2016-11-18

The holidays are exciting. The season starts with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to ignore. The decorations go up, the lists are made, the music streams and the well meaning, philanthropic, intentions declared.

Then reality sets in.

Time gets away. Shoppers scramble to fill their list, they overspend, forget to volunteer and swear the next year will be different.

What if planning ahead will not only save money, but holiday spirit by discounting chaos and promoting time well spent? The following will save the holiday shopper money and so much more.

1. The best new website to check out this season is www.jet.com. Jet was just recently launched in July 2015. This New Jersey based, online retailer does not specifically categorize itself as a discount site. However, there are across the board 4 to 5% average savings, free shipping on orders over $35 and a huge variety of products with strong brand appeal. Additionally, Jet’s ‘Jet Anywhere’ Program allows shoppers to earn ‘Jet Credit’ when they shop with any of 600 plus partnering retailers across the web. Retailers such as, Saks, Nike, QVC and 1-800-Flowers.com.

Jet offers groceries, baby products, skincare, books, games, electronics, sports and fitness products and more. The customer service is superior and unlike any online retailer currently out there. It is hugely individualized and comprehensive and will walk a customer patiently through their first jet.com experience.

Keep in mind when shopping on Jet this season that this is a newly launched site which is gaining great popularity so shop early and ahead of time to guarantee products and delivery. In addition, potentially gauge extra time since part of the savings are attributed to products being delivered from different distribution centers.

Finally, Jet is also the perfect place to buy and send huge care packages to college kids, young families, parents, etc. due to the fact that all shipping is included for over $35 purchases. Therefore, gone are the days of buying $100 worth of groceries just to spend an additional $25 to $40 to send it. Love that Jet makes sending love simpler and cheaper.

2. The best way to save the absolute most on groceries while maximizing the volume purchased is to shop at three stores. Initially, this takes a bit of extra effort, but the benefit of shopping at three different grocery stores will be well worth it. First, take a look online or in print at what all three stores are offering as specials/discounts for the week. Then proceed to each different grocery store and buy the special and sale items for each store.

This is especially cost effective when combined with coupons.

The typical shopper goes to one grocery store and the sale items purchased are often offset by the regular priced items. This simple and efficient strategy yields a perpetually overstocked pantry within months of utilizing this system. This is amplified by taking advantage of the buy one get one free or buy one get one half off offers at each grocery store.

3. No one enjoys a vast amount of what is considered e-mail junk mail. However, today there are significant savings being offered online and retailers are doing this through major e-mail campaigns.

The solution? Create an e-mail account strictly for budgetary savings. If ever there was a time this was worthwhile, it is now. Many major retailers such as, Foot Locker, Sports Authority, South Moon Under, Vineyard Vines, Bloomingdales, Barnes & Noble, etc. offer incredibly frequent and substantial savings for online purchases. In addition, many also offer free shipping and free returns.

The incentive to take advantage of these savings and shop online not only saves money, but offers savings with more expensive brands (such as Vineyard Vines) which are hard to come by. It is also common that these retailers (i.e., Silver Diner, PF Chang’s, Bare Minerals) send free Birthday gifts or discounts. So make a dedicated e-mail to receive and take advantage of these offers and sign up for the customer loyalty programs with retailers like this. As soon as they come in either print them and keep a folder in the car or access them via mobile phone.

4. Restaurants push gift cards this time of year and often offer a free gift card to do so. For instance, PF Chang's promotes their $100 worth of gift cards with a $20 bonus card. Instead of thinking of these offers strictly as gifts for others, buy them for personal use and savings. If a family enjoys PF Chang's and purchases $200 in gift cards they will have $240 worth of gift cards and additional savings to use in the new year. That provides a 20% future dining savings.

Morton’s offers a $50 gift card with the purchase of a $250 gift card. Again, a 20% savings and incentive. Silver Diner offers a $5 gift card with the purchase of $25. Another reason to stock up? It’s uncommon to get routine restaurant savings, let alone 20% savings.

Another way to save at restaurants is order an appetizer instead of an entree. Appetizers can be hardy, especially with today's super sized portions, and save significant money off the bill.

5. There are massive opportunities to save on beauty products during the holiday season. Take for example, the drugstore.

