Archive for May, 2009
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I think we’d all agree to that statement, right? I thought so.
So, if someone tells you that there might be some cash sitting around in a state or federal government coffer with your name on it, just waiting for you to stake a claim on it, your first reaction probably involves rolling your eyes while shaking your head. It sounds too good to be true.
In this case, though, we need to remember that the age-old expression with which we started isn’t an absolute. That “probably” is in there for a reason. Sometimes things sound too good to be true AND are. So it is with unclaimed money. There really is a lot of it floating around out there and some of it could belong to you.
That doesn’t mean you should immediately agree to pay someone a few bucks (or a percentage) to find it for you, though. It also doesn’t mean that you should start dialing a number with an 809 area code in search of unclaimed funds.
That’s because many of the “we’ll find your unclaimed money” operations ARE scams. They provide precious little information and no actual money while snagging a bit of your own cash in the process. Others aren’t necessarily scamming anyone, but it’s probably going to be just as easy for you to search for your unclaimed cash yourself than it will be to set up an account with them.
The best way to get your unclaimed money, if it happens to be out there, is to visit the designated state sites that administer these programs. Most of us don’t move from state to state every few weeks, so it’s pretty easy to isolate the places we should look.
You can find a state unclaimed funds program using Google, but here’s an even easier way to get the info. NAUPA provides direct links to every state’s unlcaimed property and funds sites.
The actual process of checking for your potential hidden treasure is fast. You go to the NAUPA site, use it to get to your state site and perform a quick check using your name. I was able to run through the three states in which I’ve lived within about 3 minutes.
And guess what… I found some unclaimed money. An old utility deposit. It only took a few more clicks to print the state’s PDF for making a claim and another couple of minutes to fill it out. I’m now one stamp and a few weeks from the State Treasurer supplying me with a few bonus bucks.
Here’s the way I see it. We live in a pretty complicated world. We make deposits and run up credits and debits all over the place. In time, the volume of these becomes high enough that there is a reasonable likelihood that you’re owed money from an old dormant account that you didn’t officially close, a deposit your forgot to reclaim, or something else.
It doesn’t take long to find out and there’s a decent chance that you do have something coming to you. It’s worth checking. I wouldn’t have bothered to check (my “If it sounds to good to be true…” instinct is strong) if I wasn’t planning to write this post, but now I’m glad I did. I’ll get a check for around $125 because I took the time to run my name through a few government-operated websites.
I didn’t find out that I had a small fortune sitting in a safe deposit box with my name on it, or anything, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with $125, either.
Here’s a common question:
“When can I take money out of my 401k?”
It’s a question that’s been asked more than usual over the past year. Many people are watching 401k balances dwindle due to the big stock market dip while others are dealing with new financial stresses. When times are tight and you’re looking for money, that pile of cash in your 401k looks inviting.
But can you actually start yanking money out of your retirement plan? In some cases, you might be able to do that. In others, you could be stuck. It’s going to depend on your unique circumstances and the 401k policies your employer set up.
You can cash out your 401k when you retire. At that point, you pay the standard income tax rate on the dispersals. Obviously, though, most of the folks asking “When can I take money out of my 4o1k?” already know that they can have it once they retire. They’re more interested in whether or not they can get fast access to that money.
Generally speaking, there are two circumstances that will allow you to actually pull money out of your 401k plan.
First, if you terminate employment, die or become disabled. If you’re canned or finally scream “Take this job and shove it!”, you can get access to the dough. Termination of employment, regardless of whose idea it was, qualifies you to play with your nest egg early. If you die, the funds are available to your heirs. That probably isn’t part of your plan, though. If you become disabled, you can also get to the money. We don’t want that to happen, either, though.
Second, you can often take a chunk of your 401k money if you are experiencing a serious hardship. Many plans have caveats in them that will allow contributors to withdraw a portion of their 401k money under certain specific circumstances. The desire for a better television set does not qualify you for a harship exception. Nor does your bad decision to go on a spending spree with your credit cards. These early-access opportunities are reserved for those who end up facing serious medical bill problems or who may be waiting for the sheriff to come by with that foreclosure notice. If you can’t document a serious emergency, don’t expect to get your money out early. Even if you do, you probably aren’t going to be able to get more than a small percentage of the total funds in the account.
