Tag Archives: money

Coupons Should Save You Money (Not Coax You to Buy Something Because It’s Cheap)

You caught me: I’m the worst kind of complainer. I hate asking people if their business offers a military discount. I know, cue the world’s smallest violin. But seriously – you fellow military spouses know what I’m talking about. We all want the discount, but asking everywhere you shop can eventually make you feel like you’re being cheap or annoying the perfectly nice business owner. And what if they don’t have one? Awkward.

Assuming at least some of you are just like me, you’ve tried to remedy this by taking to your keyboard. And you’ve probably spent a good amount of time searching for the business you needed and then trying to find out which one had a military offer of some sort. In the end, you’ve typically saved a few bucks, but at what cost? Your eyes were all glossed over, your head was foggy, and you just realized you missed out on a solid two hours you could have used pretending you were going to go to the gym. But now there’s a solution: GIsave.com – a coupon-based website dedicated exclusively to showcasing military deals offered by our adoring local businesses.

Now I know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these coupon sites out there that are all virtually the same and offer some crazy low prices on things. While I’m all for crazy low prices, most of the coupons are not for places I shop at on a daily basis, or for things I actually need. More often than not, I find myself trying to rationalize why I suddenly need an 8-mode digital pulse massager, just because it showed up in my inbox. And though the ones for restaurants give me a great excuse for a night out, I could really do without the annoyed stares when I inform them of my coupon. Not that I can blame them, because there are way too many people out there that take the discounted price as an excuse to tip lower (please, please, please – don’t do this!), but it’s unfortunate to get caught in the crossfire.

And like I said, when I need to go out into the community I actually live in and get some pet supplies, have my car’s oil changed, get my hair cut or go to the dentist, most of these coupon sites are useless to me. GI Save helps me save money at the places I am already going to, and helps me find businesses I know are reputable when I need something but don’t know of a place to go. And let’s face it, if you are military or part of a military family, you know what it’s like to move. You know what an absolute pain it is to find all the places you need again and how awful it is to waste money at a store or on a service that just wasn’t what it should have been. GI Save gives you an avenue. It helps you find places run by good people, and it saves you money while it does that. And you can very well think I am just embellishing because I work for these people – but guess what? That’s a good thing. It’s because I work for these people that I know exactly who is going out and finding the businesses that are featured. They all have a conscious and want to do the right thing. What’s more, I have watched each one of them not work with a business if they thought they weren’t going to stand by their customers. That says something.

Thankfully, with GI Save, all the businesses are local. That’s why the home page has you pick your base before it shows you deals. Every single one of these companies is happy to have military business. And not one of them thinks that the discount they are offering is too over the top. Why does this matter? Because your experience when you go somewhere with one of these mobile coupons is pleasant. You leave feeling great that you saved some money, but better that you found an awesome place where the owner really appreciates your business. They help you, you help them, and you both help some really good military charities by supporting GI Save.

Coupons are the number one thing military spouses ask for – so here they are. Now all you have to do is get the word out so we can have even more deals and businesses to throw our debit cards at. Thank you, internet.

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Giving You More Than The Right To Play Candy Crush

It’s easy to tell you the obvious reasons why you should appreciate the military: They are the reason you have and will continue to have the freedoms you so depend upon. They’re the reason you even have the option to debate gun rights, speak out against politicians, or use your entire day to watch cat videos on YouTube (oh, and watch “If It Fits, I Sits”… then thank a service member). But you should know all of that. And if you don’t or you don’t believe that, then shame on you, but that’s your right.

What I’m getting at (or going to be getting at) here is a different reason the military should be appreciated: the economy. For those of you without ties to a service member, all you may hear are the ramblings on the news about defense spending and budget cuts and blah blah blah… all stuff that probably leads you to think the military is just a big, expensive organization. And while it is expensive, it also offers a great deal of stimulation to local economies.

Think about it: in or around areas where there are one or more military installations (and there are a LOT of these areas), constant influxes of new people are more or less a certainty. Even if someone coming in means someone going out, moving is anything but cheap. Both of these individuals or families will be spending lots of money getting things they need. The incoming family will need to find a new place to live, storage, food, etc. They’ll also need to find a place to get their cars serviced, get their hair cut, buy new clothes… everything they may need now or in the future. Not only this, but military bases employ a large amount of civilian contractors, sometimes equaling the number of active duty personnel. More working people + more paychecks = more money to be spent in the local economy. That’s the kind of math even I can do.

And then, you have examples like us, Military Media – a private business specifically established with military bases or clientele in mind. There are plenty of other businesses of all kinds that fit this bill, and we all succeed ONLY because of this demographic. For example, we started out producing base guides and maps, a business endeavor which would be 100% pointless without the bases (obviously). While we may now work with bases throughout the country, do you really think our home office would be here, employing locals? …Nope. Sure, it might be someplace else, but why have only a few economically booming areas when you can have many? The military makes that possible.

