Free After Rebate

How I got over $1400-worth of Christmas gifts for free, 2013

The following will explain in detail how I got over $1400-worth of Christmas gifts for free. For me, they were totally, completely and actually free. Some of the deals below would not have been free without all of the strategies that I applied. Yet, some were actually free as stand-alone offers and one even paid me $20! That was better than any offer I found last year or the year before. This is the third year in a row that I’ve performed this experiment.

free christmas gifts 2013

My first freebie strategy was to create a source of passive income. I consider sources of income with no start-up costs to be actually free. I also consider sources of passive income with minimal start-up costs to be actually free once the start-up costs are met and the source keeps providing income passively. My source of passive income is Cafe Press, which is a printing company that pays a commission to designers who submit designs. Once the design sells, Cafe Press prints it on the product and mails it to the customer. They handle everything from website maintenance to order fulfillment. Visit my Cafe Press store to see my designs. This is particularly free to me since I used free online tools and public domain clip art to create my designs. There are more details on this from my post last year. The only difference is I didn’t submit any designs this year, so it was 100% passive income. This year it totaled $193.95. I subtract 20% estimated taxes ($38.79) and keep it in a savings account until it is due. By keeping it in my own account instead of paying the taxes instantly, I earn interest instead of giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. After taxes, my Cafe Press income was $155.16. For tax purposes, all other freebies listed below were obtained after taxes or were declared on the coupon to be of no monetary value. I used my Cafe Press income as a buffer to cover all other expenses I incurred below, and since the Cafe Press income is free money, that means all my expenses below were actually free.

In September we had a garage sale where we were able to recover $58 from what we sold. This is not a source of income since we already owned the items. Yet, it was a way to get rid of stuff we didn’t want and maximize the original value that we paid. When I add the $58 from the garage sale, this makes my buffer $213.16.

I also thought about adding my credit card rewards to my buffer this year, which could have covered much more of the Christmas expenses. But I decided to let it keep increasing before I request the cash back refund. By next year, it may be up to $500. I might use it for Christmas next year, or sometime over the next few months I’ll create a Roth-IRA for me and my wife and a 529 for my kids. I’m still deciding. Cash back rewards credit cards are a great way to spend less if they’re used properly. By “properly” I mean the following: only use it to spend money that you have, pay it off in full every month, and collect the rewards without accruing any interest. If you let interest accrue then you’ll be paying more than the cash back rewards. Also, if you consciously think about the rewards when you’re shopping, then you’ll spend even more. It’s best to kind of forget about it until checking the monthly credit card statement where you can see the rewards grow over time.

With regards to credit in general: do not open more than 3 credit card accounts or obtain more than 5 lines of credit (a line of credit is any debt, including mortgage, school loans, etc). Always pay off credit cards in full from month to month or don’t use them, and never close your oldest card or the card with historically the most purchases and paid-in-full statements. This has been my personal credit card policy and it has resulted in a high credit score despite a large amount of debt from student loans. This is a task that requires a “type A” or rigidly organized personality and effort, and if that’s too difficult, then just stay away from credit cards completely.

There are plenty of rewards programs that do not require opening a credit account. These can also be beneficial if used correctly and some are even mentioned below. Throughout the year the rewards programs may offer free points, or the points can accrue on your every-day purchases. In these cases, you’re spending less and sometimes getting items that are actually free. However, it takes a conscious effort not to let the rewards program trick you into spending more money. If you’re considering a purchase that you would not make without the rewards program, then don’t make it based on the rewards program. Otherwise, the reward program has tricked you into spending more instead of helping you to spend less.

My first gift of Christmas is a charitable donation of $48.40. That leaves my buffer at $164.76. Also, I haven’t figured driving expenses in previous years and I could argue not to include them again since I either obtained a freebie while driving home from work or it was part of my normal Christmas shopping which I would have done anyway. Yet, this year I’ll assume it took a full take tank of gas ($35) which leaves my buffer at $129.76. I also mention other expenses below, such as the cost of an envelope and stamp for every mail-in rebate (10 cents per envelope and 46 cents per stamp). For the purpose of this article I’ll leave out the cost of printing a rebate form, which would have only been the price of ink per print job since I’m using paper that I got for free. Regarding time—I would have had to spend time shopping for Christmas anyway, so I didn’t figure time as a cost. (Total value of Christmas gifts = $48.40, buffer = $129.76)

Bank Bonuses:

Capital One 360 Black Friday

Capital One 360 Black Friday Offers Screenshot

Bank Bonuses are a fantastic way to get freebies that are actually free. I’ve loved bank bonuses ever since I first got $50 for free from ING Direct a few years ago just for opening an interest-earning checking account. ING Direct was purchased by Capital One and is now Capital One 360. During the Black Friday weekend they were offering $125 free for opening a checking account and $75 free for opening a savings account. This is the best offer they’ve ever had and they were offering $50 for referring friends. I wasn’t able to take advantage of that particular offer since I was already their client and none of my friends or blog readers took advantage of it. However, I did get a different offer. By signing my kids up for a Kid’s Savings account I got a $20 referral for each kid and each kid got $25 for opening an account for a total of $90 in free money. As part of Christmas I gave my two kids my entire referral bonuses and will continue to help them save and learn about saving as they get older.

Capital One 360 is still offering sign-up bonuses if you’re interested, just not as high as they were on Black Friday.

(Total value of Christmas gifts = $138.40, buffer = $129.76)

Samsung Tablet

I also signed up for a free checking account with 1st Bank. They have branches in Colorado, Arizona and California. By signing up and paying three bills with bill pay I was entitled to a free gift, which was a Samsung Galaxy 3 tablet worth $200. I’m not sure yet who is getting this for Christmas, but my wife could probably use it the most for multiple reasons.

The 1st Bank offer is still available if you’re interested. It even applies to their online banking echecking account which can be opened from anywhere and used online. However, if you like to be able to go to a brick-and-mortar bank, it will be most convenient if you live by a branch in Colorado, Arizona or California. (If you decide to open an account with 1st bank to receive a free Samsung tablet, please print this form and present it when you apply)

(Total value of Christmas gifts = $338.40, buffer = $129.76, this total already beats the first year I did this experiment and I’m just getting started)

Sweepstakes:

pixar cars and hot wheels

Entering sweepstakes is an activity I started doing this year which occasionally produces small prizes. Earlier this year O’Reilly Auto Parts had a sweepstakes where I won $5 almost daily for a period of time. I’m not including everything that I won here, but for Christmas I got my son some die-cast cars modeled after Pixar Cars characters and a couple of Hot Wheels cars. The Pixar cars were $6 each, so I paid $1 each time I bought one. Regularly I wouldn’t buy these for $6 since Wal Mart sells them for $3-4 each. I bought a total of six Pixar cars and two Hot Wheels cars and spent $6 (already rounded up after including sales tax). The total value of Christmas gifts for this article will be based on retail price (MSRP) or the price I would have had to pay without the coupon or rebate. In this case each Pixar car is calculated at a value of $6 even though I know I could’ve purchased them somewhere else for less. Total value of these gifts = (6 x $6) + (2 x $5) = $46.

(Total value of Christmas gifts = $338.40 + $46 = $384.40, buffer = $129.76 – $6 = $123.76)

During the Christmas season I completed surveys and entered sweepstakes for all offers on the store receipts. I also entered any sweepstakes that were advertised on Black Friday, including the $1 million given away by Old Navy. So far I haven’t won anything. Those who start entering sweepstakes should know that when you win anything substantial you have to pay income taxes on it.

Rewards Clubs, Email Clubs, and Mail Clubs:

Multiple times between October and Early December, Sears/Kmart/Shop Your Way rewards randomly gave me free rewards points; each was a limited time offer. This meant that the points didn’t accumulate; I had to use them before they expired. Here is what I got:

sears kmart shop your way rewards

  • Received random $5 in points, purchased a movie for $4.99 and paid 99 cents for shipping
  • Received random $6 in points, purchased a tool magnetizer/demagnetizer ($3.39) and a glass cutter ($2.97) for $6.38 total including sales tax, 38 cents for me with free local pick up.
  • Received random $8 in points, purchased rechargeable batteries for $8.21, which was 21 cents for me with free local pick up. When I went to pick up this item they didn’t have it and they have a guarantee where they “retrieve the item in 5 minutes or less or we give you $5 in store credit”. Since they didn’t have the item I wanted they gave me an upgraded package of rechargeable batteries worth $12 and the $5 coupon. With the $5 coupon I bought a Disney Planes action figure for $6 – $5 coupon = $1 (not pictured).
  • Received random $7 in points, purchased wire cutters for $7 with free local pick up (actually free).
  • Received random $5 in points, purchased women’s sunglasses for $6.07 – $5 = $1.07 with free local pick up.
  • Every time Sears gave me points I could have purchased something that was actually free, but I knew I had the buffer which gave me a little more flexibility, and these were the items that I wanted. Sears also gives $1 in rewards points for leaving product reviews. I left reviews for all six products that I purchased which gave me another $6 and I had some change left over in points from before. I purchased a small clamping hand tool for $1.69 that was actually free. I also bought a $5 gift for my wife that isn’t pictured since I want it to be a surprise. (This is one the few things she didn’t help me buy her for Christmas. This experiment sure helps with our Christmas budget, but it doesn’t leave much excitement for me and her since we know what many of our gifts will be. Yet, it’s still fun to be surprised every once in a while, so I’m keeping this gift hidden in case she reads this blog).
  • Received another random $10 in rewards after Black Friday, and I had even made purchases at Kmart on Black Friday. So I re-purchased an item for free and took back the duplicate that I actually paid for. With the $10 I purchased a Craftsman 13″ tool bag ($3.99), M&M stocking cane ($1), and two boxes of Honey Nut Chex ($5.33), and I paid a total of 33 cents with free local pick up.

Total for Sears/Kmart rewards = $58.69 (rounded for simplicity, sales tax is not calculated accurately for this entire article, but you’ll get the general idea), total spent from buffer = $4

(Total value of gifts = $384.40 + $58.69 = $443.09, buffer = $123.76 – $4 = $119.76)

disney movie rewards

muppet show

I’ve been a member of Disney Movie Rewards for about a year and a half. We’re pretty neat in my family so when we buy a movie we keep the case and all the case inserts that come with it. I had accumulated a few free points but not enough to purchase anything. So I took out all the inserts from all the Disney movies we had, some which we even purchased years ago, then entered and claimed all the rewards points. There was only one really old code that didn’t work. I even thought about doing the same thing with my in-law’s and my parent’s movies, but haven’t yet. Once I had entered all the codes, I had enough to order seasons two and three of the Muppet Show on DVD with free shipping. I’m estimating these to be valued at $30 total (it could easily be more at some stores in the mall).

(Total value of gifts = $443.09 + $30 = $473.09, buffer = $119.76)

JCPenny rewards

On two occasions JCPenney sent us a coupon in the mail which was good for $10 off any purchase of $10 or more. These are my favorite type of coupons to find during the holidays because if you purchase an item that is $10, the sales tax is calculated after the coupon price, which means the entire purchase is actually free! On the first occasion my wife bought an $18 necklace on sale for $10.87 – $10 coupon = 87 cents. On the second occasion I bought $25 gloves on sale for $12 – $10 coupon = $2. On both occasions we could have purchased items for $10 and received the items for free, but this is what we wanted or needed and we have the buffer.

(Total value of gifts = $473.09 + $43 = $516.09, buffer = $119.76 – $2.87 = $116.89)

Free After Rebates:

The big three retailers that provide deals with rebates are Newegg.com, Fry’s Electronics, and Tiger Direct. Sometimes there are others, like Micro Center or office stores, like Staples. Out of the three, the best one to buy from is Newegg, since their items often come with free shipping and there is no sales tax unless the item is shipped to one of their three states of operation. This may change in the future due to legislation, but this is how it is currently. When you can get an item for free after rebate with free shipping and no sales tax, it’s actually free! Fry’s Electronics comes in second due to the frequency of their free after rebate offers. Yet, they may charge for shipping, or sales tax will apply if the item is purchased in-store. The same is usually true for Tiger Direct, but not for me this year . . .

Tiger Direct Free after rebate:

tiger direct FAR

I purchased a software combo from Tiger Direct which included Dragon Naturally Speaking with headphones and mic and Total Defense Premium Security. It required activation of Total Defense Premium, which required entering credit card information, which means I will have to be conscious enough to cancel the subscription before they charge my credit card. I’ll probably do it immediately after I receive the rebate. The cost of the combo on sale was $60 + $5 shipping = $65. There was a $60 mail-in rebate (MIR) for the Total Defense software and a $25 mail-in rebate for Dragon Naturally speaking. Do the math: $65 – $60 MIR – $25 MIR = -$20. That’s a negative cost of $20, meaning I’m paid $20 to make this purchase! Last year I made a couple of purchases which paid $1-$5, but not $20. This purchase was made before Black Friday. Tiger Direct had other offers on Black Friday which I didn’t get in time before they sold out.

Claiming one of the rebates has been somewhat of a challenge. The rebate requires an invoice from Tiger Direct which they don’t send unless you request it. They only send a confirmation email of the purchase which doesn’t count as the invoice. So after I sent a copy of the confirmation email with the other documentation, Total Defense sent me an email saying my $60 rebate was denied since I didn’t include an invoice. They’re giving me more time. However, none of this was made clear initially, so there will probably be a few people who end up paying out of pocket for this one. Also, once you try to claim a rebate you’ve damaged the packaging since a rebate usually requires the proof of purchase. This means it can’t be returned to the retailer. Some rebates also come in the form of a pre-paid visa card which cannot be redeemed for cash. I often use these for every-day expenses like gas and groceries so that I’m consciously not allowing the rebate to trick me into spending more money. These cards have to be used within six months or there is a monthly maintenance fee which is deducted from the card’s total value. There was a student in the news who purchased every free after rebate deal he could find. He sold the items online for profit and used the pre-paid cards to pay for tuition. (Three envelopes and three stamps were used to claim the $60 rebate so far; hopefully it won’t take more).

(Total value of gifts = $516.09 + $85 = $601.09, buffer = $116.89 + $20 = $136.89)

Newegg.com Free after rebate:

newegg FAR

I purchased AVG Internet Security for one PC, regularly $49.99 – $19.99 instant discount – $30 mail-in rebate = $0 Free. There was free shipping and no sales tax, so this was actually free. Gotta love Newegg.com! This purchase was made before Black Friday; there were even better deals on Black Friday, like the same software for three PCs. I was kicking myself for not waiting. I didn’t attempt to buy the software again because I was concerned they wouldn’t send me two rebates from the same manufacturer.

(Total value of gifts = $601.09 + $50 = $651.09, buffer = $136.89)

Fry’s Electronics Free after rebate:

Fry's FAR

The first two Fry’s Electronics items were purchased before Black Friday, the others were purchased on Black Friday.

