Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Frugal Christmas shopping: Deals and Points

Around this time of year, everyone is looking for ways to save money without skimping on purchases. I'm hoping this will be the first of a series on the ways I save (or even earn!) money on my Christmas purchases.

1. Coupons. Most online sites have coupon codes available. You can often get coupons by signing up for email lists, but you can also just do a google search for the name of the store and the word “coupon” or “free shipping.” Lots of brick and mortar stores have coupons available too. Bed Bath and Beyond famously accepts those 20% off coupons they send out in the mail, even if they’re expired and you have one for every item in your cart. They also have a 20% coupon available for signing up for their email list. Old Navy also has great in store coupons available, just search around the site for new coupons added every day. JC Penney and Kohls will also send you high value in store coupons if you sign up for their mailing lists.

2.Gift cards. The grocery store where I shop gives you a discount on gas based on how much you spend in their store, and Discover Card gives you 5% cash back on grocery purchases this month, so if I am buying someone a gift card I will generally see if they have it at my grocery store to maximize my rewards. Sometimes I even go there to buy gift cards for purchases I know I will make. This way I get the rewards and can spend the gift cards like cash. If you’re getting a restaurant gift card, though, check the individual restaurant first. Many have much bigger gift card bonuses than I would get at the grocery store.

3.Points programs. Swag Bucks is a great way to earn Amazon gift cards. I also tend to save up my My Points credits and some of my survey credits for this time of year and use them to buy gift cards. It’s a great way to get some free money while you shop.

4.Amazon Associates. If you are going to do a lot of shopping on Amazon, it makes sense to sign up as an associate and add the items you are going to buy to your own zstore. Then you make money off of your own purchases. You can also have your friends and families set up zstores in lieu of wishlists, and all earn a little extra money from buying each other what you wanted anyway.

5.Ship to store. If you can’t find free shipping coupons, it’s generally much more frugal to select ship to store. You can pick up the item at a store near your home, or near your destination if you are traveling. This way you can shop from home without having to pay for shipping, and can even avoid having to carry gifts in your luggage.

6.Cash back. If you’re shopping online check out EVReward first. It lists all the big cashback portals and lets you know which ones offer the highest rate of return for your purchase. If you haven’t used cash back portals before, sign up for several to maximize your sign up bonuses.

7. Store Rewards. Sign up for all the free store rewards programs available. Stores are giving you free money to shop at their stores. Often they will run promotions where you will get bonus points for your first purchase with the program. I will often sign up, buy something, and then come back to the same store to use my points. This is a bit time consuming, but you can always just save your points for later in the year when you need something.

8. Read deals sites. Slick deals, Fat Wallet, and Hot Coupon World constantly post promotions with very limited time frames. If you don't check often you will miss some of the best deals.

9. Win it. This time of year, many companies offer sweepstakes or instant win games to promote their brand. A good sweeps site like Sweeties Sweeps is a great place to learn more about this. While you may not win the car or vacation, many of these contests have smaller prizes like gift cards or free products which are much more winnable - and somebody has to win the car after all. Unfortunately since there's usually a delay (8-10 weeks sometimes), much of what you win now will get to you after the holidays. There's always next Christmas!

If you have any other ideas on ways to find great deals (or secret deals) at the holidays


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