Frugal Holiday Greeting Cards: Custom Etsy Design + Costco Printing

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If you like to send out holiday greeting cards, I thought I’d throw out a quick tip that Mrs. MMB uses each year to save a bit of money.

First, you can buy a custom digital design off of Etsy. Search for some combination of “photo Christmas card” or “holiday card template” and look for a design that you like. The prices and inclusions can vary, so click around. Ideally, you’ll find a template where you can customize both sides to your liking. For example, a Minted or Shutterfly template might force you to put exactly 3 pictures on the back. On Etsy, you can put 4, 5, or 6 if you want. If you have Photoshop skills, those are usually the cheapest, sometimes less than $5. You can usually opt to pay a few bucks more and they will edit it for you and provide a ready-to-go file. All-in cost: under $20.

Second, upload the digital file to Costco Premium printing at $0.69 each. Costco used to only do the cheaper “Photo Greeting Cards” that are basically just one-sided photos with nothing on the back, but now they do “Premium Stationery Greeting Cards” on heavyweight 5×7″ stock. (Some of their other stuff looks identical to Snapfish, so maybe these are outsourced to Snapfish as well?) However, their template options are still relatively limited. Note that the following is included in the $34.50 for 50 cards price ($0.69 each).

  • Free rounded corners
  • Free envelopes pre-printed with return address

If you compare to a site like Minted.com, their basic 5×7 card costs $167 for 100 cards ($1.67 each). On top of that, you would get charged additional for the following:

  • Rounded corners +$35
  • Envelopes pre-printed with return address +$45

That makes the total cost $247 for 100 cards ($2.47 each). There are usually some coupons, for example the Cyber Monday deal was 25% off, which would bring the price down to $185 for $100 ($1.85 each). Compared to Etsy + Costco, that’s still roughly a $100 price difference for every 100 cards.

Obviously there are even cheaper options (like not sending out cards or handwritten cards) but these types of cards are rather popular. I like this option because it’s actually more customized at less cost.

* Remember that you can save a bit extra on your Etsy purchases (or Minted, or many other sites) with cashback shopping sites like TopCashBack, eBates ($10 new user bonus after any $25+ purchase, $5 mininum cash-out), Mr. Rebates ($5 new user bonus, $10 minimum cash-out), and BeFrugal.com ($5 new user bonus).

IHG Rewards Club Instagram / Twitter Promo: 5,000 IHG Points For Sharing

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IHG Rewards Club is giving away 5,000 IHG points if you do the following:

  1. Tweet or Instagram a picture of yourself at home or at any IHG® property using the hashtags #HomeWithIHG #ad and #Rewardsoffer and including the handle @IHGRewardsClub.
  2. Visit IHGRewardsClub.com/ClaimMyPoints by December 31, 2018 and sign in with the social account you used for your post. They recommend to wait 15 minutes after your tweet before doing this.
  3. Register with your IHG® Rewards Club Number to claim your 5,000 points.

Here are the full rules. You must have public profile (they are looking for publicity here…) and be one of the first 10,000 participants to get your 5,000 points. Seems pretty low effort and low risk if you already use these social media apps.

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for Intercontinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Hotel Indigo, and EVEN Hotels. 5,000 IHG points is estimated to be worth roughly $30 towards a hotel night. They also have a discounted award night list called PointBreaks. You can also earn a lot more points with the Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Card.

Giving Tuesday 2018: Double Your Impact

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givingtuesdayTuesday, November 27th is Giving Tuesday 2018. This time of year is huge for charities, with 40% of donations occurring in the last six weeks of the year. Here are some ways you can “double your impact” with a matching donation.

Facebook Match(good toward any charity that accepts donations via Facebook). Starting at 8am Eastern on 11/27, Facebook and PayPal will match $7 million in donations to U.S. nonprofits – up to $250,000 per nonprofit and $20,000 per donor. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar on a first-come, first-served basis.

For example, give directly with the donate button on the The Humane Society Facebook Page. You can also start your own fundraiser here or simply post up a donate button to support your favorite charity.