The military is also responsible for building up areas which may otherwise be extremely underpopulated and struggling. Take, for example, the real-life community situation over here. The Panhandle region, Pensacola to Destin, specifically, may be on prime real estate with beautiful beaches and generally great weather. Sure, tourists would come here whether the bases were here or not. But let me ask you this – what happens when the peak season is over and the tourists go home (or somewhere else)? Yep – the remaining residents and businesses sit in the quiet and struggle to make it through without the tourists to visit their businesses and stimulate their economy. Every off-season is a gamble, and many businesses do not make it. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times in other areas.

But, fortunately, that’s not the way it is here, thanks to the military. There are certainly peak and off-seasons still, but thanks to approximately SEVEN military installations (many of them small), there are roughly 66% more people living here full time than there would be otherwise. And an estimated $8.2 billion in annual value to the local economy.

The numbers don’t lie. Just like your ability to say funny things on Twitter followed by the hashtag #firstworldproblems doesn’t lie. So be thankful. Whether you realize it or not, the chain effect the military has on your well being is astounding on so many levels. Reach out and show your appreciation in some way. And if you need a little help, we’re here.

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Giving Things Away is the Worst Way to Make Money

Yes, I really had to say that. Since the big bang of couponing took over in the late 2000s, the practice has been adored by deal-hunting consumers and demonized by profit-conscious entrepreneurs. And how could it be any different? People love saving money when they go out shopping, and business owners love to (and need to) make a decent profit. But wait – this paradigm seems conflicting! Why?

Because it is.

And this has been especially true since daily deal sites became so popular, requiring deals to be at least 50% off the normal purchase price. And here’s the kicker – that fraction of your typical profit is slashed even further when you give the host site their cut. This may seem ridiculous to some, but in this economy, customers are looking for it and business owners often turn to it to make their doors swing. So what do you do?

You find a better way. And there is one. The good news? You can afford it (I really mean it), it’s trackable, and (when used properly) can really increase your customer base. The bad news? It will require a little marketing savvy on your part to transform them from a one hit wonder to a loyal, repeat customer. But don’t worry – I’m here with my fancy degrees and cheap laptop (cause and effect?) to help you.

First of all, the better way is www.GIsave.com, a coupon-based website geared specifically towards the military communities in the Southeastern U.S. (though there are plans to expand). More than any other demographic, military families need to find ways to stay on budget while finding new favorite places to frequent as they bounce around from base to base. As a future military spouse, I can tell you there is not one time someone has said “military discount” and my head hasn’t turned. And now, there’s a whole website of people screaming just that – and I don’t have to leave my couch or my sweats to hear it. Beautiful.

I know what you’re thinking: Why would you gear your couponing to just this one demographic? That seems silly. Well, because the military community makes up almost TWO THIRDS of the Emerald Coast economy. Scout’s honor – look it up. Not so silly. And even better, it’s not Groupon or Living Social. We’re not asking you to sell your first born child to afford the price slash. We don’t tell you how much to discount. You just come up with something you’re happy with and we make it visually appealing… not to mention able to be comfortably accessed by military families in their favorite obnoxious headbands and scrunchies (it’s OK for the 90s to live on in your own living room, right?).

Now here’s where my free advice to you lovely business owners comes in. DO NOT… I repeat.. DO NOT succumb to the desire to throw the phrase “10% off with ID” on your GI Save coupon. This is not to say that 10% is a bad discount, or that military families do not appreciate it (because trust me, they really, really do). However, doing this works against you in a couple of ways. First of all, you probably honor that discount with the simple mention of it or the flash of an ID card, don’t you? And again, thank you. But how on earth are you supposed to know how impactful your GI Save program is if you don’t make people tell you? And what about your deal makes you stand out from any of the other businesses?

So, pick a dollar amount, or offer a free something with the purchase of another something. Anything that will get that person’s attention and get them to show you their virtual or printed coupon so you have that wonderful peace of mind that what you did is working. Makes sense, right?

Now continuing the free advice, do something AWESOME when we customers make our way into your business. Make us want to come back over and over again. And, I’ll let you in on a little secret here – we’re easy. Awesome can sometimes mean a sticker. That’s right – that little shiny thing that costs a fraction of a penny can make you stick out. Seriously. So, go find something. It could be a little bonus gift, a different coupon to use on another visit, a referral program punch card that gets your new customer free/discounted stuff when they tell their friends… the list goes on and on. It doesn’t have to cost you much of anything; it just needs to be thoughtful enough that Joe around the corner isn’t doing it. Boom – you win.

