3 Ways to Shop Smart During the Holidays

Written on December 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm , by

Written by Marlena Sarunac 

Marlena Sarunac, savvy shopper and marketing director for PoachIt, shares her secrets to saving money online.   

How have you been shopping for the holidays this year? Did you wake up early and endlessly circle parking lots to end up fighting the in-store crowds on Thanksgiving? Surely you know that you can get the best discounts and promotions for all the goodies in your kids’ stockings right from home in your favorite snowflake-print pajamas!

Welcome to holiday shopping in 2013. About 90% of consumers plan to sip on some eggnog while shopping online this holiday, finding deals on the perfect gifts one click at a time.

With six fewer shopping days this season, prices are falling like snow and retailers are getting more competitive than ever! Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals started earlier this year and were extended beyond weeklong savings events led by merchants like Amazon. Cyber Monday had steeper discounts on more items, with over a third of all listed merchandise marked down. And don’t even get me started on the coupon codes—I’ve never seen such aggressive deals, and I’ve been studying the coupon code world for quite a while. So, fellow savvy shoppers, here are a few thoughts to consider as you cross items off your shopping list.

Finding the Best Bargains: Ultimately, there will be deals right at your fingertips every day of the year—not just on Black Friday or Cyber Monday—so Christmas really can come early for the smart shopper. Not quite ready to buy or save up for a special occasion? No problem. Signing up for price-tracking sites like PoachIt will allow you to access valid coupon codes and track items at over 3,000+ online retailers. PoachIt tests and displays only working coupon codes and will let you know when the stuff you want goes on sale.

Free Smart Shipping: If a retailer has a minimum order requirement for free shipping, buy that extra blouse! You can always return it in-store, saving yourself a few extra bucks on shipping costs. But pay attention to the terms and conditions. For example, Amazon recently increased its free shipping threshold to $35, meaning if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you may need to fill your shopping cart with a few extra items. If you’re shopping for apparel, hunt for the same item at another merchant that has better shipping deals. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue is offering free shipping and returns now through December 22 with the coupon code HOLIDAY.

For Teens, Don’t Take It Personal: It used to be easy—the hottest toy of the year was always met with squeals of delight as shreds of wrapping paper fell by your child’s wayside. Getting that same reaction from teens? Not so much. Keeping up with trends these days with a generation so defined by its own ever-changing style can be daunting, so my recommendation is to stay away from anything too dependent on personal taste, like clothing and music. So how do you find the right gift? Think about their interests! Sometimes the right tools to really pursue a hobby are best. Does your teen enjoy cooking, sports, art or gaming? You can easily find amazing gifts that are meaningful and practical. If all else fails, upgrade their smartphone or get an iPad, as these have been the two biggest winners over the holiday shopping season.

From all of us at PoachIt, we hope to bring you cheer with every click!


A veteran of MasterCard, Marlena Sarunac  joined PoachIt after traveling the world for a year. She now lives in New York City, where she enjoys finding the best places to shop both online and off, and takes pride in making tasteful purchase decisions that won’t break a young New Yorker’s budget.

Prom on a Budget: 4 Money-Saving Ideas

Written on March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm , by

Prom is a memorable night for high school upperclassmen, but the costs—dress, hair, makeup, shoes, and jewelry—can quickly add up. Whether your daughter is looking at the red carpet for inspiration, local boutiques, or wants to make a homemade-DIY gown, there are plenty of ways to skip the expensive dresses and still send her off to the big dance in style. Here are a few ways I’ve found stylish formalwear on a budget for prom and special occasions:

Organize a swap: By the time I was a high school senior, I had a half-closet full of once-worn dresses that I would’ve been happy to see re-worn. Encourage your daughter to organize a dress swap for her group of friends and have each girl bring someone from a different school. It’s a great way to expand their social circle, and the dress your daughter’s out-of-town friend wore to a Sweet Sixteen could easily be another girl’s prom pick.

Search outlet malls: I’m a big fan of shopping at outlet malls (Premium and Tanger) a few times a year for basic tees and off-season deals, but I never expected to find a prom dress there. I got mine on whim at Diane von Furstenberg, a high-end designer whose dresses I would have never thought of looking at in a department store for fear of sticker shock. The floor-length floral gown I found was $185, marked down from $625. This was this less than I originally budgeted for a dress, and since I didn’t buy it close to home, I was confident that no one else would have it.

Borrow a dress: It’s common for boys to rent tuxes for prom, so why are gown rentals not more popular for girls? My favorite site to borrow from is Rent the Runway, which offers designer dresses and accessories at up to 90% off retail prices.  It’s super easy: browse the site and pick the date you want the dress to arrive (you can reserve six months in advance). They even send you the dress in two sizes, so you don’t have to worry about it not fitting. Shipping and dry cleaning are included, so you can just drop the dress in the provided envelope to return after the dance is over.

Get Creative: I always enjoy seeing what creations are submitted to Duck Brand’s annual “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest. Teens must enter as a couple wearing outfits made of duct tape, and the winning duo receives $5,000. Check out for inspiration or to learn how your teen can enter.

Check out our picks for prom dresses for every teen’s style—and budget—here.

How do you plan to handle the costs of prom season? Who will foot the bill: you or your teen, or do you plan to split expenses?


What are your money-saving tips for prom? Share with others below!


Cassie Kreitner is editorial assistant at Family Circle magazine.