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How to Get Free Monthly Home Phone and Cell Phone Service

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free money

Free, huh? I’m sure you’re doubtful. But imagine if you could shed that crazy monthly cell phone contract you most likely have every month. How much could you save a year? Hundreds…? More?? Have a landline as well? Are you paying for some stupid Vonage crap that’s ripping you off every month? I can help solve both of these problems.

No, this isn’t a scam. You really can get absolutely free monthly home and cell phone service through different means, and I’m going to break down how it’s done as simply as I can. It truly is shocking to me the amount of people that are completely oblivious to these options. They’re either skeptical they are for real and don’t bother pursuing the options or poo-poo it and say it’s not a good value. But…last I checked, you can’t beat free.

OK, what’s the catch? There always is a catch, and yes, the catch in this case is…you do have to buy some upfront hardware and fees. I’m sorry, nothing is truly free, but seriously, this is about as good as you’re going to get folks. Let’s break it down.

Free monthly cell phone service

During Black Friday ’15, I made this post on how to get free RingPlus service. In this case, it was a limited time promotion. But, the cool thing is…these promos aren’t really that limited. They pop up at RingPlus.net all the time. In fact, there’s one going on…right now! In this instance you can get 3200 minutes, 3200 texts, and 3.2 GB of data a month. That beats the hell out of the Black Friday promo. Again, so what’s the catch? Well, two things:

  • You have to buy your own phone and it needs to work on the RingPlus network. RingPlus is on the Sprint network, so phones from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint will normally work. On the main page of RingPlus, you can check to see if your existing phone is applicable.
    • In general though, the device normally needs to be not activated; not associated with an account. Prepaid or unlocked phones are what you’re looking for. So be on the lookout for sales on phones.
  • You have to pay a one time fee to set up the account; normally $15-$25.

The fine print

If you go over any minutes, texts, or data; any overage will draw from that initial one time fee (it’s called a Top-Up). If you run out of money, you need to buy another “Top-Up”. If you never go over, you never pay an additional dime, and you never should need to. That’s it! That’s the gist of it. For many, many more details, I highly advise checking out this ever changing Wiki, there’s great stuff there that I won’t go into, but I’ll try to pick out some highlights:

  • The way RingPlus makes money is through their various add-ons that are totally optional (and their more expensive plans…that aren’t free). They also make money off of advertising. When making a call (that is, when you’re dialing a number), you may hear an ad. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I’m disappointed in you.
    • There are ways to turn this off through some tricks…you can set up a radio station to listen to instead (I chose a classical station). See the Wiki for details.
  • Certain plans require “Member+” which requires additional fees. I believe it’s a $99 one-time fee to lock in some of the higher echelon caps. Sometimes this is worth it, sometimes it’s not. My plan does not need Member+. It just really depends on what you want.
  • MMS (multimedia messages) aren’t free. They’re 4 cents each. This can be disabled through settings so you can’t receive them; see the aforementioned Wiki for more information.
    • This is the only thing that draws from my account. I just need to remember to not send pictures through text. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I apologize. What I do is just send pictures through email. You just have to be aware that it’s not free!
    • I believe MMS is free on Wi-fi though.

Summary

  • RingPlus is a cellular service on the Sprint network. It’s main claim to fame in the cheapass community is to get free (or very, very cheap) cell phone service.
  • You need to buy your own phone. Here is an example (and actually the phone I use). Phones go on sale all the time, and especially on Black Friday. Again, check the Wiki, it normally has pointers to phones. I didn’t cover this in detail, but…the phone choices are quite varied. You don’t have to buy a $20 phone like I did…you could, God forbid, use an unlocked iPhone. Unfortunately, that goes against everything I stand for. So…moving on…
  • Promotions pop-up every so often. I advise searching on Slickdeals.net and / or set up alerts for RingPlus on there. I listed one such deal as an example above.
    • I recommend having a phone that is unactivated in your possession and when a promo comes up, activate it. If nothing comes up…return the phone.
  • There are so many other finer details that I won’t attempt to go into. Again, I urge you to read this highly detailed Wiki for more information.

Personal recommendation

I have been using RingPlus for almost 6 months now. I spent $20 on a phone. I spent $15 on the Top-Up for the Leonardo 2 plan; which gives 1.5 GB data, 1500 texts, 1500 minutes – more than enough for me (I actually bought two lines…I have an emergency burner I can use at any time!). If you break down the cost of the cell service over 6 months, it is $5.83 / mo. In 12 months it will be $2.91 / mo. In 24 months, it will be $1.45 / mo. OK, so it’s not completely free. But if you can beat that, I’d be shocked. The farther you go out in time, the closer to $0 a month it becomes. I love it. Again, once you’ve paid the one time fees, there’s nothing else! It’s a beautiful thing.

So…what about home phone service? There’s a way to get that nearly free as well.

Free monthly home phone service

You may have heard of things like Vonage, Magic Jack, etc. These are all doing the same thing. There’s a piece of hardware that connects to your phone and your router. A phone call goes from your phone to the VOIP device through your router and over the internet to call others. Then you pay $20-30 a month to a company for this service. Pfff, lame.

