Sunday, September 19, 2010

Holiday Savings Tips #2-Thinking Outside the Wallet

Hello Readers!

Last week we discussed making a comprehensive list of people you plan to buy holiday gifts for and a budget amount for each gift. You thought you might skip that step, it seemed to cumbersome huh? That was your first mistake, but it's not too late to correct it! Just got back and read my Holiday Tip #1 and then come back to this.

You did your homework? Fabulous! You are well on your way to saving money this holiday season!! This step is time consuming, but it is very important as you can always save $ if you plan ahead vs. waiting until the last minute. My tips will help you avoid that last minute crunch. That is why we are starting in September (I actually start on Dec. 26 typically, but hey Sept. is do-able for most of you!).

Once you have your list of recipients it is easy to start narrowing down ideas you want for them and we will explore that topic next week. This week I want to present you with my Top 10 Strategies to explore gift giving "outside the wallet". These strategies will explore ways to score, earn, trade, make and barter gifts that don't cost you a lot (maybe nothing!), but will be great gifts to give! The reason I do this post now even though you may not quite know yet what you want to buy your recipients is that these strategies may move you in a direction of what would be the best gift you could get for your budget based on the strategies you choose. Some strategies will work for you, some will not. However, I present them all so that you can pick and choose what works best for you and start using them to score great gifts within your budget and typically high value gifts for low budget pricing.

Summer's Top 10 Strategies for Shopping!

1) Bartering/Trading
Do you have a skill or resource that you can barter/trade with someone for something they need? It could be things such as cooking, babysitting, knitting, sewing, crafts, cleaning, organizing, product from a business you own. You could trade your product/service for something you need to give to a friend or give the gift of a service of something you do well. For example: I barter design work with a massage center for free massage credit I can apply to gift certificates for gifts. It's a great deal for them and me! Be creative, the possibilities are endless, you can trade or barter anything and it benefits both parties!

2) Gift Baskets
Yes we have all seen them and you automatically think high price tag because frankly they just look expensive! And they are if you don't plan, but if you plan and use some of these strategies they can be put together for very little and look like you spent a bunch! Typically a theme is the first step and then you spend a month or so looking for items that fit your theme at a price that works for your budget. To make your basket dollars stretch further you could combine say a husband/wife or a family and put all your $'s into the basket allowing you to fill it with more goodies. I put together gift baskets for Chaya's school at the Family Fun Night. I put together 10 baskets each year at about $20. You wouldn't believe some of the baskets I have been able to put together for that price. It is imperative to take advantage of store freebies, coupons, rebates and other incentives to fill these baskets on the cheap! They are awesome and the thrill of the find is so exciting. I will talk more about the gift basket concept and ways to make it work well for you in next weeks tips blog. I will also be sharing with you some real life examples of what our Savvy Shoppers are finding!

3) Survey Sites/Loyalty Sites
If you have time and $ is tight (as is the case with me as I am not working much at the moment) I participate in several websites that earn credit for filling out surveys, giving video opinions, etc. I use my "earnings" from these sites to purchase magazines, videos, $ to my Borders Bucks account, gift cards to all sorts of merchants, etc. I then use these great freebies for gifts! It takes a bit of time, but I score excellent gifts that are basically FREE with a bit of my time. I would suggest checking out ( or, these are the best sites I have found for the most points for your time. They also have in my opinion the most user-friendly rewards. As far as loyalty sites or loyalty points. Some of the best for these for redemption for rewards are or, if you drink Coke products check out this site as it is easy to get some quick freebies, also if you buy Disney DVD's or go to Disney movies, the points add up fast and you can score some great Disney merchandise for minimal time on your part. These gifts are essentially free and again can make great filler for your gift baskets!

4) Hosting at home parties. It's fairly easy, you host a party and you receive discounted merchandise. There are plenty of choices out there and you can get some great deals on items you can give as gifts! When I host a party, I try to think out for major holidays, end of the year teacher gifts, etc. It allows me to get my gifts at a great discount or sometimes FREE allowing my gift budget to not take a huge hit. Last year when I had a Pampered Chef Party (Laura Caldwell) I had the option to purchase several items at 1/2 price. This was perfect because I purchased some of PC's "kits" that come already gift boxed and ready to go, check out the Pizza Kit, it was the perfect item for Chaya's teacher and imagine my surprise when I went to wrap it and it was already in a decorated gift box...woo-hoo! I got this for 1/2 price too, I was stoked! You can also treat your girlfriends to a pampering facial, color session or pedi party with Mary Kay (Kelly Smith-Koets) and earn some free product for yourself or get some goodies for a "Beautiful You" gift basket, either way this can be a great way to get items at a discount or even FREE for your holiday shopping. Many of these consultants also offer you the ability to do a catalog party or product party such as Scentsy (Jody Tuntland) where you can take a scent box around and let people check out items and you still earn some discounted or free product!

