6 Smart Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping

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Looking to save money on your holiday gift giving?  Make sure you check out this list of SIX great tips!  My personal favorite is #5 - and it is the one I tell my children about each and every year!


It is November which means it is now time to jump in and do your holiday shopping.  If you shop all year long, then you are probably about finished — and good for you!  However, many don’t start shopping until around Thanksgiving (or later).  When you start to see all of the deals showing up on your television, Facebook and other places (like this site), it can become overwhelming and you can quickly over-buy and lose control.  Here are SIX great tips you can follow to help keep your spending under control!


1.  Create a Budget and List

Before you jump in and start buying willy-nilly, you should have BOTH a budget and shopping list ready.  You can use the standard budget form here (just print the blank one and write down the names of the people you will buy for and the amount you plan on spending).    Once you have that in place, then determine what it is you will buy or make.  If your budget is tight, you may want to try homemade gifts (check out one of my Pinterest boards for some ideas).

Make sure you stick to your budget so that when the mail comes in January, you’ll be happy to see fewer bills show up in the mail box!

2.  Saving money on a deal is really saving

If you find a deal on something that you didn’t intend on purchasing and buy it because of the price, that does not make it a deal.  Instead, when you spend money – no matter how much – you are spending.  Even if you get it for $10 because you are saving $15, that is another $10 taken out of your holiday budget.  Make sure that when you see a deal, that it is something you really need to buy and not something you buy just because of the price.

3.  Don’t get sucked in by the phrase Black Friday

Just because it is Black Friday, it doesn’t mean that those are the best deals you can find.  Some of the best days to shop include:

  • November 26th — Toys and Electronics
  • December 1st – Apparel

If you take a minute to actually look through the Black Friday Ads, you will probably see that many of them are the same things you see in past years or are items which are rather underwhelming.  Don’t fall for the hype of Black Friday and think that means you are guaranteed to get some of the best prices of the shopping season.

If you do plan on getting out to shop, you can read my Best Black Friday Shopping tips.  If you want to stay home instead, we’ll be here to help — complete with a database filled with coupon codes and offers!!!  


4.  Shop online

While do sometimes shop in the stores, I will admit to doing most of my shopping online.  I am just so busy that getting out is not as easy as it has been in the past.  Between that and the weekend madness, I’d just rather spend time at home with my kids.

When I have the patience to wait for a deal, I can often find deals that I can’t find in the store.  Or, if they are bit more, they are really “the same” as I don’t have to spend fuel or my time to drive to the store to grab it!

I will admit that my favorite place to shop is Amazon.   I also pay the $99 annual fee for Amazon Prime which always more than pays for itself in my shipping savings alone!!!  With the daily lightning deals and how they do a great job of price matching other retailers, I find that I do a great job in getting the things we need, without hurting our holiday budget!

5.  Numbers don’t matter

I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend the same amount and give my kids each 2 or 3 items which will last than 10 items which will fall apart.  In addition, I don’t care what my kids give me either.  One of my favorite gifts was a silly snowman coffee mug that cost $1 at one of our Dollar Stores.  I love it most of all because my daughter was so proud that she not only picked it out herself, but spend her own money to buy it for me.  She reminds me of this when I dig out that mug for my hot cocoa each winter.

I know I’ve receive many gift over the years, but this small mug is the thing I remember.  Your family will do the same thing – if you give something from the heart – or just do what you can to make the holiday memorable, that is what matters most of all.  You probably won’t remember what gift you were given in 2 years, but you will remember that special moment where your child smiled or your last photo with grandma.

6.  Stop shopping when the list is done

This may seem like it is common sense, but it may be harder than you realize.  When you are done with your holiday shopping and have purchase or made something for everyone on your list, just stay out of the stores.  It is so simple to see something and pick up “just one more item.”  Doing this can quickly add up into 5 – 10 more items and quickly blow that budget you set in step #1 above.  Like I tell my kids ……. “put down the toy and walk away.”

What other tips do you have to add to our list?

Free Nice and Naughty Notice Downloads!

