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How To Christmas Shop For Free

free Amazon gift cards

I took advantage of a promotion to get $30 in free Amazon gift cards

On Monday, we talked about reasons people spend too much over the holidays. I’ve been there, done that, and I’m never going back again. Today, I’ll share some strategies that will allow you to Christmas shop for reduced cost or even free. You actually don’t have to apply this strategy to Christmas shopping. You could use it  to pay off debt, take a trip,make a big purchase, or whatever you want. If you are looking for a way to bankroll Christmas this season, it won’t work, but if you start now, by next year, you could seriously have a zero bill for holiday gifts.

Use Shopping Portals

I tend to do most of my shopping on Amazon because it’s easy, and I love the two day free shipping on Amazon Prime. However, sometimes there are better deals by going through shopping portals. You can use a site like cashbackholic to see where the best cash back deal is at the moment. My current favorite is Ebates.

For example, I needed a new wallet a couple of months ago. I hate buying wallets, but I lost two credit cards because my current one wouldn’t stay closed. It was time. I found a perfect one through Ebags, and it  just so happened that they were offering 15% cash back.

Another great use of Ebates or a cash back portal is for booking hotel stays. Jim has had quite a few work trips where he has needed to book his own room. We’ve gone through Ebates for 2%-8% cash back AND he gets reimbursed. Win-Win!

So far this year, we’ve gotten a total of $34.52 from Ebates, all for buying things we normally buy.

Take Advantage of Promotions

Travis had a great post this week about not being tricked into unplanned spending because of a promotion, and I totally agree. However, if you prepare and actually need items that are being promoted, it’s a great time to earn extra cash or bonuses.

Amazon had a deal a few weeks ago where you could get a $15 gift card for buying $50 of household items. I took advantage twice because we needed Kleenex and batteries.While it might be tempting to buy 400 rolls of toilet paper to get more gift cards, it is not wise to spend so much on a year supply if you don’t have it in the budget.

Our total in free Amazon gift cards this year: $30

Get Cash Back For Groceries

If you have  smartphone, I strongly recommend an app called Ibotta. I don’t like things that take extra time, but this one is pretty slick.

How it works is that Ibotta has a weekly list of items that offer cash back. Because I don’t want to be tempted to buy things I don’t need, I generally don’t look at the list until I’m done shopping. If I have bought something on Ibotta’s weekly list, then I scan the barcode and take a picture of my receipt. Push a button and it’s off to Ibotta. Generally, the cash back is available in a few minutes. You do need a Paypal or Venmo account to get your cash back or you can trade it for certain gift cards. I’ve always just taken the cash back option.

Total cash back from Ibotta this year: $47.75

Cash Back Credit Cards

The first few ideas don’t require the use of a credit card, but if you are one who uses credit cards for points or cash back, it makes sense to maximize bonus categories. Right now, the Chase Freedom card is paying 5% cash back for purchases at Amazon and other select department stores. If you use Amazon and have the money, this is a great time to pre-pay for next year’s purchases. The cash back bonus is good for up to $1500 spent this quarter.

Let’s say your family spends $500 a year at Amazon. If you buy a $500 gift card now, that’s $25 back in your pocket. If you wanted to buy Amazon Prime and have a 5% cash back card, it only costs $94 instead of $99.

With most cash back cards, the bonus categories rotate. Throughout the year, they usually change from groceries, to gas stations, to restaurants, etc. If you maximize the bonus categories when you need to buy things, it can really add up.

Cash back from credit cards: I haven’t tracked this like I should have, but we’ll say $25 a quarter for $100 a year.

Small Business Saturday

This is a deal we took advantage of last year to buy a whole bunch of socks, but there’s no reason you can’t use American Express Small Business Saturday for Christmas gifts. This one is a little harder because you have to choose from stores in your area who are on the list, but it can be fun if you planned on being out anyway.

To sign up for this deal, you need any American Express credit card or Bluebird card. Gift cards don’t count. Register your card here and on November 29th, you can get $10 back on up to three transactions for a total of $30 per card. If you have one account with a card for yourself and your spouse, you can register both cards for a total of $60.

The trick is to pick out something that totals $30, then ask the clerk to run it in three transactions. I felt kind of like a fool asking the salesperson to scan my running socks one pair at a time, but he did it without question. We got 6 pairs of  Pearl Izumi running and biking socks for  free last November.

This year we plan to get another $60 of free stuff courtesy of American Express.

