13 Ways to Save Money This Holiday Season

13 ways to save money this holiday season -- Frugal Portland

In case you couldn’t tell by the bell-ringing Santas, the lights up in your neighborhood, the colder-than-comfortable air temperatures, and more traffic in the retail areas, it’s the holiday season. Since Brent and I hosted our very first holiday as a married couple on Thanksgiving, we’re traveling for Christmas, so we’re doing a lighter decking of our halls than usual.

I got permission from my sister to skip a tree this year, and hopefully we’ll have a tree in the new house (wherever that ends up being) next Christmas.

I’m getting swept up in the season. I love Christmas. It seems like people are a little nicer to each other this time of year.

Also, now that I’m married to a boy from the desert, Christmas means I get to have some unexpected fun in the sun to go along with my … figgy pudding? Yes, figgy pudding.

I got to thinking, though, about the one part of Christmas I don’t really like: forced gift giving. Now, I don’t work in an office, so I don’t think my coworkers expect any treats from me (but if you’re reading this, coworkers, send me your address!) but I’m in the minority.

Let’s set up some ground rules for the season, shall we?

Splendid! Below are 13 ways to save money this holiday season.

1. Nobody “Needs” a Gift From You

Do not stress! There is nobody out there who absolutely needs a gift from you. If you’re working on your goals, whatever they may be, understand that you do not need to shell out $15 x the number of people you know and love. Remember: it’s about being together (and wearing too much red) not about keeping score.

2. Go With Homemade Whenever Possible

This is the 8th season of Kathleen’s Homemade Christmas, and it’s a tradition I love (and I think the people on my list love it too). There are always caramels (although this year, sorry, friends, I out-carameled myself for the wedding, we’re doing caramel sauce this time around), and there are always other things. I choose a theme, and send gifts based on the theme. They haven’t gone out yet this year, so I can’t tell you what the theme is, but it’s good. Send me your address and $ for shipping and I’ll put you on the “nice” list.

3. If You Get an Unexpected Gift, Simply Show Gratitude

When you get a gift, the very worst response is, “but I don’t have anything for YOU!” so keep that thought in your head, and say thank you. Then make sure you have something homemade for them the next time you see them. It’s not keeping score. It’s about cheer, and love. No tit for tat, okay?

4. Tip Service Industry Workers a Little Extra

If you’re out celebrating, tip more than normal. In my house, that means I pull out the credit card linked to the account we share. Because I’m a better tipper than Brent. There, I said it. I’ve aired the dirty laundry. Service workers in Portland are paid better than most cities (which is Brent’s defense for giving a 15% tip), but still. Having to attend all these holiday parties and not get to partake? Sucks.

5. Be REALLY Nice to People at the Airport

Speaking of jobs that suck, airport workers see people at their absolute worst. Add flight delays around the holidays, and wow. Be nice to TSA, the coffee stand person, the person at the airport bookstore, everyone. Not just “not mean,” but nice. Extra nice. Tell them happy holidays.

6. No Gift is Worth Going Into Credit Card Debt

Listen up, buttercup. If you have credit card debt, now’s the year for writing everyone you know and love a letter indicating all the things you love about them. Take the one you love on a scavenger hunt around town. DO NOT INCREASE YOUR DEBT for this holiday. It’s not worth it. It’s not the same as eating a piece of cake after a year of dieting. Get out of debt. Thank your loved ones for their help on your journey out of credit card debt.

7. Give Time (It’s More Valuable Anyway)

Even if you’re not in credit card debt, you may have more time than money on your hands this season. If you’re anything like me, your friends have babies. Give them time! Watch their kids for them while they go Christmas shopping. Spend time at their house if their kids are too little to leave behind. Run errands for friends. They can’t go get groceries because of their newborn? Tell them to make you a list and buy what they need. Even if they pay you back (and they will), you’ve given them something they can’t buy — time.

8. Give to Those in Need

Your kid’s teacher doesn’t need something expensive. Wait, that’s not actually true where we live. Teachers are underpaid. Get them gift certificates to places they won’t visit on their own. But give to those who are standing outside in the freezing rain asking for change. There are excuses, “they’ll just use the money for alcohol,” but I’m not buying it. First, who says people in homes are more entitled to a beer than people who are homeless? Second, would you stand out in this weather? No? Consider that you have more options than the person you drive past. Put together gift bags. Buy an extra coffee (this is MUCH more charitable than the silly “pay it forward” Starbucks lines where people aren’t even getting out of their cars!) when you see someone outside. People in need are the modern-day Tiny Tims of this world, and even Scrooge (McDuck) could be generous to Tiny Tim.

