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$6 holiday shopping: Here's how Hollywood mom did it

Katiria Colon shelled out $6 cash for all her holiday presents.

That's gifts for her husband Jose, 8-year-old son Kyle, grandparents, mother, two sisters, two nieces, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, her boss and his wife, a cousin and the cousin's daughter, a neighbor family, and her son's teacher. Plus, an extra present, just in case.

How did she do it?

"I saved gift cards all year long," she said. Specifically, gift cards given as rewards by retailers.

There's no question the 31-year-old Hollywood woman is an avid deal shopper. She strategized all year to take advantage of Black Friday deals.

"I am totally done with all my Christmas shopping and I'm super happy and proud to say I only actually paid around $7 out of pocket for everyone on my list!," she wrote in a celebratory comment on the SunSentinel.com's Shop-o-matic blog.

She detailed her expenses to the Sun Sentinel, and it turns out she spent even less, $6.32.

Colon did most of her Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday, strategizing her purchases ahead of time. As soon as she spotted a deal on a website or in an advertising circular, she wrote down the price and retailer on her list.

"I cannot get sidetracked. I have my plan a week ahead," she said.

Colon saved gift cards she received for making certain purchases from retailers; birthday gift cards from retailers to whom she has given her e-mail and mailing addresses; and reward cards for filling out consumer surveys online. Only the birthday gift cards have expiration dates.

Her Christmas shopping bonanza began at Target, where she received gift cards for buying certain products, such as two Gillette razors or five Glade products. By year-end, she had nine gift cards: two worth $10 and seven worth $5.

She used the Target gift cards to buy DVD and Blu-ray movies, pajamas, a flashlight set, kids' beach sandals, a calendar, lotions and bath towels.

Colon also regularly takes online surveys on sites such as swagbucks.com, earning about $20 a month in gift cards for answering questions such as "Are you going to buy a car this year?" She received Amazon gift cards as rewards. With those, she purchased toys and other gifts, all of which qualified for free shipping.

She also collects "extra bucks," bonus coupons for buying certain items at CVS.

Lucky for Colon, her birthday is in November. Several retailers and Pembroke Lakes Mall mailed or e-mailed her gift cards for her birthday, so she used them to buy Christmas presents as well. Those kind of gift cards are often limited to the birth month, but that was no problem for Colon's Thanksgiving weekend shopping.

Most consumers expect to spend $466 for gifts this holiday, according to accounting firm Deloitte's annual holiday survey.

Colon's frugal gift-buying is as much a game as belt-tightening, but she and her husband have cut back on holiday gifts and other spending. Both are employed, but Colon said her husband makes less at his customer service job than he once did for the U.S. Postal Service. Colon is a secretary at The Computer Guys, a Miramar firm that fixes computers for nonprofit organizations.

"I'm always a cheapskate. I'm always looking for the cheapest thing in the store," Colon said.

Is her husband as frugal? "Not at all — if he needs something, he'll just go out and buy it," she said.

While Jose Colon doesn't like to shop the same way his wife does, he appreciates the money she saves. "She does the wheeling and dealing," he said. "She's always with the coupons."

Still, stocking up on gift cards for the holidays can be addictive: "My sister would give me a gift card for $20, and I would save it to buy Christmas presents," Colon said. "She doesn't give me any more gift cards."

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