Tips for After-Christmas Shopping

Bargain hunters looking for deeply discounted Christmas items and gift recipients eager to exchange their loot for something that better fits their bodies or personalities make the day after Christmas a busy one for retailers.

With 364 shopping days until Christmas, those who work best under pressure might not have enough motivation to start shopping again on December 26, and those who overdid the holidays this year might not have enough energy, but many frugal shoppers will enjoy the after-Christmas savings if they are smart about how they shop. Next year, those smart shoppers will be able to relax and enjoy the season while others are scrambling to find the perfect gift at a much higher price and fretting about paying the bills.

If you decide to brave the stores on December 26, skip the returns line. It will be huge. It’s better to save the returns for another day and use your time to find bargains instead. This rule does have a few exceptions. For example, if you want to exchange something for a different size/style and expect the stock might run out, take it back as soon as you can. In addition, if you need to return something to a store where you rarely shop, you might want to return your gifts right away so that you can use any store credit immediately. If you do decide to wait to exchange gifts, be sure to check the store’s policy on holiday returns so that you don’t miss the deadline.

When you see the crowds and the sale signs, remember that discounted merchandise sells more quickly, but don’t feel pressured to buy something just because it might not be there when you return. If it’s something you would consider buying at full price, by all means, snatch it up, but if you’re wavering in your decision to purchase, leave it on the shelf. If you still want it a few hours later, come back. If it’s there, you’ve found a deal; if it’s gone, you’ve saved some money.

Be sure that you have a specific purpose for everything you buy. When shopping for gifts, have particular people in mind to receive them, even if it’s “the next friend to get married” or “my daughter’s teacher next year.” An item bought simply because it’s something nice at a good price that you could give as a gift often winds up languishing forgotten in a drawer until it’s obsolete or hopelessly out of fashion.

When buying for children, remember that they will age a year before next Christmas. Children’s interests and abilities change rapidly, especially when they are young. Think ahead to the age the children on your list will be next year and consider what skills or interests they will most likely have at that age. (Maybe you’ll also have to think back to what you enjoyed at that age.) Growing up doesn’t mean that a child’s personality changes completely from year to year, however; if a child has a basic interest in one field, such as art or science or sports, look for something in that field that’s a bit more advanced than what he likes this year. For example, if your nephew is doing 64-piece puzzles this year, consider 100-piece puzzles for next year. When in doubt, aim for something too old for the child rather than something he might have outgrown.

Write down where you store any gifts you buy. Next December’s calendar page is a great place to record the storage place. If you have to keep the hiding spot secret from snooping children, write it in a code only you will understand. Few things are more frustrating than knowing you have gifts stashed somewhere but not remembering where, and you’ll wind up wasting money instead of saving if you have to go out and buy something else.

After-Christmas sales can be a great time to load up on bargains – and not just on Christmas items. Here’s how to make the most of those sales:

You may discover that Christmas shopping is a real joy when you get it out of the way during after-Christmas sales. In the future, you may even find yourself trying to convince your family to hold off celebrating for a few days so that you can buy the gifts on December 26 and give them on December 27. That way, you can save money on gifts and not even have to find a place to store them!

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