I love a good sale. Who doesn’t? Why pay full price when you can get an item for 10% – 50% off? How about combining a coupon with a sales price? Even better!
What if we could get an even deeper discount? That’s what we’re going to discuss today. There are ways that you can save an additional 5% – 35% at your favorite stores with very little effort.
If It’s Simple, Why Not Save More?
I’m a penny pincher. I only spend $2 per day on food, about $6 per month on phone service, and I even created a spreadsheet to determine the best deal on paper products. There’s no other explanation – I’m cheap and proud of it. But, I tend to focus my energy on savings that are relatively simple. I don’t have to work all that hard in return for substantial savings.
In fact, there are times where I purposely decide not to save money. I’m not willing to become an extreme couponer, even though the results are proven, because it takes too much time and effort. I’m not willing to turn the heat down to 60 degrees in the winter, even though I know the savings would be substantial, because it’s not worth the sacrifice in my mind. If Wal-Mart decided that it was going to start offering 10% coupons online I would be ready and willing to print one out. But, if they decided that they were only going to allow people to print them off from 2:30 am – 2:45 am EST, I would have to pass. I need my sleep and 10% isn’t worth it to me. Although…maybe I could just have my wife print it out since there’s a good chance she’ll be up with our 6 month old son anyway. Yeah, that sounds better.
So, simplicity is key. And that’s why I use this system.
How to Purchase Discount Gift Cards
Here’s the scoop. By now most people know that you can purchase gift cards at a discount online. Ebay is littered with new and used gift cards alike. Some are sold auction style and others are available with the “buy it now” option. I will usually check ebay really quick before making a gift card purchase just to ensure that I’m not leaving money on the table, but there are two websites that I like much more for buying gift cards at a discount.
Plastic Jungle is a website that specializes in buying and selling discount gift cards. Unlike ebay, there’s no extra fluff. Everything is organized well and laid out right in front of you, so that there’s no big hide and seek game involved. There are no fees and no expiration dates on the gift cards, and they guarantee the validity of the card, so there’s no risk involved. It’s a real gift card just like the ones you get from Grandma every year on your birthday.
Here are just a few examples of the deals they currently offer:
Applebees – 13% off
Barnes and Noble – 14% off
Home Depot – 7% off
JC Penney – 26% off
Starbucks – 9% off
Cardpool and Plastic Jungle are very similar. They have similar layouts, are both very easy to use, and offer no fee, no expiration date, fully guaranteed gift cards.
Here are just a few examples of the deals they currently offer:
AMC Theaters – 16% off
Gap – 12% off
JC Penney – 28% off
J0-Ann Stores – 16% off
Kohl’s – 12% off
Pier One – 18% off
Red Lobster – 8% off
Here’s a quick video tutorial of how to use Cardpool and Plastic Jungle.
Why Pick Just One?
Here’s what I do. Instead of choosing just one of these two sites to browse when I’m looking for a good deal, I quickly check both. You may have noticed that Plastic Jungle offers 26% off of JC Penney gift cards and Cardpool offers a 28% discount. On the other hand, you can find a 16% Old Navy discount at Plastic Jungle rather than 11% at Cardpool. So, you can see that sticking to only one of these websites would be a waste of money when it only takes seconds to check them both.
An Example of the Possible Savings
Let’s say that you routinely shop at Kohl’s and there’s this jacket that you’ve been eyeing for some time. It’s normally $50, and because it makes your heart go pitter-patter, you feel as though $50 would be well worth it.
However, you also have a coupon for 15% off your purchase, so there’s no need to spend $50 when you can spend $42.75 instead.
But, wait…there’s more! Instead of buying it immediately, you summon your inner frugal fashionista and decide to wait until it’s on sale, knowing that coupon + sale = big savings. At last the jacket is 30% off, which brings the total (with the coupon too) to $29.75. You could purchase it now OR…
You could purchase a discount gift card to receive an additional 12% off. Now, instead of buying the jacket for $29.75, you can save an additional $3.57 and buy it for only $26.18! Sale + Coupon + Discount Gift Card = EXTRA good deal.
Just as grocery coupons aren’t a good deal if the food you’re buying is going to rot in the fridge, and fantastic garage sale finds are actually a waste of money if you don’t need the item to begin with, buying gift cards at a discount is only a good deal if you were going to shop at that store anyway. It could be tempting to purchase a Pier One gift card for 18% off, but if I already have 15 oversized mugs in my cabinet, an 18% discount will end up being an 82% waste of money.
The 4 best occasions to buy discount gift cards
1. You shop at that particular store all the time. If I could find better deals on Wal-Mart gift cards I would buy a ton of them since that’s usually where we buy our groceries. Unfortunately, Cardpool only offers a 2% savings and Plastic Jungle doesn’t currently have any cards at all. I’ve found Wal-Mart cards on ebay before for 5%, but overall they’re a tough find.
However, if you find yourself wandering into Old Navy or Bed Bath and Beyond at least once a month, why not save a little extra money? The cards don’t expire. Even small discounts like Walgreens (currently 5%), Target (3%), or Sears (6%) can help if you would definitely use them.
2. You’re planning a specific purchase in the future. I need to reshingle a section of my roof in the next few months. My dad and I are planning on taking on the project ourselves, so I know I’m going to be making more than a couple trips to Home Depot this summer. In that case, I might as well buy a gift card or two and save an additional 7% on my purchase. Let’s say I spend $1000 in supplies. A 7% discount is a $70 savings. Not too shabby.
3. It’s Aunt Josephine’s Birthday. You could purchase a gift card on its own, so that Aunt Jo can pick out her own goodies, or you could use the card to purchase something special. It’s up to you.
4. It’s Date Night. My wife and I tend to go out to eat much less than the average couple. First of all, we’re homebodies. Secondly, we’d rather spend $0.50 – $1.00 on a delicious, homemade meal rather than spend $20.00 on a delicious, restaurant meal. But even we head out to paint the town red every once-in-a-while. In that case, 16% off AMC theaters and 20% off Uno’s Chicago Grill sounds pretty good to me.
What About Selling Your Old Gift Cards?
Either of the websites that I mentioned will purchase gift cards from you as long as they still have at least a $25 balance. Obviously, you will be paid much less than the remaining balance in most cases. The steeper the discount for you to purchase a card, the steeper the discount they will expect when buying it from you. For example, Plastic Jungle will give you “up to 96.6%” for your Target gift card, but will only award 78.75% for Applebees and 57.75% for Lucky Brand Jeans.
Buying discount gift cards is a simple way to save a little extra money, as long as you do so responsibly. It takes a bit of planning, but that’s what frugal living is all about. Planning makes perfect…or in this case perfect sense.
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Gift Card Photo via 401K on Flickr