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Hot Deals Guide: How to Get Stuff Cheap or Free (Page 4 of 5)

Posted: August 10, 2003
Written By: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy

Coupons, Codes, MIR, and IR

The procedure to using coupon codes is very easy and with most online stores, the process is nearly identical.

First, you'll find coupon codes for the store you're planning to use. While not all online stores have coupon codes, a good percentage of them do. Before you buy anything online from a store, check around for coupon codes. You will usually save at least $10, sometimes more on even a sub-$100 purchase. It may not sound like a lot of money, but if you do a lot of shopping online, it will add up fast. There are also plenty of coupon codes online that offer free shipping or special deals. We have a list of coupon codes' sites on the next page. Be sure to check any unknown site you score a deal from on Reseller Ratings just to be extra safe!

Once you've filled your cart and you're ready to check out, there will usually be a coupon/promotion code box before you enter your credit card / shipping information. You'll almost always have a final chance to confirm an order after you apply a coupon code, so don't be afraid that you will place an order before you're given the chance to enter a coupon.

Click to enlarge.

A few things to know about coupon codes:
  • If the code is invalid or expired, it will usually pop-up a message telling you.
  • If the code works, it may not pop-up a message, but the discount should be shown.
  • Codes change often, so don't give up hope if a code doesn't work. Try another.
  • If a code isn't expired but doesn't work, try calling the store.
  • Some codes have very specific requirements. Always read the fine print.
Rebates - The Mail-In and Instant Variety

Mail-in Rebates (often called MIRs on deals sites) might seem risky, but they are generally very safe. Be sure to know what the MIR entails before jumping into such a deal. If you buy something online, you'll probably have to wait for the product to arrive then send off the UPC, packing slip, a rebate form, and maybe the invoice. If you buy an item B&M, you'll probably need to pick up the rebate form at the store, then send it in with the UPC and receipt. Ask at the checkout counter if you're confused. Whenever you are handling any type of rebates, be sure to keep copies of everything (receipts, UPC, rebate form) so you can always reference them later, or prove that you sent the forms.

Instant rebates are more user friendly. They are applied at checkout and there's rarely any complication. No waiting is required and very little work is necessary. These rebates are basically just price breaks.

PM & PM: Price Matching and Price Mistakes

Price matching is a more advanced technique that skilled deals hunters use to pay absolute bottom dollar for items. The concept is simple: you find a better price from one store than another, so you notify the more expensive store of the price difference. Many stores have a policy where they don't just match the price, they often beat it by 5-10% or more. Combining this with other deals and rebates can result in incredible savings and deals. As you can guess, it's not extremely easy to accomplish such a feat, so practice is necessary. Check around deals forums and look for price matching threads. Generally there are explanations for each. You have to get your hands dirty if you're looking to learn the tricks of the trade.

Price mistakes are a lot different. Often times, especially online, a store will incorrectly price an item. If you buy the item before they correct the mistake, there's a possibility you'll receive it for that extra low price. However, if the price is too low, they most likely will not honor the mistake.

Even if they do not, it still often pays off to seek out such mistakes, though, as some stores will offer gift certificates or extra coupons to appease the potential customers. Once I tried to buy a 19" monitor for an incredibly low-at-the-time $99 (it was supposed to be $499) and the store failed to honor the discount. Someone sued the store with a class action suit. I received a notification of this and it told me if I "wanted", I could remain part of the settlement. I didn't argue and eventually received a check for about $250 for absolutely no work. Pretty spiffy, eh?

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