I'm always plotting. If that hasn't become apparent to you, well then you're either new or not paying attention.
Basically, my mind is usually in a default setting of "deal-searching" or "money-saving." I'm always concocting new (to me) ideas on how we can cut back or spend less.
In case you haven't already guessed, I'm fairly proud of this latest one! I call it "Cheapifying gifts." Because this is my blog and I can make up words if I want.
There are great rewards programs out there, like MyPoints. They help defray the cost of gifts (either for yourself or for others) and may even let you get things for free. Always good.
But there are other ways to shrink costs. These may not be monumental savings, but every little bit counts. More importantly, these tricks cost nothing. Some of you may already have the tools on your blog pages.
It's true that, as a smaller blog, I probably won't make tons of cash through affiliate marketing. But have you considered that I can actually save myself money through it?
I've already mentioned this, but, to reiterate, Tim is just dying to get an annual subscription to the Marvel online comic section. Basically, for the equivalent of $5/month, he'll be able to read exclusive, web-only Marvel comics and can go into the "vault" and access any comic Marvel has ever published.
This is ideal for him because he doesn't have to store the comics or bring himself to throw any out. He can just point, click, read. No clutter, and it's a present he can enjoy all year round. (These were his very reasoned arguments for the present. You have to admit, he covers all the angles.)
Now, hypothetically speaking, if I were to get Tim this subscription -- and I know you're reading this Tim and I'm not promising anything -- I could follow my own ad and get 6% back. (I already checked with the program manager, and it's completely kosher.) So that lowers the cost by $4.20.... hypothetically, of course.
Additionally, like many bloggers, I have an Amazon store. I also have a few gift ideas that revolve around books. If I follow my own link, I stand to get upto 7% back.
I'm especially proud of this idea because I am cashing in MyPoints to get gift cards. So if this works, I'll get up to $7 back without actually spending any money.
Cash back programs
Plenty of you are already signed up to rewards programs like MyPoints or Inbox Dollars, or even BigCrumbs. So, like me, you may have assumed that Ebates is pretty much the standard cash-back-for-shopping deal.
I just signed up for this program, and I have to say, the merchant list is a lot more extensive than Inbox Dollars or even MyPoints.
In addition, there are merchants the other programs don't have. Plus, Ebates has a section for merchant coupons and a section where you can get cash back for buying gift cards!
I'm buying at least one gift magazine subscription, which will get 26% cash back through Ebates for a savings of $4.41.
Tim has a gift idea that his family can share. (Sorry, can't name it. His mom has pledged to start reading the blog. I'm a stickler for surprise.) But it's something we can get at Target -- which means we can get it using a MyPoints card. And we'll get $2 back from the purchase.
Combined with the affiliate marketing savings from above, that's almost $18 back from my holiday shopping! (And, I might add, technically, I will only have spent about $70-80.)
The one caveat here is that Ebates only pays quarterly. So you won't get any money back into your hand until February 15. (That's for any purchase made before December 31.) But the cashout amount is only $5.01, which is pretty easy to attain in just a couple of transactions.
If you haven't yet signed up for Ebates, go check it out. If you follow this link, you'll get a $5 referral bonus (just like I will). This won't be credited to either of us until you make your first purchase through Ebates.
A few points to consider
First -- and I can say this from personal experience -- before you buy anything online, look through your programs. I've missed out on a lot of MyPoints over the years, simply because I haven't checked to see whether a store was a participating merchant. You kick yourself for days afterwards. Much easier to take a minute to check the site.
Second, you should check among your programs to find the deal that is best in your interest. When there are good online sales, I often buy Tim's Body Shop products through MyPoints. I thought 3 points per dollar was a nice little bonus. But now I know Ebates will give me 5% back for any purchase.
I had to figure out which was better; so I compared the two. On a $50 purchase, Ebates would return $2.50. MyPoints would give me 150 points. Since it takes 1200-1400 points to get a $10 gift card, that means the MyPoints equivalent is just over $1. Pretty clear choice, eh?
Third remember that many products are available at various stores. So if you're thinking about buying something through Wal-Mart (1% back), consider checking Target (4% back) to see if the price is comparable.
Finally, you should keep an eye out for special promotions. There are times when some merchants will offer double points -- or a lump-sum of points for a specific purchase. That may change the balance. And for CyberMonday, several of Ebates' stores were offering double their usual cash back. In other words, never assume that things stay the same.