Monday, November 5, 2012

Websites with Deals

Sometimes you search and search for the best deal on that special item, and sometimes you don't even know what you're looking for until you find it. Either way, regularly checking in with "deals" websites can lead to some major savings. Why spend tons of time researching when someone else will do it for you?

My favorite site is Brad'd Deals for the discount low-down on everything under the internet sun.They have printable coupons, a coupon search tool, and they highlight the best deals of the day/week. You can follow their Black Friday page on Facebook HERE for easy access to exclusive codes each day until Christmas. They also have a Cyber Monday website with more deals (currently a Land's End women's poplin shirt for $4 shipped - regularly $45 before shipping!)

There are so very many of these types of websites. I'm a simple girl (or a lazy girl) and I'm not going to search and list a ton of them. You probably have your own favorites, too - please share!

*Sidenote* Walgreens has 40% off ALL photo items until Wednesday with code EVERYTHING. I love that they can do so many of their gifts right in-store, so there's no shipping cost. Plus, they get it done quickly. I ordered my free 8x10 photo collage online and picked it up the next day at my local store.

Friday, November 2, 2012

FREE Photo Gifts - shop from home!

Some of my favorite things to give (and even receive) are photo gifts. These are great for just about anyone who loves you or loves your kids (or loves your pets). They top the charts for thoughtfulness, and the variety of photo gifts is seemingly endless.

If you know someone who is into photography and you can get access to their work, an artfully framed & matted print of their own photo is a fun idea. This would also work if you have taken a great family shot for the mom or dad who is always behind the lens in their own photos, rarely next to their kids in the frame.

Every year, my aunt creates a family calendar with pictures of the whole family (including birthdays, which is SO helpful!) and passes them out to each family at Christmas. It's so much fun to look through it like an album and have it on the fridge to enjoy all year long.

I recommend creating accounts at Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens, and other photo sharing/printing sites - and make sure you click to receive e-mails. You'll get tons of free and super-discounted photo gift opportunities just for being on their mailing list, especially this time of year. I've gotten free 11x14 prints and free 8x8 photo books from Shutterfly just in the past 2 months (and they are not paying me to mention them - I've collected tons of free stuff from them over the years just for having an account). All you pay in shipping! Also make sure you check their "special offers" tab - often there is free shipping on orders of $30.

Specials right now from Shutterfly:
 **101 FREE regular size prints - ends today (code SPOOKY)
**50% off hardcover photo books of any size - ends Sunday (code BOOK50)
**FREE SHIPPING on orders $30+ (code SHIP30)
plus more offers, and they change fairly often, so keep an eye out!

Make sure you enter the corresponding code (also found under the "special offers" tab) at checkout to get the deal.

Special offers from Walgreens:
**FREE 8x10 collage - ends Saturday (code COLLAGEFREE)
**66% off custom photo books - ends Saturday (code CSTMBOOK)

Please share if you have any other specials! I'm a little rushed this morning, but will update later if anything else comes up today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Take 2: It's that time again!

The last few years have been a complete blur with my husband's school, his many changes up the career path, four moves, a disastrous renter situation, selling our house, buying a new house, and on and on... Needless to say, I've been neglecting my love of all things free & cheap. We are finally settled, and although the hubster is still finishing his MBA (go him!) and our schedule is filling up by the hour, I'm itching for another FREE CHRISTMAS.

This year will be a little different than the last Free Christmas. Since we got rid of everything we don't need in the process of 4 moves, we won't be selling useless treasure for cash. Instead, I'm working off deals for FREEBIES or super-spectacular discounts and will be sharing all my fabulous finds with you all. Also, I encourage you to share any deals and codes (either via e-mail or in the comment section) that I could post here for others.

In the spirit of reality, I'm hoping to gather at least half of our list for free. Adult gifts are much easier to find for free, so if I only have to spend cash on toys (which are hard to find for free, but discounts this season are all over the place), I'll be happy.

Are you with me?

First things first, make your list. I have a "must buy" list (immediate family, exchanges, the kids, teachers, etc...) and a "maybe buy" list (extended family, friends, coworkers, etc...) for the ones that you might or might not see, or those you aren't sure about yet, and whose gifts might be small if you do get them. Obviously, the "must buy" list gets done first, but keep the "maybe" list in your back pocket just in case you run across those small "free with purchase" items or something that just won't fit anyone on your "must" list. It's always nice to pick up a free small item here and there to keep in the closet for last-minute gifts.

