Posts Tagged ‘Coupons’

August 26, 2012

Discounts Ahoy!

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

I predict Amazon Prime is going to save us money in the long run even though I don’t expect I would have paid for expedited shipping frequently. Prior to baby, I never previously paid for expedited shipping. I was the gal who would hunt for additional items so my shopping cart would hit that magical $25 to avoid shipping costs. I was buying extra stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. (Ask me how useful that spaghetti measurer is sometime.) With prime, everything ships free with no minimum order. That means I can use camelcamelcamel.com to wait for price drops, and I don’t have to worry about filling my shopping cart when they occur. I’m really looking forward to testing this combination out for Black Friday! Price alerts & free shipping? Sign me up! The combination of camelcamelcamel and AmazonMom has already saved me $14 in under two months. I’m well on my way to recouping the cost of membership.

A report last year linking prime membership to greater spending, causing some to speculate that prime entices customers to spend more. Sure, that’s possible. I know in my case, however, I signed up for prime because I anticipated increase in shopping with the arrival of our daughter. I guess it’s just one more case where correlation does not imply causation, or at least the causal relationship in this case is the reverse of what was predicted.

Another good source of discounts I’ve been taking advantage of lately came with my maternity clothes purchase. I purchased about half of my clothes online from Motherhood Maternity during one of their spring sales. Turns out they send you a set of coupons with each purchase that includes $20 off from Shutterfly, and 25% off a $40 purchase from Carters among others. Well, apparently my order got split into two shipments so I received two sets of coupons! I used one set of $20 off Shutter fly for birth announcements. Each one ended up costing me 46 cents including tax & shipping! Yes, that’s only 1 cent more than the cost of the postage. I plan on using my second $20 off coupon for the canvas print I’ve been wanting.

As for carters, I ordered the next size up in baby clothes a few weeks ago – 9 onesies and a sleep and play averaging $4.50 each! The sleep & play was the most expensive, but totally worth it. It’s a glow in the dark skeleton. Nicki will 3 and a half months by Halloween, but I think there’s a good chance she’ll still be in the 0-3 month size given that it’s a little just two months away. I also figure we’ll get more use out of it earlier in October than November.

I wouldn’t go out and purchase maternity clothes just for these coupons. Shutterfly routinly does a $10 off $20 purchase, and carters does a 20% off $40 purchase. But they were a nice add on, that amounted to an additional $24 in savings on things I was going to buy anyway.

March 20, 2012

Extra Hoops for Discounts

I’m still not the best with couponing. While I have been using them more and more, I tend to stick to the Catalina coupons and online coupons. It’s just much less time consuming, and with being a full time student and mom-to-be, time is a precious thing to waste!

I’ve noticed couponing is becoming more popular. With TLC shows like Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates, saving is becoming more main stream. The changing face of couponers is causing some retailers to change the way they offer coupons.

Printable Coupons

Many retailers now require consumers to install an executable and browser plugins on their computers in order to print coupons online. According to the terms of use on some of these sites, the executable is designed to control the distribution of coupons, and enforce number limits. At least in the few websites I’ve read, the executable will not be used for passive consumer tracking on other sites. However, most companies reserve the right to change their terms of use, and not all coupon websites may be so honorable.

Retailers often use coupons and loyalty cards to track their customers. I’ve noticed the coupons I use change as I use them. It does make sense; the discount is in exchange for being able to learn something about their consumer base. In addition to consumer loyalty, retailers also gain valuable insights that they can use to increase their profits. This trade-off is fair in my book. Loyalty cards and coupons only track customer data at purchase time at the store associated with them. Visa and mastercard release statistics of their consumers cross retailer, but it’s usually aggregated and not tied to individuals at a personal level. Again, it’s strictly purchase data. Monitoring my non-purchasing behavior feels like a privacy violation, and with the trend of dynamic pricing could end up costing me.

My second problem with executables is that they are not always written well. Even if there’s nothing intentionally nefarious, a poorly designed script can cause a host of computer problems, which can end up costing me a lot more in the long run. Of course, there are always some bad guys out there. When looking to join coupon network, I ran across a site masquerading as one of the coupon distributions with an unsigned executable. In the internet world, that’s a big red flag!

So to avoid future problems, Domingo and I set up a virtual machine (VM). A VM is a program that simulates running a different computer. You can think of it like having a new, separate, computer inside your current computer. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. I use the same VM for couponing, so the coupon website can easily enforce their prinit limits just as they would if I wasn’t using a VM. A program installed within the VM will not affect my main computer, so if I accidently install a virus, my main computer with all my personal data is safe. Lastly, since I only use the VM for couponing, I can’t be tracked as I visit social networks, or read the news.

Social Sharing of Purchases

Another trend some retailers are experimenting with is social sharing, by encouraging consumers to post about their recent purchases to social networks. Walmart was testing the idea of offering additional discounts to consumers willing to post about their recent purchases on facebook. Amazon also allows you to post about your recent purchases as well, but without a discount. Even turbo tax let’s me “share” that I’ve finished my tax return. From a retailers perspective, social recommendation can influence new customers to make similar purchases. From a consumer perspective, it’s spam on my facebook wall.

