Couponing 101 – When to Shop for the Best Deals
Anyone who has even casually met me knows within a very short time that I am the go to person when you are looking for a deal. The other day a friend messaged me and asked me where to find the best deal on some of her kids’ favorite brand of flavored water. So I explained sale cycles to her and told her the best time of year to stockpile sports drinks. That conversation led me to our latest installment of Couponing 101. When is the best time to find the deals?
January is a great time to stock up on holiday items like decorations, gift wrap, trees, candles and a multitude of other holiday items. You want to be patient and not make your purchases the day after the holiday when you might score something for 50% off. Hold out until January when the discounts will be 75%-90% off the original price. Also be on the lookout for everyday items like facial tissues or dish detergent in holiday packaging. Often these items will be included in the holiday markdowns too!
Keep an eye out for “White Sales”. You’ll score great prices on bedding, towels, dishes and other household items that traditionally make great holiday gifts. As much as the stores sell, they usually have an abundance left over and that means great deals for us in January.
Right after the holidays you will also see great markdowns on winter clothes and winter accessories. It’s a great time to buy coats, sweaters, hats, scarves and all sorts of other great winter items. The spring clothing hits the stores shortly after the beginning of the year and the stores need to make room.
Body care items like lotions, body wash, and soap will start to be marked down in drugstores like CVS. The secret to clearance shopping in the drugstores is to watch for 25% off and then go searching for coupons to be prepared for 75% off. So, although I mention Body care clearance in January, this is not the time to buy. It is the time to start looking for it for the sole purpose of coupon seeking .
Have you ever made a resolution to get healthy in the New Year? If you did, you’re not alone. Retailers know that too so January is a great month to find all sorts of healthy or health related items deeply discounted. You’ll be sure to find vitamins, healthy food items, and exercise equipment on sale this month.
The winter clothing clearance continues in February. Kohl’s is a treasure chest for clearance especially when you can combine the clearance price with an additional % of discount. Be sure to go to Kohl’s website to sign up for email and text coupons. I get at least one or two texts/emails each week offering additional discounts throughout the store.
February 14th is Valentine’s Day. For couponers, the real holiday is February 15th when the markdowns begin. Just like the other holiday markdowns, you need to be patient. Chocolate is delicious at any price, however I think it’s even more delicious at 75%-90% off than it is at 50% off. Valentine’s Day markdowns usually progress swiftly so you want to keep an eye on your stores.
Now is a good time to check your big box retailers like Target and Walmart for markdowns on baby products. The new models will be coming in soon and the stores need to make room.
March is a very exciting month. March is Frozen Food Month and the deals are bountiful! Planning is vital for the sales you will see this month so when you see a hot coupon for frozen foods get as many as you can. You’re sure to find a great sale to match up with it. Many retailers will be offering freezer deals in March to ensure you have the room to store all your scores.
March is also a good month for Outlet Store Shopping. Stores like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger as well as Gap, Aeropostle, and Crate and Barrel.
Easter usually falls in the month of April (although this year it’s March 27th) so we can look forward to lots of holiday clearance. In addition to all the yummy candy and other basket fare be sure to check for markdowns on Easter Apparel at your favorite clothing store. The Nursery is another hot stop on your Easter markdown tour. Look for deeply discounted prices on Easter Lilies, Tulips, and Dafodils.
April 15th is Tax Day. Many local business offer Tax Day freebies and discounts to take the sting out of filing your taxes. Google “Tax Day Freebies” to find the deals in your area. You can expect offers for things like FREE coffee and discount offers at local restaurants.
Earth Day is April 22nd. Many retailers offer FREE reusable shopping bags and other earth friendly freebies on that day. Don’t forget to take a break from all your deal seeking to do your thing for our Earth. If you’re looking to help out check in with your town hall for volunteer opportunities. It’s not always all about the deal. It’s also about leaving the world a better place than we found it.
April is last call for winter apparel clearance. Anything left at this point is going to be 70%, 80%, or even 90% off!
May is when we start preparing for all of our summer barbecues. You can expect to stock up on free mustard, ketchup, salad dressing, marinades, bbq sauce and all sorts of other condiments. You will also find summer staples like hotdogs, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks and soda free or deeply discounted. Pay special attention to the Summer holidays for soda sales. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day are when I buy my soda for the entire year. This is when you will find the rock bottom prices. Be on the lookout for coupons for all theses items and collect as many as you can to stock up for the year.