So…what if I told you that you could buy your own generic VOIP hardware? And not pay anything, zero, nothing a month to have your own VOIP phone service? Well, I’m about to tell you how: Obihai combined with Google Voice.

Fine print

Much like RingPlus, there’s still some upfront costs. You need to buy the device that is normally provided to you when you buy something like Vonage. This device is an Obihai. Here is one example of one that was on sale (including a great Wiki section). Generally, you find one of these on sale in the neighborhood of $30 and then you set it up. It’s actually incredibly easy and all the instructions are included with the device. The trick to making this free is to link a Google Voice account to it.

What’s Google Voice? Come on. I hope you know what Google Voice is! I’m sorry, that was mean. Google will give you a free phone number. No catch. It’s legitimately free. However, you need to tie it to a device…are you putting things together yet? You’re going to associate it with the Obihai. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do with Google Voice, but we’re going to use it with the Obihai (you can associate it with your cell phone, for instance if you want; basically, GV allows you to “hide” your real number if you so desire – want to give out your number, but not your real number, well GV’s got your back, but again, that’s outside the scope of this post).

Summary

  • Buy an Obihai device. Find one on sale. I recommend Slickdeals. Should be $30-40.
  • Set up an Obihai account; you can do this once you’ve bought the hardware and register it online.
  • Set up a Google Voice account. Not much to it, the website should step you through it. You should be able to tie this to your Gmail account / general Google account, if you have one. You’d better have one…what’s wrong with you?
  • In the Obihai account portal, link your Google Voice account.
  • The Wiki section in this post will go over any finer details that I glossed over, but everything about should cover it, but seriously…it’s super easy.
  • Warning: There is one main caveat to note. E911 service is NOT included from Google Voice. If you want to be able to dial 911 from VOIP service, you need to buy a 3rd party service. You can do this. There are many options, but one recommended by Obihai is Anveo. I’m using this. I think it’s $12/year. That’s acceptable to me.
  • Optional: You may need to buy some handsets if you don’t have any already. I already have mine. I’m not including this in the cost of purchase, as I assume if you want home phone service, you actually…you know, already have a phone.

Personal recommendation

I’ve only used Obihai for a month. Previously, I had home phone service through VOIPO.com. They charged $150 for 2 years (which is $6.25/mo). But I knew I could do better than that…I actually bought the Obihai on sale over a year ago, and I’ve just been waiting for my VOIPO contract to expire. Thoughts?

So far, no issues. Call quality is fine, and there’s a whole bunch of optional features you can pay for if you desire. I don’t care. The takeaway here is: it’s free. It’s completely free. Some may scoff at the notion of even needing a “home phone”. I say: are you kidding? Why wouldn’t I want something that’s free?? I like redundancy guys.

If you can get an Obihai for $30, and you sign up for E911 service yearly, over 24 months, the monthly cost of this is $2.25 / mo ($1.25 / mo if you don’t want E911 service). Again, if you can beat this…please tell me. I would like to know.

And there you have it! That’s how you get free monthly home and phone service. I’m doing both of these, and I can personally vouch for them. If you have any questions, or need something explained, let me know and I’ll be happy to clarify.

Seriously guys, do you have any idea how amazing it feels to pay NOTHING for phone service?! I am saving at least $40 a month here; close to $500 a year for really doing nothing complicated. $500 that will continue to pay dividends year after year.

Boom! I hope I just blew your mind.

Disclaimer: I get nothing out of this. There’s no affiliate links here. I get no referrals at all, in any way. I’m not associated with any of these companies. I just cannot in good conscience not tell people how to pay next to nothing for basic services.

Filed under Deals, Info
Apr 13, 2016

Black Friday Recap 2015

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BFSale

2015 “Black Friday” was not as fun or ambitious for me as say, 2012 and 2013 (I guess I didn’t make a post for 2014…step it up man!), but there are still some pretty interesting grabs here. Picked up some very high-end items that I have been looking for deals on… for years.

What changes were seen from previous years?

The “event” is continuing to get watered down and mainstreamized. More stores opened up on Thanksgiving proper. But there were less and less true deals to be had. Much like 2014, the best deals were found during the days before and after “Black Friday”.

Online ordering is starting to overtake B&M as a preferred method of choice for the casual buyer. Target, Walmart, BestBuy really stepped up their online games, and many offered free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Other notes

I’m exhausting things that I “need”, so the event has become less fun. TVs continue to be one of the cheapest things you can buy. If you want a sub 40″ TV, wow…they can be had cheap. But I don’t need those.

The one thing I really wanted was a sub $1k 4K 60-65″ TV with good quality. Couldn’t find it this year. Oh well. Still on the lookout for a good desktop / laptop replacement as I’ve had my current laptop for a good while now (I’ll be damned if I’ll use an inefficient tablet or phone to actually do work on….).

Next is the merchant review.

AMAZON

  • Rank: 4/5
  • Pretty decent haul from Amazon…although, nothing really “wow” about them this year.
  • They had another 30% off code for all books (which I didn’t use); which was nice.
  • Amazon is still the leader when you *need* to get someone to something fast. Bought a lot of Christmas gifts from them this year that’s not on this list.
  • 4-5 years ago, Amazon straight murdered other retailers in terms of legitimate deals. Now? Eh? Not so much.
  • One important note: both Chase and Discover offered 10% cash back promos for all purchases on Amazon this year. That is a major point of emphasis that gave Amazon top marks this year for me, in my mind.

