Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bargainista’s list of 2010 Boxing Day Sales

This list will be updated continuously so check it often. You may also want to click through to Bargainista’s comprehensive list on Twitter.

If you find a sale that isn’t listed here please add it by leaving a comment, tweeting or e-mail me and we’ll do our best to post it quickly.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 7

So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know I was given a nice chunk of change ($1,000) from PayPal. My task, go shopping for five family members and friends, spend $500 online using PayPal and $500 at the mall buying comparable gifts.
In conclusion...
I’m thankful PayPal gave me this opportunity to shop as a way of giving back to the community this holiday season. Although it was time-consuming, I was able to give a lot more than I’d have been able to do on my own. PayPal definitely makes online shopping quicker and easier because you can bypass entering your credit card information every time you make a purchase. And besides, shopping at the crack of dawn in your PJs can be quite liberating. The only drawback is that PayPal’s not accepted as widely as major credit cards.

When you’re an experienced shopper, going to the mall or other bricks and mortar retail outlets before Christmas, doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible experience and may even be quicker than shopping online – especially when you’ve prepared a list, done your research in advance and have a game plan before you enter the mall – in other words, planned your visit as I’ve shown. If you’re like me, you may also enjoy the instant gratification and find it less stressful than waiting for deliveries to arrive. (I’m still waiting for an eReader case from Sony Style – urgh!)

The time I spent shopping online first significantly helped alleviate potential frustrations when I shopped at Yorkdale.

Tip: If you’re driving, spend $8 on the valet service. It’s worth every penny this time of year.

So, now you’ve heard all about my experiences spending $1,000 on gifts. Where did you do your holiday shopping and what are your tips? Did you shop more online or at a mall?
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 6: BFF

So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know I was given a nice chunk of change ($1,000) from PayPal. My task, go shopping for five family members and friends, spend $500 online using PayPal and $500 at the mall buying comparable gifts.

Here’s the run down of gifts for your BFF:


What: Maddie Scarf & Betty Mitts (sale priced at $41.30)
Where: Preloved for eBay
Cost: $46.67 ($41.39 Maddie Scarf & Betty Mitts + taxes, free shipping)

In Store
What: Scarf and Mitts set; Scarf and Hat set, Leather gloves, socks ($88)
Where: Smart Set, Yorkdale
Cost: $57.07 ($88 Scarf and Mitts set; Scarf and Hat set, Leather gloves, socks – buy one, get on 50% off – 20% off total for purchases over $70 + tax)

I happened to tune in to BT on Friday morning just as they were having a segment about holiday shopping on eBay. I learned preloved had partnered with them over the holidays and saw an awesome wool scarf and mittens set. Wow! What a time saver. There’s no way I had time to shop at Queen West but I could spend a few minutes on eBay with a fully-loaded PayPal account and support a local designer/retailer at the same time. I’m seriously considering ordering a set for myself. Although this was the first item I ordered, it was the second last one to arrive but it was the only one to come in a canvas shopping bag.

So, I guess the fair thing to do would have been to look for a scarf a mitts set of comparable quality at the mall. However, since I knew these purchases would be going to people in need and Smart Set was offering deep discounts on winter accessories, I decided to go there instead of somewhere like Banana Republic or Aritzia. For $10 more than I spent online, I got more than twice the amount of stuff and that will be able to keep more young women warm and stylish this winter.

Donated to: Red Door Family Shelter, Dec. 22
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 5: grandma

So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know I was given a nice chunk of change ($1,000) from PayPal. My task, go shopping for five family members and friends, spend $500 online using PayPal and $500 at the mall buying comparable gifts.