5) Gifts of Time are the perfect option if your budget is limited, but you can provide a service to someone. Taking time in our busy society is a great gift as people strive to not acquire more, but want to have fun! Offering to watch a child, help organize a closet or wash a car are perfect "service gifts" that anyone could enjoy and could easily be part of a holiday gift or gift basket (movie night basket, you watch the kids or night out on the town, carwash included, etc....get creative!) if you live close and a gift of time is of interest to you! Don't underestimate the value of time, it is seriously priceless!

6) Gifts of Experiences are also a great option when money is tight! I love gift baskets with themes such as hiking in Oregon for example where maybe you create a fun day pack with goodies, a hiking guide, etc. A family could enjoy a day of hiking in Oregon courtesy of you! One of the best gifts my daughter ever got was a punch pass for Bounce Gymnastics! For about $20, she got to go 6 times to open gym and had a blast. Who needs more toys when you can go have fun? The ability to go to college (it's a huge expense), consider making a donation to a college fund or purchase savings bonds (I love the ones you buy for 1/2 the face value, they get more for their money in the long run) could say it was for something in the future when it matures. People love to spend time with other people and the gift of an experience may just be the perfect fit for someone on your gift list and they will appreciate the time and thought put into this and it won't have to cost you very much!

7) In Oregon, wouldn't you love to open up a swimsuit (well, maybe sunglasses) or some other seasonal gift in the middle of winter? It is dreary in the dead of winter and if your gift recipient loves the sun, they probably aren't seeing too much of it right then. Seasonal gifts are fun because they have something to look forward to come Spring/Summer, they don't expect to get something seasonal at Christmas time and you can get stuff on really great clearance deals now! It's a win win! Also, think about people you might buy for who live in climates that are not as seasonal. For example, my sister in the Bahamas could use warm weather things year round and I can get some great deals on "summer" items now that she can use year round!

8) Gifts with Purchase and Purchase Incentives are a great way to get more gift for your dollar! Many times during the holidays stores will offer a variety of incentives to get you to shop with! Many stores offer FREE items with purchase, free items with coupons (hoping you will buy more, don't!, just get your free item and be on your way), or dollars to be used on a future purchase (Kohl's/Macy's/Gymboree). Take advantage of all these strategies because again they will net you more items for your gifts and they don't cost you anymore than you were already spending. How do you find out about these types of deals? My Facebook page is a good start, I post all types of things there! You can also read blogs, watch your mailbox for deals, etc! For example just this last week I have posted over 5 ways to get items for FREE (photo gifts, stationery items, cosmetics, etc.). I had several of my Savvy Shoppers take advantage of these deals and they are already checking things off their lists. You can't delay on these offers, they are usually limited time and require you to be ready to get them! This is why it is so helpful to have your list of who you are shopping for so that you can get these items when they become available or know what you need as nice filler items for those gift baskets. Filler is what makes them look luxe!

9) Coupons, Coupons and More Coupons! In my family, Chaya knows we only buy about 20% of our items without coupons so it is very common for me to hear "mom, do we have a coupon for that?". It is a choice to use this money saving tool, I guarantee regardless of how much you want to get into this lifestyle tool, you will save $! This could be it's own post, but I will say as we get closer to the holidays all types of coupons will be available for all kinds of things! My #1 rule of thumb for coupons is don't use them the week you see them. Typically a coupon will appear and then you can combine with a deal happening a week or 2 later for maximum savings. Retailers know people see a coupon and you instantly want to spend it, stores don't put items on sale the week the coupons appear, if you are patient and wait and watch for a good deal you can maximize your savings! For example this last week Hasbro posted some coupons for select games. Refer back to my Facebook page for details, but Toys R Us this week is running a Buy 2, Get 1 Free on all games. You can apply coupons to these games and with the in store savings, get a great deal! I love these kinds of deals for gift baskets with a board game theme...especially for those winter nights, it's a great gift idea!

