The Best Time to Shop for Bargains

While the holiday season may be over, there’s no need to feel depressed. Now is the best time to shop for bargains! Here are a few tips on how you can take advantage of the year’s best sales. When to Shop. Sales begin promptly when stores open on December 26th. You’ll typically save 50% the day after Christmas, progressing to 75% the week after, then up to 90% in January. However, the longer you wait, the more picked over things will be.

Where to Shop. You’ll often find the best deals in the most out-of-the-way places. The key is to use your creativity when shopping. Where do you think most shoppers in your area will be? Try to go elsewhere.

Buy for next Christmas. Seasonal items like holiday kitchenware and decorations will have the deepest discounts. If you ran out of gift wrap or cards this year, stock up for next year when these items go on sale for 75% off. Buy discounted solid colored wrap to use on other gifts throughout the year. Holiday fabric for tablecloths and next year’s craft projects is also a good deal.

Buy gifts for all year round. Toys on clearance are great for birthday parties throughout the year. Shop after-Christmas sales for gifts to give to your loved ones on their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Store them under the bed or in the closet labeled with your friend or relative’s name. Make a note on the new year’s calendar that you already have a gift for their birthday.

Watch expiration dates. Pre-packaged gift sets like ice cream sundae toppings or barbecue sauce packs are great gifts to give during the year as long as they are free from holiday markings and expiration dates.

Don’t buy what you don’t need. Even if it's on sale, if you just don't need another set of lights, don't buy them. Also skip items that, although on sale, are still over-priced or not useful. If you won't use it within the next six months, pass. Buying what you don’t need is never frugal.

Examine sale items carefully. After being handled by many Christmas shoppers, some items may show their wear. Be sure they are not damaged. This is especially important if seconds or irregulars are mixed in with the clearance sales.

Get the 411. Find out the store's policy on returns and exchanges. Most sales on after-Christmas clearance merchandise are final, but the store should still settle complaints on broken or defective products.

Come early or stay late. Consider shopping at the beginning or end of a clearance sale. You will generally find the best selection when the sale begins but the lowest prices as the sale ends.

For more savvy tips on shopping, check out:

Great Ways to Shop More and Spend Less The Savvy Guide to Coupons 5 Common Saving Strategies… That Can Lead to Overspending Shopping Triggers

Shopping Triggers and How to Curb Them: Bargain Hunting

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

The more I blog about shopping triggers, the more they seem to pop up all around me. Here’s another one I have encountered three different times – just today.

I saw that Gristedes has grapes on sale, so you can save over $2 per pound. Our new grocery store Whole Foods promises that you can save on beef tenderloin. A furniture store advertises savings of over 50% when you buy their lounge chairs and side tables.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, for starters, if you spend $5 on grapes, you have spent $5, not saved $2. Just as with stocks and funds, yesterday’s price is irrelevant. Neither your budget nor your cash flow cares that the lounge chair you bought for $200 would have been $400, had you bought it a week earlier.

The problem is, this logic lures many less informed consumers into spending large amounts of money. And so advertisers keep at it, making us think this makes perfect sense. But similar to credit card spending, you first need to consider your financial situation and your budget. If you cannot afford a $200 lounge chair, the fact that it is reduced from $400 does not make buying it any less of a problem. Keep this in mind, and you will have conquered yet another shopping trigger!

Check out the other articles in our series on Shopping Triggers.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.