Loyalty programs are HOT, Going into debt is NOT


With the economy stubbornly refusing to “perk up”, in the words of my Southern aunts, many of us are forced to hide our credit cards under the floorboards and assume a scrooge-like watch over whatever assets we still possess.  Many in my generation are embracing these hard times with great gusto—using this as an opportunity to learn how to cook or do their own laundry (sad, but true).  Some of my more adventurous (art school) friends have plunged back into the thrift store trend, labeling their third-hand duds “recession-chic.”

Channeling my glass half full ideology, I acknowledge the need to rein in expenses, but on the other hand refuse to abstain from all treat-spending during the indefinite slump. I had no other choice than to become a smarter shopper.  I took a humbling look at my bank statement and after a few short puffs into a brown paper bag, I zeroed in on the biggest problems–my longtime vices cosmetics and coffee.  I have a childlike obsession with makeup that causes me to pop into every Sephora I pass on the street, and my relationship with Starbucks, well, it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.

By doing a minimal amount of research, I found that both of these stores had loyalty programs that I was completely oblivious to.  By becoming a Sephora Beauty Insider, I receive 1 point for every dollar I spend at the store (trust me ladies, it adds up), redeemable for deluxe samples and gifts.  I’m also constantly receiving emails notifying me of sales, combined with coupons you can use online or in-store (if you haven’t heard, coupons are the new pink).  As for Starbucks, the amount I was spending on daily coffee is what can only be described as sinful.  By becoming the holder of a Starbucks Gold card you are privy to countless cost-cutting perks.  10% off every drink, free refills which, when you refill 3 times a day, is huge, free wifi (are you listening, collegiates?), and other exclusives and discounts that I would be dumb to ignore.

We don’t want to stop spending, but we want to be responsible.  Loyalty programs help to absorb our guilt and even leave us feeling good about our indulgences.  And, when the cloud finally passes, we’ll stay true to the companies that made the effort to reach out and hold onto us.

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March 27, 2023
by Mary Lou Quinlan

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