Deal-Stacking: How to Save Big on Most Purchases

I Just Saved $547 in 26 Minutes with these Deal-Stacking Techniques

Would you like to save really big on most purchases you make? I just saved $547 in 26 minutes using techniques that can be applied to many purchases. In this post, I will show you how to utilize these techniques to reap extreme savings.

But first, a warning: this post will probably make your head spin. Now I may be new to blogging, but I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to write posts that make your readers’ heads spin. And if you do, surely you’re not supposed to tell them that that’s what you’ve done.

But here’s the thing. If you want a really great deal, sometimes you have to combine multiple opportunities. And when you do, it gets a little crazy.

What will make your head spin less is not to try to worry about every little detail of this particular story, but rather to step back and realize that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too—to get the product you want at a significantly reduced price. I will surely devote entire posts to each of the tactics I mention below, at which point you can focus more on learning the tactics that you want to adopt.

Last note before diving in. The following tactics will work on many purchases at many sites much of the time. So while in this post I discuss dress shirts at Brooks Brothers, the post really isn’t about that. It’s about reaping extreme savings through deal-stacking. Dress shirts and Brooks Brothers just serve to illustrate the point.

The Deal-Stacking Story

So here’s the story. In early December, I recognized that it was time to get new dress shirts for work.

My favorite dress shirts are Brooks Brothers non-iron shirts. They look perfect right out of the dryer every time. That feature alone saves me a ton of time (especially because I stink at ironing) and a good deal of money (because I don’t have to get them laundered and pressed). Also, the shirts are very customizable. I can select from various sizing options so that the shirts fit my chest, neck, and arm length to a tee.

But here’s the problem. Their dress shirts cost $92.00 each—$100.89 after my area’s sales tax and shipping! And they aren’t even bulletproof or outfitted with golden buttons. They’re nice. But not $100.89 nice!

So how do we get a product like this at a price we are happy with? That’s where deal-stacking for extreme savings comes in. Here’s what I did.

Get Discounted Merchant Gift Cards:

I know that Brooks Brothers runs sales periodically, usually including one right around New Year’s. I was going to wait for the next big sale to make my purchase.

In advance of that sale, I decided to acquire $200 worth of Brooks Brothers gift cards at a discount, as I was confident I’d spend at least $200 on my purchase. There are a number of ways to get discounted gift cards, including buying them from gift card resellers. In this particular case, I decided to redeem cash back that I had earned from using my Discover It credit card. Most reward-earning credit cards allow you to redeem points for gift cards, but usually at a very unfavorable rate. In this case, however, I redeemed $160 worth of Discover It cashback for $200 in gift cards. Doing so would would ultimately enable me to save $40 off my Brooks Brothers purchase.

Shop a Sale:

Most stores run sales on most items from time to time. So if you can be a bit patient, there is often money to be saved by waiting for a sale. That’s sort of Value Shopping 101.

While I was awaiting the arrival of the gift cards, I noticed that Brooks Brothers was running a decent pre-Christmas sale. Dress shirts were on sale for $69 each (down from $92) when you purchase 3 or more.

Find a Promo Code:

Additionally, I saw on SlickDeals that there was a promo code to save an additional 25% off an entire Brooks Brothers order. My go-to site for finding promo codes is RetailMeNot, but I just happened to see the code on SlickDeals.

When my gift cards arrived on December 15th, the sale was still on at Brooks Brothers, and the 25% off promo code was still active. So I decided to pull the trigger.

I logged in to my Brooks Brothers account, ended up finding 9 shirts that I wanted to buy, and put them in my shopping cart.

Look for Free Shipping:

The Brooks Brothers sale already included free 3-7 business day shipping, a savings of $17.95 off their usual rate for my order. Since I wasn’t in any rush to get my shirts, that would have been completely adequate. However. . . .

Eligible American Express card members can enroll in complimentary ShopRunner membership. ShopRunner gets you “free 2-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible items at participating stores.” Brooks Brothers is a participating store. Having previously enrolled in ShopRunner for free using an eligible AMEX card, I logged in to ShopRunner from the Brooks Brothers shopping cart page so that my order would include free 2-day shipping and free return shipping. I especially appreciate the free return shipping since I’m not sure I’ll keep all 9 shirts, and I certainly don’t want to drive 60 minutes round trip to my nearest Brooks Brothers store in order to do a return.