  • Sales & Marketing Pro software $59.99 – $60 MIR + $3.93 sales tax = $3.93
  • Winway Resume Deluxe $34.99 – $10 MIR – $25 MIR + $3.93 sales tax = $3.93
  • Rayovac 8-pack AAA batteries, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax
  • Rayovac 8-pack AA batteries, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax
  • TekNmotion 24 DVD/CD wallet, $3 – $3 MIR = $0 + sales tax (probably valued at $5-$8 for a similar item not on Black Friday)
  • Bytecc HDMI-VGA adapter, $15 – $15 MIR = $0 + sales tax (rebate was sent to Canada, postage was $1.10)
  • Wireless pen cam, $20 – $20 MIR = $0 + sales tax
  • Wagon 80 W power adapter, $11 – $11 MIR = $0 + sales tax (probably valued at $20 for a similar item not on Black Friday)
  • Tablet racing wheel, $40 – $40 MIR = $0 + sales tax
  • RC Helicopter, reg $30, on sale for $19.99 – $15 MIR = $4.99 + sales tax

Total value of items from Fry’s = $231 (some of this total is based on Black Friday sales prices; I know the pen cam sells for more), Total sales tax for Fry’s = $18.75. Total expenses for claiming all mail-in rebates above from Fry’s, Newegg and Tiger Direct = (16 envelopes x $0.1) + (15 stamps x $0.46) + $1.10 postage to Canada = $9.60, There was one item that was $5 after rebate, not free after rebate.

(Total value of gifts = $651.09 + $231 = $882.09, buffer = $136.89 – $18.75 – $9.60 – $5 = $103.54)

Staples Free after rebate on Black Friday:

Staples FAR

  • Staples paper ream, $6.99 x 2 = $13.98
  • Staples photo paper $14.79 x 2 = $29.58
  • Pentel Pens $4.29

Office supplies may not be very exciting gifts, but they are very practical. Total sales tax for Staples was $3.97; Staples rebates were entirely claimed online and did not require mailing or postage.

(Total value of gifts = $882.09 + $47.85 = $929.94, buffer = $103.54 – $3.97 = $99.57)

Black Friday Freebies:

Black Friday is one of the best days of the year for getting freebies that are actually free. The only other day that compares is your very own birthday. These are two days of the year where you can literally go from place to place and they hand you something for free with no monetary requirement. In order to fully take advantage of Black Friday freebies it is best to buy a newspaper on Thanksgiving, even though any savvy shopper will have already been looking at Black Friday ads online for weeks in advance. By “Black Friday” I mean basically the entire week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday due to recent trends over the last few years.

Black Friday Freebies

I bought two newspapers this year to get more coupons, which cost $4.22.

New York and Company gave out gift cards the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I got a $5 card and bought nail polish for my wife’s stocking at $6.07 including tax ($6.07 – $5 = $1.07)

Sports Authority gave out gift cards to the first 80 people in line. The first one I received was $10. I bought an RC toy car for $10, it was on sale and regularly $30. Since they had only given out about half of their gift cards by the time I was checking out, I asked if I could go out and come back in again, and they said yes! The second card I got was worth $10. I got a hand pump for intertubes and air mattresses for $10. I was really surprised at the low turnout of customers. When I talked to some of the people in line they didn’t even know Sports Authority was handing out gift cards. They were just waiting to do their Black Friday shopping.

Sports Authority actually gave out gift cards twice, once on Thursday evening and once on Friday morning. On Friday morning I had time to go to two different branches and got a gift card at each. One was worth $10 and the other was worth $25. I was able to combine them to get a pair of running shoes for my wife. The shoes were $62 – $35 = $27. I could have purchased an item worth $10 and an item worth $25 or an item worth $35 and they would have been actually free. However, this is what my wife wanted for Christmas. If I had saved all the cards I received then I could’ve spent $7 on the shoes, but I didn’t know that they could be combined until I tried towards the end.

Big Lots gave out gift cards to the first 100 customers. I got one worth $5. I bought a 20-pack of generic AA batteries for $5 and they were on sale, buy one get one free. Total value is $10 for 40 AA batteries.

Tilly’s gave out gift cards to the first 100 people in line. I got one worth $10. I bought earrings and bracelets for my wife for $10, actually free!

Stein Mart gave away gift cards in their Black Friday ad, the majority were worth $10. I bought two newspapers so my wife and I could both have a gift card. She purchased two 3-packs of belts. They were regularly $10 but there was also a coupon in the Black Friday ad for 50% off apparel and accessories on Black Friday, so she was able to get two packs instead of one. Total value is $20. I bought a coin separator machine for $10 which is a perfect gift for my parents.

JCPenney gave away snow globes on Black Friday, which I estimate to be worth about $5, although I could see them selling for up to $50 at a specialty store in the mall. Supposedly the reason why JCPenney gave out snow globes this year was because people complained that they didn’t do it last year. Last year JC Penney gave out Christmas buttons with codes on the back, some of which could be redeemed online for cash and prizes. I got $65-worth of Christmas gifts from that promotion last year which is substantially better than a $5 snow globe. If you asked me, I’d say people should complain that they didn’t do the buttons promotion this year.

CVS gave away a 4-pack of AA batteries on Thanksgiving Day. CVS card members had to scan their card at the in-store coupon Kiosk to get the coupon that was good for the entire price of the batteries which cost about $5.30. They also had a candy bar with 100% back in rewards. Normally I don’t consider 100% back in rewards to be actually free since it’s similar to “buy one, get one free” offers and those are not actually free. Yet, I was buying other items in the store anyway and the rewards could be used instantly. So I essentially got a 75 cent candy bar for free without spending anything extra.

For more reference on Black Friday freebies next year, go to my Black Friday Freebies post.

Total value of Black Friday freebies = $169.05, Total expenses for Black Friday above = $28.07 + $4.22 newspapers

(Total value of gifts = $929.94 + $169.05 = $1098.99, buffer = $99.57 – $28.07 – $4.22 = $67.28)

Free Samples, Gifts, Miscellaneous:

Misc Gifts

My wife and I found out that we’re having a baby! If you’ve ever had a baby then you’d know that nothing about it is ever free by a long shot. However, there are lots of sources to help reduce the baby expenses. When we went to the OB/GYN for the first ultrasound we received a sample bag that was full of magazines and coupons. One of the coupons was good for $10 at ToysRUs/BabiesRUs just for opening a baby registry. When I went to open the registry the associate told me she’d give me another $10 gift card for registering 140 items. I could have registered 140 boxes of diapers, wipes and formula and it would have counted, but I had a little fun with it. With these two $10 gift cards I bought a Razor scooter for my son on sale for Black Friday for $20, regularly $30. I had to pay about $1.30 in sales tax.

Also, BabiesRUs gives a percentage of purchases made from the registry back to the parents. We registered all our Black Friday purchases, so we’ll get 10% back, even though we were the ones that made the purchases. This is not actually free, but it was a great way to maximize the reduction in price of the items we purchased. This is our third baby, my wife probably won’t have a baby shower or even expect anyone else to use the registry. However, I could potentially win everything in the registry since I entered a sweepstakes.

We received many free samples from the OB/GYN and from BabiesRUs which will be great stocking stuffers. I’m estimating the value of these samples to be about $2, but they’re saving me a lot more than that since I could be spending more money to take up that space in a stocking. They’ll add to the baby theme of some of Santa’s gifts which will also be intended to surprise the in-laws on Christmas morning.

Last year I suggested using Halloween candy to fill Christmas stockings. This year I took my own advice and we spread the candy-eating out so much over the months that my son has no way of noticing how much is gone. The candy we selected for the stocking takes up about 1/5 of the stocking. The candy is probably worth about $4 or less, but it saved at least $10 in stocking stuffers.

Leftovers and hand-me-downs are free and when they look new they can be Christmas gifts. We had friends whose baby outgrew a toy walker, so they gave it to us. This walker is like new and the same one was advertised on Black Friday for $15. It will be an excellent gift for my daughter.

My sister purchased a clearance lot of dolls, and since she had an extra one from the lot, she gave it to us. This doll is estimated to be worth about $20 and it is brand new.

We receive WIC benefits, so we’re able to use some food items for my daughter’s Santa stash, particularly cereal from Santa, which would cost about $5 for the box.

O’Reilly Auto parts gave away coupons for $5 off a purchase of $5 or more for “liking” their facebook page. I purchased a seat belt clip for my son for $5.68 – $5 coupon = 68 cents

Total value of misc. gifts = $81, total expenses above = $1.98.

(Total value of gifts = $1098.99 + $81 = $1179.99, buffer = $67.28 – $1.98 = $65.30)

More Free with the buffer:

deals

Bank bonuses, sweepstakes, free after rebate deals, Black Friday freebies and the misc. freebies above are the extent of what I got for free (or nearly free) this year, which anybody can do without a buffer like the one I had from Café Press. Yet, I still have $65.30 from my Cafe Press, passive income, free money buffer, so here are some other smokin’ good deals that I found which were covered:

My wife and I purchased a Fischer Price Little People animal zoo for my daughter at Kohls. Regularly it’s $80. It was on sale on Black Friday for $35. We used a $10 off coupon that came with the newspaper and an additional 15% off coupon to get the item for about $23 including sales tax.

(Total value of gifts = $1179.99 + $80 = $1259.99, buffer = $65.30 – $23 = $42.30)

My wife and I purchased an Imaginex Pirate Ship for my son at Kohls. Regularly it’s $60. It was on sale on Black Friday for $25. With another $10 off newspaper coupon we got about $5 off this item when figuring the other stuff that I purchased, and we used an additional 15% off coupon to get the item for about $19 which includes sales tax. This is the only way to shop at Kohls since their marketing specifically caters to coupon-users, and when non-coupon-users shop at Kohls they over-pay. However, the entire process also makes returns a mathematical nightmare for the customer. When using a $10 off coupon for the entire purchase, their system splits the discount between all items, which is why we only got about $5 off this item when we were using a $10 off coupon. They also record all Kohls cash purchases which are deducted when making returns.

(Total value of gifts = $1259.99 + $60 = $1319.99, buffer = $42.30 – $19 = $23.30)

I purchased a like-new diaper bag at Goodwill for $12; it had the original tags and everything. At BabiesRUs the exact same bag in the exact same condition was $45.

(Total value of gifts = $1319.99 + $45 = $1364.99, buffer = $23.30 – $12 = $11.3)

I purchased a heart monitor watch on sale for $15 at Fry’s electronics on Black Friday. Usually a heart monitor of this type is $80 or more.

(Total value of gifts = $1364.99 + $80 = $1445 (rounded up 1 cent), buffer = $11.30 – $15 = -$3.70)

So there you have it. I got $1445-worth of Christmas gifts for $3.70 out of my own pocket. Not bad, huh? The $3.70 is actually covered by more Café Press buffer because the total used for this article was only the passive income from January to November, and sales even increase in December.

$1445 beats my record from last year and I wasn’t event trying as hard. I didn’t spend a lot of time scouring the internet for hidden freebies. I also didn’t include any dollar store items this year. However, one item that I noticed at the dollar store is a pedometer for $1. This particular pedometer is probably only worth $1. Yet, if you purchased a pedometer somewhere else it would cost about $8-15. Also not included in the calculations above was a $20 book that I bought at a thrift store for $3. Thrift stores are excellent places to buy discounted books.

UPDATE: Since this article was written I’ve received even more freebies. On the Saturday before Christmas, New York & Company gave out gift cards to the first 100 people in line. Between me and my accompanying family we got two cards worth $5 each and one worth $25. I ended up buying $40-worth of gifts – $35 gift cards = $5 + sales tax. The $5 and tax will be covered by December Cafe Press income. Also, H&M stores will be handing out gift cards to the first 100 people in line the day after Christmas.

 

Here are some other freebies that I missed which were not already mentioned above:

On two occasions I missed $7 in rewards from Sears/Kmart/Shop Your Way. The rewards had expired by the time I noticed them in my email.

Half Price Books had a free book day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Any kid who went to their story time left with a free book.

As part of his gift to me this year, my brother-in-law went to Cabella’s at 3 am on Black Friday morning. He was attempting to get one of their door prizes valued up to $900, but we were expecting a $10 gift card. Cabella’s opens at 5 am and they were giving away 500 prizes. When my brother-in-law arrived two hours early, he estimated that there were about 1500 people in line, so he didn’t stay. He shops at Cabellas often and he also mentioned that he was surprised that many people were in line since Cabella’s Black Friday ad didn’t have anything super-discounted. The only thing special about the ad was the door prizes. So either a lot of people were in line just because they’re fans of Cabella’s or the people hoping for door prizes can’t count.

Had my brother-in-law stayed out shopping on Black Friday morning, he also would have gone to Half Price books for me to get their $5 coupon door prize and free tote. He may also have gone to Big Lots for me for an additional expected $5 gift card.

Costco gave away cook books again this year in which I would have been interested, but I didn’t get there in time. I had a busy Black Friday.

Coupon Mom sends out an email newsletter that updates members on items that they can get for free after coupons. Some of the coupons can only be obtained in the Sunday paper. Next year I might consider buying the Sunday paper from the dollar store starting in September to receive these items throughout the Holidays. Or I might try dumpster diving for these coupons. Generally these items would include food and personal hygiene products that can be included in stockings. You may have noticed that a lot of the items mentioned in this article can be put in a stocking. I planned it that way because I wasn’t happy with how much we had to spend on stocking stuffers last year. All those little items can add up.

For the last two years there was some kind of rebate for the most recent Pixar movie. If there was a rebate this year either for Disney’s Planes or Pixar’s Monsters University, I wasn’t able to find it.

I didn’t find any free movies with Hollywood Movie Money this year, which is really disappointing since I love going to the movies. Although I have already been to a couple of free screenings this month with passes from Gofobo.com and other sources.

I also didn’t discover any “12-days of Christmas” promotions that offered freebies, and this year I even created an email account just to get all the newsletters from every retailer for which I could sign up to make sure I didn’t miss any. Some retailers had 12-days promotions, but none that gave away freebies like one retailer did last year.

Sears Apparel Outlet had four free apparel days for kid’s apparel in October. I missed those and they haven’t had a free apparel day since then.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. All of these freebies are expired this year. However, the post itself can act as a good reference for what to expect next year. Absolutely anyone with a normal IQ, internet access and a means of transportation can do this. All it takes is some persistence and organization. Merry Christmas!

Cyber Monday Freebies 2013

As promised, here is the list for Cyber Monday Freebies, 2013. This list is not as extensive as the Black Friday Freebies 2013 list. Many of the freebies offered on Black Friday are intended to get customers into brick and mortar stores so that they’ll spend more. That tactic doesn’t work was well when getting people to make purchases online. Also, many freebies that are offered on Cyber Monday are not actually free since they often require shipping fees.

