Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cheapskate Advice 101: Exploit Your Discounts

Let’s face it. Huntsville is not known for its booming job opportunities. Decent jobs are few and far between (and getting worse with all of the layoffs). Most of the jobs available, especially for the college aged crowd, are minimum wage and/or food industry jobs. While these jobs barely pay the bills, they usually do have one perk—the discount.

When looking for one of these jobs think about where you want to spend your extra money.

If you are already into buying a lot of video games, movies, and books, then there is a discounts perk to working at Wal-Mart, Target, and Hastings. Hastings’ discount used to be better, but there is still a roughly 40% discount on books—and combining it with a used book makes the rewards even greater. Hastings also has the little known bonus of the stripped book option for its employees (DON'T go in as a customer and expect this same perk!). If there is more than one copy of the majority of mass market paperback books, then an employee is allowed to strip the book of its cover and take the book home. Hasting gets a credit for the cover and the employee gets a free book—with a maximum of one per week. Sure, it is hard to judge a book if the cover is torn off, but the point of having a book is to read it and not show the cover off on your book shelf.

If there is a book that you want but there is only one copy in the store, then special order a copy and strip it when it comes in. That is a sneaky way to fix the one book dilemma. Also, most employees don’t care about this option, so if there is a book series you are anxious to finish, then ask fellow coworkers to give you their stripped book—or just go to the library (unless you are like me and have had three books checked out since 2003).

Wal-Mart and Target employee receive less of a discount, but they are often the first to know about certain sales—many of my friends have lucked out by being the first person to spot a major price cut on “big ticket” items such as flat screen TVs and other electronic devices.

While many of the jobs in the food industry can be very stressful, there is the plus of not starving.

Everyone has to eat, and judging by the obesity rates, most Americans have very "healthy" appetites.  Many food industry jobs allow its employees the benefit of discounted or free food. With a job in the food industry, it is possible to spend little to no money on food. However, the same food every day can grow boring and most fast food items are extremely unhealthy.

 That is why it is important to remember that “sharing is caring.” Many people around Huntsville share their discounts or free food with their friends. I have seen multiple households survive off free pizza or hot wings supplied by one roommate, but again, this is option should be a temporary fix for health reasons. The “freshman fifteen” and especially the “senior sixty” are easy to gain but VERY hard to work off, so get a job or find a friend who works at Subway.

 Also, a good friend will give a heads up on spotting a “big ticket” item as soon as it arrives in the backroom and share the discount.

Discounts can make the worst jobs a little more bearable—it is to you on how far you want to exploit it. 

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