**An admission**
I love the hunt. There's something exhilarating about searching and searching for that one popular toy everybody wants. Yes, it's a racket and yeah, the kids don't usually care nearly as much as the grown-ups who obsess over it - but it's FUN! Unfortunately, it's also expensive and conducive to insanity (the crazy part I don't mind so much). Take that same compulsive need to hunt, and transfer it to thoughtful gifts you can find for free, and you have a beautifully full under-the-tree area, happy recipients, a stress-free wallet, and zero January-credit-card-bill-induced depression. PLUS you still get to enjoy the hunt - or if you don't like that part, keep your jammies on and shop the Internet deals. I'll be taking part in both the online and in-store variety of shopping.

See this post of you want to know what started this 3 years ago.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Apparently, I had a lapse on what I'd spent last week. Should've checked my own blog, I suppose. Anyway, I went a little over on the husband, partially because I forgot to budget for what Monsoon wanted to get Daddy this year.

Keychain bottle-opener, Ohio State fan variety. His broke a couple weeks ago, and the good beer apparently doesn't twist-off, so you might say this was a slight necessity. It was not on sale (gasp - I know), but it's a small splurge that he'll really like and use. Paid: $8.51, w/ GC.

House slippers. Another need - his old ones are starting to look like only soles. Original price: $32. Paid: $14.99, w/ GC.

Batman Underpants. Yes, you read that right. I let Monsoon pick out his own gift for Daddy. He chose these a while ago, I said we should keep looking. Last week, he still remembered about them and finally insisted that's what he wanted to get for him. He also requested a matching pair, but that's neither here nor there. It's still going down as one of the top ten funniest Christmas gifts ever - mostly because Monsoon doesn't think it's funny at all. He thinks they are the best thing ever. Love that kid. Price: $7.99, paid cash.

Previous amount spent was $87.03, plus this week's spending brings us to a grand total for the husband of... $118.52. Way over in my book, but still SO much better than a normal year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monsoon is finished, too

With a remaining balance of $7.74 left on Monsoon's $100 budget, I took to the stores to stuff his stocking.

Batman Underwear - $5.54, paid w/ GC

3-pack Play-Doh, x2 - $2.94, paid w/ GC

Swiss Miss cocoa mix w/ marshmallows (one of his favorite special treats) - $2.04, paid w. GC

Bubble Gum-filled canister bank - $1, paid cash.

This brings Monsoon's grand total to... $103.78. Yes, I went a tad over, but only a tiny little bit! Plus, most of his gifts were purchased with Gift Cards, which were all free.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Inventory, Week 6

We're done! We're done!!

Husband did finally order the gifts for my sister and nephew last week, and picked them up today. I spent most of Sunday shopping with my mom, which might have been a fun time except we had to drag Monsoon along, too. He's sick of holiday shopping, and I don't blame him one bit - he even balks at the mention of ToysRUs these days.

As always, if you are on my list, don't go sneaking around this page!

My sister - 500 sheets personalized note paper (she's graduating with her teaching degree!). Value, $150. Paid, $0 - prize won at a local event in the Fall.

Nephew - I won't say what it is, but it has to do with his football team winning their "Super Bowl" this year. If he's found this site, he might be tempted to cheat, I'll just say it has a value of $50, and was also a prize from a printing company which came in the basket we won this Fall.

My dad - a wallet. He's very particular about his wallet, and likes a new one every couple of years, so it's not as lame as it sounds. Original price: $26. Paid (after sale and coupon discount), $9.99 - paid w/ GC.

BIL - Henley shirt. Original price: $36. Paid (after sale and coupon discount), $9.99 - paid w/ GC.

Santa Gift for Nephew - $5 GC to a place he goes to eat after school sometimes, paid cash.

Santa Gift for Monsoon - Nate The Great book. Original Price: $4.50, Paid (after Borders Reward bucks), $0.

Aunt & Uncle (and a few others, not in budget) - Homemade spaghetti sauce, which I'm planning to can tomorrow. Ingredient cost: $15 (just under, but I don't feel like getting out the calculator for a couple of cents).

Our budget allows for a total of $80 for the people above, not including the Santa Gifts, which are not a part of our budget.