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Nice and Naughty Notices

This is the time of the year that many parents tend to play the “Santa is watching” card when kids act up, or happen to do something wonderful.  However, they may not always believe, so what better way than to have a Nice or Naughty Notice arrive for them – straight from the North Pole!

Just click the image below and download your free copy.  Fill out your child’s name and the type of behavior. Make sure it is signed by one of the elves (your Elf on the Shelf would be the perfect name to use, if you happen to have one).  Then, place it on your child’s dresser for them to see when they wake or get home from school.  Just watch their eyes when they can tell you are not lying.

nice notice small

Download your FREE Nice Notice form HERE

It is important that kids know when they are doing good things – not just being corrected for the bad.  These nice notices are great to reinforce that good behavior and make them want to earn more notices.  If you do happen to issue a Naughty Notice, try to give Nice notice within a day or so — again to help your kids feel good about themselves.

naughty notice small

Download your FREE Naughty Notice form HERE

None of us are perfect.  That is the message it is important to convey with your kids if they happen to be issued a Naughty Notice.  Make sure you talk it over with your  kids and let them know that they are not on the naughty list, but they have been caught doing something that they should not have done.  This is such a perfect learning opportunity for your kids to take responsibility for their own actions.  As mentioned above, try to follow up with a NICE notice within a day or so of issuing this one.

Christmas is such a magical time for kids and they believe for such a short time.  Try to have fun with it and do what you can to make it memorable for your own kids!

5 Secret Tips to Help You Score Amazon Lightning Deals

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When shopping this holiday season, Amazon Lightning deals are often a great option.  However, it seems that most of us miss out on grabbing one.  Find out my FIVE SECRET TIPS to help you score those deals!!

It happens to many of us.  You wait for a lightning deal to go live on Amazon.  The minute you see it you, try to buy and it’s already sold out!?!?!  I know how frustrating this can be, as I’ve had it happen to me on more than one occasion.  Here are some tricks to helping you get the deal you want!

1 – Join Amazon Prime.  Some deals are opened up to Amazon Prime members 30 minutes before the deals go live.  By being a member, you get access to these deals early as well as many other perks.  Learn more about this service HERE.

2 – Add the item to your cart no more than 15 minutes before the deal goes live.   Then, when the deal goes live, you can see if the price is what you want to pay and if so, just checkout and it will be yours!  Keep in mind that not all items will adjust automatically, so there isn’t always 100% success with this method (although it usually works).

3 – Join the waitlist.  Now, if you happen to miss out, it is always very important to join the waitlist.  People forget to check out all of the time and so that frees up products for others to buy.  You have only 15 minutes from the time you add something to your cart to proceed to checkout, or it will be removed and someone else can purchase it (whether you get it right away or through the waitlist).  Once you on are on the waitlist, a couple of things will happen.

4 – Purchase the Item Immediately.  Sometimes, as soon as you hit to join the wait list, you can purchase it.  So, if that happens, makes sure you check out right away so you can be sure that you get the item you want.

5 – Stay on Amazon.  If you click to join the waitlist, do NOT leave Amazon.  If you are cleared for purchase, you will receive a pop up in the upper corner of your screen.  You still still have only 15 minutes to checkout, so make sure you get it right away.  If you are not on Amazon and are cleared from the waitlist and don’t purchase, you will end up missing out.

With the deals kicking into high gear, I wanted to make sure you knew what to do to ensure you could get the item you wanted!  Follow the Amazon Black Friday Countdown Deals page so you can find the item you want!

New Feature! Search for a Deal on the Product You Need!

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Deal Search Tool

We’ve had a new feature on the site for a few weeks and I know some of you have seen it here and there.  However, if you haven’t (or are not sure where to find it when you need it), we’ve made it simpler for you!

What am I referring to?  A deal search tool!!  We now have a way to help you find all of the current deals on the products you need!  Need to find a deal on dog food?  No problem – you can search for that. You can search by product name or even by brand.  If there is a deal, it will be listed for you!

Using the feature is very simple.

