Game shows, rescued pennies, bonus Swagbucks and how to have a cheaper Christmas 2011.

Today’s post is a bit of a grab-bag.

To anyone interested in joining Swagbucks: I might be able to get you 100 extra points. On Saturday evening I took part in an online chat about shopping/rewards sites. Those “attending” were given a code to offer to new referrals in addition to the usual 30-point sign-up bonus.

Here’s the problem: It was never made clear how long the code will last, so you might or might not get the extra 100. Worth a shot, though.

First, go to the Swagbucks widget in the bottom right-hand corner of S&T’s home page and click on “sign up.” When you’re asked if you have a promotional code. type in RewardsChat10. If it still works, you’ll wind up with 130 points right off the bat.

Good luck, and thanks for using the widget to join. (By the way: They call it a “swidget.” Ain’t that cute?)

A head start on holiday shopping

I use Swagbucks to get Amazon gift cards. This week you have a chance to win $100 in Amazon scrip. It’s a larger-than-usual giveaway, which is why it’s lasting longer than usual: You have until Nov. 19 to enter. Remember that five different entries are possible. Consumerism Commentary personal finance blog is sponsoring the prize.

The blog offers its own way of winning Amazon GCs. Register for an account at Consumerism Commentary, and you’ll  get points for reading, commenting and sharing on social media.

It’s also possible to earn personal finance books that way but as you might have guessed, Amazon credit is much more popular. Go sign up and earn, already.

I’ll take ‘How do I get on a game show?’ for $200, Alex

You know you want to spin a big prize wheel, attack an obstacle course or guess the price of a six-burner stove while your friends and family cheer. Admit it: You want the lovely parting gifts, too.

For my recent column on MSN Money, “How to get on a game show,” I talked with casting directors, former contestants and even a woman who not only didn’t win but actually lost money by appearing on a game show.

It is possible for a regular person to succeed. A radio guy from Cleveland has been on three of the biggest game shows on television. He hadn’t yet made it to “Jeopardy,” though, and was jealous of me when I told him I’d been on that program, way back in 1991 when the questions were worth half as much (but were twice as hard).

I had a great time talking with these people. Only one problem: Now I want to try out for “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

Christmas — and columns — coming earlier all the time

My next MSN Money piece wasn’t due to run for at least another week. Imagine my surrise when I saw it published on Friday afternoon.

Apparently because so many Black Friday ads were leaking (eeewww) and so many folks are already shopping, my editor decided to run with “Christmas for less than $100” at least a week earlier than I expected.

Although the National Retail Federation says the average shopper will spend $515.94 on gifts for the 2011 holiday season, I spoke with a woman who spends less than one-fifth of that amount — and she’s buying for a couple of dozen people. She’s good. The column lists tips and tricks that will stretch your dollars thinner than an election-year promise.

See a penny, pick it up?

When you see a coin on the ground do you think “eeewww, filthy” and keep walking? I don’t, and I explain why in my latest piece at Get Rich Slowly.

Why I still pick up pennies” does the math in terms of the accumulated coins’ service to others: If I pick up a dollar’s worth of coins, eight people get to have supper. That’s because I donate my found money to a local food bank.

Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest) says that $1 buys the ingredients for eight meals. Now that’s the power of bulk buying.

While I know not everyone can (or wants to) pick up stray specie, it’s important to me. Judging from the comments on the piece, I’m not alone.

Readers: Do you pick up coins? If so, do you mingle them with other funds or save them for a specific purpose?

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  1. Yes I pick up coins, of course, and my son ofen empties out small coins from his pockets(change from bus fares etc) which he doesn’t seem to want!! I have never thought of collecting them all in a specific place and giving them to charity. I do do the charity giving out of my main salary. I live quite frugally so it might be nice to save them and give them to myself to buy a nice treat!

  2. Kim Talbert

    Thanks for the information on the My Coke Rewards program. I found four discarded boxes ready to be recycled. I grabbed them and just received 40 points!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Kim Talbert: Woo hoo! Happy re-recycling. Now if you could just get your friends and family to save them for you….

  3. Hi Donna, Good article and I too continue to pickup coin and “folding money”. It’s amazing to me the amount of chnage left behind by folks who could never pay their rent on time. My biggest “score”…was while doing yard work on a rental unit and asked DD’s and wife to help me pick up trash in the backyard that had blown over from the grocery store across the street. They all declined….and as I’m picking up the trash I found a $20 bill…TRUE STORY!

  4. I pick up coins. I admit, I just mingle them with the other change in my purse. I’ve never found folding money, but I’m sure I’d stop and pick that up, too.

    A guy my husband knew used to amuse himself by super-gluing a quarter to the sidewalk outside the store where he worked and watching people stop and try to pick it up. *sigh* Some people’s children…

  5. I will have Christmas shopping done with less than $30–three children, dil, four grandchildren. –from Swagbucks, mycokerewards, side jobs, thrift stores, yard sales, sales, my own sewing and crocheting. I must get everything on Etsy to make some money. My found change just gets into my purse and mingles.