9. Consider Alternative Gifts

Brent and I agreed this year to skip traditional gifts and instead spend one night in a fancy hotel during our stay in Arizona. Most of the time, we’ll be with his family (OUR family!) so one night, we’ll escape down the road to a fancy hotel where we will be by ourselves celebrating our luck to find each other. Cheesy, right? Tis the season.

10. Save Where You Can

It wouldn’t be a Kathleen post if I didn’t mention the value of Groupon at least once. Sorry not sorry, there are awesome deals every single day on gifts and experiences that you can share and save up to half at the same time. Check it early. Check it often.

11. Sometimes the Thought Isn’t What Counts

If the thought is, “why on earth did she spend this money on me?” then it’s not the thought that counts. Far from it. If you’re giving a thoughtful present, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Give carefully, and really think about the recipient. Is it something they want? OR was it on sale at Groupon and you couldn’t come up with anything better?

12. Consider Experience Gifts

Have you heard of Goldstar Events? They offer experiences for 50% off. Things like tickets to the Nutcracker, the Santaland Diaries, or anything else can be had at steep discounts.

13. Do Cheesy Holiday Things

There are SO MANY things to do this season — my sister and I love to see the fancy decorated Christmas trees at the Convention Center. It’s a bigger version of what we used to do every year in Olympia, and it makes us think of Mom.

Biggest Advice: Plan, then Let Go

Follow these rules, then let December happen. Remember to focus on family (not focus on the family, that’s a political website), friends, and loved ones you maybe haven’t met before. Be nice, don’t stress.

That’s a motto we can all adhere to, right?

Groupon’s Cyber Monday Deals

I didn’t do Black Friday. Well, I did, accidentally step into a store looking for something specific, and came away shocked that what I wanted costs so much money. Seriously. I forgot what retail shopping was like!

However, as I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee wading through emails, I can’t help but notice that there are some excellent deals out there for Cyber Monday.

Groupon, especially, is handing out discounts like candy.

Below are a few:

Groupon 30% off gift shop sale

{30% off for Cyber Monday}

Huge deals on spa treatments, fun activities, haircuts, restaurants, and more

{Up to 80% off physical goods}

Fuzzy boots, earphones, fitness trackers, pet beds, kitchen stuff, electronic toothbrushes, and a wide assortment of random stuff

If you’re looking to treat yourself, go for the first deal. Some people (not me!) don’t like getting Groupons for Christmas, but if you set it up to say, “let’s go get our nails done together!” and clandestinely paid with a Groupon, your friend would be none the wiser.

If you want to save big on physical goods, go for the second deal. Your recipient wouldn’t begin to guess that you bought their gift using a coupon, so it’s a double win. Unless you write a frugal living blog that your friends know about. Then they’ll assume you got a deal.

Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: Extra Cash for the Holidays

Sunday deals extra cash for the holidays Frugal Portland

Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! Is there anything better than saving money? Well maybe… what about earning some extra money? If you’re looking to earn some extra money for the holidays, check out these offers.

Sign up with Survey Spot and earn cash or Amazon gift cards just for sharing your opinion.

MindsPay is another company that offers you cash for your opinions. Click below to sign up for free.

Panda Research also offers a free sign up and up to $50 per offer completed.

Opinion Outpost also offers cash or Amazon gift cards.

And, last but not least… Fusion Cash give you a $5 bonus just for signing up!

Now get out there are start earning some extra cash to put in your savings!

The Emotional Roller Coaster of House Hunting

The emotional roller coaster of house hunting -- Frugal Portland

We were ready to sign. The pen was in our hands. All we wanted was what was represented in the sales documents: a functional, 15-year old ready-to-move-in house. We knew the place wasn’t perfect. Yeah, we’d have to finish a third bedroom. Maybe the kitchen was a bit outdated, and the configuration was a little odd. But that location! That neighborhood! We were willing to pay listing price, despite the flaws of the house. We were elated. Once we got to the negotiation phase, though, the deal simply fell to pieces and we had to walk away.

