Thursday, April 26, 2007

Amazing Bloomingdales Sale!

Between April 26th and April 30th, Bloomingdale's is offering an additional 40% off all sale merchandise online and in stores. Enter the code APR40 at checkout to redeem the code online. Some reports suggest this code may also work on non-sale items.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sunny Vacation

I'm off to Key West for a much needed long weekend. I'll be staying at the lovely La Te Da Hotel, but doubt I'll find many deals down there. I'll be back next week with a tan and more money saving tips. Stay tuned!

Save Bed Bath and Beyond & Linens 'n Things Coupons

Earlier this week, I was nominated for the "Sexiest Female Blogger" on the Best DC Blog. By the time I found out about the contest and my nomination, I had already been eliminated and identified as a "LOSER" in capital letters on the website. One of the voters suggested I get the axe because "coupons are not sexy." I disagree.

You've all been bombarded with the direct mail coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens N' Things. These coupons are good for in-store purchases only and offer 20% off or $5 off a purchase of $15 or more. These coupons may also show up in the weekly circulars in your Sunday paper. Thanks to a BB&B insider, I learned a few secrets about these coupons and recommend stashing them away whenever you come across one.

1. These coupons never expire.
Disregard the expiration date.

2. You may use as many coupons as you'd like in one transaction.
Although the coupons say only one coupon per transaction, you may actually apply a coupon to every single item in your shopping cart for a discount on all the items.

3. Both stores accept each others coupons.
Have a stack of Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, but like the selection at Linen's N Thing's better? No problem. Bring your BB&B coupons and LNT will treat them as if they were their own. You can even mix and match in the same transaction.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Save on Lunch: Subway For About $3

Another great bargain lunch can be found at Subway. Look closely at the menu, usually on the far right, near the sides and drinks and you will find the Mini Sub, which has just replaced the former Deli Sandwich.

The mini sub is similar to the classic subs, but served on a 4-inch roll, instead of a 6-inch roll. You have a choice of several different breads, as well as tuna, ham, roast beef or turkey. You can load your mini sub with all of the standard toppings as well. Best of all, this sandwich is $2.49 everyday. Take your change to the vendor on the street corner and add a bag of pretzels or Sun Chips for just $0.50 (they cost $0.89 inside at Subway) and you've got a $3 lunch! (That picture is of the tuna mini sub I ate for lunch today.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bluefly Offers Discounts on Dwell Bedding

I had been hunting for a new queen sized duvet cover for several months. The modern, clean look of the Dwell bedding collection was at the top of my list, but $250 for a duvet cover and pillow shams is more than I can swallow. I was at the end of my rope and considering settling for a solid white one. Luckily, that all changed yesterday.

While browsing the Bluefly website in search of winter coats on sale, I did a quick check of the "house" category and found a large selection of Dwell bedding at a major discount!

There was not only one, but three or four patterns I liked and had to chose from. I selected this one, and with a discount from Google Checkout, spent just $120 on the order, including shipping.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

More Coupon Codes!

A bargain hunting informant has passed along a new website with a vast library of online coupon codes. Check out RetailMeNot and search by URL, most recent, most popular and various categories.

Friday, April 6, 2007

It's Tax Season! Use TurboTax and Save Big

There are less than two week left to file taxes before the April 17th deadline. If you haven't done them already, get started this weekend!

I began using the online version of TurboTax several years ago. I continue to use it because it is easy and saves me time by storing my previous tax returns and importing basic personal information to the new return each year. H&R Block offers a very similar program.

USAA and Fidelity offer promotional prices on TurboTax for their customers. These discounts also work for non-customers, as long as you always access the site through the appropriate link. Click here to access the discounts:

20% off both the Federal and State returns


35% off just the Federal return

TurboTax is perfect for first-time DIY tax filers. The program asks a series of simple questions (are you married? do you have any children?), prompts you to enter your W-2's and other investment data and fills in the complicated tax forms on the back end for you. Following completion of the forms, TurboTax will e-File the forms online with the government and have your refund directly deposited into your bank account within two weeks. If you file a paper tax return in the mail, you can expect to wait months for your money.

New for this year, TurboTax also offer an entirely free Federal edition. (you still have to pay for filing the state return)This might be all you need if you don't have many investments and sources of income. Check it out here and see if it works for you.

Online Outlets: Overstock vs. SmartBargains

Don't have the time to make the trip to the Leesburg Outlets, or Potomac Mills? You are in luck. The internet has introduced two fantastic websites that offer similar prices and the same giant selection you will find at typical outlet malls -- Overstock and SmartBargains. Both sites are worth bookmarking, but have different strengths and product offerings.

