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How to Save at Hallmark

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I remember the joy of stepping into a Hallmark store as a kid and selecting just the right gift for my mom, teacher, or babysitter with my hard-saved allowance money. The combination of desirable look-but-don't-touch knick-knacks and row upon row of cards for every occasion made me dizzy with excitement.

Now, venturing into a Hallmark store (when I don't have little kids in tow) is a welcome respite in my hectic schedule. I still love admiring the merchandise, but now, rather than save my allowance, I save on the bottom line using these tips and techniques.

1. Join Crown Rewards

Hallmark's free store rewards program allows customers to accumulate points based on purchases made in store and online. Points turn into dollars that can be automatically redeemed at the register year-round, and points never expire. What I like about this program is that I don't have to carry a card; I can just use my phone number to access my account easily when I shop.

2. Sign-up for e-mail

To stay in touch with current offers and to receive promotion and discount information, sign up for Hallmark emails. Already receive them? Take a moment to update your email and receive an automatic 100 points credited to your account as a "thank you."

3. Take a survey

At the top of my recent receipt from Hallmark, I was invited to take a quick online survey (also available via telephone) for $2 off my next purchase. With my receipt, the offer was good for 30 days. Many cards and some small boxes of Hallmark-branded chocolates are at the $1.99 price point, which means I only need to pay tax if I want to redeem the offer with minimum out-of-pocket expense.

4. Shop during an open house

Not only do special event store open houses feature discounts, giveaways and bonus point offers, but free money gets placed on your Crown account for the duration of the event. For instance, those with a Crown card got an extra $3 to spend during the November holiday open house event, and an extra $2 was given in April for my store's spring event. This money can be used on top of existing reward dollars, but it does not carry over after the event.

5. Buy a box of cards

Ever look on shelves that display merchandise above, below, or in select areas of card sections? One popular Hallmark-branded item I love to keep on hand at home is a box of ten three-dimensionally-decorated, blank-inside cards for $9.99. These cards have cute die-cut flowers, sparkly backgrounds, button embellishments and more that make them look much more rich than the $1 each I spent for them. Note: These are a great item to get on sale with reward dollars.

6. Buy a 99 cent card

In an age where value meals seem to be shrinking and dollar-store merchandise quality decreases, Hallmark keeps growing its selection of 99 cent cards. With cards available in this price point for nearly any occasion, there's a great chance you'll find what you need to say with one of these cards. To make the most of this line, buy three cards at a time to earn a bonus 100 reward points (available with any three-card purchase).

7. Seek discontinued merchandise

Post-holiday savings at Hallmark occur like clockwork. Yearly ornaments and holiday merchandise gets slashed by 50 percent the day after Christmas and by 75 percent in-store several weeks later. Additional savings are found on holiday-themed merchandise at sales starting the day after (think Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, etc.). Cards, though, are by far my favorite discounted item. My local store sells a grab bag of discontinued cards and last-in-stock at five for $1.99! Even if I only use three or four of the cards I receive in the grab bag, I feel like my money is well spent.

8. Check more than one store

Since Hallmarks are independently owned, each store not only offers slightly different merchandise but may have different sales techniques as well. One store in my area has a seasonal sidewalk sale, and another keeps several shelves of 50-75 percent-off merchandise in the back of the store. So if you live in a larger area with multiple stores, ask sales associates about cycles for sales to score the best deals.

9. Enter a contest

Ever thought you were witty enough to write greeting cards for a living? Hallmark wants to give you that chance! They offer rolling card creation contests and submission contest for books sold in stores (like this past promotion) with prizes that range from publication to merchandise to cash. I smell a fun summertime project for mom and the kids . . .

10. Ask about free gift wrapping

At most Hallmark stores, gift wrapping is complimentary. At others—and at some where you can buy discounted merchandise—it's available for a nominal fee. If you don't see a sign, it doesn't hurt to ask!

Hallmark stores still have the magic I remember from my childhood. Now, though, I can take advantage of incredible savings opportunities (only offered to adults!) and plan my shopping there around certain events to make the most of my money!

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