Capital One 360 Bank Freebies:

  • Open an interest-earning free checking account for $125 free
  • Open a savings account for $75 free
  • Get $150 for opening a Share Builder account and making 3 trades (may require fees, $6.95 per trade, see their page for details)
  • Fund a new IRA with share builder and get up to $1,000
  • Get $1,000 off closing costs for home loans and a $250 Amazon gift card
  • Also enter their sweepstakes for a chance to win $25,000

These offers were available starting Black Friday and they expire on Cyber Monday (Dec 2). Some of these accounts may require minimum deposits, but it’s still your money, so these deals are actually free. I usually advise against opening multiple credit card since too many credit cards can negatively affect your credit score. However, this is a checking and savings account, not a credit card account. Open as many different bank accounts as you want from as many different banks to get all kinds of bank freebies.

Newegg.com Free After Rebate:

No sales tax unless you live in one of their states of operation. Shipping is usually free unless otherwise stated above. A lot of the offers above were mentioned on the Black Friday post, those offers end on Dec 3. Check each offer for ending times.

Fry’s Electronics Free After Rebate:

Fry’s also has at least 8 software titles that are free after upgrade rebates, this means you must have the previous version of the software or its not actually free. See also Fry’s Featured Software page. Sales tax applies when purchasing in store, shipping fees apply when ordered online. Fry’s Electronics also has four different sweepstakes for chances to win merchandise. See the bottom of their ad pages.

Tiger Direct Free After Rebate:

Shipping fees apply unless specified. Sales tax applies when purchasing in-store.

ThredUp, the used clothes online store, is offering $15 off any order with no minimum requirement and $3 shipping (not actually free due to the shipping, but pretty close. There are many items for $15 or less). Use coupon code CYBER13. There are many other codes that can be used with ThredUp; unfortunately the checkout only allows the use of one code.

Free Redbox movie rental today only, use coupon code YY55NMPQ.

Since Cyber Monday is predominantly an online venture, I’ll also include some web freebies (digital, non-tangible):

Amazon.com

These are available throughout the year. Check frequently for updates and new titles. If you look, you may also be able to find other free downloads through iTunes and Google Play.

For non-free deals on Cyber Monday check out the list at DealNews.com.

You can also try searching deals websites like Slickdeals.net for coupons that offer 100% off, such as “$10 off a purchase of $10 or more” (just change the amount with each search, $5, $20, etc.) and combine it with an online code that offers free shipping (I found one of these super combinations last year). If you purchased toys or apparel on Black Friday, keep your receipts. Shopping experts say that toys go on sale at even bigger discounts than Black Friday at two weeks before Christmas and you may be able to recover the difference. Also, expect to see a Super Saturday two weeks before Christmas where most stores in the mall will have a 70% off everything sale. Also, Free Shipping Day is December 18. Try to find online codes that give you 100% off the price of the item which can be used on free shipping day for deals that are actually free. For December, you can expect to see at least three blog posts: one on free Christmas Holiday activities, one about reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas, and one that details all the free Christmas gifts I got this year, which is probably over $500 worth, but the exact amount will be revealed later on (I’m not done calculating it yet, and I may get more freebies throughout December).

Black Friday Freebies 2013

Here are the Black Friday Freebies 2013. For reference, most Black Friday ads can be found at www.BlackFriday.com, www.BFads.net, or the Black Friday page at www.SlickDeals.net. The pages cited below are scan numbers, not necessarily the actual page of the ad since some ad pages are split into two scans. Black Friday ads will also gradually become available on the respective website of each store if they are not already. For most “in line” or “first customers” prizes, expect to get there at least an hour early, maybe two hours. Pay attention to the wording of the ad; if they say “first customers” then they may not offer the prize until checking out, in which case it’s not actually free. For the Black Friday freebies post last year I verified that there was at least one item that could be acquired free – if there was a free $5 gift card I made sure there was an item for $5. This is the only case where it’s actually free. I didn’t do that for this post. However, any true freebie seeker would do that before going to the store if they intend to use any of these deals to get freebies that are actually free.

Academy Sports – Get $25 off your in-store purchase when you get an Academy Visa card. The ad does not specify a minimum purchase requirement, but there might be, and if there is then this deal is not actually free. See their ad, page 6. This is a credit card, so be careful. If you have more than 5 lines of credit (any debt) or if you have more than 3 credit cards, it can negatively affect your credit score. I’d only get the credit card if you shop at Academy Sports all the time and the credit card always gets you discounts and I’d only use a credit card period if you are “type A” or rigidly organized with your finances. If you don’t match those two descriptions then do NOT take this offer. There will be more on this topic for my “free Christmas gifts” post later in the season. Academy Sports is also holding a sweepstakes where three winners a day will receive $2,500 through December 2. See their ad, page 20 for details

Ashley Furniture – Free $50 gift card to the first 25 customers Friday, Nov 29, Sat, Nov 30, Sunday, Dec 1, and Monday, Dec 2. Opens at 9 am all four days. Uncertain if a furniture store would have anything for sale for $50. If they don’t then this is not actually free. See their ad, page 1.

Bass Pro Shops – Free Christmas Events: Santa’s Wonderland Free Games and Activities, Free Crafts for kids, and Free Photo with Santa between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. See their ad, pages 6, 7, and 8 for details and schedule. The first 125 kids to visit Santa’s Wonderland will receive a free backpack clip Thanksgiving day 3-5 pm and “Monday-Friday 5-7 pm” (unclear on the exact dates or if its all dates between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve). See page 7 of the their ad, top right, for details. Also Super Saturday and Sunday Events, November 30 and December 1: free drawings every hour and door prizes. Saturday, first 100 customers receive a Bass Pro Shops knife and there are drawings for prizes every hour. Sunday, first 100 customers receive a 3 pack of Cotton Cordell baits and there are drawings for prizes every hour. See their ad page 50 for details. Bass Pro Shops opens at 8 am both days for at least one location, but check your local store to confirm hours of operation. Drawings begin at 10:30 am both days as advertised.

Bath and Body Works – They may be giving away a VIP bag worth over “$100″ with things like soap and candles. The ad is vague; it doesn’t have a price and it doesn’t say it’s free or “while supplies last”. See their ad page 1. It doesn’t say when they open.

Bealls Florida – The first 100 people in line get a scratch-off card for a chance to win either a $5 gift card, a $100 gift card, or an iPad Mini. See their ad, page 2. Bealls opens at 8 pm Thursday. AT 11 pm on Thursday Bealls is also giving away $10,000 to two schools, the first 500 customers can vote for their favorite school to win and each customer that participates will get a $5 off coupon. The next offer is not actually free, but maybe it’s a good deal if you shop regularly at Bealls: At 7 am on Friday Bealls is also giving away a lifetime discount to one winner at each store. The first 200 customers at each store will receive an entry form.

Belk – The first 250 customers in the store will receive a free gift card. One of those gift cards will be worth $1,000. The majority will be worth $5. The prize could range between $5 – $1,000. see their ad, page 1. Belk opens Thursday, 8 pm.

Big Lots – First 100 customers in line will get a scratch and win gift card worth $5 – $100 off purchase. See their ad, page 4. Big Lots opens Friday at 6 am. (They’re also open Thanksgiving, but this deal starts on Friday)

Bon Ton Stores – Coupon for $10 off any item of $10 or more. The coupon is in their Black Friday ad, page 1. Buy an item that’s $10 and its actually free. No sales tax. Bon Ton’s Black Friday sale is from Thursday, 8 pm to Friday 2 pm. Since the coupon is in their ad you can potentially buy more than one newspaper and you and your spouse can each use one for more freebies.

Bon Ton has affiliated stores that share the exact same marketing, so they all have the same offer: Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, and Younkers. See their ads, page 1. They likely open at the same time, but check your local stores to confirm hours.

Burlington Coat Factory – Enter to win a $500 shopping spree. Go to BCFSweeps.com. Be sure to read the fine print. The winner will not be selected before Christmas.

Cabela’s – First 600 people in line get one of six possible prizes for free: Browning X-Bolt Medallion Riffle ($799.99 value), Go PRO sports camera ($399.99 value), a Cabela’s gift card up to $100 in value (but probably not all gift cards will be that much, and probably most people will get gift cards), Nikon ProStaff 5 Rangefinder ($249.99 value), Bushnell Trophy XLT Bone Collector Binoculars ($189.99 value), and Masterbuilt 30″ Smoker ($349.99 value). See page 1 of their ad. Cabela’s opens at 5 am on Friday. Also, free pictures with Santa December 7, 8, 14, and 15. See their ad page 21.

Costco – It’s not in the Costco ad scans that are online, but Costco will be giving out free cookbooks again this year while supplies last. It’s on the first and last page of the printed ad. Check your local Costco for store hours. It may open between 9-10 am on Friday.

Craft Warehouse – Free sticker organizer to the first 200 customers on Friday with the coupon in their ad, free junior mints on Saturday with coupon to the first 200 customers, free crystal bracelet on Sunday with coupon to the first 200 customers. Also on Saturday, small businesses with an American Express Card get $10 back after spending $10 or more (not actually free, it’s like a rewards program, small businesses may be interested). Also, on Saturday from 1-3 pm, make a Christmas tree ornament for $1 (not actually free, but may be a fun, cheap activity for the family). See page 1 of their Black Friday ad. The ad doesn’t specify store hours so check with your local branches for opening times.

CVS – On Thanksgiving day stop by the in-store coupon center to get a coupon for a free 4-pack of CVS AA or AAA batteries. See page 1 of their ad. The ad says to scan the batteries at the coupon dispenser. It requires a CVS card. This is a rare ad where something is free and it doesn’t have “free” in big bold letters. CVS may also have Mars Chocolate Bars and GUM toothbrushes for free after rebate. UPDATE: The Mars bars and GUM toothbrushes were “free” after rewards, which is not actually free, but actually did work out to be a good deal for me since I was buying other items in the store anyway.

Fred Meyer – Free doughnuts and coffee, 5 am – noon, Friday, Nov 29. See pages 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 of their ad.

Frys Electronics Pre Black Friday Week (Free After Rebate deals valid from now until Black Friday):

If the deal requires an “upgrade” rebate, that means you must have the previous version in order to get the updated version for free (generally the barcode of the previous version). Sales tax applies when buying in-store. Shipping fees may apply when buying online. Fry’s Electronics also has many other good deals.

Frys Electronics Black Friday Sale:

  • Rayovac 8 pack of AA or AAA batteries, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • Rhino DC to USB adapter, free after $5.99 mail in rebate
  • Rhino AC to USB power adapter, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • Wagon Tech 80 watt power inverter, free after $11 mail in rebate
  • Antec Formula 7 Thermal Paste, free after $6 mail in rebate
  • Antec True Quiet 120 mm case fan, free after $6 mail in rebate
  • Antec Accent Lighting, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • Bytec 2.5″ USB 3.0 to SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive Enclosure, free after $15 mail in rebate
  • Swan PennCam Mini Video Camera & Recorder, free after $20 mail in rebate
  • BlueTooth Headset, free after $10 mail in rebate
  • 16 Software titles, free after mail in rebate
  • 8 Software titles, free after upgrade rebates (this means you must have the previous version of the software or its not actually free)

Most of the software titles are Anti-virus/security, utilities, clipart, language learning, business tools, and a couple of media-editing titles. Black Friday deals start on Thanksgiving day online. You can buy anything and reserve it, then pick it up on Friday morning. Different sales start at different times. If the time is not specified then I’d try first at 9 am PST and keep trying at the right times later if it’s not yet available. When you go to Frys, bring the item number or a copy of the ad with you so a sales associate can look it up on their computer. They usually aren’t as familiar with the ad as the customers, but they know where to find something. Frys also has an item for 5 cents that you’d only want if you build computers and store parts. See their system-builds upgrades Black Friday ad. They also have many other items for less than $1 either before or after rebate.

UPDATE: FRY’S ELECTRONICS HAD 25 OTHER ITEMS FOR FREE AFTER REBATE WHICH WERE ONLY ADVERTISED ON BLACK FRIDAY:

  • ProHT Pro-Display Titan LCD Mount, free after $8 mail in rebate
  • CD/DVD Wallet 24 Capacity, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • Universal Racing Gaming Wheel Stand for 7″ to 10.1″ Tablets, free after $40 mail in rebate
  • HDMI to VGA Adapter, free after $15 mail in rebate
  • Cooler Master Cooler Fits Up to 15.6″ Notebooks, free after $11 mail in rebate
  • Antec 100% Natural Spray Cleaning Kit, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • Antec 100% Natural Cleaning Wipes, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • inland 1.3 Megapixel USB 2.0 Webcam, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • ProHT Universal 10″ Tablet Sleeve, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • Stylus for Tablets, iPads and Smart Phones, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • Remanufactured Black Ink Cartridge for Epson TO69 Series, free after $4.50 mail in rebate
  • Capatible Black Ink Cartridge for Brother LC61/LC65 High Capacity, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • belkin 6ft VGA Cable, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • ProHT 8″ HDMI Cable, free after $2 mail in rebate
  • Slim Compact CD/DVD Black Case 10PK, free after $3 mail in rebate
  • NuGiant Universal USB AC Adapter, free after $6 mail in rebate
  • SIIG Wake Stylus, free after $6 mail in rebate
  • belkin 6 Outlet Surge Protector, free after $5.15 mail in rebate
  • belkin 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub, free after $6.05 mail in rebate
  • inland Pro All in 1 USB 2.0 Card Reader, free after $4 mail in rebate
  • NuGiant Galaxy Series Wall Tap Surge Power Protector, free after $5 mail in rebate
  • inland 4 Port USB 2.0 HUB, free after $4 mail in rebate
  • inland Lightweight Headset with Mic and Volume Control, free after $4 mail in rebate
  • inland USB Power Speaker with Built-in Volume Control, free after $3 mail in rebate

Fry’s Electronics is rebate heaven! The only kicker is that sales tax applies. But if you’re a savvy shopper like me, you’ll find a way to not have to pay for that out of your own pocket. More details on that will be in the “Free Christmas Gifts” post in December. [If you're reading this, you're probably too late to take advantage of the 25 rebates above. This post will continue to be updated as freebies are found for Black Friday, even if they're expired now that Black Friday is almost over. This will serve for reference for next year.]

Gander Mountain – Package of gun accessories free after rebate (1 Bushmaster Carbon 15 .223 Rem AR, 1 Tactical Field Cleaning System, 4 Intrafuse 30-round mags) “$125 value free after mfr’s mail-in rebate”. Top right of page 5 and page 6 on their Black Friday ad. Gander Mountain will be open on Thursday and 12:01 Friday morning. However, this particular deal is available at 6 am on Friday and 6 am on Saturday.

Gordmans – On Friday the first 30 customers get a free bag and 25% off anything they can fit in the bag (not actually free, but may be a good deal). Some lucky customers on Saturday and Sunday will get their entire purchase free from $50 to $1,000. “Get an extra $10, $20, $50 off, or even your entire purchase for free, up to $1,000, when you spend $50 or more.” The first 300 customers will receive a mystery discount card. See their Black Friday ad, page 1. My guess is one or two customers who only spend $50 might get their entire purchase for free and one will get their entire purchase for free up to $1,000. The rest will end up paying something if their “mystery card” is worth less than $50. Most people should go expecting to receive $10 off their purchase of $50 or more. Gordmans opens at 5 am on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday they open at 8 am.