Here’s the run down of gifts for grandma:

What: The First Snow Gift Box ($34.95)
Cost: $39.49 ($34.95 First Snow gift box + taxes; found promotion code for free shipping)

In Store:

What: “Sweet Pea” Gift Basket ($34.95) and
What: Bath & Body Works, Yorkdale
Cost: $29.66 ($34.95 “Sweet Pea” Gift Basket @25% off in-store promotion+ taxes)

I arrived home from a meeting on Dec. 16 to find an attempted delivery notice from Canada Post notifying me about a package available for pick up the next day. The package was from LUSH and required a signature (I asked why some packages were left at my doorstep but not this one.)

Sure enough, when I opened the box, a lovely wrapped gift just like the one on the website appeared inside. Although it would have been nice to check that what I thought I was ordering was in the box, it was convenient to have it nicely wrapped with a pretty bow and gift tag. They also surprised me with two samples of hand-cut soap. I really liked how LUSH added a “Holiday” tab to their website with lots of great gift ideas, including a page for people who want to give holiday gifts but not necessarily for Christmas.

Had I ordered $100 or more, I could have used an advertised promo code for free shipping and guaranteed two-day shipping. Instead, I Googled “lush promo” and found a code for free shipping that still works.

LUSH doesn’t have a store at Yorkdale. I considered The Body Shop and Aveda but when I passed by Bath & Body Works, I saw a big 25% off sale sign caught my eye.
I’m less familiar with Bath & Body Works but they had a whole bunch of gift baskets displayed at the entrance, I figured I couldn’t lose. They had a whole bunch of large baskets, including a small picture frame, regularly priced for the same amount as the gift box from LUSH, minus 25%. Wow! The only thing I didn’t like was that the baskets weren’t wrapped. I would have preferred them with cellophane.

Donated to: Red Door Family Shelter, Dec. 22

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 4: young girl

So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know I was given a nice chunk of change ($1,000) from PayPal. My task, go shopping for five family members and friends, spend $500 online using PayPal and $500 at the mall buying comparable gifts.

Here’s the run down of gifts for a young girl:

What: Groovy Girl: Fayla Fairy Doll ($15.95) + Fayla Fairy Dress Up Outfit $34.95
Where: honeybunch
Cost: $65.38 ($15.95 Groovy Girl: Fayla Fairy Doll + $34.95 Dress Up Outfit + $6.95 shipping + taxes)

In Store
What: Corolle Les Chéries Camille Doll (Best Toy Award platinum winner, $49.95, note it’s $26.95 online but they don’t have the special addition I found in the store) and Les Chéries denim set ($28.95, note it’s $26.95 online)
Where: Indigo, Yorkdale
Cost: $70.04 ($37.42, 49.95 @ 25% off discount coupon Les Chéries Corolle Doll and $28.95 Outfit – $5 promotional discount + taxes)

I shopped with a little four-year-old family fried in mind. I checked out a few different Canadian-owned smaller online stores. There were some wonderful handcrafted toys and other goodies you just don’t see at the mall. Problem is, they really ding you on shipping costs. honeybunch seemed to have the best shipping rates. I would have saved $5 on my order had I registered for their email newsletter. The package arrived on December 15.

Indigo was my first stop at Yorkdale. I arrived with a 25% off coupon for any single item in the store and I was greeted by a salesperson who handed me another coupon for $5 off my purchase. I had every intention of buying the same items at Indigo but when I saw the Corolle doll and outfit and factored in the two coupons plus no shipping, I decided to upgrade and go for the award winner instead. Despite expecting a long line-up based on two earlier visits this season, when I got to the cash, there was only one person in front of me and it moved quickly. I was super excited about this purchase because I felt with the discounts I was able to get a much better quality doll and outfit for $5 more than the purchase online until…

I received the package from honeybunch. You see I wasn’t shopping as smartly as I usually d0. This was the last gift I bought online and I spent much longer than I anticipated. I knew I still had money left in the budget so when I was at the checkout and a suggestion for an outfit appeared, I ordered it too. I didn’t look to see what I was buying and assumed it was an outfit for the doll. Much to my surprise, I was delighted to see a thank you note when I opened the box offering me 10% off my next purchase. Then I found the Groovy Girl inside bright yellow tissue paper along with a matching Fayla Fairy outfit for a little girl. What four-year-old doesn’t like to play dress-up or like the idea of having a matching doll?

