Change for the Better (Part 2): Getting the Best Deals for Your Christmas Shopping
Moving forward with the Change for the Better: Making Informed Decisions Regarding Your Finances and Health series, I’d like to touch upon deal-shopping since Christmas is right around the corner.
For as far back as I can remember, A-Dawg (my wife) and I have always done Christmas on a tight budget. I think what I enjoy most is seeing how far I can stretch my dollar—how much I can get for a set amount.
Sometimes my kids will ask for things I’ve never heard of. Whenever this happens, I simply Google the product in question, click on the “shopping” tab and sort by the lowest price. I do this in order to get an idea of how much an item usually retails for, then when I find the lowest price, I always try to do better. If I can’t for the time being, I wait it out. Eventually, everything goes on sale. From my experience, it’s usually sooner rather than later.
I have several tools in my deal-shopping arsenal, but I’d like to begin with the one I’ve personally benefited the most from:
This website, in my eyes, has been the equivalent of the Holy Grail when it comes to savings. Give it a look-see. Every few minutes, the site pulls deals from all around the net, from every store imaginable, even eBay. They list stackable coupons and price drops and clearance deals. They also provide local deals, freebies, credit card promotions (careful here!) and travel discounts (great for car rentals).
Here’s an example I pulled from their front page:
Disney Store Magical Monday Sale: Up to 25% Off SiteWide
Receive an Extra 15% off $50+ Order or Extra 20% off $75+ Order or Extra 25% off $100+ Order w/coupon MAGICAL (Ends 12/07). Plus free shipping w/$75+ order. Exclusions apply.
They will also direct you on how to properly stack coupons to receive the best deal. I can’t tell you how many gift card offers I’ve seen in the past month. $50 for $40 and $100 for $80, from everywhere from clothing stores to music sites like iTunes.
I check this site religiously, because you never know when there will be a deal you can benefit from. A few weeks ago, I was going to make a run to Costco, but then I spotted a deal to earn $25 if I used Costco’s free deliver-to-home option. Sure, I couldn’t purchase diary or frozen foods, but still, I saved $25 on part of an order I was already going to buy.
I’d be willing to bet that I conducted at least 80% of my Christmas shopping on this relatively new site. And if I hadn’t been patrolling Deals of America, I would have never heard of it. At the time, they were offering free shipping and $15 off of first orders. Later, that offer would expand to $20 off. Then, it’d swell to 20% off an entire order. Right now, you can get 15% off site wide with 15NOW.
The initial savings alone sold me, but there’s so much more to Jet.com that makes it an appealing online retailer to complete your Christmas shopping in one simple stop.
I did a write-up of them last month and feel it fits perfectly here:
Jet.com is an online retailer which launched in July 2015 with the goal of bringing the membership model of stores like Costco and Sam’s Club to the world of e-commerce.
Since July, Jet.com has already offered some of the lowest prices on the Internet as well as free shipping on orders over $35. There are no membership fee or requirements, and new users receive a complimentary 20% off coupon during checkout. If this isn’t incentive enough, everything is also tax-free.
Perhaps Jet.com’s biggest draw is what it’s calling “dynamic shopping carts”. How it works is, when you add a product to your cart, the price of similar products goes down.
Since Christmas is fast-approaching, I added an Imaginext Bat Bot for $55.97 to my cart ($57 on Amazon for Prime members). That’s already $1.03 in savings. Next I added a high-in-demand Skylander toy for $11.81 ($11.97 on Amazon for Prime members). Sixteen cents isn’t much, but this is where the dynamic shopping cart kicks in. Since I had already added the Bat Bot, I saved an additional $1.09 for adding the Skylander.
The current cart limit is 20 items, but it’s an easy feat to reach. Jet.com offers a wide array of categories from essential home goods and furniture to jewelry and apparel. Once you fill your cart, you’ll see massive savings which make you question the catch. But there is none. Jet.com is ambitious about becoming the number one online retailer, so for now, patrons reap all the rewards.
There isn’t much incentive to actually head into a store this holiday season, especially with most retailers offering some sort of free shipping on a minimum amount. When items are sold out online, you can often get them shipped to a local store for free.
If you wish to increase your savings beyond comparing items and their discounted prices, then I have a few more tools in stock for you to use:
This company gives you cash back by clicking links which lead to major retailers’ sites, and it’s completely free to join.
When you want to make a purchase, you search the site for the store you want to make a purchase from, click on the link and the site will set up a tracking code. Once you arrive at the site and make your purchase, Ebates verifies your purchase, then rewards you with the stated cash back. Per their site:
Every 3 months, we send you a cash back payment (by check or PayPal) for purchases posted during the previous quarter based on the schedule below. But if you’ve earned less than $5.01 cash back, we’ll carry over your money to the next check.