Guitar Center – Free Promark LA Special [drum] Sticks, Free for the first 30 people in line. Also, “free post-holiday guitar lessons, see store for details.” They also have a guitar stand for $1 (not actually free, but still a good deal). See their ad, page 4. Guitar Center opens Friday at 6 am.

h.h. gregg – One winner per store will win their entire Black Friday purchase free. See their ad page 2 and www.hhgregg.com/BlackFridayonUs for details. This is not exactly something you can plan on, but it might offer a nice surprise if you already shop at hh gregg. They open Thursday at 8 pm.

Half Price Books – First 100 customers will receive a tote and a $5 gift card. One tote bag will contain a $100 gift card. See their ad (or flyer), page 1. Half Price Books opens on Friday at 7 am. Half Price Books is also having a “Booksgiving day” on Saturday, Nov 23. Any child who comes to story time from 1-2 pm will get a free book. See details here.

Hastings (goHastings.com) – Free movie rentals all day Friday from 6 pm to close. See their ad, page 6.

JCPenney – Free snow globes while supplies last, starting Friday at 4 pm. See page 1 of their ad.

Just Cabinets – First 10 people in line get a $25 gift card. Also, enter to win a $1,000 gift card. See their ad, page 1. They open at 7 am on Friday.

Kohls – One winner every hour for the first 4 hours starting at 8 pm Thurs will receive the entire purchase free. This applies at every participating branch and online. See their ad, page 61. It’s not exactly something you can plan on, but if you shop at Kohls you might get pleasantly surprised. They may also be having a winner every day from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. More details will be at www.Kohls.com/dreamreceipt when it’s live.

Micro Center – Kingwin 80 mm advance case fan, free after $2 mail in rebate, see their ad page 19.

Mills Fleet Farm – First 500 customers will receive a free plush cow stuffed animal. See their ad page 1. They open at 6 am Friday.

New York & Company – First 100 customers on Wednesday, November 27 will receive a gift card up to $100. Two people will win $100, 18 will win $25, 40 will win $10 and 40 will win $5. This was announced to their email club. They may open between 10-11 am on Wednesday. Check your local branch for exact hours.

Newegg  (Pre-Black Friday Free After Rebate deals):

Free after rebate deals from Newegg are actually free. Other rebate offers may require sales tax or shipping fees. Newegg most often has free shipping and sales tax only applies if you live in one of their three or four states of operation. The rebate may come in the form of a prepaid debit card which cannot be redeemed for cash. It just has to be used liked you’d use cash.

Newegg – Free After Rebate Black Friday deals available Thursday

Check each offer for details, but in general Newegg rebate offers come with free shipping and no sales tax except in three or four states, making these offers actually free.

Office Depot – Free batteries after rebate. Energizer Max Alkaline batteries are on sale 2 for $4 and there is a $4 rebate. This is not in any of the ads. I got this one from freebies.about.com.

Office Max – QuickBooks Online Simple Start Free after 9.99 instant rebate and $90 mail-in rebate. See their ad page 6. Office Max opens Thursday at 8 pm. Sales tax applies.

Old Navy – The first 500 people in line will have a chance to win $1 million. see the details in their Black Friday ad, page 4. There will probably just be one winner among all the branches. Old Navy opens on Thursday at 7 pm.

Origins – Free $10 gift card in their Black Friday ad, page 2. The fine print isn’t available in the ad so it must be on the card itself. Origins opens on Friday. Their Black Friday ad does not specify any special hours. UPDATE: The gift card wasn’t in my newspaper. This might have been an offer that was mailed to their email or snail mail list members.

Pep Boys Auto – Platinum Spark Plugs free after $2 mail in rebate, limit 16 plugs per person. See page 2 of their ad. Pep boys opens on Friday. The hours are not specified in the ad.

PetSmart – Free stocking for the first 100 customers and “over $100 in coupons”. The coupon deals may not actually be free, but they might be good deals for pet owners. Each free stocking will be filled with dog and cat treats. See their ad, page 1. PetSmart opens at 7 am on Friday.

Seattle’s Best Coffee – Free medium coffee for those who are working on Black Friday for “liking” their facebook page.

Shoe Carnival – First 100 customers will receive a gift card worth at least $10. One lucky customer will receive a gift card worth $100. Shoe Carnival opens Thursday at 6 pm. Also “Thursday 9 PM and Friday 9 PM win a $100 shopping spree.” See their ad, page 1.

Sierra Trading Post – First 50 guests will receive a gift card up to $500. They open at 6 am on Friday. Most guests will probably get a card worth about $10, but it could be more or less. See their ad, or flyer, page 1.

Sports Authority – First 80 people in line on Thursday AND Friday get a free gift card. The highest gift card (probably one per store per day) will be worth $500 bucks. If you happen to receive a gift card valued at $125 or more, you can also buy $125 worth of The North Face or Columbia merchandise for an additional $25 per brand. Also, enter to win a $500,000 sweepstakes at the website listed on their Black Friday ad. Sports Authority opens at 6 pm Thursday and 6 am Friday. See their ad, page 1.

Stage – First 50 customers Thursday & Friday get a scratch-off gift card. 48 customers will get a $10 coupon, 1 customer will get a $50 gift card and 1 will get a $100 gift card. Stage opens at 6 pm on Thursday and 6 am on Friday. See their ad, page 1.

Stage-affiliated stores will have the exact same offer: Bealls (no relation to Bealls Florida above), Palais Royal, Peebles, and Goody’s. See their ads, page 1 of each. Check each local store for their hours.

Staples – Free After Rebate Black Friday Deals:

  • QuickBooks Online Simple Start 2014, 1 year subscription, free after discount and $90 mail-in rebate. See their Black Friday ad, page 8.
  • Kaspersky Internet Security 2014, 1 PC, free after discount and $45 easy rebate. See their Black Friday ad, page 9.
  • Staples 8.5″ x 11″ multipurpose paper, 500 sheets/ream, free after $6.99 easy rebate. See their Black Friday ad, page 11. Staples photo supreme 8.5″ x 11″, double-sided matte, 50/pack, free after $14.99 easy rebate. See their Black Friday ad, page 11.
  • Pentel RSVP assorted pens, 5/pack, free after $5.29 easy rebate. See their Black Friday ad, page 11.
  • Staples 8.5″ x 11″ multipurpose paper, 10-ream case, Buy it for $54.99 and get 100% back in rewards. Normally I don’t consider these “100% back in rewards” to be actually free, because you have to spend money to get it. But Staples is a rare circumstance since they also offer Free After Rebate deals in addition to their “100% back in rewards deals”. Here’s how to do it. Buy the item that gives you 100% in rewards, then use the rewards to buy an item that is Free After Rebate, and you get both items for free with the exception of some small sales tax. It’s a bit of a gamble since there is no guarantee that they’ll have a Free After Rebate deal when the rewards become available. But it usually pays off when I’ve done it in the past. Be sure to read any fine print.

Staples is honest when they describe their rebates as “easy”. Based on previous experience, Staples rebates are, indeed, some of the easiest rebates to claim. Staples opens on Thursday at 8 pm-midnight and Friday at 6 am. Sales tax applies.

Stein Mart – Their Black Friday ad will have a scratch-off gift card. A sales associate at the store must scratch it off. Do not scratch it before arriving. The card could either be worth $10, $20, $50 or $100. Stein Mart is expecting customers to come in the store and buy what interests them, take it all to the counter and then have the associate scratch it off. If the customer is buying $50 worth of items and the coupon is worth $100 then they lose $50 of the coupon’s value. If they are buying $50 worth of stuff and the coupon is $10, then the customer pays $40. Neither of these situations is actually free. Last year I had an associate scratch the card before I started shopping and I knew exactly how much I had to spend without pulling much out of my own pocket. Also, if you buy more than one newspaper with the Black Friday ads, then you’ll have more than one scratch-off gift card. You and a spouse could use one for more freebies. See their ad, page 1. Steinmart opens at 7 am on Friday.

Tiger Direct – Free After Rebate deals on Thanksgiving (Early Black Friday deals):

The Nuance Dragon-Total Defense combo was available for a lower price earlier this month and with rebates it actually paid $20 to buy it. There will be more details on that in my “free Christmas gifts” post later in December. The PayPal card reader may be available directly from PayPal without having to bother with rebates.

Tiger Direct – Free After Rebate deals (Available in stores Friday at 5 am):

  • CuiZen 6 cup rice cooker, free after $10 mail in rebate, see their ad page 2
  • 120 disc carrying case for CDs/DVDs, free after $10 mail in rebate, see their ad page 8
  • Eastware 15.6″ laptop backpack, free after $10 mail in rebate, see their ad page 11

These are very unique free after rebate deals, especially the rice cooker. Kitchen appliances for free after rebate are somewhat rare. I’ve only seen it on one other occasion. If you buy these items online then shipping fees may apply. When buying in store then sales tax may apply. Tiger Direct is also holding a sweepstakes with cash and prizes. UPDATE: The ad says to shop online on Thursday, but these deals were not available when checked on Thursday. They may only be available online when they’re available in store.

Tilly’s – First 100 customers will receive a Tilly’s gift card worth $10 – $100. There will be 97 $10 cards, one $25 card, one $50 card, and one $100 card. See their ad, page 1. Tilly’s opens on Friday, the ad doesn’t specify what time. Also, enter to win a $500 shopping spree while you’re there. Fill out a card and give it to the cashier to enter.

World Market – On Friday at 7 am the first 100 in-store customers receive a free Downton Abby tea cup in gift box.

 

Be sure to read the fine print for each offer, on the coupon itself or on the gift card. Many exclusions may apply. For instance, they won’t allow the deal to be combined with other offers or certain items in the store may be excluded, such as clearance items. The gift card deals are often treated as cash with very few limitations within the store itself.

Bartering and trading may be another way to get freebies without spending cash. Game Stop accepts old video games and game systems for store credit. Although the trade-in value may not be very satisfying, even if it is more on Black Friday. Walmart is also offering store credit when you trade in your smart phone. Gander Mountain buys, sells and trades used firearms.

Extreme couponers may be able to find more freebies at places like Dollar General, Walgreens, CVS, and other food stores and pharmacies when they combine coupons with discounts for items like food and hygiene products. Check with CouponMom.com. Yet, be careful since CouponMom.com considers that rewards freebies are actually free when they’re not.

Advance shoppers may also buy gift cards from one establishment to get the rewards for money they’ll be spending anyway. For example, if your local grocery store offers gas rewards for all purchases and you know you’ll be spending $20 at Old Navy, then buy a $20 Old Navy gift card from the grocery store to get the gas rewards. This is not actually free, but it is a great way to maximize the value of the money you’re already spending. Meijer is offering $25 when you buy $100 in gift cards on Thanksgiving Day. See their ad, page 24. At 25% of the total cost that may be the best offer I’ve seen advertised, regarding gift card benefits. But then again, I don’t look that closely for non-freebie deals.

There are many other Buy One Get One Free offers, or Buy One Get a Gift Card free, or Buy One Get a Separate Item Free. There are many where you get additional store credit if you spend a certain amount ($15 Kohl’s cash when you spend $100 or more, or $10 off your purchase of $25 or more, etc.). These are not actually free, but they can be fantastic deals if they’re offered with products that you’re already looking for. If you’re not already looking for those items, then be weary of spending more than you would have otherwise. It’s easy to inflate the price on two items just to say that one of them is “free”. The Retail Industry About.com guide has put together the most extensive list of freebies with purchases on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

I’ll mention one buy one get one free deal: At BJ’s wholesale club, you can buy forever stamps 100 count and get a box of luxury cards free. I mention this offer because stamps are a kind of currency, so it’s essentially just trading one currency for another. Also, buying forever stamps now will help you spend less over time since the price of stamps will eventually increase. This is not a bad deal.

Some stores will have “free after rewards” deals. These are not actually free since they’re similar to “buy one, get one free” type offers. However, they can be very good deals. Especially if you shop at the establishment regularly. For example, I know I will eventually buy printer ink from an office store. So if I take the full advantage of a “free after rewards” deal, then I can get something for free with the printer ink that I’m going to buy anyway. I do not intend to let any advertisement or deal trick me into spending more money than I would have otherwise, and I suggest the same for anyone else. Expected stores to have “free after rewards” deals are CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max.

Some retailers are offering very nice “free” smart phones. These are not actually free since they require purchase of cell phone service. Yet, they may also be good deals if you’re in the market for a new phone.

Some retailers are also offering a donation to charity with certain purchases. Some of these may be worth looking at.

You may find additional rewards or even freebies when you sign up for credit cards. Be weary not to sign up for more than 3 credit cards total, including the one(s) you already have, or it could negatively affect your credit score. As a general rule credit cards should be avoided unless you can be “type A” or rigidly organized enough to pay off the balance every month and collect the rewards. I can’t say this enough. There will be more on this in my “Free Christmas Gifts” blog post sometime in December.

There may be more offers on Cyber Monday. Free after rebate deals will probably pop up continually between now and Christmas Eve.

From Black Friday to Christmas Eve there may also be “12 days of Christmas” promotions which may include freebies. Also expect a day where most retailers offer 70% off all items in the store and an online free shipping day.

For more local freebies, check out the Black Friday ads in the local newspapers and visit the websites of local news stations. They may have additional freebies in your area.

Other stores that aren’t yet listed above which are expected to offer freebies for the Holidays based on previous history: Sears apparel outlets, local furniture stores and possibly car dealerships. Find the sears apparel outlet facebook page and check it often for a free apparel day. This year, their free apparel days are usually just for kids apparel. Fry’s Electronics, Newegg.com, Micro Center, and occasionally office stores will have software, small electronics and computer accessories for free after rebate probably through the rest of the holiday season. Local furniture stores may offer free food on Black Friday, like hot dogs and soda. Car dealerships might offer something similar too. This post will be updated as more freebies are discovered. So bookmark it and check back often. There will also be a Cyber Monday Freebies 2013 post, but it probably won’t be as extensive as this one. A lot of freebies are offered to get people in the stores. That tactic doesn’t apply for online shoppers.

Free Stuff Friday, March 8, 2013

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, March 8, 2013. Here are today’s freebies:

Bring a friend to IKEA on 3/9 for giveaways, free blue bags and breakfast.

Free breakfast sandwich and coffee from Subway at select locations in Virginia and Tennessee. Valid March 11 – 16.

Free individual dessert at Boston Market. Print coupon and present in-store before 3/18. The coupon is not provided by an official Boston Market sources, this has not been tested by Actually Free.

Free Original Glazed Doughnut from Krispy Kreme on March 10 only.

Free quart of Clark-Kensington Paint at Ace Hardware. Print coupon and present in-store. Valid on March 9 only.

Kingwin Case Fan Free After Rebate at Tiger Direct. Shipping is about $4.

