How to Buy Gift Cards for Less

C all me cynical, but I am not all that keen on giving gift cards.  I realize that gift cards have a certain vogue that makes them more appropriate than cash, but I am never quite sure if the recipient will appreciate the chosen vendor or even use the card.  I know that I have received gift cards, put them away “for now”, and then discovered them months or even years later. However, purchasing bargain gift cards is an entirely different story.  Why?  Because, although they can be given as gifts, I prefer to emphasize the “bargain” aspect for the buyer.  If you are going to buy from a certain merchant anyway, why not first buy one (or more) of that merchant’s cards at a discounted price and save yourself some money ? Where do you find these discounted cards?  Although specific bargain cards are sometimes offered through original vendors (especially at holiday time), from reward credit card companies (by cashing in credit card reward points for gift cards instead of cash), and via membership in some warehouse clubs, nearly any gift card can be found second hand.  These pique my interest because, as I already mentioned, I don’t consider a bargain card to be a bargain unless I am already planning to make that purchase from that specific vendor. My Gift Card Experiment Follow along with me as I search for some bargains, but first a disclaimer: in order to make this experiment true to life, I picked actual merchants and bargain card companies.  Please do not infer that I am promoting the vendors or that these bargain card options are necessarily the best.  OK?  Here we go.  Hypothetically, I am going to spend $1500 on new kitchen appliances from Home Depot, $60 to take my wife out to eat at Red Lobster and $20 on some movie tickets from Fandago.  I will be shopping for discounted gift cards at Ebay, Plastic Jungle, Gift Card Granny, and Cardpool. Kitchen appliances from Home Depot Ebay Because Ebay is an auction site, I am avoiding live auctions and considering only the “buy it now” option.  I found an assortment of Home Depot cards with 3% to 7% discounts. Plastic Jungle Plastic Jungle buys and re-sells used cards.   I would need to buy a number of $150 to $200 Home Depot cards, all at 7% discount, to reach my $1,500 goal. Cardpool Like Plastic Jungle, Cardpool buys used cards and re-sells them.  The deduction for Home Depot cards was 7%. Gift Card Granny This site is a brokerage for those wanting to buy and sell gift cards.  Although I couldn’t buy directly from this site, they did all of the hard work of finding the best bargain card deals for me.  Granny also has a sign-up feature which will send out an email notifying me when new discounted cards from specific vendors become available.  This being said, the best discounts I could find were in the 7% range. Conclusion :  I would buy my cards from Plastic Jungle or Cardpool, saving $105 with the 7% discount.  I like the idea of dealing directly with the seller and the fact that both of these sites guarantee their cards and sell only no-fee and no expiration cards.  Also, shipping is free with both. Eating out at Red Lobster Ebay :  There were no “buy it now” Red Lobster gift cards available on E-bay.  The bidding on a $40 card with five hours left in the auction was $34.71. Plastic Jungle did not have any Red Lobster cards available. Gift Card Granny   directed me to a site where I could purchase (through PayPal)  a $60 Red Lobster card for $55.20 – an 8% discount. Cardpool offered Red Lobster cards in $25 increments, all at an 8% discount. Conclusion :  I would opt for the Cardpool offer.  I couldn’t find a bigger discount elsewhere and (as previously stated) I like their guarantees. Movie at Fandango Ebay :  I found a $50 “buy it now” card from a top rated seller for $30.  The seller offered a 14 day return policy. Plastic Jungle offered $25 Fandango cards for $20. Gift Card Granny pointed me to the same Ebay “buy it now” seller mentioned above:  a $50 card for $30. Cardpool offered Fandango cards in $25 increments, all at a 9% discount. Conclusion :  I would take buy the $50 card for $30 from Ebay.  Yes, I realize that I was only planning to spend $20, but the I would go ahead and pay $30 to get the 40% discount. My thoughts Candidly, I was hoping to find more “super deals” on these bargain gift cards.  Still, with a little research and effort, I learned that one can save some bucks with them. Do you purchase discounted gift cards?  Do you give them as gifts or do you use them yourself?  Where do you get the best deals?   Related Articles: How and Where to Find Discounted Gift Cards The worst gift cards to have Gift Cards: How To Manage Them Wisely Visa gift cards: A good idea? Joe Plemon, a retired engineer, financial counselor and blogger, lives in Southern Illinois with Janice, his wife of 40 years. Joe likes online Scrabble, St Louis Cardinal baseball, blues music, power naps, high school football, short term mission trips and Sunday family dinners. You can read more from Joe at Personal Finance by the Book .

