Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Finding Coupons!

Big_Toy_Book_CoverCover of 2008 Big Toy Book

The best Christmas sales don’t always start on Black Friday.  Actually, many of the pre-Thanksgiving sales are right up there with the Black Friday deals.  Store are looking to capitalize on profits for the entire quarter, and the sooner they get you to buying, the more money you’ll spend. 

Instead of offering huge weekly sale ads, stores will put out a book of coupons at the end of October, filled with special pricing, incentives, and coupons.  These books mainly include children and baby items.  Their goal?  To put the products in the child’s hands.  When I was small, I had a Sears Wishbook.  My mother said I drove her nearly insane with that book and my constant begging and ‘I wants’. One day, she got so fed up, she threw it in the woodstove.  Then I drove her insane with my crying over the loss of my book. 

I don’t think I cared if I actually got those items, I was just dreaming about them (I’d like to think anyways- like I remember, I was 3!).  A few years ago, I opened one of my gifts and found… a 1984 Sears Wishbook.  Thanks to Ebay, things like that are much easier to get your hands on now.  The funny thing is, in this era of nostalgia that the toy companies are pushing on us, many of the items in the book are on store shelves now! 

Enough of my digressions.. let’s get to the point.  These books are great because:

  • They are full of discounts.
  • You can pre-shop from your couch.
  • Your kids can make their Christmas lists off of them!

Many parents give their kids markers and the books and let them go to town on circling items.  This encourages them to make their Christmas lists (or write their letters to Santa).  The earlier you shop, the better off you are!

What books are available?

Some of the biggest books are the Toys ‘R Us Big Book, the Sears Wishbook, and the Target Toy Coupon Book. 

When are they released?

All of these books are released the last Sunday of October.  With it falling on a holiday this year, I’m not 100% sure, but I assume it will come out on the 31st.  There is a slight chance it may come out this weekend!

How can I get them?

Sears: I cannot find an online registration (if you find it, let me know!).  You can either call their customer service number at 800-549-4505 to be added to their mailing list or you may view the entire book online. 

Toys ‘R Us: This will be in the Sunday paper, can be picked up in-store, or will be delivered to the homes of those on their mailing list.  To join the mailing list, call: 1-800-869-7787 then select options 1, 2, then 4. 

Target: In previous years, the coupons have been available for print on their website. They also come out in selected Sunday papers.  You can also find these in the store, hung from the endcaps in the toy and electronics departments. 

Are there other types of coupons available?

Of course!  Around the holidays, retailers are putting out coupons like crazy to get you to purchase their products.  Watch in the weekly inserts (in your Sunday paper), on printable coupon sites such as and Redplum, and stuck to products.  The Christmas shopping season is full of holiday peelies! 

Watch for rebates, too!  For the last 3 years, Mattel has offered a $50 prepaid Visa for the purchase of $100 Barbie products.  Hasbro puts out rebates for board games every year. 

Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series- they will help you save (and earn!) some serious holiday cash!

Making a List

Setting Your Budget

Finding Extra Cash

Earning Some Dough

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Earning Some Dough

dollar sign 

Would you be surprised to know that we spend little to none of our regular income on our Christmas gifts?  If you know me, probably not.  With the great deals that I find, we don’t spend a lot on the gifts anyways, but I’ve found some outstanding revenues that offer enough extra cash to almost cover our holiday spending. Some of these are 100% effortless, others will take a bit of time.  Some, you can even treat as a part time job and earn some real money doing so. 


Swagbucks deserves a section all to itself.  This has got to be the absolutely easiest way you’ll ever earn some free stuff.  Swagbucks is a search engine that randomly earns you virtual dollars for using it.  These accumulate quickly and you can use them to buy Amazon gift cards. 

I know that many of you have signed up and some of you just quit using it (*GASP*).  I’m not really sure why, because they are constantly revamping their search and it pulls directly from Google so you get similar results.  If you’ve stopped, I urge you to give it another shot.  I’m making $50 a month by using it.  It pretty much pays for all of my goodies!