At this point it was surely time to complete the purchase, right? Almost. But first, it was time to do a little online shopping magic.

Go through a Shopping Portal:

One of the easiest and most profitable ways to save money when shopping online is to go through a shopping portal to make your purchase. What the heck is a shopping portal, you ask? It is a site that gives you cash back (or airline miles, hotel points, etc.) for clicking through them to the store from which you are going to make your purchase. Shopping portals receive kickbacks from the merchants for referring you to the merchant. With few exceptions, I never buy anything online without going through a shopping portal to do so.

To figure out which shopping portal to use for my Brooks Brothers purchase, I typed “Brooks Brothers” into the search field of cashbackmonitor.com. Cashback Monitor is a site that tells you what rates various shopping portals are currently paying out for the merchant. Looking over the following portal payouts for shopping at Brooks Brothers, I chose to receive 8% cash back by shopping through Mr. Rebates.

I clicked through from Cashback Monitor to Mr. Rebates and logged in. I then clicked through from Mr. Rebates to Brooks Brothers so that I would earn 8% cash back from Mr. Rebates on my purchase.

Apply the Promo Code:

So at that point I was back on Brooks Brothers site, but now with the tracking that would enable me to earn 8% cash back on my purchase through the Mr. Rebates shopping portal.

I clicked to go into the cart, where my 9 shirts were waiting for me. The Brooks Brothers sale price was being reflected in the price of the shirts and the ShopRunner shipping was still activated. Good. I then applied the promo code I had found previously to save 25% off my entire order.

(It is important, by the way, to find the promo code before going through the shopping portal, because once you go through the shopping portal, you don’t want to leave the merchant’s website, because doing so can break the portal tracking, meaning that you won’t end up getting the cash back that you are expecting the portal to pay you.)

Apply the Gift Cards:

Now I clicked to check out.

Remember the $200 worth of Brooks Brothers gift cards I had purchased for $160? Well, if by now you had nearly forgotten about them, I can’t blame you. Because as I went to complete my purchase, I nearly forgot about them as well!

Fortunately, I remembered in time, and applied them to the order. Doing so left me with a balance of $284.55 that I still needed to pay.

Use a Credit Card with the Biggest Bang for the Buck:

My wife had recently opened a credit card (the Barclaycard Arrival Plus) with a sign-up bonus of, essentially, $500 after spending $3,000 on the card within the first 90 days of card membership. Getting $500 back when spending $3k amounts to a 16.7% discount.

I used that card to pay the order balance. Since I got a 16.7% rebate on that $284.55 portion of the order, I saved $47.43 on that portion of the order.

(Credit cards offer amazing opportunities, which I will cover extensively in future posts. But please, if you have credit card debt, do not use credit cards.)

Adding it All Up:

When you add it all up, the savings are quite extreme:

  • Sale saved $273.25: Without the Brooks Brothers sale, the 9 shirts, with tax and shipping, would have cost a whopping $908.05! The Brooks Brothers sale alone dropped the price for the 9 shirts, with tax and shipping, to $634.80, a savings of $273.25.
  • Promo Code saved $150.25: The promo code was for 25% off the pre-tax total. The pre-tax total for my order was $601. So the promo code saved $150.25.
  • Shopping Portal saved $36.06: The Mr. Rebates shopping portal was for 8% off the pre-tax total, after the promo code had been applied. The pre-tax, post-promo code total for my order was $450.75. So the shopping portal saved $36.06.
  • Gift Cards saved $40.00: By acquiring $200 worth of Brooks Brothers gift cards for $160 and using them for the purchase, I saved $40.
  • Credit Card saved $47.43: The credit card I used gets $500 back on its first $3,000 of purchases, a discount of 16.7% By using that credit card to cover the order balance of $284.55, I saved $47.43.

In total, through stacking all of the above deals, I saved $546.99. That is, rather than paying the sticker price of $908.05, I came out of pocket only $361.07. By saving $546.99 on an original sticker price of $908.05, I saved 60.2%! In the end, I got those $100.89 shirts for $40.12 each!

