I’m a big believer that no one should ever pay full price for anything, especially when there are so many ways to avoid it. I wanted to share my tips for saving money at the holidays, because let’s face it. The most wonderful time of the year is often the most painful time of the year for our wallets.
Garage Sales and Craigslist
By far some of the easiest ways to save money on shopping at any time of the year is by hitting up garage sales and scouring Craigslist for bargains.
While it’s difficult to find specific things you are looking for by garage saling, garage sales are a great place to find kids’ clothes, toys, and books for pocket change. A few weeks ago, we got Isla a wagon and 10 books for under $2. The wagon and the books were all in excellent condition. 3 of the books are Little People flap books, which currently retail for $9. We got them for less than 10 cents each. Garage sales are a little more time consuming, and definitely require a little bit of luck, but there are a lot of super cheap treasures out there if you’re willing to put in the leg work.
For the lazier secondhand shopper, you can always hit up Craigslist. Craigslist is a great place to pick up big items like furniture, large toys (play kitchens, train sets, etc.), and bulk clothes. The great thing about Craigslist is you can search from home, compare pricing, and set up arrangements to pick things up, which guarantees you don’t waste gas for nothing. If you don’t find what you’re looking for immediately and you can track the RSS feed on search requests so you can potentially see every single item on your local Craigslist that fulfills your search terms and respond immediately. Just search for whatever you are looking for, (e.g. “play kitchen”) and then at the very bottom right hand side of the search results page, you can click on the orange RSS link to grab the RSS feed. Just put this feed into your feed reader, and you’re tracking all the play kitchens listed on Craigslist.
Consignment Shops and Goodwill
Consignment shops and Goodwill often are not as cheap as garage sales or Craigslist, but you can often find really great quality items for much less than you can find them in the store. I’ve picked up a lot of clothes and toys for Isla at second hand shops. Once the toys end up in Isla’s toy box, you can’t tell the secondhand toys from the brand new ones, and some of Isla’s absolute cutest outfits I’ve gotten secondhand for a fraction of the price I’d get them brand new.
Plus, you can resell your kids’ stuff at consignment shops and usually get the money back to purchase new items. Obviously, you won’t get enough money for your items to cover equivalent items in the store, but it does help cover some of the cost. You may be able to get more on Craigslist or at a garage sale for some of your kids’ things, including furniture and big toys, but for little toys and clothes, consignment shops often pay better than selling the items on the garage sale/Craigslist market.
I’m a big believer in online shopping. Online shopping not only saves on gas, but also saves you a lot of unnecessary human interaction. (I’m kind of a hermit, and just the idea of going to a store and battling other shoppers and pushy sales people makes me nervous.) I also love that online shopping gives you easy access to coupons and discounts you may not get in the store, and makes it very easy to compare prices from store to store and check product reviews. Online shopping has made me a smart, savvier shopper. I know more about what I’m getting before I buy it, and know I’m getting quality products at the very best price I can. Just because you buy new doesn’t mean you should pay full price!
A couple of small pieces of advice on making the most of online shopping:
Ask anyone who has an Amazon Prime account whether it is worth the $79 annual fee, they will tell you absolutely, without question it is totally worth it. Amazon Prime is an awesome program through Amazon where in addition to free streaming movies and free Kindle books every month plus free book lending via Kindle, you get free two-day shipping on all Amazon Prime items. So if you purchase an item a month from Amazon, you’ve already paid for your membership fee by getting rid of all shipping costs. Because of the two-day free shipping, I do most of my purchases through Amazon Prime. Need a bed frame for the guest bed? Amazon Prime. Need to buy black out panels for the baby’s bedroom windows? Amazon Prime. Need to purchase a whole boatload of party supplies for your kid’s birthday? AMAZON PRIME! It’s amazing.
Another great service from Amazon is Amazon Mom. Amazon Mom also gives you free 2-day shipping and offers up tons of discounts on products for babies and kids. If you use disposable diapers and subscribe to purchase diapers through Amazon Mom, you get 20% off all diapers and wipes for as long as you are diapering, which is a significant discount. They also run big sales on car seats, cribs, clothes, toys, and household products. Amazon Mom is currently offering a 3-month trial period, after which your Amazon Mom account gets bundled up with an Amazon Prime account. So for $79 you get all the benefits of Amazon Mom and Amazon Prime. I’ve used these two programs to reap HUGE savings on baby stuff.
Beyond the free shipping and discounts associated with Amazon Mom and Amazon Prime, Amazon in general has great customer reviews and an excellent selection. In my experience, Amazon often has the best prices on baby and kids products, cheaper than you can find them at other stores, online or in person. Amazon is the most powerful tool in my comparison shopping toolbox. I always do my homework to make sure I’m finding the best product for my needs for the best price. And then it shows up at my house two days later, and I don’t have to pay for the rush service.
(Yes, I do make money by plugging Amazon, but I was plugging Amazon way before I got paid to do so. I love Amazon and would recommend it to absolutely anyone.)
I love Zulily. They have incredible bargains on clothes, toys, and household products for women and kids. Just this morning I purchased $140 worth of healthy organic baby food and snacks for $80. It’s the same stuff I buy for Isla anyhow, but 60% of the price I’d pay in the grocery store. I’ve gotten so many adorable designer outfits for Isla that I normally wouldn’t even glance at because they are on sale for 60-70% off on Zulily. My only gripe with Zulily is that you have to pay for shipping. Occasionally, though, they run specials where you don’t have to pay for shipping, and I hop on that. Usually, though, the deals are so good, the shipping is more than paid for.
Any time I shop online, I always swing by RetailMeNot to see what kind of coupons and deals are currently running, and 9 times out of 10, I find a coupon code on this site which helps me get a further discount on purchases. Sometimes, I’ll sit on a full shopping cart at an online store like Target or Wal-Mart for several days until I find a good deal on RetailMeNot. Delete all your e-mail subscriptions for various store coupons. Just go to RetailMeNot instead.
Credit Cards and Store Cards
I know a lot of people think credit cards are evil, and if you have an impulse control problem or a lot of debt, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them. BUT. I use my credit cards and store cards to reap big discounts and rewards.
I don’t want to divulge specific cards I use, but I use one credit card to pay all of my bills every month because I get cash back on all purchases with the card. That means I get a discount on my bills every single month. I have another card where I get occasional HUGE discounts and cash back bonuses on purchases at select stores. Right now, I can get 15% off purchases between in-store discounts and cash back at select stores, which translates to significant savings at the holidays. I also have store cards for a couple of places I routinely shop, so I get special discounts when I shop with my card and I get cash back toward future purchases. And there are tons of other great ways you can reap rewards from credit cards. In the past, I’ve had cards that accrued airline miles, and my parents had one credit card they used minimally just to get one free plane ticket a year so they could fly out to see us on the cheap when we were living in Oregon.
Before you open a credit card account, carefully consider the benefits of the card and how they align with your personal spending habits. Pick the card that gives you the best possible deal.
The most important thing to note here is that I pay off my credit cards every month, avoiding finance and interest charges, and I try to be selective about how many cards I have open at once, because the number of credit card accounts you have open impacts your credit score. There’s a very good chance I will be closing out one or two of my current cards in the near future just because my shopping habits have changed, and I don’t want these accounts on my credit report anymore.
Credit cards are really easy to get into trouble with, but as long as you view them as another monthly bill that has to be paid off in full every month rather than as free money (there’s no such thing!), you can use them to your advantage.
So these are some of my tips for big savings at the holiday season. Do you have any big savings tips that others might find useful?