Food & Drink

Saving Centsably: Photo gifts for Christmas

As my family travelled this summer, we stopped at the Florida Welcome Centers. We entered Florida once from the Georgia side of the border and once from the Alabama border. Both times we were delighted to find postcard sized coupons offering travelers the opportunity to create a free 8-by-8 photo book from Shutterfly.

Shutterfly and the state of Florida have partnered together to offer these free photo books through the VisitFlorida campaign. If you have vacationed in Florida during the last two years or so, you have likely noticed the brightly colored Shutterfly displays, which are typically accompanied by the free photo book coupons. If you grabbed a Shutterfly coupon this summer, you will likely find that you have about another month to get your photo book made, enter the code, pay the shipping and have a book full of memories delivered to your doorstep.

If you’ve read my column long, you know that I believe photo gifts like these make great Christmas presents. For example, if your children took their first trip to the beach this summer, and you have little time for scrapbooking, use the free code to grab a photo book that documents this momentous occasion. If your parent celebrated a special birthday this summer, use the free code to create a book featuring the guests, the food and all the memories made at the party.

So what if you did not take a trip into Florida during the last few months? Are there photo gift opportunities available for you as well? Certainly! Recently I received an email from Kellogg’s Family Rewards. That is the rewards program created by the Kellogg’s family of food. If you are eating Eggo Waffles, Pop-Tarts, Cheez-It crackers or any type of Kellogg’s cereal, you need a KFR account. Create one free of charge at www.kelloggsfamily The email I received had an offer for a free photo book. I simply needed to enter the code from a Kellogg’s product to claim my reward. I did so and now have a few weeks to create that photo book gift.

Travelzoo is another place where you can get great travel deals. But, through smart marketing, groups such as Shutterfly and Snapfish know that they can offer free photo books to all those people who will probably be travelling and using Travelzoo for accommodations. I have never actually booked a trip with Travelzoo, but I have been able to receive two or three free photo books simply by using the code they provide in emails to their customers.

Surprisingly, as I sat down to write this article, I checked my email and discovered that Fisher Price had sent a free photo book offer. Before the article was finished, I received another photo book offer from Walgreens! Why are there so many photo book offers during this time of year? So many of us have just wrapped up summer vacations, camps where our kids have a week’s worth of photos, Labor Day activities and more. All those pictures need to go somewhere, and photo companies stand to make a profit on your memories.

These free photo books are like any other loss leader items that any grocery store uses to lure you in. The books themselves are free, but often customers get carried away with personalization or custom themes, which add some cost to the book itself. In addition, if customers are not selective about the photos they use, they will exceed the “free” page limit. Doing so brings revenue to the photo companies -- revenue they would not have received without offering the customer the freebie.

Spend some time online. Register with the companies I have mentioned and be sure to take advantage of as many of these offers as possible. After all, Christmas is coming. The grandparents would love a photo book that features their special time with the grandkids at the beach or the mountains from this summer!