Using Raise to Save at Sephora

Using Raise to Save at Sephora

I’m not really someone who clips coupons or goes through complicated schemes to save a few dollars. In general, I try to set up my finances so that I’m comfortable with the amount I’m allocating towards different spending categories, and then I embrace the results. I came across a savings idea online, though, that I recently put to the test as part of my yearly budget for makeup–using giftcards from Raise to save money at Sephora. The process was so simple that I had to share it with you all.

What is Raise?

Raise is an online giftcard marketplace that pairs sellers who have unused giftcards with buyers looking for discounts at those stores.  Raise takes a cut of the giftcard price, so my experience as a seller was that it would be vastly more beneficial to sell any unused cards to my own network, but as a buyer, you’re able to quickly and easily buy giftcards at a discount.

My Raise and Sephora Process

I knew I was in the market for primer, foundation, and make up brushes.  I happened to have a connection to a generous soul who works at Sephora, and she shared her 20% friends and family coupon with me for Sephora’s annual event.  With one discount already in hand, it was a perfect time to try out Raise and pack even more purchasing power into my transaction. I can’t stress enough how easy this process was.

  •  Log into Raise.  If you don’t yet have a Raise account, consider using my link to get started: http://geta.raise.com/mparrish.  When you sign up with this link, you’ll add a $5 savings to your first giftcard purchase.  I signed up with a friend’s link and was able to bump another $5 off my final Sephora tally.
  • Search the marketplace for EITHER Sephora or JC Penny giftcards (Sephoras inside JC Penny accept Pennys giftcards, which are often more heavily discounted.)  I personally wanted to shop online, which you can only do with a Sephora giftcard, and the discount difference between the two options was only 5% on the day I bought. Your own threshold for inconvenience and the price differences when you’re in the market might lead you to a different decision than mine did.
    Sephora Options on Raise as of 11/1/2015 at 11:30 AM
    Sephora Options on Raise as of 11/1/2015 at 11:30 AM

    JC Penny options on Raise as of 11/1/2015 at 11:30 AM
    JC Penny options on Raise as of 11/1/2015 at 11:30 AM
  • Choose your denomination based on the amount you plan to spend and the discount offered.  I wasSephora able to purchase $150 worth of giftcards for roughly $135, already saving me $15 before I was even on the Sephora site.  Here’s where the ease of purchase comes into play.  I opted for “egift” giftcards, so once I paid for my two purchases, I received the cards instantly in my email.  It takes less than 5 minutes to complete a Raise transaction, start to finish, which I would certainly say was worth the $15 I saved.
  • I headed on over to Sephora with my vouchers in hand and used my 20% off coupon to boost my savings even more.  I filled my cart with the products I’d planned and then easily entered the codes from my emails into the giftcard checkout box. You can see the final result of my work below!

Screenshot 2015-11-01 11.40.32

In the end, I had budgeted $200 for make up and I would have paid roughly $195 after tax without my discount and Raise giftcards. By investing the small amount of time that I did to take advantage of my friend’s generous coupon offer and Raise, I spent about $142 for the exact same products.

Keep in mind that Raise doesn’t just work for Sephora–there’s a host of different giftcards on the marketplace, from restaurants to spa options.  The discounts vary, but I found the process to be so straight forward that I’m going to make it a habit to check Raise before any big purchases.  I’d recommend you do the same.

This post was sponsored by….absolutely no one.  If you’d like to sponsor me to continue creating tips and content, though, consider using my Raise link to sign up for your own account and netting us both $5 in the process. http://geta.raise.com/mparrish

Like what you see and want to keep up with the latest on Life as a Hat?  Find us on Facebook–a “like” will make sure every post finds its way to you.

Why ClassPass Wasn’t Right For Me

Why ClassPass Wasn’t Right For Me

Has ClassPass swept into your city yet? If you don’t know the name already, just wait. ClassPass is next in line to the smart phone assisted services-on-demand throne, and it’s making fitness an all you can eat buffet in 32 cities across the nation so far. The basic gist of the service is that, for $80/month in most markets, you can have access to fitness classes at countless gyms in your area. We aren’t talking about second string options that no one wants to take either–ClassPass serves up barre, spinning, hot yoga, you get the idea, at the trendiest spots in your town.  As a secret admirer of/aspirer to all things LuluLemon, I was salivating as soon as I opened the app, even if I should know better.

