Goldstar

When I’m too lazy to search Stubhub or when I just need something fun and cheap, there’s Goldstar to lend a reduced-price hand. Discounted (and once in a while free (with a small service charge)) things to do in most metro areas. Cirque du Soleil shows, concerts, Disney On Ice, comedians, plays, tours, NFL/NHL/MLB/NBA games and lots of other attractions.

Events for less popular show times are sometimes heavily discounted.  Luckily I live near San Francisco so there’s always something going on in the area.  I’ve paid nearly half price for a few different Cirque du Soleil shows (on weekday evenings) and enjoyed every one of them.  Same show, half the price!

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Zulily

Zulily is a great discount retailer site where you’ll find tons of deals on items for babies, kids, and adults. Their main focus is kids and maternity, but they often have deals on adult clothing and accessories, too. The selection changes daily and the sales usually last for three days. But if you see something you want, buy it fast.  Quantities are limited.  Some brands I’ve seen on there are Asics, Under Armour, Keen, Skip Hop, Reebok, Bali, DC Shoes, Chicco, and lots more.

Concerts & sporting events, my way

I haven’t been to many concerts in the past few years because the ticket prices are ridiculously expensive and there aren’t many artists that are so amazing that I’d be willing to pay those prices.  Then along came the Justin Timberlake and Jay Z summer tour. Amazing? No. But they did put on a good show.  So good that I’m probably going to go see Justin when he comes back next month.  While waiting for the show to start, I learned a couple things that I will use for the next concert.

I bought my tickets from Ticketmaster the SECOND they went on sale. Tickets sold out in less than 45 minutes. I paid about $90 per ticket with all the fees. My seats weren’t nosebleed awful, but Justin and Jay would have been like tiny upright ants from where we were sitting.

When we got to our seats I jumped on Stubhub mobile to see which seats were still available.  Yep, we moved to someone else’s seats. Because they were still listed, we knew nobody was going to be kicking us out of those seats.  We didn’t get much closer, but we had a better view and we made it to seats that were two price levels above ours.  And Justin and Jay were now tiny upright flies instead of ants.

I noticed a much more important thing during my in-stadium Stubhub search.  One hour before the show started, there were still over 1500 tickets available. Ticket prices in my original section had dropped to $25!! I’m pretty sure ticket brokers (and enterprising craigslist sellers) were the ones who made the show sell out in 45 minutes and now they were paying the price.  I’ll use them to my advantage the next time someone worthwhile rolls through town.

I plan on spending the day in the city where Justin’s going to be performing next month.  I know exactly where the Kinkos closest to the stadium is located.  You’ll find me there printing out my fire sale Stubhub tickets an hour (or less) before the show.

More free giftcards

Several years ago I joined MyPoints. It’s kind of like a mall, with links to several retailers on their site. If you click through the MyPoints site and make a purchase at one of their 1242 retailers (Macy’s, Old Navy, Best Buy, iTunes, etc.) you earn anywhere from 1-25 points per dollar.

You save up your points for gift cards. You can start redeeming (for the more useful gift cards) at 1600 points. Gift cards range from $10-100 for places like Target, Amazon, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, Starbucks, PF Changs, and “more than 75 merchants”.  I rarely redeem for less than a $50 gift card, because the redemption value is usually discounted for higher value gift cards (Example: a $25 Macy’s gift cards costs 3450 points and a $50 Macy’s gift card costs 6450).  I’ve earned about $850 in gift cards since joining.

I will warn you that they send a lot of email. You can limit how much they send but they use your e-mail address to match up the purchases you make and award your points, so use the same e-mail address you’d use with the retailer. They also send emails that have a 5 point offer just for clicking on a link, so don’t completely shut them down. You can earn 20 points clearing your your emails as you stand in line at the grocery store by clicking their links.

If you have an extra minute when you’re shopping online, this is my favorite site for stacking or double-dipping. My usual method is to go to MyPoints first and find the retailer where I want to shop. I click their link and it takes me to the retailer’s site.  I then close that window (It makes them think I’m shopping through their site and sets the points earning process in motion). Then I open a new window and scope out which of my credit cards is offering the best cashback rewards for the retailer where I’m shopping.  I use my credit card mall’s link to shop and finalize my purchase.

There. I’ve just earned points through MyPoints AND my credit card’s cashback program! I’ve doubled up on my gift card earning and I’m awesome.

