Adventures in Ninja Savings

My wife and I have both said that we’d make lousy rich people. Paying full price for things just seems wrong. Especially at Christmas, when retailers are desperately trying to one-up themselves in an effort to conquer the monster looming over their head that is Amazon. It’s my goal to squeeze every dollar that I get to it’s fullest potential. Inspired by my girl Mir over at, I saved some big money. [CHRISTMAS PRESENT SPOILERS AND RAMBLING AHEAD AFTER THE JUMP!]

So one of the big gifts we’re getting this year as a family is an XBox 360 (with Kinect). I say “as a family” because everyone who knows me just assumes it’s for me, but I’m still trying to argue that it’s for the whole family. That’s where the Kinect comes in, along with the games I’ve bought for it. We already have a Wii (which I bought years ago, back when having a Wii was cool and groundbreaking and other superlatives) but it’s starting to show its age. Plus, my kids tend to be complete dorks when it comes to the Wii, not seeming to understand that you’re supposed to aim the remote at the screen. So they jump, they contort their bodies in various directions, and get none of the desired outcome. My kids aren’t dumb by any means – they just become dumb when the Wii control gets in their hands.

With the Kinect, we hope to use this idiocy for good instead of evil. The Kinect doesn’t use a remote – it works off of your entire body movement, so when my three-year-old hops around like an idiot, his video game counterpart will hop around like an idiot, which is what he wants in the first place. Bowling in Wii Sports is a lot of fun once you understand the concept of “push A to start, hold down B, pull your arm back WHILE STILL HOLDING DOWN B, then swing forward and let go of the B button WITHOUT LETTING GO OF THE CONTROL. While you may read that and think “that’s easy”, explain that to a three-year-old. We’ve never had a thrown control, but I’ve considered it several times while trying to get the kids to follow every step. On the Kinect, swing back and forward, and you threw the bowling ball. That’s it – no buttons, no 13 tries to get the ball down the alley, no projectiles shooting towards the plasma screen.

I had almost picked up the XBox 360 w/Kinect package from Walmart on Black Friday when the thing was $199 + $50 gift card (the thing retails for $299), but decided against it because we really didn’t have the money and I still saw it as a present more for myself than for the kids. (I’m told I probably didn’t want to be at Walmart that evening anyway). A few weeks later, my mom sent us some money to buy presents for the kids and when Target offered an $80 giftcard with purchase we jumped – not as good as the Black Friday deal, but in-hand and acquired. It came with one game – Kinect Adventures – which from reviews seemed like what you’d expect from an included game – something that shows off the technology, but not good enough to buy on your own. More games would have to be purchased, but what they’d be, we weren’t sure. I decided that if I were to pick up games, I’d probably pick up a dance game (the kids love to dance in general and loved Just Dance for the Wii) and a sports game (since they dig Wii Sports). Two of the best-selling games for the Kinect fit that requirement and were well received – Dance Central and Kinect Sports. The problem was that both games had recently come out with sequels – and while I figured I would aim towards Dance Central 2 (I could identify many of the songs in the game as ones that not only I knew but the kids knew and liked), but the Kinect Sports games were a toss-up; the original had bowling (our favorite Wii Sports game) and boxing, while the other was newer and featured baseball and football. I figured I’d wait and see what sales came up – money would make my decision for me.

As it turned out, my first game wasn’t any of those. Amazon’s “Lightning Deals” had a day of deals just for video games. When a deal is coming up, sometimes they give a clue as to what the product is going to be, but not the price. By the description, the game was going to be Kinect Disneyland Adventures – a game that my five-year-old gushed about seeing the commercials. I had my wife confirm whether he still thought it was cool (he did), so I watched to see what price it was going to go for. I had a price in mind – Kinect games retail for around $50 each, and while I know HT liked the game, I wouldn’t jump for $40. I would for $30. $35? maybe. When it came up for $22, I jumped quickly. Good thing too, because Amazon sold out of the deal in five minutes. Now we had two games, and I’d still keep an eye on the Kinect Sports and Dance Central games.

