One of the major themes in couponing and deal-searching is to plan ahead. We can get better deals by knowing what will be on sale ahead of time and planning to stock up when the time comes. This same idea can be applied to the Holiday Season, which for most people, is a huge yearly expense. With a little bit of planning and some help from your friends at WUC, you can help make this Holiday season relaxing and frugal!
1. Start Saving NOW
This is one of the more obvious hints. Every penny you can put away between now and December is one less charge on the credit card. For example, if you are paid twice a month, between now and December 25th, there are about 11 pay checks. If you put away $20 a pay check, that is $220. If you put away $50 a check, that is $550! It can add up really quickly. Even something as simple as you and your spouse throwing all your loose change in a bowl to cash in when it gets full can add up really quickly. And remember, Coin-Star machines now will allow you to cash in your change for free if you pick an Amazon Gift Card as your form of payment.
2. Write Your Gift-list ASAP
If you don’t know what you are looking for, then you won’t know to start watching for it to go on sale. Take the time to write out all the people you need to buy for, then think about what they would want/need. Lots of times loved ones will mention something through out the year in passing. Make note of it and then start watching for it to go on sale or clearance.
3. Start Your Shopping
This one is pretty obvious, too. Up-coming clearance sales are a bargain-hunters dream for Holiday shopping. Currently, Target is gearing up for its big Summer Toy Clearance. Most if not all of your toys for the children in your life can be bought now, at up to 75% off in some cases, and stashed for Christmas time. Take a half an hour and go by Target this afternoon to get a feel for what is clearanced, how much it is, and if you want to wait for it to go lower. Typically, things for 30% – 50% – 75%. When they go depends largely on your store, so taking a little time to do some reconnaissance will pay off in the end. Just be careful not to wait too long, or the item will be gone. If there is only 1 left at 50% off that you have to have, you might want to pick it up now instead of chancing it not being there later. Also start watching for school supplies to go on sale or clearance the closer we get to the school year starting. Markers, crayons, pencil cases, back-packs, etc all make great stocking stuffers. And remember when you are out looking for clearance toys, now is a great time to pick something up for the Holiday toy drives in your area. If you know that you are going to buy gift cards for those hard to buy for family members, try to buy 1 or 2 gift cards a month so that you don’t have to spend it all at one time.
4. Gearing Up For On-line Sales
Just because it is a “Black Friday in July” sale, doesn’t mean that will be the lowest price of the season on that item. Be very careful about falling for the marketing gimmicks that stores will use to boost sales in the summer months. Comparison shop. Go to other store’s websites to see if that really is that much off.
Have a price you will pay and a date you need it by, and stick to it. If you want to buy your mom a Kodak camera, and you want to spend $100 for it, then keep looking until it hits that price. As long as it is a reasonable price, it will get there eventually. This will help keep you from spending too much because you go for it the first time you see a lower price. If you see the item sitting at one price for a long time, then maybe you set your price too low, and adjust. Setting your price will help you budget your money for the holidays, too.
Check deal sites EARLY and OFTEN! In the past, sites like amazon were very predictable with their sales, but with in the last year they haven’t been. The solution? Check CONSTANTLY for what you are looking for. There are also tools you can use to find the best deals on Amazon. Amazon Deal Finding Tools will compile for you all the best % off deals on Amazon every time you search. This is especially helpful for trying to find ideas for people you don’t know what to buy for. If specific items you are looking for do not show up, then search for them individually.
5. Write Your Menu NOW
Food is a huge part of the holidays. Just like taking the time to write out your gift list, taking time out to plan your menu for holiday meals will allow you to start watching for those items to go on sale. Be specific. If your family loves Pepperidge Farm Stuffing, then write that down and watch for it. Don’t just include Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, either. Include breakfast or brunch Christmas morning, cookies that you need to leave for Santa, a dish for the church pot luck, anything that you have attended in the past, include. If you end up not needing it the day you planned, you can always use it later. The more non perishables that you can stock up for now for pennies on the dollar, the less money you will have to spend closer to the holidays when money is tighter.