This was definitely a win-win situation in each instance.

Donated to: SickKids Dec. 21
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A new Christmas meal tradition

In keeping with the holiday theme, new regular contributor Kathryn Lagden, shares her 2010 Boxing Day cooking adventure.

This year I’m hosting one of our three family Christmas dinners on Boxing Day. I expect that by December 26 we’ll have had enough turkey and trimmings, so I figured I’d cook up something a little different this year. I decided tourtiere, a dish traditionally served on Christmas eve in Quebec, would be keeping with the festive season while offering my family something a little different.

The idea was the easy part. I’ve never actually made meat pie or pastry before so I was a little nervous about the execution. A trial run to work out the kinks was definitely in order. I settled on the recipe from the Canadian Living website for both the tourtiere and the pastry.

Preparing the filling was fairly straightforward. While I browned the pork I prepared the vegetables and measured out the seasonings. I was a little trepidacious about adding all 3 onions as the quantity seemed to overpower the other ingredients. Not to worry though, the onions cooked down and everything melded together nicely.

I did not add any “summer savory.” I have no idea what this is and I couldn’t find it in the grocery store so I just skipped it. The cloves and cinnamon give this dish a wonderful flavour but I’ll likely add a little rosemary next time as well.

A picture of the filling cooked and ready to pop in the fridge to chill is on the right.

Why was I so nervous about making pastry? Likely because pastry seems to have a reputation as “difficult” and truth be told I didn’t even know where to find lard in the grocery store. (Turns out it’s in the baking aisle, not with the butter in the refrigerated aisle!)

I followed the recipe *exactly* to minimize any risk of poorly turned out pastry. When I divided it into two round disks (pictured right) I thought it looked a bit dry (are those cracks supposed to be there?) but no way was I going to mess with it at this point!

One great thing about this dish is that both the filling and pastry need time to chill in the fridge. So I prepared everything in the morning and later that afternoon it was very easy to roll out the pastry and assemble the pie. Getting all the time consuming tasks done in the morning makes this a great choice for entertaining since you want to be with your guests, not in the kitchen.

The final outcome was pretty darn delicious (if I may say so myself!) The meat was flavourful and the pastry was light so I’m considering the trial run a success! I hope my family enjoys our unique Christmas dinner.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 3: dad and teen

So, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know I was given a nice chunk of change ($1,000) from Scott Taber at Media Profile on behalf of his client PayPal. My task, go shopping for five family members and friends, spend $500 online using PayPal and $500 at the mall buying comparable gifts.

Here’s the play-by-play on gifts for “Dad” and “Teen”:

Sony Reader Pocket Edition™ (Silver), Zipper Case Pocket Edition (online) and Premium Cover for the Pocket Edition (in-store)

iPod + Phone Speaker Dock/Clock Radio

Where: and Sony Style at Yorkdale


The SonyStyle website was a bit slow. It was a pain registering too but it was easy to find what I wanted quickly and clear they accepted PayPal. I also liked how they let you know upfront if an item was out of stock and the anticipated availability date.

I didn’t want to chance free shipping because I wanted the goods fast so I paid $30 for 1-2 business day delivery. The delivery showed up via Purolator Dec. 14 but I was out. I received a note telling me to pick it up from their depot in Etobicoke. I called and asked if they would try again, they did and I got the package the next morning. Unfortunately, the case wasn’t included and I’m still waiting. According to the website, it should have been available and delivered by Dec. 16.

Cost: $ $353.38 ($179 eReader + $79 iPod dock + $19 eReader case + $30 shipping + taxes)

In Store
The Sony Style store at Yorkdale was busy but there was ample staff mulling around. However, I waited several minutes before someone even acknowledged me in the store. Once they did, the service was quick and friendly. I was surprised to learn they only carried the more expensive $39.99 eReader case in the store and the $19 one was only available online. At the store, I requested gift receipts, an option I didn’t have online. (Note the photo on the right was taken while I was shopping during this challenge.)