Check for an employer match. Try this lookup tool from DoubleTheDonation. Most of these programs don’t require you to actually give on a specific day, but you may want to start the process today so you don’t forget in the holiday rush.

PayPal (good toward any charity participates in the PayPal Giving Fund). “Make a donation using PayPal on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 (Giving Tuesday) and we’ll match every donation that you make to PayPal Giving Fund (“Offer”), for the benefit of your recommended nonprofit dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 in total matching funds.” You must use your PayPal account. As far as I can tell, you can link up any rewards credit card of your choice and use that as the funding source. Your donation will technically be given to the PayPal Giving Fund, an IRS-registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and then disbursed to your selected nonprofit. It will still be tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Individual charities. The following large charities have organized their own matches in the past, but check to make sure.

Check with your favorite community nonprofit. Many local charities may also have matching grants today.

Having trouble deciding where to give? Here are some charity comparison sites that will help you pick where to send your help.

  • CharityNavigator – Largest and well-publicized charity rating site, provides a 4-star rating based primarily on financial criteria.
  • GiveWell – Tries to identify the best charities, not rate them all. Focused primarily on charities working internationally
  • GreatNonProfits – Allows clients, volunteers, and funders to post personal reviews based on their experiences.
  • GuideStar – Tries to be a one-stop shop for both financial data and personal reviews of charities. Must register to see a lot of things, and pay a subscription fee for premium in-depth data.
  • Philanthropedia – Ranks non-profits based on opinions of experts, and groups them to mutual fund-like portfolios.

Healthywage Review: Bet on Yourself, Get Paid To Lose Weight ($100 Prize Bonus)

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Update: Even though it isn’t advertised, I am still seeing a $100 Prize Boost as of December 2018 when I calculate my HealthyWage prize (no obligation to get quote). This can effectively double your net winnings!

hw_logoAfter reading academic studies which found that financial incentives were effective in helping people lose weight, I joined HealthyWage.com. You tell them how much weight you want to lose, your current body details, how much time you want, and and they’ll calculate what prize to offer you based on how much you want to bet on yourself. Since I eventually lost 50 pounds with the help of HealthyWage and other weight-loss betting sites (and have kept it off since), and I wanted to share my experiences including both positive and negative aspects.

My overall HealthyWage bet was to lose 10% of my body weight over 9 months (22 pounds in my case). My offered bet was to put up $50 per month for 9 months for a potential win of $50. You may like the sound of “winning $500”, but know that a lot of it will be your own money:

healthywage500

Honestly, risking $450 to win $50 didn’t feel like a very good risk/reward ratio, but I wanted the extra motivation. Perhaps my goal was too easy and that was why the payout wasn’t as high. You can put up your own numbers and calculate your own HealthyWage offer. Your payout may be much better than mine. The quote is free, you just need to provide any e-mail address.

If I had been willing to bet that I would lose 50 pounds like I actually ended up doing, I could have earned a lot more money:

Initial weigh-in verification. There are four ways to verify your weight:

  1. Smartphone app. There is a HealthyWage app for iOS and Android. You take a clip using the app and your personal scale.
  2. Video Verification. Upload a video to their website using your personal scale.
  3. Verification by a Fitness or Health Professional – Bring a form to your “local gym, pharmacies, corporate wellness clinics, walk-in clinics, HR reps, nurses, your personal doctor, your personal trainer or your chiropractor.”
  4. Verification at a Weight Watchers Meeting.

I followed their directions carefully, uploaded my video, and both my initial and final videos were accepted with no issues or additional requests.

Every month, I would see a $50 charge on my credit card bill from Healthwage. However, that was about it. There were no encouraging e-mails. No fun tokens or prize giveaways.

Upon initial sign-up, I was given my 2-week window for final weigh-in. HealthyWage’s two-week window is definitely more generous than DietBet’s 48-hour window, with the important difference that I was never sent any reminders by HealthyWage when the time actually came. In comparison, Dietbet sent me multiple reminders beforehand. Now, I had the date marked on my digital calendar with several alerts, so I completed my weigh-in by the second day of the window. It is quite possible that if I waited until closer to the final deadline, I would have gotten a reminder. But I wouldn’t rely on it. Remember, if you forget, they keep your money!

