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Clearance shopping is a fantastic way to save money on the things you need, but if you’re not careful, you can spend more money than you think. These tips for shopping clearance sales are just what you need to help you make sure that never happens!
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love clearance shopping. It’s one of my favorite ways to save money hands down; especially when I am grocery shopping for meat. If done right, clearance shopping can help you buy what you need for as much as 90% off regular prices.
However, clearance sales are not always the greatest deal and in some cases can actually cost you more money than you save. Trust me. I know from experience. But knowing the difference and how to tell which deals are best is what will keep you saving money over and over again.
What kind of clearance sales can you really save money on?
The two most common kinds of clearance shopping you will likely do are finding markdowns on food and clearance clothing. Both have their own set of challenges to make sure you’re actually saving money instead of wasting it.
Since they do have their own set of “rules,” I’ve included them both below for you.
Clearance Shopping Tips for Food
Shop Food Clearance Sales at the Right Time
Clearance sales are almost always put out at specific times of the day and in some cases specific days of the week. Knowing when these markdowns are put on the shelves will help you to find the absolute best deals possible.
If you shop at a different time of day, the items left may be slim pickings and you may miss items you really need.
Check for Quality When Buying Clearance Foods
Clearance food; especially meats and other refrigerated products, can be of far lesser quality. In fact, if you’re not careful, you may accidentally get something that is already spoiled.
When shopping for clearance meat sales, make sure the color is good and that there are no brown spots. If there are, the meat has gotten to a point where it is almost bad and will need to be used almost immediately.
Yes, you can freeze those meats but often they will spoil anyway when you’re thawing it in the fridge so it’s best not to buy them.
For pantry items, make sure that the product is still within date and that – if the package has been opened – that the food itself is still fully sealed. Do not trust product that has had the inner packaging opened and re-sealed again.
Check Expiration Dates on Clearance Foods
Again, for meat and dairy products especially, you’ll want to check that they are within their expiration dates. Sure, they can often be used past those dates, but you do not want to buy them outside of their sell by date.
Also, keep in mind that there is a difference between a sell by date and an expiration date. Knowing the difference in those dates will help as well.
Will You Really Use It Before It Expires and Do You Really Need It?
Because clearance deals do often expire quicker than regularly priced items, you’ll want to determine whether you will really be able to use it or not before it spoils. This is especially important for produce and meat sales.
If you can’t use it, it’s best to leave it for someone who can. After all, why would you waste money (Six Dollar Family) on something you won’t be able to use?
Is It Really a Good Deal?
Some stores have a habit of marking things on clearance that are really regular priced items with a clearance sticker. Others will mark down but only within a few cents.
Be sure that the clearance shopping you’re doing is actually clearance shopping. If you run into a situation where an item is only a few cents more at it’s regular price, it is almost always better to buy the fresher product. It will last longer giving you less of a chance to have waste.
Can You Stack Your Clearance Shopping with Coupons and Rebates?
Just because an item is a clearance deal, doesn’t mean you can’t use coupons and rebates on it. In fact, I highly encourage you too if possible.
For coupons, printable coupons such as what are HERE are a great way to add a few extra cents or dollars of savings.
For rebates, check out Ibotta if you haven’t already. The rebates that Ibotta gives can add more than $20 a month back to your budget at times including on things such as milk and other “regular” groceries items. You can check out Ibotta HERE.
Clearance Shopping Tips for Clothing
Clearance shopping for clothes is a lot like clearance shopping for food but the questions you should ask yourself are a bit different.
Check for Quality Before Buying Clearance Clothing
As with clearance food, buying clearance clothes should be checked for quality too. Are there any rips or tears? Are buttons or snaps missing? Are they stained? If so, pass on them.
There is zero reason to purchase something you’ll just have to repair anyhow.
Is It Really On Sale?
Again, make sure that whatever clothing you’re buying on clearance is actually on sale. I can think of one big retailer that has a habit of marking clothing and other items donw that are really regular price.
Never pay for these and instead, just buy new or buy what you need elsewhere.
Will it Fit Now or In the Future?
When you’re buying clothes on clearance, make absolutely sure that it will fit. If not, why buy it?
The only exception to this is if you’re buying kids clothes on clearance. In this case, it’s safe to buy one or two sizes up provided the item(s) meet the other criteria.
Is It Out of Season?
This one is specifically for when you’re buying kids clothes on clearance and I”ve already touched on it a bit.
If the item is out of season, you will need to make sure you purchase at least one size up. If you purchase the size they are currently wearing, the chances of them still fitting your child whenthe right season rolls around are slim.
Is It Out of Style?
Styles change from year to year and while you can generally get away with wearing something years after the fact with jeans, tees and a few other styles, you won’t want to wear something from ten years ago if it’s not holding up.
This is especially true for your kids.
Make sure that what you’re buying is either in style or is a style that will stand the test of time.
Use coupons whenever possible
Clothing has coupons and a lot of the time you can stack them just like grocery coupons. Watch for these coupon codes and in store coupons.
With clothing coupons, you’ll want to make sure to read the fine print especially well. Some will exclude clearance items.