Cost: $338.97 ($179.99 eReader + $79.99 iPod dock + $39.99 eReader case + taxes) in store (including taxes)

Donated: December 16 to HoHoTO, some of the items will be available this evening in the HoHoTO Hangover Auction.

Want a say in where the remaining items are donated? (Sneak peek) You have until 11:59 p.m. ET to vote.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 2

It was Saturday, December 11 and all through the house not a creature was stirring except for a mouse… well, besides me and my laptop.

My challenge was to make sure things arrived within plenty of time to write about them and donate them by Dec. 22 – and prior to Dec. 16 – if I wanted to donate them to HoHoTO.

The folks from Media Profile made some suggestions that I initially disregarded. Heck, I’m a shopper I like choosing what to buy and from where. However, after a bit of pre-shopping online snooping and learning some of my favourite online stores didn’t accept PayPal, I at a bit of humble pie and used some of their suggestions.

First off, I started with some online browsing. LUSH was first on my list as I looked for a gift for a “Grandma”, yes, she’s a hip grandma. The had lots of great gift ideas and even had a page of gift ideas for people who celebrate other holidays than Christmas this time of year.

Next I spent some time browsing through SonyStyle and Newegg. I knew I’d buy a teen the same item I bought my own sons, Sony’s iPod + iPhone Speaker Dock/Clock Radio. Since eReaders are one of this year’s hot new gift items, I wanted to buy one for “Dad” but I was somewhat open-minded and looked at digital video recorders and camera too. As an alternative to bath products, I researched digital photo frames for grandma so she could enjoy it for viewing family photos.

I saved things in my shopping cart and moved on to Newegg for some comparison shopping. The prices were a bit lower but I’m a stickler for value, which doesn’t always mean the least expensive. They didn’t have any brand name eReaders but I was tempted to buy a digital frame and memory card from for Grandma at a fraction of the SonyStyle price. I really liked how both stores clearly identified the types of payment they accepted. It took away the guesswork and the digging I’m often used to with other online stores.

Deciding not to waste any more time, it was time to return to SonyStyle. I didn’t love having to register with the site first and I found it slow but I did appreciate them telling me which items were out of stock or backordered and the estimated shipping dates. I also thought their shipping and delivery options somewhat confusing. I settled on an eReader and case for Dad, and the iPod dock for a teen but decided to skip the digital frame for Grandma, opting for bath products instead.

Next, it was time to buy something for a little one. I shopped with a little four-year-old fried in mind. I checked out a few different Canadian-owned smaller online stores. There were some wonderful handcrafted toys and other goodies you just don’t see at the mall. Problem is, some of them really ding you on shipping costs. I settled on a doll with a matching outfit from honeybunch. Their shipping was the least expensive.

As for Grandma, I settled on a pre-wrapped gift box of bathtime goodies from LUSH.

The BFF gift: purchased Friday night…
I bought an awesome scarf and mitt set from Preloved on eBay.

So there you have it – after just less than two hours of online shopping – I spent $500.

Wanna know what I actually received on time, what I spent, what I saved the scoop on delivery charges and how online shopping with PayPal compared to my trip to the mall? Stay tuned for part 3 and don’t forget to vote where you’d like to see the remaining gifts donated.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Bargainista and friends’ holiday wish list

Behind the scenes a team of us have been busy discussing ways we can improve Bargainista in 2011, especially returning to more frequent blog posts. Have you noticed we’ve been having a busy December? We’d like to kick things off by asking some regular contributors and friends of Bargainista to share one gift she wants most this season. As for me, Hanukkah is over and I’m not expecting any gifts unless I buy them for myself but I’m going to play along.

