Shopping my way rich

By Mir
June 20, 2009

Way back whenever it was… I guess about three years ago, now… I started Want Not on a lark, because I tend to bargain-hunt the way other people have actual, you know, hobbies. I mean, normal people are all, “Want to play tennis this week?” Whereas I’ve always sort of been like, “Oh, exercise makes me all sweaty and I hate that. But do you want to go see if there’s any Cole Haan purses over at Goodwill?”

Back during the very lean times after the divorce, I was able to put my sleuthing skills to good use: I would find rich people’s cast-offs at thrift stores and sell them on eBay for grocery money (true story). The point is, saving money is sort of a religion with me. I don’t worship at the foot of a giant golden coupon, or anything, but you know what I mean.

Periodically, though, someone will come over to Want Not and take great umbrage at the fact that I support credit card usage. Because true money gurus will tell you that credit cards are evil and bad and not to be trusted. And clearly I know nothing, because I think it’s okay to use a credit card!

[Sidebar: I’m sure that Dave Ramsey is a very nice guy, and probably very smart, too, seeing as how he’s gotten completely rich on the backs of people who are incapable of managing their money without his help. But some of his followers appear to be… nuts. Just an observation.]

Just to be clear, I support RESPONSIBLE CREDIT CARD USE, which means that I think it’s perfectly fine to use a credit card and take advantage of any offered benefits SO LONG AS you never buy anything you can’t afford and you pay your bill in full at the end of the month. But even that, argue some, is the fast track to hell. I’m not sure why. But whatever.

Anyway. I recently bragged over at Want Not that I had wangled myself an incredible deal on a new swimsuit over at Lands’ End—they were having a sale, and I used a free shipping code, and then in a flash of brilliance I remembered that Lands’ End is one of the eligible gift certificate merchants through Discover. So I went and looked and I had $40 worth of cashback bonus sitting around, and that $40 would buy me a $50 gift certificate, so I did that, and went and bought my suit and felt very pleased with myself because I ended up only actually spending $20 or so out-of-pocket to get it.

Sadly, the suit arrived and horror of horrors, it didn’t fit. I was very glum about it, particularly when I remembered that I’ve done this before with Lands’ End—I see a cute tankini and buy it only to discover that their tankini tops are made for women who are heavy through the midsection. On me—someone who prefers to store excess weight in the, ahem, rear—the net result is a nice fit through the bust and then gapping, flapping material over the stomach, like maybe I grabbed a maternity top by mistake. Not flattering. And no matter how little I actually paid for it, if I’m going to own a $100+ swimsuit, it had better make me look like a Greek goddess. [Note: I own a one-piece suit from there that fits me perfectly. No, I cannot explain the disparity.]

Today we were out running errands and I figured I’d just return the suit at Sears, as that would be easier than mailing it back. I don’t know if it was because we went to Sears or if this is the way Lands’ End would’ve done it, too, but even though I paid for the suit with a $50 gift certificate and $20 on my Discover card, they put the entire amount back on my Discover card.

Which means I essentially just made $10 for trying on a swimsuit that didn’t fit, because I’m now pocketing the cashback bonus I only got for buying a gift certificate.

So I’m thinking… I only need to do this 100,000 more times to make my first million, right? And then I can tell Dave Ramsey to bite me.


  1. paige


    A bathing suit victory if I’ve every heard of one!

    On Dave: I’m a “follower” of his methods but I don’t think that credit cards are necessarily evil. His methods work for us because I do not have credit card willpower and I cannot use them responsibly. Which is ridiculous. I’m in my mid-forties and have advanced degrees and I should be able to resist their siren call.

    But I can’t. Dave’s advice works for us…and we’ve never paid him a penny other than the royalty he got for the copy of his book that we bought.

  2. My Kids Mom

    Try the Virtual Me model at Lands’ End. If you’re honest and put in your real measurements, you can try on a suit online. You can change your hair color, face shape etc. and even turn the model around to see the tushie in the suit. I bought one from them that looked only ok on the model of me, and it looked only ok on me. I found another that fit the model and it fit me great. I won’t buy suits from anyone else anymore. Catch their overstocks right about now too- or after July 4th- for a suit that fits better.

    I’m all for consolidated payments. I use nothing but credit- one Discover card all month and pay it all at the end. Maybe we’re unusual, but it works fine here.

