1. Create a List
At the start of each year ( or do it now if you don't have one ), I put together a spreadsheet and keep it in my purse. What do I include on this list?
I have the name of every person I think I will need a gift for during the year and the occasion. So, I put my husband, kids, the grandparents, aunts/uncles, all the kids friend's ( they go to lots of birthday parties ), friends getting married, having babies, etc, etc.
I think of every occasion that I can and add it for each person that I would need a gift for on that day. Examples? Birthdays, Christmas, Baptisms, Baby Showers, Weddings, Anniversaries, Easter, Valentines ( kids need cards to trade at school, etc )Thank you gifts ( coaches, teachers, etc ).
Next, I put the value of the gift I would want. For example, if I plan to spend $30 for each kid's birthday party we get invited to during the year, then that is the value I add.
Now, I know what I need. And, this list keeps me from overspending when I find a great sale. I whip out my handy piece of paper, and if I can't match the sale item with a person and an occasion, it doesn't get purchased.
Want to see an example of my spreadsheet? Click here It is very basic, but does the job.
2. Try to stick to 75% off or more
Why? It is a goal.
If this goal isn't reasonable to you, then make it something to can attain. From my experience, though, it is easy to get great gifts at 75% off or more on a regular basis. When I have a goal lower than that ( 90%, for example ), I don't get enough gifts to fulfill my list and have to end up buying full price.
This is not to say that I don't buy when something is 90% off..of course, I do. But, I do tend to pass up 50% off sales unless the occasion is right around the corner and I need the gift immediately. I know that sometime during the year I will find something for 75% or more off, so why buy at only 50%?
3. Shop a store regularly
What is the best way to get those great clearanced deals? You need to shop regularly.
Of course, I look for clearanced items everywhere I ever happen to be when shopping. BUT, to get the best deals, I shop my favorite stores regularly.
If I have time, I try to run in each week very quickly. Why? When things go down that low, they don't tend to stay on the shelves long. So, the key is to get them not long after they get reduced.
In addition, if you shop the store often, you know where they put their clearanced items. For my favorite stores ( Target, but also JcPenney and Kohl's ), I can run into the store and walk right to their clearanced racks. If I am just searching, I can be in and out of the store within 10 to 15 minutes.
Sometimes I only walk out with one item, but if I hit a great sale I can walk out with a cart full ( or more ).
4. Utilize Coupons, Customer Newsletters & Discounted Gift Cards
I couldn't pass up this suggestion, right? Love my coupons.
For me, I have a portable filer that I have alphabetized. Every time I get any coupon for a store ( or restaurant, for that matter ) from the paper, in the mail or via the internet, I immediately file it away.
This portable file is then in the trunk of my car at all times. That way, if I ever go to a store and find a sale or clearanced item, I check to see if I have a coupon to add to the savings.
What is one of the best way to get coupons? Sign up for ALL and every store newsletter you can find. I even sign up for stores I don't shop at regularly. Why? They may have a gift for someone else, even if I don't personally shop there. Here is a great newsletter with JcPenney. I get $10 off $10 coupons from them periodically throughout the year.
My other suggestion? Set up a separate email address strictly for newsletters. Mine is dealsforcarrie at yahoo.com. This way, I can log in and check all coupons quickly and it doesn't interfere with my personal email account.
My favorite types of coupons? $10 of $10 or more ( or $20 off $20, $5 off $5, etc ) When these come out, it is a great time to pick up something for free or almost free. If you go to the store, try to find something marked down to just over that price and walk out paying next to nothing!
Next, when you shop, use discounted gift cards for an even larger savings? How do you get them? Go to Plastic Jungle to check out their database. If you have a store you shop at a lot ( like Target for me ) then stock up on some. You can trade or bid on the cards you need and get them for less. What does this mean? You could buy a $25 gift card for potentially $20, for example. Now, use that to shop with coupons and clearanced items and WOW!
5. Keep your Receipts
This is a very important way to save. Many times what you buy will get marked down even more right after you buy it.
I can't even name all the times I went back into a store and something was marked down ever MORE!
The key to getting that money back is your receipt. So, I have an envelope for each month of the year, also in my car. I only keep the current month plus 3 months back ( as most stores don't let you return anything after that ).
I first take it to the register for a cash adjustment. IF they won't allow me to do a price adjustment, I buy the product at the new lower price ( make sure the SKUs match ) and then wheel over to customer service and return it with my original receipt to get the higher price back.
Since I know I have my receipts in the car by month, it is easy for me to go back and pull my receipt out.
How have I done so far this year? I have saved over $4,000! In fact, I have begun my sale shopping for the next year, too and began a list for 2010.
What was my latest victory? Last week I went to Kohl's with my $20 off $20 coupon and hit their 80 to 90% off sale. I got over $100 worth of merchandise for $2.44.
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