What are your top-secret deals?
September 6, 2007 9:09 PM   Subscribe

FrugalFilter: Everyone I've met has one super-amazing deal (perpetual, not of the 10%-off-at-target-this-saturday breed) that they know of that they keep close to their chest. What's yours?

I'll seed it: I had $700 discounted off my Mac Pro from Apple by paying $99 for a Student ADC (Apple Developer Connection) account. If you can prove you're a student in a CS (or close enough) field, you're allowed a once-in-your-life to buy a computer from them at much better than student prices. They also send you things in the mail. Slightly less spectacular is that there are also State and Federal government employee stores which have both computer and non-computer items like iPods all discounted by about 15%, which is unique. They don't make any attempt to verify who you work for.
posted by floam to Shopping (32 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: chatfilter

Buying quality, durable used goods instead of new when sensible, and not being too good to take other people's trash when sensible. So I'm sitting on a fancy chair that I picked up for $50 and priced at $125+ new, typing at a desk that appeared in my old apartment lobby and was left abandoned for 24 hours, looking at a monitor from the sidewalk. Behind me, my t-shirts and pants are in some cabinets that I picked up off some lady for $10 or so. That's just the stuff within arm's reach.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2007

I do that!

Dumpster diving is awesome. I have a solid maple twin bed I have as a couch/guest bed that I dragged out of a dumpster. Solid maple! People throw out the craziest things.

Old bookstores are good for finding rare things. I have a history of prostitution from 1836 I picked up for four dollars. It's not rare or valuable, but it is pretty hilarious from a historical perspective.
posted by winna at 10:00 PM on September 6, 2007

back when i had time, i used to volunteer at theatre & film festivals. you see free stuff and you get the inside track on what to see, plus at the parties you know people and feel involved a bit, which diminishes social anxiety.

i know you meant money hacks... i couldn't think of one. good thread idea, now i'll have a few!
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:05 PM on September 6, 2007

Destruction as opportunity. The entire stock of cabinets from a local college's home-ec lab cost me $200 plus the cost of moving them. All the cabinets in my house are from this stock. They are solid maple, built in 1963. A friend of mine has maple floors in his house that I helped him get out of a bowling alley that was being demolished. The doors in my greenhouse came from a house that was being torn down. I found my water tank in a field, just sitting there: mine if I'd drag it away.
posted by jet_silver at 10:12 PM on September 6, 2007

Urban Ore in Berkeley, you would be AMAZED at the stuff they have.

We use old windows for picture, painting and poster frames. 10 dollars for the part or so and an hour of work.
posted by iamabot at 10:14 PM on September 6, 2007

Not being too good to buy a $30 box of groceries from Angel Food Ministries. So what if it's semi-charity and Christian?
posted by Xere at 10:28 PM on September 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding the federal gov't tips. As a US Army soldier, I get tons of discounts for being a federal employee. Apple, Dell, HP/Compaq, and many other vendors have special pricing for government employees. Unlike Apple, most of them require a special code or password to log into the site.
posted by n2linux at 10:36 PM on September 6, 2007

I buy my fish directly from a local fisherman. Last time he came into town, I got three whole coho for under $20 and he even gutted and fillet them for me. Also, I try to keep my eye on state government and university surplus, like mentioned above. You can get some great furniture and computer deals. I once got a solid oak desk for nothing from Iowa State University surplus as it was bought as a lot of desks and the buyer didn't want that one since it was from the nuclear reactor building. It was awesome!
posted by Foam Pants at 10:44 PM on September 6, 2007

Have you seen SlickDeals.net?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:46 PM on September 6, 2007

I took an online safe drivers course for $35 and can now save $50 a year on my car insurance for the next 3 years.

Never, EVER pay for insurance on a cellphone. Almost all major manufacturers will insure their phones for at least a year, and charge a nominal fee for repairs after the year expiration.

Subscribe to your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. You'll save money plus you'll be forced to try new produce whilst helping local farmers.
posted by mezzanayne at 10:51 PM on September 6, 2007

Occasional (like once a month) 50%-off-custom-framing coupons at Michael's. I frame a lot of photos and non-standard sized vintage paperworks. Custom framing is super expensive and this makes it much cheaper. You can find the coupons in the Sunday paper, and sometimes on their website.

Also, I just bookmarked this article on how to care for your clothes so they last longer, which seems relevant here, especially if you like to splurge on clothes.
posted by Brittanie at 11:02 PM on September 6, 2007

If you work in a winery tasting room (even just occasionally, on weekends) you get "reciprocal discounts" at other wineries which are typically 30-50% off retail. Plus free tastings, and sometimes extras like barrel sampling.
posted by cali at 11:08 PM on September 6, 2007

Best answer: I have a hookup for $1000-$2000 mechanically super-solid Volvo's. I have yet to have one go bad on me. I buy one or two, drive them till I'm bored, unload it and get another.

