The following will explain in detail how I got over $1400-worth of Christmas gifts for free. For me, they were totally, completely and actually free. Some of the deals below would not have been free without all of the strategies that I applied. Yet, some were actually free as stand-alone offers and one even paid me $20! That was better than any offer I found last year or the year before. This is the third year in a row that I’ve performed this experiment.
My first freebie strategy was to create a source of passive income. I consider sources of income with no start-up costs to be actually free. I also consider sources of passive income with minimal start-up costs to be actually free once the start-up costs are met and the source keeps providing income passively. My source of passive income is Cafe Press, which is a printing company that pays a commission to designers who submit designs. Once the design sells, Cafe Press prints it on the product and mails it to the customer. They handle everything from website maintenance to order fulfillment. Visit my Cafe Press store to see my designs. This is particularly free to me since I used free online tools and public domain clip art to create my designs. There are more details on this from my post last year. The only difference is I didn’t submit any designs this year, so it was 100% passive income. This year it totaled $193.95. I subtract 20% estimated taxes ($38.79) and keep it in a savings account until it is due. By keeping it in my own account instead of paying the taxes instantly, I earn interest instead of giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. After taxes, my Cafe Press income was $155.16. For tax purposes, all other freebies listed below were obtained after taxes or were declared on the coupon to be of no monetary value. I used my Cafe Press income as a buffer to cover all other expenses I incurred below, and since the Cafe Press income is free money, that means all my expenses below were actually free.
In September we had a garage sale where we were able to recover $58 from what we sold. This is not a source of income since we already owned the items. Yet, it was a way to get rid of stuff we didn’t want and maximize the original value that we paid. When I add the $58 from the garage sale, this makes my buffer $213.16.
I also thought about adding my credit card rewards to my buffer this year, which could have covered much more of the Christmas expenses. But I decided to let it keep increasing before I request the cash back refund. By next year, it may be up to $500. I might use it for Christmas next year, or sometime over the next few months I’ll create a Roth-IRA for me and my wife and a 529 for my kids. I’m still deciding. Cash back rewards credit cards are a great way to spend less if they’re used properly. By “properly” I mean the following: only use it to spend money that you have, pay it off in full every month, and collect the rewards without accruing any interest. If you let interest accrue then you’ll be paying more than the cash back rewards. Also, if you consciously think about the rewards when you’re shopping, then you’ll spend even more. It’s best to kind of forget about it until checking the monthly credit card statement where you can see the rewards grow over time.
With regards to credit in general: do not open more than 3 credit card accounts or obtain more than 5 lines of credit (a line of credit is any debt, including mortgage, school loans, etc). Always pay off credit cards in full from month to month or don’t use them, and never close your oldest card or the card with historically the most purchases and paid-in-full statements. This has been my personal credit card policy and it has resulted in a high credit score despite a large amount of debt from student loans. This is a task that requires a “type A” or rigidly organized personality and effort, and if that’s too difficult, then just stay away from credit cards completely.
There are plenty of rewards programs that do not require opening a credit account. These can also be beneficial if used correctly and some are even mentioned below. Throughout the year the rewards programs may offer free points, or the points can accrue on your every-day purchases. In these cases, you’re spending less and sometimes getting items that are actually free. However, it takes a conscious effort not to let the rewards program trick you into spending more money. If you’re considering a purchase that you would not make without the rewards program, then don’t make it based on the rewards program. Otherwise, the reward program has tricked you into spending more instead of helping you to spend less.