What did I grab?

  • Dyson Ball Alergy Upright Vacuum: $246.75
    • Been looking for a good price on this for almost a decade. This is the best price I have ever seen for a non-refurbished unit. It’s price as of this writing is $399.99. MSRP is supposedly $499.99. This is the jewel of the year for me.
  • TP-Link Archer C9 Router + TP-Link N300 Cloud Camera: $129.99
    • Bundle was same price as standalone router. So I got a cloud camera for free!
    • This does not include a $30 mail-in rebate, so this was effectively $100 for a top rated router
  • TP-Link Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem: $49.69
    • Note: The router/modem combo was used for me to finally purge myself of AT&T. Because of things like this. Now, I’m a TWC customer. And God help me…my service has already been out 3 times in a month. Sigh…the grass is burnt and charred on this side too.

NEWEGG

  • Rank: 0/5
  • Newegg continues to disappoint. I’m not the only one…everyone hates newegg on Slickdeals. Terrible customer service, terrible website, terrible deals.

What did I grab?

  • Nothing.

BEST BUY

  • Rank: 3/5
  • Not a lot to work with from my side, but what I did get, I’m happy with. The VG phone alone is worth 3 stars here.

What did I grab?

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4): $19.99
    • Love Best Buy’s Gamer’s Club Unlocked service. I’m upped until 2020 and save 20% on all video games and accessories (read: amiibo). No other retailer can touch Best Buy for video games. It’s not even close.
  • Virgin Mobile LG Tribute 2: $19.99 x 2
    • The absolute “best deals” that I continually see every year have to do with prepaid phones. No one ever talks about them, but this is crazy awesome! This is a $100 phone for $20 (I mean it comes with a charger and 8GB memory card…that alone is worth $20).
    • This is the phone I used to signup for two free (yes, FREE) monthly phone plans on RingPlus (which I talk about at length here).
    • After using the phone for a little over a month, I’m very happy with it. I have free cell service and it cost me $20. Yay! I finally have a 4G phone (and a backup one).

TARGET

  • Rank: 4/5
  • I didn’t get a lot, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a pretty solid showing.
  • They had different kinds of sales and promotions all through Thanksgiving week. They had $50 off $100 decoration / lights. They had 15% and 20% off whole order codes (which were abused to all hell…) around Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.
  • If you really wanted to game the system, which many did on Slickdeals, they also had baby and wedding registry 15% coupons (open up a registry in your name; actual baby or marriage be damned) which ALSO stacked. As far as I understand it worked on pretty high-end things like TVs. This was a little too sketch, even for me.
  • One thing I did grab was a 20% off your order in December with purchase of $75+; which is really nice. Wife is all about Target Redperks and Cartwheel, so she had some additional coupons and a “5% off day” which stacked with this 20% off coupon. Plus we have a RedCard which saves another 5%. Hell of a deal.
  • What didn’t go so well? Their website. It was absolutely trashed all day, every day. I wanted to try to get a few things, but I gave up. Hopefully they can fix this next year…

What did I grab?

  • It’s a secret! Most of the items were gifts.

WALMART

  • Rank: 1/5
  • Notes: Walmart continues to disappoint. I just don’t like their website. It’s confusing to find stuff (Target was far worse, they’ve improved significantly). There just weren’t any “blow your mind” deals here. There hardly ever are.
  • I didn’t buy anything, but they did have “Doorbuster” deals where, I guess, if you got there, you were guaranteed an item. I refuse to ever B&M shop at Walmart. Haven’t done it. Don’t ever intend to. Yay for crappy BF model specific junk anyway. Don’t waste your time with that.
  • I guess they also pricematched…? I don’t know. I don’t do pricematching. I’m not a big fan of Walmart and the Walton empire anyway, so there’s no love lost here. I have never spent much at this store.

What did I grab?

  • Nothing.

HOME DEPOT

LOWE’S

  • Rank: 0/5
  • Didn’t hear a peep out of these two. Normally I get *something* from them. In the past, I’ve found some good appliance deals. Eh…guess I didn’t look hard enough.

What did I grab?

  • Nothing.

 

GROUPON

  • Rank: 1/5
  • I got an “OK” deal when it comes down to it. I was supposed to get the item below for $80, based on a code at checkout called LOCAL20; which takes $20 off. It worked, I checked out. Now I look at my statement. It was $100. Screw you Groupon. I barely use them, and now they’ve pissed me off.
  • What I did was take the $100 giftcard at Newegg, and buy eBay gift cards (because newegg sucks). Now I’m rolling, rolling, rolling (buy eBay giftcards at a discount with eBay giftcards).

What did I grab?

  • $100 giftcard at Newegg + Premier membership for $100.