Free Sample 2-pack of Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo and Thickening Conditioner. Print coupon and present at participating salons. Expires June 30.

Free Cleaning Wipes and multiple software titles Free After Rebate at Fry’s Electronics. See their ad, pages 7 and 8. Rebate does not cover sales tax.

Free After Rebate software at Newegg. Shipping is free and there is no sales tax except in 4 states.

Free After Rebate software at MicroCenter. See their ad page page 49.

Free movie rental at RedBox. Use the code DVDNIGHT. (Might be expired)

Free Stuff Friday, February 15, 2013

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, February 15, 2013. Here are today’s freebies:

Get a Free Appetizer when you download the TGI Friday’s mobile app. Not tested, uncertain if a purchase is required. A tip is probably still expected.

Free 8 oz. Bottle of Cuties Juice. Print the coupon and present in store.

Free Physicians Formula Organic Wear Mascara after rebate. Purchase the mascara at any price up to $9.95 at any retailer then print, fill out and mail the rebate form with required additional documents.

Free After Rebate from Newegg:
-ARCTIC COOLING A7P-75000023 92mm CPU Cooler, Free after $19.99 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-Nero Burn Express 2, Free after $20 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-Panda Security Antivirus Pro 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $20 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-AVG AntiVirus 2013 – 1 PC, Free after $20 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-SmithMicro Anime Studio Debut 8, Free after $40 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-Total Defense Premium Internet Security – 5 User, Free after $50 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-SmithMicro StuffIt Deluxe, Free after $40 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-Total Defense Anti-Virus – 3 PCs, Free after $50 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-McAfee Internet Security 2013 – 1 PC, Free after $45 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-Total Defense Unlimited Security Subscription, Free after $10 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-Shipping is free. There is no sales tax unless the item is delivered to one of Newegg’s states of operation.

Free After Rebate from Staples (see their ad, 2/17 – 2/23):
-Staples Photo Supreme 8.5 x 11 paper, double sided matte, 50/pack, Free after $14.99 mail in rebate, limit 2 per household.
-BIC-Matic Grip 0.7mm mechanical pencils, 5/pack, Free after $4.29 mail in rebate, limit 1 per household.
-Free earbuds with coupon and $25 minimum purchase, the items for free after rebate can be applied to the minimum purchase
-100% back in Staples rewards when you buy Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. Rewards programs are often not considered to be “actually free” since they’re more like “buy one get one free” promotions. In other words, you have to spend money to get the deal. However, Staples offers items for free after rebate often enough so that it can make sense to take advantage of their rewards program. First buy the items that offer 100% back in Staples rewards. Then use the rewards cash to buy items that are Free After Rebate to get most of your money back minus sales tax. The rewards get funded to your account within a couple weeks of purchase and you have 3 months to use them or print them for use even further in the future. Technically the rewards expire after 3 months so it is safest to use them within that time frame. However, more than one sales clerk at Staples has told me that they can apply the funds to your purchase even after their expiration date as long as they were printed within their valid time frame.
-Staples also has other deals this week for $1-$5.

Free After Rebate from Fry’s Electronics:
-Cooler Master USB Powered Notebook Cooler, Free after $10 mail in rebate, see page 4 of their ad.
-inland Headsound 500 headphones, Free after $3 mail in rebate, see pg 4.
-Titanium Anti-Virus 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $50 mail in rebate, see pg 8.
-Panda Internet Security 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $35 mail in rebate, see pg 8.
-Webroot Internet Security Plus 2013 – 3 Devices, Free after $50 mail in rebate, see pg 8.
-Fry’s has many other software items that are free after upgrade rebates.
-Sales tax applies when purchasing in store.

Free Stuff Friday, February 8, 2013

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, February 8, 2013. Here are today’s freebies:

Vibe Mini USB Cooling Fan from Tiger Direct, Free after $10 mail in rebate with free shipping, today only (2/8)

Free Valentine’s Day Personal Greeting Card from Treat.com. Enter the promo code MYHABIT at the checkout and select “send it to me first” for free shipping.

Neosporin Essentials Trial Pack Free after $13.99 mail in rebate. Purchase anywhere for $13.99 or less to get it free.

Free TRUEresult Blood Glucose Monitor after $14.99 mail in rebate from Walgreens. Use Walgreens rewards card to get the device for $14.99. The rebate is on the product package. See page 12 of their weekly ad.

(possibly) Free Rogaine 3 ct or 4 ct products after $20 mail in rebate. Print the rebate from Healthy Essentials coupon page. If you can find any 3 ct or 4 ct Rogaine product for $20 or less then it’s free.

Free After Rebate from Fry’s Electronics:
-iPad Portfolio Cases, Free after $10 mail in rebate, pg 4
-Antec Vcool Blower, Free after $5 mail in rebate, pg 7
-iolo Search & Recover 5, Free after $10 mail in rebate and $20 mail in rebate, pg 8
-Nuance PDF Converter 8.0, Free after $40 mail in rebate, pg 8
-Webeasy 8 Professional, Free after $10 mail in rebate and $20 mail in rebate
-Many other software titles are free after upgrade rebates or free after rebate with tax software purchase
-Sales tax applies when purchasing in store.

Free After Rebate from Newegg:
-SmithMicro Anime Studio Debut 8.
-AVG AntiVirus 2013 – 3 PC.
-SmithMicro StuffIt Deluxe.
-SmithMicro Manga Studio Debut 4.0.
-AhnLab V3 Click.
-McAfee Internet Security 2013 – 3 PCs.
-SmithMicro Voila.
-Total Defense Anti-Virus – 3 PCs.
-Total Defense Unlimited Security Subscription.
-Shipping is free. There is no sales tax unless the delivery address is in one of Newegg’s states of operation.

Free Stuff Friday, February 1, 2013

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, February 1, 2013. Here are today’s freebies:

The Superbowl is this Sunday. Freebies have been advertised during the game for the last few years in a row, so stay alert. Also look for local promotions and extreme discounts on products with game-related packaging after the Superbowl is over.

Free Cup of Soup at Mimi’s Cafe Today Only (2/1). Wear red to the restaurant to get a free cup of soup.

Free 4 pack of muffins when you join Mimi’s Cafe email list.

Free Calendar from Office Depot. Print coupon a present in-store. Exp 3/15.

Free 25 Black and White Copies from Office Depot. Print coupon and present in-store. Exp 4/16.

Free Pizza Hut Samples on 2/5 between 4-7 pm. Get a free sample of one of their newest creations for each time a quarterback says “hut” during the Superbowl this Sunday.

Free Stuffed Pizza Rollers when you sign up for Pizza Hut’s email list.

Mark your Calendar. IKEA giveaways on 3/9. Bring friends to IKEA for gift card giveaways, free blue bags, and free breakfast. RSVP at the link to receive the coupon.

Free After Rebate from Walgreens:
-Arctic Naturals Total Omega Full Spectrum Support for Joint Skin and Heart Health Supplement S Lemon
-Arctic Naturals Ultra Omega-3 Ultra Concentrated EPA/DHA for Advanced Support Supplement Sftgl Lemon
-Arctic Naturals Daily Omega-3 Purified Fish Oil Supplement Softgels Lemon
-Limit one rebate per product. The same rebate form can be used for all three.
-See other offers for free after rebate from Walgreens.
-Free shipping with online orders when subtotal is greater than $25. Sales tax probably applies since Walgreens operates in every state. You can also purchase in store.

Free 10×13 custom wall portrait. Print coupon and present at any Sears Portrait Studio.

Free 16×20 custom wall portrait. Print coupon and present at any Sears Portrait Studio.

Free Short Stack of IHOP Pancakes on 2/5 (National Pancake Day). “Guests will be asked to consider leaving a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.” Also if you have a waiter s/he may expect a tip.

Free Waffle from Waffle House. Print coupon and present in the restaurant. Exp 2/7.

Free $15 credit at Fab.com. When this was tested, only the $10 credit was eligible, not the $5 credit. Also, there were very few products found at Fab.com that were $15 or less, so don’t let this offer trick you into spending money. Shipping for a $10 watch was $4.95. Uncertain if the credit can be applied towards shipping even if you’re able to get the full $15.

Free Admission to Family Attractions when you sign up for Scott Shared Values Rewards. Once you sign up you must answer a question related to your consumer habits related to Scott brand products. You receive up to 4 vouchers per year, each is good for admission for one person to select attractions. You and a friend can each sign up so that you can each get the vouchers and go together. Must be 18 years or older to sign up for Scott rewards so you’d probably have to pay for younger kids.

Free Admission to Museums for Bank of America Card holders on the first full weekend of every month. If you open an account at Bank of America to claim this offer, be sure you can avoid their fees.

Free slice of NY Cheese Pizza from Sbarros when you sign up for their email list, on your birthday and on the one-year anniversary of signing up.

Free After Rebate from Newegg:
-SmithMicro Anime Studio Debut 8, Free after $40 mail in rebate in the form of a check
-Panda Security Internet Security 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $30 mail in rebate in the form of a check
-Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete 2013 – 5 Devices, Free after $55 mail in rebate in the form of a check
-SmithMicro StuffIt Deluxe, Free after $40 mail in rebate in the form of a check
-TREND MICRO Titanium Maximum Security 2013 – 3 User, Free after $60 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card
-Total Defense Anti-Virus – 3 PCs, Free after $50 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card
-AhnLab V3 Click, Free after $30 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card
-Total Defense Unlimited Security Subscription, Free after $10 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card
-Shipping is free on these items. Sales tax does not apply unless the order is shipped to one of Newegg’s 4 states of operation.

Free After Rebate from Fry’s Electronics:
-12-in-1 Memory Card Reader/Writer, Free after $4 mail in rebate, pg 4
-Uniden Bluetooth Headset, Free after $10 mail in rebate, pg 5
-Avanquest Drive Erase Professional, Free after $10 mail in rebate and $15 mail in rebate, pg 8
-Webroot Antivirus 2013, Free after $35 mail in rebate, pg 8
-Many other software titles are free with upgrade rebates or when you buy the new Microsoft Office, pg 8
-Sales tax applies when purchasing in-store.

Free After Rebate from Microcenter:
-System Suite 12 Pro, Free after $20 mail in rebate and $30 mail in rebate
-Total Defense Unlimited Security, Free after $20 mail in rebate
-Many other titles are free after upgrade rebates or with purchase of the new Microsoft Office
-See their ad, page 49. Sales tax applies when purchasing in-store. Check back on a monthly basis to see freebies from Microcenter.

Free Stuff Friday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, January 4, 2012. Here are today’s freebies:

Free $10 gift card to Tanger Outlets when you “like” them on facebook, Offer expires Jan 4 (today)

Four free 12 oz bottles of soda to SafeWay Club Card Holders. Create an account online and click the “just for u” tab, click coupon center, click beverages, click “add”. Expires 1/8. (Not tested by Actually Free)

Free $2 Target gift card from ShopKick. Download the free ShopKick app on your smartphone and register your number. Then enter your number here to get the $2 gift card. (Not tested by Actually Free)

Complete a survey on facebook to get a free stainless steel travel mug from Normand Marketing Group. (not tested by Actually Free)

Get 2 Free Quest Bars when you “like” them on facebook.

In at least some locations, Jan 9th might be a free buscuit day at Carl’s Jr. (Not confirmed)

Free After Rebate from Newegg
-McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2013 – 1 PC, Free after $35 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card
-Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 – 3 Devices, Free after $35 mail in rebate in the form of a check

Free After Rebate from Fry’s Electronics
-Pro All-In-1 USB 2.0 Card Reader, Free after $4 mail in rebate
-Toy Story Headphones, Free after $10 mail in rebate
-inland White Stereo Earbuds, Free after $3 mail in rebate
-Hornettek Portfolio Case for iPad, Free after $10 mail in rebate
-2 Pack Multi Purpose Cleaning Wipes, Free after $4 mail in rebate
-DesignCAD 3D Max V20, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-Drive Erase Professional, Free after $15 mail in rebate and $10 mail in rebate
-Nero Burn Express 2, Free after $20 mail in rebate
-Other software titles are free after competitive upgrade rebates, this means you have to prove you own the previous version for the upgrade to be free. Other software titles are free when you purchase tax software
-See their ads, page 4, 7, 8. Rebates do not refund sales tax which is applicable when purchasing in-store. Shipping fees can apply when purchasing online.

Free After Rebate from Tiger Direct:
-Total Defense TDUSCDTDCCUE Unlimited Internet Security – Monthly Subscription, Free after $20 mail in rebate
-Monster ScreenClean MCCLNKITGPS Travel-Size LCD Screen Cleaning Kit, Free after $10 mail in rebate, free shipping today, expires 1/4 (today), hurry if interested while supplies last
-Shipping usually apply when purchasing online, sales tax applies when purchasing in-store.
-This gaming headset was free after $20 MIR and $20 MIR and it had free shipping, but it sold out the same night it was offered. This bluetooth headset was also free after rebate. Frequently check deals websites like SlickDeals.net to catch items like that before they sell out. Sales tax also does not apply when purchasing online as long as the shipping address is not in the same state as the retailer.

Free After Rebate from MicroCenter
-Perfect Image Professional, Free after $30 mail in rebate
-Titanium Antivirus 2013 – 3 user, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-Total Defense Unlimited Security, Free after $20 mail in rebate
-CheckIt Registry Cleaner, Free after $30 mail in rebate
-PCmover Ultimate, Free after $35 mail in rebate
-Web Easy Professional 8, free after $10 mail in rebate and $25 mail in rebate
-Other titles are free after competitive upgrade rebates, 1 title is free with TurboTax purchase
-See their ad page 49, sales tax applies when purchasing in-store
-Check back to see freebies from MicroCenter on a monthly basis

Office Depot:
-McAfee Internet Security 2013, Free after $60 mail in rebate, see their ad page 17, expires Jan 5
-Coupon for 25 free black and white copies.

Due to some conflicts in the author’s schedule there will probably not be a Free Stuff Friday or other blog posts for the next 2-3 weeks, starting Jan 7. Here are some deals websites where some of these freebies are often found: DealNews.com, SlickDeals.net, Dealigg.com, Deals.Woot.com. These sites don’t always aggregate the freebies together like I do and they don’t separate the web freebies (like ebooks and music) from free stuff (like food, accessories, samples, etc.). But they’re better than nothing for the next couple of weeks.

Free Stuff Friday, December 28, 2012

Welcome to Free Stuff Friday, December 28, 2012. Here are today’s freebies:

I Rocks Technology AC / USB Power Adapter for iPod/iPhone, $5.51 sale price – 9.99 mail in rebate = ($4.48), This offer pays you $4.48 to get the product. Shipping is free. There is no sales tax unless the shipping address is to their state of operation.

