RIVERDALE, Ga. - It's November. Maybe you aren't shopping for Christmas yet, but it is at least time to start crafting a holiday budget. Aimee Brittain Welbeck is an experienced shopper who is making her lists and checking them twice.
"Got to," she told me.
She's well into her 'To Do' list. She's created a spreadsheet, started price comparisons and has started to bargain shop.
Let's start here at her spreadsheet.
"A spreadsheet of everything I'm cooking and what ingredients I need to make a meal."
For $150, she plans to buy everything she needs for her Thanksgiving meal, Christmas breakfast, holiday desserts, and decor. Oh, and her holiday chili bar. A real money saver she told me.
"Christmas Eve I make a big pot of chili and you can have chili anyway you want it. Chili dogs. Chili burgers. Chili cheese fries. Chili nachos."
She tracks food prices a few weeks out.
"My rule is, especially in the grocery store, the rule of thumb is: If it's not on sale and I don't have a coupon, I'm not buying it."
Tucked into her small dining room is a freezer, a small but very usable freezer to start storing food for holiday meals.
"Usually there's a tablecloth over. And it's decorated," like a sideboard, she said.
Every other time of the year this super saver who calls herself "Pretty Frugal Diva" only spends $60 a week on groceries for a family of three by juggling sales, promos, and apps.
Here's her list of faves -
Checkout51 - cashback by uploading receipts
MobiSave - upload receipts to get cashback
Ibotta - offers cashback deals
Favado - finds retailer with the lowest price for your purchase
RetailMeNot - collects promo codes
She said it once, but she'll say it again...
"If it's not on sale, I don't buy it," she said laughing.
So, that's why she's already started Christmas shopping. She'll price compare then put the item in her virtual cart and let it sit. Inevitably, the price drops, coupons arrive and she gets a deal.
"I really needed some new bedspreads. I put the items in the cart. And honestly, the next day, if you spend $100 you get 65 percent off. Then, I changed and upgraded my stuff. I don't want this, this. I want this stuff. So.
So, she saved $243.
Our frugal I-Team photographer had a question...
"Do you ever pay for shipping?" Another hearty laugh from Aimee, "What is that? Ha!"
There is no single magical formula to saving money over the holidays. These are a lot of little options that add up to deals. It takes work and imagination. Aimee has a homemade book of her grandmother's favorite recipes. It's a treasure she can pass down to generations. You can make something like this yourself online.
So let that computer be your holiday deal weapon.
Follow Aimee's blog "Pretty Frugal Diva" and on Twitter @prettyfrugal.