Turn last year’s Christmas cards into this year’s Christmas garland. Here’s how:
For years, I’ve done Christmas for under $100, but this year, I’ve decided to do Christmas for free. That’s free Christmas gifts, free wrapping supplies and as much of the food for free as I’m able to swing (I’ll have a bunch of out-of-town guests to feed, so that’s a bit trickier).
Now, I know that may sound crazy or impossible, but I’m already off to a great start. Here are some of the gifts that I’ve tucked away in my gift closet:
47 K-cups 54 K-cups- My parents bought a Keurig last year, so I started looking for opportunities to score free K-cups. So far, I’ve snagged two free 16-count boxes after sale, coupon and rebate (yay!), plus a bunch more cups from free sample offers. We’re still several months away from Christmas, so I can’t wait to see how many I end up with.
Lotions and Potions Galore – Anytime Bath & Body Works or Crabtree and Evelyn puts out a coupon for a free product, I’m there. CVS and Target have also had some nice free-after-coupon deals that I’ve taken advantage of. I could use all of this to make one monster-sized gift basket, but I’ll probably divide it up into several small gift baskets, instead. My 10-year-old niece loves B&BW stuff, so I definitely have her covered.
Bike Tires – My husband is a bike commuter, so his big wish was for a new set of tires for his bike. I used a $25 Amazon gift card that I got for free to buy them, and I still have some money left on the card for another gift!
A flashlight – We discovered this particular brand of flashlights (Life Gear) earlier this year, and they’re really neat. They run on little button batteries, instead of the big and bulky C or D batteries, so they’re light-weight, and you don’t have to spend a gazillion bucks on batteries. You’re supposed to be able to get 400 hours of use out of them before the batteries have to be replaced, so we’ll see. At any rate, I grabbed this one for my husband, and I plan to grab two of the smaller ones for my daughters (both Girl Scouts).
Brave on Blu-ray- Both of my kiddos were excited when they heard Brave was coming out, so I was determined to find a way to snag a free copy, and I’m happy to say I pulled it off. I ordered it from Amazon.com for $19.99 (with free shipping), and I’ll be submitting two movie rebates: a $10 rebate from Kelloggs and a $5 rebate from Honeysuckle White. The money I had left on my free Amazon gift card after buying my husband’s bike tires was enough to cover the rest.
Horton Hears a Who DVD- My youngest daughter is crazy about Horton, so when Amazon slashed the price of the movie down to $3.99, I didn’t think twice about using some of my remaining $5.50 credit to buy it.
3 Vera Bradley Bags – While I was helping clean out a rental property, I came across a Vera Bradley tote bag, backback and handbag. Score! My family doesn’t mind – and actually prefers – second-hand gifts, so these will be perfect for my girls. Can’t wait to surprise them with these on Christmas Day!
My oldest daughter asked for a magic kit. Everywhere I looked they were $25 or more. Ouch! I finally spotted one at TJ Maxx for $9.99, and what luck – I had a $25 TJ Maxx card that I’d gotten with Coke Rewards.
Customized Greeting Cards – Cardstore ran a promo code for 12 free holiday greeting cards. I sifted through their collection, and found these cute penguin cards – just the thing for my penguin loving 10-year-old.
Guitar Wall Hooks – Both of my kiddos are taking free guitar lessons this year, so I picked up a guitar wall hook for each of them with some of my Amazon gift card credit.
Pink Storage Containers – My eight-year-old is a collector of minutiae (Polly Pockets, itty bitty doll shoes, Legos), so when I came across these little boxes on clearance at Office Depot, I knew they’d be perfect for her. I paid for them with My Worklife Rewards.
A locker shelf – My oldest daughter has a locker for the first time this year. That means she’s always on the prowl for cool locker accessories. When I spotted this locker shelf on clearance for $2 at Office Depot, I knew it was time to pull out some more of my rewards.
4 Reams of Colored Paper – Both of my daughters are artsy, so art supplies are a can’t-miss gift. Every time Staples runs a free-after-rewards deal on their pastel paper, I run over to pick up a pack. I’m up to four, and there are still lots more colors to choose from. Bring on the next rebate!
2 packs of Rainbow Pens – These rainbow gel pens were also courtesy of a free-after-rewards Staples deal. There was a limit of two, so I was able to grab a pack for each kiddo. Nice!
More Art Supplies – Continuing on with all of my Staples freebies, I used $21 in rewards to buy two packs of oil pastels, two packs of drawing pencils and a pack of charcoal pencils. I plan to split everything between my kids, and let me tell you … they are going to be majorly excited to get “real” art supplies.
A Beezus & Ramona Book – We’re a family or readers, so this copy of Beezus & Ramona is another can’t-miss gift. It came from the same rental clean up as the Vera bags. Who knew a little cleaning could be so rewarding?
An Exercise Ball and Resistance Band – My oldest daughter is a huge yoga nut, so I’m going to score major points with this gift. The exercise ball was free at Sears after a Facebook coupon. The resistance band was a freebie from a vitamin company.
An Olay Gift Set – Combine an after-Christmas sale (last year) with a rebate offer, and you end up with a free Olay gift set. This will be going to my Mom.
A Baby Doll, Stroller and Stuffed Animal – My neighbor gave us this baby doll, stroller and monkey stuffed animal after a former tenant left them behind. They’re all new with the tags, and perfect for my little niece. I’ll probably give her the baby doll this Christmas, and save the stroller and monkey for when she’s a bit bigger.
I used one of the $10 holiday certificates that I won from the JCP button sweepstakes to buy this remote controlled stunt car for one of my nephews. It was on clearance for $8, so I paired it with a $2 pack of hair elastics (which I’ll add to my gift closet for later).
