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

'Tis the Season for Savvy Spending

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stretching your holiday budget doesn’t mean you’ll be giving lumps of coal as gifts this holiday season. Smart shoppers have always known that the holiday season doesn’t have to cost a lot to be fun.

Here are a few tips to make your holidays brighter but not budget busters.

  • Determine the total amount you can spend and don’t go over budget. Track what you have spent by keeping a tally of your purchases in your purse.

  • Simplify gift giving. Ask people what they want and need. You'll be able to choose more wisely from their lists than your perceptions of what they want. Encourage family to create a wish list on popular Internet websites such as Amazon.

  • Go shopping with your shopping list in hand. Don't succumb to impulse buying. Many holiday shoppers end up with busted budgets by purchasing expensive gifts for themselves and spending more than planned on friends and family.

  • Give your family a gift everyone can enjoy, such as a museum or aquarium yearly pass.

  • Subscribe to a high-quality magazine everyone will read.

  • If someone gives you a gift you don’t like or need, save it to give as a gift later on or donate it to a charity for a tax deduction.

  • Ask family members to set a price limit on gifts. Insist everyone stick to the agreement.

If you're really stuck for ideas or cash, consider giving your time as a gift, including free babysitting, housecleaning or lunch out every few months. Seniors would be especially appreciative of help around the home. The gift of time is the most precious gift of all.

Happy holidays!

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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.

Shopping Triggers and How to Curb Them: Depression

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

At a seminar today, a woman desperate to take control over her finances confessed that her worst shopping trigger was depression. Whether she was feeling lonely, overworked, fat, poor, or just blue in general, the only way she could cheer herself up was through shopping. While this may sound ludicrous to some, her problem is far from uncommon.

When everything else goes wrong, we reason, can I at least have a Dior lipstick? And for many of us, shopping does create a buzz not all that different from a glass of wine or a divine bar of chocolate. We do feel better, as owners of that gorgeous lipstick that makes us look so special. But just as with any short term high, the problem is, when the warm fuzzy feeling disappears we are worse off than we were before. Because the next time we are feeling lonely/overworked/far/poor/blue, we need to add to the equation that we are also in debt.

In a way, shopping to cure depression can be compared to drinking to cure depression. Sure, our chances for liver failure are significantly smaller, but credit card debt can be a major hassle – and make you feel a whole lot worse. There are other ways to cheer up and lose those gloomy feelings: exercise, spending time with friends, meditation, choosing better foods, etc., etc. – and these are things that will help you in the long term as well. Next time, opt for one of those.

Check out all the articles of our Shopping Triggers series.

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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.

Shopping Triggers and How to Curb Them: Hobby Shopping

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

A friend called me up last night. “We are getting the old gang together,” she said, “for some shopping.” Would I care to join them?

This last shopping trigger (for now, anyway) is also one of the most common, and one of the most encouraged by all sorts of media, from mainstream movies and TV shows to books – not to mention magazines. The explanations for why so many women list shopping as one of their favorite hobbies vary. Some say it is in our DNA – that women have always been gatherers and shopping is the modern version. Others say we are trying to attract men by looking good, and yet others say c’mon – shopping is fun!

Whatever the reason, this hobby can have a devastating effect on your finances, both in the long and the short term. Because not only do we hit up shopping malls even when we may not need anything – when we shop together, we encourage each other to spend more. Because how could you possibly resist buying a pair of designer jeans when four of your best friends are staring admiringly at you, telling you your derriere has never looked better? It is even worse if you go shopping with friends who have more money than you do, or ones that tend to overspend.

I am not trying to be the party pooper (ok I will be honest that I am probably the only woman on the face of the planet that does not like shopping), or tell you that you shouldn’t meet your peeps at the mall. But take a look at your finances first, use cash only, create a budget for yourself, and stick to it.

If your friends truly care about you, they will respect this and you will have a lovely day without getting in over your head.

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.

Shopping Triggers and How to Curb Them: Plastic Instead of Paper

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Yesterday, a dear friend invited me to a pre-sale event in a major department store. There would be free champagne, she told me, excellent service, fun music, wonderful people and above all – of course – some killer outfits, just off the catwalk. Now, the thing is, this has been quite an expensive month for me, with vacation times along with some unforeseen expenses. So I told her that unfortunately, I’d have to pass because of money.

“Why,” she asked, “don’t you just charge it?” I nearly gulped out loud! Doesn’t she remember that I am a financial planner? That is like telling a dietician to start living only on a diet of McDonalds!

This leads us to our next shopping trigger: those wonderful, glistening, magic little cards that are sometimes able to bring us so much pleasure. Because, we reason, why would we pass up fabulous deals and pay more for the things we want later, when we can just seal the deal by charging them, and then pay them off when we do have the money?

The answer goes a little deeper than the obvious one of the financing charges that make most personal finance experts recommend that we double the sum of each purchase we charge but do not intend to pay off the same month, to get an idea of the actual cost. It is also this very behavior-- to seal the deal fast by putting up the plastic -- that gets so many of us in debt, severely damaging our financial futures. Instead, think about how much better of a deal it is to pay cash when you actually have the money, and stay clear of the murky depths of credit card debt.

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.

Shopping Triggers and How to Curb Them: Sense of Entitlement

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Watching TV last night got me thinking about how our entire society is built around this shopping trigger. TV and radio ads, magazines and catalogues all scream to us: you deserve this, you’re worth it, treat yourself! This is because savvy advertisers know that creating a sense of entitlement is one of the most potent ways to get consumers to cough up the dough.

It is so easy, when exposed to those ads, to start thinking that “hey, that’s right, I did pass that exam/meet that deadline/suffer through that nasty flu/put up with the in-laws staying at my house for a full week, I do deserve a little something.” The problem is, none of those things did anything to change your budget, so when you treat yourself, you have to either find another place to cut, or get (further) into debt.

The best way to curb this is to tell yourself, whenever overcome with this sense of entitlement, that if there is anything you deserve, it is to have your finances in order. If you need to repeat it over and over again, fine – let it be your personal affirmation. After all, what outfit/cosmetic product/trip/new high tech gizmo could possibly make you feel better than true financial security?

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.

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.

Comment

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.