Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree....

Ok, so it's almost September.  Are you ready for Christmas?  I am challenging myself to make Christmas more enjoyable this year.  How, you ask?  Well, to begin with  - I am going to start shopping earlier than usual and hopefully, I will be done by Christmas eve...  I also promise to spend less money!  Here are a few tips that may help take some of the stress out of your holiday season.  Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions.

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 9 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. 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.

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:
Cookie Dough

Pie Crusts


Cream Cheese

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.

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.

(Thanks weusecoupons)

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