So far: a 240 sedan, 240 wagon, 740 wagon, 850 sedan, and an 850 wagon in the pipes.

I understand I'm a little privileged in my source, but I can't understand how people can justify financing a car or blowing 1-2 K on a used car of dubious reliability.

As a result, I share my advice, but am loathe to share my source.
posted by sourwookie at 11:25 PM on September 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Buy.com offers 10% off Amazon's prices on books (and you can get another 3% cash back if you have their credit card), has free shipping on orders over $25 like Amazon, and most importantly for me, does not charge sales tax on shipments to Washington, unlike Amazon. Result: I get books 20% cheaper than even Amazon's discounted prices.

Buy.com's return policies are not very friendly so I don't recommend them for electronics, but their book deal is basically unbeatable.
posted by kindall at 11:44 PM on September 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Sourwookie,I would pretty much do anything for that source.
posted by Liosliath at 12:11 AM on September 7, 2007

I was very sad to see staffing levels cut to the bone on Melbourne's public transport system, along with the introduction of stupidly inconvenient off-station ticket outlets, on-station ticket machines that often didn't work, and the introduction of roaming gangs of ticket inspectors where there used to be friendly conductors on every train and tram. Extra galling was the flood of cheesy advertising telling us all that this was being done for our own good. So when they started defacing the insides of trams with posters that said "pay a fare or cop a fine" I decided to take that face value - as a choice offered, rather than an admonishment.

On my regular train commute from Hawthorn to Blackburn, I just stopped buying tickets. When approached by inspectors, and asked for my ticket, I would politely inform them that I hadn't bought one; when asked why not, I would say "because I didn't want to"; I would give them my correct name and address, and show ID, and pay the fines as they arrived in the mail.

I ended up paying a $100 fine every three weeks or so. Considering that the price of a week's tickets was of the order of $50, this was a fair saving. Getting reward points for paying the fines with my Visa card made me happy, too (it was typically not possible to pay for tickets with a Visa card).

It's been a while since I commuted in Melbourne, so I have no idea whether they've increased the fines or the staffing levels to the point where this isn't economical any more. But if you're also annoyed by overcrowded trains and trams and surly inspectors and bad advertising, perhaps you should run the numbers for yourself.
posted by flabdablet at 12:43 AM on September 7, 2007 [11 favorites]

Sprint has an employee referral program that lets essentially anyone qualify for some pretty nice cellphone prices.

There are plenty of bargain sites online. Some are sneakier than others. Here's an example: Store A has a spindle of CDs for $10 minus $5 rebate, making them $5. Store B has the same item for $23 minus a $14 rebate, making them $9. What do you do?

Go to store B, of course! Pricematch store A's price, so you pay $10 at the register, then send in the rebate for $14. Now, most rebates won't pay more than the price indicated on the receipt, so you won't actually make money, but you get the CDs for free. Got it?

It gets better if you have multiple rebates, because each one will pay no more than its listed amount. If the above example had two $7 rebates instead of a single $14, they'd both pay the full amount because $7 doesn't exceed the receipt's $10, and you would actually make $4 on the deal. (Minus time, hassle, and postage, of course.)

Because pricematching is only valid if the original source still has the item in stock, you want to keep them from exhausting their inventory. Do this by pricematching whenever possible, so Store A can advertise the killer price, and all us good bargainhunting citizens flock to stores B, C, and D to pricematch it, delaying Store A's time-to-sellout.

Further pricematch-fu: Circuit City and OfficeMax open an hour earlier than Office Depot on Sunday when the weekly specials hit. I like to PM against OD's flyer, because the CC/OM manager knows OD hasn't sold out yet, so they'll skip the call-and-check-stock step. It makes for a faster PM process, and means I've got half my bargain-stalking done while Office Depot folks are still eating breakfast. ;)
posted by Myself at 1:06 AM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Contact your nearest pulp mill and ask to be informed when pulp bales are burnt or unsellable because of grease, plastic or other contamination. You'll be getting huge amounts of dry, packed paper fiber suitable for home papermaking or other related crafts (or papercrete). Usually it's free because they can't reprocess many problem bales, and small fires are very common in their processes.

Other than that, when you get a crappy product or service: complain! Take it as high as you can go! Very often it will be worth your while.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:22 AM on September 7, 2007

My partner's in the RAF, and by joining RAFA he gets 25% off a new Ford or Vauxhall, and there isn't a single time we go out that I don't hear the words "do you have a military discount?" at some point in the evening. Surprisingly the answer is usually yes. He also has a discount rail travel card, and family members/dependents are entitled to the same discount. (At the moment he's trying to make the case for marriage by pointing out if I was his wife I'd get 1/3 off rail travel. It's tempting.)