Want to see what else I was able to get for free? Check back throughout the season for regular updates. I have lots more freebies to share with you.
Everyone’s coming to my house for Christmas this year (and staying for several days), but I’m determined to do as much of the food as I can for free. Here’s what I’ve scored so far:
I was lucky enough to score a free $25 American Express gift card to use on Small Business Saturday. I used it to buy two pounds of Amish butter, a quart of honey and a jar of fancy mustard from a small, locally owned grocery store. I added the two pears (to be enjoyed now) to bring the total up to $25.
BzzAgent invited me to participate in their Private Selection (a Kroger brand) holiday campaign. As part of that, they sent me a mix of products and free product coupons. Here’s what I got:
- a jar of blue-cheese stuffed olives
- a box of crackers
- a jar of pasta sauce
- a bag of Costa Rican coffee
- a coupon for cheese (which I’ll redeem closer to Christmas)
I was hoping to harvest some free pecans this year, but that didn’t work out, so I used some of my ECBs to buy a bag of pecans and a bag of walnuts. The pecans will be used to make a chocolate pecan pie. Not sure what I’ll make with the walnuts yet.
Every beverage in these pictures was free. That’s:
- (4) 2L bottles of soda (free after coupons)
- (2) fancy bottles of water (free after coupons)
- (1) Gatorade (free after ECBs)
- (1) Powerade (free after ECBs)
- (2) Starbuck’s Refreshers (free after ECBs)
- (1) bottle of wine (a gift)
- (4) cans of soda (free at an event, and not something we drink)
I’m going to stock our drink fridge, so everyone feels comfortable grabbing drinks whenever they want one.
We also hosted a Soda Stream House Party recently. Basically, they sent us a free soda maker and all the syrups, and we invited a bunch of our friends over to use it. It was a lot of fun, and now that the party is over, we have plenty of leftovers to use at Christmas.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but lots of the people coming to visit are. I’ve got that covered courtesy of several free sample requests. Once they’re gone, I’ll dip into my stash of free hotel coffee.
We always have sparkling cider at Christmas dinner, so I used some of my ECBs to pick up a bottle while it was on sale. I was actually hoping to snag two more, but they were out. I’ll have to hit another CVS this week.
I’d like to stock a big basket with snacks. So far, I’ve scored dried olives through a Facebook promotion and six cans of black olives. I’ll probably use some of the black olives for snacking and some for Christmas dinner.
This cinnamon raisin granola nut peanut butter will be delicious on toast, and is the first step towards feeding everyone a free breakfast.
Moving on to dessert …
This delicious german chocolate cake came to us courtesy of a cake walk.
So did this chocolate almond pie. It was made by our pastry chef neighbors, so I’m considering it a major score. I’ll stick both cake walk wins in the freezer, and pull them out closer to Christmas.
Wrap Up: I made a list of everything that I still needed, and headed off to the grocery store with two $25 gift cards that my husband got at work (one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas). Our out of pocket total came to $22.83. That’s enough food to feed nine people for four days, with several day’s worth of leftovers to boot. Not bad, but next year, I’m taking it down to zero.
I keep a couple rolls of wrapping paper on hand, but for the most part, I wrap my gifts in things that most people would throw away. It saves me some cash, and it cuts down on our trash. Here’s a peek at some of my favorite ways to wrap a gift:
Strawberry baskets and berry boxes are perfect for wrapping small gifts.
Take out containers work well, too.
And empty oatmeal and peanut containers look extra snazzy when dressed up with just a bit of wrapping paper.
I save ribbons, bows and tissue paper from the gifts that we receive throughout the year, so I always have plenty of embellishments on hand to finish a gift off right.
Do you like to turn your garbage into gift wrap, too? Please share some of your favorite upcycling ideas.
This year, if it isn’t free, it won’t be going into our stockings. So how much harder is it to get free stocking stuffers? Not a bit. Take a look at what I’ve gotten so far:
For My Husband
All of these instant coffee samples came from a single sample request. My husband will be psyched.
And for the days when he’s not in a coffee mood? Tea. These tea bags (many of which are organic) came from five different free sample requests.
Because chocolate is a stocking must-have, I snagged this bag of Hershey’s Simple Pleasures at CVS (free after ECBs).
This bag of Lindt Lindor Truffles (free with a coupon that I scored on Facebook).
And this collection of Unreal candy bars (free with Staples Rewards). At this point I probably have too much candy for his stocking, but the kids were with me when I bought it all, so I can’t shift any of it over to their stockings. Lucky him.
On the non-edible side, I also scored this free sample of hair gel. It’s just the right size for him to take on a trip.
For My Kids
I purchased a shampoo and conditioner money-maker at CVS. Then, used the resulting ECBs, along with a few more that I’d been saving, to buy my kids’ stocking candy. I still need to pick up one more Reese’s tree to even things up.
Both of my kiddos are into Legos at the moment, so I cashed in some of my RecycleBank points for a free $5 eBay gift card, and bought these figures for their stockings.
I spotted these colored glue sticks in a clearance basket at Office Depot, and paid for them with My Worklife Rewards. Since there are five glue sticks, I’ll have to hold one back to keep things “even steven.”
My eight-year-old has been eyeing the sneaker keychains at Staples for a while now. They finally went on clearance for $.50, so I snagged one for her with my rewards.
Last year I stuck an eos lip balm in each kids’ stocking, and they loved them. I’m doing that again this year – only this time, I didn’t pay for them. They were free after Register Rewards at Walgreens.
And to satisfy their love of trying out new lotions? A bunch of samples.
Want to see what else I’m going to stick in their stockings? Check back regularly to find out. I’ll be posting updates throughout the season.