Category Archives: My Hauls

2015 Gas Savings Total

My target for gas savings on my work commute for the year was $600.  As I alluded to in my last update, I exceeded the goal.

Drum roll please…

In 2015, for commute miles only, I saved $614.28 by using free gas tactics!

The total gasoline cost for my to drive to and from work last year was $3,457.79.  After the $614.28 in discounts my out-of-pocket cost was $2843.51.  That means that last year 17.78% of my gasoline was free!


How did I do it?

The free gas tactic is pretty simple.  A common gas station brand in my area is Super America.  By swiping your rewards card every time you buy gas, you get a $0.03/gallon discount.  Pay with a pre-loaded fuel gift card (which you purchased earlier with your points-earning credit card of course!) and you get another $0.03/gallon off.  Then, clip competitors’ coupons out of the junk mail for an additional $0.07-0.10 off per gallon.

Every time you make a purchase at SA, be it the pre-loaded fuel gift card OR the actual fuel purchase, you earn points.  Every few weeks I have enough points to buy a $0.50/gallon gas couponThe magic happens on Tuesdays when Super America doubles all coupons.  With a max of 25 gallons, the big coupon is worth $25 in free gas!

As a bonus step you can post your results on the outside of your cubicle so all your co-workers want to visit

As a bonus step you can post your results on the outside of your cubicle so all your co-workers want to visit

If you don’t have any Super Americas in your area, keep an eye out for similar deals at your local gas stations.  Small savings at the pump can really add up!

$5,000 in Free Menards Merchandise

One of the funnest value tactics I have tried out and reported on is the Menards free stuff tactic.  It’s hard to describe the amount of free-after-rebate (FAR) merchandise Menards puts in their ads each week.  Instead of trying to describe it, I’ll present here a visual record of two year’s worth of FAR merchandise that I acquired during my Menards free stuff experiment.  The total retail value of this collection is $4,946.46, but my total investment to acquire is was about $8 in postage stamps!  As you’ll see, “fun” isn’t the only word you could use to describe what I did; maybe “extreme” or “blown out” could also work 🙂

Click here for a full description of the tactic.
Click here to see my final analysis of my two year experiment.

Photos start with the first haul I came home with on July 7th, 2013, and progress chronologically to the last one in my 2 year marathon on July 5th, 2015.  Enjoy!



(No image for these items)


🙂   🙂   🙂

2015 AMEX Small Business Saturday Statement Credit

In the past, we’ve seen statement credits ranging from $10 to $30 (3x $10) for purchases made with an American Express card at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The purpose of Small Business Saturday is to promote smaller retailers in the community.  American Express had previously offered the statement credits as a way to expose their card users to said small retailers by offering this nice little incentive.

My 2014 Small Business Saturday haul: 5 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of rum, 6-pack of beer, some jerky and meat sticks, frozen brats and burgers, $50 in movie theater gift cards, and a kid's birthday gift (gift-wrapped, not pictured) ... all for about $11 in odd store totals.

My 2014 Small Business Saturday haul: 5 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of rum, 6-pack of beer, some jerky and meat sticks, frozen brats and burgers, $50 in movie theater gift cards, and a kid’s birthday gift (gift-wrapped, not pictured) … all for about $11 in odd store totals.

This year, however, the statement credit offered by Amex is NOTHING, $0.00, nada, zip, zilch, and zero.  Here’s the excerpt from the Small Business Saturday faq page:

What gives, Amex?

As to why American Express turned the faucet off, the explanation seems simple: it was very expensive for them.  Between Nicoleen’s and my Amex cards last year we got $150 in statement credits.  But like many corporate cost-saving decisions, the long term effects may prove detrimental, at least with the cohort of card users who are the type to read this blog post.  Insignificant as this Amex card perk seems, it could have been the benefit tipping the scales for many card holders to keep their Amex cards.  I personally always factored it into assessments of Amex cards.  In fact, my wife and I got Bluebird accounts last fall specifically to take advantage of the Small Business Saturday offer.  Some of these thoughts are echoed in the comments of this blog post by the points blog behemoth, ThePointsGuy.

There’s a lesson here

To frequenters of travel, deals, and points blogs this revelation is not news.  Similar blogs to mine all picked up on the story as soon as this year’s Small Business Saturday page went live a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to chime in though, and point out what I think it the take-away: Good deals are never permanent, so take advantage of them when they’re around.  Don’t wait!

