BASICS: Cashback Part II

I talked about some basic cashback options before. Microsoft, like it usually does, came late to the party. It also wanted to started a lucrative cashback referral program and therefore started Live.com.
Let me tell you why Live.com is so unique and how it can work for you. Microsoft likes to make a big entrance when it is late to the party. It decided to one-up all the other referral sites by offering MASSIVE discounts. Microsoft sure does have lots of money. I’d be curious as to how much they’ve poured into their promotions so far.
It has offered ebay buy-it-now purchases cashback rates as high as 35%. The pic above is my live.com account showing how much i’ve earned over the past couple months. The ebay discount has since gone to 8% *EDIT NOW 20%* but there remain many good discounts. For example, there is a nice AT&T discount that you can use for the iPhone.
However, all is not rosy as there have been some glitches with people not receiving the cashback. I have not had any problems but there remains some anxiety on my part. Also, it has traditionally been 60 days before you can claim your money (then several days to transfer it to paypal, and ANOTHER several days from paypal to bank account). Some people have reported instant cashback but this is not consistent.
Regardless, the deals can be so great that I feel the risk is worth it.
Current deals (as of 12/11/08):
Target: 20%
AT&T: 20%
Ebay: 8% *EDIT now 20%*
Drugstore.com: 25%
TigerDirect: 15%
The cashback percentages change at random so you should see for yourself
Sign up for a live.com account
Go to the Live.com website
Search for specific keywords. (Depends on specific store. Use your imagination for the keyword. Sometimes it can be the name of the store that will give you the link. Sometimes you have to use certain product names that the specific store carries)
You are looking for links that show “live search cashback” with a percentage label on it.
Be sure to hit the refresh button on your browser if not successful
When you’ve found what you want, click through the link that you see
Before being directed to the site, you should now see a popup asking for your live.com account info
Go ahead and make your purchase and wait for the cashback
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Pros: Great Cashback
Cons: Take a long time to receive the cashback, not completely guaranteed
Please post your experience with this in the comments
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Review: AppleCare Warranty

My first Mac was an Apple IIGS. I absolutely loved it while everyone seemed to use a PC. Over the past several years, people have grown increasingly fond of the Mac, as reflected in improving marketshare. What can you do to protect your Mac investment? AppleCare! It has saved me lots of money over the years.
In general, I am not a fan of purchasing any kind of warranty. I’ve found that, in general, they are a waste of money. They may give you some piece of mind, but I hardly end up taking advantage of them. Plus I’ve found if I do want to use my warranty, there are so many loops to jump through that I don’t even want to deal with it. AppleCare is different.

What is it?

AppleCare is Apple’s extra warranty which they offer on almost all of their products. It extends your warranty from 1 to 3 years. It can be purchased any time within the first year of ownership. After your free 1 year warranty runs out, you can no longer purchase an Apple warranty.

How to use it?

You can either bring your Mac product to the Apple Store to have them take care of it or you can do it over the phone. Both ways work out great for me but I usually deal with problems over the phone. After navigating through the phone menu, just explain what your issue is. They may ask you to do some simple things to verify you have a problem. Then, they will email you a box the next day for you to ship the product back to them. Usually it takes about a week for them to fix it and send it back to you.

My experience

AppleCare has saved me tons of money. I especially recommend it for Mac laptops. Although Macs are built well, problems can creep in now and then. Amog the major laptop problems I’ve had: Titanium laptop that developed a broken hinge 14 months after purchase, Macbook LCD screen went bad 15 months after purchase. In both of these cases, estimated repairs would have been above $500 but I was able to get my repairs free because of my warranty. I’ve had many other minor issues (batteries duddenly dead, broken power cords, etc) which have been promptly taken care of as well. I will always get AppleCare with a Mac laptop.

How to purchase?

There is no need to purchase it right away. Wait until the 1st year warranty is almost up. There’s no need to tie up your money if not necessary. Also, please don’t purchase from Apple or a retail store. You can get it much cheaper on ebay. Significantly cheaper. Search for yourself. Compare to Amazon prices below.
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Guide to Amazon Discounts

I just wanted to summarize all of my blog posts regarding saving money if shopping with Amazon online as well. Amazon often has great prices.

Deciding when to Buy

Amazon prices tend to fluctuate every so often. The key question is whether Amazon is currently offering the best price. Gone are the days of Amazon price adjusting after your purchase.
There are 2 things I will do
PriceSpider is one place I’ll usually check first. This site shows a price history of items listed on Amazon and other stores. You can also sign up for price drop notifications for when the item reaches a certain price. Unfortunately, they don’t always have all the Amazon items that I’m looking for. Regardless, you’ll get a sense of how Amazon’s pricing compares to other stores.
The other thing I find helpful is to use Amazon’s own shopping cart. If you place an item in the cart, every time you look at your shopping cart you will be notified of any price changes on the item. if you check our cart every now and then, you’ll notice how the prices go up and down. This can give you a sense of Amazon’s pricing and when is a good time to buy.
Reducing Your Price Even More
If you’ve decided that it’s a good price, don’t forget to use the Amazon Goldbox trick. Sure, it’s cumbersome and you might have to wait to make your purchase. But a 5% discount might be worth it, especially for more expensive items.
Payment
You can save even more money depending on how you pay.
Amazon Chase Credit Card: You should really have this if you shop at Amazon a lot. You get an effective 3% cash back rewards on your Amazon purchases. They have a temporary promotion of an effective 6% cash back rewards. Gift cards are even eligible for the cash back.
Amazon Gift Cards: You might be able to get Amazon gift cards at a great discount. But this is a lot harder now than it used to be.
Shipping Options
Amazon, for a lot of items, offers free shipping if you spend $25. The problem, however, is that their free shipping is VERY slow. If you make a lot of purchases over the year, and might need the item quickly (or are impatient), you should really look into Amazon Prime. You pay a one-time fee, but you get free 2nd-day shipping with the option to pay $3.99 for 1-day shipping. More details about Amazon Prime.
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Go ahead and start your Amazon shopping.
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