On Saturday, Jake woke up restless. Despite the fact that it was 112 degrees outside (argh) he really wanted to leave the house. While I would have been fine staying in, I understood where he was coming from; Jake works from home and hadn't left the house in at least a week.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked.
“Let's see,” he replied, whipping out his phone. “I'll just check my spam account and see what kind of deals we can get.”
The original purpose of the spam email account
I think most people these days have a spam email account just to make their lives easier. I still have the non-school email account with the silly name that I started in college because it seemed a shame to waste it.
These days, it seems like almost every company has a loyalty program where they email you special deals. So when every storefront started asking for an email address at the time of purchase, I started giving out my spam email. Jake has an email address that he uses for a similar purpose.
Having those emails go to a separate address spares me the aggravation of deleting a million emails a day. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, it spares me the ego-depleting temptation of acting spontaneously because of a limited-time offer. While I do check the account occasionally, I do a lot less impulse-shopping due to the out of sight, out of mind factor.
The spam account and loyalty programs
As annoying as it is sometime to have to give out my personal contact information at every store, I can't deny that I do tend to go to the same places regularly. So over time my spam email account has become part of my planning process. Importantly, however, I decide what I want to do and then seek out the best deal, rather than being brainwashed into something I haven't budgeted for.
Examples of deals I have scored with this approach include 20 percent off at Goodwill on a monthly basis, a free bruschetta board at one of my favorite restaurants, and most recently, the free membership at LA Fitness that I mentioned in my summer plans post. Lots of restaurants will email you a coupon on your birthday or half-birthday.
On Saturday, Jake and I redeemed a deal for a free appetizer at California Pizza Kitchen and $20 in free game play with purchase of $20 in game play at Dave and Buster's. We had a couple beers, shot some aliens, and redeemed some Dave and Buster's tickets in their gift shop for some free candy and a toy for our dog. Not bad for a Saturday night!
The spam account and grocery shopping
That's not the only use of my spam email account, however. I also use it to maximize grocery store purchases. I linked my grocery store rewards card accounts to my spam email account as well. If you haven't done this, I highly recommend it. Each of the grocery stores I shop at regularly emails me a copy of their weekly flyer.
While these do come in the mail also, I find them easier to read online. Additionally, I don't have to keep flyers around physically in my house if I have access via email. Finally, all the online flyers have a “make a list” feature where you click on the items you're interested in. When the list of items you want to purchase is complete, you can either print it out or email it to yourself. This way, you're saving money even before coupons enter the equation.
Like GRS staff writer April Dykman, I also struggle with coupon clipping. However, once I linked my grocery store loyalty card with my spam email address, I didn't just get the weekly flyer. I also get emailed with reminders every time digital coupons are added to their online coupon bank. From there I just log in to my account and add every coupon that I (or Jake) might conceivably use. Then I can use the “make a list” feature to ensure that I remember to pick those items up.
While I don't make money the way some of those extreme couponers do, I am able to easily maximize my coupon use with minimal effort. Works for me!
The spam account and group-deal sites
As has been pointed out before at GRS, it's easy to get led down the garden path with some of the daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. I have plenty of friends who have been sucked in by offers of skydiving or horseback riding lessons that they never used. While I don't have a history of getting into trouble with those sites, I did get far too excited when I found out about Restaurants.com, so I understand!
However, if you link your account to your spam email, you can avoid being constantly bombarded, while still remaining open to the possibility of something great. In addition to the run-of-the mill deals on yoga and dance classes (all of which I used, thank you very much!), I have also on occasion spotted something truly great.
For example, I think the best deals I ever found were $20 at Whole Foods and Amazon for only $10. While deals like that are rare, they do pop up, and when I spot the unicorn I will usually buy one as a “gift” for my husband to maximize the savings.
Do you strategize your spam?
My own spam philosophy is constantly evolving. Even though I use that specific email address every time I am asked for an email by a retailer, I don't find everything useful. I probably log in to the account once per month to search for something and, while I'm there, delete what I am not interested in. Every six months or a year, I remove myself from the email lists of places that I find myself deleting consistently.
If I move, then sometimes I no longer have access to particular stores. It takes awhile for the spam email account to catch up. However, because I'm also always adding places (anytime I am asked for an email address), I can usually always find what I'm looking for — even if I don't know what that something will be when I log in.
Do you have a spam email account? Do you use it strategically, or is it just a dumping ground for unwanted email?
Honey Smith has been reading GRS since at least 2008, right when she got her first â€œrealâ€ job and started getting serious about finances. She and her husband Jake are in their mid-30s and recently bought a home together. Currently, she manages graduate programs at a large state institution, and he is an attorney at a mid-sized firm.
Between them, they have paid off approximately $30,000 in consumer debt since she started writing for GRS in 2012. However, they still have nearly $200,000 of student loan debt, so she will continue to chronicle their debt-paydown journey. In addition to personal finance, Honey is interested in vegetarianism and cooking, gardening (despite living in the desert and having a black thumb), issues in higher education (including the student loan bubble and the slow death of tenure), and animal rights; however, her heart lies with fantasy novels, trashy TV and Skyrim.