Many of you know that you can get great prices for a variety of merchandise online. It’s incredibly enticing for holiday shopping because you don’t have to fight the crowds. Sometimes, however, you think you’re going to get a great deal but then you’re hit with shipping and handling fees, and if you need to return the item you’ll have to front return shipping and possibly a restocking fee. Is there any way to avoid these fees? I’m glad you asked.
~If you don’t want to pay shipping (and who does?) check out www.freeshipping.org for a complete list of free shipping coupon codes for hundreds of websites.
~Sign up for Amazon Mom. If you are planning to buy anything from the online retail giant, visit www.Amazon.com/mom to get free shipping for 3 months. You don’t have to be a mom or even a parent to sign up, and it’s free. You can earn an extra month of free shipping for each $25 you spend on baby items, up to one year free.
~If you know your local store has an item in stock but there’s a better price online, consider going to the store to look at, touch, open, test out or try on your item. Then if you’re happy with it, go home and order it online to get the better deal. You’ll be less likely to need to return it later.
~Shop through a cash back site like www.ebates.com to get rewarded for shopping online. For each purchase you make online through ebates, you’ll get a percentage of your purchase price back. The percentages are fixed but they may offer double cash back or an increased percentage at various times of the year.
Here’s to the luxury of shopping Snuggie-clad from the convenience of my couch, any time night or day. Happy savings!
Did Halloween sneak up on you? If your little ghost or goblin hasn’t decided on a costume yet there are lots of ways to do Halloween on a budget. A little creativity can go a long way to make you the belle of the ball on Halloween. Here are some ideas to get you started.
~Hit the thrift store. Athens is fortunate enough to be home to several good thrift stores. Project Safe Thrift Store, America’s Thrift Store, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, St. Mary’s Hospice House Thrift Store, and the Atlanta Union Mission are all great places to start. You can go looking for a specific item for your costume or you can go to get inspired. There are usually tons of great clothes that are past their prime for everyday wear but they make a perfect (and cheap) costume.
~Look in your closet. No costume there? If you don’t have any costumes ready to go you might have pieces that can be assembled. Old jeans and a flannel shirt don’t need much accessorizing to become a scarecrow, if you’ve only got a brain. A white dress shirt paired with some old black pants is the perfect foundation for a pirate. If you’ve got a red bandana all you need is a hook and a patch and Arrrhh, ye’ll be walking the plank.
~Trade costumes with a friend. Chances are you aren’t the only one looking to save on a Halloween costume, and most costumes only get warn a couple of times before they retire. If your kids are tired of the Tinkerbell costume from 2 years ago, the neighbor’s kid might not be. See if they have one they’re tired of too and you’ve got a new-to-you costume.
~Be creative. Think of people you see everyday for inspiration. Last year I saw a Flo, the Progressive commercial spokesperson costume and loved it. One year The Husband and I went to a party as our friends Alan and Jill. As long as your audience knows who you are you’re golden.
~Don’t forget the makeup. A little eye liner can go a long way and add a lot of detail to your costume. Use eye liner to put hair on your chest, or add a mustache, tattoo, or stitches. Eye shadow can create bruises or give you the perfect effect for hollowed zombie eyes. Here’s to a happy Halloween and happy savings!
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? If yours had anything to do with money take a look at some suggestions on how to make them stick.
- Be realistic. Unless you are a millionaire to start with (and if you are you can probably stop reading now because you can hire someone to save money for you) you probably aren’t going to be saving thousands of dollars a month. If my goal was to save a thousand a month I’d have to stop shopping, eating, or driving, I’d have my electricity and water cut off and I’d have to sit around in the dark all the time. That wouldn’t fly for very long with me and I’d give up on my resolution pretty quickly. Start with a percentage you’d like to shave off your monthly budget and work up from there.
- Be specific. In college I resolved one year to be nicer. I’m generally a nice person anyway, but everyone gets a case of the grouchies once in a while. While this was a nice enough resolution it was meaningless because it was too vague. If your resolution is to save money, how much money do you want to save? Do you want to save on groceries, clothes, eating out? Giving yourself specific goals gives you something manageable to work toward and makes you more likely to make it happen.
- Be accountable. Every year The Husband resolves to give up resolutions in the coming year. His point is that there’s no point in making a resolution you don’t care about. If you truly want to stick to yours, create some system of checking up on yourself to see if you’ve made progress. That could be in the form of a budget, watching your receipt totals go down, or monitoring your electricity or utility usage throughout time. To do that, you’ll need a baseline of how much these things cost you currently so you’ll know if you’re progressing. When you see some success you’re more likely to want to continue because you’ll know the sacrifices you’re making are paying off.
Hopefully we’ll all be on the right track to saving money this year. I’ll be with you every step of the way and I’m always available for questions. Happy savings!
