Good Housekeeping NOV 11, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
With these strategies and secrets, you’ll be able to spread more joy with less cash
By Carmen Wong Ulrich
Get It For Less
Even if you don’t consider yourself a techie, you owe it to yourself to check out these three tools. As you’ll see, your computerand smartphone can help save you time, hassle, and money — just like GH! — during this jolly season:
1 Keep track of your holiday lists and get the best possible prices with a little help from Springpad(springpad.com; iPhone and Android, free). Via either the app or the website itself, you can drag items into however many virtual gift lists you decide to create. Springpad sends you alerts to tell you when and exactly where prices for your selected items have been lowered, or if coupons or other special offers have become available.
I decided to check it out by tracking a toy for my daughter, Bianca — specifically, the Crayola Color Wonder Sound Studio. It was first listed at $35, but I received an alert a day later that I could nab it for $17.38 through the end of the month. That’s less than half the original price — sweet!
2 The Amazon Wish List enables you to make gift lists and monitor price reductions on amazon.com’s beloved mega marketplace. Your friends and family can share links to the lists of presents they hope to receive. You can click on whatever gifts you’re thinking about getting them, easily creating your own list. Amazon will track the items on your master list and tell you when their prices drop.
I followed a new Keurig Special Edition B60 Brewing System (a great gift from the whole family for my coffee-loving dad). At first, the lowest price was $135, which was already almost 50% off the suggested retail price. Then, two days later, the price dropped another $5 — not a huge amount, I have to admit, but saving that much on every single gift on your list could add up to one very merry holiday.
3 RedLaser and ShopSavvy(redlaser.com and shopsavvy.com; iPhone and Android, free) first allow smartphone users to scan bar codes while trolling the aisles at a store; then they magically track down lower prices — whether online, at other re-tailers, or even at the very same store, thanks to special discount codes and the like. It’s a brilliant way to avoid endless shopping around (plus the cost of gas) or hours of Web surfing when you’re looking for that special gift.
Avoid This Sneaky Retail Trick!
Retail stores have a clever way to get you to spend more: the “decoy effect.” Behavioral research conducted by Dan Ariely, Ph.D., of Duke University, has shown that when customers are given a choice between two products, one of which is priced lower and is of lower quality (say, an MP3 player that holds fewer songs), they’ll often choose the cheaper one. But when a third (decoy) item is introduced at an even higher price, shoppers are more likely to opt for the mid-priced one — that is, adding another product nudges shoppers up the price scale instead of making them stick with the bargain buy. So think carefully when you see a display of products at varied prices, and hold steady at the price you can afford.
Be an ANGEL This Season
Let’s say your retired dad, who has a bad back, really needs his yard cared for, but because he’s on a fixed income, he can’t afford it. Here’s a plan: Create a page on GoFundMe (gofundme.com) to help raise the money. GoFundMe is a site where you can set up a project — like “Save Dad’s Lawn!” — and invite friends and relatives to donate toward your set goal (say, $500 for the coming year). Thousands of people have used it, so this season, put it to work for a loved one in your circle.
More ways to snag gifts that’ll please the recipient and your wallet
• Shop on December 17 That’s when hundreds of merchants, including Lands’ End and Kohl’s, will ship for free (yet still in time for holiday delivery). Visit freeshippingday.com.
• Buy online for exclusive extras Shopathome.com gives you 3% to 30% cash back on purchases at thousands of online retailers, from macys.com to target.com. You’ll be sent a check once you’re owed $20 or more. At press time, we hit shopathome.com and saw 8% cash back at Lancôme — so if you spend $190 on two large bottles of Trésor Eau de Parfum Spray (for your mom and your sister) after activating the shopathome.com coupon, you’ll get about $15 in your refund kitty so you can buy a treat later. But be patient: Checks go out about two months after a purchase.
Also, apple.com offers free engraving on iPads and iPods only at its cybermarket, not in stores.
• Earn loyalty bucks The Friday through Saturday after Thanksgiving, members of Sears Shop Your Way who spend $50 or more in-store will earn $10 in points, redeemable the next Sunday through Thursday. Put that dough toward another gift!
• Shop deep discounts Santa’s elves told us Garnet Hill will mark down its cuddly Snowflake Throw, a toasty gift, from $78 to $39 until December 20.
• Get ready for giveaways On Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), stores are offering a cascade of sparkly bonuses, even in the dark of night. This year, Bath & Body Works will provide VIP gift bags for $20 with any $40 purchase. With a retail value of $110, the bags include full-size products for women and men, plus a candle and a loofah. So in one fell swoop, you can plump a few stockings.
— Alice Garbarini Hurley