Sunday, December 29, 2013

Returning and Regifting: A Guide to Making the Most Out of Your Gifts

It's a few days after Christmas and you've opened up all your gifts.  Most likely there are quite a few that you really like, but there are going to be a couple that you don't really care for, you already have, or they just aren't for you.  Now I'm going to approach a subject that gets much controversy . . . returning and regifting.  There are some people, like my fiance, who believe that no gift should be done away with, no matter how awful.  He feels it's rude because they put time and effort into choosing that gift and he also worries that they will ask about it in the future.  My thoughts are, that everybody wants their giftees to enjoy their gifts to the fullest, sometimes that means getting something else in its place.  What good is a gift if it just sits in the closet collecting dust?  I'd much rather do SOMETHING with it.  So here are some ideas:

This is simple.  If you know where the gift is from, simply return it.  You won't be able to get cash back for it because you don't have the original receipt but you can get store credit and just get something else for the same value.  If the gift doesn't expressly say on it what store it is from, you have to play the guessing game.  Look up the bar-code number online and see what stores sell it and if there aren't too many, give them a try.  You might get lucky.

If you can't figure out where the item came from or it doesn't have a very high value, consider giving it as a gift to somebody else.  For some reason, this area has even more of a negative view on it but I see it as the same.  Why not give it to somebody who will actually get use out of it?  (And it's a bonus that you don't have to spend money on that person.  Is that terribly rude?  idk)  Or, if the gift is particularly hideous, it could make a good gag or white elephant gift.  The perfect regifting item to me are those scented sets of lotions, gels, etc.  I'm not into those things that much but they do make great gifts for people you don't know all that well.

If you can't do either of those and you are determined to get rid of the gift, you can consider selling it.  Check out my post on selling your items here.

Selling Gift Cards
Now this is an unusual section.  Gift cards are great and they're usually something for people that don't know what to get you to be able for you to get something you really want.  But sometimes the gift cards you get are for stores you don't frequent or can't really get something you really need or want.  There are sites that buy gift cards from you for cash.  You can't get full face value, but if you really can't get anything at that store, that may still be worth more to you.  You don't want to buy something you don't want just to use up a gift card.  You can usually get 90% more of the value on the card.  Check out cardpool.

I hope this list helps and I also hope it didn't offend anybody.  The way I see it, for the gifts I give people, I don't mind them returning it because I want them to be able to enjoy something.  You wouldn't want to give somebody money and then have them just keep that money in the closet would you?  What are your thoughts on returning gifts?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wrapping Gifts and Throwing Money Away

As Christmas in in a couple days, most of us will be wrapping gifts.  Unfortunately, gift wrap can add on quite a few dollars to the cost of a gift.  So here's a couple suggestions to save money to be able to spend it on what's more important . . .  the gift!

The Dollar Store
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The dollar store is a great place to buy all your present wrapping needs!  It's ridiculous the cost of wrapping paper at regular stores . . . it's paper for goodness sake, how much can it cost to make?!  And don't even get me started on the Hallmark store.  That place is like walking into an overpriced nightmare.  Why spend a lot of money on something that will just be ripped up and thrown away?  What else do I need to say?

Now I'm not going to tell you to reuse wrapping paper.  Nobody likes the person that carefully opens their gift and folds the paper neatly -- tear it up!  (It should be dollar paper so it doesn't matter!)

Gift bags on the other hand, now those can definitely be reused!  They're a double-edged sword because they're the easy way out and I don't think they look as cool, but sometimes it's necessary and I also love the fact that they can be reused for many years.

Tissue paper is something that most people don't think about reusing.  But in gift bags, there are often many pieces of tissue paper that go unharmed.  I just make sure there are no tears in them and then fold them up nicely.  You can even keep them with the bag they came in since they probably are a nice color match and then you already have it all ready to go!

You can usually get a clothing box with your purchase from the store for free, just add some ribbons to it.  These can also be reused if you receive some with your gifts!

Bows and ribbons can also be reused.  Fabric ribbons are great because they can be reused for many years.  But even the paper stick on bows can be used more than once.  If it isn't sticky anymore, just roll up a piece of scotch tape to stick it on!

