Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First Impressions: Cashback/Deal Sites Envaulted and Offermatic

How would you like to get an additional 1% cash back on all your credit card purchases without having to do any differently?  How about getting targeted offers from retailers you already frequent for things like $5 cash back for spending $50 at Trader Joe's?  If these sound intriguing to you two new services you might want to check out are Envaulted and Offermatic.

First, a couple of introductory pieces to familiarize yourself with these services.  Yesterday, TechCrunch called Envaulted A Cashback Program on Steroids. In a nutshell they give you 1% cash back on all your credit card purchases above and beyond what you're already receiving from your credit card company.  Offermatic is somewhat similar in that they offer rewards but they also offer Groupon-like deals targeted depending on your spending patterns.  Check out this blog post on How Mint.com, Groupon, and a burrito led to the founding of Offermatic.

Sound too good to be true?

Well, all of these sites depend on your providing them with the login information for your credit card so the first concern we'll all rightfully raise is privacy.  But I think a lot of people will get past that quickly.  Here's why...

A lot of people have already signed up for services like upromise or mint.com that allow third parties access to their credit card data.  Once you're comfortable with one service gaining access to your spending patterns it's not too difficult to justify another - especially when the value proposition of the service is so compelling.

And for me the services are compelling for the way they promise to effortlessly reward you for using the service -and/or- provide truly meaningfully targeted offers that are easy to sift through, consider, and make use of.  I've been using upromise for about 5 years now and I've netted over $2,200.  Not too shabby, but most of it came from large transactions initiated through their site.  Things like mortgage refinancing yielded large one-time payments that took considerable chasing on my part to see to closure.

The primary advantage services like Offermatic and Envaulted offer over some others is the ease with which we interact with them.  To take advantage of one of Offermatic's deals you only need to click "redeem".  If you spend your money at that merchant in the future your credit card will automatically be credited.  Envaulted is even more straightforward.  1% cash back on all purchases with higher percentages offered for certain retailers.

I signed up for both last night and I was impressed with how easily it all went.  In just a few minutes I signed up for both services, linked my three credit cards, they looked at my purchase history and offered deals and credited my account based on some amount of spending prior to enrolling in the service.

This stuff might not seem like a big deal (no pun intended) but it kind of is a big deal.  If avoiding recurring charges is a fundamental tenet of personal financial success then putting yourself in situations where you stand to effortlessly receive a stream of payments is just the opposite.  The only risk, then, is that you have the discipline to avoid offers you otherwise wouldn't take advantage of.

Offermatic has a deal where you can get points for referring friends.  Here's my unique link code if you're interested in signing up:


Further Reading: Upromise is a somewhat-similar service that's been around for a while that helps you save for college.

Have you signed up for either of these services?  How's it going for you?  Any questions on how it's going for me so far?  Any other similar services like this I should consider?  Leave a comment or drop me an E-mail: robert.paul.dwyer@gmail.com

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Still Looking for the Perfect Holiday Window Candles

As we were decorating the house for Christmas this year, I found 2 sets of holiday window candles that we weren't using anymore and set out on a quest to find a better solution.  You know - the single little lights in each window that look like candles that either plug-in or are battery powered?

Our first set plugged in (by the way all of the photos here are of the set we got this year from Home Depot).  This was good because I didn't need to replace batteries but bad because each window needed to be close to an outlet.  It looked a little messy inside with a cord running from the candle to the outlet.  Further, the kids often pulled on the cords and the candles fell off the window sill.  This was especially problematic because the bulb was glass and would shatter.

The next set seemed ideal because it was battery powered.  They looked great...for 2 days until the batteries wore out.  Their little incandescent light bulbs gobbled through batteries so I started going around and turning them on and off each night and investigating rechargeable battery solutions.  Their clumsy on/off mechanism whereby you'd screw the and unscrew the base to make a connection between the battery terminals and conductor inside the plastic candlestick combined with the alarming warning that they contained lead and should be kept away from children sealed the deal for these.  They lasted a year and didn't make it back into rotation.

This year I did some searching around online and was pleased to discover some very promising options including these from the Home Depot.  $14.98 a 6-pack!  They weren't available online but in store I found some for $6.98 a 2-pack.  I bought 6 and gave them a go.

At 9", I think they're the perfect height.  They've got plastic bulbs so no more shatter concerns.  I loved their simple on/off solution: The first time you turn them on establishes the start time for each day.  Then they stay lit for 5 hours and turn off.  The next day they come on at the same time as they did when you first turned them on.  This solution seemed even better to me than a light-sensitive approach -and- it promised to easily extend battery life.  They're LED-based too so even if you keep them on 24 hours a day they'll last a *lot* longer than incandescent bulbs.

How do I know they last a lot longer?  Well, one of the candles stays on all the time and it hasn't chewed through a set of batteries in a week.  Another one of the candles got mangled by our 3 year old the first night we had it in his room.  And a couple others are very "touchy" - if you don't attach the base just right it either doesn't come on or it doesn't turn off.  The candles are pretty low quality really - which is fine.  But every time I go back to Home Depot to buy more they're out of them.

They definitely look like faux candles as opposed to white Christmas lights.  They flicker.  That's cool I guess but I wouldn't mind a more "bright white" solution rather than the yellow-orange look these lights go for.  That said I'd definitely buy more of these Home Depot candles but I can't seem to find them online or in-store.

The perfect holiday window candle:
  • Turns on and off automatically each night
  • Doesn't need to be plugged in
  • Lasts an entire month without needing to replace the batteries
  • Shines bright
  • Shines white rather than orange
  • Durable enough to withstand a 3-foot drop onto a hard surface
  • Has a simple but reliable on/off mechanism
  • Cost less than $5 per candle (or even less if bought in bulk)
  • Available on Amazon with Free Super-Saver Shipping
With all of this talk about Groupon being acquired by Google (or not) for $6B I think there's a play for location-based group buying for things like this.  A 2-pack was $3.50 per candle.  A 6-pack $2.50 a candle.  How much would a 100-pack be if we got 10 families together and each bought 10?  Less than $1 a candle probably.

Have you found the perfect Holiday Window Candles?  I'd love to hear where you found them.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...