My first gift of Christmas is a charitable donation of $48.40. That leaves my buffer at $164.76. Also, I haven’t figured driving expenses in previous years and I could argue not to include them again since I either obtained a freebie while driving home from work or it was part of my normal Christmas shopping which I would have done anyway. Yet, this year I’ll assume it took a full take tank of gas ($35) which leaves my buffer at $129.76. I also mention other expenses below, such as the cost of an envelope and stamp for every mail-in rebate (10 cents per envelope and 46 cents per stamp). For the purpose of this article I’ll leave out the cost of printing a rebate form, which would have only been the price of ink per print job since I’m using paper that I got for free. Regarding time—I would have had to spend time shopping for Christmas anyway, so I didn’t figure time as a cost. (Total value of Christmas gifts = $48.40, buffer = $129.76)
Bank Bonuses are a fantastic way to get freebies that are actually free. I’ve loved bank bonuses ever since I first got $50 for free from ING Direct a few years ago just for opening an interest-earning checking account. ING Direct was purchased by Capital One and is now Capital One 360. During the Black Friday weekend they were offering $125 free for opening a checking account and $75 free for opening a savings account. This is the best offer they’ve ever had and they were offering $50 for referring friends. I wasn’t able to take advantage of that particular offer since I was already their client and none of my friends or blog readers took advantage of it. However, I did get a different offer. By signing my kids up for a Kid’s Savings account I got a $20 referral for each kid and each kid got $25 for opening an account for a total of $90 in free money. As part of Christmas I gave my two kids my entire referral bonuses and will continue to help them save and learn about saving as they get older.
Capital One 360 is still offering sign-up bonuses if you’re interested, just not as high as they were on Black Friday.
(Total value of Christmas gifts = $138.40, buffer = $129.76)
I also signed up for a free checking account with 1st Bank. They have branches in Colorado, Arizona and California. By signing up and paying three bills with bill pay I was entitled to a free gift, which was a Samsung Galaxy 3 tablet worth $200. I’m not sure yet who is getting this for Christmas, but my wife could probably use it the most for multiple reasons.
The 1st Bank offer is still available if you’re interested. It even applies to their online banking echecking account which can be opened from anywhere and used online. However, if you like to be able to go to a brick-and-mortar bank, it will be most convenient if you live by a branch in Colorado, Arizona or California. (If you decide to open an account with 1st bank to receive a free Samsung tablet, please print this form and present it when you apply)
(Total value of Christmas gifts = $338.40, buffer = $129.76, this total already beats the first year I did this experiment and I’m just getting started)
Entering sweepstakes is an activity I started doing this year which occasionally produces small prizes. Earlier this year O’Reilly Auto Parts had a sweepstakes where I won $5 almost daily for a period of time. I’m not including everything that I won here, but for Christmas I got my son some die-cast cars modeled after Pixar Cars characters and a couple of Hot Wheels cars. The Pixar cars were $6 each, so I paid $1 each time I bought one. Regularly I wouldn’t buy these for $6 since Wal Mart sells them for $3-4 each. I bought a total of six Pixar cars and two Hot Wheels cars and spent $6 (already rounded up after including sales tax). The total value of Christmas gifts for this article will be based on retail price (MSRP) or the price I would have had to pay without the coupon or rebate. In this case each Pixar car is calculated at a value of $6 even though I know I could’ve purchased them somewhere else for less. Total value of these gifts = (6 x $6) + (2 x $5) = $46.
(Total value of Christmas gifts = $338.40 + $46 = $384.40, buffer = $129.76 – $6 = $123.76)
During the Christmas season I completed surveys and entered sweepstakes for all offers on the store receipts. I also entered any sweepstakes that were advertised on Black Friday, including the $1 million given away by Old Navy. So far I haven’t won anything. Those who start entering sweepstakes should know that when you win anything substantial you have to pay income taxes on it.
Rewards Clubs, Email Clubs, and Mail Clubs:
Multiple times between October and Early December, Sears/Kmart/Shop Your Way rewards randomly gave me free rewards points; each was a limited time offer. This meant that the points didn’t accumulate; I had to use them before they expired. Here is what I got:
- Received random $5 in points, purchased a movie for $4.99 and paid 99 cents for shipping
- Received random $6 in points, purchased a tool magnetizer/demagnetizer ($3.39) and a glass cutter ($2.97) for $6.38 total including sales tax, 38 cents for me with free local pick up.
- Received random $8 in points, purchased rechargeable batteries for $8.21, which was 21 cents for me with free local pick up. When I went to pick up this item they didn’t have it and they have a guarantee where they “retrieve the item in 5 minutes or less or we give you $5 in store credit”. Since they didn’t have the item I wanted they gave me an upgraded package of rechargeable batteries worth $12 and the $5 coupon. With the $5 coupon I bought a Disney Planes action figure for $6 – $5 coupon = $1 (not pictured).
- Received random $7 in points, purchased wire cutters for $7 with free local pick up (actually free).