Other Materials
Now I don't normally do this because I do like wrapping paper and gift bags, but especially if you have some eco-friendly people that you need to wrap gifts for, think about using other materials that you would normally be throwing out like newspaper and magazines.  I've also seen paper and plastic bags cleverly used.  If you quilt or do other sewing projects and have leftover pieces of fabric, this can be used to wrap gifts in.  Also, instead of using a gift bag, think about using something that can be used for other purposes afterwards like a jar or basket.  Get creative!  Let me know of any other neat ideas!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bing Rewards

This week I'm going to be talking about something I just learned about a few days ago: Bing Rewards.  I'm sure a lot of you have heard of Bing, it's a search engine that has really been advertising and trying to compete with Google.  They have a test, Bing It On, where you try 5 searches and choose between two screens (Google and Bing) of which results you like better.  Honestly, I chose Google more times, 3 out of 5.  I don't know if I've been using Google so long that I'm just trained to like it or what but regardless, I have switched my search engine to Bing because of the rewards program they have.  (Want to try the Bing It On Test?  Click here)

Bing Rewards is simple -- they reward you for searching through Bing.  You get a reward point for every two searches made (up to 30 a day) and reward points can be redeemed for a number of options, primarily gift cards.  Now if you're like me, you use the computer a lot and search for things multiple times a day.  Why not get rewarded for something you already do all the time?  As I said before, I actually prefer Google's results for the most part, but generally I can find what I'm looking for on Bing and if not,  just go back to Google for that one search.

On the Bing Rewards dashboard, they also have really easy tasks to get more rewards points.  Simple!

Some of the redemptions offered are entries into sweepstakes drawings.  Don't be tempted to throw away your reward points!  I always think it's funny that with many rewards programs some of the things offered to be redeemed are entries into sweepstakes, what a waste!  There are plenty of ways to enter sweepstakes that are free, just do those.  You might as well get something useful out of the rewards.  I'm aiming towards the $5 Amazon Gift Card, because that's what I use the most.

Like the idea?  Sign up for it here:  (Guess what?  You get rewards for referrals too!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Decorating with a Budget

Most of my posts during the holiday season so far have been about shopping, and understandably so.  But today I want to talk about decorating, another fun aspect of the holidays.  This is relevant to most people because even if you aren't someone who decorates for every holiday, most people decorate at least some for the winter holidays.  A lot of times, the whole house gets transformed -- inside and out.  But that can be expensive.  Here's a few tips on where to find cheaper holiday decorations:

1. The Dollar Store
I've talked about it before and I'll say it again.  This is one of the best places to get holiday decorations because they're so cheap!  I know a lot of you think that because it's so cheap, the quality of the products are cheap too.  That's not true!  I understand not getting your lights from there, though I still trust it (they even have LED lights!), but there are many other decorations that are not electronic that are just as good of quality.  Especially paper products that you are going to throw out every year.  Take a look at what the Dollar Tree has to offer: Dollar Tree Holiday Decorations
holiday decorations

2. Thrift Stores
You may be thinking I'm crazy, but people do donate decorations to thrift stores.  Go take a look!  I've bought a huge box full of ornaments for super cheap -- it was for a project which I'm going to talk about next:

3. Make Your Own
There are all kinds of fun ideas to make your own decorations which would also make a fun family project!  Here's one of my favorites (they also make great gifts!).  Just go to the dollar store or thrift store (or after Christmas when they're on sale) to get a bunch of ornaments and and then head to your local craft store for a few other supplies:

There are all kinds of color combinations you can do:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday

So after my rant about disliking Black Friday, I want to say how much I LOVE Cyber Monday.  As stated before, I love online shopping, and I even love it more during the holidays because it saves a lot of time and hassle.  What is Cyber Monday you ask?  It's the online equivalent to Black Friday.  The biggest proponent of this is Amazon. (Again, I talk about Amazon a lot but it's for a reason).

So check out your favorite online stores and see what kind of sales they have.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday . . . Is It Worth It?

Sorry I didn't post over the weekend like I normally do, things have been crazy busy for me.  Today's post is going to be a little different than normal.  Usually I post about ways to save money but keep in mind it's EASY ways to save money.  This post we're going to think about Black Friday . . . probably the most savings you can get on any item for one day only.  But I don't advocate it, at all.

Why I wanted to write a little something about it is because over the weekend, I heard on the news that people were already starting to camp out in front of stores like Best Buy for Black Friday deals.  I'm sorry, what?!!!  A week before people are lining up?!  That's just crazy.
Black Friday camping

Why I don't like this?  Well first of all, it is not an EASY way to save money.  You have to camp out in the freezing cold and brave getting trampled to death to really get the good deals.  Not worth it in my opinion.
Black Friday crowd

Second, and most importantly, this takes away from Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is supposed to all be about relaxing and being with family.  We as a culture have become so materialistic, we are doing away with a tradition about GIVING THANKS for what we have instead to get more for cheap, cheap, cheap!
Save Thanksgiving

So that's my rant about Black Friday.  I don't do it.  In fact, once Christmas shopping season starts, you will hardly ever see me near big stores and don't even think about the mall!  I try to do all my shopping online so that way I don't have to deal with trying to find parking, dealing with the pushing and shoving, waiting in line forever.  Plus, you can usually find something more customized for each person.

Well, I don't want to leave you all with no tips on how to save money.  So here's the "Black Friday" that I take part in: Shop Amazon - Black Friday Deals Week - Big Savings, No Waiting