Pop quiz: What's the best day of the year to buy holiday wrapping paper, ribbons and fancy ornaments? As any savvy shopper will tell you, December 26th generates a virtual stampede to purchase these items at 50 to 75 per cent off. Did you also know that buying a swimming costume when the temperatures turn chilly or gardening supplies before anything in your backyard even blooms can save you hundreds--even thousands--of dollars? With a little simple planning, you can use the calendar to put yourself where the bargains are.
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Things you need
- A calendar
- A household budget
- A calculator
- A newspaper subscription
Make a list of items you buy on a regular basis (e.g., linens, clothing, school supplies, home maintenance products, seasonal/party decorations).
Make a list of big-ticket or wishlist items that you buy every few years (e.g., tires) or that you've simply always wanted to have in your home (e.g., a piano).
Review your current household budget. How much do you typically spend on the items you identified in Step #1? How much will it cost for you to buy the items you listed in Step #2? The strategy of being able to afford major purchases (without going into instalment payment debt) is to figure out how much money you can save each year by shopping seasonal sales and applying that difference in savings toward the more expensive items you need or want.
Prioritise the items on your lists. For instance, if your children outgrow their clothes fairly fast, they can't start a new school year wearing trousers, shirts and shoes that no longer fit. Thus, their clothes are going to be a higher shopping priority than replacing year-old bed linens. On your second list, items like tires and car parts are a high priority because your safety on the road depends on them. Do you have major appliances that are nearing the end of their lifespan? A refrigerator that's about to die is going to take precedence over your quest for an antique carousel horse for your living room.
Mark your calendar with the following entries: January/May: White Sales February/August: Furniture March/September: Garden supplies/patio furniture/sporting goods June: Large appliances August/September: Cars and back-to-school items October: Dinnerware December: Toys
Take note of major holidays so that you can schedule a shopping trip 1 to 3 days after each one. Stores need to offload all of their Valentine's decorations, Easter baskets, Halloween costumes, boxed Christmas cards, etc. so that they'll have room for new merchandise.
Study newspaper ads and cut out announcements of upcoming sales. If you're in the market for a new camera, for example, electronics stores are especially competitive in their pricing during early February. This is the slowest month of the year for most retailers and anything they weren't able to sell during the preceding Christmas holiday, they want to be able to get rid of before new models come out. Late spring is also a good time to check out their ads because they know prospective purchasers are already starting to plan their summer vacations and will need new cameras to capture the fun.
Research manufacturers by reviewing consumer reports prior to buying major appliances or expensive electronics. Take particular note of their warranty information and whether they have a reputable service record when it comes to repair and maintenance work.
Call the customer service departments of stores that carry items you're thinking about purchasing. Ask them when they anticipate these items might go on sale. A lot of people typically don't do this because they think it's supposed to be a deep, dark secret. The secret, though, is that the stores not only want to make a sale but also keep you happy as a customer. If giving you an inside tip is what's going to win your loyalty, they won't mind sharing this information.
Shop for seasonal clothes just as their respective seasons are winding down. The end of winter, for example, is a great time to go try on wool sweaters, heavy outerwear and boots. Be sensitive, too, about the spirit of competition that drives prices down when everyone is offering the same must-have merchandise. School supplies and school clothing are huge in this area.
Offer to negotiate for a lower price. If you have your eye on an item you want that hasn't moved off the showroom floor in over six months, there's a good chance the store will let it go for less than its advertised cost. Don't be shy about asking.
Tips and warnings
- Always inspect reduced merchandise before you buy it to make sure it isn't broken or stained.
- Mattresses and box springs have a lifespan of about 7 years. Although you should always replace both of these at the same time, mattress discounters often hold mix-and-match sales at bargain prices. Because the mattress is going to be covered up with sheets and the box springs will be concealed by a dust ruffle and a bedspread, no one will know that they don't match each other.
- If you like to give calendars as holiday gifts (and especially if you're mailing them), buy them the first two weeks of January when the price will be less. Your recipients will assume it was the fault of the post office for delivering them late during the chaos of the holidays.
- Just because there's a huge markdown on an item you don't really need doesn't mean you're saving lots of money if you go ahead and buy it. If you're not going to use it, leave it at the store and put that money toward a smarter purchase.
- If you're buying discounted Halloween costumes and planning to put them aside until the following year, always buy a size larger so that it will still fit your growing child.
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