The following day, Best Buy put some of their Kinect games on sale. For half off. The Disneyland game was in the list (too late – already got it through Amazon cheaper), but so were the Dance Central and Kinect Sports games – all of them. Many were showing unavailable online, so I hopped over to the local Best Buy near work (maybe 5 minutes away) and went to see what I could find. I found both Dance Central and Kinect Sports games, and justified all of their purchased by seeing it as a “buy one, get one free” scenario. I was going to buy two of them anyway (Probably. Maybe.) so this way I’m getting the other ones for free. That makes sense, right? RIGHT?

So I came back from Best Buy with four games in hand and the fifth one (the Disneyland one I got from Amazon) waiting on my desk. [Side note – holy crap with turnaround time on the Amazon Lightning Deal. I bought the game at 5PM and had it in my hands before noon the next day. I’ve got Prime so I get second-day shipping, but I was expecting it a day or two later. Wow – go Amazon.] I was pretty proud of myself:

  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures, retail $49.99, purchased for $21.99
  • Dance Central, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Dance Central 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Kinect Sports, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Kinect Sports Season 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.67 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Total: Retail $249.95, purchased for $128.70 (total savings of $121.25)

But as it turns out, I wasn’t done yet.

While learning about the Dance Central franchise, I learned that those that already owned the original Dance Central didn’t have to switch games back and forth to use the original songs in Dance Central 2. All they needed to do was to start up Dance Central 2, enter a code on the back of the Dance Central manual and spend 400 Microsoft Points ($5) and they could import all the songs from the original game into the new game, eliminating the need for the new game.

So, I checked Amazon again – this time, to check and see how much trade-in value Dance Central had. $17.55 it turns out. So I realized what I could do would be to open the game, copy the code from the manual, and sell it back to Amazon. Even better – Dance Central (and Dance Central 2) both came with codes good for 240 Microsoft Points (the price of a downloadable song), so the $5 I’d have to pay to move the songs over would be covered by those codes. Savings update:

  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures, retail $49.99, purchased for $21.99
  • Dance Central, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax), sold back for $17.55, net cost of $9.13
  • Dance Central 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Kinect Sports, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Kinect Sports Season 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.67 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Total: Retail $249.95, purchased for $111.15 (total savings of $138.80)

Now most recently Best Buy again has a sale going, but this time a “buy two, get one free” sale on their Kinect games. Having already bought four of them, I swung over to Best Buy again today wondering if there would be a hassle to get them to “price match”, since one of the terms of the sale was “excludes prior purchases”. I figured as a backup, I’d grab three (or more, depending on what other games were available) of the games so that if they didn’t give me the credit, I could just re-buy the games and return them using the other receipt. As it turned out, by now the selection of Kinect games at Best Buy was getting kind of bare, so I was only able to find two of the four games I bought on the shelves. Resigned, I grabbed another Kinect game thinking that if they didn’t get me the credit, I could at least get another game at a discounted rate. But when I went to the customer service counter where a lone, cute girl was working (and I immediately felt bad, because I know retail), she had no problem giving me the credit. That is, if I could take a hint:

ME [with just a receipt]: Hi, I bought these games a little while back and now you’ve got this “buy two, get one free” deal and I was just wondering if I can get credit for a free game since I already bought three.

GIRL: Sure – no problem. We’ll just ring up the games first, then we’ll return them.

ME: Uh… OK. Because I don’t have them with me.


[Awkward pause.]

ME: You’re going to ring them up?

GIRL: Yeah, I have to do that first, then I can process the return.

ME: OK. Because, um, I don’t think you have all the games here.

GIRL [using the receipt, wondering how dumb I am]: I’m ringing them up now, just scan your card, then I can process the return.


Despite looking like an idiot in front of a cute saleschick, our savings looks like this now:

  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures, retail $49.99, purchased for $21.99
  • Dance Central, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax), sold back for $17.55, net cost of $9.13
  • Dance Central 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)NOTHING
  • Kinect Sports, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.68 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Kinect Sports Season 2, retail $49.99, purchased for $26.67 ($24.99 + tax)
  • Total: Retail $249.95, purchased for $84.47 (total savings of $165.48 – over 66%!)

So uh, yay me or something.


2 thoughts on “Adventures in Ninja Savings”

  1. Seriously, you are my hero. I’ve pulled off some sweet deals, but you are the Jason Bourne of video game shopping!

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