Updated on 12.26.09

Your After-Christmas Shopping Checklist

Trent Hamm

A few days after Christmas, Sarah and I will usually head out to the store to stock up on post-Christmas sales. It’s often easy to find many items at bargain-basement prices in the days after Christmas – items which can easily be saved until next year.

We usually make a list of things to look for (as we do virtually every time we go shopping). I thought it might be worthwhile to share that list with you, to help you if you’re out and about the next few days and looking to shave some dollars off of next year’s Christmas budget (and maybe even net a few dollars right now).

Christmas lights If you need to replace some lights – or even just intend to hang more lights outdoors, as we do next year – now is the time to pick up Christmas lights, as many department stores deeply discount such lights. Even better, many energy companies will offer you a rebate for buying LED Christmas lights, so save your receipts and check with your energy company.

Wrapping paper and supplies Wrapping paper is an obvious thing that many people look for at after Christmas sales, but you can often find many other supplies on deep discount as well, such as gift wrapping tape and ribbon.

Cards We usually make our own Christmas cards (so if we see blank cards, we might pick them up), but for many people, Christmas cards can be a spectacular bargain right now as many stores are offloading them.

Non-perishable gift baskets Unsold gift baskets often go at a tremendous discount and if you can find ones that are non-perishable (like bath supplies and such), they can easily be stored for a year and given the following December. Many people often exchange such gift baskets with professional acquaintances and such, so this can be a tremendous savings. If you know you’ll be giving gift baskets of this kind for Christmas 2010, get them now and save yourself some cash.

Electronics – but only if you’re patient The Consumer Electronics Show takes place early each January. During that show, electronics companies unveil their product lines for the coming year and usually eliminate some product lines to replace them. Quite often, retailers know what lines are going to be cut and start trimming the prices on those lines to clear space for the new lines to be unveiled at CES. Thus, late December through January are great times to pick up home electronics.

Of course, you have to be careful with this type of sale. For starters, do not be afraid of the word “clearance” or other such words. Almost always, there’s nothing at all wrong with the model – it’s just being replaced by a different model in the coming year – one HDTV being replaced with a very similar HDTV with a higher price, for example. Also, different stores tend to handle such clearances differently, so you may want to simply shop around for a while to look for what you need. Don’t lock yourself into a particular brand or model – keep your eyes open. Write down clearance models, then research them at home.

Exercise equipment These items are usually on sale due to the upcoming New Year (and related New Year’s resolutions), but there are often spectacular bargains on basic exercise equipment in the week between Christmas and New Years.

The absolute most important thing to remember when considering sales is to focus only on stuff you actually need or have a direct use for. Buying things you don’t really want merely because they’re on sale is a sure way to put yourself in a worse financial position. If you’re intending to replace a flaky television, for example, now is the time to do it – but if you’re thinking of dumping thousands into upgrading your television by 4″, consider other uses for your money.

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  1. Peggy says:

    We buy wrapping paper, but not Christmas-themed. We get as plain as possible and use it all year for birthdays, anniversaries and such.

  2. Stacey says:

    Ditto to Peggy. I bought plain gold wrapping paper ($1 for 90 square feet!) and white curling ribbon for birthdays and year-round gifts. It beats running to the Dollar Store to by 15 square feet of wrapping paper that I hate!

  3. Evangeline says:

    Besides holiday items, it is an excellent time to stock up on household and organizing items. Paper goods, cleaners, clear storage boxes, air fresheners, you name it, it’s all on sale. Throw in some coupons, add in one of those $10 free with purchase store cards and top it off with the Christmas gift card you received and you can stock up quite nicely.

  4. Julie says:

    I’d also add that mid-to-late January is when most of the clothing stores get their new lines in for the summer, so the winter lines are super-cheap, often 70-90% off. If you need clothes, wait two or three weeks and then go shopping. The deals are amazing!

  5. Maureen says:

    Glad to see you’re stocking up on Christmas wrapping paper. :)

  6. KC says:

    storage and organizing things are also on sale this time of year – plastic storage bins and tubs, shelving and closet organizers are in all the sale ads

  7. Sara says:

    I’m in the market for a big-screen tv, and it looks like there are some good deals out there now, but I’ve also heard that it would be better to wait until after the Super Bowl.

  8. Dale says:

    Everyone in our family gets an ornament every year. We scored big this year because we bought our ornaments last year, on valentines day in a quaint little village of shops where everything was really expensive, except for the xmas ornaments.

  9. Griffin says:

    Clothes, coats and other winter gear are super cheap at the end of December. I’ve gotten winter shirts for $2.50 each from Sears before — less than 10% of the original price. We otherwise would not have bought them, but we really needed winter gear so we bought ten of them and didn’t bother buying similar shirts for $20/each.

    If you are a size that is hard to find in your area, you can be surprised at what you will find in after-christmas sales. The caveat is that it’s a better deal if you will use them next year.

    My roommate and her daughter have a tradition of buying very nice ornaments the day after Christmas, when they are 75% off at Hallmark. Their tree is gorgeous and they spend very little per year. They also get nice decorations in the off-season and just save them in plastic storage containers. They use this tactic with Halloween as well. =)

  10. Lenore says:

    Thought of a few other things that routinely go on sale starting around New Year’s Eve:

    1. Holiday-themed food, especially candy.
    2. Hats, gloves, scarves and earmuffs.
    3. Toys and games for all ages.
    4. Sleepwear and slippers.
    5. Cologne gift sets.
    6. Jewelry boxes and vanity accessories.
    7. Grooming tools and small electronics.
    8. Coats and sweaters.
    9. Watches and jewelry.
    10. Blankets and throws.

    Pretty much anything wintry or gifty may be overstocked and needing to go. Try asking a manager if items are going to be marked down again soon. You might walk out with something at next week’s price.

  11. deRuiter says:

    Please don’t buy exercise equipment new from a “new things” store! Exercise equipment is an item which is generally bought in a flush of enthusiasm, used a few weeks, and then ends up quickly being used only as a place to hang clothing as it comes from the dryer. Exercise equipment is EXPENSIVE even on sale. Use Craigslist, curbside shop (adopted a fabulous treadmill that way and the home owner helped me load it in the truck!), yard sales, tag sales, estate sales. You can pick up exercise equipment for pennies on the dollar, and generally it has barely been touched by human hands.

  12. kev says:

    A couple years back I bought my wife a whole pile of Hallowe’en stuff (we love hallowe’en stuff) for pennies on November 1st. Put it in the Christmas stocking. It was a heck of a lot better than filling it out with chocolate or cheap junk. It made her laugh, she uses the stuff every year, and there was less chocolate and junky flotsam kicking around the house that year.

  13. kay says:

    Last year I bought napkins and paper towels that had xmas trees on them for 90% off. This year I saw xmas themed foil but it was only 50% off so far. I think the Halloween stuff for xmas is a great idea maybe even for white elephant gifts for work.

  14. j says:

    In the spirit of getting things that are needed, resupplying bed linens and bath towels has to be done periodically and the post-Christmas sales can be a good time. This year, my son will be moving up from his crib to a regular twin bed in a couple months, but he hasn’t mastered bladder control yet. I scanned the ads and got waterproof mattress pads for 60% off.

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