Sell Stuff Equal To the Amount You Need to Spend

This is a trick we have employed for many years now. If we want to buy something that isn’t in our traditional budget, we try to make up the difference by selling old stuff. Obviously it’s easier if you have a child who outgrows clothes every quarter, but it also works for household stuff and adult clothes.

Total made on Ebay and consignment this year: $789.11 + $350 from summer yard sale= $1139.11

Smart Spending

Maybe it’s because we spent recklessly for so many years, but I am determined to milk every penny out of purchases these days. We actually did not use our extra cash for Christmas shopping, but you can see how someone could. Maximize savings,use cash back, get rid of clutter, then use that savings for something useful. It doesn’t mean buying more stuff or wasting your money on things you don’t need.  It won’t happen overnight, but if you start planning now, you could Christmas shop for free next year!

Do you take advantage of cash back offers? How do you spend your cash back?





About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Great tips, Kim! I am actually doing Small Business Saturday this year- my favorite sandwich ship is participating. Yay!

  2. I was just speaking with a client who is behind in her savings and looking to spend money this holiday to utilize her cash back rewards from her credit card company to help offset the shopping. She was thinking she would use them for travel, but sometimes it’s better to use the cash rather than charge up the credit cards. I told her she has to hustle harder next year to make the travel a reality.

    • We used cash back to fund Christmas when we were in the middle of our debt payoff. Realistically we didn’t need to be buying any gifts, but this option allowed us to give presents and not sidetrack our other goals.

  3. I’m a big fan of cash back cards. I’m pretty disciplined with spending generally so I don’t spend more just to get cash back…just the usually places I spend money (gas station/supermarket). Why not earn 5% cash back? It really adds up. I also like shopping portals when I shop online. I also buy discounted gift cards too.

    • Getting a 5% discount on things you buy most is a great way to get ahead in my book. As long as you don’t carry a balance, it’s a money maker.

  4. Great tips! I love the part about selling stuff equal to what you want to spend. It seems that every year I am overrun with more stuff after Christmas and I always end up selling or getting rid of some stuff to make more room. Maybe instead I should sell some stuff before Christmas instead…

    • It’s a great time because people are looking to buy. Even if they aren’t buying used stuff for gifts, they are in the shopping mood. It’s not good for their bottom line, but could be for yours.

  5. I plan on selling some old stuff in order to buy new things this year. I need to declutter anyways, so it’s a win-win for us.

  6. We definitely take advantage of cash back offers! When we recently purchased our second card the dealership let us put it all on our credit card (we had the cash in the bank but wanted the rewards). We typically get the Discover partner gift cards which are discounted so you get, say, a $50 gift card for only $40 worth of cash back. It’s a good way to *multiply* the rewards.

    • I have never had a Discover card, but that cash back one might be a decent thing to have. I usually prefer travel, but you really can’t go wrong with cash.

  7. I’m definitely fan of my credit card rewards, although we typically use them for travel over cash back, but it’s a nice option to have, if needed! And I agree – it’s not a good habit to take advantage of promotion just because it’s offered but with a planning – it can actually be a great deal, especially now.

    • I think people can get carried away and spend way too much money for a free item, but many times it makes sense, like the Amazon deal or with some restaurant promos.

  8. Awesome tips. I heard about Ibotta kind of casually before and didn’t think much of it, but I will definitely download it after your explanation. Combine all those tips for a good chunk of change!

  9. Selling stuff to the equal of what you need is great. When I was in the states I use to list things on Ebay and make a few coins. I agree this is a good way to get rid of some clutter and take care of your holiday shopping. Win….Win!

    • It does feel really good to get rid of clutter. I’m not sure how it keeps creeping back. If I could solve that, I’d be pretty happy. I always blame it on the child.

  10. I’m interested in Small Business Saturday. How do you know which stores are participating?

    • If you Google small business Saturday, you should be able to find the official website. You can type in your zip code or city and it will give you a list of participating businesses. It’s usually a pretty good hodgepodge of stores and restaurants, depending on how big your city is. Even in our small town, there are a few choices. I imagine when we are in Phoenix, there will be tons to choose from.

  11. Hi. I enjoyed your list but I’m really curious how you made so much at your yard sale.

    I just had my first experience and it was not a success. So I am curious to your techniques.

    • My Mom buys really nice clothes for my daughter at times, and I sold quite a few of those to people I know before the actual sale. I also had some bigger items like a bicycle and some leftover packages of laminate flooring from a prior remodel project. I also had lots of junk that went for .$25, but having the bigger items balanced it out.

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