Cash by flickr user bfishadow
By: Gabe Goldberg (SD User: Gabegold)
If you’re reading this article, you enjoy discounts and not paying list price. Or you’re simply cheap — not that there’s anything wrong with that — who can argue with buying $25 restaurant gift certificates for $3 or less? And, of course, watch Slickdeals for restaurant.com magic codes!
But as broad as this site’s discounts are, believe it or not, they aren’t all-encompassing; many discounts are only available to members/customers/employees/alumni of organizations such as AAA, AARP, NARFE, credit unions, museums, schools/universities, employers, or other affinity groups. Don’t worry if you don’t belong to some of these, don’t care to join, or don’t qualify for membership. Enough similar discount-granting opportunities exist to provide plenty for everyone.
But life is complicated, memberships multiply, and it’s hard to know which memberships and discounts provide the best payoffs, so the best deals take some work to find and exploit. The first step is taking inventory: Go through your wallet or purse and identify potential discount-granting organizations. Then search your pile/file of membership cards you don’t carry with you for them.
If you’re organized and have member benefits literature filed away, you’re better off than most people. But the information doesn’t do you any good stashed in a drawer or file cabinet, if you never refer to it when committing commerce. If you don’t have this information, or it’s dated more than a year ago, it’s time for you to get your membership dues money’s worth! So refer online or contact each organization and request current member/customer/employee/alumni benefits information. Sign up for discount update mailings, read them when they arrive, and update your records with them. Keep coupons handy and filed by category to avoid the chagrin of not taking discounts to which you were easily entitled, as happened to me with a free large-appliance delivery. Weed out expired coupons so they don’t hide still-active opportunities.
Identify discount categories you care about: airline, car rental, hotel, shopping, health care, movie/theater, etc. For each category, label a separate sheet of paper — or (better, for much easier reference and updating) define a separate spreadsheet sheet.
Using rows for organizations and columns for discounts, for each organization, record discounts, codes/keys/numbers needed to use them, contact information (toll-free numbers, Web sites, email and postal addresses, etc.).
For example, AARP’s Web site’s Member Benefits Web page lists Discounts, Insurance Products, Travel Benefits, Health Products, Financial Services, Volunteering, Programs & Events, AARP Publications, AARP in Your State, My Membership, and Join/Renew. And AAA’s Member Discounts page lists Amusements and Water Parks, Auto, Dining, Featured Partners, Health & Fitness, Lodging, Museums & Tours, New Partners, Shopping, Special promotions, Sports & Recreation, Theater & Performing Arts, and Travel. And NARFE (an organization for active and retired Federal employees) lists financial services (banking, credit card, mortgage), travel (multiple car rental choices, hotels, vacation rentals, etc.), insurance, real estate and moving services, emergency medical services, health screenings, and a general store).
Discount choices can be overwhelming, so be selective — you may not care about emergency air ambulance transportation, or sports and recreation, or many other offerings. Note that while discounts may be genuine, they’re also marketing partnerships — with vendors paying sometimes large fees to be listed as favored partners. So when single vendors are listed — as Hertz is by AAA — check for choices from other organizations which may offer better deals.
Pay attention to deals for products or services you may not be actively shopping for. I received a new discount from Geico — where I’ve been insured for decades — via my wife’s NARFE membership. I save more from this discount than my wife pays in annual dues!
A wealth of discounts are available from the yearly Entertainment discount book — a bargain at about $30, available for most metropolitan areas in the US and Canada. Books available in August provide discounts good through November of the following year, so buying early gets 15 months of use. These books have so many discount that they’re a good opportunity for swapping with friends; nobody uses all discounts, so partnering gives everyone more of their favorite deals. Buy your books now, register them to receive additional offers, and be chintzy until November 2011. These books make great gifts; you can also order out-of-town books for delivery to friends and relatives.
Gabe Goldberg has developed, worked with, and written about technology for decades. This article originally appeared on the slickdeals.net Web site, http://slickdeals.net. (c) Gabriel Goldberg 2010. Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution by non-profit organizations with text reproduced unchanged and this paragraph included. Please
email firstname.lastname@example.org when you use it.