Brands such as Nivea, Dove, etc. promote their multi-product combination sets available only during the holiday season. These typically retail from $9.99 to $14.99. In truth, these can include more than $30 in product. Stop looking at these offers as just holiday gifts. Instead, purchase three sets for $30 and save $60 or more over the next year.

Department stores also offer substantial savings and goodies. To name just a few, Kiehl’s, Estee Lauder, Clinique, etc. Stock up on skin care products, expensive makeup, shampoo, conditioners, and perfumes. The gifts with purchase, such as Estee Lauder provides more value for the dollar than any other time of the year.

6. Step out of individual shopping comfort zones. This means before shopping this season do a comprehensive retail field trip. Most individuals shop at the same stores again and again.

The truth is bargain stores aren't always a bargain and more expensive stores aren’t always more expensive. The sales at more expensive stores can yield savings even better than discount stores especially combined with customer loyalty programs.

Take a trip to the malls and retail strip malls surrounding the area to get an accurate feel for current pricing and deals. For instance, Bloomingdales often has sales and extra loyalty coupons which make their specials as reasonable as stores with discounted merchandise and the quality and selection is far superior.

Get out of comfort and into knowledge or true area stores and pricing.

7. Do the retail product version of the three shop, grocery store model. If the holiday season includes a lot of sports products on Santa’s list then shop all three of Santa’s sports stores and add in an online retailer for good measure.

Just as buying the regular priced grocery items cancel out the sale product savings, so it is in regular retail.

So research online and print values and specials and sale items at three local sports retailers and then one online sports retailer. Take the time to get the savings at each location.

This is time intensive for individual items. However, if purchasing multiple items in the same industry, i.e., sports, technology, etc. it is time well spent and money well saved.

8. The best time of year to save on magazines is the holiday season. The savings which subscriptions offer over retail magazine purchasing can be triple or more.

The holidays are the perfect time to justify this ridiculously inexpensive gift. A favorite cooking magazine may only be $15 for the entire year rather than $5 each month at the grocery store. An inspiring subscription to O Magazine pennies on the dollar to have monthly comfort arrive in the mailbox.

The hard to buy for guy? How could he not love a subscription to Sports Illustrated, Inc., etc.

A great gift for the entire family? A full family, united subscription to Health, Prevention, Dr. Oz, etc. Each month the magazine arrives and is a reminder of the gift given and the family banding together for a healthier, happier New Year for each of them. It’s a far better gift than a trinket and so much less expensive.

9. Consumers have gotten used to shopping with liquids. Coffee shops and tea shops are part of the every day experience, let alone the holiday experience.

However, rather than go for the ones that charge $4 per drink, seek out places such as "The Corner Bakery." It is one of many places that not only offer cheaper coffee and tea, but refills.

That savings and those refills also extend to cold beverages, such as iced tea.

There is lots of money to be saved in looking for more traditional restaurant outlets that also serve these beverages rather than visiting the expensive specialty chains. Look for spots to get basic coffee and tea and purchase there. Also, when having lunch or dinner during holiday shopping ask if there are take out refills for the meal beverage ordered.

Another benefit? These beverages don’t contain the tremendous amount of sugar pumped into many of the specialty beverages.

10. Make a list of individual expenses above and beyond gift giving and then strategize and prioritize. For instance, is a $60 tree necessary when Home Depot has $29 ones that are gorgeous? Nails for that holiday party? Try a gel manicure which is slightly more only will last the entire month of December so really a savings. Flowers for the table? Or would a longer lasting, more creative table scape provide longer decoration and more savings.

Take that list a step further and begin holiday shopping with a comprehensive list of gift giving. Don’t just dart out and spend. Instead, pour a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, make a new objective of holiday strategizing before spending.

The time doing that will yield more time to spend with those loved not just spend on them.

Planning ahead and researching holiday spending has many benefits. It absolutely takes more work and planning, but it saves and maximizes holiday dollars. That savings can be tucked away for future plans or spent on an extravagant, additional holiday gift for someone special.

Savings is always an admirable objective. To spend wisely is to be accountable and plan. The great news about today’s economy, the internet, and shopping is that value shopping is no longer just a smart choice. The new economy via e-mail, mobile, etc. has made it so available that shame on Santa’s helpers who don’t try to take advantage of just a wee bit of it

So Santa’s helpers can spend their time even more wisely.

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