SEARS

  • Rank: 3/5
  • I just like Sears. I went into this in great detail. They’re like the underdog of the retail world. They continually give out amazing deals. Free points. Free stuff. All year long.
  • However, their website sucks and is very, very buggy. And their SYWR program is easily the most complicated system in retail history (even worse than KOHLS!). But if you master it, oh boy…you can do a lot of damage.
  • Didn’t get a lot this year, but did knock out some birthday gifts.
  • Sears doesn’t normally have great BF/CM showings, but they continually roll out insane (sometimes free) deals all year long.

What did I grab?

  • It’s a secret!

KOHLS

  • Rank: 3/5
  • Here’s a new one to the list. I’ve never shopped at KOHL’s online (and try to avoid their store; I hate clothes shopping…).
  • KOHL’S uses a gimmicky form of properietary currency known as KOHL’S CASH. They also have another rewards program that accumulates points the more you buy stuff (Yes2You Rewards). This acts as KOHL’S CASH. The thing with this KC is that is expires very quickly.
  • For the holidays they were giving out $15 in KOHL’S CASH for every $50 spend (if I’m not mistaken). So buying high-end things at a discount worked beautifully.

What did I grab?

  • iRobot Roomba 761 Vacuum Cleaning Robot with Replenishment Kit: $340
    • Note: Not only is this a good price for this roomba (MSRP is $700; normally can be had for ~$450), but it came with $105 in KOHL’S CASH; which I used to buy clothes a week later.
    • And by the way, I freaking love this guy! He’s so cool. I always wanted a pet robot to do shit for me. His name is Roomba (I’m not very creative).
    • Final note: First comment on a front-page at Slickdeals! I’m so proud of myself.

 

Overall: 3/5

It was an “ehhh, OK” year for 2015. I picked up some long sought after items (Dyson), got some neat things (Roomba), and revamped some of my services (RingPlus phones, new router/modem), but outside of some very specific things, there was just a lot of effort needed and some craftiness to find the best deals. I fear this is going to be the norm from here on in (unless we go into another recession; which looks possible…). That said, I picked up some solid entries and filled some niches that I have been looking at for a long, long time.

Who won?

That’s tough to say. It depends on what you needed. Target had a solid showing with some great promotions. It was generally fun and interesting looking for deals at Target. Best Buy had some good sales on high-end TVs, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. Amazon did OK, as always. Walmart, newegg sucked. Kohl’s had some diamonds with KOHL’S CASH stacking.

For the slickdeal professional though, Target was probably the winner based on all the crafty coupon stacking you could do. So let’s go with that. Congratulations Target! You won Black Friday / Cyber Monday!

Here’s hoping for a fantastic BF for 2016! Happy New Year!

 

Filed under Deals, Info
Dec 31, 2015

RingPlus Black Friday Free Plan Deal!

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ringp

This is my Black Friday ’15 highlight so far. Sign up a phone plan under RingPlus for free* (*mostly).

OK, let me break down how you can get, as many lines as you want, FREE 4G enabled smartphones. I just activated two phones on RingPlus that have a monthly fee of $0: 1500 minutes, 1500 texts, 1.5 GB 4G data a month (one time overage coverage fee of $15). It’s the “Leonardo 2” plan and is only available for short time during Black Friday week.

I’m going to break it down on how this is done. Again, the point of this is the FREE plans. RingPlus offers some paid plans too, but…come on. Have you met me? Free trumps everything.

  • Step 1) Go buy a phone on Boost or Virgin Mobile (this is what I used…mainly because it was $20).
    • I suppose you could use an existing phone, but I think that’s more complicated, and I haven’t verified how to do this.
    • This thread has more details on phones that have been confirmed to work.
    • It is highly advised to NOT open or turn on the phone until you’ve activated it with RingPlus.
    • If you’re going to do this, you have to go find one in store, by the time the phone would ship online, the promo will be over.
  • Step 2) View this thread and sign up for Leonardo 2 Plan (1400 minutes, 1400 texts, 1.5 GB 4G data per month). The thread also has plenty of troubleshooting and other tips if you have questions.
    • Highlights: You have to create a RingPlus account first, link to Twitter/Facebook, and then you will be able to choose the plan here.
    • You have to record the IMEI / MEID / ESN and ICC ID during signup to register the phone with RingPlus. These values should be on the phone and / or on the bottom of the box (at least for Virgin Mobile).
    • There’s a $15 fee to cover overages. If you go over your monthly caps or want other services, they’ll draw from this pool.
  • Step 3) Turn on the phone and let it update.
  • Step 4) Configure phone as normal, port number if you would like to do that.
    • I’m debating whether to kill my grandfathered $25 Virgin Mobile Unlimited Everything plan (stuck on 3G though…) by porting my cell.
    • RingPlus has waived $7 phone number porting fee for this promo. I’d better decide soon.
  • Step 5) Enjoy your free* monthly phone service.
    • * Only thing I’ve noticed is that when you make calls, you’ll hear ads prior to call starting. Kind of annoying…but worth it.
    • Repeat steps above on another phone. I activated two phones.
      • Out of pocket cost: 2 x $22 Tribute 2 (after tax), 2 x $17 (after tax) initial start-up fee. < $80 to do this.
    • Do hacky things like root your phone. Not worth it to me…

This promo ends December 1st. It went active 11/27/15 at 3PM EST.

