Smart Frugality
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With the holidays approaching and spending about to ramp up, at least for most people, there are ways for you to reign in holiday expenses and save some big money. With Craigslist, eBay, Nextdoor, and innumerable online consignment sites, you do not have to sacrifice quality to save money.

I do not like to spend a lot of time shopping, especially online. It seems to the primary cause of “sucking” away free time. However, there are a few items that I deem worthy of a little negotiating and sifting. Here are the top three items on which you can save your hard earned money this holiday season and year-round:

Gift Cards. If you have a cash-back rewards card, you can use those points to buy gift cards and get some deals. For example, you can redeem 2,500 points for a $25 Nordstrom or Amazon gift card. At Costco, you can get five $20 gift cards for Peets for $79.99. That is essentially a free gift card! For local restaurants, has gift cards for 30% off including local favorites like Grilly’s, Comforts and the Lunch Box in Stinson.

Kid’s Clothing. It is crazy to me how expensive kids’ clothing can be, especially when they tend to outgrow their wardrobe every nine months. Online sites like ThredUp offer incredible discounts on good brands that are well made. No need to pay $35 for a t-shirt at Nordstrom when you can get the same brand for $10. also has a lot of items at steep discounts. The list of online sites is long in this category. Due to sizing differences between brands, I am weary of online clothes shopping. God forbid I actually have to return something and expend that energy. I prefer to make a pilgrimage to Nordstrom Rack once a year and hope I get lucky, or peak into Ross and Marshalls on my way to Costco.

Toys. For me, this is where eBay and Craigslist provide the best discounts. For example, a new American Girl doll retails for ~$125. You can get one that is essentially new on eBay for $80 (46% savings). EBay is a gold mine when it comes to legos and mini-figures that my son will likely lose at a park or customize (color with Sharpies!). You need to be mindful of from where the toys are coming to allow sufficient shipping time. A lot of them are in China. You can specify that you only want items sold in the U.S., which narrows down your options but will get you what you want more quickly.

In order to get a good price on any discretionary item, it pays to have a plan and know exactly what you want. Do your research and know what the retail price is on that item before you go searching for a deal. Before purchasing anything in your shopping cart take a moment to confirm that this is what you were actually looking for when you started your search. Impulse purchases lead to overspending.

Before the holidays are upon you, take time to decide how much you want to spend on everything from gifts to entertainment. The best laid plans can become distant memories as holiday lights and sales take over store windows and your in-box. Stick with your plan and you will be a lot happier when the credit card bill arrives in January.

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