Tag Archives: World Market

Seven Things to Do Now to Save for the Holidays Next Year

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend approximately $700 on Christmas gifts and goodies this year. For some people, maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot of money. But these days, I don’t have that kind of extra money to spend in one month. And I prefer not adding to my debt just to add to someone else’s material possessions.

My parents had to buy for six children plus each other. But I don’t remember so many “other people” expecting something simply because they happen to be in your life. I remember my mom putting something in a card for the mailman, and my dad would always get a bottle of whiskey or some other liquor for the guys who picked up trash. But even with all that, I can’t imagine they spent anywhere near $700! Of course those were different times. It seems now, we’re expected to give something to our kids’ teachers, coaches, babysitters, and our own co-workers, neighbors, hair stylist or barber; not to mention friends, and family members.

I’m single. I don’t have to buy for kids, and all but one of my 19 nieces and nephews are young adults; some starting families of their own. We live in six different states so I don’t feel the pressure to try to buy something for everyone. But when you add buying food for the parties, gas for traveling; gifts, wrappings, and decorations, the spending can still creep up on you, especially if you have a growing list of friends, business associates, coworkers, and church community groups.

So how do you make and keep a budget and still find ways to have fun and enjoy being with friends and family over the holidays? Planning!

 “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” 

So here are seven things you can do to save for the holidays now, and plan for the holidays next year!

1.  Join a Rewards Program. Better Yet, Join Several of Them!

I know some people don’t like reward programs. I’ve never really understood why. Maybe they think the business is tracking them. Newsflash. If you’re online. If you have an email, or are on social media. If you have a cell phone. You are being tracked. Joining reward programs now gives you coupons later. Not only do many businesses give free treats, discounts, savings on gas, or money to spend for things like your anniversary date and birthdays, but many have special higher discounts and giveaways during Christmastime. silver ornament

I got this ornament from World Market this year, just for being a rewards member. No purchase necessary! 

2.  Buy Hostess, Teacher, and Coaches Gifts Throughout the Year.

Nothing says you have to wait until Black Friday to start shopping for Christmas. When you see sales or drastic discounts on items that would make a good gift, go ahead and buy it — in March; in July; in whatever month you discover it. The person receiving the first isn’t going to ask if you got it at the Labor Day sale! Spend time during the year also looking for store closing sales. With the right timing, you can find items for as much as 75-90 percent off!

3.  Host an Ornament and Decorations Exchange Party.

This one can be fun. You know how every few years you decide your tree looks boring or you want to change up the way you’ve been decorating the house over the years? Well, have some friends over with the directive for them to go through their Christmas boxes and collect the ornaments, wreaths, decorations — anything they no longer use year-to-year. Everyone brings the items they’re interested in getting rid of, and spreads them out across the table. Then everyone goes around and picks through things that the other person no longer wants. At the end of the night, not only have you managed to squeeze in another girls’ night, but all of you go home with new ornaments, different decorations, and fresh ideas to deck your halls!

bright-christmas-balls-christmas-decoration

4.  Have a Pot-Luck Dinner Party.

Instead of taking on the burden of planning and paying for a dinner party yourself, make it a potluck. Pick a theme, have everyone bring a dish that works with the theme, and you provide the Christmas atmosphere of music, lights, and smells. Don’t worry about buying a candle; just boil some cinnamon and cloves on the stove! By sharing the parts of the meal, no one person is footing the entire bill. And that also means less time in the kitchen cooking and baking.

5.  Save Christmas Gift Bags to Use Again.

Okay, I know most of you are probably already doing this, but if you’re not, you need to start! There’s no shame to reusing gift bags. Just remember to remove the name card from it. I actually save colorful tissue papers as well. Again, when you’re packaging it up for someone, they aren’t going to know or even care when or if you bought the bag that their gift is in. I think I’ve even returned the same bag to someone the following year. It was perfect for their gift. So why not? 

6.  Buy Christmas Cards, Wrappings, and Ribbons at the End of the Season.

The best deals on holiday items is right before the holidays (when they’re trying to get rid of last year’s inventory), and right after the holidays, (when they don’t want to store any remains of this year’s inventory). Make room in your attic, closet, or garage, and pick up items that are drastically marked down. That will be one less thing to worry about the following year, and you would have saved yourself a lot of money.

