Saving money on holiday shopping

All I want for Christmas is… No debt!

If you're aiming to pay for all your Christmas gifts with cash only, here's how I went about tackling the Black Friday sales to get lots of deals, no debt.

Here it is, the evening of Thanksgiving, and I’m already in a state of panic thinking I’m behind on my holiday shopping, while also hoping for no debt. I had good intentions in October. I picked up a few things I found on sale, that would make good gifts for a few friends and family members. But I’ve haven’t started looking for the kids.

Jonah is just turning 4 and Zoe is 20-months. So they should be easy… right? They’d be happy with a wrapping-paper tube and a box full of Styrofoam peanuts. Talk about endless hours of fun! But, no. I’m going to have to get them some real toys.

I’m lucky they’re not the age to be wishing for iPods, cell phones, and designer jeans. While they’re young and naive, I keep reminding myself not to go overboard with the spending.

Last year, my husband and I decided not to put any gifts on the credit cards. We would only spend cash. That went okay for a few gifts, but then sooner or later we had to start handing over the plastic. This year, I’m going to vow not to let that happen. We’re sticking to cash.

I’m also turning into a sale-hound more than ever. After looking through today’s sale ads, I decided to venture out and try to score a few deals in the morning. Will I make it to Value City by 5 a.m.? I don’t know. I better go to bed now. If you have any holiday gift-saving tips, please share. Happy holiday shopping!

It’s 6:45 a.m. and I’m back from my first early-bird Black Friday experience. Here’s how it went.

4:00 – Alarm goes off. I get up, change into my athletic pants, a nice polar fleece, and some good running shoes. I wash my face and brush my teeth. My hair’s okay. I’m ready.

4:12 – I grab the Value City, ToysRUs, and Target ads. I get in the car and leave for Value City in Tri-County. I want to get a “5-in-1 train and game table” complete with train set and 5 board games. It’s advertised for $49.99. That’s 50% off!

4:25 – Driving up 275, I assess the traffic situation. Not bad. I feel confident.

4:39 – I pull into VC. There’s a small mob outside the door. I start to lose my confidence. I park the car and decide to join the mob.

4:50 – The mob is a nice mob. Everybody’s laughing and chatting. There are two entry doors. One on the left and one on the right. I stand by the door on the right. I overhear a lady say last year they opened the door on the right first. Hmm… I hope they follow the same opening-procedure this year.

4:55 – More shoppers have started to crowd behind me. Some people already have a shopping cart. I don’t have a shopping cart. Should I go get one? The train table is going to be heavy. Nah. I’ll just slide the thing. The floors look nicely waxed. I should be good.

5:00 (or 5:01 by someone’s watch in the crowd) – The laughing and chatting have subsided. VC employee opens the right door first. Yes! The people waiting near the left door decide to crowd in. Now were all squished together. I see the train tables stacked nicely in the front foyer. But, stop! VC employee is handing out $10-off coupons . I wait for her to hand me one. I head straight for the tables and I’m the first to grab one. It’s not too heavy. But it’s long and awkward to carry. I slide it over to the side. I’ll wait until the mob thins, then I’ll get a cart to help me take the table to the checkout.

5:03 – I forget the cart and begin to slide the table to the checkout. It wasn’t that far. I ring out for $42. A friendly manager helps me load the table on a cart and I leave the store.

5:13- I decide my next stop will be Target in Tri-County. I pull in the lot and see people lined up outside. Some are sitting in camping chairs. I check the ad. Target doesn’t open until 6 a.m. Forget that. I turn around and drive back to Colerain to hit up ToysRUs.

5:35 – The ToysRUs lot is packed. I get inside the store and people are already lined up around the perimeter waiting to checkout. I grab a cart and start to wind my way to the back of the store. I’m looking for two things: Creepy Crawler Bug Maker and Mommy&Me Nursery Center for dolls.

5:40 – The Nursery Center is already gone. I decide it’s not worth looking for the Bug Maker. I walk out of TRU empty-handed.

5:50 – I decide to go to Target in Colerain. The lot is full and there is a line outside the door. I decide to just hang out in my car. All I want here is a Star Wars transformer and a Little Mommy Doll Stroller.

5:55 – I see my friend Amy with her mom and grandmother and I decide to get out of my car and say hi. Amy tells me they’ve been to Mejier and ToysRUs. We stand near the front of Target’s parking lot, not in the line.

6:00 – Target opens one door and a police officer is making sure everyone stays in line. The line doesn’t look long.

6:03 – We realize that the line is stretched all the way to the backside of the building. People just keep coming and coming. I start to wonder if it’s worth going inside Target.

6:05 – The line is finally gone and me and the other non-liners make our way in. I decide to cut through accessories and children’s clothing to get to the toy section.

6:08 – After seeing the amount of people going inside, I’m surprised that I get to the back of the store easily. I decide to look for the Star Wars thing first.

6:10 – I get to the Star Wars aisle and mumble to myself, “Where’s that Star Wars thing?” Woman overhears me and tells me it’s already gone. Other woman overhears her and tells us there are more on the end-cap. People start to scramble. I get to the end-cap and hands are coming out of nowhere, swiping boxes off the shelf. Woman who thought they were gone asks me to grab one for her. I do and hand it to her. I feel good again. It’s only $15, compared to $34 and I know Jonah will love it.

6:15 – I weave in and out and around shoppers to the doll aisle. I see the stroller for $10 and I grab one. It seemed too easy. I wonder if I look some more or head out?

6:18 – I leave the toy section and stop by DVDs. No deals, really. So I go to the checkout.

6:25 – I’m in my car and I’m happy. I’m going to stop at Panera and reward myself with a vanilla latte.

6:30 – In the line at Panera, I chat with other shoppers. They share their mob stories, I share mine. I feel like a experienced Black Friday shopper.

6:35 – I get my latte and decide to head home. I did it. I got some good deals. Total damage, $69 in cash. No debt!

3 thoughts on “All I want for Christmas is… No debt!

  1. I’ve always thought the deals on Black Friday were just teasers to get you in the store. I didn’t think you’d actually GET the stuff for cheaper. That’s pretty cool. I guess when Cassie gets older and starts telling me what she wants, I’ll have to reconsider my Black Friday sleep-in attitude.

  2. I love your recap, Cara! That’s awesome. You made me LOL. Ha. Anyway, I’m glad you got some good deals. Was the $69 including the latte? Ha.

  3. Wow! I skipped Black Friday ’cause I can’t handle the crowds. But I am much jealous-o about your $aving$. Now I wish I’d gotten up at 4 a.m. with my sister-in-law, who is probably all done with her Christmas shopping.

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