Step 1 — Visit the Coupon Database page and scroll down to find the search tool.

search bar 1


Step 2 – Type in the item you need to find and hit the search button.

serach 2

Step 3 – Review the list to see the store where you will find the deal (including any dates as listed).  You can also click the links to print any coupons listed directly from the search tool.

search bar 3

That’s it!  That is how you use this new tool!  Isn’t it simple?  And now, you can just click over to the Coupon Database anytime you need to find a deal OR a coupon!!



My Top Ten Black Friday Shopping Tips!

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Black Friday is a few weeks away! While it may not be your cup of tea, it is a fun day for many who love to venture out!   If you plan to hit the stores, make sure you read my own TOP TEN TIPS for Black Friday Shopping!!


Black Friday is just a few weeks away.  Many people avoid the stores like the plague, but some want to get out and do some shopping.  Now, if you can’t handle the crowds, then you would do better to stay at home.  I will admit that I will be one of those out doing some shopping.

For me, it isn’t even about the deals …. it is something my mom and I did when I moved here and just really enjoy. Yes – there are crowds. Yes – some people can be rude. However, for the most part, people are in a good mood and it is surprising how much they are willing to help one another.

Here are some Black Friday shopping tips you should keep in mind:

1. Review the ads and compare prices before you shop.  Black Friday certainly isn’t the day to pick up an ad when you walk through the doors.  Carefully look over each store’s ad and make a list of the items you want at each store so you can try to get in and out as quickly (I use that term loosely), as possible.  Make sure that you know the original price of the item you want so that you can tell if you are really getting a deal rather than being sucked in by the hype.

Since more than one store will be offering the same products at deep discounts, be sure to compare so that you get the best deal.   One thing to keep in mind is the distance to the store from your house. If driving an extra 10 miles to save $5.00 is the deal, then it might not be worth your time and gasoline to make the trip.

2. Plan your shopping trip.  Plan your route before you leave home.  It makes sense to try to hit all of the stores you can that are in close proximity to one another.    Determine what time the store opens and whether it is worth standing in line or not.  If a store opens at 4 am, full expect a long line by 3 am or so.

3. Shop with your ads in hand.  Determine where you want to shop and plan your shopping strategy.  Try to visit an area that has most of your stores close together so you can cut down on drive time.  It is also a good idea to have the ads with you when you shop.  That way, if the price rings up at the wrong price, you have the ad to show the clerk so that you don’t pay too much for your items.

4. Know that you might not get your deal.  Many times, stores only get in a certain number of items.  For example, most television deals are limited to 10 (or fewer) per store.  So, make sure you have a back up plan for what to buy in case you aren’t quick enough to get your deal.  And then don’t get angry with the store manager or employees when the stock has been depleted.

5. Know your store’s return policies.  This can be very helpful when shopping so that you know how your store handles out of stock items, rain checks and price matching (although very few stores will price match any Black Friday ads).   Understand the return policy and time frame.  The best solution is to get a gift receipt.

6. Divide and conquer.  I always shop with my mom.  The reason I love this is that one of us can hit one area of the store to find one item and the other person can search across the store for something else.  We decide beforehand where we’ll meet up so that we can pull our items together and check out at the same time.

7. Patience is a virtue.  It really is true.  There are going to be mobs of people.  You will stand in line for long periods of time to get into the store in some instances and more than likely in another line to checkout.  Some stores make it fun and offer “in-line games.”  Just be nice and remember that you aren’t the only person shopping and trying to get a deal.  I always say “Kill ‘em with Kindness.”  In fact, I usually make friendships and share deal stories with the people I meet in line – which is nice if you forget something – they’ll save your place for you if you have to step out of line for a minute.

8. Leave the kids behind.  If you can, find someone to watch your kids.  Shopping on Black Friday can be crazy and the kids will not have fun.  I also look at it as a safety issue as when there are so many people, it is easy for your child to get distracted and separated from you.  So it is just best if they can stay at home.

9. Keep your cash close.  Of course, I recommend paying for your entire holiday in cash.  I also never carry a purse with me on the day I shop.  Instead, I place my debit card, ID and cash in my front pocket so that I don’t have to worry about being pick pocketed or worse, forgetting my purse or wallet in a store (plus, without a purse, you have more hands to carry more deals).