I’m pretty excited as this should save me a boat load of cash. 1.5 GB is more than enough data for me. 1400 minutes is a big step up from my existing 300 under Virgin Mobile. Love it!

Filed under Deals
Nov 27, 2015

The Miracle of Sears’ Desperation – Retailer of the Year, 2014

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Print

SEARS. You remember them? The mega-company of yesteryear? … What’s that? Not old enough to remember their heyday? That’s OK, neither am I, really. But back when people actually went to malls and shopped in physical stores, they were the king. To see the sad story of their fall from grace, I highly recommend reading this very informative blog.

In a nutshell, SEARS is dying a slow death. They have been hemorrhaging money for years. The final nail in the coffin was the merger with Kmart, which has been an absolute disaster. Kmart has no hope, but SEARS still has good solid brands. Craftsman. Kenmore. Diehard. I still think they make good products, and it’s sad to see a once great American retailer slowly dying. It really is painful to watch…they are a company that doesn’t know what it is. They’re trying to be a jack of all trades, but they’re a master of none. They are being eaten alive by the low-end players, such as Target and Walmart, and their core business (appliances) is being stolen by the likes of Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Best Buy. They literally do not excel at anything. Couple that with terrible customer service, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Sounds pretty bleak, yeah? Well, what does a company do when it has nothing to lose? Well, it tries some crazy shit! And this is what SEARS is doing right now. They are in the middle of a massive social media marketing campaign / reward program called “Shop Your Way Rewards”.  They also have a service called SYWR MAX, which offers free shipping on many items for a yearly fee of $79. So, in essence, it’s Amazon Prime + Best Buy Reward Zone. Not too shabby. Now SYWR has existed for a few years, but in 2014 Sears has really started to up the ante on what they provide.

I highly, highly recommend reading the fantastic FAQ put together by Ch3apSk8 (via Slickdeals), but here are the highlights on what makes this program so amazing, and what Sears has been doing recently to make it so enticing:

  • Points. Points. POINTS!

The crux of the entire program is POINTS! When I picked up an item at SEARS the other day, one of the associates was wearing a shirt that literally said ‘POINTS, POINTS, POINTS’ on the back. They must clearly know that humans love hoarding digital currency. Hell, I do! I love points! It makes you feel powerful. It’s a great psychological manipulation tool which incentivizes continual purchases. I love it! I wish more companies did this, it makes you feel like every purchase is building toward something. Now whether or not SEARS can turn a profit from this model, remains to be seen. I sure hope so, because I am gaming the hell out of this. I’ll elaborate on this as we go on, but this program has so many different facets, you can literally combine various things to get incredible deals.

From a market share perspective, it stole me away from Amazon, so there’s that. Couple this with Amazon starting to charge sales tax, raising the price of Prime, instituting the concept of “Add-on” items, offering no form of rebates/cashback, and just generally not having very good prices on things any more, I have no incentive to shop there any longer. I just want to have free shipping! I could care less about Amazon’s streaming services; that’s why I have Netflix. SEARS’ MAX program is just a free shipping program…and that’s all I want! But I digress…

Anyway, back to points. Anyone can sign up for a basic SYWR membership. You get 1% back in points on all purchases. SYWR MAX members (think Amazon Prime) get 2% base points back on all purchases. However, there are some deals where I’ve actually earned more points than what the item cost! O_O; … Points expire in one year; unless there’s a specific promo (which normally expires sooner). For more information on points, this is a helpful article.

  • Coupons

Here’s where it gets interesting. SEARS has been going nuts with all kinds of crazy coupons this year. Things like “$20 in points when you use $25 in points”…WHAT?! And the fantastic reusable “10POINTS” coupon which gives you an extra 10% back in points. I bought a mattress. That was a lot of damn points!

But, there are plenty of coupons that just give straight up cash. $5 off $35, $10 off $50, etc.

And what SEARS is doing, which is really smart, is it’s offering new coupons every week, which have very short expiration times, requiring you to continually keep checking on what’s new. It’s a very smart ploy to keep an engaged customer, and I will admit, it’s totally worked on me.

Coupons are distributed either digitally or through targeted email promotions. Every time you buy something, you normally get a new unique coupon. There are also common non-unique codes that are active for months. Again, see Ch3apSk8’s Slickdeals guide for the latest coupons.

  • Cashback

I’ve covered this in other blog posts, but a quick recap. Do you like free money? You should! SEARS has many relationships with different affiliates that give significant cash back just by buying through their links. Discover card defaults at 5% and during many times of the year, it can go up to 10% cash back. This stacks with coupons!

  • Free Shipping

SEARS has a fairly high minimum free shipping threshold at $59, but there are several ways around this. The first is to just do in-store pickup. The second is to become a MAX member and this minimum is waived. Not all items are available for free shipping though. Almost anything heavy is pretty much guaranteed to have some form of shipping added on, unless there is a special deal going on.

