Tips for Holiday Shopping and Some Gift Ideas

In Budget Smart Girl's Guide, Uncategorized on November 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Black Friday’s only three days away and the start of the holiday shopping season so for this post I thought I’d include some tips I’ve learned over the years and the first of the BSG Gift Guide

These days you don’t have to wait to get the newspaper on Thursday to see what stores are offering on Friday you can go online and check them out at-


Some stores even have sales going on right now which I think means it’s more competitive than ever which is always a good sign for shoppers.

Do Your Research and Homework

This is a tip for all year long and not just at the holidays, check items and prices before you leave the house. Unless you know what the going price is for something, you don’t know if the store is actually offering you a good price on that item. Make sure you compare like sizes, etc. What can seem like a good buy isn’t because the one on sale is half the size or gigabytes etc.

Know The Return Policy

Some stores have signs that say all sales are final so if someone doesn’t like something or it’s too big or too small, you’re stuck with it.

He Who Hesitates

You know the saying about he who hesitates is lost? Sometimes waiting until closer to Dec 25th pays off, especially when stores what to make that final push to turn a profit. However, if something is very popular I say buy it when you can because the chances that the price is going to be slashed even more is slim.

Treat Yourself

Some stores offer additional gift cards if you buy a certain amount. For example, buy $100 worth of gift cards and get a free $25 gift card etc. Either use the free once as a gift or keep it for yourself. Another good thing about gift cards, after Christmas lots of items go on sale so you or the recipient can get more for your money.

Don’t Just Think The Holidays

I often look ahead to next year with birthday and weddings in mind. If you know something’s on sale and it would be perfect for a certain someone, buy it now.

Stay Within Budget

If you have a tendency to overspend buy a prepaid credit card and when it’s used up, that’s it. It’s a great way for you to own the holidays rather them owning you.

Keep Sizes Handy

I can’t remember how many times I was in a store saw a great deal on an item of clothing and didn’t have everyone’s size so I had to pass. My remedy-notebook containing measurements that’s carried year round.

Don’t Toss Those Receipts

Lots of stores now give you gift receipts where the person doesn’t see the price so make sure you include them with the gift. Without it and if they need to return the item to the store, they’ll only be given the current price which could be a lot less than what you paid for it.

Okay now to some gift ideas-

Tea for Two

I wouldn’t be without my cup of tea and if someone on your list loves it too, check out this gift on the Barnes and Noble site-


Water Bottle with a Plus

Just about everyone has a water bottle but with this one you can add some flavoring-



Online Classes

Not sure what to get someone but know they’ve been eager to learn to knit or paint? Check out this site where you can buy a gift card for an online class http://www.craftsy.com/classes?

Animal Related Gifts

I wouldn’t be without my furry companion and I know lots of people include pets on their shopping list. I found this site that makes a donation with each purchase you make and they have deals called door crashers each day-


And speaking of ‘best friends’ if you want to learn the story of the Utah based animal sanctuary they have a book that I think should be a hit with all animal lovers



And finally in the animal category, if you have a daughter that’s always wanted a pony check out this UK


Two Favorites

And as always two sites that make it to the guide every year,

ELF, not only great for main gifts but stocking stuffers for $1 www.eyeslipsface.com

And www.nothingbutsoftware.com . I always seem to find something on their site, and many items have free shipping too. And check out their sister site, Price Plunge where they’ll e-mail you the deal of the day.

 More gift ideas coming soon…

Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers in the US.


It’s Meatless Monday-Leftover Casserole

In Meatless Mondays on November 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm

One thing I discovered while writing my cookbook was after you’ve tested the recipes you have leftovers which I hated to see go to waste. The other week as I was putting the final touches to the book it just so happened I had leftover vegetables and stuffing. Actully perfect for this coming week where you might have the same items sitting in the fridge (and yes, if you’re not vegetarian you can add some leftover turkey too). I liked this one so much I decided to add it to the book.


2 eggs

2/3 cup milk

½ cup sour cream

1 cup leftover stuffing

2 cups chopped leftover vegetables

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Generous pinch of salt and pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs of your choice


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees,

Coat an 11 X 7 cooking pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl add the eggs, milk, sour cream, seasoning, salt and pepper, stuffing and vegetable and mix until well-combined. Add the mixture to the pan and cook for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the mayonnaise, mustard and herbs together.

