Everyone knows holiday feasting requires making room for seconds, and MyBankTracker is no exception. Recently, we cooked up our first course of financial fixings, which included online checking and savings accounts as well as several other online tools. Now, fresh from the oven, here’s another piping hot dish of online finds to help you save money while you’re shopping for gifts.
An Assortment of Online Treasures: Restaurants, Travel and Gift Cards
December’s merrymaking spirit ushers in an emphasis on eating, traveling and shopping. In light of this fact, we’ve included the following timely tools:
Restaurant.com’s Feed It Forward Program – A great way to give a little something without spending a dime, Restaurant.com’s Feed It Forward program is giving away $30 million worth of $10 gift certificates over the course of 30 days; the program ends December 25. To take advantage of this opportunity, just go to the Feed It Forward site and create an account. Once you do, you’re allowed to send up to three $10 gift certificates per day to anybody you choose. Recipients will receive a notification email containing a link to the redemption site, where they can redeem their $10 gift certificate with one of the program’s 5,000 participating restaurants.
LastMinute.com – Perfect for procrastinators, LastMinute lets you look for eleventh hour travel deals and book a flight as late as three hours prior to its takeoff. The site also lets you plan an entire vacation all at once as a package deal in order to save time and hassle as well as money. In addition, you’re able to purchase tickets for the theater, sporting events and concerts on this site and can arrange to participate in some off-the-beaten-path activities such as paragliding and rock climbing. Overall, a perfect down-to-the-wire site for the well-rounded traveler.
GiftCardBuyBack.com – Shared Progress, Inc. is the corporate parent of this site, as well as the two companion sites GiftCardDonor.com and GiftCardsAgain.com. As a group, they allow you to buy, sell, swap or donate gift cards to charity, with each site catering to a different aspect of the gift card bartering process. For those looking to sell unwanted gift cards for cash, visit GiftCardBuyBack . As with any of the gift card buyback sites, you won’t get 100 percent of the gift card’s value in cash, but you can still end up with a nice chunk of change. For the most part, you can expect a payday of approximately 60 to 80 percent of the gift card value, but this all depends on the buyer. You can also swap your gift card for another one of equal value on this site, but you’ll probably be required to pay a small fee for the privilege. If you prefer to make good use of a gift card by supporting a great cause, you’ll want to check out GiftCardDonor. This site makes it easy for you to donate a gift card in support of one of the charities listed on the site, and your designated charity receives 75 percent of the proceeds once your gift card is resold. For frugal shoppers currently in the market for gift cards, go to GiftCardsAgain. The amount you can save will vary depending on your preferred gift card’s availability and store brand, but at the very least you won’t be paying any more than it would have cost you to buy a gift card directly from the retailer.
Swapagift.com – Similar to GiftCardBuyBack and its sister sites, Swapagift will allow you to buy, sell or swap unwanted gift cards. What makes this site unique is that it also lets you use unwanted gift cards to pay bills. Be forewarned, however; it isn’t a dollar-for-dollar trade. In most cases, a gift card will be valued at only 60 or 70 percent of its total amount. It won’t be beneficial for everyone, but it may be the way to go if you have multiple unused gift cards lying around or you suddenly find yourself very short on funds.
Tools for Crunching Numbers and Learning Your Credit Score
DollarTimes.com – This whiz kid of a website is a multitasking timesaver when you need to calculate your finances. It offers a wide range of free financial calculators that you can either use on their site or add to your own. This includes personal finance calculators that allow you to find out, for example, how much your smoking or coffee habit is costing you, investment and savings calculators that determine how much money you should be saving for retirement, college or to become a millionaire, and mortgage and car loan calculators that figure out interest rate totals and payment schedules. DollarTimes also offers free printable budget worksheets that are downloadable in an Excel, PDF or HTML format. In addition, the site provides Census Bureau mortgage rate and housing information for each city in all 50 states, as well as a money saving checklist with tips on how to lower your bills. Bottom line? Dollar Times is a great online financial find.
CreditKarma.com – Some websites out there in cyberspace claim to offer consumers free credit scores, but have the nasty habit of laying down enrollment traps for paid credit monitoring services along the way. Fortunately, CreditKarma does not follow this business model; even better, the year-old start-up site continues to provide consumers with free credit scores. You’ll need to create a user account in order to get your free FICO score; once you do this, all of the site’s features are completely free to use. CreditKarma can offer this service because it relies on advertising partnerships to provide revenue. Along with a free credit score and monitoring services, it also offers a variety of free credit-related tools, calculators and articles to help you understand how a credit score is calculated, what it influences and how different financial factors can affect it. In other words, the site provides relevant credit-based financial information every consumer should know.