So my advice would be, don't join the military, but hook up with someone who has ;)
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:40 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Giveaway of the Day. Every day it's a different software, many are useful/high quality. You have to install a particular day's offer that same day, and are entitled to no support/upgrades. But still.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:33 AM on September 7, 2007

I go to the library and get books for free, read them, take them back, and get more books for free. I don't have to buy more book shelves, I don't have to store more books, and I can go back any time to get the same books if I feel like it. It's brilliant!
posted by pracowity at 4:27 AM on September 7, 2007 [7 favorites]

My mom and sister got a ton of shelving and fixtures for the new store they were opening when the city auctioned off all the furnishings from a local school. Can't remember if they were closing the school or renovating but apparently it was all the good-quality stuff you could haul away for literally just a dollar or two. Since it was the taxpayers' money that had bought the stuff in the first place the law requires that it be offered back to the taxpayers, or some such. This kind of thing must happen all the time.
posted by bluebird at 4:39 AM on September 7, 2007

Yeah, public library. Don't buy books unless you're going to need them for a long period of time, and then buy used. Also, don't rent movies or get Netflix, if you live in a major metro area where the local library system has a big selection of DVDs.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:45 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just in case there is any ambiguity I'm talking about used Volvos (the 240 hasen't been made in 15+ years). Just a Volvo repair shop owned by a guy who always seems to have a client ready to unload one on the cheap. It's so nice to not have to figure in payments (the disadvantage of a new[ish]car) or a repair budget (traditionally a must if you've resigned yourself to a thousand-dollar car) into my monthly budget.
posted by sourwookie at 5:18 AM on September 7, 2007

Call and cancel your isp. Earthlinks price for unlimited dialup is $21. I got a deal for $14 for 6 months. After 3 months I called to cancel and the person in India offered me $9.95/month. This seems to be s.o.p. because the same thing happened before when I tried to cancel another isp. And if you live in Ann Arbor go to the recycle store on Industrial.
posted by JohnR at 5:23 AM on September 7, 2007

I should point out that pracowity and rxrfrx's tips only apply if you do not have severe ADHD like me. I routinely shell out $30/year in library fees, and that's just for books that are charged at the (now incredibly low, considering it is the same fee they've had since the late 80s) 10c rate. If I had to deal with DVDs, which are usually charged at $1-2/day, I'd quickly lose on the proposition.

Netflix and really cheap used books are the way to go for people like me. If your town has a good used book store, you can probably even look into buying the books, reading them, and them bringing them back to the used book store every 3 months or so. You'll only get a fraction of what you paid for them, but I like recycling books and this way I get to hold them for as long as I want without worrying about fees.

But if you're good at returning things on time, then yes, libraries are awesome.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:26 AM on September 7, 2007

Insurance companies often have a multiple policy discount, if you have both your auto and home insurance with them. This can be 10% or 20% of the bill. If you're a renter, you can often get renter's insurance essentially for free, since it may only be $100 a year, and the discount takes more than that off your auto bill.
posted by smackfu at 5:47 AM on September 7, 2007

This is quite UK specific but.. I know plenty of people who pay mega bucks for things like network cables, ink cartridges, HDTVs and so forth from the stores. Instead you can just buy them at about a third to a half of the store price online at dedicated techie stores like eBuyer.com. It's not really true in the US, but in the UK offline stores are usually FAR more expensive than online equivalents.

I got a 22" 1680x1050 DVI & VGA screen for £150 including delivery this week, and almost a year ago got a 32" LCD HDTV for £350. Stores still sell 32" HDTVs for over £500 on average.
posted by wackybrit at 5:47 AM on September 7, 2007

Fat Wallet.
posted by catseatcheese at 5:50 AM on September 7, 2007

Local military bases will often have DRMO's (Decommissioning of Requisitioned Materials Office, I think) that sell things the military doesn't want anymore and sell them for cheep. I got a gas mask and 16mm projector at one once for about $20. Make friends with a jarhead and have him/her take you there.

Dumpster diving is a proven way to get some good stuff. Try frat/sorority houses after game-day weekends for empty bottles (homebrewing) or at the ends of semesters (working computers, vacuum cleaners, paper, office furniture, etc.)

Any time you can cut out the middle man for groceries you'll make out like a champ. Go to the fisherman for fish, go to the farmer for produce (farmers markets can be a rip-off, though, so be careful), go to the bee-farmer for honey (that's my favorite).

Bakeries will often have outlets that sell day-old and overstock items. These are a good bet.

Also, every Indian Market I've ever been in has incredible deal on things.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:55 AM on September 7, 2007

Metafilter - five bucks buys an online experience which is more addicting than crack.
posted by caddis at 6:00 AM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Every University I've ever been to has a surplus sale. Usually a big warehouse where they open the doors and sell off whatever they have once or twice a month. You can always get big strudy tables and chairs, old computer equipment, and assorted stuff you'd expect to find at a University surplus sale.
posted by sanka at 6:15 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

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