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12/7 Update: The contest to enter to win an “Elf for your Shelf” has ended – winner announced later today. Thanks!
I’ve been spending the majority of my available time for the past week or so turning my house into “Santa’s Second Wonderland”. Little C is about to turn two, and she is really starting to catch-on to much of the Christmas fun and excitement – naturally that just fuels my excitement. Of course, maximizing points earnings while turning this place into a Winter Wonderland is a goal that is also close. I’ve already posted quite a bit on maximizing points earnings (and Amex promos!) while doing your holiday shopping, but I also have a few tips about maximizing points while doing other holiday related things. Since this blog is focused on maximizing miles and points for things your family is going to do anyway, I want to make sure to share how I have maximized holiday fun while maximizing points earnings!
In case you are like me and have yet to actually order your Holiday Cards, make sure you are getting the maximum number of points for that purchase. I haven’t decided yet for sure who I will be using to print my cards this year, but two that I am considering are Vistaprint and Shutterfly. Both are on many mileage malls and have pretty decent points payouts. For example, Vistaprint gives a 6x bonus from Ultimate Rewards, 4x from Membership Rewards, 5x from American Airlines, and 10x from Choice Privileges. Shutterfly gives 4x from Ultimate Rewards, 3x from Membership Rewards, 8x from US Airways, and 14x from Choice Privileges. There are obviously many other sources for cards as well, but make sure you are not forgetting to go through a shopping portal if one is available for your selected holiday card retailer!
Normally we cut a tree down each year from a local tree farm. Not only is it fun, but it is our way of guaranteeing that we get a locally grown tree that will be replanted. It would not be Christmas at our house with an artificial tree, so that is out of the question for us. However, the weather has not cooperated with our cut-your-own plan this year, so we had to get a pre-cut tree. One option to maximize purchasing a pre-cut tree is to see if your Walmart carries trees and then purchase a gift card online to Walmart. While you aren’t supposed to be able to earn miles through a portal on Walmart gift card purchases, you will trigger a gift from the Amex Gift Chain. My Walmart gifts haven’t been too exciting recently, but I have been getting $2.00 statement credits. Better than nothing.
Wrapping Paper, Lights, Decorations, etc….:
If you are still looking to stock up on wrapping paper, lights, decorations, and other miscellaneous holiday items, I would get thee to target.com today (via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal) and take advantage of 10x points. The 10x bonus is only available today (December 5th), but even after that expires make sure you are comparing portals using evreward.com to see who can offer the best points return for those purchases. Just keep in mind that evreward.com isn’t going to be able to tell you about one-day events like the one today for Target via Ultimate Rewards, so do some homework yourself.
I actually thought we were good on the decoration front, but surprisingly when you let a toddler help you decorate your tree, you end up having a few of these happenings.
So, I may get to take advantage of a few Target 10x purchases today after all!
Presents, presents, presents:
I’ve posted a fair amount already about maximizing your Holiday purchases, but here are a few reminders. Naturally you want to go through shopping portals. I have really been timing my shopping with the Ultimate Rewards one day point bonuses. There are still a few of those bonuses left, so plan accordingly. As a side note, I have been getting many questions about Chase Ultimate Rewards, so in my next post I hope to do a more detailed review of how that portal works and why it is my current favorite!
When shopping at retailers that are participating in the Amex gift chain, I have been using an Amex card. It has been fun, and I even got a $25 Amex gift card for myself and three additional $25 cards to give away to Facebook friends yesterday. Most of my gifts are $5 statement credits, but that is $5 I get back that I wouldn’t have otherwise! I am also working on the $5,000 minimum spending requirement for my new Ink Bold card, so I have been using that card as much as possible for non-gift chain retailers. As always, be strategic about which credit card is best to use in a given situation.
Last night I purchased toys for Toys for Tots as a result of money raised from my recent holiday contest (so thank you for making that possible)! I made most of those purchases at Gift Chain retailers including yoyo.com, Toys R Us, and Pottery Barn Kids, and I made all of them through shopping portals. I also avoided shipping charges on all of them so that more of the money could go directly to toy purchases. The Westin La Cantera will be receiving those gifts soon to add to their Toys for Tots collection!
One final thing to keep in mind when shopping is that American Express now has yet another new promotion that will give you a $10 statement credit when you spend $10 at a Small Business. This is similar to Small Business Saturday, but the main difference is that you must first download Foursquare to your phone, sync your Foursquare account to your American Express card and then “check in” to a small business on Foursquare. You will receive a credit on your Amex account within five days of following those steps and making a purchase. You can learn more about this fun new promo here.
I have saved a lot of money by planning purchases so that I can get free shipping. I abhor shipping charges, so if I can avoid them by grouping purchases to meet the minimum required purchase I do that. I have also done the Walmart site to store free shipping option when my purchases are too small to meet the minimum free shipping threshold.
While we are on the topic of shipping, remember that there is a Fedex holiday shipping promo going on that will award up to 4,500 Delta SkyMiles for using Fedex for your holiday shipments. I like to make sure that all of C’s little cousins get their gifts wrapped and shipped directly from us so that we can make sure they look cute and are ready to go under the tree. The “older people” we shop for get their gifts shipped directly from the retailers, but not the kids. We do those ourselves, so it is nice to earn some extra miles for shipments we were going to make anyway!
The Elf on the Shelf:
If you have some how avoided the Elf of the Shelf phenomenon, I’m not sure whether to congratulate you or ask what planet you have been living on (because I may want to visit it sometime!). Anyway, it has been around for a few years now and is a very fun and slightly creepy thing you can do with your kids during the holiday season. Essentially, your elf kit comes with a book and an elf. The elf reports back to the North Pole each night to tell Santa if you have been naughty or nice and then you find him in a new spot each morning. Here is mine residing on the top of my globe.
Little C is still young enough that we don’t really have to move our elf, Buddy, each night. I’m sure next year Buddy will have to move around a lot more. Anyway, you can get one at Target for $29.95 and 10x points today, or you can win my extra elf. He is brand new and has never been opened. I figure since this is a holiday themed posted, it might as well have a holiday themed giveaway. I was lucky enough to receive two as presents last year, so I am happy to help one of them find a new home to spy on. 😉 Lord knows I don’t need two sets of elf eyes watching my every move!
If you want an Elf on your Shelf, just leave a comment in this post letting me know you would like to add an elf to your family, and I will pick a random winner from all entries made before 12/6/11 at 11:59 CST.
Even if you don’t want to add a voyeuristic elf for your family, I would love to hear what additional tips you have for earning points while maximizing the holidays!