Free After Rebate from Newegg.com:
-Panda Security Global Protection 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $45 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-iolo System Mechanic Premium – Unlimited PCs (install it on all your home PCs), Free after $43 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-iolo System Mechanic – Unlimited PCs (install it on all your home PCs), Free after $37 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-TREND MICRO Titanium Maximum Security 2013 – 3 User, Free after $60 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-Symantec Norton Internet Security 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $55 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-McAfee Total Protection 2013 – 3 PCs, Free after $65 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-SmithMicro Voila, Free after $25 mail in rebate in the form of a check.
-Total Defense PC Tune-Up, Free after $35 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-AVG PC TuneUp – 3 PCs, Free after $25 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.
-Total Defense Premium Internet Security – 5 User, Free after $50 mail in rebate in the form of a prepaid card.

Free After Rebate from Fry’s Electronics:
-Cooler Master Thermal Fusion 400, Free after $5 mail in rebate
-Mertiline Square Mesh Waste Basket, Free after $3 mail in rebate
-Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus 2013- 3 PCs, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-Acronis Disk Director 11 Home, Free after $25 mail in rebate
-Berlitz Chinese/Japanese Premier (and 5 other languages), Free after $10 mail in rebate and $10 mail in rebate
-GREETING CARD FACTORY DELUXE 8.0, Free after $20 mail in rebate and $15 mail in rebate
-Manga Studio Debut 4, Free after $35 mail in rebate
-PDF Converter 8.0, Free after $40 mail in rebate
-Panda Global Protection 2013-3 PCs, Free after $45 mail in rebate
-Webroot Internet Security Plus 2013-3PC, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-Total Defense Antivirus- 3 PCs, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-PC Mover Ultimate, Free after $35 mail in rebate
-Scrapbook Factory Deluxe 5.0, Free after $10 mail in rebate and $25 mail in rebate
-Mavis Beacon Typing- 25th Anniversary Platinum Edition, Free after $20 mail in rebate
-Print Artist Platinum 24, Free after $20 mail in rebate and $20 mail in rebate
-Digital TV for PC 2, Free after $25 mail in rebate
-Merriam Webster’s Spanish-English Dictionary OR Merriam Webster’s Three Dictionary Combo, Free after $14 mail in rebate
-DiskImage, Free after $30 mail in rebate.
-”Over 60 software titles” free after rebate. “Competitive upgrade” rebates require proof of purchase of previous version. Without the POP these titles aren’t free. Sales tax applies when buying in-store.
-see their ad, page 7, 8, Software Deals page, and Office Supply page

Free After Rebate from Tiger Direct:
-OfficeWork Creative Essentials Software – Includes MuveeNow, Anime Studio 6 And TrueKatShow, Free after $20 mail in rebate.
-Total Defense Unlimited Internet Security – Monthly Subscription, Free after $20 mail in rebate.
-Total Defense Premium Internet Security – 5 Devices, Annual Subscription, Free after $50 mail in rebate
-Total Defense Internet Security Suite Software – 3 Devices, free after $70 mail in rebate
-Shipping fees may apply when purchasing online from Tiger Direct. Sales tax applies when buying in person at Tiger Direct-owned stores.

Cooler Master NotePal U1 Notebook Cooling Stand, Free after $15 mail in rebate. Currently sold out as of this post. The rebate is good until Jan 1, so they may get re-stocked. (Use the “alert me” option on the page to receive an email for when they get it in stock).

Free Creme of Nature sample, fill out the form to have it mailed.

Free Sample of Centrum Flavor Burst Chews, fill out the form to have it mailed.

Free Redbox one-night rental at Publix Supermarkets. Text the word “market” to 727272 to receive the promo code by text. Expires 12/30.

First pair of glasses free at GlassesShop.com. Use the code FIRSTFREE at checkout.

Free 2013 Calendar from CubCrafters.com. Fill out the form to have it mailed.

Free 5.5 oz can of Friskies cat food from Petco. Print the coupon to redeem in-store

Free Sample of Avenda Exfoliating Shampoo and Conditioner. Print the coupon to redeem in-store.

Get 25 4×6 prints free from RiteAid. Order the prints online, use the code EPRNT at checkout, and select in-store pickup.

Free Sensual Massage Oil from Laruh.com. Fill out the form to have it mailed.

Get free gift cards with Bing Rewards. Build up rewards points by using Bing’s free internet search service, then redeem the points for rewards such as gift cards. Internet Explorer is probably required since Microsoft runs Bing (not tested by Actually Free).

UPDATE (MORE FREEBIES):

Free After Rebate from MacMall:
-QFX Stereo Earbuds with Inline Microphone – White (H-103 (WHITE)), Free after $13.99 mail in rebate.
-QFX Stereo Earbuds with Inline Microphone – Black (H-103 (BLACK)), Free after $13.99 mail in rebate (this cannot be combined with the white QFX earbuds, you can choose one or the other per mailing address)
-Shipping is free on orders over $24.99 or free if you’re a member of Shoprunner. Unlike the USB wall charger mentioned above, these don’t have the special free shipping offer. No sales tax unless the shipping address is in the same state of operation as the retailer (IL and CA)

Free After Rebate from Staples (Dec 30 – Jan 5):
-HammerMill® 8.5″ x 11″ Copy Plus® copy paper, 500 sheets, $1 after mail in rebate ($6.99 – $5.99 MIR), limit 4 rebates per household, coupon for $5 off purchase of $25 or more– ($6.99 x 4) – 5 + sales tax – (5.99 x 4) = 27.96 – 5 + sales tax – 23.96 = -1 + sales tax. Excluding sales tax this offer pays you a dollar. In Arizona it would come out to about $1.50 total with sales tax for 2000 sheets of paper. The sales tax varies state by state.
-Staples® photo plus 4″ x 6″ paper, gloss, Free after $9.99 mail in rebate, limit two rebates per household. If you get two then your total comes to $19.98. That means you could also potentially get another $5-worth of items and use the $5 off any purchase of $25 coupon to get those items for very cheap, but not free, due to sales tax and the requirement of the coupon to minimally purchase $25 not including sales tax. Here is the purchase I made: (2 x 9.99 photo paper) + (2 x $1 note cards) + 1.99 clorox disinfecting wipes + $1 pack of 25 envelopes + 0.50 Staples 1-subject notebook = 25.47 subtotal – $5 off coupon = 20.47 new subtotal + $1.80 sales tax = $22.27 – 19.98 in rebates = 2.29.
-Sales tax applies when purchasing in-store at any retailer

How I got over $1,400.00 worth of Christmas Gifts for Free!

In this article I will outline the details of how I got over $1,400 worth of Christmas gifts for free. Many, but not all, of these gifts are pictured above (not all items are pictured below either). You may have read a similar post from last year when I got over $300 worth of Christmas gifts for free. This year I was a little more organized and experienced, and I started the task a little bit earlier. Last year I started on Black Friday. This year, I started gathering freebies for Christmas in September.

My first resource of freebies is a passive source of income from Cafe Press. Actually Free (this blog and website) emphasizes freebies that are actually free, meaning there is no monetary requirement to obtain the freebie. This is important because there are many marketing strategies which use the word “free” but actually get consumers to spend more. I’m very conscious of this and I downright refuse to let any promotion trick me into spending more than I would have spent otherwise. While some freebies don’t require any monetary output, they all require time (again, I started gathering these freebies in September). A passive source of income is considered to be actually free when there are no start-up costs for establishing the passive income. In some cases I might even consider passive income to be free once the start up costs are met because the rest is gravy, and by definition a passive form of income provides a stream of money that doesn’t require time once it is established. Cafe Press is an online T-Shirt and printing store that pays a commission to designers. It is easy to become a designer. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, open your own Cafe Press store and start submitting designs. Once the design is submitted it not only appears in your store but in the Cafe Press market place. So the design is available to all visitors of Cafe Press. I use free image resources for my designs, such as OpenClipart.org. All images at OpenClipart.org are in the public domain unless specifically stated. This means that they are free of copyright. When submitting designs to Cafe Press, it is important not to used copyrighted or trademarked material. Not only is it illegal, but Cafe Press is very good about removing it. Trust me, even when you didn’t realize you were violating a copyright or trademark, they’ll remove it. I also use a free image editor (Sumo Paint) to create my designs in addition to the tools they already have on Cafe Press. Since there were no start up costs, the images are free, and the image editing software is free, Cafe Press provides a passive source of income that is actually free. Once my designs are submitted, I get a commission every time an item with my design makes a sale. I don’t do any marketing or order fulfillment. I just submit the designs, wait for them to sell, and receive my commissions. There are many other ways to establish a passive income online that don’t require image design. Anything that can be distributed electronically has a potential for income. This includes text, photography, computer graphics, software, music, etc.

So far this year I’ve received $251.71 in commissions from Cafe Press. It’s not enough to support a family. But it’s enough to supplement the Christmas budget every year, especially when it can be stretched into $1,400+. More commissions are due, especially since sales increase during the holidays, but Cafe Press holds on to it for a while in cases of returns and exchanges. For this article, I’ll only consider the commissions I’ve already received. Out of the $251.71, I’m saving 20% for income taxes, which I will pay when taxes are due in April. I’m keeping this money until taxes are due because I can earn interest off of it instead of giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. When I say “I’m saving”, I mean it in the literal sense, not the commercial or marketing sense. I’m keeping it in an account until I need it. That is what “saving” is. When retailers tell you that you’re “saving” by shopping with them and getting good deals, you’re not actually saving, you’re spending. You might be able to say that you’re “spending less” in some instances, which is the phrase that I’ll be using for the rest of this article. But one of the steps of becoming an extreme saver is to recognize when retailers are trying to trick you and avoid it. After taxes, I’m left with $201.38 in Cafe Press commissions.

$251.73 – $50.35 estimated taxes = 201.38

My first gift for the season is to donate 10% of my income to Charity. I calculate this from gross income.

$201.38 – $25.17 charitable contribution = $176.20

This $176.20 in passive income commissions creates a nice buffer for all the other freebie strategies listed below. If I didn’t have this buffer, then some of the items listed below would not have actually been free. However, many of them were actually free without the buffer and a couple of them even paid me. Many of the items below were marketed as “free after rebate”. This means that after buying the item, a rebate can be requested by mail that equals the sales price. However, the rebate doesn’t usually cover sales tax. And it certainly doesn’t cover the postage required for requesting the rebate. For all items listed below, I tried to detail what the other costs of obtaining that freebie would have been. In the case of rebates, stamps are $0.45 for each rebate, and envelopes are $0.03 each. Some items that were free after rebate were actually free after two rebates, so they required two stamps and two envelopes.

If I wanted to add to my buffer, I might have included the cash back that I receive from using my credit card. With the particular credit card that I have, once I accumulate a minimum of $100 in cash back rewards I can request a check. This year I could have requested a check over $300. I have some points of advice when it comes to rewards programs which I state over and over again. One, avoid getting too many credit cards because too many lines of credit can negatively affect your credit score. I also considered getting a frequent flyer credit card so that I could claim some points I had accumulated from flights for prizes. These prizes, such as an Amazon gift card or restaurant gift cards, would have made excellent Christmas gifts. However, I hesitated to do that because the cost of it affecting my credit score can outweigh the prizes. Generally keep the number of lines of credit that you have to 5. This includes credit cards, loans, mortgages, car payments, or anything that you owe. So if you have a house payment and a car payment, don’t get more than 3 credit cards. There are many rewards programs that don’t require credit cards; be weary of the ones that do. The second point of advice that I have for rewards programs and credit cards is to never carry a balance. If you carry a balance on a credit card, the amount that you owe in interest will outweigh any cash back, prizes or freebies. When I use my credit card it is only for planned purchases which I can back up with cash. I pay the balance off every month so I don’t accrue interest and still collect the cash back reward. The third point of advice that I have for rewards programs is to forget that you’re participating in a rewards program while you’re shopping. The rewards program itself should never influence you into making a purchase that you wouldn’t make without the rewards program. Then once you’ve accumulated enough points to claim cash back or prizes, it’s a nice bonus.

One other difference between this article and last year’s article is that I’m calculating the total worth of these gifts based as closely as I can to the retail value. I didn’t have a reliable way of calculating the fair market value, especially since they may have a value, but I got them all for free. (You really only need to know the difference between a suggested retail value and a fair market value if you win a prize that is worth enough to be taxable. All of the items below were either paid with after-tax money or the fine print of the prize stated that the monetary value of it was less than 1/100th of a cent).

After Cafe Press Commissions, the first resource of freebies was Sears Apparel Outlet. Sears Apparel Outlet ran their Free Apparel Tuesday promotion for most of the year. As far as I know they started during the holiday season last year and ran it almost every Tuesday through the end of September of 2012. If I had noticed that they continued the promotion after Christmas, I probably would have gone more often and received more freebies. Free Apparel Tuesday at Sears Apparel Outlet offered one free piece of apparel per customer. There was no purchase requirement, and there was no sales tax since a percentage of zero is zero. The promotion was only offered at Apparel Outlets and not Sears Appliance Outlets or other Sears-owned stores. The locations for Sears Apparel Outlets are sparse, so this promotion was generally only good for those who live within reasonable driving distance. Here are the freebies that I received:

Dress shirt, regularly $10 outlet price and $35 retail price.
Dress shirt, regularly $10 outlet price and $35 retail price.
Dress pants, regularly $13 outlet price and $40 retail price.
Jeans (non-Levi’s according to the promotion rules), regularly $13 outlet price and $40 retail price.
Total Value $150 from Sears Apparel Outlet. Cafe Press Buffer $176.20

Those of us who have benefited from Free Apparel Tuesdays at Sears Apparel Outlet watched and watched for the promotion to return after it ended in September. Throughout the holidays I thought they’d bring it back. I thought they’d bring it back the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and every Tuesday in December, but they didn’t. By about December 21st I was beginning to think they wouldn’t bring it back at all, but I noticed an announcement on their facebook page stating that there would be a Free Apparel Day on Christmas Eve. I’ll do my best to attend if my schedule permits. This pattern makes me wonder if they won’t have the “free apparel” promotion as often in 2013. They might only bring it back for special occasions. One of those occasions will certainly be whenever they have a grand opening of a new branch, and it will only be available at that branch.

After Sears Apparel Outlet, we get into the rebates. The kicker with rebates is that you have to pay the money up front and then you get refunded about 6-8 weeks later. Items that are free after rebate (FAR) or free after mail in rebate (MIR) are also risky gifts since the recipient of the gift can’t return or exchange the item. Rebates require that the bar code be removed from packaging. Once that action is performed the store won’t accept it back. Generally, the major retailers that offer rebates are Newegg, Fry’s Electronics, and Tiger Direct, with occasional rebates from office stores like Staples and Office Depot. However, many other retailers had items for free after rebate during the holidays. Out of all these retailers, the best one to buy from is Newegg. That’s because Newegg almost always offers free shipping on these items, and when you buy from a retailer online they don’t charge sales tax unless the shipping address is in the same state(s) as their operation. In the case of Newegg, those states are California, New Jersey and Tennessee. Since they offer items for free after rebate, and since there is no shipping and no sales tax, these items are actually free. Newegg is also fantastic with their order fulfillment and their rebate fulfillment. The only drawback with Newegg rebates is that some of the rebates come in the form of a prepaid Visa card. These cards can have some limitations. A few places won’t accept them and if they’re not used within the first 6 months then a fee is charged (deducted from the amount on the card). In the past, I’ve never had trouble using them for unavoidable expenses such as gas and groceries. This way I’m able to use them; it doesn’t trick me into spending money I would not have spent otherwise; and I don’t forget to use them since I have to buy gas and groceries almost every week. The minute it arrives in the mail it goes in my wallet where my other payment cards are located and I use it as the first form of payment until its gone.