  6. I’ll be sure to read the Christmas article!

  7. My husband and I were on a short lived game show in the 80’s called Headline Chasers. We won about $9,000, which covered one year of my husbands graduate school tuition!

  8. Donna,
    There is a fabulous blogger out there who also gets Christmas done on $100.00 – Penny at the Saved Quarter! Check her out, you will be amazed!

  9. Just stopped over to say hi and see what you are up to. Hope you had a great weekend and I love what you wrote, here and other places.

  10. My husband and I both pick up pennies. Just yesterday he saw one on a pavement and bent down to pick it up. His eyesight must be getting worse, as he laughed about it. Here it was embedded in the cement. He joked and said, ” Too bad I didn’t have a jackhammer!”

  11. Lazyretirementgirl

    Donna, I tried to use Swagbucks, but just ended up with all sorts of junk emails from sites that wanted me to take surveys that ended with me having to buy something to continue. I am sure I must have done something wrong. Could you consider doing a Swagbucks for Dummies column one of these days?

  12. I pick up pennies. And the other coins, too. Pennies go into a separate container from the rest. When it’s filled, I take it to Coinstar and donate them to charity. Last year it was Children’s Miracle Network. They don’t charge a fee if you donate, and you get a print-out of a receipt so it becomes tax-deductible. The other coins I cash in around the holidays to buy gifts. Usually about $250. In the past I’ve rolled the coin myself and taken it to work where I get it converted into dollars for free. This year, though I may take it to Coinstar and get more Amazon gift cards (no fee).

    I’m also cashing in a motherload of MyPoints this year – enough for a $100 Land’s End gift card for my dear hubby for Xmas and $50 Amazon card for my college student’s textbooks for next semester.
    Wish I could get that kid to do her own MyPoints…

    Enjoyed your Christmas column on MSN. I think last year you wrote about a girl who saved up her $5 Target gift cards she earned when she purchased certain items throughout the year. She spent them on an iPod or something on Black Friday. I did that myself this year. I have (so far) about $120 in Target GC that I’ve been saving. Not sure what I’m going to spend it on yet; I may get lazy and just divide them up among kids to put in stockings.

  13. At the beginning of this year, I sent out an email to friends and family asking them to pledge to match all the money I found on the ground this year. The funds would be donated to charity. Unfortunately, I’ve found less than a dollar in change, so I may not go through with collecting and donating after all. Maybe I’ll try again this year. I think it could be an extremely powerful thing if I could figure out how to make it go viral.

    My original inspiration came from an extreme couponer who started The Penny Experiment. He keeps a tally of the value of food he donates and how much it actually cost him out of pocket and invites others to do the same. I think it’s a fascinating project!

  14. yup, I subscribe by e-mail

  15. I do pick up coins…though I’ve never found a cent at the Coinstar machine, and the clerks look at me funny if I check. I have, however, found a handful of coins dumped by the machine in the post office lobby! And, after finding a quarter or two in the pay-to-park coin return in Boulder, I’m learning to check those regularly, too…

    The coins go in a box kept by the washing machine. Loose change found in pants pockets, etc. goes there, too. Then at Christmastime, we use the accumulated money to buy some small presents and give them secretly to someone who could use a boost, financially or emotionally. I call it “Angel money.”

  16. Hey Donna….my wife started doing the Swagbucks thing a few years back. Last Christmas….my wife only spent $100 on Christmas for 3 boys 9 and under. The other $100 was Swaggifts (is that what you call it?).

    Anyhow…I don’t mind my wife spending a little time online in the evening – when it cuts my Christmas bill IN HALF!!

  17. Is there a secret trick for getting your pic to show for the avatar? I noticed that someone had managed. Thx!!

  18. I find pennies in all sorts of the wierest places. They collect in a little drawer in a jewerly case. There’s a reason: it may have been placed there by one of your guardian angels, or it might be letting you know that someone in heaven is thinking about you.

    As an author, I am a seasoned observer. So, when there’s a penny on my dresser which I know wasn’t there a few minutes ago (and no one was in the house but me), then I’m sure it was deliberately put there to get my attention.

    So, when you find a penny, pick it up. It’s more precious than the value of the metal contents. It’s meant just for you.

  19. everyday i hear about Swagbucks, I think — “oh man, not ANOTHER reward program to add to my neverending list!”

    • Donna Freedman

      @Paula: It can be a little overwhelming. Swagbucks is the one program I use most often. I’m doing a chunk of Christmas shopping for free that way.

  20. So it your MSN Money article printed early (read it, loved it), does that mean you have to write another? Or was one just re-routed?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Karla: It was just run a bit early because so much Black Friday stuff was being printed. I expect it will re-surface next week.

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