You can tell the season of the year just by checking TV listings. The channels are packed with offerings like "Frosty the Snowman", "A Christmas Story" and animated holiday specials featuring Charlie Brown, the Grinch and Shrek.
Another icon of the holiday season is Oprah's Favorite Things. Since 2002, there's been a yearly segment in which she presents items that she thinks are noteworthy or would make good gifts. There are usually some yummy food items from obscure regional companies that are promptly inundated with more orders than they could possibly fill in three years. There's a breathtaking display of jewelry and watches. There are cutting-edge electronics- cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, GPS devices. Best of all, the lucky studio audience members get to take the featured items home with them.
I missed this year's episode, but I can just imagine the audience's reaction to the 2008 selections: "regifting" parties to swap unwanted gifts for other, more needed, items, gift baskets of fruits and vegetables you grew yourself (mine would consist of nothing but mint and rosemary), time with a love one, gratitude boxes with notes of gratitude from various people. Noble as Oprah's intentions are, I can just imagine the audience's reaction: "Where's my car? Where's my digital camera? Where's my pashmina shawl?"
I'm an Oprah fan, really I am, but being lectured on thrift by a woman who hasn't had a financial care in the world since 1986 is just a little weird. After all, 45% of the country's population wasn't born the last time Oprah had to comparison shop.
So, I wondered, what sort of Favorite Things list would I come up with? After all, I'm walking the walk, talking the talk and clipping the coupons.
After a little thought, I came up with Teressa Glazer's Favorite Things, 2008:
1. restaurant.com As the economy started it's free fall, the first thing to go was eating out. Then I discovered restaurant.com. It's a website where you can buy discount coupons for area eateries. Right now they're running a special selling $25.00 off coupons for $3.00.And these aren't for just any old restaurants...there's the Oar House and Caruso's in Dahlonega, there's Scott's on the Square, Seabones and Pasquale's in Gainesville and Angelo's in Athens. There are lots of choices if you dine in the Flowery Branch/Buford/Gwinnett area.
It's so easy. You just buy a coupon online for the restaurant of your choice. Then you print out the coupon and go out to eat. Usually a minimum purchase of about $35.00 is required so with your coupon you get a feast for $10.00.
A few weeks ago Arthur and I had some of the most wonderful Caribbean food ever (chicken with mango chutney, yellow rice & black beans, fried sweet plantains and mango/passion fruit cheesecake) at Dante's on the Square in Dahlonega for all of $11.00 plus the tip. And we'd bought our coupon on sale for just $2.00.
Through Christmas Day, restaurant.com is running a program called Feed It Forward. Each day, you can send free $10.00 coupons to any three people of your choice. Then they can do the same. They expect to give away over $30M in coupons.
2. CVS Extra Bucks Some marketing genius had the inspired idea of making refunds easy. You scan a card at the register and not only does it keep track of your purchases and give you a 2% rebate coupon every three months, it also prints out discounts at the register. Some items are actually free- you purchase the item and then immediately get the purchase price back in a coupon. This week it's Powerade. There are lots of ways to use the card to it's best advantage and Debra Chavis, the manager of the Jesse Jewel location, knows them all. Just stop in and ask her for a tutorial. She'll be glad to help.
3. 129 Salvage Located just north of the State Patrol barracks on (need I say it?) Hwy. 129, this salvage store is always the first stop on my bargain shopping rounds. There's a little of everything- toys, electronics, cleaning supplies, office items, home decor, clothing, beauty supplies, all at greatly discounted prices. My favorite find was a beautiful blue and white ceramic tray for $10.00. It was only after I got it home that I turned it over and saw it was Limoges. Wow. Megabargain.
4. Just $2.00 This amazing little store is right in front of Wal-Mart on Shallowford Rd. My only complaint is that it isn't larger. The name says it all- everything in the store is $2.00. I get name brand beauty products for a fraction of the drug store prices. Like 129 Salvage, the inventory changes every day so it's best to stop in often. I treasure the appliqued University of Alabama fleece hoodie I found there for...that's right...$2.00.
5. pandora.com This awesome service comes from the Music Genome Project. You program your own music station. Just type in the name of a favorite artist. For example, say you like Rascal Flatts. The station will start with one of their songs, then move on to artists with similar music- Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley,Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood. Choose Beyonce and you'll also get music from Destiny's Child, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes, Aaliyah and Mariah Carey. You can send links to your station to friends or find others online who are listening to the same music. It all free and they never try to sell you anything.
So those are my top five favorites. There are lots more- Rite Aid's rebate program, Dollar Deals and Discounts in Cleveland, the way The Times bundles two issues of the Sunday paper for the price of one so you get twice the manufacturer's coupons.
I hope the economy turns around soon. There will be lots of indicators- the stock market, interest rates, gas prices and falling unemployment numbers. I'll know for sure we're in recovery when Oprah's favorites again start including plasma TVs and UGG boots.