6. Collect Coupons
Once you have your list, start contacting companies and asking for coupons for those items. I usually will e-mail them with a compliment, and then ask to be included on their mailing list. There are several lists of companies contact information. HERE is one specific for the holidays, and HERE are ones that are more generic. By just contacting 5-10 companies a day, you can collect a lot of coupons that are harder to find, and that are good for products that you will need.
Don’t forget to start trading for coupons you need, too. Flour, sugar, condiments, aluminum foil, paper plates, napkins, stuffing, condensed milk, chocolate chips, etc. all commonly put out coupons for their products. If you know you will need them, start getting them now.
7. Cooking & Baking
So many people are surprised to learn that butter, cookie dough and other holiday favorites are freezable! When you find a good deal now, why wait until the last minute to pay for it? By stocking up and preparing now, you will have extra money to spend on something or someone during the holidays!
Items that freeze well include:
Cheese (blocks, slices, and shredded)
Eggs – crack and scramble them and put in ice cube trays (these are only good to bake with then)
Chopped Onions – for cooking
You can also store flour and sugar in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and bug-free until you need to use them.
You can also make your own cookie dough and freeze it up to six months in advance. What I like to do is make a batch of drop cookies, then spoon them out and drop them on to a wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet. You won’t be baking them now, so you can crowd as many on there as will fit, as long as they don’t touch. Then stick the whole cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours. Once they have frozen solid, peel them off the liner and drop them into a freezer bag. That way they are ready to go from freezer to oven, already portioned out! This is great to have on year round for those unexpected dinner guests or if you little one needs cookies for something at school tomorrow. Plus, using this method, you can have a big variety of cookies on hand at all times.
Once you know how roughly how many batches of cookies you will be making, you can get a rough estimate of quantities you will need to buy. A good rule of thumb for flour and sugar are:
4 c. flour per 1 lb. = (approx.) 20 c. in a 5 lb. bag
2 c. sugar per 1 lb. = (approx.) 10 c. in a 5 lb. bag
8. Broaden Your Shopping Options
Why limit your shopping to retail stores and online merchants? Try shopping for items at garage sales, thrift stores, and other secondary markets. Many times you can find brand new items with the tags still on for pennies on the dollar. Have a collector on your list? Secondary markets are PERFECT for the collector! Find them that perfect piece of china or figurine that they have wanted to add to their collection. Secondary Markets are a treasure hunt, just waiting to happen!
9. Stock-pile Gift Baskets/Stocking Stuffers
This is one of my favorite things to do around the holidays!! Many people can use and appreciate more practical gifts! When there is only so much money to spare, buying a video game rather than giving a huge stockpile basket full of absolute necessities seems silly. Yet we do not want to take all the fun out of opening presents. Get creative!! Maybe even wrap each item to make it fun! Stocking stuffers are also a great place to tuck away practical gifts. Items such as chap stick, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, and shampoo and soaps are great choices mixed with sweet freebies you find throughout the year. Our very own shoppingfever has started a great thread about using your stock-pile for gift baskets. Wrapping My Thoughts Around Christmas Baskets!
10. MyPoints, SwagBucks, Superpoints, etc.
Small things often times make a BIG difference. Swagbucks is a great way to earn $5 gift cards to Amazon.com. Those gift cards can be used around the holidays for increased savings. The less money out of your pocket the better! Check swagbucks for more details.
With MyPoints, you can earn point for online purchases or submitting reports via BzzAgent. Save up these points throughout the year and cash them in for gift certificates as presents themselves, or to use for holiday purchases. For program details, visit www.mypoints.com
With Superpoints you simply spin the wheel to earn your self points for free gift cards!! Easy way to earn paypal, Amazon, and more!! Check out Superpoints for more details!
Thank you to our moderator Amos311 for these great tips!! You can see her post here!!!