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The other day it dawned on me, CHRISTMAS IS 10 WEEKS AWAY!!! The mere thought of this threw me for a loop! I’m not ready! Wait, how did summer slip away so quickly. I was just getting used to wearing shorts and flip flops again and now it’s time to break out the jackets? Living in Northern CA our summers seem to run into winter, we really don’t have much of a fall or in-between weather, it’s either one extreme of the other. That being said, it does take me some time to adjust and get used to the transition of the seasons. I have cinnamon rolls in the oven and a pumpkin spice candle lit, while I have my cozy furry socks, ok, maybe not that hard, I digress. Nevertheless this season always brings a sense of peace and comfort. Hot chocolate, fresh baked cookies and inside DIY projects.
So back to Christmas. How can you save BIG on Christmas, you ask? Read on to find out. These are some tips I learned over the years from having two little ones to buy for and my son’s b-day the very same week.
- Plan ahead. We still have 10 weeks so if you start planning now you will be ahead of the game and ready to enjoy and embrace the Christmas season, instead of living in utter fear and sheer panic in December. Plan this money into your budget starting at in October or sooner. Also, start grabbing gifts you know you will be buying or even put some things on layaway that you know will be gone if you wait (like those cozy pjs and sweaters). K-mart has a .01 down layaway special going on right now and $10 off a $50 or more purchase.
- Layaway. Thank god for layaway, this is honestly one essential thing on my Christmas to-do list that has gotten me through many Christmas seasons. Last year I went to pay my layaway off and was told that an Angel paid it off for me. This happens to a select number of accounts at K-Mart every year which was a huge blessing! I owed over $100 on my layaway account. I have never waited that long to pay it off but didn’t want my son to see his B-day gifts so I figured they were safe there. His b-day is Dec. 22nd and I picked it up on Dec. 21st. I love K-Mart and always use their layaway for many reasons. First, I’ve been shopping here since I was a kid, (it was the only department store in my little town when I was growing up), I worked at K-Mart on three different occasions two during the Holiday season so I know how great the deals are there and last but not least the shop your way rewards program is amazing! I have gotten the best coupons from this program. Like on two different occasions I got a $30 of of a $30 purchase. I used both to buy household items when I moved like towels, bathroom and bedroom essentials and even a comforter that was on clearance.
- Budget. Set aside a Christmas budget in the months leading up to Christmas. For example, if you spend around $600 for Christmas shopping start early and set aside $100 every two weeks or every time you get paid. Sometimes this is hard, I know, there’s always something to buy or pay for. What you can do so this stings less is to ask for $100 in quarters at your bank each time you get paid. When you have change you are less likely to spend it, and therefore be more likely to save it. When you have your money for Christmas, just take the change back to the bank and get hundreds. It is a very unconventional way to save but I know, but if you are like me and have a hard time saving unless you get creative. Then you should try this. This also works if you are trying to save for a vacation fund or even a down payment on a car or house. Never use change, save it in a 5 gallon water jug and cash it in a year or two. You could have thousands saved.
- Cyber Monday. I totally avoided black Friday last year I have to admit. I love shopping cyber Monday over black Friday. I just hate the craziness and waiting in huge lines. I don’t have the patience waiting in line for hours. I have a bit of social anxiety and panic at just the thought honestly. Although, these days Black Friday deals seem to come sooner and stay around longer which make for easier shopping and more opportunites for everyone even if you spend time with family on Thanksgiving instead of shopping.
- Black Friday. If you don’t mind long lines, hours worth of waiting per store, and fit fights. You can score some pretty amazing deals. Like half off or more in some cases. Please keep in mind that stores want you to think that each item will be at it’s absolute rock bottom price, and a lot of times that is the case. But there are also a lot of amazing deals the closer and closer we get to Christmas. If there are specific items you need to buy then buy those first, then the people you can buy things like candies, bath sets, candle sets, slippers, etc. (you know the random gifts you need to have on hand) then you can always wait and be a last minute shopper for these items and still find great deals.
- Coupons. Be on the lookout for coupon booklets. Target has a toy coupon book that comes out the mail. K-Mart also has a toy coupon booklet that comes out in the mail. On a side note: K-Mart will give you cash back if the item you buy goes on sell, you will get the difference in cash. Be sure to hang on to those receipts! Sign up for your favorite stores newsletters and coupons. Kohls always sends out get coupons via email around Christmas.
- Craigslist. Can’t seem to find that toy your son or daughter wants? Check Craigslist for a steep discount, if you can buy the item used. While it might not come in a box, if your kids are older and they want something every specific like a game system or a laptop, could you buy it used? It’s worth checking out. You can save as much as 50% if you don’t mind buying used. You would be surprised what you can find on Craigslist. There are even boxed toys for sell. Bikes, exercise equipment, game systems, games, music, stereos, etc. Also check out apps.like offer up and letgo.com.
