Have you ever missed a deal because you were notified about it too late? Maybe the perfect car you’ve been searching for on Craigslist came and went before you had time to act. Or maybe you just keep missing out on free donuts at work. In any case, there is a simple trick that will give you a leg up on the competition.
From free food at work to ultra-cheap flights to a great price on a used car, I find that the best deals are usually gone in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Unless you are glued to your email—which kills productivity—it is easy to miss out.
Fortunately, it’s possible to know about the best deals without watching your email like a hawk. The trick is to set things up so that whenever a deal is sent to you via email, you receive a text message alerting you to the deal.
I have used this trick successfully in many scenarios, and I probably receive two such texts per day with deals I want to know about. As I type this very paragraph, in fact, I was just alerted by text to a deal for $75 round trip flights from my home airport in Denver to New York. If I wanted, I could take advantage of that deal before most anyone else was even aware of its existence.
The four steps to being the first to know about a deal are:
- Subscribe to email alerts for deals you care about.
- Identify the email-to-text address that causes your phone to display a text message when something is sent to that email address. Say what? I’ll explain below.
- Set up your email client (e.g., Gmail) to be able to forward messages to your email-to-text address.
- Create an email filter to auto-forward the email alerts from Step 1 to your email-to-text address.
It may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. And totally worth it. Let’s break it down.
Step 1: Subscribe to Email Alerts
This step is relatively straightforward. Go to sites whose deals you want to receive, and sign up to be alerted to those deals by email.
There are many such sites. Here are a few examples:
- Slickdeals is a site that posts many of the very best deals from around the web. I choose to receive Slickdeals’ very best deals (their “Best Fire Deals”) by email. But you can get very specific on the types of deals you want to receive from them.
- Or take Craigslist. After searching for something when logged in to Craigslist, you can click “save search.” You are then presented with the option of receiving an email alert whenever there is a new post that matches your “save search” criteria.
- As a third example, you can receive email notifications for awesome airfare deals from All the Flight Deals, as I detailed in my previous post.
Step 2: Identify your Phone’s Email-to-Text Address
This is the magic step.
For most—and maybe every—cell phone that can receive text messages, there is an email address for that phone number. When an email is sent to that address, it causes the phone to display a text message.
Following are the email-to-text addresses for the four biggest U.S. cell phone carriers. (You can find a more exhaustive list here.) Just replace “5555555555” with your phone’s 10-digit number to get your phone’s email-to-text address for your carrier:
- AT&T: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sprint: email@example.com
- T-Mobile: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Verizon: email@example.com
Try it out. Send an email to your email-to-text address and see what happens.
Step 3: Set up Your Email Client to be able to Forward Messages to your Email-to-text Address.
Every decent email provider includes the functionality to allow you to forward mail to another email address of yours.
With Gmail controlling over 70% of the market share among email providers, I’ll show you how to do it in Gmail. But you can apply these principles to other email providers as well.
Within Gmail, click on the following icon, and choose “Settings.”
You will then see the following display. Click “Forwarding and POP/IMAP.” Then choose “Add a forwarding address.”
Type your email-to-text address into the “Add a forwarding address” dialog box and click “Next.”
The following window will pop up. Click “Proceed.”
Gmail will then send a confirmation code to that address to verify permission.
Once you receive the text message with the confirmation code, return to Gmail and click “OK.” Then, at the following window, enter the confirmation code and click “Verify.”
After you click “Verify,” Google will alert you that “You have verified the forwarding address.” You are now able to forward email from your Gmail account to your phone’s email-to-text address.
Step 4: Create an Email Filter to Forward Your Subscribed-to Email Deal Alerts (from Step 1) to Your Phone’s Email-to-Text Address
Go to your inbox and choose an email for which you receive deal notifications.
Last year, for instance, I chose to receive email alerts from Craigslist for any used Toyota Rav4s with a 3rd row. Here is an email notification that Craigslist sent me of a new posting:
In the bar above the email, click “More” and choose “Filter messages like these.”
In the next dialog box, you are presented with the option of filtering all messages from the sender, in this case “firstname.lastname@example.org.” You can also provide additional filter criteria, such as specific words (think: “donuts”) that the email has to contain. But for the sake of this example, let’s just click “Create filter with this search.”
Then, click “Forward it to” and choose the email-to-text number that you verified in Step 3 above. Finally, click the blue “Create filter” box.
Google will then report, “Your filter was created.”
Now you will receive a text message right away whenever an email is sent to you from email@example.com (or from any other site whose emails you’ve told Gmail to forward).
Congratulations. For that deal you are now the first to know. As soon as the text message pops up on your phone you can open the corresponding email and take advantage of the deal.
It’s frustrating to learn about a deal when it’s too late to act on it. And the best deals tend to go very quickly. With the above system, you can be the first to know about a deal and get it before it’s gone.
Now that’s the easy part. The hard part is deciding whether, in fact, to implement this system on your workplace’s office-wide emails about free donuts. . . .
Question: What deals have you missed out on that you would have been able to take advantage of had you been notified sooner? You can leave a comment by clicking here. And if you liked this post, sign up here so that you never miss a future post.