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How to Save Money for Just About Anything!

Whether you want to save money for college , a vacation , a wedding , or the latest gizmo to impress your friends, you’re going to need to have a good plan for saving up the money first! Whatever you are saving for, there is a tried and true process for saving money faster than ever and making sure you don’t go spend it on something else! Here are some tips on how to save money for just about anything! The Process of Saving for Anything 1. Know how much money you need to save. This one seems like a no-brainer, but you might be tempted to wing it if the purchase you need to make is of substantial value. For example, if you’re saving for a future college education, you might not count the cost first because of the complexity of adding up all the expenses. After all, there’s tuition to pay, books to buy, a gas tank to fill, room and board to deal with, and random college fees that pop out of nowhere. Yikes! Even though it might be a hassle, it’s recommended that you count the cost of everything involved as best as possible. If you feel you might be missing some expenses, add a bit of extra money to your total; this will help cover any unexpected expenses. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? – Luke 14:28 NIV 2. Know how much time you have. Some purchases need to be made within a certain amount of time. This time limit could be either self-imposed, set by a company, or set by limited supply. Whatever the case, know how much time you have to purchase the item or service you need. This will be important for determining how quickly you’ll need to save up money. Once you know how much time you have to make the purchase, divide how much money you’ll need to save by how many units of time you have. Let’s say a special deal is being offered this year at the car lot and you want to purchase a vehicle for $4,000. You have 8 months left to buy the vehicle at the discounted price, so you obviously have to save up $500 per month – quite a feat, but you could do it if you put your mind to it. Knowing how much money you will need to save in a certain amount of time gives you a tangible goal that you can try and hit. While this is elementary in nature, the problem is that so many people just don’t do it! Okay, so you know how much you’ll need to save in a certain amount of time. What’s next? 3. Create a separate fund for your savings goal. One problem people run into when saving for something is that the money they intended to save for a specific goal gets spent on other things. How does this happen? Well, the money that they separate in their minds gets lost in their bank account. In order to effectively hang onto the money you’ve intended for a certain purchase, you have to create a separate fund for your savings goal or write down how much you’ve saved. A great way to save for specific goals is by using SmartyPig.com . SmartyPig allows you to create savings goals and track your progress. What’s awesome about SmartyPig is that you can actually type in how much you need to save and how much time you have to reach your goal. As discussed previously, these are important things to consider when saving money. You may instead choose to use software for designating your savings goals. In this way, you can “virtually” save up money for a goal without separating it out from your standard checking or savings accounts. How You Can Save Money Quickly 1. Use the power of focus. Instead of having multiple savings goals, try focusing on one goal at a time. Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps follow this suggestion, pushing you to focus on one financial goal and then moving on to the next. This intensity will help you achieve your savings goals faster. 2. Turn your spending into savings! One way to save some extra money without changing your purchasing habits is to use a cash back debit card from PerkStreet . We’re currently making over $300 a year without changing the way we’re spending our money, and that simply rocks; wouldn’t you say? 3. Make some extra money and discover new ways to save. Bob has written some great articles on how you can make some extra cash quickly: 15 Ways to Make $200 Quick – This one compiles some of the best ideas in the blogosphere. It’s a must read. 20 Best Ways to Save Money by NOT Being Normal – The one has some great ideas on how you can save money by making some [not normal yet doable] changes in your life. There you have it. You can save money for just about anything!  With a little planning you’ll be well on your way to reaching your savings goals and enjoying the fruits of your labor. Are you ready? What are you saving for? Leave a comment below and let us know your progress! Related Articles: How to Attend College Debt Free! How Do You Save Money for a Replacement Car? How to save money with coupons What Is The Easiest Way to Save Money? Automate it! John Frainee is a personal finance writer at TheChristianDollar.com . His goal is to provide biblical financial principles that encourage people to live healthier lives. Beyond personal finance, John enjoys spending time with his wife and two crazy cats, playing a competitive game of Monopoly, and reading just about anything he can get his hands on. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook .

