Right about the time I started thinking about what our holiday budget might be, we had a little problem with a missing contractor check, and TW went into the hospital for a week. Oops. There went the idea that we could a) pay off our credit cards b) spend a good bit on gifts for all of the kids, and Johnny Mac Pippin c) start saving for a trip to Hawaii to see Johnny Mac Pippin d) get TW's tax bills paid. Something had to give, a lot of somethings -- but the holiday budget took the first hit.
If the kids don't read this blog post, they'll never even notice because I was a smart shopper. Here's how I managed to spend less, but give more (or at least as much.)
1. My family jokes that I never buy anything without a coupon. That's completely not true, but when it came to holiday shopping I decided I would buy very little or from very few stores that didn't offer a coupon or coupon code.
Credit Image: Genista on Flickr
Don't get impatient -- stop and look around the internet to see if you can find a coupon code: RetailMeNot is my favorite place to look for those codes.
The coupon bloggers in my feedreader are great about doing round-ups of coupons and discounts available for specific types of items like these two: DVD and Blu-ray coupons and board game coupon match-ups for Target. (Don't forget, you can use both a manufacturers coupon with a Target coupon for the same item at Target!)
2. If there's no coupon code available, a points program might be enough to push me to buy. ThinkGeek, K-mart/Sears/Lands End Shop Your Way program, Walgreens and Buy.com all offer points programs that allow you to reduce the price of your next purchase or offer free products after you've earned enough points.
3. I have to have free shipping (unless I've gotten a really good discount with a coupon code or a points program). I buy so much of my stuff from Amazon because of their fast, free shipping with my Amazon Prime membership. Pro Tip: Amazon is offering No-Rush Shipping. If you don't need your Christmas gifts to arrive tomorrow, then choose No-Rush Shipping and get promotional credit added to your account!
4. Use credit or debit cards that earn points from purchases.
I have bought a lot of things from Etsy without coupons or coupon codes, but I used a credit card that earns points for my purchases. (And yes, I'm paying off my purchases as I go along, so I don't run the risk of adding interest to those purchases.)
At the end of the holiday season, I should find myself with enough points for some Starbucks gift cards, which will help reduce my monthly spending after the holidays.
5. Watch your grocery stores for coupons and discounts on gift cards. (Be careful, though, some of them have a lot of restrictions and they can be hard to get.)
For instance, at Jewel-Osco a couple of weeks ago, if you bought $100 worth of select gift cards, you received a $20 OYNO coupon.
6. Watch for rebates.
There's a rebate for the Brave DVD/Blu-ray (pdf) when you also purchase two boxes of Kellogg's cereal. Amazon was selling Brave for less than $10 in one of its lightning sales and I have two coupons for free cereal, which means I'll make money on the purchase of that DVD.
7. Go big and then think small! That's my motto, at least for several of my kids. They're all grown up, and this means they either don't want anything or they want one really big thing (think Macbook, Kindle Fire, iPhone, car, accordion -- do you know how much an accordion costs?!)
Once you blow your budget on one of those big-ticket items, there's no money left for anything else -- which can make for a little bit of a let-down if the other siblings are opening gift after gift. So, we look for small, useful, but fun things to wrap along with those big ticket items.
- We have a kid who loves Post-It notes. So we look for quirky varieties.
- We have kids who love funky socks, tights, and arm warmers. Piece of cake to find those -- and they're something we'd be buying for them, anyway.
- Sharpie markers (free at Back to School time, with coupons) or gel pens are super cheap at drug stores and office supply stores during the holidays and are always a hit.
- Nail polish, nail polish remover tins, a gift bag that includes a new razor, shaving cream, bath wash (all free, or close to it, from the drug store with coupons.)
If you put all of these tips together, you might get super lucky and wind up with a deal like this:
Buy $100 worth of Kohl's gift cards at your grocery store, using a credit card that earns points on your purchases, and get back a $20 OYNO coupon for groceries. (Extra bonus for using a credit card that is doubling grocery store purchases and for buying that gift card at a grocery store that also gives points for gas -- or double points for gas, like my grocery store was.)
Take that gift card to Kohl's during the sale that gives you Kohl's cash for every $50 you spend.
Get back Kohl's Cash and spend those on more gifts, preferably small things to act as filler items, since you already used your gift card on big items. (Or, order online during the same sale, and use a coupon code found at RetailMeNot or provided by your favorite coupon blogger plus get free shipping!)
That's the perfect scenario for being able to give more while spending less. Coupon incentives, points earned, sale prices and free shipping and if you're lucky, something you bought will have a rebate attached to it.
Share your tips for giving more but spending less this holiday season.
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