What was your favorite holiday gift that you received this year? A kindle, ipod, camera, or smart phone? Some of this year’s hottest gifts require add ons, apps, or downloads that can get expensive. How can you enjoy your new treasure without breaking the bank? Here are some suggestions:
- If you have a kindle or other e-reader, check out www.freekindlebooks.org or www.gutenburg.org for a list of thousands of free classics to download. Project Gutenburg is a collection of ebooks and audio books organized by volunteers. Amazon.com also has a free kindle book of the week available for download. The beauty of these free downloads is that you can always download them while they’re free and then decide later if they’re worth reading.
- If you ended up with a toy or gadget that eats batteries, consider going with a battery charger instead of replacing them frequently. My camera takes regular AA batteries and uses them pretty quickly. I got a battery charger with 2 sets of rechargeable batteries, and not only do I not have to purchase batteries, the rechargables last longer so I don’t have to change them as frequently.
- The iphone has 225,000 apps available for download, the Android has 60,000 available, and the Palm Pre and Blackberry have thousands with more added every day. Apps allow you to search the web, listen to music, play games or watch TV all from your phone. Some of these are available for free, but with so many, it would be staggering to search them all. Thankfully PCMag.com came out with a list of the top 100 free phone apps and you can look them up according to your specific phone. To find the list, simply google PCMag Top 100 Free Apps.
- If it’s music you’re looking for Amazon.com has got you covered there also. Amazon has close to 2,500 free mp3 downloads. Just go to Mp3 downloads, click on Music By Price, and then Free. Songs will be divided into genres (jazz, Country, etc) for your perusing pleasure.
Hopefully these tips will help you utilize your new gift without taking out a second mortgage just to enjoy it. Happy savings!
If you still haven’t finished your holiday shopping, you’ve only got 8 days left until Christmas Eve, 10 days until Kwanzaa, and you’re already late for Hanukkah. What to do if you haven’t shopped yet, or if you don’t know what to get that special person? Can you wait till the last minute and still save money?
- December 17th is free shipping day. More than 1,000 retailers will be offering free shipping, many of whom will guarantee delivery by Christmas. For more information see www.freeshippingday.com
- The Athens Farmer’s Market is open through this Saturday for last minute shoppers. In addition to their usual fruits, veggies, and meats from local farms you can also find handmade hats, scarves, bags, candles and soaps from local vendors. If those don’t suit your giftee’s fancy consider a gift certificate from one of the farms, or some fresh made pastas or granola. If you don’t remember to bring cash you can use your debit or credit card to purchase tokens that can be used at the vendors.
- Think outside the box. Instead of getting something generic like socks or a snuggie for your loved one, think about something different. Last year I got my dad a gift certificate for a local zip line tour for his birthday. It was something he’d never done before and I knew it wouldn’t end up stuffed in a drawer somewhere.
- If you shop at a specialty store or boutique, ask if they offer complimentary gift wrapping. Many stores will include a bag or box with their logo. It promotes their store and saves you time and money on wrapping.
- If you’re shopping online, consider buying multiple gifts from one website. Sites like Amazon or Target offer tons of items for everyone on your list. Lots of sites offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount. Consolidating your shopping to one site saves you time and hopefully shipping charges too.
If you’re in the last minute crowd, please share some of these tips with my husband. You’re bound to see him at the mall on Christmas Eve. Happy savings!
- You last minute shoppers will be glad to know that Free Shipping Day is December 17, 2010. More than 1,000 retailers will be providing free shipping, many offering delivery by Christmas Eve. This is the third annual Free Shipping Day, and gives retailers a chance to extend the online shopping season. For a list of participating retailers, visit www.freeshippingday.com.
- Go to www.getinvisiblehand.com to get the Firefox Add On called Invisible Hand. It’s like an extra toolbar that will let you know discreetly if something you’re shopping for online is available cheaper from another retailer. Invisible Hand does not take shipping into account.
- www.Smarter.com provides comparison shopping for upscale items. www.Bizrate.com and www.shopzilla.com offer the same, but not just for upscale items. All of these sites allow you to see the price of one item at multiple online retailers. Usually searches will include any shipping deals as well.
- www.giftcardrescue.com , www.giftcardgranny.com, and www.cardwoo.com all allow you to shop for gift cards at discount prices. You can get a $25 store gift card for only $20, but the savings and selection vary.
- www.giftcards4less.com/auction is a website that lets you bid on gift cards from major retailers. You can get gift cards at great discounts but there’s a catch: you have to pay for the card and you have to pay to bid. So even if you don’t win the gift card with your bid you’ll still end up paying a few bucks just for trying. The upside is that if you win, you could walk away with a $100 gift card for just $8.
- And last but not least, never underestimate the power of ebay. www.ebay.com has online auctions for thousands of new and used items. Just make sure you check the shipping prices before you commit to a bid.
With all the extra help technology gives us these days it’s hard not to save big. Good luck with all your holiday shopping. Happy savings!