Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Frugalista ProTip: Rewards Programs

I'm not usually one to promote spending.  The idea is to not spend money, and rewards programs are decidedly pro-consumerism. 

Like, the other day, I received a credit card offer, but it wasn't a usual offer.  The offer was framed in a way that made it sound like I was getting the better end of the deal, because they were going to give me "miles."  Basically, for every dollar I would spend on travel (let's ignore, for a second, that I don't do a lot of traveling), I should add two zeroes for the number of miles I would have to earn for them to pay.  The offer is that I would earn 1.25 miles for every $1 I spent.  So, if my flight costs $210, I'd need 21,000 miles to pay for it. 

Did you do the math?  That's $16,800 I would have to spend to save $210 on travel costs.  No, actually, I did not apply for the card ... but I did put the offer in the fire, and it helped to warm my house for a few seconds.  So, it was useful.

So, the idea that I'm actually going to discuss rewards programs - in the positive - is a little alien, even to me.

The point here is that if one is going to patronize that establishment, anyway, it actually does pay to join their rewards program.  For instance, I am in the middle of what has turned into a years' long renovation.  We're almost to the painting phase, and so I needed to buy paint. 

Back many years ago, when we first bought our house, our remodeling budget was, basically, $0.00, but I could, occasionally, purchase some paint.  And so, I did.  I remember it being really cheap.

Since then, I've had occasion to purchase paint, and it's not as cheap as I remember.

At some point, in time, I joined the rewards program for our locally owned/national chain Ace Hardware.  It's a home improvement franchise, which means the brand is national, but the owner is local.  It's a little more "local" than the Big Box stores. 

Anyway, I have this rewards card, and I let them scan it every time I go into the store to get something:  clover seed, garden tools, canning jars, screen for my rain barrels, nails and screws, hinges, clothes line, clothes pins - you know, hardware store stuff.

I don't think much about it, when I'm not in the store, but recently, I received some dollar-off coupons from them, and since I'm planning to paint anyway, I thought I'd stop by and see what they had for paint.

I actually lucked out.  I had decided that I was going to look at the paint mistakes rack.  This is where the gallons of paint that were mixed, but that the customer decided he/she didn't want, end up being sold for bargain prices.  I bought two cans of a beige/off white/coffee-like indoor wall paint for $9 each ... with a $5 off coupon.  Plus, the guy threw in a free can of this awesome blue color ... just because I smiled really big and babbled a lot - or it was sitting unused, and he just wanted to get rid of it.  One of those.

I have enough paint to do the whole room, plus probably some extra, for $13 ... all because I'm a rewards member.

I'm also a rewards member at a local coffee shop (it's a long story, but we get coffee every week before music and bring our music teacher a coffee).  For every 12 cups of coffee I purchase, we get a free one.  I get a free coffee at least once a month.  It's not a bad deal.  I save them up so that when I don't have the extra cash, we can still get coffee ;). 

Then, there's the music store credits/rewards. We can sell back used movies, CDs and books for either cash or store credit at this regional chain.  We also get points for every dollar we spend.  At the end of the year, that's how I buy holiday gifts for our annual Jolabokafloo (book flood).  We save up all year, and by the holiday season, I have enough points and credits for nearly everyone on the list.

I'm not a consumerism advocate, but since many of us do still purchase much of what we use, it is frugal to use our purchasing power to get some of it back.

What Rewards programs do you belong to?


  1. We do one or a small local restaurant in our neighborhood. We also use one for our favorite local thrift store. We only do one at a actual grocery store. Thats about it, but it works for us! I had a clothing store ask me for my ssn # to set an acct. No way I said!

  2. I don't belong to any. I don't shop the big stores and the little ones just don't have them
    And if I do have to go to one, usually because I'm with someone who does, I ask if they have the rewards cards. And I then let them scan my purchases on theirs
    Being just the two of us now. It's just not worth it for the little I spend