Ebates—an Awesome Way to Build a Cash Stash

I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience including the time I demonstrated how to do it, on location, live on TV from a large supermarket.

It’s a great way to save money but it’s a lot of work and limited mostly to grocery and drug stores.

Imagine a world where you had the equivalent of a big stack of coupons for all the other places you spend money—like Target, Amazon and Kohl’s, Groupon, Old Navy, even LifeLock.

You do and it’s called Ebates.

Young man using internet computer and counting coins at home. Asian man relaxed and sitting on sofa indoor.

What it is

At Ebates, instead of presenting a coupon, you have a digital account that earns you cash. Think of it as the grocery store clerk handing you that 25 cents when you bought the can of soup with a $.25 coupon and you putting that quarter straight into a savings account.

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With My Sincere Apologies to Pawn Shops Everywhere

In the wake of America’s big economic wake-up call back in 2008, dollar stores and thrift stores saw, and continue to see, a big resurgence. And now another kind of retail quasi-lender is commanding all kinds of attention from sellers and buyers, too—pawn shops.

I admit to having grown up with a weird bias against pawn shops. To me, pawn shops were just one level above Vinny the Loan Shark operating illegally in some dark alley in the bad part of town just waiting to break some knees.

pawn-shop-stereotype-great-white-loan shark

Where did that come from? I have no idea really, but let me quickly follow by saying it is a most faulty stereotype.

Pawn shops are respectable businesses that offer a viable service in many communities. And these days, thanks in part to Rick Harrison, whose family owns the Gold and Silver Pawnshop in Las Vegas and stars in the History Channel’s Pawn Stars—one of my personal favorites— business is booming.

What it is?

A pawn shop, owned and operated by a licensed pawnbroker, makes secured loans on personal property left in the broker’s possession to be held as collateral. The property can be redeemed by the customer when the loan plus a finance charge (think: interest plus per-month service charge) is repaid.

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How to Save Yourself From a Foolish Purchase

I wish I had a dollar for every stupid purchase I’ve made in my life. I’d have quite a stash. Regrettably, my financial faux pas have been remarkable in both quantity and quality. I’ve made some real doozies.

Young-woman-hitting-her-head-in-an-act-of-regret-for-having-made-a-very-foolish-purchase

Here’s one: Purchasing on credit an above-ground, 7,000-gallon inflatable swimming pool. On a whim. At a Home and Garden Show. For the kids, of course.

Its à la carte price was bad enough. Adding everything required but not included took it from barely reasonable to absolutely ridiculous.

First, there was a heater and filter. Then, a cover, chemicals, and test kit. We needed search and rescue equipment (this was one monstrosity of a pool) and a few necessary pool toys. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost of eventually getting rid of the albatross.

Let me put it this way: There is not a lively secondary market for this kind of thing. If I’d had the courage to consider the consequences of such a major purchase before making the decision to buy, we could have avoided a five-year industrial-strength headache and saved one huge pile of dough.

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February is the Best Time to Buy These 9 Things

You probably know that certain things are cheaper at certain times. Whether you’re shopping online or prefer a brick and mortar store, there is often a “best time to buy.” Check out the nine items below that are typically great bargains in February.

best-time-to-buy

 

Televisions

Most stores that sell televisions offer deep discounts on TVs during February because new TV models start arriving in stores in March. The pressure’s on for them to clear out last year’s inventory to make room for the newer models.

Your next opportunity for a killer deal on a TV will be in November as TVs are frequently included in Black Friday sales.

How about: TCL 55″ 4K HDR 120Hz CMI Roku Smart LED TV on Sale for $369.99 at Target.

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Super Reliable and Easy Way to the Compare Prices of Toilet Paper

Over the years I’ve received thousands of money-saving tips from readers—many of which I’ve shared in books, newsletters and this column. And there are plenty that I’ve not shared for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they don’t work.

Some don’t work so poorly, they actually end up costing time and money, not saving anything. One of those tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:

Toilet paper

“Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and a new roll of 2-ply toilet tissue. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet tissue, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create—ta-da!—two rolls of paper for the price of one.”

