Christmas on a Budget

Since I was jobless most of the year, I have been coming up with creative ways to still have Christmas. I mean, Husband and I aren’t getting any presents but it’s important to both of us that Daughter and nieces and nephews still get something from us and have a nice Christmas. Luckily for us, I am a shopping expert and have come up with some ways to save some cash this holiday season.

Who has change just hanging around? Since the penny has been taken out of circulation, I think most of us aren’t sure what to do when we find them and we all have a stash. I took all our change to St. Vital Centre. They have a change counter there, near Customer Service, that counts your loose change and exchanges it for a gift certificate for almost anywhere in the mall. I tried this a couple of weeks ago and got almost $50! It was super easy and the change counter doesn’t charge you for counting your money, the way most other change counters that I’ve seen do (anywhere from 5-10%).

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Here is my stash of coins in the counter. I actually filled it too much and had to take some out and then put them through.

Most every store has a free points card and I’ve signed up for pretty much all of them. When you find yourself strapped for cash at holiday time, check the balances on all of those cards. They can rack up balances quickly, especially if you had them for awhile. Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points, Hudson’s Bay Rewards, Airmiles, Superstore PC Plus, Chapters iRewards, The Lego Store VIP Card, Canadian Tire Money Card… these are just a few of the points cards that are helpful to get either dollars off of products or free products to help make Christmas a little cheaper. Note: purchasing products on Airmiles requires 4-6 weeks of possible shipping time so this option may not work for Christmas gifts.

Another great tip is to look for add-ons when you are buying things. For example, when you buy a $40 Cineplex giftcard, you get a Holiday Bundle that also includes a Free Popcorn, BOGO Free Admission, Free Premium Ticket Upgrade, Extra 100 Scene Points, and $6.99 Wednesday Admission. Keep them for yourself or include some of them in a card for someone else. Sephora is another place that has some great free gifts you can add onto your purchase when you buy online – check the Beauty Deals section or sign up for their emails.

One of my favourite things is the one-day sales around this time of year. Joe Fresh was doing some in the week leading up to Black Friday and Hudson’s Bay is doing their holiday ones now. The idea is that one or two specific items are on sale for a bargain-basement price and/or a category of specific items are on deep discount (40% or higher).  I love getting Hudson’s Bay’s emails every morning telling me what’s on sale today. In fact, I got a really nice pair of gloves there the other day, on sale for 50% off as outerwear was the deal-of-the-day.

If you shop online, stop reading this and go sign up for Ebates IMMEDIATELY! (If you would like to support my shopping addiction, please use my affiliate code to sign up here.) Ebates is similar to using AirmilesShops.com in that you go to the website first and then search for the storefront that you would like to shop at. Click on it and continue shopping as you normally would. Shops can return anywhere from 1% to 10% of your purchase amount (minus shipping and taxes) in an account. Three or four times per year, Ebates sends you a cheque in the mail for the balance of your account. I’m assuming they are data-mining your shopping trips and purchases and selling the information but Amazon does that and doesn’t give you anything. I collected $32 from Ebates this year, just from buying things I would normally buy.

Well, those are my tips for helping with the cash crunch during the holiday season. Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear them. Happy Shopping!

*Note: While there is one affiliate link, it is clearly marked for your information.

My Thoughts on Christmas Shopping

My SIL posted an article on Facebook entitled, “Ten Things Our Kids Don’t Need for Christmas This Year.” Of course I read it, I’m always open for new suggestions on how to buy experiences and not stuff. This was a little different. It talked about the Christian perspective of Christmas but most importantly, it talked about not being perfect. Not buying everything on your kids’ list. Not staying awake at night to Pinterest the heck out of your house so it looks perfect and everything is homemade. And that really resonated with me.

I write a shopping blog. Some would think that this would make me a blatant consumerist and this blog would be propagating the idea that “More is Better.” But that’s not why I write the blog or shop for others. I do this to buy less. To buy more meaningful. To buy things that will be loved and cherished, played with, and worn. Not things that are forgotten in a closet or a basement. Chances are, if you are reading my blog, you have too much stuff already and so does just about everyone you know.

So heading into this holiday season, I just wanted to say a few things: Don’t Buy Everything. Whether that means you make a gift, get loved ones one nice thing instead of 100 stocking stuffers, or donate some money or time to someone less fortunate. Don’t get sucked into the phenomenon that “More is Better” or “Give Your Kids Everything They Want So They Don’t Hate You.” Buy what you can afford. Feel good about what you give. A gift means that you took time and money to think about someone in your life. It should not be an overwhelmingly guilt-ridden obligation. Take whatever is your “Reason for the Season” and hold onto it. I plan on doing exactly that. And I hope that my attitude about doing things together will make each Christmas the best one that my daughter remembers.

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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays or whatever greeting you prefer this time of year. I wish the best for you and wonderful times with family and friends. And, as always, Happy Shopping!