  3. Jean

    Love, love, love it, Mir!!! I, too, am a Discover Card devotee and put everything on it. We pay the card off every month and monitor purchases during the month. Those $50 for $40 gift cards at Bean and Lands End make it all worthwhile. Even better when it all ends up back in your pocket. I’d be crowing about that for days!

  4. barbara

    girl, i love you. bite me, indeed.

  5. Em

    That is awesome. You would win shopping MVP for that. Or shopping World Series. Or some other shopping/sport analogy where you are the winner.

    I am not familiar with Dave Ramsey, have heard of him but don’t know his theories. I have to say, knowing myself, I cannot use a credit card responsibly. I am currently IN credit card hell (and perked up at the idea of paying bills through good deals and ebay) and while it will take a miracle and/or 10 years to get rid of this debt, once I do, I don’t ever want to pick up another again. I know there are great deals and I think it is so great that you are able to take advantage of them but I obviously don’t know enough about budgeting and responsible shopping to do it. No. I intend to quit cold turkey. I’m feeling sqirmy at the “intend to” part too. Let’s just leave it hanging there.

  6. jess

    While I’m not a Discover Card user (I had one but they canceled it for nonuse and wouldn’t give me another many years later due to the previous closure — for nonuse. Ah, well, I just went to my credit union and got a better deal. *ahem* Anyway…), we tend to use credit cards for the cash-back or other coupons we can get from them. That’s partially how we paid for our Wii. People at a church we used to attend swore by Dave Ramsey and “cash for everything” was really big there, but I’m the exact opposite: If I have cash, I will spend it — and not know where it went. If I have to pull out a card (credit or debit), I definitely know where I spent it because I go through the purchase twice (once when I actually purchase it, and once when I go through my statement to verify the purchases). It just works better for me.

    And I was really glad to read on Want Not that you agree to responsible credit card use in addition to the other frugal behaviors that you exhibit. Frugality and credit cards can work together, and it’s refreshing to see someone say that.

    Oh, and great deal on the suit! Go, you!


  7. mamabird

    We put almost everything on our credit card and then pay it off at the end of the month. In a little bit we’ll have enough points to fly somewhere. How can that be evil?!

  8. alice

    Yeah, I’ve never understood the ‘cc are EVIL no matter what’! kick that some folks can get on. I definitely understand that for some people they’re the equivalent of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups for me – I won’t eat anything else until those are gone, and I’ll eat far more than I’m hungry for. Eventually, I just stopped buying them except for v. occasionally, so I think that having no cards is a great way for some folks to resist temptation. Ditto for having a card frozen in a block of ice, open but cut up, etc. to keep the credit score benefits of long-term accounts.

    But, just as I’d never castigate anyone who has those peanut butter cups in their pantry, I can’t understand criticizing people who can use cc responsibly.

    Regardless, congratulations on getting paid to try on swimsuits – I’ve FINALLY found some great suits through Junonia (awesome for plus-size athletic gear) and I applaud people who regularly shop for clothing online. I get pooped with all the trying on and returning, though I’d probably reconsider it if I could get $10 for each bum suit.

  9. Sara

    You are so very pretty for taking advantage of your shopping prowess. And really? Has it been about three years since you launched Want Not? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was reading here and found your post about something big coming down the line. I have been reading your words and laughing or crying or saving money because of them for a looong time! Time flies when you’re having fun (and saving money!)

  10. Headless Mom

    Perfect! Now, will someone pay us for eating chocolate, too? Because THAT would rock.

  11. Lucy

    That is so unethical! All of those stores and credit card companies are meant to rob you blind and you actually managed to get some dough back. And then the suit did not fit. Did they plan that? Just so wrong, seriously. And I know “My Kids Mom” says to use the Virtual Model but that Model Lady never does it for me. Here’s one place that is excellent: J. Jill has some super-cheap stuff if you go to their on-line outlet store. You cannot return but who needs to return a tank top? I got a truly beautiful pricey skirt, like $85 for $20. All of their stuff runs big so you hafta take a bold step and then know your size. Excellent if you have child-bearing hips or an ass on you.

  12. Kerry

    We have many credit cards that we rotate depending upon each month’s bonus. We pay everything with credit (everything!), never ever carry a balance, and make a small fortune in the process. We average about $50 each month, paid to us, just for paying our bills. More of course when we take the gift cards!

