Merry Christmas – some last-minute ideas if you need them!

I won’t be posting much until the first of the year, I do very little shopping at this point. I did most of the stocking up right before Thanksgiving when prices were at their lowest, so for the next few weeks, I’ll only get the fresh items (salads, fruits and vegetables) and everything else is coming out of my stockpile and freezer. Starting after probably the second week of January, that’s when I’ll be stockpiling again, because at that point things get pretty empty around here. Approximately 8 of the 12 weeks of the year I spend stockpiling occur early in the year, so that’s when things will change daily as I’m testing and adjusting. Right now we are only getting the absolute best bargains, and using as much freezer and pantry food as possible. I give away a lot around Christmas, too. In early January, I’ll be taking inventory and comparing what I overdid, underestimated, and passed/failed on with my stockpile.

A few suggestions if you are still stuck for gifts:

  • Gift cards. Check online first for the best possible discount price, and also check at your local store that offers fuel perks for purchases. Also always check every flyer for every store in your area – I have seen some surprising discounts on gift cards at Walgreens, Dollar General, and Rite-Aid over the last few weeks, so it’s worth checking. Here’s my buy/don’t buy: Check Cardpool first and look at the percentage off that’s generally offered. If it is 4% or less, you are better off buying the gift card at Bi-Lo where you will get fuel perks. If it is greater than 4%, check the local flyers to see if it is being offered at a special of some sort (might be anywhere from 5% to 20%). Pick the highest discount.
  • Restaurant specials. Many of them offer a chance to get goodies online, such as a gift card that you will give away and they give you a free gift card for yourself. Check the website of the restaurants you like the best.
  • Food. Always. Check the specials on Bi-Lo that are buy one get one free, or that have bonus fuel perks, so you’ll be getting the most for your money. Whether or not you do coupons, you can still get great gifts at the grocery store. A cute mug with envelopes of hot chocolate and a package of marshmallows; a s’mores kit with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars; pretty candles; live flowers and plants and/or balloons from the floral department; plastic containers that you fill with chocolates or candies and tie a ribbon around it (ribbon is sold near the cards); there are many nice and practical and useful gifts that you can assemble from a trip to the grocery store and get fuel perks for everything you buy.
  • Shop online and get cash back for your purchases when you sign up first through Ebates. No codes to remember, just log in and click on the link to the store at the Ebates site. They will automatically track your purchases and update your cash back without you having to fill out any forms or send off for a rebate, it’s all done for you. Easy. Plus, I’ve been surprised and found some great sites by searching first on the Ebates site for the item, such as “flannel sheet set” or “glass canisters” or “snowboarding gloves” and it shows you the stores that match that search. All the usuals are there, KMart and Sears and Home Depot and so on, but there are often some other stores you didn’t know carried the things you are searching for. If I am looking for something in particular, I search for the item and then click on the “cash back” heading in order to have the ones with the HIGHEST percentage of cash back show up at the top of the list. Often the math is easy – if one store is selling the item at $49.99 and offers 2% cash back, and one store is offering the item at $55.99 but offers 15% cash back, it’s easy to decide where you’ll save the most money!

If you need to do some shopping before the holidays, do NOT forget to check the printable coupons first. I noticed several for gift sets and for toys online. Check these sites before you go:

The major coupon sites that will list an aggregate of manufacturer’s coupons are:

Some stores also use e-coupons, loaded by your loyalty card or using your phone number. Go to the website and sign up, that way you don’t even have to print these coupons, you will automatically have them deducted at the checkout line.

Some stores also have their own printable coupons, or they may take competitors coupons. It’s worth it to print these out to match with the manufacturers coupons for double or better on the discount!

Don’t forget that just by walking in the door at CVS, you can get extra coupons printed at the automated machine. You scan the card in the machine’s reader, and it will print out coupons just for you. Some have very short expiration dates so pay attention, but these may be very useful on your trip.

If you do not already do this, I would recommend trying SavingStar. This is a program separate from coupons, you can shop as you normally shop, with or without coupons, and when you use your store loyalty card, savings are automatically posted to your account and you can claim the money online with Paypal. It won’t change anything about your checkout process.

Link to sign up for SavingStar

Proctor & Gamble, who make Scope, Crest, Cover Girl, and other brands, has a page where you can print their coupons directly.
http://www.pgeveryday.com/tag/coupon

You have to sign up, log in, and they do limit the number you can print per month. It’s a good augment to your list each month though, because they have many items that go on sale and are great to stock up on.

Also, I have a new coupon link to add to my list – Kimberly Clark products, such as Kleenex and Colgate.

http://www.pickupthevalues.com/Coupon.aspx

On that page, it says if you share the link, you’ll get extra savings. In this particular case, I do not qualify for the extra savings by posting the link. The choices were Facebook, Twitter, and directly emailing them to people. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter at all (and hopefully can avoid them forever for my entire life), and I feel weird about directly emailing people stuff like that, so I’m just posting the link but not getting the “extra” savings. Actually, the coupons themselves are pretty good, so I don’t mind.

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