Remove the pan from the oven and spread the casserole with the mayonnaise mixture.

Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Excerpted from Adventures In Budget Smart Eating.

Meatless Monday will be back on January 5th and in the meantime I’ll be posting holiday focused recipes and tips.

To all the readers in the US I hope you have a fun Thanksgiving.





Saving Money During the Holiday Season

In Budget Smart Girl's Guide on November 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Thank you to the folks at www.cloudfreebies.co.uk for letting me print and share this article with you. It features tips from Natalie Cooper and Kez Richards. They offer tips for those based in the UK, but I think the advice is universal.


Two money-saving super mums have joined forces to share their money-saving knowledge and find ways to cut the cost of Christmas Groceries.


Frugal money saver Natalie Cooper and coupon and deals expert Kez Richards save on just about every aspect of their lives. They believe it is possible to save on everything from groceries to holidays and would never dream of spending a penny without first price checking or using a discount code or coupon.


The biggest stress that is placed upon most parents is the huge mounting costs of Christmas with decorations, food, presents and all the trimmings it can almost seem like an obligation rather than an enjoyable time of year. By putting their heads together, Kez and Natalie believe there is enough ways to save money on your Christmas groceries that you can more than cut your bill in half.


Here is their top ten tips to save on your Christmas groceries


  1. The biggest and most important rule of getting the most from your grocery shop is to compare the prices of the items you are going to purchase and take in to account the cost of the fuel it takes to travel to that particular store. You can use price comparison sites such as mysupermarket.co.uk to compare all major supermarkets.


  1. Loyalty schemes reward you with points, coupons and exclusive discounts and can often lead to huge rewards that can be doubled up at Christmas time. Reduce the cost of your Christmas food shop by using vouchers that have been earned throughout the year, this is the easiest way to get free fresh produce.


  1. There is a huge amount of money to be saved using coupons and thanks to these money off vouchers Kez Richards saves up to £400 a month when combined with cashback rewards. There are plenty of printable coupons that can be found at the click of a mouse and most large supermarkets even have in store magazines full of them.


Cashback reward systems are a relatively new idea but are very quick and simple to use. The idea is that you do your shopping and snap a photo of your receipt and receive rewards based on the items you purchased. Popular cashback apps include Top cashback, Shopitize and Checkout Smart.


  1. Clearance items are a well-known money saver but their a few ways to optimise these savings and pick up some incredibly cheap fresh produce for your Christmas dinner. By shopping close to the end of the standard shopping day you will find huge amounts of reduced meat which is perfectly good to freeze for a later date. For example Kez managed to purchase a large free range chicken for under £1.


  1. You may have never heard of the secret art of wombling but for a lot of couponers this is one of the biggest ways to save money. Many supermarkets offer price promise vouchers which can be used on your next shop, these discounts are printed on to your shopping receipt. A lot of people will throw their receipts away without checking and Womblers will collect these discarded receipts and redeem in bulk against their next shop. Don’t forget to check your receipt before your discard it so you don’t miss out!


  1. A lot of products now come with ‘try me free’ promotional offers which means you can purchase the item and then claim your money back later. In most cases you will receive a full refund in the form of a postal cheque. Natalie recently managed to get over £80 worth of these ‘try me free’ products and not only received full refunds on them all but made profit on them by receiving cashback rewards.


  1. This may seem like an obvious tip but its one most of us struggle to stick to, never shop when you’re hungry and always write a meal plan or shopping list and stick to it! If you can succeed in doing this you have overcome the biggest money-saving hurdle.


  1. Shopping online is not only convenient and a real-time saver but it can also help you avoid all the temptations that shops offer. If you use online discount codes and e coupons you can make savings even from home and still reap the benefits of loyalty schemes. There are lots of discount code websites that can be found just be using your search engine.


  1. There is a lot of miss conceptions about basic brand products but in many cases they are the same ingredients just in cheaper packaging. Most people by with their eyes but if you want to save on your groceries then don’t pay more just for pretty pictures and branding.


  1. The final money saver is enjoying the free things in life, it may seem hard to believe that any company would give you a product for free. However market research is very expensive so to get free feedback and advertisement a company will distribute free samples. Natalie and Kez are avid freebie hunters and have previously found free milk, meal kits, sauces, spices and even free chocolate and sweets.

You can save your self-time hunting out freebies and coupons by heading over to http://www.cloudfreebies.co.uk


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers