Saving for Santa: How to shop for the holidays on a budget

October is almost over…then Thanksgiving and then…Christmas? Nope! Guess again! Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner! These are the two biggest shopping days of the year. Most people know about Black Friday, of course, but did you know about Cyber Monday? I cannot begin to tell you how many FABULOUS deals you can get online on Cyber Monday. If you are unaware, this is the Monday after Thanksgiving. There are HUGE sales, coupon codes and TONS of “free shipping” offers. But, these savings can be maximized even further if you really know what you are doing.

What? You don’t? Well, good news! I DO!

Last year I was able to get about $700 worth of my Christmas shopping done FREE! Yes, I said FREE. (Check out my final tally of Christmas scores from last year!) So this year, I am so excited to be able to share that journey with everyone again. But, I am doing a little pre-frenzy training for all of you that may be new to this. Here is a run down of things that you can do NOW to prepare for the most wonderful time of the year!

I have been running a series on my blog called “Saving for Santa.” I am going to hit the highlights here in this post and provide you with the links to the full details on each one.

Create a bank account just for the holidays

The first thing I try to do is to create a Christmas fund that is safe and secure away from my “real money.” That means bill and grocery money. I found a safe and legit online bank that is FDIC approved and is connected with Capital One. But the best part is, if you open an Electric Orange Checking account, you can get a $50 bonus! (Do you know how many gifts I can buy with $50 if I try?) All you have to do is activate your debit card and, when it arrives, use it to make 3 small purchases (I bought my Sunday newspapers!) within 45 days. If you do that, on the 50th day you will see a $50 deposit! I did it and “I got the Fifty Dollas!” So, not only are you making an account that your hubby doesn’t know about…er…I mean that is separate from bill money, you are getting $50 just for doing so! Trust me, it is totally legit and I have been more than pleased with them thus far. Customer service? They actually answer the phone AND they speak English! YAY!

Learn how to earn gift cards throughout the year and save them for the holidays

Next, have alternatives to cash ready to spend! What does that mean, you ask? Gift cards! If you find a smoking hot deal on that one toy that your kids want, what could make it better? How about if you paid for it with gift cards that you got free?

Amazon started matching Black Friday deals at 10:00pm Thanksgiving night and continued to have amazing bargains up until there was not enough time left to ship. So while some of you “Black Friday Ninjas” were standing outside and fighting other ninjas, I was at my laptop, in my jammies (maybe even with ANOTHER plate of dinner (don’t tell Sarah)…yum) getting the SAME prices as you, but in most cases, with much better stocked inventory!

More than half of my load of freebies last year came from Amazon and were paid for with gift cards that I earned for doing what you do on Google (i.e. searching the internet). Above and beyond the great prices and free shipping that Amazon offers, it’s even better when you have credits in your Amazon account and those smoking deals become SMOLDERING freebies! I know that many of my readers are on the Swagbucks bandwagon, but some new folks may not quite understand it. So, if you are new and don’t have a clue what a Swagbuck is, YOU NEED TO!

Briefly, Swagbucks is a search engine (similar to and powered by Google). You search the web, you win Swagbucks. It’s a random thing and you will not win every time. But, you should hit several times a day if you use it regularly. You may win 7 or 10 or even 20 Swagbucks on a search. You let them all build up and then cash them out for gift cards. That’s right! What you do on Google, you could be earning giftcards for! The best deal (as in Swagbucks to $ ratio) is the $5 Amazon card. You can get it for 450 Swagbucks. A PayPal credit for $5 (i.e. cash), for example, is around 650 Swagbucks. You will get 30 bucks when you sign up and start earning more right away. Please note that the links to Swagbucks, EBATES and Shoprunner are affiliate links, meaning that I will receive a referral credit if you use them to sign up.

Now, if you are not convinced that you MUST be prepared to shop on Amazon, that’s okay. You can also get gift cards to many MAJOR retail outlets (JC Penney’s, Macy’s, Bass Pro, Cabella’s, Home Depot, CVS, and PayPal if you prefer cash!) with your Swagbucks.

Combine the best price with deals on free shipping, coupons and rebates

Now that you have your money and gift cards in hand, you need to understand that there is more to it than just looking for the best price. Again, a great deal can be better if you add a coupon code, a rebate, free shipping, etc. So you need to understand the stacking or layering of offers to create the best deal possible.

I mentioned that Cyber Monday offers many great deals that include free shipping. But, all sites may not offer that and certainly not every day though Christmas. You need to try to secure free shipping on your own when you can.

There is a site called Shoprunner, and they will give you free TWO DAY shipping to many stores that we will see deals for during the holidays (Toys R Us, for example). You can get a free 30-day membership when you sign up. Since it just a 30 day trial, I don’t encourage you to do that just yet. I will remind you to do so right before Thanksgiving and explain it a little better at that point. That way, the 30 days should cover you through the majority of the shopping season. But, I want you to be aware of and familiar with it. I actually scored a YEAR subscription for free in January, so I am excited to have it through the holidays this year and am hoping that the same deal comes up again! I just used it for the first time to get free shipping on my kids’ Halloween costumes. It’s very easy to use!

Of course, many people know to search for coupon codes before you process your order. You can just search (on Swagbucks) for “Target coupon code.” There are many websites that keep track of what codes are out there and what they are good for. Once you find the item you want AND the store that has the best price AND have searched for a coupon code AND secured free shipping AND you are using free gift cards, then you are ready to checkout, right? Not so fast!

You could be getting cash back just for making the purchase! This will not come off the price, but will be actual cash that you get back in a few months! Once you have all of the other discounts in place, then you want to click through Ebates before you check out!

EBATES is an online shopping site that provides rebates to many, if not all, of your online purchases. When you log onto EBATES, there is a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of websites. They have everything from Walmart to smaller, less popular sites. Travel, clothing, eBay, Shutterfly…literally thousands of stores! You click on their link to whatever site you want to shop on, and you will see what percentage you will receive back. Once you click on “SHOP NOW,” the new site opens and EBATES goes away after showing you a tracking ticket. Then, you proceed through checkout just as normal. The difference is that EBATES keeps track of your online spending and gives you that designated percentage back. You will also get to choose a $10 gift card upon sign up and you will receive it once you have made a qualifying purchase of $25 or more. You will get this in addition to the rebate that you earn on that same purchase and any others made that quarter. Plus, for every friend that you refer, you get a $5 cash bonus! Right now, they are offering extra referral bonuses. Refer your friends through their Tell a Friend link and you will get an extra $25 for the first friend that qualifies and then an additional $5 (for a total of $10) per friend after that! This is a GREAT way to make a few extra bucks!!

I hope that this helps you have a more fabulous and affordable Christmas shopping experience this year. Have you started “saving for Santa?” Do you have any tips to share?


About Northshore Mama

Kari, born and raised on the Northshore, began Northshore Mama after her family experienced a couple of rough financial years.  Kari shares the tips and tricks to maneuvering each store’s different marketing of their sales, as well as introducing her readers to various programs and websites where she earns free stuff every day.  Northshore Mama’s mission is to bring you the coupon deals and show you how to match them up with each store’s weekly sales to get the most bang for your buck!




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