The word "epic" is often way overused, but I think it is fair here. I turned a process that should normally take between 60 and 90 seconds into something that stretched hours. Today, I'd like to take you on a journey to show you how I save money on big purchases... and give you a little peek inside my crazy mind.
On Friday, I was in a funk. I'm going to blame it on the snow adding to the record breaking amounts we've had in New England. It was only an inch and if it wasn't the billionth inch of snow this year, would have been picturesque. In any case, I wasn't feeling myself and the snow is the only thing I can think of accounting for it.
My wife came to me with a question, "If I were to buy you a bowling ball for your birthday, would you be mad?"
In seconds my funk was gone.
I love when my wife tries to speak my language... it is even better when she does it successfully. She knows that I don't bowl. She was referencing an episode from the Simpsons where Homer buys Marge a bowling ball with his name engraved on it. It was her way of saying, "I am thinking of buying you something, but I want to use it too."
I knew she was looking at my Amazon wishlist. We danced this dance before.
I responded, "The bowling ball is expensive, too much for a birthday present. I was thinking that it could be a purchase for the family. The "gift" is simply to have the discussion on if we should get a bowling ball and if we have a suitable alley to bowl in."
And so we went and measured our office using the terms of "bowling ball" and "bowling alley", not mentioning the term "treadmill desk" for a good 15 minutes. At some point, I had to admit that while I found a very well-reviewed treadmill desk, I hadn't finished my research. Often I add items to my Amazon wishlist that represent ideas. This was a case where I was 80% sure of what I wanted, but I had to look and make sure of the last 20%.
Takeaway #1: The more expensive a product is, the more I research it to death. A $1500 purchase like this gets a lot of my attention.
At the time, I didn't look into the feature sets of treadmill desks. I simply looked at reviews to see if people were happy. I knew I wanted something that folded up. I'm a huge believer in using vertical space as much as possible. That's about all I had to go on.
Before I go too much further, I should mention that there aren't many treadmill desks out there. At least not as many as I would have thought. There are plenty of treadmills. There are some standing desks. There are many solutions that people cobble together with those two. There aren't a lot of pure treadmill desks. In fact every editorial review I read from CNET to the ReadWrite to the Wall Street Journal all used the same LifeSpan treadmill desk that I initially added to my wishlist.
That LifeSpan desk seems to deserve its great reviews and people seem to love how well it works as a treadmill desk.
(Can you feel the, "BUT" coming?)
But one thing raised a red flag for us. My wife is often a listening participant in a training or conference call. During those times, she isn't limited to a walking speed. She can run. If there's a "dirty secret" of treadmill desks it's that they often top out at 4 miles per hour. They are great for walking while working, but if you want to put your work away and get a workout in, it isn't going to work for even causal joggers. Also, that LifeSpan treadmill had no ability to adjust the incline.
The was something else that was important for consideration. My wife, being in the military, has to pass a fitness test every year. Half of the test is running. Our oldest child hasn't reached his third birthday and our youngest is 15 months old... there was a lot of downtime from strenuous exercise. The inclement weather that I mentioned previously doesn't help. As great as a walking-speed treadmill desk would be, we have a real need for a treadmill that can be used... as a treadmill.
I would want the same. Who has space for a specialty treadmill and multiple treadmills in their home?
I only found one product that:
- Folded up
- Could be used for running
- Actually had a desk
It was this NordicTrack Treadmill Desk model #24951. The treadmill goes up to 10 mph, which is faster than I can run for any length of time. It also has a maximum incline of 10%. I think the incline will be a key feature. If I can't type while walking too fast, I might as well walk uphill.
Here's the video that sold my wife on this NordicTrack Treadmill Desk:
Often the most difficult part of buying an expensive product is making sure you made the right choice. For example, luxury SUVs is a pretty crowded field. The lack of competition made our choice much, much easier.
The next step was finding the best price. Again, the choice was fairly simple. I found two online retailers selling it, NordicTrack and Sears.
NordicTrack was discounting it from the usual $2500 to $1799. At that price, I'd buy it over the LifeSpan. When you are spending around $1500 anyway, it's worth an extra $300 to get the full running speed and incline. However, Sears had it for $1499. There was no price compromise at all.
I froze like a deer in headlights.
I had only heard of the product a few minutes ago. I couldn't possibly pull the trigger this quickly.
So I waited.
Later that night, I checked back in and it was $1489. I wasn't going to jump on the $10 price drop. I hadn't let the prospect of spending $1500 sink in.
I woke up the next day and the price had dropped to $1424. I think because it was the weekend some discount or special offer kicked in. My wife was running a few errands and popped into our local Sears store to see if they had it. They didn't. However, the saleswoman mentioned that there was a 15% off as part of a "Friends and Family" deal on Sunday and we should call the stores in bigger cities about their inventory.
On Sunday morning, I refreshed again and found that the price had dropped to $1350.
I couldn't helping thinking, "Sears, you sultry minx. Stop falling in love with me. You're just gonna embarrass yourself."