- Amazon. I seriously love Amazon, who doesn’t right? I’m obviously not the only one, considering Amazon is the #1 online retailer. Amazon has so much to offer. You can sign up for a Prime membership receive free shipping ( free trial). Or Amazon student (also offers a free trial) You can even sign up to sell items on Amazon or use their trade-in program to receive cash off your next purchase. Many electronic items qualify for this program.
- Coupon and discount apps. Some apps even give you cash paid directly to your paypal account just for downloading and using their app. Sign up for Ebates.com sign up here… https://www.ebates.com/r/530SHA?eeid=28187 you can receive gift cards or cash for shopping the stores you purchase from anyway! befrugal.com gives you $10 just for signing up. Sign up here… http://www.befrugal.com/referral/?ref=LZTIRFN. Or even apps like ibotta Cash back programs. I love Wal-Mart’s savings catcher app. https://savingscatcher.walmart.com/ Other apps you can download are shopkick.com, This app is so easy to use. Unlike some apps where you literally have to complete several steps to save a buck. Not so with this one. Simply download, scan your receipts after shopping, and receive cash back. Wal-Mart will compare all the competitors prices of items you bought and if it sees a lower price they will give you the price difference. I think you have one week to scan your receipt after purchase. so you can do it once a week on the weekend when you have a free moment. In two to three days you will see a balance in your account. You can use this towards your next Wal-Mart purchase. I have only scanned about 10 times and I have seen almost $30 in rewards back. Totally worth a few minutes of your time. Save the rewards in your account towards Christmas shopping. There are so many more cash back rewards programs, do your research to find the best ones for you.
- Price compare. Download apps like to see if the gifts you are buying are at their lowest price. There is nothing worse than buying that toy your son has his heart set on only to see that it goes on sale the next week for half off. A lot of stores will give you the difference in cash if this happens. This will probably happen at lot during Christmas shopping so it doesn’t hurt to ask if the store offers any kind of cash back or price matching programs, or even seals you don’t know about coming up. Always save your receipt for hassle free returns too.
- Target Cart Wheel. When I was a cashier @ Target I saw some pretty amazing deals come through my line. One of the best being purchased with the Cartwheel app. There was a set of Frozen little girls dolls one time that a dad got for $20 using sales and the cartwheel app. This was normally a $60 toy! It came with 8 barbie like dolls. I’m sure his daughter loved it, he was buying this for a b-day gift for her! Be sure to watch for these deals because they are usually for a limited time only.
- Price matching. Find out if your favorite store offers price matching. I know Walmart (the store I frequent the most) price matches, you don’t even have to bring the ad, just simply tell the cashier where it’s cheaper and for what price and they will adjust the price.Target is one store that price matches a lot of other stores, including online retailers. Some of the stores they will match include, Amazon, Toys R Us and Walmart, even grocery stores like Safeway and CVS.
- Start planning early. Think about Christmas when it’s over. I know this is honestly the last thing you want to think about the day after Christmas but the truth is stores have that same mentality. Let’s get this over already! They want Christmas stuff out of their store to make way for the next season. The retail business plans way ahead. Why not you? Do you see things coming out earlier and earlier? This is no mistake. Stores plan for ‘forth quarter” i. e.. Christmas season all year. It is the busiest time of the year and time retailers earn the most money. You need to think ahead and be aware of store cycles. That basically means knowing when products will be at their ‘rock bottom’ price. Snag Christmas wrapping during after Christmas sales, as well as lights and Christmas decor and things like storage containers and plastic wrap with a Christmas theme.
- Shop with a plan. I tend to spend less when I go into the store with a plan and a list, whether it’s shopping for toys or groceries. Make a list of the things on your Christmas wish list and next to each item put the price of that item so you can stay on budget. If you don’t know the price look it up ahead of time and always see what store has it for the lowest price so you can make a note of that to price match. For example, if you shop at Target, they price match for Amazon, just simply go to customer service and explain the price difference and they will give you a print out to take to the register. If you shop at Wal-Mart you can price match at the register. Be sure to plan grocery items into your holiday budget which can add up pretty quickly.
- Shop in categories. It can be so tempting to go into a department store and tackle both your grocery list and Christmas. Resist this temptation. Keep in mind convenience is expensive. Don’t be tempted to buy grocery items at place where you are buying toys and clothes for Christmas. I found that I was over spending doing this because every year I buy ingredients for fudge, cookies and candies. I found that it’s harder to keep track of what you’re spending for presents vs. grocery items you would normally buy if you attempt the one shopping trip for everything method. See weekly sales ads and match with coupons for food items you will be buying during the Christmas season. Be on the look out for grocery store sales. Safeway isn’t normally the place I shop at for groceries but they have amazing Christmas sales, see the weekly store ads for your area follow their sales and use E-coupons as well as manufacturers coupons.
I hope these tips will help you get a head start on Christmas! I also wanted to add, never overlook the Dollar Tree for decor, wrapping, candles, cards and even grocery items, this is one store that I will be doing one cart shopping at! 😉