Saturday, January 7, 2012

Clearance Sales = Bargains Galore

Welcome to 2012! It's a bright New Year filled with promise and—so far—mild weather. Here in the sunny South, we've normally had a winter storm by now (freezing rain more often than snow, but snow fell THREE magical times last year), but other than a few days of low temps, this winter has felt more like early spring. But you didn't come for a weather report, did you! So let's talk about Christmas clearance sales.

I went out last week to take stock of the after-Christmas bargains and found that most items were being offered at half off the normal retail price. I prefer to get my Christmas clearance at 75% off unless I really love an item and fear that the store will sell out before they can reduce the price to more than half off. This is the week that I typically start checking for those 75% off sales. A few stores are anxious to get rid of their holiday items. (Walmart is clearing things out quickly at 75% off. Michaels Crafts has stuff for 70% off. Walgreens holiday candy is 75% off, but non-edible holiday items are still just half off. Big Lots and Dollar General are still at 50% off. I assume Target and Kmart have big clearance sales as well, but I haven't made my way there yet.)

NOTE ADDED 1/9/12: Hobby Lobby is also clearing their holiday items out for 90% off! Not a lot left, but I got a $50 tree skirt for $5!

At Walmart I picked up an iridescent bow tree topper and a couple of gift boxes for CDs, sure I'll continue my tradition of gifting music to my daughter. At Walgreens I got a few holiday candies for us to enjoy this month. (What I didn't think about at the time was that I could get a bag of red and green candies and separate the reds from the greens and be all set for Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day!)

Brenda's Picks for Best Buys:

Artificial Christmas Trees: I bought my last one at an after-Christmas sale, knowing that I needed to replace a battered old tree. You won't get the most popular model this way, but you'll still get a good tree at a decent price.

Christmas Cards: there is no reason to ever pay full price for cards. You can always find a good selection left after Christmas, and your chances of picking up several boxes at 75% off are excellent if you wait. This is how I am able to get embossed, foiled, glittered cards for dirt cheap!

Party supplies: disposable holiday plates and napkins don't take up much storage space and are a great deal at 75% off. Plus, this forces you to start planning to host a gathering in advance, making it more likely that you do it! ;-)

Gift Wrap, Bows, Ribbons, Gift Tags: if you come across a great sale, you can stock up. I haven't bought wrapping paper for at least three years, and I still have plenty. I re-use bows and have more than enough ribbon for future gifts and craft projects.

Nice to Haves:

Fancy tree skirts: honestly, I would never pay $20 for a skirt that goes under a tree and gets covered with gift boxes, but for $5, you bet I'll snatch one up and admire it under my tree! And, I've discovered that the $20 skirts are well-made and outlast the cheap ones, making them a really good value.

Fancy garland: I love to wrap my trees with expensive-looking, shiny, thick garland! And it holds up well over the years. I've also been known to drape it around doorways and mantlepieces. But I would never pay full price for it.

Good ornaments: for many years I shopped the clearance sales at Hallmark for special ornaments for myself and my children. We have the complete series of a number of ornaments, making them very special. Now I shop in discount stores for boxes of ornaments that coordinate with the special ornaments I already have.

Fancy stockings: Cheap Christmas stockings don't last long; they can lose their shape, get fuzzy and picked, and the loops can also tear. You are better off, if you choose to use stockings in your holiday traditions, to get the more expensive, sturdier kind on clearance. They are so pretty and will last year after year.

Santa hats: again, not a necessity, but fun to have for pictures, and the pricier ones stay nice longer than the cheap felt ones. Just think, a good $10 hat at 75% off is only $2.50, and many are less than that. Think about getting one for each member of your family and stage your holiday photo well before December wearing them-- you'll be able to include the photo in your Christmas cards!

Don't forget to shop your thrift stores. They are trying to get rid of Christmas items too! It's exciting to find what you want at a fraction of the cost. I found the items pictured below while browsing in my local thrift store. I have a special fondness for old-fashioned Christmas items. And the metal trays tickle my fancy in a way colorful plastic ones can't and will come in handy for that party I plan to throw next December. I got these for fifty cents each. Then I found two complete sets of greeting cards! I love winter cardinal scenes, and that card has some gold foil around the birdhouse entrance. I love Christmas trees too, and those cards are embossed and also feature gold foil and iridescent glitter! I paid a bit above 12% for the bird cards and 10% of the original cost for the tree cards. Both boxes smelled of moth balls, but after sitting out for a few days, the aroma has lightened up considerably. Actually, the aroma made them more appealing. Who had them? How many years were they stored away? Why weren't they used? The mystery is as enticing to me as the artwork!

Before I go, I just want to remind you that a bargain is not a bargain if you don't have the cash for it. Sometimes you just have to stay home and ignore the sales.

So, what's the best deal you've found in holiday clearance?