Was the Deal-Stacking Worth It?

Saving 60.2% on a purchase is amazing. But as I argued in this post, to decide if a deal is really worth it, you have to take into account the amount of time it takes you to take advantage of the savings. In this case, the savings was well worth the time:

  • Sale: Checking for a Brooks Brothers sale took at most 5 minutes. The sale saved me $273.25. That equates to a savings rate of $3,279 per hour.
  • Promo Code: Finding a promo code takes at most 5 minutes. The promo code saved me $150.25. That equates to a savings rate of $1,803 per hour.
  • Shopping Portal: Deciding on a shopping portal and clicking through it took at most 5 minutes. The shopping portal saved me $36.06. That equates to a savings rate of $433 per hour.
  • Gift Cards: Acquiring and applying the gift cards took at most 10 minutes. The gift cards saved me $40. That equates to a savings rate of $240 per hour.
  • Credit Card: Deciding to use the credit card I did took 1 minute. Using that credit card saved me $47.43. That equates to a savings rate of $2,846 per hour.

In total, the various deal-stacking shenanigans I employed took me at most 26 minutes. Those 26 minutes of effort saved me $546.99. That equates to an astonishing savings rate of $1,262 per hour. As I explain in this post, saving $1,262 per hour is a good deal unless you make more than $2.5 million per year! 🙂

Bottom Line:

Bottom line: deal-stacking can lead to really extreme savings that are totally worth the time it takes.

In the example above, I saved $547 in 26 minutes. Some deal-stacking opportunities will save you more, some less. But anything remotely close to this kind of savings is an incredible deal.

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7 thoughts on “Deal-Stacking: How to Save Big on Most Purchases

  1. Stacking is awesome. Here’s my example from this past weekend:

    I switched from Verizon to Sprint; in doing so, I saved/earned the following:

    *$23.76 savings per monthly phone bill, which includes a phone upgrade
    *$100 statement credit
    *25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (roughly a $375 value)
    *My sister also earned $50 and is saving a $7 a month
    *Sprint pays my Verizon early termination fee
    *No contract with Sprint
    *5,000 additional AA miles per year while I’m with Sprint

    To get this deal, I had to spend some time in a Sprint store. I brought in an ad which is detailed here: https://promo.sprint.com/Registration/Register?ECID=vanity:AAmiles (you must be an AA member to qualify, but joining is free). American offers 25k points for new Sprint customers as well as a buy-out for your old contract. Sprint was running a $50 credit for new customers promotion that day, and I also took advantage of a $50 *each* referral bonus (my sister is a Sprint customer, and she referred me, thereby earning $50 herself and also getting me $50). We will soon merge accounts, which qualifies us for a lower rate per person. I will also continue to earn 5,000 miles each year while I’m with Sprint.

    Great blog post, Brian! I had Siri read it to me while on my way to work today. 🙂

    • That’s awesome, Daniel; thanks for sharing. Deal-stacking on a monthly expense is really great: the gift that keeps on giving!

      • This just in: add to the above a waiver of the activation fee for the account! Sprint and other phone carriers like Verizon often waive your activation fee and/or give you a monthly discount if you work for certain employers. My employer just so happens to have such a deal with Sprint.

        So add another $30 value to the above stacking deal!

  2. I knew about Ebates, but not the other portals. Good to know to check others as well.

    Did your rebate go through? In checking out Mr Rebates, I noticed that in the faq’s it states
    “Also, purchases made with gift card redemption or gift certificate redemption as the full or partial payment method are not eligible for cash back rebates.” and I know Ebates is the same.

    Still a good outline of savings scenarios even if we can’t do all of them in one transaction.

    • My rebate is listed as pending. I do expect it to get paid out, despite the terms. In my experience, those terms are rarely enforced.

      The FrequentMiler has a “laboratory” set up where people submit their experiences with such things: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/laboratory/ You can find many examples there of people reporting that portals have paid them out even when the terms indicated that they wouldn’t get paid.

      • I received an email today “reminding” me that I have $36.06 in my Mr. Rebates account. So the rebate evidently posted some time ago. I cashed it out to my PayPal account today.