  13. Annette

    I need more info Kerry… We had Southwest Airlines card for years but with our growing family and increased flight restrictions, we added a FutureTrust card that pays into our 529 college savings plan. The problem is all of our expenses go on our credit card and the cc limit on FutureTrust is so low that i have to pay so much attention or pay on it so frequently as to not get charged for going over our limit. With this economy, they are not very loose with raising limits…So now I max out the FutureTrust sometimes unknowingly then get declined in public and have to pull out the Southwest card. That is good for humility!

  14. ChristieNY

    Beautiful, Mir! That’s the way to do it! We pay everything on our Chase rewards card and get a check back about every other month for $50 just for purchases on gas, groceries, and other stuff we’re buying anyway. We pay it in full each month, and get cashback for using it. Responsible and SMART use of a credit card definitely validates a “bite me” to the anti-cc’s, they don’t know what they’re missin! ;)

  15. Melissa

    That’s too funny, because I just did this EXACT same thing – finally talked myself into buying a not-Costco swimsuit, but used the Discover $40 to $50 and paid $27 for the Lands End sale swimsuit. Don’t hate me but mine DID fit, better than anything I’ve owned since…well, since my body turned into THIS. I blame the children. But it was a one-piece and apparently Lands End puts something special in those.
    So yay for the Discover card!

  16. Lily

    What a nice compensation for having pulled this muscle…


  17. Brigitte

    Like Jess, we weren’t using our Discover card either, though we ended up cancelling it ourselves because they were SUCH NAGS about us not using it. The mere memory is riling me up.

    And cash also burns a hole in my pocket, I do much better resisting CCs than I do cash!

    So, neener neener neener to those who feel the need to be complete foamites on the issue. ;-) Congrats on your awesome deal!

  18. mallory

    I use my rewards card to pay everything, including rent since the property management company I rent from lets me pay online and it’s easier, too. I pay the whole thing off every month, and I rack up rewards like crazy. I’ve never gotten a deal as good as yours though, pretty Mir. That is like a Nobel Prize in shopping.

  19. Megumi

    That is perhaps the best result to “suit gone bad” that I have ever heard. Sometimes the suit should pay YOU for the trouble it caused :)

  20. Mary @ Holy Mackerel

    I’m pretty sure you’ve got something big starting there. Great idea! I love Land’s End too, but haven’t yet bought anything of theirs. With my luck, it would gape at the bust and be way too tight around my midsection, which tells you something about MY body…

  21. MomCat

    I’m sure that, somehow, that’s a terrible sin. But so is the way your tankini fit you. So there.

  22. Aimee

    You won shopping! You know, I agree that some people have a hard time with credit cards. But I think as long as they’re used responsibly, they’re fine; and I look forward to you making your first million and telling DR to bite you. :)

  23. Sheila

    The Legendary Shopper lives. All hail!

  24. Jamie AZ

    That is sweet! I’m sure you wished the suit fit, but that for a return is great.

  25. Leanne

    Wow. Sweet deal on the suit! If only mine would work that way. Course, that would imply that I had bought a suit. Which I haven’t. In fact, you won’t find a bathing suit anywhere in my wardrobe.

    I wonder if credit cards operate any differently here in Oz? I think I have one that suits me well. It has no benefits or rewards scheme, it has no interest free period, but as long as I make the minimum payment every month I’m fine. I don’t pay the balance each month. Course, I’m constantly in debt, but then it’s the only debt I have.

  26. Kristen

    I agree with you, Mir – the hubby and I pay for mostly everything with our credit card. We have an AMEX that gives us Delta miles, which is good b/c the in-laws live in Atlanta. We were just able to fly down there for free, which was great. We even pay for our groceries with the credit card every week. My husband is a financial nerd/analyst person and he ensures we pay off the bill in FULL each month. So far, it’s worked for us. I think you just have to have a budget to ensure you are able to pay it off every month.

  27. Tracy

    There is nothing like ‘saving’ money!!!!! I’m a big fan of those “cashback bonuses” offered through Discover…which reminds me…I need to check my balance.

  28. Kelly

    I’m all about using our credit card, that we pay off each and every month, which has no annual fee, and yet we have enough points for 5 nights in Hawaii in a really nice hotel now… how is getting me to a beach evil? I agree that you need to pay it off though – if you have that discipline then I can’t see how its wrong.

    Good for you on the suit!!

  29. cristen hemmins

    i have considered getting a discover card (i want to get rid of my Bank of America card, since they keep dicking me around). do you like it? obviously, it looks like you’re getting some good bonuses out of it!

  30. Katie in MA

    Trying on ill-fitting swimsuits 100,000 times? Worth every penny you would earn. Just sayin.

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