Christmas snow flake packages

7.  Make a List. Check it Twice!

Create a list and put people’s names in the order of priority. Stick with your list of who you’re buying a gift for, and in what price range you’re spending. That way you don’t end up leaving anyone out, but also, controlled discipline of not adding more people to your gift list later. Budget even what you’re willing to spend on food items for those parties, and which events (movies, theater, light shows) you’re spending money on. Then try to find things to do with your friends and family that are free.

Cutting back and spending less, doesn’t have to mean not having a great time over the holidays. I think it forces creativity and thoughtfulness. But remember that the first step to not over spending is planning. The next step is sticking to your plan. Look for other ways to save money and still have a wonderful Christmastime!

 

Advertisements

Every Day’s a Good Day to Save Money

I love freebies! I know, I know. How can you tell? But seriously, I’m all about saving money, finding discounts, using coupons, and getting FREE stuff! Whether that’s birthday freebies, like I took advantage of last month. Or earned rewards freebie from several places I normally shop. I get a big rush when I see the register ring up items, and I don’t have to hand over any money. Sometimes, with taxes, I may have to reach for some pennies and nickels, but not dollars. That’s always my goal.

I actually wish I was more organized and more disciplined to really keep up with which store was running a sale at the exact same time that I’ve collected coupons.  I know I could be saving so much more money. When I do get lucky enough to do that, I love watching the register go in the negative direction. Just the other day I picked up a large container of laundry detergent, regular price of $6.99, but it was on sale for $4.99. On top of that I had a $1.00 off coupon for that brand, so I paid only $3.99! That’s a three dollar savings because of timing and coupons. With today’s increasing gas prices, $3.00 represents another gallon of gas to me!

One of the reasons I love shopping at Kroger so much is the earned points on gas, the in-store savings each week, and the coupons they send in the mail. Part of their rewards program that I’ve been enjoying taking advantage of is the Friday Downloads!  

For a while I thought it would be one power bar after the next, after a couple of weeks of candy bars (which I don’t eat, but shared with my students). I’d almost given up, until recently they’ve had more things that I’ve enjoyed and actually use, like Tic Tac gum and one of the flavored waters. Last month, the downloads included a full loaf of bread, and a regular size of the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice.

Getting something for free each week is nice, but this week, I was able to get several items for (almost) free at a retail outlet.

At World Market, I had my eye on some wooden baskets that had been marked down several weeks ago. I used one a few weeks ago to put together a birthday basket for a friend. The marked down price was already nice. But using my own birthday rewards money to get the items was even nicer.

IMG_6690So when I returned there, I planned to grab a few more of them while they were on sale. I liked that they were wooden and a great alternative to the gift bag world we have turned in to . “Buy a gift. Stuff it into a bag. Maybe add some tissue paper. Call it a day!”  

I like that the wooden basket offers a second chance use other than just holding the goodies.

So much to my surprise, not only did they still have several baskets left, but they had been moved to a special SALES table — 50% OFF of the red tag sale price! Jackpot!

Suddenly my large $7.99 basket that had already been marked down to $3.98 earlier, was only $1.99! And the smaller ones that had been $4.99 before being marked down to $2.49 were only $1.24. But also, for some reason, the pink colored one was no longer an “in” color, according to what the sales clerk told me! So they had marked those down even lower! But wait! There’s more. Two days earlier I received a 15% off the total sales coupon! What a pleasant surprise.

Two large and two small decorative wooden baskets later, along with three speciality bars of soap, and I went back for a small glass lantern I’d seen on the table too. 

IMG_7106

I knew if my calculations were correct, it should come to about ten dollars. But my goal wasn’t just to go shopping to spend $10.00.My goal was to spend the exact amount of my rewards coupon — which was ten dollars. It was FREE money to be spent, and I wasn’t about to let it expire.

And exactly how did I end up with ten dollars in rewards in a non-birthday month?

Well after winning the search for the World Market golden Llama back in June, and winning money with that, I received an additional rewards coupon for being an Explorer member! I mean, basically they rewarded me twice for finding the golden ticket. Now that’s what I call a pretty good rewards program; one that gives you money just for being a member, as opposed to racking up mounds of shopping debt before earning anything!

When the register rang up, my total, with taxes? Forty-six cents! Yes, just 46 cents for stuff I’ll actually use. The pear soap has already found its way into the guest bathroom, and one of the small baskets is being used in the guest bedroom for guests to have a place for their keys, cell phones, and stuff. The large basket has found its place on the desk in my bedroom, holding books, journals, and notecards. 