The idea of posting to facebook – and thus my entire social network of colleagues, family, and even acquaintances – feels extremely personal to me. It’s true that I do often talk about things I’m interested in purchasing here, but a lot of that is wishful thinking or discussing ways to save. I even venture a hope that some of my online rambling may even be useful to someone out there. I don’t mind stating how frugal to anyone who asks. Posting it to facebook is like standing up at a family reunion with a bull horn announcing my grocery list.

Another form of social sharing are those check-in coupons, wherein a consumer “checks-in” via a mobile app, like foresquare to get coupons. Such over sharing is not consequence free, as Please Rob Me showed, by highlighting the public feeds of people who were stating they were not home.

I’m not sure how I will handle this. For now, I’m opposed to posting where I am, or what I’m purchasing, even if it means giving up on a few discounts. It’s been suggested that I create a fake facebook account, so I can “share” without sharing. While I certainly could do that, it feels indigenous. Unlike using a VM for installing executables, creating fake social media accounts would be going against the stated purpose of the companies offering these check-in coupons.

February 20, 2012

My Coupon Identity

There’s an article that’s been making its rounds through the news groups I follow. It’s about how Target’s advertising algorithms were able to predict a teenage girl was pregnant, before she told her family.

Target looks at shifts of patterns in shopping behaviors as clues. For example, pregnant women are often sensitive to certain scents. If I woman stops buying regular lotion in favor of fragrance free, it may be because she’s pregnant. Target uses several clues before it makes any assumptions, and offers coupons in hopes to attracting the mom-to-be to use target as her baby store. Of course there are other ways of predicting pregnancy. If a person issues query about pregnancy to search engines, or likes baby products, there’s a possibility that he or she may be anticipating a little bundle of joy.

This is interesting to me on multiple levels. My research at school includes interest modeling for advertising, and I am a big data mining geek. And, of course, there’s my interest in dynamic pricing. I’m can’t help but be curious what these advertising models think about me. I’m ‘out’ on facebook; I’ve posted several baby related statuses. I search google for pregnancy related information all the time. I’ve purchased maternity clothes at Target (that should be a much bigger clue than buying fragrance free hand lotion.) I should be rolling in pregnancy/baby ads.

So far, nada.

Actually, it’s worse than nothing. The ads on my Facebook page are for fertility clinics. GMail is a little better, at least I’ve seen a 529 Plan (college savings account) advertised. Of course in the same batch of ads I also got a bridal shower invitation advertisements, which, given that we’re approaching our second anniversary, would be an awfully late shower. In fairness to Facebook, they have relevant ads as well, just nothing baby related.

The theme appears to be focusing on the long term past too much. At one point I was planning a wedding, and trying to get pregnant. Bridal shower invitations and fertility clinics would have been more useful then. But life changes and what was once relevant does not necessarily stay relevant.

By the way, if you’re curious what google thinks you’re interested in, they have a handy utility.

October 9, 2011

For Coupons’ Sake

I love a good deal. Often that means scouring the clearance rack, or buying in the off seasons. When shopping online, I also do a search first for discount and coupon codes. (You’d be surprised how many student discounts there are out there!) So you would think I would be a couponer too, right? Well, not so much.

I’ve shied away from coupons for a couple of reasons. We’re picky on what we eat, and I had an impression that most grocery coupons are for junk and processed food, not produce and meats. Then there’s the effort to reward ratio. Most coupons are for 50 to 75 cents off. I’ll be the first to admit every little dollar adds up, but If it takes me three hours to find five coupons I’d use, I really have to ask myself if it’s worth it.

Still, it’s hard to claim I’m frugal if there’s a saving avenue I know I’m ignoring. And I know there are good coupons out there. I’ve been using the 20% off one item coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond, and the 40-50% off for Michaels. In fact, I never go to either of those two stores without a coupon in hand! There are bound to be other good deals, for more than just pennies.

So this weekend I started couponing. To keep from getting overwhelmed, I through out any circular for a store we don’t visit. (Aside from saving time, multiple store visits will increase gas consumption.) I also throw away any coupons for products we’re not interested in. After all, the goal is to save on items we’d by anyway, not be persuaded into buying more stuff.

This week I used a target grocery coupon, $5 off a $50 purchase. That was nice, since target grocery does have a variety of healthy options. Interestingly, after using the coupon today, the register popped out a catalane coupon, $7 off a $75 purchase. Now, sure that could have been a coincidence, but I doubt it. Retailers use coupons to track customers. Given the timing, I bet the $7 coupon was an attempt to see if I would spend more money ($75 instead of $50) in pursuit of a bigger reward. Not convinced? In the same purchase I used a $1.50 off Starbucks Via coupon, and received a $3 off two Starbucks Vias. Another bigger reward for spending more.

A while ago I posted about online retailers estimating a customer’s worth, and setting prices accordingly. I didn’t like that phenomena because I wasn’t in control of the message I sent. I didn’t know which of my actions would result in lower prices, and which in higher prices. Here, however, if I stick to only using coupons, maybe I can convince the retailer data miners that I won’t shop at their stores without them. The trick will be not letting the coupons influence me into make purchases I wouldn’t have otherwise made.