  • In-store Pickup / In-store Details

Did I mention in-store pickup? This is a great competitive advantage SEARS has here. They’re closing stores left and right, but if you have one (or more) in your area, this is a great option. You get bonus points for picking up in store, it is guaranteed to be ready for pickup in 5 minutes after you arrive (otherwise they give you coupons for your inconvenience), and now if you use the SYWR app, you can have it delivered to your car without ever going into the store. That’s pretty compelling if you ask me…

Also, it’s important to note that the entire SYWR program works in-store. You can either print out a membership ID and have them scan it, or you can provide your phone number or account number at checkout. If you do regular shopping at Kmart, this is important to note (I don’t; there are no Kmarts left near me).

  • Free Trial of MAX / Special Offers

SYWR MAX normally starts at $79 a year, but it comes with a 90 day free trial (which doesn’t automatically renew; that’s crazy!). When the trial lapses, most likely the trial will either be extended another month (or 90 days), or you will be offered a discounted rate. I was first offered $39. I didn’t bite…a couple days later, I was offered a year of MAX for $19! That’s crazy…I couldn’t pass that up. YMMV here, but SEARS really wants you to sign up for this service. They are obviously trying to grow the business and need customers. They are willing to give it away for free, basically. For more information on the MAX program, you can find details here.

  • Instant Pricematching

SEARS has begun to attack Amazon by actually posting in ‘big in-your-face font’ on certain items, “price lower than Amazon”. And if Amazon has a sale, it’s matching Amazon’s prices. No one does this!

I love it. I have so much more incentive to buy from SEARS over Amazon. I have the convenience of free shipping (thanks MAX!), and the flexibility of instant gratification with in-store pickup (more points if you go this route!). Plus returns are waaaay less complicated. Amazon returns are not fun. SEARS is crushing Amazon, I have absolutely zero reason to ever shop there any longer.

  • RoeBuck Rewards

OK, so this is pretty confusing, but I’ll try to explain the best I can. SEARS has a kind of  hidden ‘game’ you can ‘play’, which in the end, gives you more points. You start off with a 5×5 grid of empty squares. Before you buy something, you need to add the item to one of these squares. When you’ve made a purchase, it will get marked as “complete”. Fill in a row and you get additional points added to your account. Each row you fill out escalates in point potential. The first row is 1x points, the second is 2x, the third is 3x, the fourth is 4x, and the fifth is 5x.

The point potential here is pretty compelling if you work this correctly. It’s a long game, but if you fill out rows with cheap items and save the last rows for expensive things (like appliances, furniture, grills, tools, etc), you’ll end up getting a pretty significant return (I’m going to make at least $50 here). Not bad for playing a game that’s free!

I love stuff like this. This is an innovative and engaging way to interact with the customer.

Finally, this page also has a hidden exclusive coupon on the left panel. The only downside here is that you can forget to add items to the board (I have), and it doesn’t work for any items purchased in store, so…it makes me have n0 incentive to ever go to the B&M store to shop. I buy everything exclusively online. Is that the point? I’m not sure, but that’s the effect this game has had on my shopping (not like it mattered, I don’t shop in store anywhere, but this just ensures I never will).

This game can be found in the header, at the top of the site, next to your login information. You can directly link to this game here.

  • Surprise Points

SYWR MAX members get $3 a month ($36 a year) in points that can be applied to any purchase, which expire midway through the month.

There is currently a Craftsman Tool of the Month promotion where, if you buy tools over $199 in one transaction, you will receive $10 in surprise points each month for a year on the 1st of every month. That’s $120 in free money every year.

Finally, there are just random points given out by SEARS throughout the year (and it’s been a lot this year) for absolutely no reason. No one has any idea why certain people get more than others, but it normally ranges from $3 to $10 in no questions asked money. Only catch is that is normally expires very quickly. But SEARS has been doing this promotion almost every week for months now!

The great thing about surprise points is that it is not a coupon. You can stack coupons, use surprise points, and any other points you have on one transaction! Surprise points have made SEARS the retailer of the year for me. This is literally free money, and I wish more retailers would follow this model. Why spend money on advertising? Just give it directly to the consumer. I love it, and I hope it will have an effect on revenue and profits for them; I really do. It’s certainly driving a lot more traffic from me, personally. I get excited thinking about what kind of free stuff I’ll get next.

Only thing to note here is that SEARS is playing a dangerous game getting people hooked on free stuff. Who knows how long this will continue? If the gravy train stops and people get addicted, you may just end up having pissed off customers, we’ll see how it plays out, but for now… Yay! Free!

  • Local Ad Events

There are random events that occur throughout the year. It seems like it’s every one or two weeks. Here’s the basic premise: At 9AM EST if there is an event going on, there will be a “Local Ad Point” reward going on in the right hand panel of the main website. Simply click on this banner as soon as possible (on both Kmart and Sears), and you will get free points to use (normally at a later date).

It varies on what is given out, but it’s normally in the $2 to $4 range, but has been higher than $10 in some instances. Normally, the event lasts for a few days, and you only have a chance to do it once per day, but sometimes, there have been glitches (on purpose?) where you can cash in on multiple days.

Again, this is free money. No forms to fill out, no stupid Facebook posts to like or anything. You just need to have a SYWR basic account, which is free. You can’t beat free. These events seem to be specifically crafted to target the deal communities throughout the internet, such as Slickdeals. These always turn into “Hot Deals” and get a lot of interest. Again, who can say no to free money?

