How is it November 19?! Thanksgiving is next week, and then fa-la-la-la-la it’s Christmastime. For the first time in years, I haven’t yet started my Christmas shopping! Johnny always procrastinates his Christmas shopping. But this year? Well, I’m joining his camp apparently. I knew I wasn’t being my normal self when Johnny said to me a couple nights ago, “Jo, it’s almost December. When are we going to do our Christmas shopping?” Yup. I’m slacking this year — for some very legitimate reasons, which we’ll expound upon in the next few days. But still, slacking is slacking. But there is time yet! And when I finally do get around to Christmas shopping (which probably won’t be until after Thanksgiving), I plan to use the following money-saving tools because, last-minute or not, Johnny and I plan to save as much money as possible.
When possible, Johnny and I use Ebates for every online purchase. Why? Well, Ebates gives you cash back when you shop through their site at most online stores. I just bought Sally a few pairs of 40% off items at Gap, and Ebates offered an additional 7% off for Gap purchases. There’s no catch, no strings attached, and joining the site is totally free. They offer free money, plain and simple, and who doesn’t love free money? Every few months, Ebates deposits money in our Paypal account, and voila! I even keep an Ebates extension in my Google Chrome toolbar that alerts me anytime I can get cash back through a site I’m perusing. It doesn’t get easier than that!
Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but we use Amazon Prime. A lot. It’s one of the few subscriptions we’ve found to be totally and completely worth it because we use Amazon so much. But to ensure that what we’re ordering is priced as low as can be (you never know with Amazon), we use CamelCamelCamel. It tracks the price history of items, and you can even set up alerts to let you know when a certain item drops in price. We’ve used this countless times, like when Johnny surprised me with a KitchenAid that was being offered for a screamin’ deal. And trust me, that KitchenAid has paid major chocolate-chip-cookie-dividends back to Johnny.
Grocery Store Apps
My two most frequented grocery stores are Walmart and Target. I use Walmart for most of our groceries, and I use Target for home decor, clothes, gifts, and generally ruining our budget. Both of these stores offer incredible money-saving apps, which makes me love them even more. Walmart’s app has a savings catcher tool. After shopping, you scan your receipt, and it price matches with other local grocery stores. And then they send you an e-gift card for the money you saved. Cool, right? My mom first told me about this feature, and when she said, “And they just send me money!” I thought she’d fallen for some scam. But, no. It’s very real.
Target’s app is called Cartwheel, and it offers all kinds of discounts on items that can be found in Target stores. These are deals only found in the app, and as you look through the app, you just add items you’re planning to buy to a list. When you check out at Target, a cashier simply scans the list using a barcode in the app, and your savings are applied to your purchase. Both apps are super easy to use and offer legitimate savings. Cha-ching.
If you’re into deals, you’re probably already a regular here. Slickdeals is a user-generated community of deal hunters that lists the best deals they find on the Internet. Johnny subscribes to their Popular Deals RSS feed. He also sets up deal alerts so that he gets an email as soon as the wanted product has a deal added. This site is more Johnny’s area of expertise, but I’ve wandered to this site from time to time, too. It’s an especially great site for seeing the very best deals offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
On top of looking for coupons, cash back, and crazy deals, we also oftentimes buy our electronics refurbished. When Johnny got me my very first DSLR, he bought it refurbished while also taking advantage of a 30% off code on Canon’s website. Talk about double money savings! We love refurbished because the item is basically brand new. It still comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, and it’s in pristine condition. Johnny loves his Apple computers, but we have never once bought one brand new. Refurbished has been the way to go.
Budgeting in Advance
This is an oldie but goodie. Just as important (if not more important) as looking for deals in realtime is planning our Christmas budget in advance. This year, Johnny and I planned our budget at the very beginning of the year. Maybe that was overkill. That said, we’ll probably do some additional budget planning at the beginning of December since we we’ll be spending extra money in general because Christmas!
So that’s that! Let the holiday shopping begin. Despite all of my slacking on gift-buying, I have already procured a boatload of Christmas wrapping paper from Target. I spent a good 20 minutes coordinating my choices so they’ll all complement each other under our tree. How is your holiday shopping coming along? Do you use any of these online savings tools, or do you have any others you’d suggest?