SmartBargains is the clear winner in women's clothing and shoe category. Thanks to a partnership with legendary discount giant Loehmann's, the overall selection and quality of brands and designer labels is unmatched. A quick search today revealed the following designer deals on SmartBargains:Overstock also sells apparel, but focuses less on labels and brands and more on offering a comprehensive selection of consumer goods. Some of the things you'll find on Overstock include big-ticket furniture items, a larger selection of rugs and bedding, electronics, DVD's and sports equipment -- like golf clubs and treadmills.

My most recent Overstock purchase was this bedroom set:

The Overstock price was about 50% less than what I would have paid for similar furniture at West Elm or Crate & Barrel, and these pieces are unique. Additionally, I found a 10% off coupon code and placed the order on a weekend where the site was offering $1 shipping on the entire order. The total for the four items pictured was just $1,051. Prices don't get much lower, even at Ikea!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Turn Spring Cleaning in to Spending Money

How can you make room for new spring clothes and get money to buy them all at the same time? Try your luck at a local consignment shop.

Instead of shoving trash bags full of old clothes into the nearest donation dumpster, I recently took some of my used items to Secondi, a consignment boutique in Dupont Circle (1702 Connecticut Ave., NW, second floor). Secondi sells only contemporary women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewelry.

First-time consigners must set up an appointment by calling Secondi, then take in no more than 20 in-season items to be sold. The clothes must be neatly folded or on hangers and, above all, clean. Secondi’s sales associates will comb through your clothing and let you know what they think will sell and what won’t, and they are picky. While I was in the shop, another woman brought an armful of nice suits, jackets and dresses, all freshly cleaned and covered in dry-cleaning bags. The Secondi staff took a swift look and told her they were going to pass on all of her items. They appeared to be too conservative and out-of-date.

For details about which clothing labels they prefer and which they don’t accept, check out the handy list on the store’s website. If the shop accepts your items, they will be put on sale that day. The items they won’t buy, they’ll offer to donate, even providing a handy tax form.

Consigners receive 50 percent of the amount the item sells for. Items under $20 stay on the floor only one month; everything else remains for three, getting marked down 20 percent each month it doesn’t sell.

My visit to Secondi has proven pretty darn successful so far. I took several tops, two dresses, a pair of designer jeans, a clutch purse, and a barely worn pair of Puma sneakers. As of last week, Secondi had sold eight of the items—and I just received a check totaling $114. The store still has 12 of my things on the selling floor, so I’ll check back later this month for an update on my sales.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Restoration Hardware Discounts - Anyone?

I really, really want this floor mirror for my bedroom. I cannot pay $699 for it and am having no luck finding a coupon code or a knock-off on eBay. Does anyone have an employee, or friends and family discount at Restoration Hardware?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Home Buying 101: Don't Be Afraid to Underbid

Real Estate Lesson #2: The asking price is just a starting point for negotiation. If you want a home that is priced out of your range, make an offer anyway, for an amount that you can afford.

A good agent should be able to feel out the situation and determine how low you can go and what sort of offer the seller will consider. If you are buying on your own, look and listen for specifc language. If you are dealing with a "motivated seller," this means they are eager to sell will consider a lower offer.

New home builders and condo developers will be hesitant to lower the price on any one unit by too much. With several units to sell, your "sale price" becomes public record, and can affect the selling price of their other units. In this case, you will need to be creative. Other than lower the price, what else can the seller do for you?

The end result of my search? I made an offer on that first property I liked, and another, with no luck. The third time was a charm. I found a sunny, spacious, newly renovated condo I didn't quite think I could afford. Mark encouraged me to pursue it anyway.

We made an for $10,000 below the asking price and request an additional $10,000 rebate towards closing costs and two years of condo fees paid by the builder. The builder only agreed to pay 18 months of condo fees, but accepted the remaining terms of the offer! And, I got the rebate from Mark along with the first-time homebuyer tax credit from the DC Government. The net price of my condo was more than $29,000 below the asking price.

Homebuying 101: Get Cash Back From Your Agent

I bought my first home in December 2006. It is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of DC. It has 15 windows, a new kitchen and I love it. The process of buying real estate opened my eyes to a whole new word of negotiating and bargain hunting.

Real Estate Lesson #1: Make your agent work to earn your business. Some agents will actually pay you for the privilege of managing your real estate transaction, particularly in competitive markets like Washington, DC. Mine did.