10) Splitting deals over several recipients, what? Let me explain! You have your gift list (remember I told you this 1st step was important, well it truly is!). If you know who you are buying for and you have your budget, you know what you are looking for it makes splitting deals even more cost effective for you. For example, say you are making 3 younger kids (say under 13) gift baskets and you are going with a cooking theme for each one. These kids are all in the same family so they may share, but you want them to be unique to each person. With all gift baskets you need to pick a theme and get a main foundational item that will help create the basket. You decide to go with fun kids cookbooks for each of these kids and you see that amazon has good deals, but wait they are running a Buy 3 Get 1 Free promo. You need 3 cookbooks and they are all included, but you can earn a FREE item if you order the 3 cookbooks. Your mom has been wanting a great novel that you see is included in the deal, you add that to your cart and you are over $25 so you get her book free and free shipping! Her basket is going to be a coffee/reading relaxing kit. You have just "split a deal", you have taken advantage of combining deals over several people, but you had to know what you needed to be able to take advantage of the combination of items to get the deal, way to go! This type of scenario is so easy to take advantage of and if you know what you need it makes it possible! Also, many stores offer you "cash" to spend on future purchases during certain dates, pick up items you need for your gift or for yourself and then go back and spend that incentive cash later on for a gift for someone you need!

That was a lot to cover in the second week! I hope these strategies will help get you thinking outside the wallet and encouraging you to be creative in your shopping strategies. Some of these tips are "advanced", but you can do them and if you have questions please email me at, I will get back to you! Next week I look forward to sharing the benefits of the "gift basket" idea and we will be looking at what our Savvy Shoppers are shopping for this holiday season and bringing you some real life examples of what that looks like for all budgets!

Happy Saving!

Summer H.

Savvy Shoppers: watch Facebook messages for your weekly homework!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Holiday Savings-Tip #1

Hello Readers!

As promised, I am going to start writing a weekly tip to help you save for the upcoming holiday season. Each week, I will present a topic that will carry you to the holidays stress free, budgeted and able to enjoy what the holidays are actually about!

I have selected 6 wonderful ladies to join me on this journey. I will be sharing examples from them in future posts to help you see how my tips apply in real life! I am excited to help them save money this holiday season.

Each week I will share a tip, if you want to follow on this journey simply apply the strategies that I will share and I hope (promise?) that if you do these steps (as I have successfully in the past) you will be able to be debt free post holidays and who doesn't want that?

In order to benefit most from these weekly posts, I recommend you put the time needed to apply the strategy and if you are going to follow the steps that you do them in order as that is how I am writing them for maximum savings options!

This week the topic is: Who to buy for?

It seems easy huh? However, I have found myself many times at the last minute realizing that I had forgotten someone (teacher at 10 pm the night before Christmas break...ha, ha!). You don't want to have this happen to you and it costs you $!! It is best to start right now making a list over the next week of all the people you plan to purchase gifts for. I use Excel to make my list, but you can use paper/pencil, iPod, etc....whatever medium is going to work best for you to track what you have bought (we will do this as we purchase items, topic coming soon!). If you give yourself a week to think about who you need to buy for you probably will have a more complete list. It might look something like this (categories only, please list actual names on your list):

-Friends & Family
-Service Professionals (newspaper, mail, hairdresser, etc.)
-Business Colleagues
-Children's friends
-Holiday Party Hostess Gifts

I would recommend writing down the name for EACH individual. This way you can add the gift you purchased next to their name once you have gathered the perfect item(s). I can email you my spreadsheet if you want, contact me at for that!

Once you have your gift list and names will differ for everyone based on who you typically buy for and what your budget allows. Just remember to be as comprehensive as possible because planning ahead allows you to save a bundle!

With your complete list in hand I want you to come up with a $ figure for your budget for each gift. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! It is easy to want to, but if you want to watch what you are spending this step is essential. Don't worry if your budget is a little trim this year, I have great strategies to help you along and we will be able to find a great gift for any budget!

With each person and the approx. $ amount next to their name, I would like you to total up the amount of the budgeted items and add it all together. With this figure, I would like you to divide it by 11. This is the amount of weeks that ideally you have to put towards gifts for the rest of the year. I want you to be done a bit early. If you have already been saving $ or you have $ set aside, even better, but if you don't yet (don't panic!), this just gives you an idea of how much you will need each week to put towards what your current budget is. Too much? Then you may want to revisit and figure out more appropriate #'s for what you need to buy for. You also may be pleasantly surprised at what you are able to get for really low amounts of $ with my tips too! Regardless, you have an idea of what you can spend and that allows shopping to be so much easier!

Now that you have your #'s in mind and your list, let's start shopping! Next week, my post will include some real examples from my Summer's Savers on who we are going to profile for specific gift giving categories. I hope you enjoy our strategies and learn about saving along the way!

Happy Saving!

Summer H.