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?
Thank you for sharing your tips! My LO is going to be 18 months and it is really hard to not go over board at this age. I love the target cartwheel app, my husband has even commented on he can’t believe how much money I saved with it. He always asks if I have my phone before we go to Target lol. I definitely will check out the other apps you mentioned, we can use any extra money we can get.
P.S. Congrats on your new edition. I am sure you are all pumped!!
Awesome to hear from someone else who also loves the Cartwheel app.,. I love that your husband is into it now, too!
As soon as I finish this comment, I am checking out Ebates! Although – I have to admit, I’ve already finished 70% of my Christmas shopping. I like to shop early, so that I am not tempted to make extra purchases at stores when I see great deals. Plus, I find, that if I shop year round for presents, I can get great deals and more thoughtful items.
Since this is mine and Mr. SSC’s first Christmas after turning more frugal, we drastically slashed our budget! I may even make a few gifts this year!!!
For quite some time now, my family has cut down on the gift-giving madness by doing drawings, a necessity when you come from a family of 10. It started out with a kids’ pool and an adults’ pool, but now we do a kids’ drawing and the adults participate in a Yankee swap. That can be a lot of fun! So rather than having to shop for 25+ gifts, each adult is only on the hook for 2 or 3.
Since our kids came along, we’ve realized that they end up with way too much stuff between birthdays and the holidays, more stuff than they ever play with regularly! So each Christmas, Santa brings them a special, but modest, present that they specifically ask him for. Our kids don’t even expect gifts from us at all. (Not really fair that Santa gets all the glory, but whatevs.) I try to opt out of gift exchanges at holiday parties as well. I can’t tell you how many of those gifts get stuck in the closet collecting dust!
This all works out great for me because I hate shopping, especially during the holidays. I know some people enjoy that aspect of it, but I like to imagine that the holidays are about more than just getting and even giving gifts.
What is a Yankee swap please?!
Yankee Swap is where we each buy a generic gift of around $25 and wrap it. Then, we draw numbers and gather around the big pile of gifts in the middle of the room. Number 1 goes first to pick a gift from the pile. He or she unwraps the gift and models it Vanna White style so that everyone can see what they got. Then it’s Number 2’s turn. Number 2 can either pick a new gift from the pile and unwrap it, or steal Number 1’s gift. The turns keep going, and there are different rules you can follow, like one particular item can only be stolen 3 times, the person who went first can steal from anyone at the end, etc. It can get really competitive and fun, especially when there is one gift that multiple people want. When buying the gifts, I always try to find something at a big discount so that I can add little items to it and give someone more value for my $25. Also, you have to know your audience. My brother-in-law was describing the gift exchange at his family’s house where everyone was competing for the machete and the air rifle. I was very happy to be taking home an air popcorn popper from my family’s exchange and thankful I didn’t have to worry about accidentally getting stuck with a machete!
That sounds like lots of fun! It’s too late this year for my family but I might suggest that another year. Thanks for the great explanation!
It sounds like you’ve found a great balance for your family. And I swear kids really don’t need much. Sally could get absolutely nothing this year, and she’d be thrilled just to have “wights!” and “twee!” as she says when she points to our Christmas tree! 🙂
Though not strictly related to Christmas, a good app is ibota. It lists rebate offers at stores near you, and all you have to do is snap a picture of the receipt. Once you hit $10, they pay you. Good on groceries and stocking stuffers.
Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to give that app a try!
This is great timing as my partner and I have taken a couple of days off, have a hotel booked for tomorrow and plan to go and do all our Christmas shopping this week. We have a budget, have done research, asked for ‘Santa lists’ to ensure people actually want what we buy and use every money saving trick we know. In addition I have been making presents for the last few weeks and will make food gifts nearer the time. Our aim is to not have to do any last minute panic buying. We both love gift giving, especially at Christmas, and if we don’t keep tight control our budget can spiral so we keep a list as we go. I’m really looking forward to setting off tomorrow!
Such a smart idea to get all your Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop. I’m super jealous! With the move, Johnny and I still haven’t bought even one gift. Aaah! Is there any way to avoid last-minute panic buying at this point?! I hope so!
we save money from every paycheck throughout the year, specifically for Christmas. Even if we don’t spend a lot on gifts, we like to treat ourselves and there are a lot of social obligations, so it’s just nice having an extra $1K lying around that we don’t have to worry about paying for the holidays.
Very cool idea! We may have to try that next year! Thanks for sharing.
I love your list, but sadly very little applies to our family as we rarely do online shopping, I refuse to do Ebates due to information they collect, and we don’t have smart phones for apps.
I do get rewards from Recyclebank, which are great for teacher gifts. I also try to buy items 2nd hand (you’d be amazed at how many brand new items you can find through consignment sales, garage sales, and thrift stores). Finally, we often buy a lot of Groupons. They are great since we spend less, and they get the same value for the same great place.
Groupons are a good one I missed! Thanks for sharing!
I am going to have to check out that Walmart Savings Catcher app. Free money for something I already do? Yes please!
I love Ebates too-love getting cash back for a purchase I was already making anyways!
I’ve started my Christmas shopping the past few weeks and am going to do some more this weekend. I think it’s the earliest I’ve ever started (I began a little in October) and it feels great!
Plus this year for the first time I am seriously budgeting for gifts and keeping track of what I spend to see what Christmas actually costs me. Then I can begin the new year with a Christmas fund Ill contribute to each month. So Im trying to be very “mindful” this year. 🙂
I was able to redeem five $25 gift cards from my credit card rewards, so that helped jump start my shopping!
Thanks for the list – there are some on here that I haven’t tried!
Here are some savings apps that I have now incorporated into my shopping routine that make a difference! I use the following free apps:
flipp – scan the weekly flyers for groceries (love this app!)
RetailMeNot – coupons! (works better for online shopping)
RedLaser – compare online prices (great for electronics and other large purchases that have lots of online comparables)
Price Cruncher – manage frequent items, track unit prices, and shopping list (great for weekly groceries and other household items that don’t have online prices)
Checkout 51 – get rebates on items that I purchased by scanning my receipt (who doesn’t like getting money back on things they were going to buy anyways!)
Awesome list, Jane! Thanks for sharing all these… most of them are new to me. Can’t wait to try them out!
Thanks for sharing!
Would love to know what you think of the Target redcard (either debit or credit). We shop there a lot but I’m hesitant to link it to my bank account & just not sure it’s a good idea. Thanks!
If you shop at Target often, the credit card could be a good option, as long as you’re planning to pay it off in full each month. I know a few people who have it and have found lots of savings from it.