Monthly Archives: December 2011

Grab last-minute gifts without leaving home or using express shipping

If you haven’t wrapped up your Christmas gift buying yet, don’t despair. You can find gifts online that will be ready in time for Christmas and give you an alternative to traditional gift cards. The best part? You don’t have to battle traffic and crowds at the mall to get them:

Netflix membership: Have a friend who loves movies? They can watch all the flicks they want right from their computer with a Netflix gift membership. Prices range from $7.99 for one month to $96 for 12 months. You can send your gift by email or print out a certificate to give to the recipient. There is one downside: the gift memberships are for online viewing only (no DVDs by mail).

Game rentals: Do your children or grandchildren love video games? Gamefly will deliver them right to the gift recipient’s door through the U.S. Postal Service. I’ve given this as a gift in the past, and it was a big hit! The service proved to be reliable, too. Gamefly gift memberships start at $23 for one month, with lower monthly prices for longer subscriptions. You can print or email a gift certificate for the subscription.

Magazines: You can find a monthly publication to match almost any interest. Give a friend a subscription to Cat Fancy, Sports Illustrated, Chile Pepper, Antique Trader or another magazine. Use Ebates to get up to 26 percent cash back when you buy through or ValueMags.

Do you have a favorite last-minute gift that can be purchased online? I’d love to hear your top picks.

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Snag great deals on everyday items while wrapping up your Christmas shopping

In the midst of your Christmas shopping this week, there are very good deals to be had on non-gift items. Twelve-packs of Coca-Cola products have reached the lowest price I’ve seen in a long time. You can get four packs for $11 this week at Kroger ($2.75 each) or three packs for $9 at Target ($3 each). At Kroger, you must use your Kroger Plus card to get the savings. If you buy more than four packs, the price goes up to $3.25 each. At Target, there’s a limit of six 12-packs per customer.

My buy price for Coca-Cola 12-packs used to be $2.50, but I haven’t seen them reach that mark in a long time. To learn more about how tracking buy prices can save you money, check out my previous post on this subject.

Another great deal available this week is on lipstick. CVS has tubes of Revlon ColorBurst or ColorStay Ultimate for $6.49, but you get $4 in Extrabucks on each one, making the final cost just $2.49. This is an excellent price when you consider that other brand-name makeup sold at superstores costs $6 a tube or more. I have used this lipstick and found it to be a good-quality product. There is a limit of six lipsticks per customer.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Extrabucks program, find out how it can help you get items at very low prices or even for free.

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Save an extra 15 or 20 percent at Kohl’s

Finish your holiday shopping at Kohl’s with these coupon codes:

  • STOCKING15 to save 15% on your entire purchase of $99 or less
  • STOCKING20 to save 20% on your purchase if you’re spending $100 or more

Plus, get $10 Kohl’s cash and free shipping on each $50 purchase. These deals are good through December 24.

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December 16 is Free Shipping Friday

It’s Free Shipping Friday on the Web, with more than 2,000 retailers offering the discount today. A minimum purchase amount may apply to qualify for the deal.

If you’re ordering an item for Christmas, be sure to check the site’s holiday shipping schedule and the product page to confirm your item will arrive in time with the free shipping method.

Sites offering free shipping with pre-Christmas delivery include Overstock, Walmart, Old Navy, Meijer, OfficeMax and Lowe’s.

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Give the gift of your time this Christmas

This blog usually focuses on shopping-related topics, including ways to save money on gifts during the holidays. I’d like to change course just slightly today and encourage you to give the gift of your time this Christmas season.

Maybe you want to give to charity this year but don’t have the extra money in your budget. Any easy way to solve this problem is by donating a couple hours of your time to ring the red kettle bell for the Salvation Army. My husband, a friend and I did this last night, and it was a very rewarding experience. We got to greet and chat with people coming in and out of our neighborhood grocery store. In the slow periods, we talked with each other. During the two hours we stood there ringing the bell, we collected around $75 for the Salvation Army. The only cost to us was a few bucks to pay for our fuel to and from the bell-ringing location.

For me, the evening ended with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that the money we raised will provide much-needed meals, shelter or other assistance for those who are struggling during the holidays.

Have two hours to spare? Contact your local Salvation Army today and sign up for a shift as a bell ringer. You can find the Salvation Army office nearest you by visiting the organization’s website. Take a friend or family member along to share the joy of helping those less fortunate.