- Received random $5 in points, purchased women’s sunglasses for $6.07 – $5 = $1.07 with free local pick up.
- Every time Sears gave me points I could have purchased something that was actually free, but I knew I had the buffer which gave me a little more flexibility, and these were the items that I wanted. Sears also gives $1 in rewards points for leaving product reviews. I left reviews for all six products that I purchased which gave me another $6 and I had some change left over in points from before. I purchased a small clamping hand tool for $1.69 that was actually free. I also bought a $5 gift for my wife that isn’t pictured since I want it to be a surprise. (This is one the few things she didn’t help me buy her for Christmas. This experiment sure helps with our Christmas budget, but it doesn’t leave much excitement for me and her since we know what many of our gifts will be. Yet, it’s still fun to be surprised every once in a while, so I’m keeping this gift hidden in case she reads this blog).
- Received another random $10 in rewards after Black Friday, and I had even made purchases at Kmart on Black Friday. So I re-purchased an item for free and took back the duplicate that I actually paid for. With the $10 I purchased a Craftsman 13″ tool bag ($3.99), M&M stocking cane ($1), and two boxes of Honey Nut Chex ($5.33), and I paid a total of 33 cents with free local pick up.
Total for Sears/Kmart rewards = $58.69 (rounded for simplicity, sales tax is not calculated accurately for this entire article, but you’ll get the general idea), total spent from buffer = $4
(Total value of gifts = $384.40 + $58.69 = $443.09, buffer = $123.76 – $4 = $119.76)
I’ve been a member of Disney Movie Rewards for about a year and a half. We’re pretty neat in my family so when we buy a movie we keep the case and all the case inserts that come with it. I had accumulated a few free points but not enough to purchase anything. So I took out all the inserts from all the Disney movies we had, some which we even purchased years ago, then entered and claimed all the rewards points. There was only one really old code that didn’t work. I even thought about doing the same thing with my in-law’s and my parent’s movies, but haven’t yet. Once I had entered all the codes, I had enough to order seasons two and three of the Muppet Show on DVD with free shipping. I’m estimating these to be valued at $30 total (it could easily be more at some stores in the mall).
(Total value of gifts = $443.09 + $30 = $473.09, buffer = $119.76)
On two occasions JCPenney sent us a coupon in the mail which was good for $10 off any purchase of $10 or more. These are my favorite type of coupons to find during the holidays because if you purchase an item that is $10, the sales tax is calculated after the coupon price, which means the entire purchase is actually free! On the first occasion my wife bought an $18 necklace on sale for $10.87 – $10 coupon = 87 cents. On the second occasion I bought $25 gloves on sale for $12 – $10 coupon = $2. On both occasions we could have purchased items for $10 and received the items for free, but this is what we wanted or needed and we have the buffer.
(Total value of gifts = $473.09 + $43 = $516.09, buffer = $119.76 – $2.87 = $116.89)
Free After Rebates:
The big three retailers that provide deals with rebates are Newegg.com, Fry’s Electronics, and Tiger Direct. Sometimes there are others, like Micro Center or office stores, like Staples. Out of the three, the best one to buy from is Newegg, since their items often come with free shipping and there is no sales tax unless the item is shipped to one of their three states of operation. This may change in the future due to legislation, but this is how it is currently. When you can get an item for free after rebate with free shipping and no sales tax, it’s actually free! Fry’s Electronics comes in second due to the frequency of their free after rebate offers. Yet, they may charge for shipping, or sales tax will apply if the item is purchased in-store. The same is usually true for Tiger Direct, but not for me this year . . .
Tiger Direct Free after rebate:
I purchased a software combo from Tiger Direct which included Dragon Naturally Speaking with headphones and mic and Total Defense Premium Security. It required activation of Total Defense Premium, which required entering credit card information, which means I will have to be conscious enough to cancel the subscription before they charge my credit card. I’ll probably do it immediately after I receive the rebate. The cost of the combo on sale was $60 + $5 shipping = $65. There was a $60 mail-in rebate (MIR) for the Total Defense software and a $25 mail-in rebate for Dragon Naturally speaking. Do the math: $65 – $60 MIR – $25 MIR = -$20. That’s a negative cost of $20, meaning I’m paid $20 to make this purchase! Last year I made a couple of purchases which paid $1-$5, but not $20. This purchase was made before Black Friday. Tiger Direct had other offers on Black Friday which I didn’t get in time before they sold out.
