Thursday, December 07, 2006

For All You Cheapskates!

I just read this......

Have a tightwad's Christmas
Try these ideas for keeping holiday spending under control, finding alternative gifts and making your hard-earned dollars go farther this year.
Liz Pulliam Weston
Money's tight, the credit cards are maxed and you're not much of a hand at making crafts anyone would want to receive.
So how do you manage holiday gifts without raiding your 401(k) or mortgaging the house?
First, the obvious. Before you buy the first present, make a list of everyone you'd like to buy a gift for and set a limit of how much you want to spend on each. Total those figures, then add in what you expect to spend for decorating, holiday clothes, tips, entertaining and travel.
Trim down and try something new If the grand total is overwhelming, start trimming your list. Some ideas:
Agree to exchange cards instead of gifts with friends.
Have a potluck instead of an elaborate feast that requires you do all the work (and grocery shopping).
Make do with last year's decorations and clothes, or swap with friends.
Persuade your extended family to draw names rather than have everyone buy everyone else a gift.
Boot the adults and give gifts only to the kids.
Once you've got the list, consider the following ideas to help you get the most bang for your holiday bucks and skip the expensive, last-minute rush at the mall:
Cruise the deal sites. Web sites like Ben's Bargains, Deals of America, My Bargain Buddy and can alert you to killer bargains around the Web, such an Baby Store sale where a leopard-print fleece infant jacket could be found for $3 and a Dr. Seuss sun hat for $2.60. Another deal: a well-made acoustic guitar for $40, half the usual price, plus free shipping from

12 rules for 'regifting' without fearNabbing the best deals often requires vigilance, since the real bargains tend to come and go quickly. The guitar deal, for example, lasted just a few hours. Of course, you'll need to make sure you're not buying a bunch of stuff you don't need or can't use. A bargain's not a bargain if it induces you to spend money you wouldn't otherwise.
Use your spare change. Got a big bucket of pennies and other coins? Haul your clanging cache to your bank, if it offers free sorting, or look for a Coinstar sorter that offers gift certificates in lieu of cash. Certain Coinstar machines waive the usual 8.9% fee when you opt for gift cards or e-certificates, and the providers include, iTunes, Eddie Bauer, Starbucks, Pier One and others. (You can give these cards directly, I suppose, but I argue against it in "Gift cards are not gifts." I use 'em to buy REAL gifts.)
Check your credit card rewards. You may be able to turn your frequent-flier miles or other points into decent gifts, but watch the exchange rate.
With many reward programs, you're lucky to get half a cent for every mile or point you turn in for merchandise, and some offer much worse deals than that.
When used for travel, by contrast, the average value of a frequent-flier mile last year was 1.6 cents, according to IdeaWorks, a company that tracks such things. A mile is typically worth even more to elite frequent fliers, who use them for upgrades, and people who use their miles for free international flights.
If you're not going to use your rewards for travel, you may get the best deals by selecting gift cards or certificates, and using those to buy merchandise either online or in stores. Discover's cashback program, for example, offers to double a $20 cash back amount into a $40 gift certificates at Crabtree & Evelyn,, Mrs. Fields and The Sharper Image. Wells Fargo Business Card Rewards converts 10,000 points into $100 gift cards from Visa, Macy's and J.C. Penney, among others.
Video: What Santa should bring for your 'tween'
Take a look at the best bets to thrill your 8 to 12 year olds when it comes to holiday gifts this season. Play the video from the Today show.
Sell last year's misfires. Typically, the longer you wait to sell something, the less value it has. So round up the latest batch of clothes that didn't fit, gadgets you didn't need or knickknacks that didn't suit and get them listed on an auction site like eBay (good for collectibles, clothes and small electronics) or a classified site like Craigslist (best for big, bulky items). If weather in your area permits, a pre-holiday yard sale might help you generate some coin.
Scope out your job perks. Some companies, colleges and government agencies offer discount passes for movies, theme parks and other venues. You're not supposed to sell these tickets, but you're typically not forbidden from giving them as gifts, and someone who doesn't have access to such perks might appreciate them.
Look for two-for-one deals. Magazines and museums, in particular, often try to extend their audience by having current customers hook up their friends with a free subscription or membership. You may get these offers in the mail, or you could try calling the subscription hotline and ask if they're planning to offer any two-for-one deals. Parents magazine recently offered a rare three-for-one deal for certain subscribers: pay for one year and you could send two free subscriptions to friends.
The gift of photos. Have any doting grandmas or grandpas on your list? Knock it out of the park with a custom-made photo book featuring your tots. These are also great gifts to commemorate a special event, like a birthday, anniversary celebration, wedding or vacation. You can make photo books using one of the many Web-based photo publishers (Snapfish, Shutterfly and MyPublisher among them). A small soft-cover book with 20 or so pages runs about $10, or you can splurge with a $30 hardcover (sometimes less, with coupons). You pick the photos, choose the layout, write the captions and within days, the book's in your hand.
Regift -- carefully. The item has to be in perfect shape, you have to remember who gave it to you (heaven forbid you return it back to the original giver) and it has to be a better fit for your recipient than it was for you. My colleague MP Dunleavey discloses the rest of what you need to know in "12 rules for regifting without fear." We're not wine drinkers in our household, so at every opportunity we brazenly regift wine we're given as hostess gifts. Fortunately (we're told), our friends have great taste in vino.
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Preferred format:HTMLPlain TextLearn more about newslettersDon't turn your nose up at rummage sales. Get in early, and you may find all kinds of gems. At a recent church-sponsored sale, I spotted a new-in-box Fisher Price baby mobile, several brand new hardcover books and some CDs still in their original packaging. I've also been to plenty of sales where the highlight was a seatless dining room chair, so if time is tight focus on bigger sales and the ones in better neighborhoods.
Make a charitable contribution. Most charities provide a card or another acknowledgement that specifies you gave a gift in someone's honor, but not how much. Here it really is the thought that counts.

Mark is the Chief Sales Officer of SCT Product Sales.
We have been in business 15 years, online for 8 & a Power Seller
on eBay for 4 years with annual eBay sales of $1,000,000.

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