We had come a long way into the process. When we first saw the house, we were blown away by the prime location of the home. I mean, this place was smack dab in the middle of one of the most explosive development corridors in all of Portland, a little outdated cabinetry was not going to be the thing that separated us from this place. We put in an offer almost immediately after seeing it. The seller accepted our bid and away we went.

The inspection showed more problems with the home that we had ever imagined, but we figured the sellers honestly just didn’t know. It was, after all, a rental unit, so they didn’t see the problems evolve over time. “Now that they know there are some real issues, let’s hope they agree to fix them and things will be fine,” I said to Kathleen.

Now Kathleen and I share common goals and dreams, but our personalities and outlooks on life are quite different. Kathleen is an optimistic sort and quite trusting. I am very pessimistic and cynical of others’ motivations. In aggregate, we tend to balance each other out, but each of us needs to manage the other’s expectations in very different ways.

In the early part of the deal, Kathleen was picking up my spirits about the snags we were hitting. None of them were particularly bad (the seller took more than three extra days to accept our offer; we were going to have to spend a significant amount of money on projects to improve the house), but it was enough to give me sleepless nights.

Post-inspection, the onus of managing expectations switched to me. It was pretty clear from the inspection that the place was more of a fixer-upper than the sellers had led us to believe. The range was not in working order. The deck was unsafe for people to stand on. There was unremediated mold in the attic due to bad ventilation and the inspector detected high moisture readings in the master bathroom. Who knew what problems were growing underneath the tiles? I began to doubt the sincerity of the seller.

As the process continued, the seller denied that a 15-year old house could need such dramatic fixes, and wouldn’t budge on the price. I was worried about deeper issues, the ones we couldn’t see. It was clear that we were going to have to walk away.

The decision hit Kathleen pretty hard. She had already mentally moved into our new house, had geared up for some DIY projects to improve the place. My heart broke while I listened to her dejected voice over the phone. She acquiesced in a near whisper, “Okay.” I could tell she was choking back a tear.

She bounced back a few hours later and slept off all the residual disappointment the next day.

Portland is a seller’s market right now. Houses in our neighborhood in Southeast Portland rarely last more than a few days. There is intense pressure to make an offer on a house after only a few moments of consideration. It is not an ideal circumstance for people making life-changing decisions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, Kathleen and I are in an advantageous buyers’ position. We have a place to live today. While we’d like to change our living situation, our situation is by no means unbearable. We can afford to bide our time and wait for that best-case scenario.

It’s strange how emotional the home-buying process is, even for a couple that knows they can wait. The house we walked away from was flawed in a zillion ways, but we still got caught up in the emotion, the dreaming, the highs and lows. It’s also instructive, though, to be aware of how emotional you can get over something. There is no bigger decision you can make than buying a home, the worst thing you can do is make a snap judgment based on emotion. Take some time and think it through, even if you’re afraid you’ll miss out.

Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: Holiday Card Roundup

Sunday deals -- holiday card round up frugal portland

Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! I know that Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, but December is right around the corner, and if you were planning on getting holiday cards out to friends and family, now is the time to order them!

Here are some deals on holiday cards so you don’t shock your pocketbook if you didn’t budget for them. But hurry, some of these deals expire soon (like today!).

20 Cards for $4.99

InkGarden.com is offering 20 Custom Holiday Cards – Just $4.99 plus shipping and handling (Standard Shipping: $4.49), but hurry… this offer ends TODAY (11/23/2014)! Offer good for new and returning customers.

20 Custom Holiday Cards – Just $4.99 – Save $16.99!

30% Off Entire Order

TinyPrints.com is offering 30% off your entire order, but hurry because this offer also expires today (11/23/2014)! Miss your chance at 30% off? Click here for 10% off your order or click here for $50 off your $150 order (some exclusions apply).


10 Photo Cards for $1

York Photo Lab is offering 10 Custom Photo 5X7 Stationary Holiday Cards – Just $1 (S&H Not Included. Standard Shipping: $3.49). New Customers Only. Hurry, this offer expires 11/28/2014.

Custom Photo 5X7 Stationary Holiday Cards – Just $1 – Save $11.99!

Buy 4 Cards Get 1 Free

The Greeting Card Shop has cards for 1.99 and is offering 5 cards for the price of 4 through 12/24/2014


Whew! You get all that? My head is spinning. I feel like that was a very fast deals round up! Now, go order your Christmas cards so you can enjoy Thanksgiving.

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