In this hobby we are constantly bombarded by various deals. I don’t know about you, but my head starts spinning from all the discounts, free donuts and Amex offers that I HAVE to take advantage of. I may not be a huge fan of Martha Stewart, but you better believe I will buy her wine when it costs just $3.50 per bottle. Sure, it’s only marginally better than the $5 wine I usually get at Dollar General, but still.
To be fair, some deals seemingly fall in the “low-hanging fruit” category. But even then you have to watch out because they can easily turn into a major time and energy suck. Let me give you an example. American Express sometimes has an offer for its gift cards in your profile. You know, the one where you buy $200 gift card and get $10 off?
Usually, there is shipping cost involved, but if you find a discount code waiving purchase fee, you’ll end up with a net profit of $6. Sounds good, right? Well, it depends. Let me tell you my story. So, I ordered one of these cards and planned to pre-pay my power bill (I don’t do any manufactured spending). I got the card in the mail and it looked like the envelope was opened. Hmm, it’s probably OK.
I tried to use it and guess what? No dice. I seriously started having a panic attack thinking someone drained the gift card. That’s a few weeks of my life I will never get back. I call American Express and get a rep on the phone. He can’t figure out what’s going on and tells me he will go get a supervisor. After about 20 minutes on the phone, the guy comes back and says that the card wasn’t drained after all (phew!) and American Express simply failed to activate it. Huh?
OK, the issue is resolved. I was going to a grocery store and decided to just use it there rather than prepay my power bill. Long story short, I ended up with a tiny balance of $1.42. No problem. I’ll just drain it by buying a $1.42 Amazon gift card. Except Amazon decided to put a $1 hold and declined my purchase. I tried to prepay the power bill and it turns out, they require a $5 minimum payment.
So, now I have a $1.42 Amex gift card sitting in my wallet, occupying space, and I’m not sure when I’ll finally get rid of the darn thing. I’ll probably use it to buy coffee at McDonalds at some point. Hopefully it won’t get declined.
Let’s recap. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone and had a mild heart attack, thinking the card was drained. Then I spent another few minutes trying to use it (unsuccessfully) on Amazon.com And I still have $1.42 left. All of this for a profit of $6? Methinks the juice is not worth the squeeze. I probably drank that much in Martha Stewart wine just to cope with the nonsense factor of it all.
But seriously, how much time do we all waste on the stuff that produce diminishing returns? I know I browse Amex Offers for at least 5 minutes each day, probably longer. And then I devote another 20 minutes trying to maximize a worthy offer to its greatest potential. And for what? A few bucks here and there. I wish I could say that I enjoy it, but honestly, it feels like a chore most of the time. I feel like I have to do it, otherwise, I will be leaving money on the table. And we can’t have that, can we?
And it’s not like I have a lot of extra time on my hands. There is usually a pile of laundry to do, a blog post to write and kids to take care of. Of course, many deals are very much worth it, but I have to be picky on when to bite and when to walk away. Credit card sign-up bonuses and some bank account deals definitely give you a nice ROI when it comes to your time. Those are usually worth it. Just make sure to pay attention to the fine print!
Everything else is kind of iffy. If you are into manufactured spending and regularly drive around looking for an MS-friendly Walmart, I urge you to consider ALL the costs associated with it, not just the fees.
Still, if you asked me if I plan to buy an Amex gift card again when there is a $10 offer, I would probably say Yes. It’s an addiction.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.