Claiming one of the rebates has been somewhat of a challenge. The rebate requires an invoice from Tiger Direct which they don’t send unless you request it. They only send a confirmation email of the purchase which doesn’t count as the invoice. So after I sent a copy of the confirmation email with the other documentation, Total Defense sent me an email saying my $60 rebate was denied since I didn’t include an invoice. They’re giving me more time. However, none of this was made clear initially, so there will probably be a few people who end up paying out of pocket for this one. Also, once you try to claim a rebate you’ve damaged the packaging since a rebate usually requires the proof of purchase. This means it can’t be returned to the retailer. Some rebates also come in the form of a pre-paid visa card which cannot be redeemed for cash. I often use these for every-day expenses like gas and groceries so that I’m consciously not allowing the rebate to trick me into spending more money. These cards have to be used within six months or there is a monthly maintenance fee which is deducted from the card’s total value. There was a student in the news who purchased every free after rebate deal he could find. He sold the items online for profit and used the pre-paid cards to pay for tuition. (Three envelopes and three stamps were used to claim the $60 rebate so far; hopefully it won’t take more).
(Total value of gifts = $516.09 + $85 = $601.09, buffer = $116.89 + $20 = $136.89)
Newegg.com Free after rebate:
I purchased AVG Internet Security for one PC, regularly $49.99 – $19.99 instant discount – $30 mail-in rebate = $0 Free. There was free shipping and no sales tax, so this was actually free. Gotta love Newegg.com! This purchase was made before Black Friday; there were even better deals on Black Friday, like the same software for three PCs. I was kicking myself for not waiting. I didn’t attempt to buy the software again because I was concerned they wouldn’t send me two rebates from the same manufacturer.
(Total value of gifts = $601.09 + $50 = $651.09, buffer = $136.89)
Fry’s Electronics Free after rebate:
The first two Fry’s Electronics items were purchased before Black Friday, the others were purchased on Black Friday.
- Sales & Marketing Pro software $59.99 – $60 MIR + $3.93 sales tax = $3.93
- Winway Resume Deluxe $34.99 – $10 MIR – $25 MIR + $3.93 sales tax = $3.93
- Rayovac 8-pack AAA batteries, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax
- Rayovac 8-pack AA batteries, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax
- TekNmotion 24 DVD/CD wallet, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax (probably valued at $5-$8 for a similar item not on Black Friday)
- Bytecc HDMI-VGA adapter, $15 – $15 MIR = $0 + sales tax (rebate was sent to Canada, postage was $1.10)
- Wireless pen cam, $20 – $20 MIR = $0 + sales tax
- Wagon 80 W power adapter, $11 – $11 MIR = $0 + sales tax (probably valued at $20 for a similar item not on Black Friday)
- Tablet racing wheel, $40 – $40 MIR = $0 + sales tax
- RC Helicopter, reg $30, on sale for $19.99 – $15 MIR = $4.99 + sales tax
Total value of items from Fry’s = $231 (some of this total is based on Black Friday sales prices; I know the pen cam sells for more), Total sales tax for Fry’s = $18.75. Total expenses for claiming all mail-in rebates above from Fry’s, Newegg and Tiger Direct = (16 envelopes x $0.1) + (15 stamps x $0.46) + $1.10 postage to Canada = $9.60, There was one item that was $5 after rebate, not free after rebate.
(Total value of gifts = $651.09 + $231 = $882.09, buffer = $136.89 – $18.75 – $9.60 – $5 = $103.54)
Staples Free after rebate on Black Friday:
- Staples paper ream, $6.99 x 2 = $13.98
- Staples photo paper $14.79 x 2 = $29.58
- Pentel Pens $4.29
Office supplies may not be very exciting gifts, but they are very practical. Total sales tax for Staples was $3.97; Staples rebates were entirely claimed online and did not require mailing or postage.