You can live on a budget, and still shop for fun stuff, and find great gifts without running up your credit card, if you stop and take the time to join reward programs, search online (or for old school — in the newspaper) for coupons, and keep an eye out for when your favorite stores run sales.

One birthday month regret I do have is not getting to use my ten dollar Chico’s coupon. I went to use it one day but couldn’t find anything in that price range. I did find a pair of earrings that were on sale, but they wouldn’t apply the store percentage on the remaining amount after the coupon, so it left me owing $5.00. She tried to explain why it rang up the way it did, but all I thought about was the fact that I didn’t go in there to spend five dollars. I was there just to spend the money from the coupon, and couldn’t justify spending extra money just to be able to use the coupon. So I left with nothing.

If you’re shopping just to shop, and end up spending money you wouldn’t have normally spent just to use a coupon, then you lose. It’s not a saving if you spent money to get something you’re only buying because you have a coupon. Resist the temptation to fall into that trap.

Maybe coupons aren’t for everyone. And I’ve had a friend tell me she doesn’t sign up for rewards programs because she doesn’t want to get all the emails. I don’t mind emails from places I shop (and I don’t sign up for programs at places where I don’t), if it means saving money on things I need. But whatever you decide, if you want to get serious about saving money, then you need to get serious about making a plan for how you’re going to do it.  Saving is one thing. Spending wisely is another. You can do both. Just be strategic. It’s worth it. And you can still have fun while doing it!

Free Shopping Days of Christmas

Don’t let the word “shopping” fool you! I’m not advocating going out and spending a lot of money this Christmas season. Quite the opposite. Because I’ve never quite understood why people will run up their credit cards to buy lots of things for many people who either don’t need what you’re buying for them, or would have loved a lesser priced gift from you. And for those with higher expectations, including family members, you have to ask yourself what do they value more — the monetary amount of a gift you can barely afford, or spending time together with an understanding that the holiday season isn’t a license to go further into debt, as so many Americans do!

I recently shared on the Catching Raindrops Facebook page that twice in the last three weeks Thorntons Gas has dropped a six cents off fuel rewards on my card. Both times it happened the day I needed to gas up! Just the other day, another one appeared. I may not need to gas up yet, but topping off my half tank before it expires tomorrow will still be beneficial! Last month I got a free cup of coffee from there as well. Then there was two weeks ago when I got a coupon from Kirkland’s for ten dollars! What great timing, because I need a new pair of gloves. I would never have thought to go there for clothing items, but just this morning, an email of sale items appeared? Not only were gloves listed on sale for FIVE DOLLARS, but so was a pair of women’s slippers, which I also need. So I’ll be getting two more things I need — for FREE! That’s MY kind of shopping.

Earlier this month I hit up Bath & Body Works and their $4.95 sale on aromatherapy products (these items are regularly $12.00-$15.00; and more), and was glad to be able to use my buy one get one free coupon which I’d been holding on to for the right moment. So YES, I got TWO aromatherapy products (i.e. Christmas gifts) that would have cost me over $25.00, instead for just $4.95!

And at Cost Plus World Market, after some “smart shopping” purchasing several bags of coffee for friends during their buy one get one free sale, I ended up earning another free BAG of coffee on my account for myself! But that wasn’t the end of my World Market venture. While there, I noticed an in-store treasure hunt, in search of the Golden Llama. I was too late for that day, but four days later, I decided to show up when the store opened. Yeah, there were about six other women with the same idea, but as the door opened, with the clue of the Llama being seen near something green, I decided to try my luck. While most of the ladies started near the front of the store, I headed straight to the back, looking at everything green. I found one! What started off as a silly game and marketing ploy, of course, won me TWENTY DOLLARS in shopping money! Okay, I admit I wish it had been one of the $50 or $100 rewards, but $20 was better than nothing! And apparently FREE money counts because later that day I had earned a TEN DOLLAR coupon to use later!


So why am I sharing all of this. Well, I’ve talked often about the benefits of joining Rewards programs before. Times like these are when I like sharing specific benefits to these programs. They’re free to join and you get rewarded for doing what you already do — shopping, getting gas, etc. I don’t join programs for places I don’t already visit. But getting rewarded — in other words, saving money — for engaging places I go to anyway makes perfect financial sense! It’s the very essence of catching raindrops in water buckets!

