After each holiday season, it’s pretty easy for me to write an article about how much you can save by taking advantage of huge markdowns on items related to that holiday. After a holiday passes, most department stores and grocery stores mark down items related to that holiday to get rid of that inventory, and a smart consumer can take advantage of that.
Of course, I can write more or less the same article after each holiday because the overall strategy is the same. The only thing that changes are the items you’re seeking and what you might do with them.
So, rather than write one of those typical post-holiday articles where I highlight the things you can do in the aftermath of that specific holiday, I’m instead writing a general article that focuses on one overall strategy: When a holiday passes, take advantage of the markdowns on specific holiday-related food and merchandise and save it for next year or utilize it over the coming months.
It’s an incredibly effective strategy. If you hit the store in the two or three days right after a holiday and look specifically for seasonal items, you’ll often find them on steep discount, and bargain hunters will clear the aisles like locusts at that point, buying them by the cartload. Of course, that’s probably not the wisest move for a truly cost-conscious person who doesn’t want to waste money, but it’s often worthwhile to buy a few items on discount to use out of season or to stow away for the next year.
To illustrate this, I’m going to go through some of the most common strategies I’ve used over the years to do just this. There are several holidays throughout the year where you can save quite a bit of money by going shopping a few days after the holiday, and here’s how to really take advantage of each one.
This romantic holiday typically finds two items on deep discount afterwards, both of which can be snagged for very different reasons.
Greeting cards can be bought and put aside for a future year if you’re the type that exchanges cards on Valentines Day. Since the sentiment remains the same, it’s not too hard to buy a card that’s 50% to 75% off on February 17th or so and put it aside until next February 14th.
In fact, this is a good strategy to help you establish a pattern of having a “card box,” something I picked up from my great grandmother. She had a small box of greeting cards for a wide variety of purchases and would stock it with new ones when they were on sale. Then, whenever she needed one, she’d just turn to that box and there would always be one available for her purposes.
Chocolates aren’t going to last for a year, but they can often be used throughout the year for other purposes. A bag of Hershey’s Kisses or Dove Promises or even bars of chocolate can be used for all kinds of baking purposes, and chocolates, of course, can be a nice occasional treat.
For many families, Easter is a celebration of coloring eggs, hiding them, searching for them, and enjoying a bit of candy. Naturally, that means some items are carried heavily in stores just before Easter and go on deep, deep discount right after Easter. Two such items really stand out from the pack.
Candy, particularly seasonally-targeted candy like cream eggs and marshmallow candies, goes on deep discount right after Easter as the items need to be cleared out. Most of these candies can be bought and easily stowed away until next Easter, as they last for a long time in a cool, dark place. Stow them away with some Easter baskets until the next year.
Easter egg dye kits are also incredibly cheap right after Easter, as much as 90% off in the few days right after Easter before they disappear from shelves. Again, buy the kits right after Easter and put them aside until the following Easter. You’ll spend pennies instead of dollars, and the dye tablets in the kits will work just fine.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
This one’s simple. There’s really only one thing that goes on sale after these two days.
Greeting cards are the most common item sold to celebrate these days, and naturally you can take advantage of this. The absolute best time to buy a Mother’s Day card is two or three days after Mother’s Day. The absolute best time to buy a Father’s Day card is two or three days after Father’s Day. You’ll often find those cards on deep discount for a few days right after the holiday, and then they’re gone. Take those freshly bought cards and hold onto them until next year. The sentiment remains, but the price is far less.
Back to School
While this isn’t strictly a holiday per se, many stores effectively treat it as such, putting out a bunch of items related to the back to school season in August and then aiming to clear it off of their shelves in early September.
Office supplies are the big winner here, as most office supplies can be found on sale during September. I often pick up pens, composition books, and index cards during the winding down of back to school sales. My wife tends to buy piles of composition books for her classroom, along with other school supplies.
Backpacks are also often on sale in mid-September, as stores often accumulate a big stock of them in August and early September and then need to get rid of that stock for the rest of the year. While you usually can’t find a great backpack, it’s not too hard to find a sub-$10 backpack for specific purposes, like having a bag for the car in the winter that contains some spare clothes and a first aid kit, or having a bag for your gym gear.
Shoes are often on sale at the end of the back to school period, even adult pairs. Many stores often put all of their shoes on sale during that time, so it’s an opportunity to buy a pair for yourself and to buy a pair in a larger size for your children as they grow into them.
Halloween offers a wide variety of items that wind up on deep discount in early November as they’re being pulled off the shelves to make way for Thanksgiving and Christmas goodies.
Costume makeup can be had for pennies on the dollar at this time of the year, so if you often use costume makeup for your own costume or for your children, this is a great opportunity to pick up a variety of colors and types at a very cheap price. My daughter has used Halloween makeup bought in this way in the past for her costume the past two years, and we used it for a sports themed dress-up day as well.
Costumes are often on discount, too, so if you have a young child who will be going out for beggar’s night next year or if you want to buy costume elements for yourself for next year’s Halloween, this is a great chance to do that on discount. Just be sure to put it in a place where you’ll easily find it next year.