(Total value of gifts = $882.09 + $47.85 = $929.94, buffer = $103.54 – $3.97 = $99.57)
Black Friday Freebies:
Black Friday is one of the best days of the year for getting freebies that are actually free. The only other day that compares is your very own birthday. These are two days of the year where you can literally go from place to place and they hand you something for free with no monetary requirement. In order to fully take advantage of Black Friday freebies it is best to buy a newspaper on Thanksgiving, even though any savvy shopper will have already been looking at Black Friday ads online for weeks in advance. By “Black Friday” I mean basically the entire week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday due to recent trends over the last few years.
I bought two newspapers this year to get more coupons, which cost $4.22.
New York and Company gave out gift cards the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I got a $5 card and bought nail polish for my wife’s stocking at $6.07 including tax ($6.07 – $5 = $1.07)
Sports Authority gave out gift cards to the first 80 people in line. The first one I received was $10. I bought an RC toy car for $10, it was on sale and regularly $30. Since they had only given out about half of their gift cards by the time I was checking out, I asked if I could go out and come back in again, and they said yes! The second card I got was worth $10. I got a hand pump for intertubes and air mattresses for $10. I was really surprised at the low turnout of customers. When I talked to some of the people in line they didn’t even know Sports Authority was handing out gift cards. They were just waiting to do their Black Friday shopping.
Sports Authority actually gave out gift cards twice, once on Thursday evening and once on Friday morning. On Friday morning I had time to go to two different branches and got a gift card at each. One was worth $10 and the other was worth $25. I was able to combine them to get a pair of running shoes for my wife. The shoes were $62 – $35 = $27. I could have purchased an item worth $10 and an item worth $25 or an item worth $35 and they would have been actually free. However, this is what my wife wanted for Christmas. If I had saved all the cards I received then I could’ve spent $7 on the shoes, but I didn’t know that they could be combined until I tried towards the end.
Big Lots gave out gift cards to the first 100 customers. I got one worth $5. I bought a 20-pack of generic AA batteries for $5 and they were on sale, buy one get one free. Total value is $10 for 40 AA batteries.
Tilly’s gave out gift cards to the first 100 people in line. I got one worth $10. I bought earrings and bracelets for my wife for $10, actually free!
Stein Mart gave away gift cards in their Black Friday ad, the majority were worth $10. I bought two newspapers so my wife and I could both have a gift card. She purchased two 3-packs of belts. They were regularly $10 but there was also a coupon in the Black Friday ad for 50% off apparel and accessories on Black Friday, so she was able to get two packs instead of one. Total value is $20. I bought a coin separator machine for $10 which is a perfect gift for my parents.
JCPenney gave away snow globes on Black Friday, which I estimate to be worth about $5, although I could see them selling for up to $50 at a specialty store in the mall. Supposedly the reason why JCPenney gave out snow globes this year was because people complained that they didn’t do it last year. Last year JC Penney gave out Christmas buttons with codes on the back, some of which could be redeemed online for cash and prizes. I got $65-worth of Christmas gifts from that promotion last year which is substantially better than a $5 snow globe. If you asked me, I’d say people should complain that they didn’t do the buttons promotion this year.
CVS gave away a 4-pack of AA batteries on Thanksgiving Day. CVS card members had to scan their card at the in-store coupon Kiosk to get the coupon that was good for the entire price of the batteries which cost about $5.30. They also had a candy bar with 100% back in rewards. Normally I don’t consider 100% back in rewards to be actually free since it’s similar to “buy one, get one free” offers and those are not actually free. Yet, I was buying other items in the store anyway and the rewards could be used instantly. So I essentially got a 75 cent candy bar for free without spending anything extra.
For more reference on Black Friday freebies next year, go to my Black Friday Freebies post.
Total value of Black Friday freebies = $169.05, Total expenses for Black Friday above = $28.07 + $4.22 newspapers
(Total value of gifts = $929.94 + $169.05 = $1098.99, buffer = $99.57 – $28.07 – $4.22 = $67.28)
Free Samples, Gifts, Miscellaneous:
My wife and I found out that we’re having a baby! If you’ve ever had a baby then you’d know that nothing about it is ever free by a long shot. However, there are lots of sources to help reduce the baby expenses. When we went to the OB/GYN for the first ultrasound we received a sample bag that was full of magazines and coupons. One of the coupons was good for $10 at ToysRUs/BabiesRUs just for opening a baby registry. When I went to open the registry the associate told me she’d give me another $10 gift card for registering 140 items. I could have registered 140 boxes of diapers, wipes and formula and it would have counted, but I had a little fun with it. With these two $10 gift cards I bought a Razor scooter for my son on sale for Black Friday for $20, regularly $30. I had to pay about $1.30 in sales tax.
