Plan to take advantage of after-Christmas sales

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Sure, Black Friday deals were good, but what about the next enticing round of sales? You know, the ones that start the day after Christmas, when a new round of price-cutting starts as stores try to unload excess holiday inventory and make room for spring items.

The big question: Is it really worth heading to the mall, especially when you have probably already stretched your December budget to the breaking point? How do you get the most for your money with returns and exchanges? Here is a guide to help you through the hectic time that we call after Christmas.

The first rule is simple. Read the newspaper. There are coupons inside, and stores put a lot of effort into sales circulars for their after-Christmas sales. Retailers want early business; they are hoping to snatch all your dollars before you run out or burn out on shopping, and just like Black Friday, there are discounts for early birds.

I will usually receive multiple coupons in the mail for an extra 25 percent off all sale/clearance items from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Many stores will have most of their winter items on a sale or clearance rack, so this may be worth going during that time frame. Once you read the sales papers and see what is available, make a list. You guys know by now that I am a huge fan of organization and making a list. Going into your after-Christmas shopping prepared with your list, you will be less likely to over spend. Most of us have hit our limit by then anyways, but we may have gift cards that we want to see just how far we can stretch them.

My top thing that I shop for after Christmas is wrapping paper and Christmas decorations that will be on sale. Most stores will put their leftover Christmas items for at least half off right out the gate. If you wait a few days longer, you take the risk of your beloved stuffed Santa being bought out from under you, or you may end up taking him home for up to 75 percent off the original price.

Winter wear is another great thing to look for during after-Christmas sales. Heavy coats, sweaters, jackets, gloves and scarfs are more than likely going to be priced below normal in order to get them moved before the new year. Stores have Valentine’s Day to think about now so the more room they can make the better.

Now there are also items that I do not go out looking for after Christmas. Remember right after Christmas most of us are getting ready for our New Year’s Eve party. Not everything is going to be on sale after Christmas. Things like party dresses, some men’s wear and fashion jewelry may be marked up in hopes that everyone will need something new for the big night. Be careful in making purchases during this time. Some of these items may be on “sale” but it could be a trick so that they blend in with the other big sale items. You don’t want to spend more than you originally planned.

Christmas is such a busy time of year for everyone. I know this year has been especially busy for us between shopping, Christmas lights, Christmas plays, you name it, we have done it this year, but it pays to think ahead for next year.

Remember those gift cards were a gift, so stretch them as far as you can to get the most bang for someone else’s buck. Plan ahead, go out and buy those boxes and wrapping paper this year so you are not fighting the crowd next year.

Happy savings. Chelsey Edens will offer her coupon class on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce, 200 Nash St. Call 252-265-7850 to register.