So, if you’re not quitting (or getting laid off) and you’re not staring down the barrel of a financial crisis unrelated to your personal debt obligations, how can you get to your cash?
To be honest, you can’t. Yes, it’s your money. However, in exchange for receiving any employer matching funds and the tax advantages associated with having a 401K, you give up some of your control over the money. It’s yours, but you can’t have it just because you’d like to hit the casinos or pay off the folks at Discover.
You may be able to secure a loan against your 401k, though. You’ll have to pay it back with interest, though. And if you happen to lose your job before repaying the loan, the balance will suddenly become due in full. It’s not a dream scenario to take out a loan this way, but it is sort of a roundabout way of getting your money in your hands. Oh, and you’ll only be eligible for a loan representing a fraction of your total balance.
So, that’s how you can do it. The bigger question is if you should do it at all. Generally speaking, the answer to that is a resounding “no”. They’re going to automatically hold back a percentage to cover the income taxes on your cash out and you’ll also get hit with additional penalties for pawing that cash before hitting retirement age. Usually, that combination of disincentives is reason enough to leave your money in place until you retire.
(NOTE: We keep using the word “usually” for a reason–many of the answers to this post’s questions can only be determined with certainty after carefully reviewing the rules of your specific plan.)
“When can I take money out of my 401k?” When you quit or get fired. When you’re facing a serious economic hardship or when you retire. That’s about it, unless you count taking out a loan.
In the end, however, you’re better off not scrambling your nest egg. Leave your 401k money in place if you can. As Dave Ramsey apparently said:
QUESTION: Chad and his wife have $35,000 in debt between credit cards, student loans and car loans. They bring home $150,000 a year. They also have $25,000 in their 401-K savings. He wants to (pay off his debt). Should they use that money to eliminate their debt?
ANSWER: You should not take the money from your 401-K to eliminate your debt because $14,000 will go to penalties and taxes – that’s 40% of your savings. It’s like taking out a loan with 40% interest to pay off your debt. That’s a bad plan.
Live on less for one year, get on a written budget, and you can have it all paid off in less than a year.
I would never cash out retirement savings to pay off debt unless it is to avoid foreclosure.
DISCLAIMER: I believe in allowing people to spend their money as they see fit. I also reserve the right to question their judgment. I believe that if one makes an incredibly bizarre financial decision that it’s only reasonable for them to expect that someone will comment upon it. I do not hate the wealthy. I am not filled with a sick green envy of the uber-rich. I would never argue that a legal product of any sort should be yanked from the marketplace because I perceive it as stupid.
Why the disclaimer? Because it seems like all sorts of weird side arguments pop up when people talk about the Visa Black Card and I just wanted to make my overall perspective clear before laughing writing about it.
The Visa Black Card, issued by Barclay’s, is a black, carbon graphite credit card designed to compete with American Express’ Centurion Card (which is made of some secret alloy mined on Mars or something). It’s a high-limit card marketed to the high-income crowd (and those who want to pretend to be part of that crowd). It has a few selling points. One of them is the “cool” factor, also known as the silly seeking of over-the-top status symbols that make one appear to be a mega-jerk.
The card itself? Big limit. Interest rate at 9.9% plus prime. A 1% cash back for $1=1 point reward program. You also get occasional random “luxury gifts”, some nice travel benefits and a 24/7/365 concierge service.
The annual fee? $495.
So, for $500 you can get a card that doesn’t have the world’s greatest interest rate and that has a rather ho-hum rewards program. Not a great deal. You can do better.
When I first started paying attention to the black cards and the weird status-seeking creepiness that seemed to go along with them, I thought about that “I Am Rich” iPhone app. That was the $1,000 application you could buy for your iPhone that did nothing but display a spinning jewel and the message, “I Am Rich”. Believe it or not, eight people bought that damn thing.
I was ready to write off the Visa Black Card as just another hollow status item desiged to get the “more cents than sense” crowd excited.
The more I read about it, though, the more I realized that there is a small semgnet of the population who might actually be able to use the card in a manner that justified the extreme annual fee and the other dreawbacks of the card.
