Winners of AMEX Flip Video Camera Giveaway
A couple of weeks ago, I ran a holiday giveaway of 10 Flip video cameras provided by American Express. Now that the holiday is over, it’s time to pick up winners. Actually, I was a little late in selecting who to receive the cameras because it wasn’t as easy as I initially thought. Anyway, after going through all the great money savings tips left by readers multiple times, I eventually chose Jeannie, Hannah, MLR, James, Tony, Lisa, CDub, Cat, Damilola, and Samurai as the winners of the first round of the contest. Congratulations! Each of the winners will receive a Flip video camera from American Express.
And their winning money saving tips for the holiday season are:
I usually have to buy throwaway gifts for some lame white elephant party or Secret Santa. The $20 here and there really adds up, so this year, my friends and I did a junkiest white elephant gift ever party. We dug up stuff from our closets and drawers to give away. We still had lots of fun opening “presents” and exchanging “gifts”, and the best part is that we didn’t have to spent a single penny- some of the gifts were “wrapped” in grocery bags! Ultimately, while some gifts were pretty junky (B&W analog portable TV, a used pumpkin scented candle!), some gifts really echoed the “one’s trash is another’s treasure” sentiment.
My first stop for the holiday season is always the dollar store – wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes, Xmas decorations and even stocking stuffers are all SO cheap – and I often see the same exact products for 2, 3, 4 times the money in other stores like Hallmark! I’m a huge fan of the dollar store… you’d be surprised what you can find there!
If you’re looking for ways to save time (because time=money)and on shipping – e-cards are the way to go! They take seconds to buy, and seconds to deliver! I’m trying to give more socially-conscious gifts lately, so a few of my favorite places to buy gift cards are globalgiving.org (the recipient chooses from tons of causes to support), kiva.org (lend to micro-loans in third world countries), and tomsshoes.com (buy a pair of shoes, and a child in Africa gets a pair of shoes also!). It’s what the holiday season is about after all!
While the charitable organizations don’t often give discounts on gift cards, many other retailers do! I just bought a $60 gift card for Old Navy at %20 off, so I only paid $48! Combine that with future “percent-off” coupons and the savings will really add up! Sites like slickdeals.net and dealsea.com are chock-full of coupons for these types of deals!
I actually peruse slickdeals.net and dealsea.com throughout the year to catch the best deals. I’m also a fan of Groupon.com
which e-mails you every morning with a 50% off coupon for a store or event in your city. My parents’ presents this year? Tickets to the city orchestra at 50% off!
Being aware of the available deals, comparing prices on different websites, and using the internet to its potential for shopping have really saved me a ton. After the dollar store, online is where i prefer to shop
My Xmas strategy goes as follows:
1) Make a list in Excel of what I want to get everyone and list the MSRP price next to it. (A month or so ahead of time)
2) Set up price alerts with Price Grabber to alert me when anything drops below 50% off. You’d be amazed how often this happens.
3) Frequent Slickdeals.net to see if anything I want to get has a crazy sale going on. The forums are full of deals where people will stack coupons and special promotions to get the product very cheap and even free sometimes!
4) Sign up for an Amazon Prime trial. This entitles me to FREE 2 day shipping on all Amazon purchases. A lot of deals I find are through Amazon, so no shipping is a great deal.
5) If I have family / friends I won’t be seeing until after Xmas anyways, I don’t stress. Hopefully some after holiday sales will pop up
Last year I beat my Xmas budget by about 70% (I budget @ MSRP of all the gifts I want). I’ll usually donate half my savings, still falling well within my budget.
Like most people, this year has been a rough one financially for me, so I have been finding all sorts of ways to save a little money with my holiday shopping.
Most stores have some sort of clearance section or bargain bin(it seems like more than usual). For example, for those harder to shop for, I went to Kmart where they have a large bin of DVDs from $3-$10. These were not just old movies or “bad” ones, there were quite a few recent and popular movies. I was able to get 14 DVDs for around $60, so keep an eye out for the bargain bins and don’t discount them by assuming there is only junk.
Another way I have found to save some money is by searching for coupon codes when shopping online. Most online stores, both the popular and the not-so-popular ones, have coupon codes out there to save 10%, maybe 20%, sometimes even higher, off your total purchase from their store and you can find these through a simple internet search. Let’s use Barnes and Noble as an example. If you are making a purchase at Barnes and Noble and want to try to save a bit of money, go to google and type in “Barnes and Noble coupon code.” There are a number of websites that give you these codes and keep up to date with what is current and what is expired. When you get the code you would like to use, just enter it in the checkout of the store (in this example Barnes and Noble) where it asks for the coupon code. Some will save you more than others, but it is a great way to find some good deals.
When attending holiday parties, most of us like to bring something for the host or hostess but there is no reason to spend a fortune. Rather than buying a $40 or $50 bottle of wine, why not find one for under $10? It is a common misconception that the more you spend on wine the better the quality. On my way to a dinner I was attending last week, I picked up a bottle of red wine for around $8. Everyone enjoyed it and I did not hear any complaints about the quality, on the contrary there were a couple of people who asked the name of the wine because they really enjoyed it and would like to pick some up themselves. They couldn’t believe when I told them how affordable it was.
