I am not an expert, but this year, I paid a little more attention to sales and bargains than I normally do, and I noticed that during the Christmas season, stores and businesses will do anything, especially during these tough economic times, to get you shopping there.
One such promotion was at a chain grocery store in our area. Their promotion was to spend $75 on certain brand foods and you get a free $25 gift card to either the grocery store or to a restaurant. I went online and made my grocery list to get the prices of items so that when I got to the store I would just spend the $75 and I would know exactly what to get. Unfortunately, their site was not specific enough and didn't give all the details and some of the items I purchased were not part of the promotion. I was a little disappointed because I had such a great plan, but since I was already on the way to earning my $75, I spent the $25 I needed to just to get my gift card. These were all groceries that I needed so nothing was really lost in that sense and I still came out below my usual grocery budget.
I got all the details of this promotion for a friend and told her my strategy and plan and she succeeded with it. She ended up only spending $75 and a few cents and got her free $25 gift card.
I chose a $25 gift card to TGI Fridays.
Another promotion was from Old Navy, one of their door busters. The deal was to be at their doors before opening and you'd get a numbered bracelet. When you spend $20 and present your bracelet, you'd get 4 free movie tickets. I got bracelet #18 and I spent $1 and got my 4 free movie tickets!
A few days earlier I received a $20 gift certificate for just using my Old Navy Visa 4 times before December 31st. Well, DearDaughter1 needed a winter coat for next winter and they were on sale at Old Navy for 50% off. The original price of the coat was $42 and on sale for $21. Since I had my $20 gift certificate with me, the total cost of the coat was $1! I felt really good with this deal because I spent $1 on Old Navy while they gave me $100 worth of merchandise (4 movie tickets and a coat).
For the past couple years, I've noticed that stores have clearance sales in January. They need to get rid of last year's items to prepare for all their new items. I wasn't quite sure when clearance sales occur, but it seems that Christmas stuff go on clearance immediately after Christmas and last about a week. Last year, I purchased all my Christmas cards for about 90% off. It was great because I got an awesome card that declared our Saviour's birth and there was a lot leftover. I am assuming that the "religious" cards don't get sold as quickly as other generic and politically correct cards. So, I was bummed that I missed out on the Christmas clearance this year because we were in California and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about Christmas cards this year.
Anyway, stores really get desperate for selling off last years' items by mid- to late January and that's when you can see items on sale for 30%-50% off their ALREADY marked down clearance items.
I especially like driving past The Children's Place and Old Navy because they usually have a huge sign on their window declaring these good deals. If the sign is up, I make the stop with the girls, if not, I just keep on driving. That way I don't get tempted to buy anything less than bargain prices.
I did more stocking up for the girls at The Children's Place and Old Navy and my total cost was an average of 75%-77% off the original prices. Many of the clothes I purchased were between $1-$3.
I also made up a maternity care package for my friend who is pregnant for the first time by purchasing her maternity clothes from Old Navy. My total cost was 85% off the original prices...and you know how expensive maternity clothes are!!!
Lastly, I did my birthday and Christmas shopping for the girls' friends at Old Navy for 2009. My total cost was also an average of 75%-77% off the original prices.
Target does clearance sales too, but so far, I've only seen mark downs from the original prices, which range between 30%-75% off. I bought a brand new plush Boppy for our little one for 50% off. I also bought a brand new crib sheet set for 30% off. I bought a few more other items, like birthday and Christmas toys for the girls, on sale and in total, I got about a 44% savings. I was just ok with these buys as my normal rule of thumb is to try to get items at 50% off or more.
Borders Books had a 75% clearance sale also and I purchased 3 classics for just $5. These books are not gifts, just ones I wanted to add to our collection, as I am planning to home school.
Speaking of books, http://www.christianbook.com/, has a mid-week special every week, between Tuesdays and Thursdays. A select number of books are marked down, up to 90%+ off original prices. These select books are changed each week. I bought my local friends' Christmas present 2 weeks ago from this deal!
One last observation...Wal-Mart has disappointing clearance sales, except for Christmas cards. I think because Wal-Mart already sells their items at such a low price and they don't have much to put on clearance, I've found that their clearance selection is low and clearance prices higher than other stores. So, if you do need to buy an item that is off season and not on sale, then Wal-Mart is probably the best store to go to for a good and low original prices, but not a very good place to go for clearance items.
Yeah, it seems like I've already spent a lot of money and it's only January, but I think these expenditures are great investments. It beats last minute shopping for gifts and spending orginal prices when I know I could have gotten a good deal on them. Again, I try to stay practical with gifts, sticking to clothes, toys, and books for children and good and encouraging Christian books for adults, maybe a Christian music CD. With these items I know they will be used.
Anyway, deals are out there...Just keep your eyes open and be willing to do a little foot work and a little investing.
(Note...I still need to figure out a convenient way for me to be a miserly mom with food.)