That’s because of the concierge service. Having the black card is sort of like having your own concierge on staff. It’s a great way to get things done and I can understand how someone living a remarkably upscale lifestyle could perceive the benefit as worthwhile. AdSavvy does a good job of explaining:
Makes sense. For the ultra-rich, buying whatever you want can get boring; they need the ability to actually do something that other people can’t. A good concierge can do that. You need 12 Arabian horses for your daughters wedding? Call up the concierge, he’ll have them flown in from Dubai. You need a personalized and autographed copy of Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene for your son’s birthday, call up the concierge. The ability to get difficult things done is what sets these cards apart from just a card with a very high limit. Just the knowledge that cardholders have that ability, 24-hours a day, keeps them happy. And that’s what makes this niche so profitable.
I gotta tell you, though, it’s hard for me to take those benefits as seriously as I should when I see so many goobers who behave like Patrick Bateman’s (American Psycho) without the serial killing problem lusting after a tiny piece of carbon graphite. For better or for worse, the black card really is “I Am Rich” for the wallet instead of the iPhone.
If you drop tens of thousands of bucks on your Visa every year and feel the need to be a big shot or have an actual use for a constantly-available concierge, consider the Visa Black card.
And don’t worry if you’re not really in the states “top 1%” category Visa likes to reference. People who aren’t necessarily the best credit risks in the world are getting invitations, too. I doubt Visa will let that get out of hand, though. The whole selling point of the card is its exclusivity and the won’t want to blow that.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to use real cash. Play money can come in handy.
You can use a wad of homemade cash to play board games after you’ve lost the dough that came from Parker Bros. or Milton Bradley. Printable play money comes in handy when your kids want to play “store” but you don’t want to entrust them with the real McCoy. It’s good for teaching kid money-related math. It’s NOT a good idea when you want to buy groceries, though. The Treasury Dept. doesn’t think it’s funny when that happens. In fact, they dislike the idea so much that it can be tough to scan your own money and print it out.
In any case, you might have a need for some play cash. If you do, there are plenty of places to find it. Here are 7 great places to find it online.
Money Instructor. This site has a nice collection of realistic US bills. They’re clearly marked “COPY” and bear the site’s URL. Oh, they also do coins. Paper coins? Sure. They come in handy when you’re trying to teach your youngsters not to fall for that whole “a nickel is bigger than a dime so it must be worth more” trick the big kids always use.
Free Stuff for Kids. These folks have printable play money in a few different denominations. The values are easy to spot and read. The cash looks nothing like the real deal. Totally different, but almost web 2.0-ish. There’s something about the way it looks that I really like.
Printable Play Money. Two different options at this site. You can either print the stuff that has a real look to it, or you can go with the “obviously NOT U.S. currency” look. Either way, you can find printable phony cabbage here.
Activity Village. Here’s another site with the standard paper currency and pages of coins. This one has an advantage, though. It’s not all US money. They do Euros. Get your printable play Euros here.
Disney Dough. If you’re kids are all about the Magic Kingdom, you might want to print out these $1, $5 and $10 bills featuring Disney icons like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and even the Pirates of the Caribbean skull and crossbones.
Festisite. This isn’t really a play money site, per se. It’s actually a cool little app you can use to create phony bills featuring your own photo or someone else’s. You can create bills from a variety of nations. If you wanted to, you could even make a Kazakhi dollar bill with Bernie Madoff’s picture on it. I did. It’s the picture you saw above. Your finished products can be saved as PNG files and you could then opt to print them out. If you want to come up with really fun play money, imagine putting your kid’s face on a $10 bill. Just make sure that mom and dad adorn the big bills so the kids remember who’s boss!
Donna Young. Here’s a good source of play bills in a variety of denominations. They share enough characteristics with the real deal to create some level of recognition in a learning youngster. You can also print each denomination in a different color to make sorting easier.
There you have it. Seven different sites where you can print yourself a small fortune. Lose all your monopoly money? Have a burning desire to put your snapshot on a Euro? Need a printout of coins to help your kids learn how to make change? Get your printable play money now!
When I think of Macy’s, I think of three things other than the big Thanksgiving parade.
First, I think of their current logo scheme and the way they’re branding by emphasizing that big red star. I love it. Yes, it certainly does have a sort of Red China feel about it. I think that’s what I like, though. It’s bold and it’s memorable. Sears can emphasize its “softer side” all day, but Macy’s looks like it’s trying to lead us toward some Great Leap Forward in retail. Love it.