I also did a DietBet at the same time, which is similar but different in that it collects participants into groups and then takes a cut from the pooled bets. See my separate DietBet Review.

Extra final verification hoops. Upon final weight verification, you’ll have to submit the verification video again (see above). But that’s not all. I also had to locate and upload a “before photo” and an “after photo”, which could be any photo from “around the time” of the start and end of the challenge. I also had to upload a scan of my driver’s license. Here’s a screenshot of their page asking for additional information.

Finally, I successfully referred a few people to Healthwage and received extra money added my “pot”. This referral program is nice feature to get some social support, but remember that you get the referral money only if you win your own bet.

Final payout options. There are two options to receive your winnings. A mailed check takes 3-4 weeks to process, with no fee. The other “fast” option is PayPal, which charges a 3% fee. I picked the PayPal option because I didn’t want to wait around for a check. However, they later clarified that it would still take 3-5 business days for Paypal transfer. The 3% fee is actually taken out by PayPal, so HealthyWage actually sends the full amount (they just choose not to subsidize the fee). In retrospect, maybe I should have just waited for the check. Here’s a screenshot:

hw_finalpay

Bottom line. I committed to a Healthywage bet to lose 10% of my initial weight over 9 months. I lost the weight, completed my verifications without hassle, won the bet, and was paid my winnings. Although I found the process a bit impersonal, they are a legit company. Calculate your own HealthyWage offer here. No obligation to get a quote. However, the fact that HealthyWage motivated me to finally lose over 50 pounds was worth more to me than the cash winnings.

Amazon Cyber Monday Week 2018: 20% Off Anything, $15 off $60, More New Deals

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Updated with new deals. It is now “Cyber Week”, and you can view all Amazon Cyber Week Deals here. Here are the Amazon Device deals. Remember there is free shipping with no minimums for the holidays. Some of the highlights:

Amazon Echo

Amazon Fire Tablets

Amazon Fire TV

Ring

H&R Block Tax Software 2018: Federal w/ e-File + State $18 (Black Friday)

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Update: This deal is over, but last year it came back for a 24-hour period at least once more time before the tax deadline.

Why not add something practical to your Black Friday cart? The benefit of “old-school” desktop tax software is that it doesn’t require your Social Security Number and financial details to be stored in the “cloud”, a fancy word for a third-party server where it can be copied or hacked. Here’s a limited-time deal on H&R Block Tax Software 2018 (PC/Mac download or physical CD).

Amazon has H&R Block Deluxe Federal + State for $19.99 (list price $45), the lowest price of the year per CamelCamelCamel. This is a 24-hour “Deal of of the Day” for Black Friday (sorry I don’t get advance notice) and matches the lowest price ever for the 2017 version ($17.99). If it is out of stock, you can still buy it and lock in the price. In past years, it has gone on sale for only a few 24-hour periods at this low of a price.

H&R Block Deluxe includes guidance for stock gains and losses, home mortgage interest deduction, and other itemized deductions. Compare that against TurboTax Deluxe Download which makes you upgrade to TurboTax Premier to get guidance for stock sales and dividends. H&R Block Premium includes rental properties and self-employment. All flavors include “Refund Bonus” where you can a 5% bonus if you take your refund in the form of an Amazon gift card.

Keep in mind that for these products 5 Federal e-Files are included but State e-File is extra ($19.95 per state). I would personally just print the (usually shorter) state return out and snail mail it in if you don’t have a free State e-File option.

Mint Mobile Pre-Black Friday Deal: 3 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 5GB Data For $20 Total ($6.67/Mo)

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I’ve written about Mint Mobile before as a way to save money on cell phone bills. Mint Mobile uses the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. Right now, Mint Mobile is running a Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Holiday promotion for new members of 3 months of Unlimited Talk, Text, and 5 GB LTE Data for $20 Total ($6.67 per month). Here are some additional details:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and 5G LTE data per month. For $20, you get 3 months of prepaid service. After your 5 GB of monthly LTE data is used up, you still get unlimited but slow 2G data.
  • Mint Mobile SIM card is included.
  • No coupon code required.
  • Starts Thanksgiving 11/22 and lasts for “limited time” (no firm end date).
  • Taxes and fees will apply. For reference, when I bought the cheaper 2 GB x 3 month plan for $45 previously, my taxes and fees came to $3 total for those 3 months. This should be even less.