Cinco de Mayo is May 5th. It’s a great time to find deals on taco shells, salsa, refried beans and other Mexian favorites. Prices are low enough when you combine a sale with coupons to stock up and enjoy your favorite Mexian treats until next Cinco de Mayo.
Spring apparel season is extremely short so be on the lookout for the best markdowns by the end of the month. Stores are anxious to get their summer apparel out well in advance of the season.
Are you in the market for some landscaping? By the time June and July come around most people have already taken care of their landscaping. Nurseries will have fruit trees, maples and other ornamental trees deeply discounted. Due to the hot weather that typically accompanies June and July you want to make sure you can plant the trees pretty quickly. Give them a good soaking when you get home and then get them in the ground.
Even though Frozen Food Month was back in March, you can expect to find summer staples like Popsicles and other frozen treats on sale at rock bottom prices in June and July. Keep an eye out for coupons and combine them with sales for your best discounts.
After the Fourth of July you will find markdowns on summer apparel as well as outdoor items like patio furniture, grills and other outdoor accessories.
In August you will find back to school sales. Staples famously offers back to school items for as low as a penny! Yep, I said a penny. You usually have to make a small purchase ($5) to take advantage of the penny sale for all your back to school staples. As Kathy Spencer points out in her book, How to Shop for Free, the workaround is to find an item with an easy rebate. Even though you’re spending $5 or so upfront, you’ll be getting it back in the form of a rebate.
If your local stores still have summer items in stock you can pick up grills, pool chemicals and other outdoor items for up to 90% off. Purchase it now and put it away for next season.
Fall hasn’t even officially started but once school starts the fall apparel will be marked down. After all, retailers need to make room for their winter apparel.
Free and nearly free office supplies continue into September. You can find great deals at your local office supply store on paper (a must for coupon printing!), pens and post-it’s.
October is the month to find great sales on soup, canned vegetables and other canned items. A couple years ago I picked up 294 cans of vegetables at Shaws for nearly nothing when combining a sale and coupon. That doesn’t include the soup, tomato paste and other canned goodies.
It’s also a great month to find deep discounts on that dorm size bedding and dorm room staples that the stores only carry for back to school. It’s a good time to pick up a second set of bedding for your college student or an even better idea is pick it up now for your high school senior to use next year. You can score some great deals because the stores don’t have a place for these items as part of their regular selection.
November is the month that we couponers and deal seekers live for. Our Holy Grail, our Supebowl – known to most as Black Friday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is such an important day that it can take weeks to formulate your plan and prepare for the day. Keep an eye out at HowtoShopforFree.net for Black Friday ad leaks. If you’re new to this you may be wondering what an ad leak is? An ad leak is simply a sneak peek of the ad. In past years, retailers have been very secretive with their Black Friday ads in order to add to the mystique of the day. This is the day for unbelievable discounts on items on your holiday list. Electronics are always a hot item on Black Friday. Not to be outdone by Black Friday is Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving and is the “Online Black Friday”. Many retailers who offer online ordering start their Cyber Sales as early as Thanksgiving so make sure you are following HowToShopforFree.net. We’ll let you know about all the best online deals and when they start.
Don’t forget about the drug stores for Black Friday Deals. CVS usually has a Black Friday-like sale the week before Thanksgiving as well. If you plan it out, you can fill your stockings for FREE between Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens.
December is kind of a free for all. Hopefully you’ve been able to build up a pretty good grocery stockpile because December is the month to focus on your big box and specialty stores. There will be very little time for groceries. Retailers are competing for your dollars so you are going to see sales that may even rival Black Friday. It’s been reported that 25% of a store’s annual sales occur in the month of December. Consumers have a fixed amount of money to spend and retailers will be competing hard for those dollars.
I’ve mentioned that groceries will be on the back burner for the month. The only notable exception will be baking items. This is a great month (actually starting around Thanksgiving) to stock up on anything baking related. With so many people baking holiday treats you’re sure to find some great deals.
Wow. That’s a lot of deals to keep track of. Pretty soon this will all be second nature to you. You’ll start to learn the sale cycles and the clearance cycles for your favorite stores. Shop in a store often enough and the employees will seek you out to tell you about the deals. Trust me on that one .
I hope you’ve enjoyed the latest installment of Couponing 101 brought to you by How to Shop for Free.