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7 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store Without Using Coupons

How many times have you heard that you could save thousands of dollars if you just clipped coupons? While that might be true over a long period of time, there are certain disadvantages to clipping coupons such as the time it takes to do so. Have you ever wondered if there are ways to save money at the grocery store without using coupons? Well, there are plenty of ways! Let’s explore a few of the best money saving tips. How to Save Money at the Grocery Store Without Clipping Coupons You, yes you , can use these methods. Some of them are going to take more time then others, so choose what’s best for your individual situation. Here we go! 1. Look high, look low. Grocery stores hire professional marketers to place their most expensive products in the places you’re most likely to look first. Unknowingly, we fall into their trap by taking the first thing we see without shopping for the best bargain. Many times, expensive goods are placed at eye-level where you’ll most naturally reach. Instead, look high and low. Don’t look eye-level, or you might grab some of the most expensive items they have to sell. Try store brands – you’ll save money! 2. Visit multiple stores. Thankfully, my wife has the amazing ability to remember prices at multiple stores. Perhaps you have the same ability. Shopping at several local grocery stores can save you some money if you have a good grasp on market prices. But don’t forget to strategize your trip, as gas prices might hurt your wallet and shopping around might not be so beneficial after all. 3. Compare cost per unit between items. I’m a fan of Goldfish Crackers. They’re absolutely delicious! So when I saw a bag in front of me I almost grabbed it. But then, down low, was a massive box of the delicious delights. We compared the cost per unit between the box and bag and found that we saved quite a small fortune buying in bulk. You can do this with anything you’re purchasing at the grocery store. In fact, many grocery stores have cost per unit price tags right below the actual price of the item. Look for the fine print – that’s where the cost per unit is typically posted. 4. Close your eyes at the checkout. I know that if I don’t intentionally advert my attention at the checkout line, I’ll be drawn to the chocolate. Just about every grocery store I’ve been to has chocolate right there staring you in the face when you are standing in the checkout line. That tempts me. How about you? The best thing you can do is keep your eyes focused on the card swiper or your own grocery cart. Every little bit of money you save sure adds up! 5. Don’t take the kids! We’ve all heard them: screaming kids in the grocery store asking for the very chocolate we (secretly) want ourselves. Why do we bring our young children to the grocery store? We know that they are also going to be marketed to, so perhaps we should leave them home. Understandably, this isn’t an option all of the time, and the age of your child should be a consideration. 6. Sign up for grocery store memberships or use a cash back debit card. Some grocery stores have memberships that will put “coupon-like” savings right on your membership card. You’ll receive ads in the mail and all you have to do is take your membership card to take advantage of the savings. Another option is to use a cash back debit card. We’ve found that we’re saving over $300 per year using our cash back debit card from PerkStreet Financial . Something to consider! 7. Make a good old fashioned grocery list! That’s right! Making a grocery list is still a great way to save money. Not a fan of pen and paper? Try making the list on your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry device! Whenever you come up with something to add to your grocery list, you’ll have your phone right with you to jot it down – er – type it out! What are some ways that you save money at the grocery store without using coupons? Leave a comment below! Related Articles: 7 Ways to Save Money Grocery Shopping Rising Food Prices: 8 Common Sense Ways to Fight Them! How To Save Money On Groceries – 13 Tips How to save money with coupons John Frainee is a personal finance writer at TheChristianDollar.com . His goal is to provide biblical financial principles that encourage people to live healthier lives. Beyond personal finance, John enjoys spending time with his wife and two crazy cats, playing a competitive game of Monopoly, and reading just about anything he can get his hands on. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook .

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