Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: It's good to have friends in high places. I don't mean knowing people who can get you into country clubs or hot restaurants; I mean people who can get you a deal.
As a benefit of working for a company, employees often receive discounts for products or services. Sometimes those discounts are only for their own personal use, but usually there is a friends and family element of some kind. The savings can be significant.
A couple of years ago, we took a family trip to Japan. When I researched hotel options in Tokyo, I saw some pretty crazy prices. I called a law school friend of mine who works for the Four Seasons, and he found a friends and family rate for $175. A hundred and seventy-five bucks for the Four Seasons! In Tokyo! Rates at that same hotel could hover around $600 a night! Let me just say we hadn't stayed in a Four Seasons before (or since), and once I explained to the children not to touch anything in the minibar and that the large bottle of fancy water on the counter was by no means free, it was heaven.
More recently, we were looking into getting an Apple computer and found that employees get 10 percent off everything they buy and can make four purchases per year for friends and family at 15 percent off. We asked around, and it turned out that the roommate of a friend of ours worked for Apple.
Retailers like the Gap and Bloomingdale's have coupons and codes for 30 percent off for friends and family certain times of the year. Also, I have several friends whose work allows them to buy discounted movie passes and provides discount cards to amusement parks.
Don't forget a nice thank-you note for your friend, and maybe some home-baked treats or a lunch or dinner invite. You may be more well-connected than you realized!