20-Plus Tips to Make the Most of Post-Holiday Clearance Sales

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There will be crowds. But if you can handle the hubbub, you’ll score some great prices on stuff you use every day.

The day after Christmas is a great time to shop, and not just for half-price wrapping paper. Savvy shoppers will be picking up items to use all year long: paper products, candles, non-holiday décor, storage containers, even sheets. This is also a good opportunity to score great deals for your evergreen gift closet

Many of these items are holiday-themed, but so what? Ziploc bags with a snowflake pattern work just as well as the plain ones, and they’ll be cheaper; add a manufacturer’s coupon, and you get to feel insufferably smug. Besides, some “holiday” items can be repurposed in clever ways (more on that below).

There will be crowds, because 1) some people are returning gifts, and 2) a lot of others are looking for the same deals you are. But if you can handle the hubbub, you’ll score some great prices. The discounts get deeper as we approach the new year, but the best selection will be in the first couple of days after Christmas.

Before you look at a single clearance ad, though, take a minute to determine:

  • What you want. Something for you? Items for the gift closet? Stuff for upcoming special occasions? Don’t just fill a cart because everything looks so cheap.
  • What you actually need. I’m still using up discounted gift wrap and tags that I bought several years ago. No matter how cheap paper gets on Dec. 26, I’m not buying any. Inventory your own supplies of paper, décor, candles or whatever and shop accordingly.
  • What you can spend. Once again, it’s not a bargain if you can’t afford it. If you think you might get carried away, leave the plastic at home and pay cash. On the other hand, any gift cards you got for Christmas will go considerably further when everything’s marked down by 50 percent to 75 percent.

Stocking up on presents

If you don’t have a gift closet, this is a swell time to start one. Retailers stock up on gift-y items for the holidays, so you’ll find plenty of candles, slippers, scarves, gloves, journals and picture frames.

Small appliances are heavily promoted during the holidays and swiftly discounted afterward. A woman I know bought several small microwave ovens for $15 each as graduation gifts for young relatives. Rice cookers, toasters, blenders and the like also make good wedding or housewarming gifts. (Remember: A gift registry is just a suggestion.)

Specialty food baskets will be up for grabs, too. While I wouldn’t use these for Christmas 2015, a gourmet food collection is a nice gift for a January birthday or, maybe, for Valentine’s Day.

Or maybe keep some of those things for yourself. If you’re a foodie, those barbecue rubs, fancy spices and gourmet chocolate could find a place in your own kitchen.

About those January birthdays: A calendar is useful but also quite ornamental, and given the huge variety of subjects, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to the recipient’s taste. You’ll get them at half price, and maybe up to 75 percent off if you wait a week or so.

As for Valentine’s Day, maybe your sweetheart would love a silver frame with a nice photo of the two of you. If you’re a teddy-bear-and-candy kind of gifter, buy a half-off stuffed animal and several bags of half-price Hershey’s Kisses. Pick out enough red-foil candies to fill a pretty jar, or bake a batch of those peanut butter cookies with chocolates on top.

Incidentally, chocolate freezes quite well. Buy a bunch of it at half price and use it for more baking and/or bag lunches.

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