Sunday, June 8th…

Today is my birthday. Every day is someone’s birthday, so mine is no more special than the next person — except maybe to me, of course. But what I’ve learned over the past few years is that you’re not the only person who thinks they’re special on their birthday; and neither are your friends and family. Restaurants, retail spots, and even some companies are so interested in getting more of your business, that THEY think you’re special too! And for that, you can use it to your advantage in catching these raindrops in your water buckets.

I’ve shared how I feel about Rewards programs before. But in case you’re not sure — I LOVE THEM and encourage people to sign up for the most helpful, useful, and practical ones for you (not all programs are best options for everyone) — whether that’s saving money on your gas bill because of your food purchases; getting make-up products for free; or earning a free bagel at your favorite breakfast spot. But what I’m talking about today are all of those special meals and treats awarded to you just because it’s your birthday! There’s nothing you have to do (once you’ve signed up), except just wait every 365 days to cash in.

And while I haven’t even begun to take advantage of everything that’s out there for birthday anniversaries, the week leading up to my actual birth date has been filled with plenty of money-saving free stuff just there for my taking. You see, most companies give you anywhere from a week to a full month to cash in on your birthday surprises. And if you time them right, you could spend an entire day eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks, out on the town, and never spend a dime.

Let me tell you a little of my adventure. Last year my sister, whose birth date is one week before mine, turned me on to Red Robin’s Birthday burger. Sign up for their program and they’ll send you an email every year with a coupon for one of their FREE burgers. And least you think it’s a trap to get you into the restaurant (which of course, that’s where they’d love for you to be) to get you to spend more money, this year we actually phoned our order in from the gym where we’d just worked out, and then went by to pick our sandwiches up on the way home. I had the Turkey burger and it was fabulous! One FREE dinner down; several other freebies to go.

A day before my Red Robin experience, I bought $10.31 worth of merchandise at the World Market, using my $10.00 birthday coupon. To get my money’s worth, I went straight to the Clearance table and picked up some items that were marked down 55%. So for just 31 centsI picked up some chips, popcorn, and Italian soda for the movie night we had planned. 

The next morning, on my way to go spend some time visiting my parents’ gravesite, I stopped by Starbucks and used my birthday rewards points for a Frappucino which came in handy sitting out in the hot sun. What was really cool about the Starbucks surprise is that they gave two rewards — one for in-store and another (which I haven’t claimed yet) for online! Later that afternoon, I stopped in on Honeybaked Ham to redeem my FREE birthday sandwich, which I saved until the next day, and ate for breakfast during my almost 500 miles travel back to TN. That saved me money and the time making an extra stop.

When I got back from SC, I had an email from Applebee’s waiting for me for a FREE birthday dessert — no purchase necessary (the best kind of “freebie!”). And if that wasn’t enough, one of my new favorite local places to get gas is Thorntons, who also loaded something on my car. I originally joined their rewards program for the free coffee. But since then, they’ve revamped things, and now, I get freebies dropped on my card a couple of times a year. This is my first “birthday year” with them, and what awaits me is 10 cents off per gallon of gas! It’s almost time for a fill up, because I of course made sure to run my tank down as low as possible before utilizing the birthday discount.

And that brings me to today; my actual birthday. Circumstances were such that I did not do anything with the friends who I would normally go out to eat with. So I treated myself to a FREE meal at iHop. Though the coupon called for a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancake special, the fine print gave option to order anything up to the cash amount of the same. Always read the fine print. So I enjoyed a very filling plate of chicken and waffles for lunch. I could have ordered an omelette or even a salad too! The only money I spent was on the tip for the waitress who was a pleasure. But what sweetened the deal even more is that the receipt had a survey on the bottom that once I complete, I’ll get yet another coupon to return for one FREE short stack of pancakes. How great is that?!

So what’s the moral of this story? SIGN UP! Create a separate email account, if you will, so that you don’t have to be bothered with any extra emails throughout the year. But take advantage of these freebies — and sign up your significant others so they can take advantage of it too. Because when your birthday comes around, and you realize that if planned according, you could eat free for an entire day, or spread your fortune around for an entire week, it will start making sense and be more than worthwhile for you to do it. And if you don’t personally want to “eat,” all of this, treat a friend!

And to think, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of all that’s out there. Next year, I’m going in search of more retailing opportunities! My philosophy is, “money saved is money earned for something else!”