It actually does pay to Discover

If you’re an online shopper like me, you should think about getting a Discover Card.  It used to be the joke of the credit card world.  I went to so many places that would tell me “Oh, we don’t take Discover.”  It was rather embarrassing.  But Discover has come a long way in the past few years.  And now there’s Shop Discover.

A decent list of retailers are included in their Shop Discover mall.   If you link to the retailer’s site from there, you have cashback earning potential of 5-20%. And that’s on top of whichever discount codes or sales you use on the retailer’s site.  Some current examples: Macy’s (10%),  Best Buy (5%), 1-800-Flowers (20%).  If you’re good at stacking,  this is just another wonderful layer.

Discover also offers five to six different categories per year that earn an additional 5% cashback bonus for online and in-store purchases.  Like gas stations, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, and ONLINE SHOPPING.  Yes, an additional 5% cashback on your online shopping!!  They do that bonus Oct-Dec.  AND if you’re shopping through the Shop Discover mall, the 5% bonus is on top of the regular cashback for the retailer.

You can redeem your cashback for retail and travel gift cards, statement credits, Discover gift cards, direct deposit and charitable donations.  On many of the retail gift cards, you get an extra bonus.  I can currently redeem $80 cashback for a $100 Banana Republic card or $80 cashback for a $160 for Universal Orlando Resorts certificate. Many are available as an e-Certificate or a mailed gift card.

My Discover Card has no annual fee so they’re basically paying me to shop.

Free gift cards anyone?

No, this is not one of those spam e-mails that gets auto-diverted to your trash.  I’m taking about the best iPhone/Droid app ever, ShopKick.

When you walk into specific stores (Target, Macy’s, JC Penney, & AE, just to name a few) you get “kicks”.   And when I say walk in, I mean walk in and sometimes just walk near the front door.  A sensor in the store emits a noise that your phone’s microphone detects and that’s how you’re awarded the walk-in kicks.  Every store has a different walk-in kicks level and some days there are no kicks to be had.  There are usually item scanning kicks available.  Also, some stores offer kicks for purchases you make when you link your Visa or Mastercard.

This app is amazing.  I’ve had it on my iPhone since January 2012.  As of this moment, I’ve earned $497.51 in gift cards.  And these are real (well, virtual) gift cards for stores you will actually want to shop at like Coach, Target, Macys, Best Buy and a lot more.

You redeem your kicks for gift cards within the app and most are available as soon as you redeem your kicks.  I’ve redeemed kicks for Sports Authority gift cards as I’ve stood in line at the store with my $100+ Asics in hand.  Asics on which I didn’t spend a penny, thanks to ShopKick.

The app is free and is very easy to use. You just have to remember to use it.  Click the link above to sign up!

You need a Target Red Card

If you don’t already loooove Target, you have issues.  I can wander aimlessly for hours.  They have almost everything you could need, although I don’t like their produce so much.  I’m not fond of packaged produce.

Anyway….whether there’s a Target near you or not, you need to get a Target Red Card.  There’s a Visa option or a debit card option. I went with the debit card, because it’s Target. I can’t be trusted with an unlimited credit line (well, they’d limit it, but still). I have to have the cash in my checking account to make a purchase so it keeps me within budget.

With the Red Card you get 5% off of almost every purchase. Even on Disney gift cards. Yes, if you’re going to one of the Disney Parks, you can save 5% if you fund your visit with Disney gift cards purchased at Target.  Your savings may only net you a free small soda in the park, but hey, it’s a free soda.  They sell other gift cards (iTunes, chain restaurants, etc) and you save 5% off the face value. You do not get 5% off of Target gift cards or prescriptions.

Free standard shipping on any amount to ALL 50 STATES!!!! See something on their website that you can’t find in the store? Need to send a gift to a family member in a tiny town in Alaska? Not near a Target? Are you like me and you prefer to do all of your Christmas shopping online because you’re too impatient to stand in line?  You don’t have to pay the standard shipping fee (usually starting around $9) when you use your Red Card! That is reason enough to get the Red Card.

Target also has an app called Cartwheel that usually saves you another 5-20% off items when you shop in the store.  You add discounts for certain items within the app and the cashier scans the bar code at the end of your transaction.  My local Targets have free wi-fi now, so I just connect and search the app for the items I’m tossing in my cart as I wander. You’re not going to be making a killing here, but every discount helps.  Why pay full price if they’re willing to give you a discount?