Not only does this take an unbelievable amount time, unless you own a toilet tissue rolling machine of some kind, the result is a ginormous, ridiculous mess of toilet tissue that is so thin, it takes at least twice as much to get the job done.

Don’t do that, OK? Instead, learn how to comparison shop for toilet tissue. And when you find it on sale at a great price, which means much lower than its regular price—not simply a SALE sign, stock up.

No standard

Comparing prices on toilet paper is confusing because no two rolls or packages are alike. There are no set standards for toilet paper (and I’m not suggesting there should be). We can’t compare roll-for-roll because roll sizes vary from one manufacturer to another.

Some companies offer double-rolls, jumbo rolls or even 1000-sheet rolls—all of which are pretty meaningless when trying to make a reasonable price comparison. Same with comparing the number of sheets per roll.

There is no set size for a sheet of toilet paper! To make things even more confusing, some rolls are 2-ply (layers), super ultra-plush with 3-ply while others a skimpy 1- or sometimes referred to as single-ply.

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January is the Best Time to Buy These 9 Things

Worried you missed out on all the After Christmas sales? Well, dry your tears because some of the best sales of the year are going live in retail and online stores everywhere.

January is the ideal time of the year to buy these nine things:

January is the Best Time to Buy Linens

Bedding and Towels

White sales traditionally show up in January. Expect big discounts on most bedding, bath, and home essentials. Stores can often offer from up to 50% off to up to 75% off select bedding, bath, and other items during a white sale. Here are the types of items you’ll likely see at white sales:

  • Sheets
  • Pillows
  • Bedspreads
  • Duvets
  • Towels
  • Home decor
  • Furniture

Calendars

Most everyone starts a New Year with resolutions and intentions to get his or her life in order, but if you can stay organized until mid-January without a calendar, expect to save over 50% on most calendars and planners.

Gym memberships

Most people include getting physically fit on their list of New Year’s resolutions, which is why January is a great time to sign up for a gym membership. If the past is any indication of the future you can expect gyms to waive extra fees (which can add an extra $10 to $100 to your annual membership), offer free trials, or give discounted rates to new members in January.

Fitness equipment

After the holidays and when New Year’s resolutions are still in force, stores will start to lure customers in with sales. Expect huge deals from 30% to 70% off.

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Wishing You Many Happy Returns

The sweater didn’t fit right, the color was all wrong. You already have a singing bass on a plaque and the “Puppies in a Basket” throw pillow—gifts received and much appreciated—are not quite right in your mid-century modern pad.

For whatever reason, if you need to return a gift, follow these simple tips to make sure all your returns are happy. 

Gift-return-line-in-Retail-Store

Try to get the receipt

Things will go more smoothly if you can get the gift receipt from the giver. 

Act immediately

Sure the singing bass cost $98 before Christmas, but if it’s marked down to $8.13, assume that’s the amount you’ll get in return. 

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19 Hobby Lobby Money-Saving Hacks, Tips, and Tricks

I was late to the party but somehow managed to catch up quickly. While Hobby Lobby has now expanded to California, I’d never stepped foot into one of the more than 800 stores until moving to Colorado.

How I lived for the greater part of my life without Hobby Lobby remains a mystery. Remarkably, somehow I survived.

Hobby Lobby Store Thornton CO

Hobby Lobby is basically an arts-and-crafts heaven but also includes hobbies, picture frames and framing; jewelry making, fabrics, floral and wedding supplies, cards and party ware, baskets, wearable art, home accents and holiday merchandise. And let me tell you, this company runs a tight ship.

Generally, the prices at Hobby Lobby are good. But if you know the secrets—these hacks, tips, and tricks—you’ll never pay the full price on anything at Hobby Lobby again. And you’ll routinely be saving 50% (sometimes up to 90%).

Know the Hobby Lobby Sale Schedule

Just about everything in the store goes on sale for 50% off at some time or another. Knowing how to anticipate those sales is the secret for saving big.

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