The Friends and Family deal was 10% off for fitness products. I read a little more about that discount and it was "up to 15%." I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
I was willing to pay $1799 originally based on the functionality and value. I think the discount that brought it to $1424 was discontinued and the F&F rate more than made up for it. It would have been great if I could stack them both, but they make the rules. I just follow them as best I can.
It was now a matter of how much money could I save. It's a competition. Game On!
I am going to empty the quiver to get the most money off I can.
The Temptations of Sears
Sears was pulling out all the stops with offers of discounts to get me to buy.
10% off vs. 20% in Shop Your Way points
The Friends and Family 10% discount is doubled if you take it as "Shop Your Way" points. Instead of getting $150 in a discount, I could get $300 to spend at Sears, Kmart, and maybe some other stores that had filed for bankruptcy in the past. My wife quickly reminded me of this possibility when I mentioned the points. We got many gift cards for our wedding and we went years before spending all of them.
Takeaway #2: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This is figuratively, but literally in value, the game that Sears is playing. In hindsight, I like to think that with my frugal shopping we could have gotten the value of 2.3 birds. In my wife's defense, we are trying not to spend money unless there is a clear reason to do it. Given the caveats, we took the cash discount and run.
Let's Welcome CardCash Into the Arena
As I explained in Home Depot Gift Cards Make My Money Go Further, I like to buy gift cards on a discount to save money. I dialed up CardCash on my browser as I've bought from there in the past. I held my breath as I bought 13 gift cards totaling $822.77. They were an 8% discount so the full value of them was $894.31.
Why not buy more? I had soaked up most of the inventory of printable eCards and they were down to cards less than $30. I later found out that Sears limits you to 15 gift cards for online purchases, so that worked out well.
This trick saved me around ~$72.
Sears' credit card tempts me to get another 5% off
Sears has a standing offer that they will give you 5% off if you pay with a credit card. Normally, I don't sign up for store cards, but I've got a pricing battle to win. And 5% of $1400 is $70, nothing to scoff at.
It wasn't quite clear if the discount was on the purchase price or if it was on the amount billed to the credit card. Typically they are the same thing, but when you use nearly $900 in gift cards, they are very different. I hoped it was on the purchase price.
I decided to apply for the credit card. Then everything went downhill.
My application was declined. I was given a case number, a code, and a phone number to call. Citibank probably doesn't have a lot of staff working on Sunday afternoon and after entering a pile of information, a recording told me call back later. Citibank, that was very rude. If you don't have the staff, at least tell me that quickly and not ask me about my first grade teacher (I'm exaggerating a bit.)
Undeterred, I used the chat window that Sears had been annoying me with. I explained my issue with the credit card. The person was going to help me, but also gave me a new phone number to call. Now I'm working with her, the website's standard ordering, and Sears' credit card team at the same time. Fun!
God bless that support person. She was a saint. Whatever Sears is paying her, it isn't enough. She put the order through for me manually. However, she had to do it twice, because her 5% code (in leau of the credit card) had to be entered first. It wasn't an easy order, because there were 13 gift cards with 13 numbers and 13 pins.
Meanwhile, back on the phone, the Sears credit card person told me that there was a typo in my Social Security number. That was the reason for my denial. My bad. She happily approved it manually with the fixed information.
And she said I'd receive my card in about a week. I explained that I was applying for the sole purpose of getting the 5% on a very expensive item on the website. Unfortunately, when cards are approved manually, giving the numbers out is a security risk. More unfortunately, she didn't explain this before approving my credit application.
So I asked for an annulment. That wasn't possible, but she could send me to customer service to close the account. She did and I canceled it. I had $3000 of Sears credit for probably a total of 5 minutes. That's going to do wonders for my credit report (he typed sarcastically).
While the account was cancelled, it might have been long enough to trigger a card being shipped to my house. In a week, the mail may give me a reminder on how I wasted a half hour of my time.
By this time, Chat Window Saint had finished typing up the order (the second time). I had her quote me the price to see if I got the 5% discount that I would have gotten with the credit card. It didn't. I didn't have the heart to tell her that an happily gave her my credit card to pay the remaining $477.95 that wasn't covered by the credit cards.
The grand total, with sales tax was $1,300.92. (It included free delivery, which was a nice perk.)
We'll get 2% back on the Fidelity Retirement Rewards credit card that I used. We also got 1% on ShopYourWay points. That's $26 in cash back (I used it to by the gift cards at CardCash too) and another $13 to spend at Sears. That's a value of $39.
A few hours later, I went on the website again to get some detail for this post and the treadmill had jumped to $1748.63. Today as I am about to post the article, it has jumped to $1942.92 and it labeled as a "Hot Buy."
At the end of the day, I saved betwen $500 and $700 (counting the cash back value) by pulling the trigger when I did and how I did. The credit card fiasco ended up not saving me anything and just costing me time, but it is hard not to be pleased with the result.
When I get it and use it, I'll be sure to write up a review for you.
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