(Sidebar Hatters: I read a theory the other day that most multi, multi, million dollar tech start ups simply connect users to services that already exist with more ease: think Uber, Seamless, and Instacart. I can’t shake it, or shake how unnecessary a lot of these services seem, and I’ll definitely be taking a more in depth look at the impact of these ubiquitous apps on your wallet later.  But for now, back to ClassPass.)

On the surface, ClassPass seems like a bargain. I took a gander through their Seattle offerings, and a membership at any one of the gyms ClassPass grants access to would run you at least $100 a month.  The only catch to ClassPass’s $80 deal is that you can only visit the same studio three times in a month; if there’s a hot yoga studio you love by your apartment, you can’t use ClassPass to turn a $120 membership into an $80 plan and visit the studio every day.  Gyms get to fill empty class spaces, ClassPass provides a fitness service without any of the hassles of running a brick and mortar fitness center, and you get to take classes to your heart’s content.  Win/win/win, right?

Unfortunately not for me.  And I do mean unfortunately; this isn’t about to morph into a snappy putdown of what ClassPass does.

I used the power of asking on Twitter to get access to a two week free ClassPass trial, and after five days in, I’ve ended the trial early.

I didn’t do it for any dramatic reason.  I attended one class, and I enjoyed it (though I did have trouble jumping into a studio setting with habitual practitioners as someone who hasn’t worked out in a few months.)  I think the service is well-designed, and if I put a great enough value on fitness classes in particular, I’d cough over the $80 at the end of my trial to keep the service going.

What I realized this week, though, as I scheduled my classes after work and found myself dreading them, as I wished I could just go for a run instead of worrying about parking at a studio, as I wondered what I would wear in a more upscale workout setting…was that ClassPass wasn’t bringing me any joy. The purpose of this blog is to explore the things in life that make us really want to stand up and sing and to have the financial freedom to use our brief stint of time on Earth the way that we want to.

Every time I decide to save instead of to spend, I add freedom and security to my life; why would I trade those things for anything less than absolutely, knock you off of your feet, joy?  ClassPass didn’t bring me that joy.

There’s value to working out, absolutely, but when I can do it for free (or as close to it as anything in life is), I’m not going to risk the chance that I’ll like ClassPass enough to settle for trading $80 a month for it.  The trial was interesting, but it seemed like if I stayed any longer, I’d talk myself into accepting a monthly debit for something that was useful, sure, but not worth my freedom. Maybe some of you with more self-restraint could do better, but what I lack in self-control, I like to think I make up for in self-awareness.

And that was all there was to it.  ClassPass seems like a fantastic service to meet the needs of folks who adore fitness classes and want to jump up and down at the chance to sample the different options their city offers.  I’m not that person (as much as I wish I were), so I’m not trading my freedom for what ClassPass is selling.  If you’re currently in a gym membership or another automated monthly debit for recreation system, I’d ask you to think deeply about how much joy the service brings you and whether you’re giving yourself a fair trade.  Do you keep your gym membership because you absolutely value what you get from it on par with the money you trade for it, or do you keep it out of unexamined habit?  Is it worth your freedom?

Like what you see and want to keep up with the latest on Life as a Hat?  Find us on Facebook–a “like” will make sure every post finds its way to you.

Stop Answering Personal Finance’s Biggest Questions Automatically

Stop Answering Personal Finance’s Biggest Questions Automatically

Before I start this post, I want to thank all of your for the incredible response to the Life as a Hat launch and to extend a hello to any new readers who came from my Apple Announcement series (Part 1 and Part 2.)  I’ll turn an eye back to cell phones and personal finance soon, I promise, but today, let’s take a break from everything Apple to talk about an even more vital “A-word” in our lives: Automation.  That’s right, we’re doing vocabulary today.  It’ll almost be useful enough to make up for the headline.