Also, BabiesRUs gives a percentage of purchases made from the registry back to the parents. We registered all our Black Friday purchases, so we’ll get 10% back, even though we were the ones that made the purchases. This is not actually free, but it was a great way to maximize the reduction in price of the items we purchased. This is our third baby, my wife probably won’t have a baby shower or even expect anyone else to use the registry. However, I could potentially win everything in the registry since I entered a sweepstakes.
We received many free samples from the OB/GYN and from BabiesRUs which will be great stocking stuffers. I’m estimating the value of these samples to be about $2, but they’re saving me a lot more than that since I could be spending more money to take up that space in a stocking. They’ll add to the baby theme of some of Santa’s gifts which will also be intended to surprise the in-laws on Christmas morning.
Last year I suggested using Halloween candy to fill Christmas stockings. This year I took my own advice and we spread the candy-eating out so much over the months that my son has no way of noticing how much is gone. The candy we selected for the stocking takes up about 1/5 of the stocking. The candy is probably worth about $4 or less, but it saved at least $10 in stocking stuffers.
Leftovers and hand-me-downs are free and when they look new they can be Christmas gifts. We had friends whose baby outgrew a toy walker, so they gave it to us. This walker is like new and the same one was advertised on Black Friday for $15. It will be an excellent gift for my daughter.
My sister purchased a clearance lot of dolls, and since she had an extra one from the lot, she gave it to us. This doll is estimated to be worth about $20 and it is brand new.
We receive WIC benefits, so we’re able to use some food items for my daughter’s Santa stash, particularly cereal from Santa, which would cost about $5 for the box.
O’Reilly Auto parts gave away coupons for $5 off a purchase of $5 or more for “liking” their facebook page. I purchased a seat belt clip for my son for $5.68 – $5 coupon = 68 cents
Total value of misc. gifts = $81, total expenses above = $1.98.
(Total value of gifts = $1098.99 + $81 = $1179.99, buffer = $67.28 – $1.98 = $65.30)
More Free with the buffer:
Bank bonuses, sweepstakes, free after rebate deals, Black Friday freebies and the misc. freebies above are the extent of what I got for free (or nearly free) this year, which anybody can do without a buffer like the one I had from Café Press. Yet, I still have $65.30 from my Cafe Press, passive income, free money buffer, so here are some other smokin’ good deals that I found which were covered:
My wife and I purchased a Fischer Price Little People animal zoo for my daughter at Kohls. Regularly it’s $80. It was on sale on Black Friday for $35. We used a $10 off coupon that came with the newspaper and an additional 15% off coupon to get the item for about $23 including sales tax.
(Total value of gifts = $1179.99 + $80 = $1259.99, buffer = $65.30 – $23 = $42.30)
My wife and I purchased an Imaginex Pirate Ship for my son at Kohls. Regularly it’s $60. It was on sale on Black Friday for $25. With another $10 off newspaper coupon we got about $5 off this item when figuring the other stuff that I purchased, and we used an additional 15% off coupon to get the item for about $19 which includes sales tax. This is the only way to shop at Kohls since their marketing specifically caters to coupon-users, and when non-coupon-users shop at Kohls they over-pay. However, the entire process also makes returns a mathematical nightmare for the customer. When using a $10 off coupon for the entire purchase, their system splits the discount between all items, which is why we only got about $5 off this item when we were using a $10 off coupon. They also record all Kohls cash purchases which are deducted when making returns.
(Total value of gifts = $1259.99 + $60 = $1319.99, buffer = $42.30 – $19 = $23.30)
I purchased a like-new diaper bag at Goodwill for $12; it had the original tags and everything. At BabiesRUs the exact same bag in the exact same condition was $45.