  • Craftsman Club

Want better prices on Craftsman tools? Special events? Just want to join a manly community? Craftsman Club is free to join, with no catch. You literally just “join” and you now get better prices. Pretty simple. Details on this program can be found here.

  • VIP Membership

Pretty much like Best Buy, SEARS also has a VIP program, where the more you buy the more perks you get. Spend $2,500 a year, and you get a Silver membership, $5,000, Gold, and I believe $10,000 is Platinum (who spends $10k a year on…what exactly?).

This isn’t mind-blowing stuff, but Silver is definitely attainable, and one of the nice perks is that you get bonus points on your birthday month. Since mine is during BLACK FRIDAY, I’m going to actually try to achieve this. POINTS!

For more information on VIP membership, you can consult this page.

  • Deal Heist

Sort of like Amazon’s Deal of the Day, but…a whole bunch of stuff. Changes daily. The first few items are normally 24-hour items, everything else might be weekly.

  • Other Random Events

Post a picture of somebody with a weird mustache? $5 in points. Play a weird bikini matching game? $5.

SEARS / Kmart continually run these “social media” type events where you perform some innocuous action and you get free money. OK!

SEARS has also been pretty aggressive in the pre-order sector for video games and other media. They are normally offering $10-$20 in points for ordering early. Best advice I can give to find events like these is to create a “deal alert” on Slickdeals with “sears” as a keyword.

OK, well, there’s probably more to say, but I think that’ s enough. I just wanted to make people aware of great deals you can find at SEARS, as they have significantly strengthened their online presence in the last year or so. They have knocked off Amazon as my go-to internet retailer for the convenience of in-store pickup, a rewards program, and some wicked deals with multiple layers of coupons / cashback. The only thing they’re lacking is the customer service…which is hit or miss.

Or…maybe you should just avoid SEARS altogether? Looking for deals has become a daily…almost hourly job. But, I really can’t complain. As someone who just bought a new house, I’m on the lookout for all kinds of random things, and this boon couldn’t have come at a better time. Now if only I could find some use for that tablet I just bought for $100 that I got $90 back in points for…

Filed under Deals, Info
Jul 10, 2014

Say Hello to gemmit / gemmitdeals!

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gems_lots_of_gems

Black Friday….BLACK FRIDAY IS ALMOST HERE!!! I’ve written extensively about how much I love this day / week / experience, but…I’ve been longing for more. What if…what if I could utilize my software development expertise to create a tool that acted as a deal aggregator? You know…like the Priceline/Expedia/Kayak, but for…online shopping? Well, I’m not quite there yet, but this is the first step…

gemmit!

gemmit.com (not live yet, still working out the kinks) and @gemmitdeals are a phase 1 approach to that end. What is “gemmit”? gemmit is a play on words obviously referring to “gems”. What do you do with gems? Well…you try to “get it”! Gems. Get it. gemmit (are you familiar with “Reddit”; same concept)! Here is an example deal that gemmit found:

Note that this particular item was a SlickDeals frontpage; so gemmit *is working today*!

gemmit uses a proprietary algorithm that calculates what makes a deal a “deal”! The Twitter feed gemmitDeals is posting the BEST deal in every category (two dozen or so) that it is tracking. These categories include things like: Electronics, Movies, Toys, Jewelry, Video Games, Books, etc.

Here is a mockup of what Gemmit looks like so far:

gemmit

 

Obviously, the technology is very, very early. There are most likely some bugs to be found and without question, numerous features to implement. But…gemmit *will be* launching within a week or two, simply because of the holiday season. I plan on using this tool myself because, well…I essentially wrote it for me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have higher hopes for it. I’m hoping it can grow and become something special, but that’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of luck! I can at least control one aspect of that equation…

One last thing…so, like I mentioned, gemmit is not ready to launch *just quite yet*. BUT…it is basically fully functioning, I just have some more work to do with the User Interface; some features are just disabled or broken (e.g. social media support, email newsletter not implemented; home page isn’t built yet).  But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t use some feedback from Alpha testers! You can checkout an incomplete version of the website here (this link will be dead once the real website launches).

What does work? Well, I’ve broken down some example categories in the top navbar (such as Books, Movies), the content populated within those should be complete. Search works. Filtering works. Other than that, not much else. =E

Given that this is in test mode, expect that the server will be unavailable from time to time (e.g. I may disable it as needed). That said, I could appreciate some user testing! What do you like? What don’t you like? What would you like to see in the future?

I value your support and welcome any feedback, I’ve been working on this for many months in my, oh so precious (and scarce), free time. Let me know what you think in the comments section and stay tuned for more gemmit updates!

(Psst. Don’t worry…if you don’t care about my pet project, I plan on making a separate blog on gemmit itself to talk about new features there and leave this blog open for…well, whatever it is I talk about)

Update: 11/23/13 – www.gemmit.com is live! The Alpha site above has been decommissioned, and if you wish to learn more about gemmit, please visit blog.gemmit.com!

