Saturday, October 17

You can do it!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, not here in Arizona, obviously. But, looking at the calendar, it's hard to deny that the winter holidays are creeping up on us. Slowly but steadily. (Except in retail stores, where plenty of Santas were out along with the trick-or-treat candy.)

Hopefully, this shouldn't catch too many of you unawares. Most frugal people shop around all year for various birthday and holiday gifts. There's the ever-beloved yard sales, of course, but also store sales throughout the year.

That's all well and good, but what if you're not prepared? What if you are new to frugality/rewards programs? What if a wedding gift or anniversary celebration drained your points coffer? Don't despair. Even at this late date, there's still some time to make use of rewards programs for the holidays.

Personally, I have a few rewards programs that are near and dear to my heart; but time is limited, so we're going to have to narrow our focus.

If you can only do one rewards program in the next 6-7 weeks, make it Swagbucks. Why? Because it only takes 45 SB to get a $5 Amazon gift card. (Actually, it's an electronic code, which makes it all the more handy, since you don't have to worry about the clogged holiday postal system.)

Now, even in hard times $5 doesn't sound like much, I know. But there's a few things to remember:

  • Every little bit counts: Especially when your funds are limited, any boost is helpful. If you've only got, say, $50 to spend, then you'll really appreciate that gift card. A $5 gift card on Amazon just increased your holiday spending by 10 percent.
  • Amazon prices aren't retail: With Amazon's many booksellers, $5 could cover the cost of a near-mint condition book. That's one present over and done with, though you'll have to pay $3-4 for shipping. (If there are several titles on your list, try and get as many as possible through the same seller. This cuts down on shipping costs.) Some books may be more expensive, but there are plenty of them for under $10. So a $5 card essentially cut your costs in half.
  • Think of it as paying for shipping: Amazon does have a wonderfully low threshold for free shipping, but if your purchase is under $25, your gift card could cover most of your shipping charges.
  • Amazon is more than just books: Sure, we all know this, but when I think of Amazon, I still think first and foremost of reading material. The fact is that Amazon offers a plethora of items. Last year, I got Tim's Marvel T-shirts through Amazon. My mom used some of her Swagbucks to stock up on some (nonperishable) groceries when the site had a sale. Amazon offers electronics, Target gift cards, cell phones, lotions and even MMA-style heavy bags. So that gift card has nearly endless applications.
  • No sales tax: Unless you live in Washington, Amazon doesn't charge sales tax. And the free-shipping threshold is only $25. So if you're going to buy a pricey gadget, you're doing yourself a favor purchasing online rather than in stores. I especially advocate this in the case of gaming devices. The prices are pretty universal, so you know you're not going to miss out on some huge sale. Meanwhile, you'll save yourself at least $10 in tax, plus the $5 off with the gift card.
  • $5 adds up quickly: Okay, $5 doesn't sound like much. But I bet you'd be psyched to think of $10 off your Christmas shopping. With some diligence on your part, it's possible to get that in the next 6 weeks. (I say 6 because you want to allow time for shipping. Although I am, against my usual trend, advocating a trial offer: Amazon Prime. A three-month free trial, it gives you free, 2-day shipping, which could be invaluable this holiday season.)
  • Having friends/readers pays off: Two family members and about 20 readers mean that I'll have enough SB for about $200 of Amazon gift cards. All in about 8 months. Of course, I have had the benefit of time. But can't you think of at least one person who would try Swagbucks out? Someone who loves free stuff as much as you do? How about just posting it on your blog and seeing what happens?

So, how can you be sure to get as many swagbucks as you can? First and foremost, do your searches. This is easiest when you download the toolbar. Be sure not to go overboard. Don't just sit there and type in random nouns. Instead, every time you need to go to a website, even if you know the URL, search for it.

When you do win, it will usually be 1 SB, but there are plenty of other denominations. My mom won a 10 SB once. (I still say she cheated somehow, since the most I've gotten is a 3.) I have won as many as 3 times in a single day. Most days, I only win once.

Even so, if you start today, you'll have about 6 weeks to go, depending on how late you feel comfortable ordering. That's 42 days. You get 3 SB just for signing up. So, right there, that's enough for a $5 Amazon card, even winning only the minimum every day. Chances are, you'll at least get a 2 or 3 at some point.

In addition, stay aware of swagcodes. There is usually at least one a day, and it's a great way to get at least 1 SB more daily. Even iI am installing a Swagbucks widget -- Swidget -- at the bottom of this blog to make it easy to check. You just click the "Swagcodes" button and then click "Check for code." If there is an active one, it will help you find it. Another site that keeps good track of the codes is Engineer a Debt Free Life. Check either the widget or EADFL throughout the day. If you stay on top of the Swagcodes, you can guarantee yourself $10 worth of Amazon cards in the next 6 weeks.

There are other ways to earn -- mainly via trade-ins (games, consoles, cell phones) and shopping. Personally, I don't recommend shopping. I love the site, but the SB: $ ratio is pretty bad. Trade-ins are a mixed bag. I think it's best to comparison shop. Find out what you could get in actual cash before taking the swagbucks. There are a lot of sites out there that buy used cell phones -- be sure to check the feedback, though, since some are frauds -- and places like GameStop will usually give you at least a buck or two trade-in value. In the end, it's your call.

I guess my second favorite thing about Swagbucks -- first, of course, is free stuff -- is the ridiculously exciting lift you get from winning one. When you see that you've won, you get a flutter. I have no idea why, but it's very exciting. Tim and I have both gotten into a ritual of exclaiming, "Cool, Swagbuck!" when the other person is in the room. It's probably very silly, but, honestly, I'll take whatever little jolts of happiness I can get.

So, what are you waiting for? Go over to Swagbucks right now and get started. The Amazon gift cards are waiting.


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