Second, I think of David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” which features a story about working at the world’s biggest Macy’s as one of Santa’s helpers during the holiday season. His recounting of what it was like to play elf at Macy’s is a hoot and a half.
Third, I think of those great Macy’s coupons that can save people a pretty penny. Okay, I really don’t think about that as often as I think about the red star or Sedaris, but I’m thinking about it right now. Macy’s is a popular place to shop and people are digging for coupons. I wouldn’t mind a few myself. They usually have decent stuff there.
If you read my recent post about finding Dillard’s coupons, I have some bad news for you. You can almost replace the word “Dillard’s” with “Macy’s” and you’d have the correct information either way. This is another situation in which the store in question just doesn’t make much of an effort to circulate online coupons.
Instead, they rely on their own website to offer promotions and to advertise special sales. Just like with Dillard’s, you can sign up to get emails from Macy’s alerting you to all the super-bargains that you’ d absolutely hate to miss.
Just like the Dillard’s situation, most of the links you find to “Macy’s coupons” are actually affiliate links to the store’s site. Even some of the most reliable coupon sites out there, like RetailMeNot don’t have much more to do than redirect traffic. That’s just the way it is when the store in question isn’t ga-ga over coupons. So, you’re left in that same position. You can browse Macy’s site on your own or you can rely on a coupon/deal aggregator to point you in the right direction. You pay the same no matter what. Someone else does get a little spiff if you make a purchase, however, if you follow one of those third-party links. It’s your call.
All of that being said, there is one way to find Macy’s coupons online. If you can find a full PDF file of a paper in which the Macy’s folks are advertising, you might just get lucky. Here’s an example. It’s a 10%-20% coupon (depending on what category of stuff you’re buying) that appeared in the St. Pete Times. Unfortunately, those who live outside of the friendly confines of the sunshine state are not going to have much of a chance to use it–it’s valid for Florida stores only.
This little ad sends a big message, though. It means that real-life printed Macy’s coupons exist. You might not be able to find online coupons in a few easy mouse clicks but there is, apparently, room to find some bargains if you’re ready to sort through your paper with a pair of scissors or to read full-copy PDF’s of the Sunday newspaper with a pair of scissors in your hand and a lust for bargains in your heart!
Six Flags Magic Mountain has a lot of stuff to do. I’m sure the food is great. There are undoubtedly some fun shows. There are probably some lazy, enjoyable rides.
But when I think about SFMM, I think about one thing… Nearly urinating my pants and/or vomiting as I’m hurled through time and space, playing nearly impossible games with gravity while locked into a SERIOUS roller coaster. Magic Mountain boasts no fewer than 16 roller coasters that rate either a “moderate” or “max” thrill factor.
If you can stomach the coasters, you can get into Six Flags on the cheap. This LA entertainment tradition does a great job of providing cut-rate ways for families to get into the complex.
Although the printable Six Flags Magic Mountain coupons offered by the State of California last year have expired, you shouldn’t have much problem finding new ones. I wouldn’t be surprised in Arnold didn’t have the state print up another batch for this year. Until the Governator gets his act together, however, I’d recommend starting with a look-see at the Magic Mountain site. They often have some great specials and coupons. It’s pretty common to find “two for one deals” there.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you might want to consider a cool, refreshing Coca Cola. Quenching your thirst can save you some big money, as Magic Mountain coupons frequently appear right on the good ol’ 12 oz. can. SFMM and Coke have a nice little summer vacation symbiosis thing happening, and these offers usually aren’t too hard to find if you’re in the LA area. (Note: The above-referenced link verifies the Coke ads, but it also recommends the old “lick your hand” and share the admission stamp scheme. We don’t advocate sneaking in or entering under false premises here. We’re all about saving money, but we do draw the line before we stray into the realm of criminal activity).
Coke isn’t the only coaster sponsor and Six Flags Magic Mountain coupons also appear at area grocery stores like Ralph’s and at big-name fast food joints like Burger King and McDonalds. All three are worth a look if you’re motivated to get into Magic Mountain on the cheap.
Finding online sources for these coupons isn’t as easy as you might think, however. Even usually reliable sources for great coupons and discounts like CouponMountain can offer little more than a link back to Magic Mountain’s own website. Online coupons do show up occasionally (like the State of CA offering), but not nearly as much as do traditional “hard” coupons.
You can also check for SFMM cupons on eBay. The auction monster is usually overflowing with sales on Six Flags Magic Mountain coupons and discounts. It may cost you a little bit of money this way, but you’ll still be able to net huge savings. Take a good look at the coupons and examine the expiration dates before making a buy, though.
If you’re looking for a summer trip that involves feeling as if you’re strapped to a get engine on rails, don’t pay full price. You might need to work a little harder to find Magic Mountain coupons than you would to save a quarter on a box of Wheaties, but the potential savings are worth the effort. Entertainment is rarely cheap and theme park entertainment has NEVER been cheap. That’s not going to change this summer.
Oh, and if you’re planning to ride The Viper, you might want to consider scheduling your ride before you have a meal. It’s that awesome.
You’re looking for Applebee’s coupons? I’m sorry.
Seriously, consider an alternative eatery. No matter where you live, there is undoubtedly a better option than Applebee’s. Someone else will prepare a better meal.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m not big fan of Applebee’s. Or Chili’s. Or Friday’s. Or any other generic suburban replacement for an actual diner or restaurant. The food is uninspired. Quality takes a backseat to making something that everyone from toddler to senior citizen can comfortably gum without the risk of encountering flavor. Oh, at least one Applebee’s had an issue spreading shigella. Shigella? Seriously, folks.
Oh, and there was that episode in which the lizard corpse mysteriously appeared in a salad. Yum!
But I know something. I know that I could present an ironclad argument against Applebee’s–an attack so honest, fierce and well-developed that no one could overcome it. And even if I did that, some folks would tell me to take a hike as they negotiated their local suburban roads in hot pursuit of boring chicken fingers with equally boring honey mustart dipping sauce (or mega-sweet “BBQ” sauce for the daring).
I don’t understand the appeal of Applebee’s, but they don’t have nearly 2,000 locations because people agree with me. Some folks love it and they’re out there looking for coupons. Who am I to stand in their way, right?
So, here’s the scoop on finding coupons for Applebee’s.
Look locally. The national chain doesn’t seem to offer many online coupons. Local franchises, however, may very well hook you up with a better-than-menu-price deal.
Buy ’em. People find print coupons for Applebee’s every once in awhile and then sell them via eBay and other sites. It may feel strange to pay for a coupon, but if your five bucks will save you ten, it’s a winner.
Check the regular sources. Go ahead and check all of the usual online coupon sites. Once, in a great while, an actual Applebee’s coupon or coupon code will show up. I gotta tell you, though, it’s rare. You’re more likely to find entries that “sound” like coupons but actually end up being nothing more than mentions of Applebee’s national specials, which don’t require anything more than a willingness to show up. Some of these deals are pretty decent—two full meals for twenty bucks, for instance–but they’re not actual Applebee’s coupons, per se.
Stick your hand in the horse’s mouth. You might want to visit Applebee’s website. I have no evidence to suggest that they send subscribers to their email list coupons, but they might. And, if you’re a fan of Applebee’s, you’ll want the information they do provide. They describe their mailings like this:
If you’d like to receive our email updates featuring new menu items, special events, and other news, enter your information below.
If you like the place, you should sign up.
Now, there are a handful of ways to find the coupons you want. Now it’s time to mention a popular offer for a free Applebee’s gift card that is not worth your time or effort.
For whatever reason, Applebee’s has been the repeated target of a scam email that promises readers a gift card in exchange for forwarding the email to a specified number of other people. This offer is compete and utter nonsense. It’s been annoying enoug to the folks at A-bee’s that they’eve even dedicated web space to explain that the whole thing is a hoax. Don’t fall for it!
If I managed to talk you out of eating at Applebee’s (that dead lizard story is at least a little persuasive, I hope), I’m happy to have provided a valuable service.
If you’re still sold on the idea of eating there, I hope that the advice herein can at least save you a few bucks!
Are there really Dillard’s coupons floating around out there? I’m tempted to give a flat-out “no” in response to that question, but there may be a few circulating in local Sunday papers. So, I’ll stop short of saying that.
I will, however, tell you that you’re not going to find any great coupons for the big shopping mall anchor retailer online.
Bad news, I know. But it’s about time that one of the eighty kerbillion web pages referencing “Dillard’s coupons” told you the truth.