After months of research, browsing listings, visiting open houses and crunching numbers, I decided it was time to take the leap towards homeownership. Around the same time, I told my client Mark, the manager of a small local real estate agency, that I was condo shopping. Mark called often to check in on my search, sent me e-mails with properties that met my specified criteria, and encouraged me to underbid on properties that were out of my price range.

I was drawn to Mark's confidence that we could find a "good deal," but had also been in contact with another agent at one of the more well known agencies in town. I had just visited a property I really liked and was considering asking Mark to help me write the offer. After describing the property to him, Mark said, "If you let me write this contract, I'll give you $4,000 back out of my commission." Done.

Don't settle for less than complete confidence you are getting the most effort and best deal possible from your agent.

Save on Lunch: Baja Fresh Kids' Faves

When I'm not eating out with clients on my corporate expense account, I usually pack my lunch during the work week. On the rare occasion I am left without a lunch that I have made, or someone else is paying for, I try to avoid paying the standard $8-10 dollars for a store bought lunch. At most casual dining establishments, take a close look at the menu and you will find hidden deals that satisfy you stomach and your wallet.

One of my favorite meal bargains is the Baja Fresh Kids' Faves menu. The meals include: choice of a small quesadilla, bean and cheese burrito or taquitos; two side dishes; tortilla chips; and a drink for just $3.95. You may add chicken to your quesadilla at no extra charge. The advertised side dishes are rice and applesauce, but you may substitute black or pinto beans for the applesauce. The drink choices are milk and a small soft drink.

The kids meal purchase also gets you access to the fantastic Baja Fresh salsa and hot pepper bar. The portion size is moderate, but it is plenty of food for lunch, and you don't finish eating feeling like you are going explode.

Out of Season Golf Lessons

My parents just gave me a awesome birthday gift of three private golf lessons at the East Potomac Park Golf Course here in DC, also known as Hains Point. I received the gift certificate in the mail and was shocked to learn they paid $165 for the three lessons.

While this is a reasonable rate for in-season golf lessons, I had paid just $199 for a series of 13 private lessons at Hains Point last winter. The course offers this steal on weekly lessons every January through March.

Golf in the winter? Really? Hains Point has a covered and heated driving range that is open all year round. Most of the lessons were at the range, but on several occasions it was warm enough to spend the 30 minutes at a practice hole or on the putting green with just a jacket or sweatshirt on.

The golf lesson here is always investigate "out of season" instruction, when business at the courses are slow and the pro's have more time on their hands. If you are willing to brave the elements a little bit, you can get a $55 value for just $15.30 and be ready to go as soon as golf season starts up!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Promo Codes for Last-Minute Discounts

I love to shop online. And, I love how easy it is to dig up instant savings on the web.

Last week I quickly responded to a Banana Republic e-mail blast alerting me to the start of their spring sale. I chose a white 3/4 length sleeve blouse, two spring sweaters and proceeded to the checkout page. A quick Google search of "banana republic coupon code" turned up a 15% off discount code that was valid until May 5th! Just like that, I saved about $15. (other keywords to search for are "promo code," "discount code," "free shipping")

Most online retailers provide similar special offers. You may have to spend a certain amount to qualify, and sometimes you need to use that stores credit card, but it never hurts to do a quick search and sift through the results. Some of the best sites for up-to-date codes are:, and
  • typically offers free shipping on orders over $50 if you are paying with your Gap card.
  • offers 10% off for new customers.
  • offers 10% off anytime, for no particular reason.
  • rotates discount codes through various departments. You can save on audio/visual equipment one week, and home networking equipment the next.
I never search for these codes unless I'm absolutely ready to buy something anyway. A 10% off coupon for won't save you money if you are buying something just because you found a coupon.

Let the Bargains Begin!

Today is my 27th birthday. To kick off a new year, I've decided to start blogging in an effort to share my bargain sleuthing tactics with friends, family and whoever may be interested in getting the very best deal on the things that I buy.

I am not cheap, but I enjoy knowing I have paid the least possible price for the things I want. While I do like to save money, my competitive nature plays a large role role in my desire for bargains. When I know that I paid less than most others do for a particular item, I win!

As a sales executive myself, I know that the "price" of an item is always negotiable. Even on retail items, where a verbal negotiation may not take place, there are other ways to get your hands on what you want for less than the MSRP.

Stay tuned as I report on purchases of clothing, personal items, electronics and home goods. I'll share tips on finding the best deals on travel services, financial services, health club memberships and at the supermarket. I'll help you navigate the waters of internet shopping and eBay. Finally, I'll clue you in to some of my favorite generic brands that offer items just as good as the real thing.

Enjoy and feel free to share your shopping hints with me!