(Sorry its a little blurry)

Parallels AnchorFree HotSpot Shield, $35.01 – 35 mail in rebate = 0.01 (Rebate received)
AVG Antivirus, 1 user, 1 year, $20 – 20 mail in rebate = 0.00
AVG Internet Security, 3 PCs, 1 year, $45 – 45 mail in rebate = 0.00
Earbuds, 12 – 11.99 MIR = $0.01
Logitech H150 3.5mm Connector Supra-aural Stereo Headset – White, $10 – 10 mail in rebate = 0.00
Kensington Car Charger $11.99 – 10 mail in rebate = 1.99
Rebate postage: 6 rebates x (0.45 + 0.03) = $2.88
Total value from Newegg $134, Cafe Press Buffer $176.20 – $2.01 total prices after rebate – $2.88 postage = $171.31

The Kensington Car Charger is a good point of discussion since it wasn’t free. The rebate didn’t trick me into buying something I wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. I was specifically looking for a USB car charger as part of a package of iPad accessories that I was creating as a gift for my mother. This charger was the cheapest that I could find up to the time that I bought it. However, after I bought it, I found another one online for $1.95 at FastTech.com which didn’t require a rebate. I had no remorse for this since I didn’t find the deal in time to get it shipped before Christmas. However, the same weekend I also found one at Fry’s Electronics for $1.99. It would have been nice to get the same item without having to send in a rebate since I would have saved on postage. I also wouldn’t have had the risk of the rebate not getting fulfilled. (I’m still counting the retail value of the charger in the total value, although I know some brands regularly sell for $5 or less). I’ve made some other orders with FastTech.com and since they’re an off-shore retailer I will comment on this blog once the orders have been received. Shipping can take up to a month so I haven’t received these items yet, even though I’ve included them in the total calculations below.

After Newegg, the next best place to get items for free after rebate is Fry’s Electronics, if only for the sheer frequency of rebate offers. Fry’s Electronics only has 34 locations in 9 states, so these deals are only beneficial to those who live within reasonable driving distance. Since these purchases were made in-store, sales tax was applicable and it was not covered by the rebate.

Start, Run & Grow Your Business, $25 + 2.33 sales tax – 25 mail in rebate = 2.33 (rebate received)
Turbo FloorPlan 3D Home & Landscape Deluxe, $50 – 10 instant savings = 40 + 3.72 sales tax – 40 mail in rebate = 3.72 (rebate received)
WebEasy Professional 8, $40 – 5 instant savings = 35 + 3.26 sales tax – 10 mail in rebate – 25 mail in rebate = 3.26 (both rebates received)
Deluxe Will Creator, $25 + 3.33 sales tax – 15 mail in rebate – 10 mail in rebate = 3.33
Notebook Cooler, $7 + 0.65 sales tax – 7 mail in rebate = 0.65
Antec Microfiber cleaning Cloth, $2 + 0.19 tax – 2 mail in rebate = 0.19
SIIG WakeStylus, $6.49 + 0.60 – 5.50 mail in rebate = 0.99 + 0.6 = 1.59
Webster Medical dictionary software, $13.99 + 1.13 – 13.99 = 1.13
SIIG Cleaning Wipes, $5 + 0.41 – 5 MIR = 0.41 (Black Friday deal)
Uniden bluetooth headset, $10 + 0.81 – 10 MIR = 0.81 (Black Friday deal)
camera cleaning pen, $5 + 0.41 – 5 MIR = 0.41 (Black Friday deal)
All in one screen cleaner, $5 + 0.41 – 5 MIR = 0.41 (Black Friday deal)
Lens cleaning pen, $2 + 0.16 – 2 MIR = 0.16 (Black Friday deal)
Belkin surge protector, $11.50 + 0.93 – 11.50 MIR = 0.93 (Black Friday deal)
Swann Helicopter, $29.99 – 10.99 instant savings = 19 + 1.54 – 15 MIR = 4 + 1.54 (Black Friday deal)
Travel adapter, $5 + 0.47 – 5 MIR = 0.47 (Week after Thanksgiving)
iPad case, $15 + 1.4 – 15 MIR = 1.4 (Week after Thanksgiving)
Rebate postage: 19 rebates x (0.45 + 0.03) = $9.12
Total Value from Fry’s Electronics $257.97, Cafe Press Buffer $171.31 – $26.74 total price after rebate – $9.12 postage = $135.45

The sales tax varies because some purchases were made in a different state during Thanksgiving. Dollar Tree also sells a stylus product for $1 which I didn’t find until after purchasing the stylus listed above. I realize the Swann Remote Controlled Helicopter wasn’t “free after rebate”, but I knew I had the Cafe Press Buffer when I bought it and $4 for a remote control helicopter has got to be some kind of a record. Those things are usually $30 at least. And it’s not software or an electronics accessory like most freebies after rebate; its the actual item.

On another note, getting Will Creator software, probably isn’t a good gift for any one other than yourself if you happen to want it. I thought about giving this to my dad as a gag gift but didn’t know how well the joke would go over. The overwhelming majority of the items listed in this post made good gifts for others. That’s another difference between this article and last year’s article. Last year, I mostly only included gifts for myself and my son. This year it’s a little more spread out for other people. A lot of the smaller items, like the camera lens cleaners listed above or the hooks listed and pictured below, were excellent stocking stuffers.

The following items were free after rebate from Staples. Since they were purchased in-store the sales tax was applicable.

Command Damage-Free Hanging Hooks, $3 + 0.26 – 3 mail in rebate = 0.26 (rebate received)
Command Damage-Free Hanging Hooks, $3 + 0.26 – 3 mail in rebate = 0.26 (rebate received)
Pack of Pens,  $6 + 0.53 – 6 mail in rebate each = 0.53 (rebate recevied)
Pack of Pens,  $6 + 0.53 – 6 mail in rebate each = 0.53 (rebate recevied)
Ream of paper, $6.99 + 0.62 – 3 MIR – 3.99 MIR = 0.62
Ream of paper, Free (Should have been “free after rebate” but their register wasn’t printing receipts so they marked it down to a penney and gave it to me. This allowed me to go to another nearby branch to buy another ream of paper for “free after rebate”.)
Ream of paper, $6.99 + 0.62 – 6.99 MIR = 0.62
Rebate postage: 6 x (0.45 +0.03) = $2.88
Total value from Staples: $38.97, Cafe Press Buffer $135.45 – $2.82 price after rebates – $2.88 postage = $129.75.

When the rules of the rebate specified “only one per address”, I had my wife send a rebate request under her name and address and then I sent one under my name and my parent’s address. Since I had a different mailing address we were still following the rules and we both qualified for the rebate.

The following items were free after rebate from Big Lots.

4 packs Fuji batteries, 2 mail in rebate each, 8.74 – 8 MIR = 0.74
4 packs of Fuji batteries, 2 mail in rebate each, 8.74 – 8 MIR = 0.74
Rebate postage: 4 rebates x (0.45 stamp + 0.03 envelope) = $1.92
Total Value from Big Lots: $16, Cafe Press Buffer $129.75 – $1.48 total price after rebates – $1.92 = $126.35

Big Lots actually had two different battery promotions. My wife and I both participated in both promotions so that we’d have more batteries for electronics on Christmas. These particular rebates were a good demonstration of why it is important to read the fine print. The advertisement where these rebates were found only stated that the rebate was worth $2 for 1 pack of batteries. But the rebate form said that each person could buy 2 packs for up to a $4 rebate. They had multiple options: 4 pk of AA or AAA, or 2 pack of D or C, etc. We got 12 D batteries and 4 C batteries at a price of $0.09 per battery after rebate.

The following was free from Tiger Direct. Since I ordered the item online I had to pay for shipping but not sales tax.

Speakers, $20 – 20 MIR + 5.26 shipping = 5.26
Rebate postage 0.45 stamp + 0.03 envelope = $0.48
Total Value from Tiger Direct: $20. Cafe Press Buffer $126.35 – $5.26 shipping – $0.48 postage = $120.61

The following was free from Sears

Foldable snow brush, $14.99 – 1.50 instant savings + 1.19 tax – 14.99 MIR = (0.31)
Rebate postage: 2 x (0.45 stamp + 0.03 envelope) = $0.96
Total Value from Sears: $14.99, Cafe Press Buffer $120.61 + $0.31 – $0.96 postage = $119.34

This was one of the two deals that I found which paid me to get it. The “(0.31)” means I was paid 31 cents to get this free product (not counting postage). I got the instant savings because I ordered the product online during an additional promotion. I got free shipping because I ordered it online through an in-store kiosk. Sears has kiosks in the store to order products that aren’t in stock. When you use the in-store kiosk then shipping is free with no minimum purchase requirement.  The Rebate required a self-addressed stamped envelope which is why the postage was doubled.

The following was free from MacMall

USB Wall Charger 5.99 on sale – 9.99 MIR = ($4)
Rebate postage 0.45 + 0.03 = $0.48
Total value: $9.99, Cafe Press Buffer $119.34 + $4 – $0.48 = $122.86

This was the second deal I found which paid me to get it. If I had been more on track I would have had my wife buy one too.

The following was free from True Value

Air compressor, 14.99 + 1.32 sales tax – 15 MIR = 1.31
Rebate postage 0.45 + 0.03 = $0.48
Total value: $14.99, Cafe Press Buffer $122.86 – $1.31 price after rebate – $0.48 postage = $121.07

I almost missed this deal because they sold out by the time I discovered it. Usually “free after rebate” promotions are for software, small electronics accessories, and occasionally office supplies. Tools and automotive accessories are more rare. I was lucky enough to get this because I talked to the store owner even after they had sold out to see if there was anything he could do to help. He ordered the product for me and let me buy it that day so that the receipt would be dated within the rebate period. Since the store sale had also ended, it was no longer $14.99 but he still price adjusted it for me. It never hurts to ask and it often even helps. In this case, it also helped that the business model for True Value is different. Since it is an independently-owned franchise, the head boss was available on site and he had the authority to make that decision. I wouldn’t have been able to do that at a place like Staples because corporate probably wouldn’t allow it.

That about does it for the stuff that was free after rebate. There were a couple of times where I could have avoided the rebate as mentioned above, but I found that out too late. The next set of freebies was available from Black Friday promotions. In order to get these promotions, I had to buy a newspaper to gain access to the Black Friday Ads.

Black Friday Freebies:

Stein Mart had a scratch and win gift card directly on their Black Friday ad. I won $10. Most Black Friday promotions were something like “$10 free with every $50 purchase”. But this wasn’t. There was no minimum purchase requirement. I could have purchased anything in the store for exactly $10 and avoided sales tax since 0% of zero is zero. It just so happened that I needed ties and ties were on sale for Black Friday for 5.96 ea, regularly $12 each (value of $24). I looked around at other clothes stores, and even $12 is a good deal since most ties were $20 – $25 each.
$5.96 x 2 = $12.08 – $10 gift card = $2.08.

Sports Authority gave out gift cards to a select number of first people in line. One of those customers won $500. Unfortunately that wasn’t me. I won $10, and after 3 hours waiting to be first in line, I can tell you that the cards are randomized. I got a camping chair that was on sale for Black Friday and a kids’ game that was on clearance. 12.50 Chair – 6 Black friday reduction + $5.97 game – 5 clearance reduction – $10 gift card for waiting in line = $0 the way it was charged. I actually had another $2.53 that I could have used which the clerk didn’t tell me about. I thought I was actually going to pay extra because the kids game on clearance was marked incorrectly.

Toys”R”Us gave a bag of goodies “worth $30” to a select number of the first people in line. The “$30″ value was somewhat of a generous estimate in my oppinion. The bag contained a coloring book, crayons, water bottle, a small Lego pack, and other small toys. These were good stocking stuffers and small gifts for my kids and my sister’s kids.

Costco gave out a Cook Book to all members while supplies lasted on Black Friday. When I went to get this I thought it would just be a little booklet, but it was actually a really nice book that can be a decent additional gift for my wife on Christmas. $10 value at least.

If you want to learn more about these offers and other Black Friday freebies, read the Black Friday Freebies Post.

Total Value from Black Friday Freebies: $70.47. Cafe Press Buffer $121.07 – $3 newspaper – 2.08 difference in price for ties = 115.99

As usual, the holiday promotions didn’t end with Black Friday. Here were some additional freebies that I found throughout December:

Banana Republic had a “12 Days” promotion. On Dec 4, I received two vouchers to see the new movie Les Miserables. In order to get these without making a purchase I had to ask for them, and I had to specifically ask for an extra one for my wife or the clerk only would’ve given me one. A lot of people would feel uncomfortable asking, but if you want freebies, sometimes you have to take courage and swallow your pride. The vouchers were good for up to $10 each for a total value of $20. I could say that these vouchers are only worth the price of a movie ticket in Arizona where I’ll see the movie. However, despite what the fine print says, I’ve heard that the theater will apply the remaining amount to the next ticket. This means that my wife and I could use one voucher and pay the difference to get two matinee tickets. I’ve also heard that the voucher can be used for any movie, so we’re going to try to get the full $10-worth out of each voucher. On December 5th, I received a free sample bag of gourmet popcorn, which will be good stocking stuffer for my son and should be worth at least 50 cents. On December 6th I received two Giradelli bit-size chocolate samples, which should also be good stocking stuffers and should at least be worth 25 cents each for a total of 50 cents. The popcorn would probably cost $1.50 and the chocolate would probably cost $1 if you were to buy them in the mall. But we’ll stick with $1 total. When I was explaining some of these freebies to my family, they asked if it was worth the drive to Banana Republic each day to get freebies that are only worth about 50 cents each. My reply was “yes” because I happened to be passing by. I didn’t spend the gas to drive there just for that purpose when the freebie was so small. There is no way to actually calculate how much gas I spent getting all the these freebies. I considered it to be negligible if the store/freebie was in route to somewhere I was already going. The same philosophy applied to the JC Penney buttons described below.