Eden Spodek
Yes, you already know I’m a bit of an Apple fan girl and not having an iPad – touted one of the biggest game changers not only in 2010 but for years to come – seems peculiar to many of my friends and family. But money doesn’t grow on trees and you can’t have everything. I love jewelry and other pretty things but I’m also practical and a bit of a geek so yes, if I was writing a letter to Santa, an iPad would be top of my list. If you’re wondering which app I’d download first, that’s easy: Flipboard, hands down!

Rebecca Atkinson
Living in New Brunswick, I really thought that in December my biggest concerns would be snow, but apparently Mother Nature has other plans this year. With seven inches of rain falling in 24 hours (yes seven inches), the one thing I really want for Christmas this year is rather low-tech. All I want is a good raincoat. Having to walk a dog, batten the hatches during rainstorms and run to and from the car to daycare or the house – makes one see umbrellas and down-filled jackets just aren’t quite cut out for that kind of task or weather. Since we are dealing with a flooded basement, I know I won't be spending this kind of money for an occasional rain jacket anytime soon, so if the Hydroil 3 from Mountain Equipment Co-op ended up under my tree, I’d be pretty happy. Plus it comes in all kinds of fun non-yellow colours.

Jenny Bullough
I am an ebook addict. I never go anywhere without either my Kindle, my Kobo, or my Sony – sometimes all three in case the battery fails! Oh, and I also have an iPad, which does other things although I primarily use it for reading books. While I am fully on board the ebook technology train, so help me I still like the feeling of opening a cover on something rather than just picking up a tablet, and my devices need protection from the sticky, curious fingers of my 2-year-old; so Incase Convertible Book Jacket for iPad is right up my alley!

Connie Crosby
It’s a little crazy, but the thing I want the most for Christmas is a Kobo wifi ereader from Chapters•Indigo (in mauve, please!). I am feeling a bit spoiled already because I am reading ebooks on the Kobo app with my iPad which was also a gift, but I have a vacation in the sun coming up in the new year and we all know you can't read the iPad screen in the sun. I use my iPad already a lot in my work, and I like the idea of having a separate device for vacation to make it easy to carry a selection of guilty pleasure reads. Plus, since I fell in love with ebooks, I have already spent money on a number which I hope to share them friends and family. What better way than to just lend out my Kobo?

Kathryn Lagden
All I want for Christmas is an Electrolux 36" Dual-Fuel Free Standing Range. Look at the SIX burners on this baby! With one of these ensconced in my kitchen I could make a roast, boil two pots of veggies, make a gravy, simmer apples for my toddler, fry up some potatoes, and have room to spare in case a friend dropped in and I needed to heat up milk for hot chocolate. OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but my current stove is so old that it does not have a light in the oven and regardless of where I put the dial it only really has two settings that – on and off. In fact, when a part broke I had to call four repair companies to find someone who had even heard of it!

So I would be delighted to find this shiny new beauty under the tree on Christmas morning. Although, to be honest, finding it already installed in the kitchen would earn Santa a double serving of shortbread and milk!

What I want for Christmas? A pair of Frye boots – in particular, the Veronica Slouch boots in dark brown size 8! Pre-baby and pre-mortgage days, I would of had this in an instant. But the days of throwing down green for yet another pair of brown boots just isn’t within financial scope. Although, I could argue that all of my brown boots have heels making is particularly difficult to walk during 3 degree weather when ice may be possible. I could also argue that I can’t really “dress-down” my current brown boots, meaning that I don’t make good use of my casual brown jackets. Come to think of it, there are more reasons why I should have the boots than not...hmmm.

What’s on your holiday wish list this year?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Traveling with young children

Traveling with kids can be challenging at the best of times – let alone during the holiday season. So here’s a few tips from Baby Bargainista contributor Rebecca on what to pack besides your patience.