10. Skip Black Friday – Wait until Cyber Monday.  If the thought of the crowds is too much to bear, just skip it all together and shop on Monday, November 29th … a.k.a. Cyber Monday.  Doing so can save you the stress of too many people or worse, driving to your store to find that they are sold out of the item you are wanting.  Most retailers will be offering deep discounts and usually even free shipping on Cyber Monday.

If you can’t handle crowds or get easily flustered in these situations, then it would probably be best for you to stay at home and catch some on-line deals on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. If you do brave the long lines, traffic backups and mobs of people, remember these tips  to make your Black Friday experience a good one! Happy Shopping!!

DIY Hanging Lanterns

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amazon 1

Check out these fabulous Hanging Jar Lanterns! It seems everyone (including me) are all a craze with mason jar projects right now! Here is a fun DIY project perfect for creating home decor, decorating for an outdoor party or wedding.

hanging lantern supplies ppm

Supplies Needed: 

  •  Mason Jars (pint sized)
  • 26 inches (per jar) of 16-18 gauge wire (copper, brass, or colored craft wire)
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle or Round Nosed Pliers

Lantern P


  1. The first thing you need to do is cut 2 pieces of copper wire, 13 inches each.
  2. Take the first piece of copper wire and make a “P” shape on it’s end. Starting about half way around the mouth of the jar start to form the wire around. When you get the other side (half way around) bend the wire away from the jar and cut with the wire cutters about 1/2 inch away from the bend.lantern wire all
  3. With the remaining piece of wire (from the above step). Create another “P”. Don’t close up the circle completely, leave it slightly open so you can hook it through the original “P” shaped piece from the above step.lantern wire 5
  4. Connect the two “P” shapes together and then begin forming the shape of the remaining piece of wire. When you get to the opposite side of the jar, bend the wire upwards. Create a “P” shape, connecting the piece to the previously made wire piece. Close up the last “P” and now your two pieces should be securely connected to the jar, creating the main “frame” of the lantern hanger.lantern 6
  5. Next with the second piece of 13 inch copper wire. Create a “P” shape. Leave it slightly open and put it through the previously made lantern hanger loop. Close up the “P” shape and gently pull the copper wire upwards to create the size and shape of handle you would like.
    stone lantern   ppm
  6. Going through the opposite side loop created on the lantern hanger frame, create the last “P” shape. This will complete the lantern hanger.
  7. Fill the jar with stones, leaves, tea lights, candles or whatever works with your theme. Hang on a tree branch, with clear wire or use as a centerpiece on a table.

100 Stocking Stuffer Ideas — By Group (Kids, Teens and More)

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If you struggle with trying to find ideas for those stockings, then this is the list for you!  You'll find 100 items listed out -- grouped by age.  We've got them for babies/kids, teens, men, women -- and just about anyone!  Great list to pin to your holiday board - so you can refer to it when you need some inspiration!


It is usually pretty simple to find the gifts to put under your tree. However, what about those stockings?  It can be tough coming up with ideas to fill those stockings to the top with things that they actually want — all while keeping your budget in mind.   Below you will find 100 ideas — broken down into age groups!




  1. Playdoh
  2. Toothbrushes
  3. Socks
  4. Rattles
  5. Underwear
  6. Bubbles
  7. Books
  8. Silly straws
  9. Travel games
  10. Silly String
  11. McDonald’s Gift card
  12. Pacifier
  13. Rattles
  14. Mittens/gloves
  15. Drinking cups
  16. Mini Legos
  17. Stickers
  18. Markers/Crayons
  19. Fun pencils
  20. Silly putty




  1. iTunes or GooglePlay gift cards
  2. Cell phone or iPod cover
  3. Gloves
  4. Nail polish
  5. Lip Gloss
  6. Wallet
  7. Key Chain
  8. Perfume/Cologne
  9. Jewelry
  10. Earbuds
  11. Charger Cords
  12. Razor/Shaving Cream
  13. Hairbrush/Comb
  14. School Logo Items
  15. CDs
  16. Travel Mugs/Waterbottle
  17. Sunglasses
  18. Ice Scraper
  19. Fuel Gift cards
  20. Beanie/stocking hats



