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Shopping wisely at holiday sales

By Paula Pant ·
Monday, November 25, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

Holiday price breaks don't end on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That day simply marks the kickoff to a month of steep sales.

The four to five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a bargain hunter's paradise, as stores showcase popular items at large discounts. But beware: Stores aren't discounting items as an act of generosity. Instead, retailers offer deals to encourage customers to spend more.

If you're a bargain hunter, you might be in danger of buying more than you otherwise would, thanks to the lure and temptation of holiday sales.

Here are a few tips to help you resist this urge and remain frugal.

Shop with a list

Lists aren't just for grocery shopping. They're helpful for everything, from picking up toiletries at Target to buying clothes, toys and books for your family.

Before you leave home, write a specific list of items you intend to buy when you're out and about. When you reach the store, purchase only the items on your list, regardless of whatever else you see in the aisles.

You might be tempted to buy something else. You'll justify the purchase by telling yourself that you simply "forgot" to write that item on your list. Don't give in to this temptation.

If you feel compelled to buy something, return home and write the name of the item on your next list, and wait at least two days before you return to the store.

Yes, this is inconvenient. That's the point.

Use price-comparison apps

Let your technology act as a frugal co-shopper by helping you find the best deal. If you have a smartphone, download a free price-comparison app.

My favorite is a free barcode-scanning app that pulls up a list of both physical stores and online stores that carry the same product. It also shows the price of that product at each merchant.

Wait until after the holidays

Holiday sales are great, but post-holiday sales are better. You may discover even steeper bargains if you wait until after the holidays to do your shopping.

In particular, you can find massive discounts on Christmas-branded items, such as wrapping paper, cookie-scented candles and snack foods in holiday packaging. Save the nonperishables for next year, but consume the food right away.

Paula Pant is a journalist-turned-blogger who helps people shatter limits, ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything


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