• A couple of weeks before the trip put away several smaller toys/books that seem to be your child’s favourite. This way when you bring them out be happy to see them and (hopefully) won’t get bored too quickly. Ensure any toys with noise have volume buttons for both your sanity and the sanity of others around you.

• Take a tour of your local dollar store and look for little toys and items that can keep the kids occupied and won’t break the bank if they get lost or left behind at Grandma’s house. Stickers keep my 17-month daughter occupied for a good 10-15 minutes at a time.

• If you usually water juice cups down, consider filling the cups half full of ice ahead of time so that you water down the drink while keeping it colder/fresher longer.

• Pack lots of batteries if you are taking any kind of electronic devices. It’s always better to have more batteries than more complaints of “Mommy my batteries are dead. I’m bored.

• Buy some (lightly) scented disposable diaper bags to have on hand as if you have to change a stinky diaper without a trash nearby – you don’t know how long you might need to carry that stink-bomb around!

If you’re flying:
• It’s okay to pack snacks/food – just not liquids, unless it is milk or formula in which case should be in the diaper bag. Packing your own snacks and food not only ensures you have food when you want it, but it saves some money.

• Make sure all medicine – including Children’s Tylenol or Tempra is also packed in a clear plastic bag and in easy reach.

• Look for stroller lines and try to mark out elevator locations ahead of time if you can.

If you’re driving:
• A great idea to have to help with snacks and keeping little hands busy is a travel tray for for those in forward-facing car seats. A friend of mine got some for her kids for a long drive they took over the summer and kept everyone occupied with arts and crafts. She also said it made snack times a lot easier and required less stops.

• Similar to looking for stroller lines – try to plan and/or find rest stops ahead of time – keeping in mind that not everything goes according to plan and sometimes you can’t plan when nature’s going to come calling. It’s also important to note that not all roadside rest stops stay open year round. Check with tourism boards for more information.

• Besides toys and books, make sure you pack extra warm stuff for you and the kids – or a shovel or two that can not only keep kids occupied but can help get you out of a situation if you are stranded.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Escape the Mall Challenge (for charity) – part 1

When Scott Taber from Media Profile asked me to participate in PayPal’s Escape the Mall Challenge, I accepted. In exchange for my time, I’d get to do some good in the community and help those less fortunate this holiday season.

So, here’s how it works...
PayPal deposited $500 into my PayPal account. I was asked to buy gifts for five people, somewhat typical of what the average person would need to buy for immediate family members or close friends – the catch was all the gifts had to be purchased from online stores that accept PayPal. They also sent me $500 worth of Vanilla MasterCard PrePaid cards and asked to buy similar gifts for the same five people at the mall – the following week. The second part of the challenge was to document my experiences online. Scott even loaned me an Olympus E-PL1 camera (more on that in a future post.)

And why did I agree to spend my time doing all this shopping? Well, the cool thing is that I get to donate all items to a charity (or charities of my choice). Pretty sweet, eh?

Don’t tell anyone but I stepped outside the lines a bit and did all my shopping this weekend. I made one online purchase last night and the rest this morning. Dressed in my PJs while my family was still asleep and before the malls were open, I went gift shopping in the comfort of my own home.

At 2 p.m. this afternoon, I hit the mall, Yorkdale to be exact. What was I thinking? Who goes to an always busy mall two Saturdays before Christmas smack dab in the middle of the afternoon? Me, that’s who.

At first, I thought I’d do it the easy was and go when the mall opened on a weekday morning but no, that would be way to easy. I figured if I was being challenged, I’d do it right.

Over the next two weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing the results of my Escape the Mall Challenge with you on the blog as shipments from the online stores arrive.

How you can help make a difference?
I’m planning on donating some of the items to HoHoTO’s silent auction on Thursday night. As for the remainder, well that’s where I need your help. Please leave a comment suggesting where you’d like to have the gifts donated. A subsequent blog post will include a poll for Bargainista readers to decide. (Hint: gifts include electronics, women’s winter clothing accessories, girls’ toys and yummy bath products.)
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bargainista holiday shopping guide - part 3: toddlers

In the third installment of Barginista’s holiday shopping guide, Rebecca looks at the youngest age group of all.

