I first wrote this article in 2009, and it got tons of traffic and links on other blogs. I’ve updated it for 2010 and hope you find it just as helpful as the biggest shopping weekend of the year approaches. Skip the crowds and shop online!
I’m a self-proclaimed fanatic online shopper, but also a frugalista. The tips below apply to shopping year-round, but they are particularly helpful as holiday shopping kicks into full gear on Black Friday. Besides the most obvious advice, which is to set a budget for yourself, these are some tips you should keep in mind to save every dollar this year:
Tip #1: Skip the Mall. Buy Online.
The vast majority of my purchases are made online. Why? Because if I spot an item (particularly clothing or toys) that I like in a store, there is an excellent chance that I’ll find a better deal online. I jot down the name and style and anything else to help me remember, and then search online (often I do a Google search and then clicking on the “shopping” results). I’ve saved money on everything from designer shoes (Zappos.com), to toys (Melissa & Doug toys from Gummy Lump). Plus, you’ll be able to hone in more easily on what you really need/want to buy, instead of being tempted by everything within sight.
Tip #2: Search Online for Coupon Codes
Before I click and buy, I always stop by RetailMeNot.com and CouponChief.com to see if I can find a discount or free shipping code. If those fail, sometimes I go to Google’s blogsearch and search for “(store name) discount or coupon” there because many blogs (mine included) sometimes pass along coupon codes. Click here and bookmark it so you’ll always see the coupon codes we’ve offered at MyMomShops.
Tip #3: Ask for Discounts.
OK, so you haven’t found a discount code. Ask for one- it never hurts. Particularly at small e-boutiques or at Etsy storefronts, you never know if they might give you a discount, especially at holiday time when they’re thirsty for sales.
Tip #4: Shop at Amazon.com, and join Amazon.com Prime.
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved by paying the yearly $79 Amazon Prime fee. Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on huge array of items (in my experience, nearly all books, CDs, DVDs, and now many toys, too). So you don’t ever need the $25 minimum for free shipping, and you don’t need to order things weeks in advance. Forgot that a friend’s birthday is 3 days away? No problem. Use your Amazon Prime membership to send a $20 gift (no shipping fee) that will arrive in just 48 hours. The $79 fee will quickly pay for itself. Oh, and bookmark Amazon’s baby outlet and toy outlet.
Tip #5. Shop at Ebay for last season’s trends.
Do your kids really care that their clothing is from Fall ’09 instead of Fall ’10? Of course not. Ebay is a fantastic place to score deals on kids’ clothing of all brands. It works great for bigger chain brands like Gymboree or Janie & Jack. I’ve ordered some of R’s favorite clothing from past Gymboree seasons in bigger sizes thanks to Ebay. And it’s much cheaper than it was the first time around. Plus, for holiday toys, you can often find toys that are sold out elsewhere online (and last year’s hot toys- which are still appealing to the little kids- are now cheaper).
Tip #6. Visit the “Deals of the Day” sites.
There’s a new crop of sites that offer one or two baby/kids items each day, heavily discounted. You have to check them regularly to see what they’re selling and then act fast, but it’s worth it. Some of the ones I frequent myself are BabySteals.com, MamaBargains.com, and Zulily.
Tip #7. Check Facebook and Twitter for deals at your favorite sites.
Lots of shops have their own Facebook and Twitter pages where they post exclusive deals, sales, and coupon codes. You wouldn’t see these otherwise, even if you subscribe to their newsletter. So check your favorite site’s homepages to see if they link to Facebook or Twitter, and then follow them. Another great person to follow on Twitter is MomsWhoSave who always posts amazing deals and freebies.
Tip #8. DON’T buy in bulk.
I’ve been burned by this. I find a deal on a great toy and then I buy ten of them, thinking I’ll stock up for birthday gifts. Trouble is, there always ends up being some reason why the gift is not really the right gift for the kids whose birthday is coming up. Better to buy smaller amounts so you don’t feel pressured to make gifts “fit.” The exception would be for baby gifts. If you find an awesome, non-personalized baby gift for peanuts, scoop up lots of it…in both pink and blue.
Tip #9. Go cheap on gift wrap and cards.
Don’t get me wrong- you know I’m a paperphile and love nothing more than gorgeous luxury gift-wrap and cards. But I can’t afford to use it all the time. Instead, I stock up on discount gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift wrap at Jack’s 99 Cent Store or at The Current Catalog. I use gift labels (much cheaper than individual cards) or even make my own using plain white labels that the kids decorate.
Tip #10. Read this blog.
Of course, I had to add this. I’ve always been proud that MyMomShops is not a “snobby” blog. I post beautiful things, but sometimes they just happen to come from Target or Kohls. If you love shopping but are watching every dollar, I think you’ll like what I post. Check out our holiday gift picks, including toys, teacher gifts, hostess gifts, and plenty of items under $25.
That’s it for now. I hope this has given you some confidence about saving money this holiday season. I will post more tips in the comments here as I think of them, and I encourage you to do the same. What helps you save money shopping online during the holidays?