  1. Starbucks gift card
  2. Lotion
  3. Scrapbooking items
  4. Socks
  5. Oven mit
  6. Pedicure/Manicure gift card
  7. Gourmet coffee
  8. Favorite candy
  9. Candles
  10. Tea
  11. Jewelry
  12. Gloves
  13. Measuring Spoons
  14. Magazine
  15. Photo album
  16. Personal stamper
  17. Pens/Stationary
  18. Book
  19. Lip Balm
  20. Perfume




  1. Wallet
  2. Fuel gift card
  3. Travel mug
  4. Socks
  5. Shaving Items
  6. Cologne
  7. Beanie
  8. Hand warmers
  9. Pocket Knife
  10. Ice scraper
  11. Mini flashlight
  12. Golf balls and tees
  13. Favorite Movie
  14. Magazine
  15. Hunting items
  16. Car charger
  17. Tools
  18. Grilling items
  19. Sunglasses
  20. Sports cap




  1. Candy bar
  2. Coffee/Tea
  3. Socks
  4. Gloves
  5. Pens
  6. Snack Packs
  7. Gift cards (iTunes, Starbucks, Google Play)
  8. Hand sanitizer
  9. Gum
  10. Travel coffee mug
  11. Earbuds
  12. Crossword puzzle book
  13. Lotion
  14. Lottery tickets
  15. Playing cards
  16. Loofa
  17. Candles
  18. Bookmark
  19. Ice scraper
  20. Luggage tags

You can find many of these items on Amazon.  Just do a search for the item you want and you might be surprised at the options you find!

Add Your Items to our Penny Pinchin’ Mom Readers’ Wish List!

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Holiday Wish List


Now that we are into November, we are all thinking ahead to the holidays.  As in years past, we do everything we can to help all of you get those items you want for the holidays.  Of course, when we can find a deal for you, that makes it even better!  In order to ensure that our focus is on all of YOU, we’ve brought back the popular Reader Wish List again for 2014!!

What is this list? It is a way for you to let us know what items YOU need to find for your holiday gift giving.  Then, we know what items to watch for.  While we can’t promise that we will find a deal for everyone, we sure do our best!

All you need to do to get your item added is to fill out our Readers Wish List Form HERE.  Then, answer the few questions we ask, include any link you may have to the exact product you want and you’re done!  Then, if we find a deal, we will post it right onto the site for you!

To ensure that you don’t miss out on that hand picked deal, make sure you are signed up to receive our FREE daily newsletter!!

Daylight Savings Ends Tonight + Five Things You Should Do When Changing Your Clocks!

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daylight savings


If you live in a part of the country which participates in Daylight Savings, you will want to make sure you remember to change those clocks tonight!  Daylight Savings ends at 2 am on November 2nd.  That means you will FALL BACK one hour.  It is usually a good idea to change those clocks before you head to bed tonight (so you don’t forget)!

There are also other things you should do each year when you change those clocks.  Here are five ideas for you:

1. Change the batteries in your smoke and CO2 detectors.  Even if you “think” they are still good, it is wise to change them, so you know they are fresh.  A simple investment of $20 in batteries could save your families lives.  Find a list of the current battery coupons HERE.

2. Review your family escape and meet up plan.  In the event there is a fire, your family members should all know how to get out of the house.  There should also be a meet up place for all of you, so you know if someone didn’t make it out, so you can send in firefighters to help.  If your kids are smaller, it may also be very good to practice the escape routes so you all know exactly how to get out alive.

3.  Make sure your important documents are up to date.  Did something happen to change your life insurance?  Did you update passwords or other information?  Did someone move and have a new address?   Take this weekend to update all of these items and forms.  We’ve actually got many free forms to help you make this task simpler.

4.  Clean out the medicine cabinet.  Check for expired meds or prescription drugs you no longer take and dispose of them.  Make sure you do not just simply toss them into the trash can though – as you would hate for them to end up in the wrong hands.   Check out this list of tips from the FDA on safe drug disposal.

