all the time. (4) Finally, remember that retailers reserve the right to refuse purchased coupons. It's never happened to me, but it is in the fine print.

Remember to use the three C's: cards, coupons, and cashback!


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