I’ve made as many mistakes as smart moves in this game, but one accomplishment I am proud of is having a healthy dose of urgency when I recognize a valuable opportunity.  Note: I said “healthy dose” which doesn’t mean being desperate or frenzied.  It means prioritizing your efforts to favor exceptionally good deals or deals which are known to be temporary.

And most importantly, the elimination of the Small Business Saturday statement credits by American Express should serve as yet another reminder: don’t be surprised when a valuable situation goes away.  They all eventually do.  The key to capturing and creating value is to recognize and take advantage of good deals when they exist, and to move on and adapt when the current opportunities change or disappear.

Weekly Review (July 6, 2015)

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on July 7th, 2015.)

This review actually covers a two week period, and there won’t be another one until the end of the month.  Nicoleen and I left for our anniversary trip this morning so I won’t have the usual activity to report for the next two weeks.

I cashed in another 8750 My SA Rewards points last Tuesday and got the $25 free gas coupon. That marks the halfway point in 2015, and so far I’ve pumped $333.47 in free gas!  That puts me on track to almost $700 in free gas this year.  To date 18.05% of my commuting gas has been free.

Big Menards News
When I started my experiment with free stuff from Menards, I wanted to know how much stuff I could get if I maxed the quantity of every item that was free after rebate. I have run the experiment for 2 years and as of Sunday, it’s over. That’s right, I’m all done getting every free with rebate item every week from Menards. But that doesn’t mean I’m done with Menards free stuff. It just means the experiment is done. Now it’s time to analyze the data 🙂

This last Sunday there were about 7 concurrently running sale ads. Here’s what I ended up with for my last official Menards haul:
menards final haul redo

  • 4x  heavy duty sponge
  • 2x  car visor tissue holder
  • 4x  2″ angle paint brush
  • 2x  23×42″ vinyl miniblinds
  • 4x  hose sprayer nozzle
  • 2x  Menards baseball hat
  • 2x  Menards t-shirt
  • 2x  6″ putty knife

This last haul with a retail value of $104.94 brings the 2-year total to over $5000!

New Posts this Week
Wedding Anniversary Trip – The Final Clue
ended the suspense and revealed that Europe is the destination for Nicoleen’s and my 10th anniversary vacation.
Timberlake Lodge, Grand Rapids MN is a review of my favorite hotel in Grand Rapids.  If you’re heading up there for the fishing or the other area attractions this summer, check out the Timberlake Lodge.  You won’t be disappointed.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Versatility Matters! explains what the big deal is about Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Their value of their ability to transfer to partner programs can’t be overstated.  Read the post to find out why.

Travel News
Our anniversary trip is currently underway!  In fact, I’m writing this post from a computer work station in the American Flagship Lounge at ORD.
computer-station redo
Stay tuned to ValueTactics on Facebook for photos and real time news on our vacation!

Credit Card News
Apparently Delta is once again sending targeted offers for the 50k bonus on the Amex Delta Gold card.  The public offers for the United MileagePlus Explorer and the Citi AAdvantage card are both down below 40k once again.

I was once again impressed by Chase customer service on Wednesday.  I called to ask for replacements for my old chip-less Sapphire Preferred.  The new cards come with chip and signature technology, which is required for most merchants in Europe.  I was instantly connected to a native English speaker and the whole conversation took about 45 seconds.  23 hours later a UPS overnight package arrived at my door with the two new cards!

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Latest Load of Free Menards Stuff

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on June 14th, 2015.)

Here is the last load of Menards stuff I picked up before the big flea market.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring this box of stuff with.  The flea market, Swappers’ Meet, was yesterday, and it was fairly successful.  I’ll give a full report, including stats, in an upcoming post.


What you’re looking at:

  • 4x rain poncho
  • 4x oven drip sheet
  • 10x 20-pack touchscreen electronics wipes
  • 6x long stick lighter
  • 2x 100-piece picture hanging kit
  • 1x 26-in-1 screwdriver

The total retail value of this free haul is $94.63.