For my TV which I purchased from BestBuy, I went through Ebates and received about $14 back. Glancing at the site now, I see 3% cashback from Toys R Us and Walmart, 6% from Sears, and 10% from Macy’s amongst countless others.
How’s it work? Well, retailers are essentially paying Ebates to advertise on its site. Ebates earns advertising money from these retailers and splits the profits with its customers, thus the specific percentages.
After signing up and making your first purchase, once Ebates verifies (it’s a pretty quick process), first-time users receive an additional $10. Did I mention you don’t have to enter any credit card information?
In the past 16 months, A-Dawg and I have earned $230 back.
Since I am a member of Ebates, if you’d like to sign up, feel free to click the referral button below!
Credit Card Cash back
You can stack your savings on Ebates with any regular credit or debit card which uses a cash back system. Through my bank, I typically earn 1% cash back on every purchase, but sometimes they’ll offer as much as 5% back on certain retailers and even gas stations. I would recommend keeping one of these cards handy. In the long run, using a card wisely will result in no fees and raise your overall credit which will get you better interest rates when you go to make bigger purchases like vehicles and homes. It might not seem like it now, but everything you do financially is interconnected and impacts your future. All the more reason to spend the same way you drink—responsibly.
Coupons and Promos
When you’re online shopping, go for the trifecta of savings, what I call the Mother Lode: Ebates cash back stacked with a credit card’s cash back stacked with a promotional deal.
While most retailers offer their coupons onsite, I always run a quick Google search for wherever I’m about to checkout from in order to ensure I’ve got the best coupon added. I punch in the retailer’s name, hit search and click on random links. This is the sloppy part of my deal-hunting. By this point I’m tired. I just want to save an extra five bucks, then I’m done.
Try it. You’ll be amazed at how many thought-to-be expired promotional codes actually work.
You can also find deals like this in your local, online newspaper, which can be printed for free. Sometimes when you sign up for sites’ email lists, they’ll send you coupons shortly after. Redbox has been known to send out a bunch of freebies.
Back in the day, it was cash. Today, gift cards are becoming the more popular choice. Everybody can use one, so when you’re shopping for a friend, try to find places which reward you for purchasing them. The big one I’ve always used is Giant Eagle, a regional grocery chain with several locations in my city. It offers 20 cents off each gallon of gas for every $50 in gift cards purchased. To stretch this even further, Giant Eagle allows patrons to pump up to 30 gallons in one fill-up, so I bought a 10 gallon jug to take with me every time I use my rewards.
I know other local stores near me offer similar promotions. Kroger offers rewards based on the amount spent on groceries, and now Meijer has caught on and grants discounts for filling prescriptions through their pharmacy.
I’m relatively new to Bing, and while I don’t particularly like the layout, I am enjoying racking up points for performing simple searches through its engine. It was free to sign up, and there are a number of ways to earn the maximum amount of points per day, which happens to be 30. A-Dawg typically cashes her rewards out in the form of a $5 gift card. One to Toys R Us costs 525 Bing points, so it only took 17.5 days of running about 30 Bing searches per day to achieve this. It’s a pretty fantastic deal in my book since I’m earning rewards for something I’ve already been doing for many years now.
While many retailers offer free reward programs, the one I’m most familiar with is Toys R Us. Again, it’s free to sign up, so if you’re going to do some shopping there, it’s definitely worth your time. Here are the full member perks:
- Earn $5 in “R”Us Rewards for every 125 points you earn
- Enjoy rewards via email and redeem rewards within 60 days
- Earn up to 10% back on purchases made from your Babies“R”Us registry with Endless Earnings.
- Eligible to enroll in Geoffrey’s Birthday Club
- Bank your points, up to $200 in “R”Us Rewards, for future purchases
- Access Member Offers and receive exclusive offers just for you
I thought this one would be cute to add. Portable North Pole is a site which allows you to create a free, fully customizable video message from Santa and send it by email to your friends, family or children. You simply enter the receiver’s name, what they want for Christmas, if they were naughty or nice, and then add an optional picture. It’s pretty fun.
Deal-hunting is not an exact science. There’re a ridiculous amount of ways to save. It just requires a little bit of research to familiarize yourself with the deals offered around your area. It definitely can be overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, getting the best bang for your buck turns out to be insanely easy and fun.
I hope this helps with your holiday shopping! Best of luck, and stay tuned for the next part in the Change for the Better series where I tackle staying active and healthy, not just for your body, but also your mind and soul.
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