I love nothing more than a good deal. I’m nothing like the “extreme couponers” you see on TV, but I like to consider myself an amateur bargain-hunter. No matter how awesome it would be to buy over $2,000 worth of groceries and have the store owe me $50, (like I saw on one episode of Extreme Couponing) there’s only so much time the average person with a life and responsibilities can devote to saving money. There’s nothing better than getting an awesome deal on something and for me, on a college budget, it’s either find the deepest discount or go without. And I don’t know that I could go without.
Yes, I’ll clip coupons I take from the newspapers at work that no one wants. It saves me about $10 a trip on everyday necessities. Absolutely, I use a fuel discount card. For some reason, the one I have oftentimes gives me $.10 off per gallon instead of the $.05 it’s supposed to. I don’t know why this happens, but I love it. So, of course I’m loving the new craze of discount shopping online. College budget or not, everyone likes to save a little here and there, right? So I thought I’d share some of the places I frequent and find the best deals.
Rue La La — This was the one that started it all for me. I got an invite from one of my friends and was hooked ever since. The brands and designers featured appear in “boutiques” that change daily at 10 a.m. central time. Once an item is sold out, it’s likely gone forever, so if you see a brand coming up that you like, you’d better be at your computer hitting refresh at 9:58 a.m. It’s the thrill of the chase. They’re target is mostly women shoppers, but they have a ton of men’s stuff daily, plus trip deals, children’s clothes, and household items. Some current and upcoming sales include Columbia, Juicy Couture, kate spade, Calvin Klein home, and Dolce & Gabbana swimwear.
Admittedly, I’ve spent some money on this site, but nothing close to what I would have spent at full price. Some of my finds there include a parka by A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz that handles the North Dakota winters well and retails for $278 for only $79, a Sir Alistair Rai silk scarf that retails at some ridiculous price near or over $100 for $19, and a pair of Sperry Top Siders (regularly $79) for just $10 because I had a $30 credit on my account. The only downside to Rue is that shipping is a flat $9.95 no matter what, with the dangerous incentive that if you order anything else the day you place your order, shipping on that item is free.
If you’re not a member yet, here’s an invite to check it out. After all, it costs nothing just to join.
The Clymb — If you’re liking the idea of limited time deals with the edge of beating out other shoppers for the best deal, but not so crazy about designer fashion and more into fitness, The Clymb may be a great place for you. This site features brands that specialize in sportswear. Whether you’re a runner, a biker, a rock climber, or a yoga enthusiast, The Clymb will feature Rue La La-like deals in an area you can get excited about. They carry everything from apparel, to tents and sleeping bags, to water bottles, to specialized extreme sport accessories. The Clymb is a relatively new kid on the block for this genre of sites, but has a solid interface and positive feedback. Some brands they’ve featured include Mountain Hardwear, Keen, Dakine, Salomon, and CamelBak. They’re shipping rates vary from $.95 to $7.95 depending on the item and every shipment is 100% carbon neutral. Unfortunately, they don’t process international orders yet, but are working to expand.
If you want to get in on the member pricing deals, here’s an invite.
6pm.com — Unlike Rue La La and many similar sites that I’m a member of but rarely visit, (Gilt Groupe, ideeli, MYHABIT — Amazon’s answer to the members-only discount craze, Groupon, and LivingSocial) 6pm doesn’t require you to be a member and doesn’t have limited time deals. It’s like an (almost) “everything” outlet store with some of the best prices you’ll find on brand-name items. Shipping is regularly $6.95, although sometimes (like right now) they have specials offering $2.95 shipping. The only thing you have to watch out for on 6pm is that the prices on items can sometimes fluctuate by day or by week, for whatever reason. 6pm also doesn’t accept coupon codes because, honestly, their discounts are already pretty deep.
One of my favorite purchases from 6pm is this pair of Oakley sunglasses, which retails for $85, for only $35.
Rent the Runway — This one isn’t offering guy options just yet. (Probably because guys have been able to rent tuxes since the dawn of time.) But it’s never been a commonplace option for a girl to rent a dress for a prom, wedding, or other black tie event. And why not? I always thought it would make sense. You buy a big expensive dress for every prom, formal, and homecoming that comes up during high school and college and then struggle with how to fit the stupid thing into your closet for the rest of eternity. That’s why I wish I would have learned about this before I stopped being able to go to proms.
With Rent the Runway, you can choose a designer dress from their massive selection online and request to rent it for a period of four days over the time you have an event. RTR always lets you choose two sizes, in case one doesn’t fit, and every rental comes shipped with a “fit kit” to make small, temporary alterations to your dress, ensuring your dress fits like a tailor altered it just for you. Dress rentals range from $30 or $40 to $200+, but the retail prices on RTR’s selection range from $200+ to $1800. When you’re event’s over, you put the dress in the prepaid envelope and send it back to RTR, where they dry clean it and prepare it for its next event.
I haven’t got to try out the full experience yet, but I’ve rented this Mark & James by Badgley Mischka dress for a wedding in August. The dress retails for $395, but the rental price is $50. I got it for even less because I had a 20% off coupon code, which RTR will periodically e-mail to members, or that you can sometimes find online.
If you want to check out Rent the Runway, you can get in quicker (I was on a waiting list for a few weeks) with this invitation.
Coupon Codes — So easy, yet so easily forgotten. Before I buy anything online, I always do a quick Google search for coupon codes for whatever site I’m on. I’ve found that RetailMeNot and Dealigg generally have the most reliable and comprehensive list of coupon codes. I always got jealous of people in line in front of me at the mall who had coupons and wondered how they got them. This way, you can score deals meant for the “beautiful people” (a.k.a. coupon holders who I am jealous of) without having to sign up for all the junk mail crap. (Although, the junk mail crap definitely pays off once in a while. So much so that it makes deleting 20 unwanted e-mails per day worth it.)
For my last bargain brag of the day, last summer I got a new pair of Nike Free Run running shoes which, as shown by the link, still retail for about $85. I found a site that had the best price on them and then found a coupon code that got me an extra $20 off and free shipping. Sometimes it takes some digging, but it’s definitely worth it.
Amazon Prime — If you regularly buy things from the tried and true always low-priced Amazon.com, a Prime account could be a great way to save a little extra. Prime gives you free two-day shipping on qualifying merchandise, and $3.99 overnight shipping (even on Saturdays). Shipping costs can add up if you’re buying things like textbooks or groceries often.
Prime also lets you access Amazon’s collection of over 6,000 TV shows and movies for free with Amazon’s Instant Video service (think Netflix). If you’re a student and sign up for Amazon Student with your .edu e-mail address, you can get a year of Amazon Prime for free. Childrens’ primary caregivers can also get three months of Amazon Prime for free by signing up for Amazon Mom. And if you’re neither of those, Amazon gives everyone a one-month free trial of Amazon Prime to get you hooked.
Restaurant.com — Eating at restaurants for every meal can be a huge part of a vacation expense. So take that expense out of your summer vacation budget by checking Restaurant.com. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help us out a lot in eastern North Dakota, but if you’re heading for Minneapolis or almost anywhere out of state, check Restaurant.com for deeply discounted $25 gift cards. Fargo has deals at WF Maxells and Playmakers at The Hub (neither of which I’m familiar with, but you can find the listings at the above link.) It depends on the individual restaurant, but oftentimes you can purchase a $25 gift certificate for only $10, and sometimes as little as $3. My friend Matt used some $3 ones he found on our Spring Break trip to Panama City Beach, FL, this March. Of course, don’t forget to check for coupon codes here, too. You might just find an even bigger discount.