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Take advantage of double cash back today

Ebates has double cash back at tons of stores today, including 52% back at, 20% at Snapfish, 15% at Fossil, 14% at Melissa & Doug, and 10% at Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, Brookstone, Kmart and Sears.

Not familiar with Ebates? Check out my previous post about how it can help you save.

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Avoid Christmas rip-offs—shop with caution at unfamiliar retailers

‘Tis the season to hunt for holiday bargains and search for that amazing item for the person who has everything. Your search for the perfect Christmas gift may take you to online stores at which you’ve never shopped, companies with unfamiliar names and reputations. Before you buy that wooden watch, 3-D cookie cutter kit or remote-controlled flying shark, make sure the store you’re about to do business with won’t take your money and run. Also, make sure the product you’re buying is worth the investment.

There are four main steps I take to when shopping with unfamiliar companies online:

1. Visit the Better Business Bureau website. Click on the “Check out a business or charity” link, then type in the name or Web address of the company you’re interested in. Note the grade given to the company by the BBB, and scan its report on the company to see how many complaints have been filed against the business and how it responded to those concerns. I avoid shopping with any company that has less than an A-minus rating. I also avoid companies that don’t have a BBB report.

2. Run an Internet search with the company’s name, followed by the word “reviews.” Read comments posted by those who say they’ve purchased items from the business. Did items arrive on time and in good condition? Did the company respond promptly to customer emails? Keep in mind that some companies hire people to post positive reviews on the Internet, so give more weight to negative comments.

3. Read product reviews. You can gather valuable information about specific merchandise by reading reviews of it on retailer and manufacturer websites. If you’re buying a winter jacket, you can learn whether it runs large, small or true to size by checking out comments from customers on apparel sellers’ websites. Reviews on a sporting goods website may reveal that a product broke after only a couple of uses. Many retailers allow customers to rate products on a scale of one to five, making it easier to compare similar products. Scan several pages of reviews to look for patterns of recurring issues with the merchandise. 

4. Pay with a credit card. Many credit card companies offer you zero liability for unauthorized purchases, protecting you if an unscrupulous retailer misuses your credit card information. Also, if an item you receive is broken and the retailer won’t cooperate with your requests for a refund or replacement, you may be able to dispute the charge with your credit card company and get your money back. Some cards also double the manufacturer’s warranty on items you purchase and give you short-term protection against damage and theft of the items. Contact your card issuer to determine which protection benefits apply to your account.

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Buy gift cards for yourself to rack up some savings this season

When you can’t think of a Christmas gift that seems appropriate for a friend or family member, you might choose a gift card as your perfect present. In addition to offering an easy way to complete your holiday shopping, gift cards can also help you save money in 2012 on items you’re planning to buy anyway.

How? During the Christmas season, many retailers offer you a bonus for buying gift cards. By purchasing these cards for yourself, you can extend your buying power.

Here are some examples:

Kroger: Through Dec. 11, Kroger is offering quadruple fuel points for gift cards purchased at its grocery stores. If you frequent Starbucks every week, you could buy $100 worth of Starbucks gift cards and earn 400 fuel points. Those points translate to a 40-cent-per-gallon discount on gas. I stocked up on gift cards for places at which I know I will spend money in 2012 (Subway, Petsmart, Target, etc.) and earned enough fuel points to save $1 per gallon on my next gasoline purchase. The bonus points don’t apply to Kroger gift card purchases. Expect to pay a fee if you buy a gift card branded by a credit card company, such as Visa; the other cards do not have fees.

Barnes & Noble: If you buy a lot of printed books, e-books or music, consider a $100 gift card from Barnes & Noble. In return, you get a free $10 gift card, boosting your buying power. This deal ends at 2:59 a.m. on December 5. There is a limit of one free gift card per customer.

Restaurants: Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill will give you a free $20 gift card for every $100 worth of gift cards you purchase. The bonus cards can be used from Jan. 1 to Feb. 10, 2012. Chili’s is offering 10 percent off gift card purchases totaling $100 or more.

Whether you buy gift cards for others or yourself, the Christmas shopping season offers a great opportunity to get more for your money. What’s the best gift card deal you’ve seen this holiday season?

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