The total cash cost to us for all of the items above is: $20. That's a real savings of $60 this week.
Adding up each week of inventory, we have spent a total of about $71 cash on family members* for whom we budgeted $300, bringing the total REAL savings so far this Christmas to a whopping $229.

*family members, not including me or husband or Monsoon - whose gifts are filed on separate days on the blog.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cash for Stuff, Week 5

I'm still completely amazed at all the stuff we have at our house that we don't use or need, even after all the stuff we've sold. Here's this week's rundown:

Sold: Loveseat, $50

Sold: Weedeater, $10

Sold: Set of speakers, $15

Sold: 20" tv, $10

Sold: Monsoon's baby stroller (this one pains me, btw), $25

Sold: Computer husband built, $25

Gifted: $50 GC to our local Mall, courtesy of husband's grandmother. He will likely be using most of this toward my gifts since I've pretty much finished shopping for him.

End of week total gain: $185

Cash spent during week #5 = $24.99

Gift Card value spent during week #5 = $26.99

Previous week's end result = $730.81 to the positive.

Week #5 end result (730.81 + 185 - 24.99 - 26.99) = $863.83 to the positive!

*You may notice some slight changes to last week's end result - it's because I failed to factor in the gift card values spent. I had to go back and add those in.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coupons, discounts, and free stuff, OH MY!

It's getting down to crunch time, shoppers. I've still got some valuable coupons and discounts that I need to use up before the Big Day. I can't believe all the free stuff stores will send you in the hopes of getting you in to spend more. I won't say I never spend more than the worth of the discount, but I do try to be careful about spur-of-the-moment spending.

I still have a $10 off any purchase of $10 to a local department store, which I'm hoping to use for my BIL, who wants a shirt.

I just received $5 Borders Bucks, plus a 30% off one item coupon - maybe I can find a book small enough for Monsoon's stocking.

I've also heard about a $10 off $25 purchase at Macy's coupon, and plan to look for it online later today. I'll use this on my husband - but not from me. My grandmother asked me to pick up something for him, and she's on a budget as well. If I can find another dress shirt or tie (or both) for around 25 bucks like the last time I had this coupon, it would be perfect. We shall see.

We also have the free coupons I mentioned on Monday, plus an extra $50's of free stuff from a printing company that I have know idea what to do with. This place is charging $50 to print a high-quality poster out of a photo for my nephew, but I have no idea what to do with the extra $50. Any ideas? I could use some help. We have to use it by the end of the year anyway, so I might as well have something printed. Ideas ideas ideas! please. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheating on the husband, so to speak

I'm so close to budget on Monsoon, I can't buy him anything more, but the husband was really excited earlier in the season to get the boy a Monopoly game for kids that we could play as a family. Monopoly, which I do not particularly love, is my husband's favorite board game. He was a little disappointed when I didn't pick it up as one of Monsoon's gifts.

What he doesn't know is... I did pick it up, but not for Monsoon. Yes, I'm cheating a bit - it's a kid's game, and one that we won't likely play without said kid, but it's one that my husband will enjoy as much - if not more - than the rest of us.

I may also have skewed the books a bit when it came down to our family holiday tradition. Every year, we open one gift on Christmas Eve at home - pajamas that we wear on Christmas Morning. Unfortunately, I didn't leave enough in Monsoon's budget for his pajamas, so I'm taking it out of the husband's budget.

Husband's pajamas were $14.99, paid cash.

Monsoon's pajamas were on sale for $10, paid cash. I'll take half of this off Husband's budget, and half off his budget for me.

Monopoly Town game was $10, paid with gift card.

Previous balance on Husband's budget: $57.04 spent ($24.05 cash).

New balance for Husband: $87.03 spent ($49.04 paid with cash), leaving $12.97 for Husband's stocking stuffers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Only stockings are left for Monsoon

I've been waiting for ToysRUs to put the game OPERATION on sale all season, but since it hasn't happened, I broke down and "paid" (with a gift card) the $16.99 retail price. It pained me, but it's the only thing he has picked up and carried around at three different stores while we shopped. I figure he'll be glad to have it - and we love to play games as a family, so I know it won't sit around collecting dust.

Previous balance for Monsoon was $75.27. Add the $16.99, and get a new balance of.....

$92.26 spent on Monsoon.

