Don't go through life paying full price. You may be entitled to a broad range of discounts based on your neighborhood, profession, hobbies and personal associations. Through research, discipline and organization, you can save money by cashing in on group discounts. Here’s a list of six types of entitlement programs:
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You may qualify for discounts based on your employment history. For instance, some restaurants, theme parks and other establishments provide discounts for military families and veterans. Likewise, Office Depot offers The Star Teacher program, a customer loyalty plan that provides discounts ranging from 1 percent to 15 percent for teachers. A little homework can yield significant savings. Details about discounts and customer loyalty programs are typically found on company websites. Additional information may be available through professional associations, civic organizations and chamber of commerce groups.
Eco-friendly BYOB—bring your own bag policies—save the environment and save money. For example, some stores, including Target and Whole Foods provide instant rebates to shoppers who provide their own bags. Target, for example, will give you 5 cents back for each bag that you provide during the checkout process. CVS, the national drugstore chain, also offers a green rebate program.
Birthdays and celebrations
On birthdays and other milestones, you can qualify for freebies or discounts. For a recent birthday, I received a 10 percent-off coupon from Origins, a cosmetic company. Other merchants have birthday clubs that are packaged with a range of promotions. Baskin-Robbins has a free birthday club that provides a free scoop of ice cream and assorted discounts on your birthday. Loehmann’s, the off-price clothing store, had an “Insider’s Club” that offers a 15 percent shopping discount on purchases made on your birthday. (See also: 5 frugal birthday party games.)
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Residency has its perks and locals often pay less for museums, theme parks and other attractions. The price of admission for the county-run skating arena in Miami Beach is $3 for local residents. But nonresidents pay significantly more, with fees of $6 for children and $9 for adults. Other parks, hotels and entertainment centers—private and public—often have two sets of prices, with offers of steep discounts for customers who meet the local residency test.
Employees of private and public organizations may be entitled to a range of perks and discounts. Large corporations often receive discounts from vendors, business partners and other local companies fitness centers, dry cleaners, beauty salons, movie theaters and other businesses. For example, most major cell phone carriers offer steep corporate cell plan discounts—often as much as 25 percent off. These specials are typically publicized through internal newsletters, the company website and bulletin boards.
Annual membership passes for our local zoo enables us to visit other zoos and museums around the country for free or at heavily discounted admission rates. This reciprocity pays off when we travel and provides access to frugal entertainment. Many museums, zoos, fitness centers and family entertainment centers offer customer loyalty programs or reciprocity arrangements that provide additional regional or local discounts. And don’t forget about AAA. Membership in that automobile club entitles you to a variety of discounts at stores, restaurants, movie theatres and theme parks.
Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money and a contributing author to 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.