Menards Haul – Spring 2015

Here’s my Menards haul from the last month. It totals $203.25.  I somehow managed to get to Menards and max my limit on all the sale items during crazy work month.  To find out about how I get this stuff for free, check out the free stuff from Menards page.
Here’s what you’re looking at:

  • 12 elastomeric blacktop crack filler tubes
  • 1 36″ stainless steel yardstick*
  • 12 paint brushes
  • 4 wiper blades
  • 1 10-pack dust masks
  • 2 pair tinted safety glasses
  • 3 NoDoz berry shot 6-packs (limit was 48)
  • 4 hose-end spray bottles of house wash
  • 4 cleaning cloth 3-packs

This spring has been riddled with 11% sales, which is great if you have some projects that require supplies or materials.  But it’s bad for free stuff, since the 11% sale never coincides with free-after-rebate deals.

Stay up to date on current deals at Menards by checking their ad flyers page.

Menards Haul (with unadvertised rebate items!)

Over the last two weeks I picked up $179.51 in free stuff from Menards! And more importantly, I found out what happens when you buy a rebate item from a sale that has expired, but that still has the sign up in the store.
On Wednesday evening I went into the store to buy the current week’s free-after-rebate items. Since it was so late in the week, I missed out on 4x Loctite Repair Putty (they were sold out in all nearby stores). But I maxed my quantities on all the other items from the flyers:

  • 4  pop-up cotton towels 8-pack
  • 1  36″ stainless steel yardstick*
  • 10  electronics wipes 20-pack
  • 2  jar/bottle opener
  • 1  stain brush
  • 5  paint brushes

* Limit was 2 but I was out of rebate checks and didn’t want to invest any more real money into this tactic.

Then I started spotting free-after-rebate items that I hadn’t seen on any advertisements.  There may have been even more of these items, but I didn’t take the time to check every corner of the store.  Here are the additional items I picked up for free:

  • 4  rug grippers
  • 10  colorful Loom Bandz bracelet kits (no quantity limit!)
  • 6  [low quality / outdated] Nintendo DS and Wii games (no quantity limit!)

I also found rolls of wallpaper and wallpaper borders free-after-rebate with no quantity limit, but I decided they weren’t worth my trouble (or storage space).

When I put the 6 video games in my cart, I considered looking up their current prices online and returning to the store the next day if they were worth anything.  I’m glad I decided to just pick up 6 of them that night, because when I was getting my rebate forms before leaving the store, I realized the register hadn’t printed a rebate receipt for the games.  When I asked about it at the service counter, they discovered that the sign had been accidentally left up, and the sale had ended the day before (March 31st).  I asked if I would have to return them, but the associate told me they have a way of working around their computer system when trying to print rebate receipts for expired sale items.  So instead of getting a rebate receipt, they printed me a rebate check on the spot!

The new flyer starts tomorrow.  The only free-after-rebate items I saw is the ever popular SealBest Elastomeric Blacktop Crack Filler (limit 6) and a 10-pack of dust masks (limit 1).

Stay up to date on current deals at Menards by checking their ad flyers page.


Weekly Review (March 15, 2015)

It was a slow weekend at Menards.  Today there was only 1 new ad flyer and I wasn’t able to max out the quantities on all the free items; my new purchases finally caught up with my available in-store checks. The total retail value of items I bought for free this weekend was only $11.99.

It was a little better week on the free gas tactics front. I redeemed points for the “big coupon” on Tuesday and filled my car and two 5-gallon gas tanks at a $1.06/gallon discount. My total free gas for the week* ended up at $28.73.
* commute only – not counting personal miles or my wife’s car

New Posts this Week
  Early March Menards Haul shows my free Menards stuff from the past couple of weeks.
Tracking is the Key (and why you shouldn’t do it) is a response to those of my friends who see the value in using the tactics presented on this site, but who see the tracking and record keeping I do, and think it’s a necessary step.  It IS a necessary step, but I’ve already done it for you!  That’s one of the main reasons I created in the first place!

New Deals
No big credit card or points news this week.

We’ve been having warmer weather up here in Minnesota, which makes me think about flea market/garage sale season.  So I’ve been thinking about some of my free stuff tactics and miscellaneous and one-off ways to make money by selling things.  Yesterday I found myself half owner in a few dozen 40″ soccer balls and double action air pumps, for the low cost of offering some space in my storage shed.  My friend and I will be partnering to market these online soon.  I’ll let you all know how that goes.  You never know when an opportunity to create value might come along, out of the blue.  Just have to keep your eyes open!  (Although a 40″ high-quality soccer ball with washable removable cover is hard to miss!)

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!