That leaves $7.74 left for stocking stuffers. Unfortunately, none of the other gifts he has will fit in his stocking, so I'm going to have to really stretch that seven bucks!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A tad behind? Yeah, me too.

I had grand intentions for a couple gifts this year, but it seems I have let time slip by for too long. I'm sending the husband out tomorrow to order the two items, both from separate printing companies, neither of whom have websites from which to order. It's a pain in the butt, which is why we haven't done it yet, but the gifts will be worth it - if only we can get them in time for Christmas. And yes, they are free with gift certificates that we won at a local event this fall.

Fingers crossed.

The first is for my sister, who will be finishing up her teaching degree this quarter. We are ordering her 500 sheets of personalized stationary with matching envelopes. A "From the desk of..." type thing.

The second is for my young nephew, whose football team won their league this year. We're having his team photo blown into a poster for his room. This was my husband's idea, so kudos to him. Our nephew will love it.

That's about all the shopping I have (not) done this week, except for the husband and Monsoon, which I'll report about later in the week. I might have gone over budget, so I might be cheating the system. Just a bit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cash for Stuff, Week 4

We did sell some stuff in week 3, but I also started a new job last week, which is why I haven't posted much. Unfortunately, I won't get my first check until Christmas Eve, so my professional skills won't quite work into our Free Christmas budget. Pttthhh.

Sold: Sofa and Loveseat set - $100

Sold: Sofa - $50

Sold: Softball bag - $10

Sold: Wall mirror - $3

Won: $50 GC to Walgreens (from on Facebook - this was actually my husband's win. Woo-hoo, husband! Now he's glad I nagged him every day to make his comment entry).

Found (Won, back in Spring): $25 GC to Macy's.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

End of week total gain = $188

Cash spent during week #4 = $65.03

Gift Card value spent during week #4 = $142.41

Previous week's end result = + $750.25

End Result for week #4 (188 - 65.03 - 142.41 + 750.25) = $730.81 to the positive!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finally getting the husband

Husband and I made a deal. We weren't going to get each other anything unless the budget allowed it after everyone else was finished. We kind of stuck to it. I found some great deals that I couldn't pass up, and all for things he actually needed, even though we haven't completely finished shopping for everyone on our list yet.

Dress shirt. Original price: $40. BF sale: 12.99, paid with Macy's GC (which I won back in the Spring and hadn't used).

Tie. Original price: $37.50. BF sale: 14.99, paid with Macy's GC and some ($2.98) cash.

Running shirt: Original price, $25. Coupon price: $20. (I bought this as part of a coupon package - in which I could use several coupons at once, and ended up with a birthday gift for my nephew worth $89, which only cost $20. Bonus!), paid cash.

Running socks: Original price, $11. Coupon price: $1.07 (free $10 birthday gift for being a member of DSW shoe store's club), paid cash.

Fiction book. Original price $7.99, paid with Borders GC.

These total $57.04 after discounts, with only $24.05 cash out of my pocket. (regular prices totalled $121.49, for a savings of $64.45)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monsoon's almost finished!

We set a $100 budget for Monsoon. It's been the most challenging part of shopping this year. Not only do we have less money than in years past, but we set the budget to keep ourselves from going overboard. He just doesn't need that much stuff, and this has put into perspective my habit of grabbing from the shelf, thinking "oh, he might like this so why don't I just pick it up now?" I have to keep reminding myself to think about what he really wants, needs and will use.

Here's the latest:

Bat Cave. It's his "big" toy this year, and one of the few items for which he specifically asked. Original price: $44. Price paid: $34 ($10 coupon), bought with ToysRUs GC.

Mr. Potato Head Jumbo Set. Original price: $24.99. Price paid: $12.50, bought with ToysRUs GC.

Peter Pan pop-up book (huge, elaborate book - one of his favorite stories). Original price: 29.99. Clearance price (b/c they have updated the artwork in a new book): 6.99, bought with Borders GC.

I did purchase 2 other items, but returned them. One was something he'd enjoy, but ultimately took up too much space, which we don't have. Another was a race track, but my Dad got him something similar, and we don't need two.

The total purchases for Monsoon this week came to $51.49 (although we spent $0 cash), added to the previous weeks equals $75.27 spent on Monsoon. That leaves $24.73 left in his budget. I'm going to start thinking about stocking stuffers with the remaining balance.