The same is true for platters of food or desserts. Instead of spending upwards of $30 or $40 on a platter of cookies, you can just make them yourself. You can even just get some cake mix and icing for just a few dollars and make a cake to bring with you while saving yourself a lot of money.
Finally, another way I am trying to save money this year is on wrapping paper and holiday cards. I decided against sending holidays cards out this year. Most people throw them away at the end of the season anyway so why not just make a phone call or send an e-mail to say Happy Holidays and save yourself the price of a card and a stamp. I’m sure people would appreciate a call more than a card anyway and will understand if you say you will not be sending out cards this year.
In my opinion, the most important way to save yourself money this holiday season is to pay attention. Many of us think a dollar here and five dollars there don’t really make much of a difference but remember this adds up. If you are shopping for 20 people and save $5 on each of them, that’s $100 you’ve saved on the gifts alone!
With regard to wrapping paper, I purchased a few large rolls of generic wrapping paper that were on sale. It is just gold wrapping paper with no holiday designs on it. This way I can wrap everyone’s presents with the same paper whether they celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, or something else. Not only this, but since there are no holiday decorations on the wrapping paper, it can then be used for other holidays as well such as birthdays, Valentine’s Day, etc.
I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve needed to go out and buy a new string of Christmas lights to replace the ones that no longer work because they have a mystery bulb (that I can’t ever seem to find) burned-out. So, this year I’m making a savvy investment in L.E.D (light-emitting diode) Christmas lights!
My research told me that they:
Use 90% less energy. They have a 50,000 hour bulb life. And, if you shop around you can get them with a guarantee.
So far, they work great. They use less energy, so I’ll be saving on my electric bill. They’re Energy Star approved, so they’re better for the environment. But, the savings that I’m most excited about are the savings in my time spent not trying to find and replace those burnt-out little bulbs that keep breaking the circuit, and consequently breaking my wallet.
My tip: Instead of Christmas gifts to teachers, coaches, etc. our family gives Thanksgiving gifts. It takes a bit of preplanning, but it’s a great was to save money, reduce stress at Christmas and stand out from the crowd. While Christmas shopping, there’s usually Thanksgiving-themed merchandise (kitchen towels, hand towels, throw blankets, tablecloths and runners, picture frames, other Thanksgiving decorations) at substantial discounts – sometimes 90%. I will tuck these away to use next year. My son, husband and I sign a Thanksgiving card, being sure to include a reason why we are thankful for this person. The Thanksgiving gift stands out because no one else does this, and the gift is actually used, since not many people buy specific Thanksgiving decorations. The comments we have received over the years have been overwhelmingly positive. Thanks for asking for ideas!
Research product prices and features online, so you can be prepared to bargain when you enter the stores.
For example my wife wanted a new camera. We found the one we wanted on Amazon for $299, but we were not ready to purchase without being able to use/hold first. We went to our local photography store with price we would pay in mind. We told them how much we could get it online for and they were happy to make the same deal and throw in a free memory card. Plus, we didn’t pay shipping and handling cost, so we really came out $30-40 cheaper than online.
The salespeople/stores are hungry to make sales this Christmas Season. To get the best price/save the most money you have to know what you want and the cheapest price you can get it elsewhere (online). Also, you have to be willing to walk-away if they can’t lower the price.
Bonus tip: Department stores (Dillards, Belk, Macy’s) are much better places to get amazing deals than at the Mall.
I planned out exactly what my budget was for each person, stuck to it, and bought everything through websites that participate in Ebates or Upromise and offer free shipping. I spent my $200 budget and have gotten $8 back from Upromise and $12 from Ebates. It doesn’t seem like too much, but I effectively got 10% off, never paid for shipping, and only paid sales tax on one transaction. If you count my rebates, I came in 18% under budget!
The savviest thing I did this year was to open up a Suze Orman Save Yourself Plan at TD Ameritrade. I heard about it at the beginning of the year and decided to enroll. Essentially you deposit $100 every month for 1 year (via automatic deductions) and earn $100 at the end of the year in addition to what you have saved. Mathematically, that’s a sure-fire 8.3% increase which I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else this year.
The plan is to use the money for an engagement ring.
One of the savviest ways I’ve found to make money work harder for me is by buying presents in bulk, COSTCO style.
The idea is to figure out a present that is scalable, much like an internet site for attracting business for example. Once the idea is set, implementation is quite easy.
My idea this year is simply getting T-shirts or long sleeve shirts to my various friends and families around the world. I went on a particular custom T-shirt site, and branded each T-shirt with a particular logo. But on each shirt, I customize the lettering to say “Dad”, “Mom”, “Uncle Joe” etc.
With several clicks of the button, I’ve been able to send out 25 custom shirts with a logo on them to relatives and friends all around the world.
It’s about efficiency (internet), branding, and scale to save money, and to make money!
Now, let’s go to the second part of this contest. In this part, you, the reader of this blog, will decide who, among the 10 winners in the first round of the test, will receive another $100 bonus for offering the best money saving tip.
Cast your vote now !
Photo credit: sam_churchill
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