The only word in the English language more exciting than the word "SALE" is the word "FREE." I'm going to share several ways to get holiday gifts for nothin'. And these are not cheap, cheesy gifts. They are things you'll be pleased and proud to give to your friends and family.
I'm a savvy shopper, but I know my limits. That's why I've turned to one of my all-time savings gurus to help me help you. Chrissy Pate is co-founder of BeCentsAble.net and co-author of a book of the same name. She and a friend started the website to teach other people how to slash the cost of groceries. Now she's moved on to more glamorous shopping coups. Here's how she gets clothing, toys, jewelry, restaurant meals and more --for FREE.
Be on the lookout for stores that give you a credit just for signing up for their e-newsletter. (Word to the wise: set up a separate email account just for shopping, so your main account won't be overrun with store spam.) For example, Kohl's gives customers $5 just for signing up! No purchase necessary. Chrissy used her credit to buy a toy that was on sale. So ... this savvy saver ended up getting a $10 toy for free! And that's not her only example. "Last year, I was able to earn free credit on both OneKingsLane.com and RueLaLa.com just for signing up," Chrissy explains. "I used my free credit to get ... over $30 in FREE gifts for friends!" (Right now these sites seem to be offering cash credits for referring friends. Have your friends set up their own junk/shopping email accounts and then refer away!)
Daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social often offer customers cash credits for referring friends. Chrissy is a mom of two, and when she spotted a great daily deal for a pumpkin patch, she shared it with two other mom friends. By doing so, she earned $20 in credit. She then used that $20 to buy a restaurant voucher worth $50. Chrissy then gave that $50 restaurant gift certificate as a gift. That's a nice present! Sites such as Restaurant.com offer these discounted gift certificates all the time. I think the business model works for them because they know some customers will buy them in advance and never get around to using them.
Are you picking up on a theme here? First earn free credit by giving a retailer your (junk) email contact information or that of (willing) friends. Then -- and this is crucial -- leverage your freebie even further by using it to buy something that's on sale. That way you end up with a valuable item scot-free.
There are several search engines that reward members for searching the internet or watching videos. Bing Rewards and Jingit are two of them. Chrissy's had success with Swagbucks. It rewards frequent searchers with gift cards and other prizes. "I chose a $20 Amazon gift card that we gave as a gift," Chrissy says, "but there are lots of stores to pick from." You can also earn cash back -- or gift cards -- through sites like Ebates.com and ShopAtHome.com. You may not accumulate cash fast enough for this Christmas, but start now to be flush with green for holiday season 2013.
You probably have another kind of rewards already: credit card or airline points. The big credit card companies all have their own online "shopping malls" where you can pick things out. Chrissy found that she could convert her Capital One points into an XBox gaming system or flat screen TV, a $500 value. Just a word of caution from me: often you can get the same merchandise for less at a regular store. Then again, if you are points-rich and cash-poor, this could be a great option. And if your points program allows points to expire, by all means, use it before you lose it.
Since you've got so many ideas for free gift-giving, you'll have more money in your bank account, and speaking of bank accounts, here's one last way to earn free gifts. Right now if you open up a new ING Direct checking account -- which is free to do -- they will give you $50. You just have to actively use your account debit card, something you would probably do anyway. Here's another one: open a savings account at Able Banking, another online bank, and they will give you $25 -- every year -- to give to the charity of your choice. You can double down on that gift by making it in the name of someone on your list who already has everything they could possibly need. They will appreciate that you did some good in their name, and you will appreciate that you did it -- for free!