If you’re a true-blue bargain hunter, you have a deep love for seasonal clearance. We are the ones who wait until after a holiday to go shopping for decorations, wrapping paper, candy, gifts and more. “Cheapskates” believe you should never pay full price, which makes stocking up on seasonal clearance one of the best tips for saving money.
It doesn’t matter the holiday (Valentine’s Day, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas), you’ll always find lots of seasonal clearance the day after the holiday. That’s the time to stock up for next year. And the longer you can wait, the better the savings.
Typically, seasonal clearance starts at 50% off and slowly works its way to 90% off — depending on the store. The clearance schedule varies widely by store with some starting at 75% off just to get their shelves cleared quickly.)
This is where it’s a bit of a gamble for bargain hunters because the longer you wait for a better discount, the lesser the selection of merchandise. If you’re a die-hard cheapskate, you’ll check with the store every morning (or every other day) following a holiday to find out the current percentage off.
The key is to get there early, when the clearance hits the sweet spot, which, for most bargain hunters, is 75% off. The window period for clearance is usually about 7 to 10 days after a holiday. After that, it’s usually all gone. (Did you know Target clearance that doesn’t sell often ends up on the shelves at the Goodwill?)
When the clearance hits the right percentage off for your budget, that’s the time to get into high gear. Selection varies widely by location. Therefore, you may want to make a quick run to every location in your area of town for the best chance of getting everything you want.
Can you imagine getting $100 worth of holiday merchandise for $25 or, even better, if you can wait for 90% off, for only $10? It is possible, you just need to be diligent and a little patient. I find the best deals at Target, Walgreens and Walmart. However, don’t forget to check the grocery store aisles for discounts, too.
Before you jump into the world of seasonal clearance, you have to be somewhat organized. It’s important to know what you already have “in stock” at home, so you’re not overspending. Plus, you’ll need to have a little storage space to keep your items clean and undamaged before they’re ready to be used for the following year.
My best piece of advice is to look for seasonal merchandise that’s “transitional” — meaning the items can work for other holidays, occasions or celebrations. For example, Easter’s pastel-colored and spring-themed merchandise makes the perfect backdrop for a Mother’s Day brunch or gathering. Or use some of the red Christmas merchandise for Valentine’s Day. The trick is to be creative and think outside the box!
Here are the seasonal items I stock up on and why:
December 26 (or after) is the best time to search for a new Christmas tree, if your old one needs to be replaced. (Or if you’ve never had one!) Clearance Christmas trees usually sell really fast, so you don’t want to wait too long to snag one. You can find just about every size and shape, as well as ones that already have lights on them.
Most Christmas trees start at 50% off because stores want to get rid of the bulky items to make room for the next seasonal merchandise. If you wait too for bigger savings, you likely won’t find much on the shelves.
If you look closely, not all wrapping paper has tiny Christmas trees, penguins or snowmen on it. I always look for wrapping paper that’s a solid color or has no-holiday related design (just festive or colorful) because it can be used for other gifts year-round.
Tip: Lots of kids-themed holiday wrapping paper is just covered in princesses or superheroes — perfect for birthdays! And, even if there are tiny snowflakes in the background, will the kids even notice?
Bows, Ribbons & Gift Bags
Many of these items can easily work for other occasions, especially gift bags — just look for solid colors or even plain bags that you can decorate however you want. All of the shiny, colorful bows and ribbons work perfectly to top of any present throughout the year.
Plus, the discounted ribbon is great for craft projects or decorating for a party. Because most people aren’t thinking long-term, you can usually find these items at 90% off, if you wait. I often get many of these items for under 50¢.
Candy seems to be central to every holiday. And that’s why there’s always tons of holiday-themed candy on clearance, especially after Easter, Halloween and Christmas. This is where it pays to read expiration dates and think how you could “repackage” some of those sweet treats.
Many hard candies have expiration dates more than a year out, which makes them perfect for the following year’s holiday. (I once found Hammond’s candy canes for 10¢ at King Soopers that didn’t expire for nearly two years — regularly $2!)
For chocolates, you can use them for your candy dish at work or home. Let’s be honest, people don’t care if they’re eating a peanut butter egg in July, they just want something sweet, right?
Clearance candy is perfect for other dessert or cookie recipes. Who is going to know that little bits of chocolate bats are in their Christmas cookies?
Another trick is all of the red and green candy (including M&Ms!) at Christmastime. You could easily separate the colors for a batch of red Valentine’s Day and green St. Patrick’s Day candies for your candy dish or desserts. The key is to look for other ways the candy can be used.
With Valentine’s Day just a few months away, clearance Christmas candy can prove to be a huge savings. Many of those boxed chocolates are simply wrapped in seasonal paper or with a bow.
Most boxed chocolates are shrink-wrapped underneath all of the holiday packaging. Simply remove the holiday paper or bow and, voilà!, you have a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day! I have regularly found fancy Godiva chocolates in department stores at 75% off. It’s considered “Christmas” simply because of a red bow and holly, but the decorations are easily removed.
Most importantly, you definitely don’t want to give expired chocolates or candy. Therefore, always look for an expiration date and be sure to store it properly (cool and dry) at home.
January is the time to check stores for toy clearance because there’s always lots and lots (and lots) of inventory. This is the time to buy birthday presents for your little ones, as well as for all of those birthday parties they’re bound to get invited to throughout the year. If you’re a true planner, you might even start prepping for next Christmas.
Christmas time is when stores bring in lots of seasonal gifts — shaving kits, beauty/manicure sets, desk top toys, games and more. Again, this is the time to stock up on gifts for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, etc.
You can often find gifts for under $5. Bargain hunters always like to have a stash of “cheap” gifts on hand for thank-you or congratulations gifts, dinner party host gifts or unexpected birthday invites.
If you have a gift closet, you’ll never show up “empty-handed” and the recipient will never know that you paid next to nothing. It’s the thought that counts, right?
This category is tricky because most individual greeting cards are pulled by the distributor at grocery and specialty stores. The secret here is that they often hold onto them and bring them back out of inventory for sale the following year. (Note: On occasion, I have found individual holiday cards marked down at Target.)
Now, for boxed holiday cards, the story is different. You can usually find most of those marked down, alongside all of the other holiday merchandise. Find a style/design you like and stock up. Just remember where you stored them.
How do you use seasonal clearance throughout the year? What’s the best deal you’ve found in the seasonal clearance aisle?
Yours in Cheapness – BKC
Barnes & Noble bookstore: 50% Off ALL Hardcovers in Store (Valid on hardcover books in stock, in store only until 12/27. May not be combined with any other offer, coupon or standard member discount.) from email early this morning–I don’t think I’ve seen such an offer before. See also bn.com
You are simply THE BEST Bryan. Thanks for making me feel “smart” not cheap!! Hope you had a blessed Christmas. :).