Here’s what happens when you search for Dillard’s coupons… You get tons of search results featuring sites that are labeled as if they have Dillard’s coupons. When you actually click on the links for any of those coupons, however, you’re not actually delivered to a coupon. Instead, you’re sent to Dillard’s website–usually to one of their specials or sales.
Now, that’s not a bad thing. Some of their sales are quite good. They often have a great free shipping thing going for online purchases, too. The fact of the matter, however, is that you’re not finding anything you’d be unable to find on your own by browsing Dillard’s site.
So, why are all of these other “coupon” sites providing you with these direct links to Dillard’s offers that anyone can access on their own? They’re making money by delivering customers to the site. It’s affiliate marketing.
If you click on a link at a coupon site and subsequently purchase something from Dillard’s, that referrer is going to get a commission payment for providing the traffic (you). As such, all of these “coupon” sites have a vested interest in making you think that you’re getting some sort of amazing deal thanks to their efforts.
Now, I’m not saying that you should avoid doing things that way. Not at all. Affiliate marketing is a perfectly legitimate enterprise and those sites work hard to get your attention. Many of them do a heckuva job parsing out all of the specials and sales, too, which can make it easier to find a good deal. It’s not like they’re ripping you off or anything.
However, it’s not like they’re providing you with some sort of actual coupon that will provide you with some kind of additional savings, either.
So, if you’re all about cutting out the middle person (remember, though, it won’t save you a dime), you can just cruise on over to Dillard’s sites and do your thing.
My advice? Do whatever makes you feel better. It doesn’t make a difference.
I will say this, though. Some of the sites that are providing those affiliate links to Dillard’s do a great job of providing “real” coupons and savings opportunities for other stores. So, if you frequently save money by using one of those sites, you might want to consider using it to find a good deal at Dillard’s. The commission they’ll get from your purchases can be your little way of thanking them for their good work.
One other note… If you’re worried about missing a great deal at Dillard’s, you can sign up for their email list. They promise to keep subscribers up-to-date about relevant special offers and sales. I’m sure you’ll occasionally receive an email that doesn’t do much for you, but that annoyance will probably be outweighed by getting the scoop on good deals in a timely fashion. It’s still not a source of genuine Dillard’s coupons, but it might be the next best thing. There’s a little spot to sign up on the top of every page at their site.
Sorry I couldn’t lead you to the promised land of 75% off Dillard’s coupons. If they were out there, I’d let you know. The fact of the matter is that the store, unlike competitor JC Penney’s, just doesn’t issue any online coupons. From what I can tell, offline versions are a little scarce, too.
You’ll notice from the title of this post that I personally feel the main attraction of the ubiquitous Red Lobster seafood chain is the fact that they hand out those sorta greasy, sorta cheesy biscuits. Those babies are mmmm, mmmm good. For those counting at home, that’s an 2x4mmmm recommendation, which means they’re really good.
The rest of the food? So-so. If you like your seafood battered, fried or soaked in butter and served as a big ol’ smorgasbord of oceanic goodness, you’re probably a Red Lobster fan. If you’re living in flyover country and can’t get much in the way of fishy chow elsewhere, it’s also an okay choice.
Me? I have this thing about fish. I love it, but will generally order it only when I am within sight of the waters from which it was caught. There’s something that happens when fish goes from fresh, to frozen, to defrosted, to cooked to served that just doesn’t work for me. Again, though, not everyone lives on the coast. Thus, Red Lobster serves an important function. It’s the only seafood contact much of the American interior has.
Red Lobster is generally a pretty affordable joint, all things considered. Yeah, it will cost you more than a trip to Chili’s, Fridays, etc. Those places, however, are more reliant on cheaper and readily-available stuff than is Big Red. When it’s chicken vs. halibut, you can bet that the chicken will cost less.
The nice thing, though, is that you can use Red Lobster coupons to equalize the price points. In some cases, you might net a good enough coupon to make Red Lobster cheaper than its chain-restaurant counterparts.
You can start by heading over to RL’s own wesbsite and signing up for their “Fresch Catch Club“. This is the restaurant’s version of a customer loyalty program. It gives yout the chance to buy gift cards and gift coupons for others, and will also give you access to occasional Red Lobster coupons. They also send you some sort of super-special offer if you decide to celebrate your birthday there.