Babies are cute and fun and have little to no idea what the holidays are… And yet many parents spend so much of their time agonizing over the perfect gift or running all over town to find the “hot” toy. As a parent of a toddler – I can tell you it’s really easy to fall into that trap. So whether you’re buying a gift to satisfy your feelings of parental obligation, or because you’re hoping to bring a sweet smile to an innocent face here’s some ideas on what to fill your shopping cart with.

1. Board Books: Kids love reading – or even just flipping through books or putting them on their head. Board books tend to be a sturdier option – especially in my house since my daughter may have a future career as a champion paper shredder. Friends of ours gave us some Sandra Boynton books which were an instant hit. Moo Baa La La La is a crowd pleaser amongst most toddlers passing through my house.

2. Learning Toys: Educational and fun, Leap Frog makes all kinds of great (and not too noisy toys). The 3. Art/Craft Supplies: Crayola’s Tadoodles line offers several different options for introducing your kids to art – everything from crayons that are easier for little fingers to grip, right through to those are made for the tub.

4. The box the toy came in: Seriously. Granted this won’t work if you’re trying to donate or buy a gift for someone else’s tot, but a box that can be turned into a fort or anything the imagination desires can also be pretty fun and cool to unwrap and play in – and it doesn’t cost a lot but will likely give hours of endless enjoyment and is one more present for them to open…

Some of these gifts can be quite expensive – especially if purchased directly from the store or online and shipped. I recently discovered Liquidation World where I live and wished I’d found it sooner. I was able to score some Tadoodles for half the price you normally find them for in the stores.

There are several other seasonal liquidation/discount stores that have popped up where I live in Fredericton, NB and I know in Ontario the Samko-Mikko Toy Warehouse sale is also quite popular. I also make sure to visit the dollar stores to supplement items in my craft bin and sticker collection.

What are some other places that allow you to get twice as much toy for half the cost? Where do you find the best toy bargains this time of year?
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Bargainista holiday shopping guide – part 2: school-agers

The first part of Bargainista’s holiday shopping guide focused on teenagers and this installment by Jenny looks at those just a few years younger.

If you have a school-aged child, niece, or nephew, you probably already have some idea of what to get for them – or who to ask. But what to get for the school-ager on your list who you don’t know well? They may be a far-flung relative, or the child of a friend or neighbor, or a friend of your child’s – or perhaps you want to donate a suitable gift to a toy drive and are not sure what kids of this age would like.

Clothes are practical, but boring; and, books, electronic games and DVDs depend a lot on personal taste, their parents’ approval, and what they already might own.

As the parent of a young school-ager (she just finished her first term of grade 1) and aunt of many older kids under 13, I can tell you that what their parents will most appreciate is anything that can fire the imagination and keep them busy at the same time. If it engages their brains and gives me a few minutes of peace, I’m in!

1. DIY kits: There are tonne of cool do-it-yourself kits for the budding scientist at stores like Mastermind. Motion detectors, FM radios, robot bugs!

2. Crafts: Likewise, there are a tonne of crafty things available at most toy stores, like doll-making kits, beading sets, and more. My favorites are the more open-ended kits that include a few wooden items and some paints, or piece of ready-to-frame board with glue and pieces of felt, that really let a kid’s imagination take over.

3. Art Supplies: Most open-ended of all is art supplies! Any art or stationary store will have sketchbooks and colored paper, and most toy stores will have washable markers and colored pencils (very important for the younger kids still working on their fine motor control). Stores like DeSerre have a wide-range of art supplies and craft kits you may not find elsewhere. They also have instructions for lots of age-appropriate crafts on their website.

What’s your favorite way to keep kids busy, or the best gift that keeps them occupied for long periods time?
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