JC Penney had a buttons promotion that ran from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. On any day you could go into a JC Penney store and ask for buttons with no purchase requirement. The rule was two per customer per day, but there were ways around that which I’ll explain in a minute. Once obtaining the buttons, you could go online to the JC Penney website to enter the codes that were on a sticker on the back of the button. There were various prizes available, but most of the time the prize was a $5 certificate or $10 certificate which could be used in the store. If the item you purchased matched the price of the certificate then there was no sales tax. I came up with a couple ways of getting more than two buttons a day. This only helped not to have to drive to JC Penney every day since only two codes could be entered online each day. (Again, I would only stop by JC Penney when I was already in route to do something else). One way to get more than two buttons from a clerk was to buy something. I was resolved to only get stuff for free so in my case this only happened when I was redeeming certificates. On another occasion I had my cute red-headed 3-year-old son with me. The clerk took one look at him and gave me a handful of buttons. On other occasions I got more than two by waiting in line. I know in the clerk’s mind it didn’t seem fair to only get two if I was waiting in line for them. It also helped that I politely asked for “some buttons please”. I thinking using the word “some”, not “my” or “my two”, and using the word “please” prompted the clerk to give me a handful. Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve I obtained 62 buttons. Out of those buttons I won a total of $65 ($5, $10, $5, $5, $10, $5, $10, $10, $5) in certificates. The fine print says they’re not supposed to be combined. However, on every occasion the sales clerk was willing and able to price adjust the products so that I could get what I wanted without having to pay extra and without having to buy items priced at only $5 or $10. If they weren’t able to price adjust the products then I would have only purchased $5 or $10 items because I was resolved not to let this promotion trick me into spending money.

Total Value of December Promotions: $86. Cafe Press buffer remains at $115.99

Here are some other freebies that I received (coupons, yard sales, other promotions):

A baby play mat from a Yard Sale. One way to get freebies from yard sales is to go at the very end of the sale when the host is anxious to get rid of everything that remains. My wife and I happened to be passing by at the end of a yard sale when we were on a walk with our son. All we had to do was show interest in this play mat and they gave it to us. (It also helped that we were well-acquainted with our neighbors). This is a perfect gift for our baby and it is like new – clean and without a single defect. A similar play mat was on sale at Target on Black Friday for $20; regularly it’s $40. At another yard sale I also found a Black & Decker car vacuum. It was brand new, still in the box. It had a label from Ross (which itself is discounted down from retail) for $19.99 and they sold it to me for $5 (a substantial mark down and free for me with the Cafe Press Buffer).

Coupons for 2 free ice cream cones at a local ice cream shop. I received these with reward points at RecycleBank.com and they’ll make nice stocking stuffers. There is no price marked on the coupon, but I’ll estimate at a value of $3. RecycleBank is an excellent way to stay “green”-conscious and get other similar freebies.

A coupon for free windshield wiper blades and a free 9 point road trip evaluation valued at $65.25. I received this coupon as part of a MADD promotion in conjunction with a local car shop (Desert Car Care Center in Arizona). In order to receive it, I had to sign a pledge saying that I wouldn’t drive drunk or let any friends or family drive drunk and that I would wear a seat belt when I drive. Signing this pledge was not a problem for me since I never drink alcohol. (UPDATE/CORRECTION: The “9 point road trip evaluation” was actually $9. I could have just taken the free windshield wiper blades but I actually needed the road trip evaluation, so the $9 can be subtracted from the remaining buffer below as well as the total value of all the freebies calculated below.)

2 free Christmas baby bibs from Babies “R” Us. The coupon I used was sent to email subscribers, but I actually found it on a deals website online. My wife and I both claimed a free bib. We kept one for our baby and will give one to my nephew. They’re valued at $4.99 each for a total of $9.98.

A thit! T-shirt from thit.com. Thit will be a new social network that will launch in 2013. In order to gain attention and momentum, they’re giving away T-shirts. It’s a good quality shirt, but not much of a gift since no one knows what it is yet, so I’ll give it an estimated value of $2 with the potential of it’s value to increase as thit increases in popularity.

Total value of other freebies from coupons, yard sales and other promotions: $140.22. Cafe Press Buffer 115.99 – $5 for car vacumm = 110.99.

Even more gravy from the Cafe Press Buffer (other extreme deals):

I could easily just subtract the remaining Cafe Press commissions from the rest of the items I purchased for Christmas and say that some of those items were free. Last year, I actually mentioned which items I was counting to make the post look a little more exciting. This year I won’t do that with the items I had to pay full price for, but I will include some other fantastic deals that I found. These deals allowed my buffer, which I considered free money for my Christmas budget, to go much, much farther.

Metroid the Other M for Wii. I bought two of these 5.88 each by Price Matching a Big Lots Black Friday ad at Walmart. This game is regularly $49! I wish I would have thought this one out more completely. I would have purchased every Metroid they had and possibly gone to another Walmart and purchased all their copies. Then I would have traded them for other games or sold them on eBay for profit. I potentially could have had any Wii game, or any $50 product for $5.88. I could have purchased every Christmas gift I needed for my wife, siblings, parents, kids, etc. for $5.88 each. (5.88 x 2 = 11.76 + 0.95 sales tax = 12.71, regularly $98 + $7.94 sales tax).
Buffer 110.99 – 12.71 = 98.28

8 Movie vouchers to see Parental Guidance valued at $13 each. A movie voucher was awarded at Smart & Final grocery stores for a qualifying purchase of 2 or more First Street brand baking products. For each voucher I bought 2 boxes of baking soda for 0.75 each. So $1.53 bought 2 boxes of baking soda and a movie voucher worth $13. (1.53 sales tax incuded x 8 = $12.24, valued at $13 x 8 = $104). We will try using the complete value of these vouchers by splitting them into two matinee tickets and using them for other movies as mentioned with the Les Miserables tickets above. 6 of these vouchers were given to family members for Christmas and part of the gift was that we’d all go to the movie together.
Buffer 98.28 – 12.24 = 86.04

Kodak all-in-one printer for $14.97 on clearance at Sears ($14.97 + 1.21 = 16.18). Regularly $80 at the Kodak store. The super reduction in price was due to the fact that it was last year’s model.
Buffer 86.04 – 16.18 = 69.86

Just Dance 3 for Wii for 7.99. I used a Best Buy Black Friday ad and price matched at Walmart. This game is regularly $39.96. (7.99 + 0.65 sales tax = 8.64, regularly $39.96 + 3.24 sales tax = $43.20)
Buffer 69.86 – 8.64 = 61.22

2 Hand-cranked USB chargers. The first was $0 + $5 shipping. The second was $2.27 with free shipping at FastTech.com. There was no sales tax for either since I ordered them online. This is an interesting demonstration of the different price strategies that can be used online. Even if a product is free it can still be more expensive than buying somewhere else if the shipping fee is inflated. These probably have a retail value of at least $5 each. The second one was just a good deal. (total value $10).
Buffer 61.22 – 7.27 = 53.95

3 Wii accessories for 0.99 each at 99 Cents Only store. The accessories included a rechargeable battery for the Wii board and two upgraded grip covers for the Wii remote. The grip covers could easily go for $5 each at a game store and the battery is estimated at $15 (0.99 x 3 = 2.97 + 0.36 = 3.33).
Buffer 53.95 – 3.33 = 50.62

2 Touch styluses from Dollar Tree, Styluses could range from $2-$15. These particular ones are probably valued at about $5 each due to their brand and the way they’re packaged (2 x $1 = $2 + 0.16 sales tax = 2.16, valued at $10).
Buffer 50.62 – 2.16 = 48.46

USB wall charger & screen protector, $4.16 at FastTech.com. A similar wall charger is 9.84 at Walmart. A similar screen protector is $14.88 ($4.16 total spent, valued at $24.72).
Buffer 48.46 – 4.16 = 44.30

Two Jeans from Old Navy on Black Friday for $15 each, regularly $29.50 each (15 x 2 = 30 + 2.43 sales tax = 32.43, regularly 29.50 x 2 = 59 + 4.78 sales tax = 63.78).
Buffer 44.30 – 32.43 = 11.87

Total value of other extreme deals items listed above: 450.68. Remaining Cafe Press Commissions: $11.87.

That brings the grand total value of all the freebies above to:

25.17 charitable contribution +
150 from Sears Apparel Outlet +
134 Newegg +
257.97 Fry’s Electronics +
38.97 Staples +
16 Big Lots +
20 Tiger Direct +
9.99 MacMall +
14.99 True Value +
14.99 Sears +
70.47 Black Friday Freebies +
86 December Promotions +
140.22 coupons, yard sales, and other promotions
450.68 other other extreme deals +
11.87 remaining Cafe Press Commissions

= $1441.32

Granted, there are a lot of rebates still pending. In order to get many of these freebies I had to pay over $500 out of pocket for items that were free after rebate with the risk that some rebates will never be honored for whatever reason. By law a company has to honor the rebate, but some still don’t. I’ve generally had a very high success rate with rebates because I’m very “type A” at keeping them organized. I write down each item for which I’m expecting a rebate; I usually send in the rebate the day I buy the item or the day it arrives in the mail; I keep customer service numbers and tracking numbers to keep track of my rebates; I read all the fine print to make sure I’m following the rules. If you can’t be “type A” or rigidly organized about it, then don’t accept free after rebate offers. You’ll just end up paying for the item out of pocket. And people like that are one of the reasons whey people like me can get freebies. They make it lucrative for companies to offer the rebate.

 

Here are some freebies that I missed:

$2 worth of items at Sports Authority. I mentioned above that I didn’t use the whole $10 gift card at Sports Authority. I would have taken hand warmers as stocking stuffers for my wife since her hands are always cold. They were $1 each.

Brave DVD/Blu Ray combo. These were on sale for $8.96 each at Walmart on Black Friday. That alone is a smokin’ good deal, since a Disney/Pixar movie is usually $20-$30. All the Walmart Black Friday copies were claimed within the first 15 minutes of their Black Friday sale. I would have purchased 2 had I made it through chaotic mass if hysteria to get to that end of the store in time. One would have been for my family and one for my sister-in-law. I would have used a $10 MIR mail in rebate from Kellogs and a $6 off coupon that I got in a Disney Rewards email. The $10 mail in rebate required a purchase of 2 Kellog’s cereal boxes. They were on sale during Black Friday weekend at 2 for $5 at Dollar General. Without sales tax, here is what my total would have been for two of the Brave DVD/Blu Ray Combo packs and two boxes of Kellog’s Cereal: (8.96 x 2) + 5 – 10 – 6 = 6.92, with a total value of about $50. I wasn’t too bummed about this since my family doesn’t like Brave as much as we liked Cars 2 last year. Next year I’ll be watching for a similar deal for Disney/Pixar’s new movie Planes.

Cabella’s Black Friday Freebies. Cabellas was offering door prizes to the first 500 people in line. I would have waited in line hoping to get either a smoker cooker or binoculars, but I wasn’t in close enough proximity to any of their branches to make the drive worth it. They were also offering a rifle, $500 gift cards and other prizes.

Life of Pi movie tickets. On Black Friday weekend World Market was giving away tickets for the movie Life of Pi to a certain number of first customers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would have gone Friday and Saturday to get two tickets so that my wife and I could go together.

Lufkin Self-Centering 25′ tape measure. This tape measure was offered for free after rebate at Ace Hardware on Black Friday.

Mario Wii U from Old Navy on Black Friday. This game was offered to a select number of first customers at Old Navy. My wife went to Old Navy and waited two hours in line to make her purchases. If she had waited in line two hours before the store opened, instead of two hours in the register line to make her purchases, then she probably would have received the game. We don’t have a Wii U, but we could have traded it for Wii games.

An iPad messenger bag was free after $15 mail in rebate at Fry’s electronics. You may have noticed that I purchased a lot of iPad accessories above. Since I knew my mother was getting an iPad as a gift from someone else, this messenger bag would have been a perfect addition to the package of accessories that I was forming for her.

Thumb drives at Directron.com. A 4 GB thumb drive was free after $6.99 mail in rebate and a 8GB thumb drive was free after $9.99 mail in rebate.

Clothes at ThredUp.com. ThredUp is an online used clothes store for kids. I discovered a $15 off any purchase coupon code and a coupon code for free shipping. The only reason I didn’t get this was because I missed the deadline.

A Continental Electric Steam Iron and Continental Electric Toaster were both free after $20 mail in rebate at Tiger Direct only on 12/16. On this particular day Tiger Direct had free shipping. I was too late finding this deal. This was the first time I’ve ever seen kitchen items or home appliances for free after rebate.

Hasbro KRE-0 Micro Changers Figure was free with a coupon from SmartSource coupon circulars. If I had caught this in time to prepare, I would have received up to 3 figurines with two coupons and a buy 2 get 1 free promotion at Walgreens.

Travel Wallet valued at $5-$15. I ordered this online from a luggage company who was giving them away but never I received it.

 

Here are some other Ways to Spend Less during the Holidays:

Request free samples for stocking stuffers. They come in the perfect little sizes for stockings and you can get anything from cereal to cologne. Start requesting free samples either by mail or online in October to be sure they arrive before Christmas.

Take half of your kids Halloween candy on Halloween night and keep it for stockings. You can even tell them that it’s your fee for taking them trick-or-treating and getting half is better than nothing. Part of the effectiveness of this will depend on your kids- how much candy they actually get and how well they remember that you took the candy will be factors. This would have worked with my nieces. Their bags of candy were so full that my sister (their mother) could have taken half and it still would’ve been a lot of candy for post-Halloween and a lot of candy for stockings. Also in their minds they probably wouldn’t connect the two events since Halloween is two months before Christmas. I would particularly like this idea as a parent because I have no reservations about limiting how much candy my children will eat. My kids just aren’t old enough yet for me to try this. But rest assured, when they get enough candy for Halloween I will try this. Especially since stocking stuffers were my biggest expense this holiday season. All those little items add up.

Make home-made coupons. These don’t reduce how much you will spend overall, but it does help to spread out the expenses so that you’re less swamped during Christmas. If you barely make it within your budget after you buy the kids’ gifts, then give each other coupons which can come out of your January and February budgets. Coupons are also a good embodiment of service gifts which can’t be packaged or wrapped any other way. For example, my wife wanted a salon appointment and a registration fee for a half marathon for Christmas. She probably would have spent this money anyway so its nice to make it into an extra gift that she can open or discover in her stocking.

Consider other items besides candy or holiday-packaged candy for stocking stuffers. Items like Little Debbie Snacks and fruit snacks fill more space in the stocking and they cost the same or even cheaper than holiday candy.

Buy items for “free after rebate” whether you need them or not and then sell them on eBay for a profit. You’d have to be clear in the description that the packaging is damaged and/or that it’s missing the bar code (which you removed in order to claim the rebate). Then use that profit to buy what you want. There was a graduate student in the news who does this on a regular basis and pays for his tuition.

 

It’s been a fun and adventurous holiday. I had a pretty significant increase in holiday freebies this year ($1450.86 compared to last year’s $298.50). I’m not sure I’ll have that much of an increase next year, but I guess we’ll see. The goal is more to get good gifts for others on Christmas and stay within my budget. If I wanted to get more rebate items or other freebies that I didn’t need just to increase the total value calculation, then I could have.  In Microsoft Word, this post is over 18 pages long. If you’ve made it to the end, I thank you for reading and staying interested. Although most of the offers listed in this post are expired, I hope this information can be a good reference to help all readers learn strategies for getting freebies so that they can save their budget both during the Holidays and throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

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