Don’t Panic! Last Minute Christmas (and Early Christmas 2013) Shopping Tips
Christmas is less than one week from now. You’ve got a short amount of time to get gifts for your family and friends – but you might still be able to save a couple of dollars in the process.
Us 8BitDad types are smart cookies, so we compiled a couple of last minute tips to help you shop for that perfect gift – quickly, and hopefully at a discount. We’ve also got a tip from Zack of CouponDad.net to help save Christmas (and your marriage). And if we’re no help this year, bookmark this page and use it next year. Deal?
1. Before you buy anything, check coupon sites (or let your browser do it for you)!
If you buy something online without ever checking for online coupons, you’re not doing the bare minimum in online shopping. Coupon sites often allow you to search for the store you’re already shopping – so you’re not at the mercy of good fortune on a deal site.
Start with RetailMeNot.com, which has recently started advertising on television. You can find coupons for everything from Old Navy to Pizza Hut. Often, you’ll get a coupon code that can save you on shipping, give you a flat percentage off your order, or in the case of the pizza places, score you free food. The free food may not help you out with Christmas gifts, but it’ll get you an extra pizza to take with you when you have to go into hiding for not buying anyone Christmas gifts.
If you use Chrome as your browser and you can’t possibly be bothered to check a coupon site yourself, there’s an extension that you should know about called Honey. Honey adds a little button to the shopping carts of sites that it supports, and before you checkout, you press the button – Honey finds the best coupon code for your order and applies it. If you’re too lazy to press the Honey button, then there’s no much else we can do for you, and you might as well not read the rest of this article.
Here’s a video from Honey about what their extension does:
Verdict: Coupon Code sites are great for finding 15% off coupons and free pizza, and if you have Chrome, it can’t hurt to install Honey!
2. Check deal sites!
Don’t know which deal sites to check? A couple of our favorites are SlickDeals.net and FatWallet.com. These two sites list deals daily in an easy-to-read format. Some deals are in-store and some are online. You can browse by store name, but your best deals will be the ones you come across at random. During the Christmas season, however, you’re able to find high-quality deals from most major retailers.
FatWallet even lets you join and receive cash back for shopping at particular stores. You won’t make a ton of money, but even a couple of cents per transaction can add up during the holidays. Plus, FatWallet features cash back deals from big online retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and Toys-R-Us.
One of the best things you’ll consistently find on sites like SlickDeals and FatWallet is magazine deals. If you’d like an easy gift that lasts all year round, get a friend a couple of magazine subscriptions and rake in the praise. The average cost of a year’s subscription that you’ll find through SlickDeals and FatWallet ranges from $4- $5! There even was recently a deal on Cyber Monday where you could receive five one-year magazine subscriptions for $18, which broke down to $3.60 per magazine!
Verdict: Deal sites like SlickDeals and FatWallet offer great “spot” deals, which for most of the year, will require checking in with the site daily to catch the right deal at the right time.
3. Try other deal-per-day sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Bogopod!
It might be too late for this Christmas for you to rely on a deal-per-day service like Groupon, but it doesn’t hurt to sign up. Focusing more on local, smaller food, service and “adventure” businesses, Groupon, Living Social and Bogopod offer daily deals for everything from neighborhood dining to fishing day-trips out of your local harbor. If you can score a cheap day pass for a friend to go deep sea fishing or for a free round of golf, you both win: your friend gets to go indulge in his hobby and you look like a hero for making it happen.
Groupon also occasionally runs deals for bigger retailers. For example, recently, Groupon ran a promotion for Toys-R-Us where a $20 certificate cost $10. This was a great way to save some money for holiday shopping with an indirectly-discounted gift! Coupled with an in-store promotion (buy one Star Wars action figure, get one 50% off, if you must know), some kid’s going to have a totally rad Christmas – and he doesn’t have to know that it flew well under budget.
Groupon is definitely targeting women. There are plenty of spa days, massage, waxing and nail coupons to be found. But this doesn’t mean you can’t horn in on that action and get your lady a deal on a treatment.
Bogopod – whose website looks admittedly shady – routinely offers books of coupons for different regions, and if you’re looking for add-on presents or stocking stuffers, you can time it right and give the gift of savings. Typically, you “make” your money back on one coupon. For example, in our area, the book costs $10, and you receive (among 25 other coupons) a “buy one, get one free” coupon at a local sandwich shop. Sandwiches run $10 for a large. So with one coupon, you’ve made your investment back. Or rather, you bought two $10 sandwiches, and any other deal in that book is just free food.
