The best bargains can often be found after Christmas. If you didn't get what you wanted from your holiday wish list, it's likely that you'll find it for less during year-end and clearance sales. Also, many couples have started a tradition to wait until after the holidays to exchange gifts because it's more affordable. There are tons of gifts that are returned post-holiday and a lot of new inventory that needs to be stocked.
While many frugal shoppers pick up clearanced items such as wrapping paper, cards and bows, there's plenty of additional merchandise that is discounted from the end of December and throughout January. It's the perfect time to spend any gift cards you received, too.
Here are a few items to look for.
Baking and pantry supplies: Some ingredients and supplies will be holiday themed but can still be used throughout the year. Stock up on items such as hot cocoa, flavored coffee, cookie sprinkles, candies and chocolates, cup cake liners, silicone pans, cookie cutters, freezer bags, cheese and sausage and mixed nuts sets, etc. Don't overlook sales on staples such as flour and sugar and holiday-themed boxed cake, brownie or bread mixes, too.
Gift sets: These sets are perfect to stash in your gift closet for special occasions in the upcoming year. They hit rock-bottom prices after Christmas. They're great for post-holiday guests who visit, too. Many of the gift sets contain items such as bath soaps, lotions, perfumes or cosmetics, and at such low prices, you can indulge a little bit and treat yourself.
Clothing and accessories: Look for discounts on winter apparel, such as hats, mittens, leather gloves, pajamas, slippers, robes, coats, boots, sweaters and jewelry, purses, bags, socks and hair accessories, etc. Department stores often have sales on undergarments, too.
Craft and decorations: Look for discounted artificial trees, calendars, candles, wreaths, garland, lights, craft supplies, holiday-themed sheets, comforters, towels, rugs, etc. Plus, kids are home from school on Christmas vacation, so it's not too late to do holiday-themed crafts and activities, such as making ornaments or doing scrapbooking or holiday-themed puzzles.
Appliances and electronics: There will be plenty of low-priced small appliances left, and some are returned and put back on shelves. Major appliances and electronics are often discounted in the New Year to make room for new models. Computers, cameras, cell phones and televisions are lower priced, too.
Dishes, cookware and glassware: Many seasonal dishes and glasses aren't available only in red or green. You can find neutral and jewel tones, too. If you want a new cookie jar or serving platter, get it after Christmas. Find deals on cookware and kitchen gadgets, too.
Linens: White sales are in January, so you'll be able to find non-holiday-related merchandise such as sheets, bedding, place mats, pillows, curtains and towels.
Furniture and flooring: January and before tax time are the golden times to buy furniture (home and office), carpeting and other flooring material. Retailers have a slow period and are updating inventory.
Bikes and toys: You'll find outdoor bikes and stationary bikes (along with some additional home fitness equipment) on sale in January, and plenty of bargains on toys and books after Christmas.
Most anything: Lastly, don't forget to check thrift stores. There are a lot of donations made in December and January.
• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or firstname.lastname@example.org.