Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pinching Abe's 10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting #ODSmartGifts

Christmas is a crazy time of year for me.  I am pretty much 100% responsible for the gift buying for the kids and other family members, so it is important that I start brainstorming ahead of time to think of gift ideas and also to keep an eye out for a good bargain.  I make it through (just barely!) each year and try harder the next year to make it more simple.  What have I done to make shopping for Christmas gifts smarter and easier?  Here's a brief list of 10 tips!

1.  Amazon Prime is my best friend.  Seriously.  I know, it costs $80 a year, but if your family is doesn't live within a reasonable drive, why pay to ship it twice?  Just buy your gifts online and have them shipped (usually free on Prime) to the gift recipients.  Let them know ahead of time.  My family doesn't mind wrapping their own gift -- or you can pay a little extra to get it wrapped.

2.  Get your gift ideas ahead of time and wait for the right sale.  I keep an eye out for gifts that I think would be perfect for family members as early as the summer.  I listen for phrases like "I sure could use a..." and commit it to memory or send myself an email.

3.  Cash back is my second best friend.  I shop almost exclusively with a Discover card and sign up for every promotional program that they offer to maximize my cash back bonus.  This year, I had earned over $200, which I converted into gift cards to give to my family.

4.  Another great thing about the cash back bonus is that you can also redeem gift cards for yourself.  This means that book your kid has to have you can buy at Borders, having traded in for a gift card where $20 cash back money gets you a $25 card.  Use some Borders coupons by email and now you're really maximizing your savings!  They have other cash back partners for shopping via Shop Discover, such as Office Depot, where you can buy those tech gadgets your hubby just has to have (and earn 5% cash back on your purchase.)

5.  Plan purchases to coincide with your coupons.  Why pay full price for that as-seen on TV product?  Bed Bath and Beyond carries a lot of those items and you can use the promotional coupons they mail you or you find in the Sunday paper to save 20% off those Perfect Fit Buttons that you think would be a great stocking stuffer.

6.  Hide your gifts, but not too well.  I am infamous for finding Christmas gifts and then finding them half way through the year.  My inability to remember where I hid them (or just simply losing them in the quagmire I call a closet) costs me money and stress last minute as I try to even out the gifts.  If you must hide, create a treasure map so you can find them later.

7.  Enter blog contests for prizes you can actually use or would make great gifts for someone!  This is very easy to do since I belong to several blogger groups.  Another thing you can do is visit Prizey.net and sort by type.  Don't forget twitter too - I often search for "low entries" +"giveaway" so that I can enter giveaways with low entries to enhance my chances to win.  A few months ago, I won a DVD set for babies, which I ended up giving to my neighbor, who gave it to her granddaughter.

8.  Skip Black Friday, unless you must have an item.  I will only venture out on Black Friday if I absolutely must get a deal.  Otherwise, I sit at home and wait for Cyber Monday deals so I don't have to fight the crowds or have to worry about people shopping out of my cart when my back is turned.

9.  Follow your favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter.  You can often find special promo codes that are only listed there for fans!  Before you hit that payment button, be sure you've exhausted all the venues for a promotional code.

10.  Finally, while you are paring down your own holiday shopping list for friends and family, don't forget to make one out for yourself.  If you like a gift you buy for someone, make a note of it on your own list and email it to your hubby.  He will thank you for it!

That's my 10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting!  So far, so good.  I have picked up several smaller items thus far for the kids.  I'm not shy -- I even called my sister and raked her over the coals for a gift idea for my younger brother.  Sometimes it is hard to shop for family you don't see very often (I've never seen the inside of his apartment, so I have no idea of what he has/doesn't have).  So don't be shy - enlist a spy!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
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