Candy, particularly large bags of many small pieces of candy, is super cheap right after Halloween, though this often vanishes by two or three days after Halloween as it’s very popular with bargain hunters. You can always buy it to stow away for next year’s beggar’s night, or you can simply enjoy it yourself by tossing a piece or two into your lunches that you take to work or as a quick snack around the house.
Pumpkins are often harvested by the ton during October so that they can be used as jack-o-lanterns, but after October passes, there’s usually still a supply but almost no demand, so the prices drop through the floor. They do make a good decoration (uncarved) for the harvest season, if you can find inexpensive pumpkins that are good for cooking, you can make some amazing pumpkin-flavored dishes for a very low price.
Thanksgiving is a very food-centric holiday, with particular food items heavily associated with the celebration. These items, unsurprisingly, find themselves on heavy discount shortly after Thanksgiving weekend is over (and sometimes even before the weekend is over). This is a great time to stock up on some specific foodstuffs, particularly if you have space in the cupboard or freezer.
Turkeys are typically on discount after Thanksgiving, but they’re also often on discount before Thanksgiving as well, as many stores use turkeys as loss leaders to get people into the store before Thanksgiving, so while you can get cheap turkeys after Thanksgiving, they’re sometimes even cheaper beforehand.
Buying a few turkeys to freeze or to use for other recipes can be a wise idea. Simply cooking a turkey, cutting up the meat, and saving it for things like turkey tetrazzini or turkey pot pie can make for some very inexpensive meals later in the winter. You can also use the carcass to make turkey stock, which makes almost every soup and many casseroles more flavorful; just put a turkey carcass into a slow cooker, add some peppercorn and vegetable scraps, fill it with water so that all of the turkey carcass is covered, and cook it all day or all night. Strain it and save the liquid. The liquid is turkey stock, and it’s amazing.
Cranberry sauce is often found on extreme discount a few days after Thanksgiving. It can be served with lots of meals to add a tart and sweet element and it can be used as an ingredient in many different dishes. There are tons and tons of recipes out there that use leftover cranberry sauce as an ingredient, particularly desserts. It’s a great way to come up with some very tasty desserts to bring to December holiday potlucks, for example.
Pie filling, particularly pumpkin pie filling, is usually on deep discount right after Thanksgiving. While it’s useful for making pies, of course, there are a lot of uses for pie filling, from things like pumpkin pie cookies to making pumpkin flavored smoothies (yep, just puree the filling with some milk and whatever else you’d like to add).
The days immediately after Christmas are a great time to stock up on winter holiday supplies, even if you celebrate Hanukkah or other holidays near the end of the calendar year.
Wrapping paper and ribbons are almost always on discount, and while many of the paper patterns are directly tied to Christmas, others are very secular (depicting winter patterns or simple colors). You can often find enormous rolls of plain paper on deep discount and it’s easy to just put those rolls away with the holiday decorations so that they’re ready to go when you pull out your holiday decorations next November or December.
Scotch tape is often on discount because it’s a hot item in the days leading up to Christmas and other winter gift-giving events. Many stores sell three packs at a very steep discount, often far less than buying a single roll at other times of the year. Again, buy a three pack of tape and toss two of the rolls in with your holiday decorations so they’re ready to go next winter.
Holiday lights tend to also be on steep discount during the week after Christmas and often into the first week of the new year. Stores simply want to purge them off their shelves, so if you’ve noticed that your lights aren’t twinkling any more or you have some failed strands, pick them up just after the holidays are over and stow them away for next year.
Gift sets are prepackaged sets of items meant to be given as gifts as a complete package. Often, gift sets are just a bit below regular price for the individual items, so it’s not really a bargain. However, just after the holidays, gift sets go on massive markdown to get them out of the store. You can buy them for your own use or, even better, buy them as gifts for future gift-giving events as long as they’re not obviously marked for Christmas use.
Toys also often go on sale right after the holidays, as many retailers drastically inflate their toy selection for the holidays and then put lots of things on clearance as they reduce their toy inventory. This is a great way to pick up toys and games that your children might enjoy or, even better, buy items to stow away for birthdays throughout the year.
The point of this article is simple: right as a holiday passes, think about what items from that holiday might be on sale because the stores need to unload them, and then stock up on those items if it makes sense for you. For us, things like school supplies and tape get bought when the prices are super low right after the associated special occasions.
Remember, you don’t have to use these items immediately. Most food items can be frozen. Other food items are shelf-safe, which means they’ll fit right in your pantry. Non-food items often have uses throughout the year, and those that don’t can be stowed away until next year. Just make sure you put those items in a place where you’ll easily find them. One good way to remind yourself that you have a holiday item stowed away somewhere is to add a calendar reminder for yourself about eleven months from now, reminding yourself of what you stowed away and where. That way, when that time of the year comes around again, you’re reminded of what you have and where you stowed it away.
If you plan it right, you can save a ton of money on holiday-related supplies and even repurpose some of those holiday supplies for other purposes in your life at a very low price.