Thrifty Tips

Clearance: Friend or Foe?
Fall 2014: Clearance: Friend or Foe?
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Who doesn’t love a good deal? Let’s be honest here. There are very few people who can pass up an awesome price, particularly on the things they need. Here’s the catch: Can you separate what you need and what you don’t when you’re blinded by the awesomeness of a great deal?

The hypnotizing glow that comes from the aisle of many deals can lead you down the path of no return. Walking down the aisle, it’s easy to slip into the mindset of “Oh! This is a good deal… oh, and so is this… and this…” and $20 later, you’ve busted the bank in the aisle that is supposed to save you money.

To avoid being swindled by the ever-sneaky clearance section, follow these tips to save big while keeping your wits about you.

  • Know your merchandise prices. Before you make any decisions about what you’re picking up off of that clearance table or shelf, do you know how much that item actually retails for?
  • Once you know how much the item retails for, how much is it actually marked down? Many stores only mark down items a dollar or less. You have to ask yourself: Am I really getting a good deal here, or am I just blinded by the wonderful red sticker?
  • The key to success in any clearance situation is knowing the difference between need and want. It’s easy to go crazy buying discounted merchandise and then justifying later “because it was on sale.” The easiest way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to ask yourself, “Do I need this item?” before you add it to your cart.
  • Have a spending limit established. If you’re planning to go bargain shopping, whether it’s for Christmas, a birthday or you’re just stocking up, establish what your maximum spending limit is before you leave the house. If you know you have trouble sticking to your budget, hit the ATM first and get out the cash you’re allowed to spend and stick to it. If you know you’ll forfeit the cash and dig your card out when that irresistible buy rears its money-hungry head, take your card back home.
  • Take coupons with you to the clearance section for even better deals. At retail grocery stores, you can get some awesome deals using manufacturer coupons on marked down items. Most coupons that you find in the Sunday paper don’t have a restriction on clearance items. The same deal applies at clothing stores, too—just be sure to read the fine print on the coupon. Many clothing and retail stores will let you use certain store coupons on clearance items for an even better deal.
  • Inspect your items thoroughly before you purchase them. Check the items for any rips, tears, dents, discolorations, etc. before you add them to your cart. Many clearance items are final sale and cannot be returned once you buy them, so it’s best to look over them well before you leave the store.
  • If you’re purchasing food on a clearance shelf, be sure to check the expiration dates. Many grocery stores will put items close to their date or items from damaged boxes on the clearance shelves. Make sure you can use the item before it goes bad.

A jaunt through the clearance section at any store can be a lot of fun and save a family a lot of money. Just remember: Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Be smart, and keep saving!

Cris Swaters
About author:

Cris Swaters is the communications coordinator at White River Valley Electric Co-op and a lover of extreme couponing, frugal living, social media and healthy home cooking. Get more tips and healthy eating recipes from Cris at

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