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Coupon clipper: Beware of sale-mail

But you can find great deals on magazines, computers, jeans and travel to Mexico.

By Karen Datko Dec 11, 2009 11:32AM

This Deal of the Day is from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Visit your e-mail inbox this time of year, and it’s easy to think you’re being stalked by every retailer in the mall. Depending on how you handle the influx, those e-mails can be your best bargain or your worst budget-buster.


Looking back over the past week, I’ve received roughly 50 e-mails a day in my personal account touting sales and deals, including a few travel and shopping newsletters. Yet I pulled out my credit card for just one: a $300 Calphalon pan set. They’re on sale for $80 through Dec. 13, and I wanted to replace the warped hand-me-downs I’ve been using since college. Minus a $42 leftover gift certificate balance from last Christmas, I got them for $38 -- an 87% discount.


Judicious skimming is the way to go when it comes to retailer e-mail pitches, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, whose book “Gen Buy” assesses motivations behind consumers’ purchases. “If you’ve got your list and are checking it twice, you can hunt in reverse instead of skimming a thousand Google listings,” she says.


Otherwise, don’t even look at the sale-mails. Retailers often target deals based on your spending history. Throw in limited-time and limited-quantity promotions, and they know you’ll be itching to buy, says Yarrow. “Just click, click, click and delete,” she says. Sign up for another account just for your online purchases and retail newsletters. Only visit when you’re looking to match sales with something you already planned to buy.


We’re featuring valuable coupons and sales each Friday to help you spend less on the items you buy. Found a deal we missed -- or looking for a better price on a specific item? E-mail me at or send me a tweet @kellibgrant.


Magazines. Whether you’re looking for an extra stocking stuffer or gearing up for a New Year’s resolution (Runner’s World, anyone?), online discounters are offering extra savings on already crazy-low prices: has seven titles on sale for up to 92% off through Dec. 13. For example, 10 issues of Women’s Health go for $5, a discount of 90%. If your favorite magazines aren’t on the list, use code HOLIDAYMAGS at checkout to save $5 through Dec. 31. (Caveat: The code doesn’t work on the holiday sale items.)


Not to be beat, has 13 titles on sale for $5 each through Dec. 12, including Cosmopolitan and Esquire (each a 90% discount). Amazon also has selections offering an extra $3, $5, or $10 discount automatically applied at checkout when you buy before Dec. 31.


Lenovo computers. Use code USPHOLIDAY at checkout through Dec. 13, and Lenovo will give you employee pricing. That’s up to 20% off most ThinkPad and IdeaPad laptop computers and up to 15% off IdeaCenter desktops. Bonus: All computers ship free.


“It’s a good offer, but it’s not their best offer,” says Dan de Grandpre, the chief executive of sale tracker Lenovo, Dell and other computer manufacturers had better sales during Black Friday week. It takes time to build and ship a custom PC, though, so this is your best shot at a great deal on a holiday gift, he says. Buying for yourself? Wait. Prices are likely to drop further before Christmas.


Lee jeans. Save 30% on everything on the site and get free shipping through Dec. 14 (not coincidentally, the last day the retailer guarantees delivery in time for the holidays via ground shipping). The discount comes automatically at checkout. It also works in conjunction with Lee’s rotating holiday deals, reducing a pair of $42 women’s boot-cut jeans to $38, and then $26.59 -- a total discount of 37%.


Travel to Mexico. Start off 2010 with a luxury vacation at an economy cost. But before we get to the deals, let’s talk about the elephant (or pig?) in the room: H1N1. The first swine flu cases were reported in Mexico in March, and the disease spread swiftly. The CDC removed its travel warning for Mexico in June, citing the global pandemic. (Translation: You’re as likely to catch it at home as you are abroad.) Now, according to a Dec. 7 World Health Organization report, H1N1 cases in Mexico are widespread, but decreasing in number.


If you’re ready and willing to travel, Sherman’s Travel spotted Mexicana Airlines tickets to Acapulco, Cancun and San Jose Cabo, among other cities, for about $200 round-trip. For example, Washington, D.C., to Cancun will cost as little as $188. That’s 67% cheaper than the average $564 booked for January 2009, according to fare tracker Book the fare before Dec. 15 for travel by Jan. 31. In what counts as a lure these days, Mexicana lets you check one bag free and provides free snacks during the flight. The notable freebie is the in-flight open bar.

There are lodging bargains, too. has package deals for all-inclusive resorts, including $99 a night at the oceanfront NH Krystal Club Cancun (regularly $198 a night) when you book by Dec. 16. You’ll save 50%.


Lord & Taylor. During the Friends & Family Sale, 25% off almost everything (including sale items) through Dec. 15. Use code FRIENDS at checkout online, or bring a print-out coupon (.pdf file) to the store. Do read the fine print before you shop, though. Lord & Taylor has the usual exclusions of gift cards, store services and its “Smart Value” items (aka, those with regular low prices), but also knocks out Uggs, men’s Cole Haan sale items and diamond solitaire rings.


Sorry guys, but if you’re looking to propose this holiday season, you’ll have to find other ways to save.


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