Here is my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review. Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just put in the Mint Mobile SIM card.

It’s always best when Black Friday deals allow me to save money on the everyday stuff that I buy anyway. Right now, I think the two best cell phone deals are this one and the “secret” Sprint Unlimited Free Year offer.

Also see:

TopCashBack: Spend $20 at Walmart, Get $20 Cash Back (New Members)

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TopCashBack.com rebates you back a percentage of your purchases made through online stores like Macys.com or Walmart.com. There are many such cashback portals, but TopCashBack promises to rebate you 100% of all commissions earned. If you are going to shop online for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any day, you should try to use a cashback portal. Many will boost their payouts on certain days.

TopCashBack wants you to pick them this Black Friday, so they are offering $20 back on anything at Walmart for new users. This matches the highest new member offer I’ve seen from them – it usually never goes above $10 value. Here are the directions:

  1. Sign up at this specific link for new TopCashback account (my referral link specific to this offer). It’s free to join and they won’t ask for credit card info. You should see “$20 to Spend at Walmart Freebie”. Be sure to check your email and click on the link to confirm your email address.
  2. Once you’ve successfully signed up, you should be redirected to the Walmart freebie offer page (screenshot). Click on the pink “Get Offer Now” Button.
  3. Spend $20.00 or more on anything from Walmart and head to checkout. Try Free Store Pick-up or Free Shipping over $35.
  4. You must spend at least $20.00 to get this deal. The $20.00 will post to your TopCashback account within 14 days, and the amount will become payable. Cash back can be credited straight to your checking or PayPal account.

Offer ends November 25th, 2018 at 23:59 PST. Walmart’s website has been getting better over time; if you haven’t shopped there in a while you might be pleasantly surprised. Just find something you’d buy anyway, and this should be an easy $20. For example, I recently loaded up on their foaming hand soap refills – they are the cheapest that I’ve found on a per ounce basis.

CIT Bank Savings Builder Account: 2.25% APY w/ Monthly $100 Deposit or $25k Balance

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Rate increased 11/21/18. CIT Bank has a new high-yield savings account called the Savings Builder Account. This is a unique savings account with two ways to qualify for their highest interest rate tier of 2.25% APY (as of 11/21/18). You need ONE of the following in each Evaluation Period:

  • Maintain at least one single monthly deposit of $100+, OR
  • Maintain a balance of $25,000+.

I noticed that this rate is currently higher than that of their 11-month No Penalty CD, although that rate can never go down during that 11 months.

There is a $100 minimum to open the account, and everyone earns the top tier rate for the first monthly “Evaluation Period” (see below). Then, if you meet one of the requirements listed above during the first Evaluation Period, you’ll earn the top rate (2.25% APY as of 11/21/18) for the next Evaluation Period. If you don’t meet a least one of the requirements, you will receive the base interest rate during the next Evaluation Period (1.14% APY as of 10/8/18). They will send you an e-mail reminder if you haven’t made the $100 deposit requirement by mid-month.

There are no minimum balance fees, no monthly service fees, no inactivity fee. You just get the lower rate. Interest is compounded daily.

Evaluation Period vs. Calendar Month. I guess they aren’t using calendar months since banks don’t like to do anything on the weekends, so instead it’s called an “Evaluation Period”. The first Evaluation Day will occur at the end of the first full month after account opening. Your monthly “Evaluation Day” is the fourth business day prior to the end of a month. The “Evaluation Period” begins the day after an Evaluation Day and ends at 4pm PT on the next month’s Evaluation Day.