Verdict: deal-per-day sites like Groupon, Bogopod and Living Social are great places to find more “spot” deals, but you might need to plan ahead and keep your eyes open in order to truly prosper.
4. Join Amazon Prime and never worry about shipping times!
If you buy things online frequently, you know that shipping costs can add up. Sometimes, you can find free shipping codes or other coupons that might cover the cost of shipping by reducing your order total by a certain percentage. But, if you’re not into the hunt and already buy things from Amazon, why not join their Prime program?
Amazon Prime runs $79/year – which sounds like a lot until you realize that you’re receiving two-day shipping on all of your orders, unlimited instant streaming through Amazon’s video service, and a free Kindle book every month. The real draw here is the two-day shipping, which would normally cost you big bucks.
We also talked briefly about Amazon Prime on our Thanksgiving & Black Friday Fatherhood Byte (click ahead to 8:25):
But hey, if you don’t want that sweet two-day shipping and just want to reach the $25 threshold for free standard shipping (yawn), you can check out a site like FillerSeek, which will find an item to get you into the butter zone. Yeah, we just said butter zone.
Verdict: If you’re already buying things on Amazon and paying for shipping, join Amazon Prime and get your stuff faster.
5. Get restaurant certificates cheaper through Restaurant.com!
Everyone loves a night out, but what people like more is a night out that doesn’t hit them in the pocketbook. And if they don’t have a pocketbook, they don’t want a night out that melts their credit card. You get the idea.
Enter: Restaurant.com! All you’ve got to do is put in your zip code (or the zip code of the friend you’re shopping for) and see which local restaurants and eateries are offering deals. Many times, you can buy a $25 gift certificate for a restaurant for only $10! In fact, here’s a sample from my neighborhood:
Now, you should note that there are stipulations to most of the deals. In this case, you can see (if you put on your bifocals) that you can only redeem the above deal Sunday through Thursday, it’s valid on food only (no alcohol, and BTW, you’ve got a drinking problem if you just groaned when you read that), and you’ve got to buy a minimum of $35 of food (the minimum scales up with larger certificates in this deal). Still, think about it – your total investment is $20 on this particular deal ($10 to buy the certificate, $10 to get from the $25 certificate to the $35 minimum), but you’re getting $35 worth of food. So, the cynical (read: accountant) will say you’re only in the black by $15 ($35 of food minus $20 investment). Confusing math aside, you still come out on top.
Plus, you don’t really need to know this since you don’t live near me (I’ve checked), but D’Amore’s Pizza is on the higher-end in the first place, so if you’re planning on buying a pizza and bread sticks, you can easily hit $35. Boom.
Deals vary by restaurant, and from time to time, believe it or not, these guys run promotions. Recently, they had a coupon code available that reduced the price of $25 gift certificates to $6. SIX DOLLARS. I won’t go back into the ridiculous and particular math, but let’s just say it’s a good deal.
I know it’s a little iffy to give someone a (printed-out) gift certificate for a restaurant and say “hey, this is only good Sunday through Thursday,” but hey man, if you didn’t rake in the money this year, your family and friends will understand and appreciate whatever you give them. And damnit, they will dine out between Sunday and Thursday.
Verdict: Some people might not like the idea of giving restaurant gift certificates, especially with limitations and minimum purchases. But this is the fastest gift to buy and there’s no shipping time.
Remember: mix & match these tips for great success!
Some of the deals we already mentioned can be combined for maximum pleasure. For example, you can subscribe to Amazon Prime, then click on a deal on FatWallet to receive a gift at a great price or cash back on the deal. Also, the Restaurant.com coupon code I mentioned above that reduced $25 gift certificates to $6 was found on SlickDeals. Just like Voltron, these deals come together to make bigger and better deals.
One site we didn’t mention yet is CouponDad.net. Zack Gaddy compiles internet deals as well as printable coupons you can use at your local retailers. Gaddy also has tips, how-to’s about couponing, and lists of specific store policies. You might not end up like the crazy folk on Extreme Couponing, but you’ll definitely save a buck or two.
We reached out to Gaddy for a holiday tip for dads in their last minute scramble for the perfect gift. “When shopping for any woman in your life,” Gaddy advises, “always buy a size smaller than you think she is. I call this ‘double brownie points’. Plus that way she could exchange it for something a little different (or more her taste maybe) since she has to get the right size any way.”
We hope that you found some helpful tips on holiday shopping – maybe you can get a discount on a last minute gift, or maybe you can use this info to make the most out of the gift card you’re inevitably getting in your own stocking. Either way, just make us feel helpful and tell us if you’ve got any other tips on holiday shopping that we missed.