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There Is No Hotel Deal Fairy

It has to be one of the most Googled phrases in recent travel history: how to book the best room for the best rate. And while I wish I could say I hadn’t wasted my time doing this… a lot… I have. And the outcome is almost always one of two things. Either the information is completely useless and makes searching “cheap hotel rooms” seem like a revolutionary, Nobel prize worthy idea; or the results are achieved by nothing short of calling out sick from work for two weeks straight, developing a masterful spreadsheet, and probably getting put on some sort of government watch list. But don’t worry, you’ll get the room five dollars cheaper per night (maybe).

So, in response, I’m going to try to give you my version of it. Part of me thinks this is futile, but the other part of me tells me this: I’m better with technology than your average person, but I’ve also had to teach people how to use it. I work full time and I work on a Master’s degree part time. And I will fight you if you think I’m going to waste time doing anything else when I could be watching football. Why should you care? Because that means I’m not going to suggest something so painfully obvious your great grandmother would know to try it, or something so complicated you need a doctorate in engineering to do it. I’m also not going to suggest things that “ain’t nobody got time for”. I welcome your criticism (or loving praise) after you read this.

  1. It’s already time for the tough love.

No matter how good you are at this, how far in advance or last minute you’re looking, or if it’s a Tuesday and the weather is bad – you are not going to get a stellar deal every time. Sometimes, all your tricks and research just lead you to the sad realization that the cost is what it is. But hey, at least you know you’re not getting ripped off by whatever hotel or site you book through.

  1. Analyze your circumstances.

Ask yourself a few key questions before you start looking. Is your trip soon or in the distance? Do you need a specific neighborhood or will anything in the general area do? Do you have the funds to pay up front, or do you need to be able to pay when you check out? Is your trip flexible enough that you’re comfortable booking something the same day you want to check in? These are all important questions, and I will address them in the “Tips” section at the bottom.

  1. Use more than one website. But don’t go crazy.

I know, there’s websites like Kayak and Priceline, as awesome as they may be, that insist you only need to search their site to find the best price. But only trying the deal sites just tells their marketing departments that they’re as brilliant as they think they are. I generally pick one deal website, and then Google something like “hotel specials February 7-9 in Fort Walton Beach”. Sometimes, a coupon or something will pop up. More often, though, I get a big old list of hotels across the top of the page. And now, I compare. Go through your deal site and try to find a price you like. If you don’t see one, find a hotel you like that might be more money than you’d like to spend, but isn’t so far gone you can’t find a better deal.

  1. Compare Simply.

Baby steps here. Let’s assume you’ve now picked a hotel or two (or three or four) from the deal site. Next, go to the hotel’s website itself and run a search. Sometimes, the deal site is better. Sometimes, it’s the same. But other times, you might find that if you select a AAA rate or military rate (from the search box when you’re typing in your dates and number of people…typically in a drop down menu or under “advanced search”), the price ends up being lower than the deal site. Think about it: the deal site can’t assume everyone booking qualifies for a discount. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Refer to point #1.

  1. Compare Creatively.

Don’t get stuck in a rut. I know you’re probably thinking I’m breaking my time rule here, but the above two steps shouldn’t take you more than five minutes (ten if you’re researching a lot – but you should save that for the end). Quickly skim through and cross reference the deal site’s list with your Google list. Just like Southwest Airlines tickets can only be purchased from their own website, not all hotels allow deal sites to work with them. When you see some on Google that you didn’t on the deal site, do a new search for that hotel. Here’s the best part: quite often, since the hotel is not participating in a deal site, they’ll have some pretty great deals. Especially for multi-night stays.

Tips:

Now that I’ve given you some ideas, back to those questions I asked you to evaluate in point #2. The best way for you to treat the following bullet points is like a matching quiz in school. Figure out what applies to you based on your answers to the questions, and then take my advice accordingly.

  • If you’re in a situation where the deal site and hotel site are the same price, consider this: deal sites require full payment up front and are rarely refundable; direct hotel sites typically do not actually charge you until check out and have pretty lenient cancellation policies
  • Monitoring the price of a hotel you like over a period of time can typically lead to a decreased rate. If you see it drop, grab it.
  • Many hotels have last minute deals. I don’t mean the week before, I mean the same day you want to check in. You can use the hotel site, deal site, or an app like Hotel Tonight
  • Unless you really can’t afford a hotel at the initial price you find it, don’t play the bargain game if it’s going to really put you in a bind to stay anywhere else
  • Pick up the phone after you’ve found a hotel you like. The vast majority of the time, their best deals are online. But some offer secret promotions you’ll never find out about if you don’t call and ask

The bottom line here is establishing your priorities, then doing what you need to do to achieve them. There might be a lot of stuff here, but if you ask those key questions first, you shouldn’t need to spend more than 15-30 minutes finding the best deal possible for you. Any tips or tricks of your own? Post them here and share the wealth!

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