Finance: Shoppers resolve to find January savings
When a store clerk tells me I can "save X amount of money" if I purchase a third item instead of the two he just scanned -- a classic way to up-sell -- I chuckle inside.
As shoppers, we often fall into the mindset that we save money by purchasing items on sale when, really, we're just spending. I think, "How have I saved money? I came here for goods that I wanted -- not necessities -- and now I have less in my purse than I did this morning."
With that purchase, I saved $5. But I spent $20 that I didn't need to.
Necessity aside -- sometimes savings on purchases does ring true. A rule of thumb: if you can live without purchasing a product at any given time of year, hold off until January.
If you're still in the Christmas spirit, for example, and in the market for seasonal items, you will save money by purchasing it now rather than next fall.
Artificial Christmas trees are on sale at a major Marshall retail store, many of them featuring discounts of more than $34. The same company online shows pre-lit trees with some discounts near $150. One 7 ˝-foot-tall tree with dual lights is on sale for 60 percent off plus free shipping.
Alternative Christmas and winter décor is also on sale, from ornaments to wreaths, to yard and tabletop decorations. If you're looking to decorate next season, study your budget -- and storage space. You may want to take advantage of stores ready to clear their floors for spring and summer merchandise.
Other products can also be found with big sale tags attached. Savvy shoppers see January as the best time to hit the stores and websites. While shoppers experience "Black Friday" sales in November, they usually find January white sales to be just as cost cutting, if not more so.
According to PBS, John Wanamaker -- who is said to have pioneered the concept of the department store -- created the first "White Sale" nearly 140 years ago.
"To keep turnover high and prices low, he created February 'Opportunity Sales,' July 'Midsummer Sales' and in January 1878 the first "White Sale,'" the PBS "Who Made America?" article reads. At that time, linens were only available in white.
Now, it's more than linens and pillows that are marketed at lower prices, including appliances, lighting and even jewelry. Fitness gear is also marked down by many retailers this time of year, when health and weight loss are popular New Year's resolutions.
Another rule of thumb: if you received a gift card for Christmas or a birthday, it's no longer seen as an impersonal present. Someone loves you, so use it.
According to wallethub.com, consumers spent approximately $124 billion on gift cards in 2014. It projected $140 billion in gift card sales for 2016 -- a whopping $57 billion more than sales 10 years prior.
Sitting around on a gift card can lead to two things: forgetting about it and missing out on low prices, or forgetting and slowly losing the value attached to it. Make sure to read the fine print that came with the card to see if it expires or loses value after a certain length of time.
January is not only a time of new beginnings, it's a month shoppers can actively pursue savings on those products they've had their eyes on. If you've been holding off on making purchases, this is a great time to see what's out there. Plan accordingly, you might actually be able to save while you spend; and the lucky shoppers who can restrain from over-purchasing will come home with thicker pocketbooks.