 

Filed under Deals, Websites
Nov 3, 2013

How to Make Money on the Internet by Clicking a Button (Affiliate Rebates)

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rebate

OK, OK…it’s not that simple. You have to make an account first, then you click a  button!

Seriously. I’m not joking. That’s it. Free money (normally 1-10% cash back).

Got something you want to buy on the internet? Follow these steps and you can get a portion of the payment rebated to you:

  • Go to BigCrumbs
  • Make an account (need an email address  / PayPal account)
  • Search for a store
  • Click on the affiliate link to the store
  • Buy something on the website, check out like normal (don’t close the window until you’ve checked out!)

In a few weeks, you’ll see money transferred to your Paypal account (once they’ve made sure you didn’t return it / they get paid themselves through the website you’re buying from). These companies are essentially sharing the referral proceeds with you!

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but “affiliate” websites like BigCrumbs have been around for a looong time (at least for the past 5-6 years; ancient in internet years)! However, this site gives really good rates, and they give you CrumbShares (which at like a share in the company). If they get bought out by another company, they’ll give you a portion of the proceeds! How cool is that?

Here’s an example, let’s say you wanted to buy something from Target.com. Simply search for “target” on the site, and you will be presented with an affiliate link. Click on it and checkout and pay (again, make sure you don’t close the window!):

bigcrumb_example

Sometimes the rebate will be up to a certain dollar amount, sometimes it is a percentage. In this case, if you shop at Target, you can get up to 3.5% cash back. FOR DOING NOTHING!

There are a number of other competitors in the space: FatWallet and eBates are two of the bigger names.

So, seriously…again, that’s it. You get paid for doing normal shopping. Stack that with normal rewards points by paying with a credit card, and you’ll end up getting a decent % of the cost of the item rebated!

Why do companies do this? Beats me…weren’t you going to buy that thing-a-ma-bob even if I didn’t tell you about it? I suppose they believe the content on their site will yield you to buy things you normally wouldn’t. Don’t do that. Just shop like you’d normally would, and check one of the sites I mentioned above and see how much cash back they’ll give you. I would recommend signing up for the big three: BigCrumbs, eBates, and Fatwallet, and comparing the cash back yields. Again, my favorite is BigCrumbs, merely because they give you a share of the company with every purchase!

One caveat: You should always check to see if there’s a coupon available, but depending on the company you’re buying from, doing so may void your ability to get a rebate! So you need to compare the coupon you’re getting with what the rebate yield would be. Make sense?

If not, ask away in the comments below! I hope I just blew your mind.

Filed under Deals, Info, Websites
Jul 19, 2013

A Whole Crap Ton of Rock Band Sales!

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rock-band-3-omg-instruments-rm-eng

Do you have Rock Band 3? Do you remember all the new freakin’ accessories it came with at launch? Wireless keyboard? MSRP: $80. MIDI Pro Adapater? MSRP: $40. PRO Guitar/Bass? MSRP: $150. Well, it only took a few years, but they’ve finally gotten to be a reasonable price! I’m a big Rock Band fan, so these were pretty hard to pass up (for what I didn’t already own!). Amazon and Newegg have a few good deals worth mentioning, that are still in stock as of this writing:

Background

The PRO Guitar controller is made to mimic a REAL GUITAR! Granted, it’s still not the real thing as it’s just plastic, but it isn’t just 5 buttons, it has 120 different button combinations to mimic playing a true guitar. Been waiting forever for this to drop in price, so I bought it without much deliberation. You can also use it to connect to your computer since it has a MIDI out and make real music with it! Sold!

The wireless keyboard is a miniature keyboard that’s meant to be played from your side (strapped around your neck). It’s a “keytar” as it’s called. It is not a full sized keyboard, but a subset of one. $26 is the cheapest it’s ever been. I already have a full-sized Casio keyboard, so I don’t need it, but it’s still a good deal.

The Band Hero bundle has actually been cheaper, $25 at one point, but for all the stuff that it comes with…$40 is crazy! Keep in  mind, Activision has abandoned the BAND HERO franchise, so they are not updating songs like EA is doing with Rock Band. Still…you can use Band Hero instruments in Rock Band, so that might be worth the purchase if you’re looking to replace or add an instrument…

The MIDI Pro Adapter has been hard to find for a *long time*, but seems to be relatively easy to locate for a few weeks/months now. $16 is a steal considering it used to run for $40! I wrote a guide that explains how you can use the MIDI Pro Adapter with almost *any USB* instrument as well. This means you can use your USB Casio Keyboard (or insert your brand here), and it should work with Rock Band!

Final Word

So if you’ve ever been looking to invest in a bunch of plastic peripherals for Rock Band or Band Hero…holy crap is there a lot to be had right now on the cheap! That $40 deal at Newegg comes with a lot of stuff! It’s also important to note that somehow Activision and EA were nice enough to guarantee that each of their respective accessories work across games (well for the most part). Visit http://www.rockband.com/compatibility, for full compatibility details. All guitars, drums, and microphones should work on both games. Things like the keyboard and pro guitar don’t though…because there’s no such thing in the “Band Hero” franchise; and since Activision murdered it recently, I don’t think it’s ever going to be.

Merry Christmas!

Filed under Deals
Dec 15, 2012

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