From home decorations to costumes, post-holiday sales offer great bargains. For that reason, I prefer to buy costumes and masks in November, Thanksgiving dinner table decorations in December and holiday presents in January.
It's a shopping strategy I learned from my grandmother, who stocked up on Halloween candy long after the last trick-or-treaters had gone home. Post-holiday discounts are compelling. Typically, holiday-themed merchandise is sold at half price days after the holiday, with markdowns falling to 70 percent to 95 percent of the full retail price within two to three weeks after a holiday.
Last November, for instance, we purchased an angel costume for my daughter -- complete with gold wings and a halo -- for about $5 from Target, down from the full price of about $20. She wore the ensemble for a costume party in March. Halloween sales also provide a great opportunity to stock up on orange dessert plates, black napkins and candy, which can be used at parties throughout the year. Likewise, scary merchandise -- skulls, witches and ghost -- can be purchased and saved to create a spooky atmosphere at backyard summer carnivals and birthday parties.
Discounted cloth napkins, centerpieces and holiday-themed serving dishes can be stored for coming years. Every year, for example, my parents set the table with Thanksgiving accessories saved from year to year. What's more, some holiday merchandise -- without symbols or other holiday markings -- can be used year-round. I have post-holiday place mats and cloth napkins in seasonal colors that brighten my table in the summer and spring.
My family, however, has made some post-holiday shopping errors. Based on those mistakes, I offer these tips:
• Show restraint. Mesmerized by a 95 percent off post-Halloween sale, last year we purchased a Star Wars Yoda costume for our dog. He hated the getup.
• Watch the calendar. As time passes, sale merchandise gets really picked over. It's a balance between getting the best price and purchasing merchandise you really need.
• Look for expiration dates. One year, my grandmother purchased Halloween candy that was filled with worms. The candy was returned.
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