You can set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to this account for $100 and satisfy the requirement on auto-pilot. I don’t like having to jump through hoops like debit card purchases, but at least this one I could automate instead of having to remember to do something every month. Log into your account, click on “External Transfer” and then “set up recurring transfers”. You can then pick your external account (you may need to add it) and choose a “Monthly” frequency:

I would pick a day that is not near the end of the month. (I picked the 10th.) Deposits can be made via online funds transfer (ACH), mobile check deposit via app, incoming wire (no fee), or by mailing a check.

I also noticed that outgoing wires are free with an average daily balance of $25,000+. Otherwise, the fee is $10 per wire. This may be helpful for people who have high balances but like the ability to instantly deploy their money elsewhere as needed.

Existing CIT Bank customers can quickly open a new account by clicking on “Open an account” here, then “I have a CIT Bank account”, and then logging in with your password. The entire opening process can be done online, and you can fund with another CIT Bank account or an external account.

Bottom line. The new CIT Bank Savings Builder Account has two different ways to qualify for the top rate. If you either make a $100+ single deposit every month, OR maintain a $25,000 balance every month, you get 2.25% APY as of 11/21/18.

IKEA In-Store Coupon Thanksgiving 2018: $25 off $100

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ikea0IKEA has a new printable $25 off $100 coupon [pdf] that is valid November 22–26, 2018. The coupon states that you can also show it on your phone at checkout. Valid in US stores only. The fine print:

Offer valid November 22–26, 2018 (online only on Thanksgiving day). Valid US only. One coupon per purchase. Discount applied before tax. Offer not valid for delivery, assembly, kitchen planning or other services. Not valid in the IKEA Restaurant, Bistro, or Swedish Food Market. Not valid on previous purchases or the purchase of IKEA Gift Cards. No cash value. Cannot be combined with other IKEA offers or discounts, except IKEA FAMILY product offers. Other restrictions may apply.

IKEA coupons are pretty rare, other than their ongoing $25 off $250 moving coupon.

WSJ Miles Activity Promo: Buy $1 Subscription, Get 1,200 American Miles

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Various airline miles shopping portals are offering extra bonus miles for a $1 trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal (2 months). This is a handy deal because the miles are worth more than $1, you skip the WSJ paywall for a while, and you also get some fresh activity to keep your miles from expiring. Valid through 12/2/18.

The only catch is that you need to keep the subscription active for 45 days to get the miles. So don’t cancel before the 45 days, but do cancel before the 2 months is up if you don’t want it to renew at a higher rate. I would set a Calendar/Outlook/Alexa/Siri/Google Home reminder with a couple of extra alerts.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Review: $700 Towards Any Travel + Annual Fee Waived First Year (Limited-Time Offer)

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AFB_ARF_card_rRGB_ArrivalPlus_Fee_WE (1)

Limited-time offer; Highest bonus ever! The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that has just increased their sign-up bonus to 70,000 points (worth $700 towards any travel), and the annual fee is also waived for the first year ($89 annual fee after that). This is the highest total incentive ever for this card. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited Time Offer: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Annual fee waived for the first year ($89 annual fee after that).

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. You can redeem towards any airline on any date.

To redeem, visit any booking site (Delta.com, AA.com, Southwest.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Hilton.com, Hotels.com, etc) and buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this is more complicated than just spending less points, you can calculate that getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel. Everything else (gift cards, merchandise) offers a significantly worse redemption ratio, so I wouldn’t bother.

During the first year, the $89 annual fee is waived. However, in future years it comes back. So I would take the first year and see how you like it. You would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver) when compared to a 2% cash back card. That’s a big number.

Another option is that you are allowed to use 8,900 miles to offset the $89 annual fee. (Minimum increment is 2,500 points for $25 against annual fee.) Finally, you can also ask them to downgrade your card into the “plain” Arrival card with no annual fee (and no 2X miles).

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that earns double miles on all purchases (even more with the 5% rebate). The sign-up bonus has been raised to 70,000 points – worth $700 in travel statement credits – the highest ever for this card. The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year, but applies in subsequent years. This is a very strong offer as there is a $700 net value over the first year.

Even one or two of these limited-time offers can cover a huge chunk of your annual vacation travel budget. I have added this limited-time offer to my list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.