Get the Most from December's Discounts

In the last two weeks of December, as the savvy shopper knows, opportunities to save money by planning ahead are abundant. Once you get into the rhythm of the retail sales cycles, you will be able to budget accordingly, making the most of these opportunities to save.

Almost everybody knows that the few days after Christmas are the best time to buy seasonal cards, wrapping paper and decorations to store for next year. For those of us who are both frugal and organized, the week or two right after Christmas is also the perfect time to shop for next year's gifts. You'll be able to get higher quality for a great deal less money, due to the sales and your enviable planning, budgeting and organizing skills. But, those types of items are not the only things that can be bought in preparation for the year to come.

In the last couple of weeks of December and often, depending on the retail schedules of the department stores in your area, the first weeks of January, most retailers offer deep discounts geared both towards getting shoppers back into the stores after the holiday season and towards getting rid of the winter goods to make room for the spring stock.

The smart shopper, then, is able to save a significant amount of money by buying winter coats in sizes appropriate for the coming year, as growing children always need new ones each winter. Stock up on those frequently lost articles such as gloves, mittens and hats. Winter boots and heavy socks are good stock up items, as are winter pajamas and warm sweaters. If in doubt, err on the side of caution-buy the bigger size. They'll grow into it. A couple extra pair of socks will help the fit of a pair of boots that are just a tad large.

Look for sales on flannel sheets and the heavy, winter comforters that make the cold nights warm and restful and allow us to save money by keeping the heat set low. As winter retail stock starts to be pushed out to make room for that of spring, you may find such household items as heavy winter drapes that will help keep drafts under control and rooms warmer at bargain prices.

For the do-it-yourselfer and accomplished seamstress, the fabric store will also offer wonderful bargains during this time period. The heavy, warm winter fabrics will also often be deeply discounted to make room for the soon to come spring arrivals. For the gifted planner and crafter, there will be plenty of inexpensive, cotton remnants of good quality and holiday prints with which to create next year's gift quilts and other projects. For those of us who are less talented, the fabric store still is worthy of a visit, as here we will find, at a good discount, the big buttons and other sewing notions that will give this year's coat the little bit of boost and pizzazz that will carry it through another winter season.

Don't forget to think about winter clean-up. If your snow shovels are showing their age, pick up a couple for next year. Stock up on rock salt while the stores are trying to get rid of it. For the car, you may want to consider tucking away some of the windshield cleaner made especially for the cold winter months, as well as ice scrapers and lock de-icer. Weather stripping and other winterizing products can also be bought and stored for next year's cold season.

The grocery store is also a place for special savings during this time period. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, whole turkeys are at their lowest price. For those of us with big freezers or a separate chest-type freezer, purchasing a couple turkeys beyond our holiday needs and storing them in the freezer can offer food budget savings. Aside from the usual way of preparing them, they can also provide school lunch sandwiches, casseroles, warming soups and stews for cold days and nights.

Baking supplies are also popular sale items during the holiday season, and often specialty baking items-cookie cutters, holiday-shaped pans, gift tins, and the like-go on sale right after the holidays. Condiments and the little table extras, such as olives and pickles, also tend to be less expensive during the holiday season. It's a good time to stock up on such nonperishable items.

So much of successful frugality has to do with planning, organizational skills and discipline. However, it is certainly worth the effort to live well and spend less.

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