You can view an informational post here that details how to use it.  Swagbucks | Easy way to earn Amazon Gift Cards

Research and Survey Panels

These are sites that are going to pay you to test their product, take surveys, or even both.  No survey site should ever ask you to pay up front fees.  The following are some of my favorites:

Working From Home

I’ve recently started working with Mturk, which is an Amazon company.  Mturk pays you to do what they call HITS (Human Intelligence Tasks).  These are usually as simple as verifying a website address, providing feedback on a page, finding a site’s contact information, etc.  They pay per task and you receive payment within a couple of days.  You can choose to have your money in cash or Amazon gift cards. 

The best part of this place is that you can set your own wages.  You decide what you want to earn and work until you do.  There is always work available.  If you’ve got high speed internet, give it a shot (it’s not really worth the time if you don’t).  I try to go somewhere with faster internet once a week to work on some.  I’m making about $20 a pop- not bad additional income for a couple hours work. 

Online Rebating Sites

Did you know that there are sites out there that will actually refund your money for online purchases?  All you have to do is sign up and visit the site before making a purchase.  Select the store you wish to purchase from on their list.  You’ll be taken to the actual site to complete your purchase as usual.  Your cash back will be deposited into your account.  Super simple, huh?

My favorites are:

  • My Points.  You earn points for purchases instead of cash.  You can use these to ‘shop’ in their store, purchasing things such as gift cards and items.


  • Ebates.  Ebates allows you to earn actual cash back from your purchases.  You’ll receive a check each quarter if your balance is over $25.  You’ll get $5 in your account to start with when you sign up through my link.


  • Upromise  Upromise is an account that lets you earn cash back in various ways that can be put in a college savings account or be used to pay for existing student loans.  They also offer online rebating, similar to Ebates.  If you don’t already have an account, be sure to sign up through my link to get an additional $5 in your account to start with. 


Be sure to check out the other posts in this series:

Making a List

Setting Your Budget

Finding Extra Cash

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Finding Extra Cash $$$

coin purse

It’s only 49 days until Black Friday, have you started your saving yet?  For many, saving for the holidays is a daunting task.  Many will resort to putting their purchases on credit cards and accumulating some horrifying interest.  Saving doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. 

I’ve also discovered some unique ways to save your income for the holidays.  Again, some of these are effortless, others will take less than 1 minute a week.  Seriously! 

First thing’s first.  You should have already made your list and set your budget. (If you haven’t, click on those red words and read some good tips on how to do it.)  I know, it seems crazy to already be thinking about it, but remember, planning is everything.  No, I’m not a super organized freak (not to be taken as derogatory, I envy those of you who are), but holiday spending is something that can get out of control extremely quickly if you don’t monitor it closely.

Once you know how much you’re going to spend, you need to figure out how long until you are going to spend it.  If you are planning on doing the majority of your shopping on Black Friday, you have 49 days from today to save for it.  That’s just 7 paydays!  If you are planning on spending $1,000 this year, you’ll need to sock back $143 each week.  Now if you started your saving on January 1st, you would be putting up $21 each week and drawing interest on the balance in a savings account. 

Creative Ways to Save

  • Pick up a store gift card and add to it regularly.  I’ve found that gift cards to Walmart and Target are pretty much the same as cash.  If you run short during the year, you can use them to buy groceries, diapers, fix a tire, or even buy a prepaid cash card.  If you add just $5 a week during your regular shopping (and who doesn’t go to Walmart once a week-if you don’t, trust me, the rest of us are jealous and you don’t need to post your success in the comments), you’ll never notice it gone.  That’s as much as you’d spend on a magazine in the checkout line. 

Your $5 a week will equate to nearly $250 each year!  You can even use it to buy gift cards to restaurants and other stores. 

  • Buy Amazon Gift Cards.  This is very similar to the above, except that Amazon literally has anything you can dream of (unlike some Walmart stores after the remodel).  You can purchase these online and add them directly to your account so you always have a positive balance with them. 


  • Open an ING Direct AccountING is an online bank that has been around for years.  It’s a very reputable bank that allows you to set up countless free savings accounts (similar to the envelope method if you’re on the Dave Ramsey program) for whatever you choose.  We have one for each of the kids, vacations, savings, etc.  You can choose to manually transfer money from your bank account or have it automatically withdrawn on a certain day.  You can set up recurring payments and cancel at any time. 