Once you’ve done that, hit up the online coupon sites like SlickDeals or RetailMeNot. There are many different Red Lobster coupons floating around out there. Some are “buy one, get one” deals, but most are just a flat $4 or $5 off your purchase. That’s enough to make up the difference between a Red Lobster meal and a trip to Applebee’s or some place like that.
There’s something you DON’T want to do when pursuing Red Lobster bargains. Don’t accept a RL gift card when you’re being subjected to a pitch for a travel club or some other similar arrangement. Apparently, the bad guys use this as a way to claim that you’ve used their services and that may contractually entitle them to bill you big bucks. You can read more about this nasty bit of chicanery if you’d like, but the big ol’ takeaway on this one is: Don’t sign anything in order to get yourself some free Red Lobster–or anything else for that matter.
I’ve also seen the $50 Red Lobster card used in those “free” online giveaways. The catch is that you generally have to get involved with some other potentially underhanded business endeavor before you get your card and it’s usually just as sneaky as the travel club gambit. In the immortal words of everyone from your father to Milton Friedman, “There’s not such thing as a free lunch”. Even at Red Lobster.
One last big of advice. Sometimes, they’re sort of stingy with those Cheddar Bay biscuits. Don’t allow that to happen to you. Ask for them. Ask for a second plate, too. They’re the best thing going at RL!
I don’t like going to garage sales. I really can’t think of a more annoying way to spend a weekend morning than rifling through other peoples’ used stuff in search of a bargain on something I probably don’t really need. If I could give the world one piece of garage sale advice, it would be: Stay away.
I’m with Sense to Save on this one:
Some people love the thrill of the hunt, but I don’t like spending a morning going from sale to sale looking for a bargain. I don’t like visiting dud sales, and I feel awkward picking through people’s belongings.
That doesn’t mean I don’t know a few things about garage sales, though. I know quite a bit. That’s because Mrs. Lampsen is an all-out maniac about yard sales and garage sales. She’s passionate about them. I look past my distaste and dutifully accompany her on many bargain-hunting missions.
And I’ve learned a few things in the process. First, that there are a few things you can do to save money at a garage sale. Second, that many people are so excited to get at $5 used piece of Tupperware that they’ll act like complete morons.
I’ve tried to combine these two issues into a single post. Let me tell you how to save money shopping at a garage sale without being annoying. For the sake expediency, we’ll address two points.
Be early. Not THAT early. Everyone knows that it pays to be early for garage sales. Unlike traditional retail stores, the folks peddling their old gear on the front lawn don’t have extensive inventory. If you don’t get there first, you might miss the item you want. So, get there when the sale opens. If the ad says “open at 8”, be there at 8:00.
Don’t be there at 7:30. Resist the urge. If the folks having the sale wanted you there a half-hour early, they would’ve invited you. Those early arrivals are annoying to the people running the sales who are trying to get things set up. Don’t be annoying. You might miss a bargain occasionally, but at least you won’t be a jerk. It’s hard to put a price tag on that.
Consider negotiating. But not on everything. If you’re considering buying a relatively new designer sofa at a garage sale, it makes sense to talk about shaving a little off the price tag. It could make the difference of few hundred bucks for you and it might make the difference between sale and no-sale for the person running the sale. If you’re filling two crates with miscellany, it makes sense to see about striking a deal. You’re a volume customer.
When you see a salt shaker on a table for fifty cents, however, don’t ask if you can get it for a quarter. If you ignore that advice and do haggle over the shaker, don’t put it back on the table after an affirmative response and see if you can score it for a dime. At some point hagglers cross the line between trying to get the most bang for their bucks and being petty, annoying people with whom no one wants to deal.
Now, there are a lot of other things you can do to save a buck at the ol’ yard sale.
BeingFrugal.net has a set of recommendations that lean more toward the logistical aspects of garage sale shopping.
Denise Robinson committed her thoughts about asking for a deal to video.
About.com has a little snippet that reminds us not to let a little filth scare us. You can buy dirty for cheap and then clean the item up.
Maybe I’ll see at the sales on Saturday morning. I’ll be the vaguely annoyed looking fellow with an incredibly enthusiastic bargain shopper for a wife. And we won’t be there 2 hours early.
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