5.  Clean out your clothes.  Go through those items from spring and summer and if you did not wear them, they are worn out or no longer fit, pull them out and toss and donate them.  Then, take all of your fall and winter items and hang them “backwards” on your clothes rack.  As you wear the items, you can hang them up the normal way.  Then, at the end of the season, you will see the items that you did not wear and can get ride of them.

10 Great Apps to Help Keep You Organized

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organizing apps

1. Key Ring (free).  Do you find that you have 5, 10 or even MORE store loyalty cards?  This is a free app to help you keep all of those cards handy, without having to keep the card in your wallet (or taking up space on your key chain).  You scan the barcode of your card (or manually type it into your phone).  Then, when you shop, you show the barcode for that stores’s card to your cashier and they scan it and you are done!  No more fumbling to find the cards you need!  This is a free app which you can find for both Apple and Android Devices.

2. Cozi (free).  This is an app my family has actually used too.  It is a way for all family members to use one calendar to write down events and more!  One really neat feature about this is that when you update something on one device, it pushes out to all devices using the same account.  Not only that, but it even has a shopping list feature!  That way, you can write down an item you need at the store, so if another family member stops by for you, they can grab the items you need too!!  The basic app is free, but you can pay to upgrade to a pro version instead, if you so choose.  This app is available on both Apple and Android.

3. Refillables ($0.99 Apple store).  This is the app that helps you keep track of the things you have to replace, such as furnace filters, ink cartridges and more!  You simply add the details for each item, including any manufacturer and model details as well as the refill numbers.  You can even customize the pre-labeled items to make them your own.  Now, when you are out and see a deal on a furnace filter, you can pull the app up on your phone, see the size you need and stock up!

4. Loop Pay (free). This is an amazing app to help you keep all of your debit, credit, loyalty and even gift card in one place! You download the free app and set up your own security features.  Then, when you are out you can use your PHONE to pay!!  Yep – this replaces the need to carry your cards with you.  What I loved most was that it was not just my bank cards which were stored, but also my gift cards.  I hate toting all of these around with me, and now, I don’t need to.  I just add the card detail to the app and the balance is right there on my phone. I can then use my gift card to pay — and then even use the phone to pay for any remaining balance!  The app is free, but you can purchase a KeyFob and other accessories here.

5. Zip List (free).  This app will not only help you plan your shopping trip, but even find recipes!  You can find a recipe and add the items you need to purchase directly from the recipe to your shopping list.  It will even help you track down the deals at your local store!  Having more than 100,000 recipes at your finger tips will also help you find new meals to make for your family!  This app can be downloaded to either and Android or Apple device.

6. RedLaser (free).  This app helps you find the best deal on any item you need.  Just scan the barcode on the product in the store and it will return the prices from other online retailers.  That way, you know if you can get a better deal elsewhere – or even price match that competitor’s price right there in the store!  Available both on Android and Apple devices.

7. Evernote (free).  This is app will help you keep track of your to do lists, notes and more. You can scan in documents or photos — just about anything you may need at a moment’s notice!  This is a great way to keep track of those wish lists for the holidays or have other information right at your fingertips.  The basic app is free, but if you want to upload many items, you will have to pay $5 monthly.  Find this both on Apple and Android.

8. Rescue Time (free). If you ever wondered how much time you waste on social media or other apps during the day, this app can help.  It runs in the background and tracks the time you spend on various applications all day long.  You can then look it at and find out where you may be spending too much time, and how to change your focus!  This is a free app — click HERE for more information.

9. Last Pass (free). Let’s face it, everything these days requires a password.  In order to make sure you are protected, your passwords need to be more difficult.  Not only that, you need different ones for your various websites – so that they are not all the same.  This app stores all of your passwords.  They are all stored via password (which means only ONE to remember).  It syncs between all of your devices.  It is available on Android, Apple and Windows markets (make sure you check out this one for your computer too)!

10. Dropbox (free).  This has to be one of my favorites.  I not only keep photos in here, but also documents, links and more!  My family then has access to everything we need — write down to our budget!  Basic storage is free, but you will have to pay if you need to increase your storage space (which is worth it if you have a lot of items you need to store). This is compatible with Android, Apple and Windows devices.