(Total value of gifts = $1319.99 + $45 = $1364.99, buffer = $23.30 – $12 = $11.3)
I purchased a heart monitor watch on sale for $15 at Fry’s electronics on Black Friday. Usually a heart monitor of this type is $80 or more.
(Total value of gifts = $1364.99 + $80 = $1445 (rounded up 1 cent), buffer = $11.30 – $15 = -$3.70)
So there you have it. I got $1445-worth of Christmas gifts for $3.70 out of my own pocket. Not bad, huh? The $3.70 is actually covered by more Café Press buffer because the total used for this article was only the passive income from January to November, and sales even increase in December.
$1445 beats my record from last year and I wasn’t event trying as hard. I didn’t spend a lot of time scouring the internet for hidden freebies. I also didn’t include any dollar store items this year. However, one item that I noticed at the dollar store is a pedometer for $1. This particular pedometer is probably only worth $1. Yet, if you purchased a pedometer somewhere else it would cost about $8-15. Also not included in the calculations above was a $20 book that I bought at a thrift store for $3. Thrift stores are excellent places to buy discounted books.
UPDATE: Since this article was written I’ve received even more freebies. On the Saturday before Christmas, New York & Company gave out gift cards to the first 100 people in line. Between me and my accompanying family we got two cards worth $5 each and one worth $25. I ended up buying $40-worth of gifts – $35 gift cards = $5 + sales tax. The $5 and tax will be covered by December Cafe Press income. Also, H&M stores will be handing out gift cards to the first 100 people in line the day after Christmas.
Here are some other freebies that I missed which were not already mentioned above:
On two occasions I missed $7 in rewards from Sears/Kmart/Shop Your Way. The rewards had expired by the time I noticed them in my email.
Half Price Books had a free book day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Any kid who went to their story time left with a free book.
As part of his gift to me this year, my brother-in-law went to Cabella’s at 3 am on Black Friday morning. He was attempting to get one of their door prizes valued up to $900, but we were expecting a $10 gift card. Cabella’s opens at 5 am and they were giving away 500 prizes. When my brother-in-law arrived two hours early, he estimated that there were about 1500 people in line, so he didn’t stay. He shops at Cabellas often and he also mentioned that he was surprised that many people were in line since Cabella’s Black Friday ad didn’t have anything super-discounted. The only thing special about the ad was the door prizes. So either a lot of people were in line just because they’re fans of Cabella’s or the people hoping for door prizes can’t count.
Had my brother-in-law stayed out shopping on Black Friday morning, he also would have gone to Half Price books for me to get their $5 coupon door prize and free tote. He may also have gone to Big Lots for me for an additional expected $5 gift card.
Costco gave away cook books again this year in which I would have been interested, but I didn’t get there in time. I had a busy Black Friday.
Coupon Mom sends out an email newsletter that updates members on items that they can get for free after coupons. Some of the coupons can only be obtained in the Sunday paper. Next year I might consider buying the Sunday paper from the dollar store starting in September to receive these items throughout the Holidays. Or I might try dumpster diving for these coupons. Generally these items would include food and personal hygiene products that can be included in stockings. You may have noticed that a lot of the items mentioned in this article can be put in a stocking. I planned it that way because I wasn’t happy with how much we had to spend on stocking stuffers last year. All those little items can add up.
For the last two years there was some kind of rebate for the most recent Pixar movie. If there was a rebate this year either for Disney’s Planes or Pixar’s Monsters University, I wasn’t able to find it.
I didn’t find any free movies with Hollywood Movie Money this year, which is really disappointing since I love going to the movies. Although I have already been to a couple of free screenings this month with passes from Gofobo.com and other sources.
I also didn’t discover any “12-days of Christmas” promotions that offered freebies, and this year I even created an email account just to get all the newsletters from every retailer for which I could sign up to make sure I didn’t miss any. Some retailers had 12-days promotions, but none that gave away freebies like one retailer did last year.
Sears Apparel Outlet had four free apparel days for kid’s apparel in October. I missed those and they haven’t had a free apparel day since then.
I hope you enjoyed this post. All of these freebies are expired this year. However, the post itself can act as a good reference for what to expect next year. Absolutely anyone with a normal IQ, internet access and a means of transportation can do this. All it takes is some persistence and organization. Merry Christmas!