Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but I figure many of us still have some holiday shopping to do. I really prefer online shopping to avoid some of the hassles of in-person shopping and to better compare purchases. Here are some of my tricks to saving money during gift shopping season.
Rewards Credit Cards
The first thing I do is have a solid rewards credit card for all of my purchases. (As a disclaimer, I realize that credit cards are not the best option for everyone, but for a financially disciplined person like myself it can be very cost effective.) A 1% cash back for all purchases is pretty standard for a cash back rewards card. However, there are some excellent cash back rewards cards that offer 2% back on all purchases. In addition there are cards out there that will give you 5 to 10% on rotating categories throughout the year like gas, movies, etc. Fortunately, I actually have a couple of credit cards that are offering 10% cash back on a lot of major online retailers for this time of year. So for every hundred dollars I spend at these retailers (which for me includes Amazon and most department stores) I get $10 to redeem later.
Online Shopping Portals
To further maximize, money back I recommend shopping through online shopping portals like Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, Upromise (saves money for college), or Mileage Plus Rewards (for frequent flyer miles). This is not an exhaustive list of portals, just some ones that I use. By purchasing gifts through these portals, you can get discounts, cash back, or airline miles. You must purchase from their merchants directly going through the links on the portal site. I have seen rewards of 1% of what you purchase to 10%, but it can be higher or lower. You still get the credit card cash back on top of this.
These benefits can also be added on top of what we previously mentioned. Most companies have a loyalty program and/or a mailing list to get deals. A mailing list may provide coupon codes for you. A loyalty program (similar to a frequent flyer number without having to get a store credit card) may have you acquire points that you can use for future purchases with this vendor. If you sign up for a mailing list you might get $5 or $10 off your first purchase, possibly 15% off. If you sign up for the loyalty program, the points and how much they are worth very widely but after a few purchases it might add up to substantial savings.
As an example, lets use Bloomingdale’s. They are a department store that I can get 10% back with one credit card. I could also get to their site through Upromise get an additional 5% off. Signing up for their loyalty program, would net you a $25 gift card everytime you spend $100. It does not appear that getting promotional emails from them provides any secret coupon or discount at this time, but it would let you know they have a $25 off for every $100 you spend coupon code open to general public. If you spend $125 on clothes, you can take off $25 on the promo code. You will also get a $25 gift card for future purchases. With the cash back rewards from the portal and credit card, you will get $15 cash back later on. So for this $125 purchase, you actually spend $100 but you will get $15 cash and a $25 gift card. Another way to put it, for $125 of merchandise you only “paid” $60.
This may seem a little complicated at first, but you can definitely find value. Again, financial discipline is a must, because it is really easy to start buying a lot more because you only “paid” $60. Although this strategy can be use to net some big gains, do not lock in to this strategy. Maybe that $125 handbag can be purchased through another online site for $50. Keep an open mind and let’s save some money.
Hope this helps,
My Discover Card also gave me a $10 credit (to use on Amazon) for signing up for one click purchases on Amazon. Realize this is to get you to make spending on Amazon easier, but if you can remain disciplined it can get you a little bit more money to use for the holiday season.