Automation, or rote behavior, is one of the biggest factors at play in your financial success or failure.  As a former middle school teacher, I know how important repetition is, so let me just say again–

Automation, or rote behavior, is one of the biggest factors at play in your financial success or failure.

And for those in the back of the room doodling–

AUTOMATION, or rote behavior, is one of the biggest factors at play in your financial success or failure.

So, what’s automation?

When I say automation, I mean the purchases you make throughout your month without any thought.  We all understand that the gym subscription that takes $70 from you account every month is automation in action; I’m not here to waste your time with what you already know (you should really cancel your gym subscription if it isn’t bring you joy, though.) I want to expand the definition of automation until it includes the four biggest expenses of most of our months: housing, transportation, utilities, and food.

All of us have the big four, but most of us don’t think about them beyond our month to month defaults.  We live where we live, it costs what it costs.  It’s these choices, though, that define the flow of your monthly income.  We grow our wealth by either earning more or saving more, and the big four are the places where savings pack the most punch.  By putting more thought into our big four, we can change the course of our financial future.

So how can you stop seeing housing, transportation, utility, and food costs as automatic, and unchangeable, expenses?  The best method I’ve found is active interrogation–sitting down with your big four expenses and making them justify their cost.

Put your brain where your money is:

  •  First, take out a paper and pencil and write your four expenses in columns across the page.  A digital spreadsheet would work just as well if you prefer, but I personally value the weight of the pen in my hand when I’m dealing with weighty ideas.  The four expenses you’re about to investigate constitute some of your biggest budget hits, and they deserve the deliberation the analog world offers.
  • Calculate the monthly cost for each category and note it below its name–don’t cheat yourself when it comes to your own money.  When you calculate transportation, for example, include your car bill, your insurance, your gas, your toll costs, any figures that play into the ways you move from place to place.  When you calculate your food costs, take an honest look at your grocery bills, your morning coffees, your dinners out.  If you’re not tracking these expenses yet, there are posts coming soon to help, but I highly recommend adopting a habit of logging and reviewing all purchases ASAP.
  • Write out the underlying assumptions that go into the amount you spend.  If you need a model, you might consider something like this…Rent:  I assume that I need to live within 10 miles of work.  I assume that a large apartment complex will give me the most safety.  I assume _________ neighborhood will give me the opportunity to socialize with friends and walk to the amenities that make me happy.  I assume that I cannot live with a roommate.  I assume that I need a 1 bedroom floor plan.  I assume I need a parking spot included with my rent.  I assume…
  • After you’ve written as many assumptions as you can muster, honestly evaluate each one.  This is again where time and deliberation are important.  Some of the assumptions will hold weight for you.  If one does, you’ll feel it deep in your bones and know it’s worth the hours of your life you trade for it.  Some of the assumptions, though, will strike you as off.  Maybe you could switch from a one bedroom to a studio without a major hit to your quality of life, maybe you could add a roommate, or maybe you could take the bus (and enjoy it more) than supporting the commuting costs associated with your car.  Circle the assumptions that seem wrong or off to you.
  • On the back of your paper, write out the assumptions you question.  Jot down a few notes about what seems wrong and then create an action plan to address the assumptions that don’t make sense.  Break your action plan into steps that make the change realistic and achievable to you.
  • Get to work implementing your action plan and changing your automatic big four spending to a well thought-out system that makes more sense for your finances and your goals.

A word of warning–this is HARD work.   Depending on your personality, the interrogation might not be the sort of project that you can knock out in an afternoon, and the solutions you find will certainly take time to implement.  That’s the whole point, though; the biggest monthly purchases we make, and make again and again, should have an excess of thought and care behind them.  You’re worth the work this is going to take.

One last thing, Hatters.  This process?  It doesn’t end.  Over time, your big four will become automatic again.  When you realize it’s been too long since you’ve given them thought, break the pen and paper back out.  Not every interrogation will call for sweeping changes, but they will all give you valuable insights into your own behavior and the reasons behind it.

Like what you see and want to keep up with the latest on Life as a Hat?  Find us on Facebook–a “like” will make sure every post finds its way to you.