The upside to this is that you still have cash, and whatever you don’t spend, you get to keep tucked away!  It does take about 2-3 days to transfer the money back into your bank account, so you won’t be tempted to spend it on impulse purchases. 

If you implement one (or all) of these tips regularly, it will become habit.  You will become accustomed to dishing out $5-$20 each week and not pay a bit of attention to it.  Your savings will grow, grow, grow!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next post in Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season.  This post will help you earn some extra holiday cash! 

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Setting the ‘Ol Budget

Piggy Bank

Last week, we discussed how to write your list and why you need to do it so early (If you missed it, read this post).  I’m sure all of you have at least a partial list written, if not, take a few minutes today and jot down everyone you intend to purchase for this season.  Also include other holiday expenses, such as cards, postage, food, gift wrap, etc.  This should not take very long and will help with setting your budget.

Once you’ve gotten your list ready, it much easier to allocate your budget, but first, you must set an overall budget.  Your overall budget can either be the amount of actual cash you’d like to spend or the total retail value of all gifts.  I recommend using actual cash, so that you do not get caught up in deal shopping and exceed your budget. 

You also need to take a few other things into consideration:

  • Will you set an amount per family or per person?  If you have a sibling that’s married with 6 children and another with only 2, will you spend the same amount on each person or each family? 
  • Will your budgeted amount be for retail value or what you actually spent on it?  If you have a $25 budget for Cousin Joe and you find a $25 video game for $5, will you consider the game his only gift or will you keep shopping until you’ve physically spent $25? (I still recommend setting your overall budget as the maximum you hope to spend)
  • Do any of your gift exchanges impose limits?  If so, make sure you follow them!

Here’s an example of a very simple Christmas budget:

Person Each Overall Budget
Spouse $50 $50
Child (x3) $100 $300
Parents (x4) $25 $100
Siblings (x6) $20 $120
Nieces/Nephews (x8) $20 $140
Teachers (x2) $20 $40
Decorations/Tree $50 $50
Gift Wrap $30 $30
Cards/Postage $40 $40
Donations $100 $100
Food $140 $140
Total   $1,000

Let’s say that you have a $1,000 overall budget (for the sake of perfectly rounded numbers).  You may want to spend $100 one each of your kids, $25 on your parents, $20 on your siblings and their children, etc. (see above chart). 

It’s very important to figure in incidentals such as foods for parties, hostess gifts, Christmas dinner, stocking stuffers, etc.  

I’ve created a very simple Christmas budget Excel spreadsheet that will help you stay on budget.  Try to update it every time you purchase a gift!  You can download it here:

In the next post in the Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season, we’ll talk about super easy ways to sock away some extra cash to help combat that budget! 

I’m curious, what is your Christmas budget?  Overall or per family?  Leave a comment below!

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Making a List

Christmas Workshop

I’m sure that somewhere, either in the back of your mind or up front and center, you’re already thinking about the holidays.  Did you know that there are only 80 days until Black Friday? 

As with nearly anything, planning alone can save some money, but when you team planning with the knowledge learned in a Christmas Shopping Workshop, you can save a fortune!  Because not everyone is able to take a workshop, I’ll be running a series of posts that will help you get started.  Please stay tuned throughout the fall for more posts geared at your holiday shopping!

Making a List

One of the simplest and most beneficial methods of planning is list making.  Making the list is the easy part, but keeping it updated and with you at all times might prove to be a bit more difficult.  I like to keep a handwritten copy in my planner- which goes everywhere with me.  You could also keep a small notebook or a paper in your wallet.

I start my list by writing down every person that I need to buy for.  It’s sometimes hard to do that if you start shopping early.  In my husband’s family, we sometimes buy for his siblings, but other years we only buy for the kids.  We leave this up to his siblings to decide.  I go ahead and add them to my list- just in case I find a great deal on something.

My extended family used to draw names- but they never wanted to mess with it until Thanksgiving Dinner (which was held the Sunday after Thanksgiving).  That is not enough time for me, as I’m usually done by Thanksgiving.  If your family draws names late in the year, try pressuring them to draw earlier, or even at Christmas for the next year.  This will give you plenty of time to plan.

Write a full list, one that includes family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, mailman, etc. You don’t want to be caught with unexpected expenses later!

Stay tuned for the next post… Setting the ‘Ol Budget