Christmas should be a time of great joy, but in modern times, it's come to be a time of unparalleled expenses. If you're looking to be frugal during the holidays, here are some of the best times and places to buy Christmas gifts for your relatives and friends.
Garage sales, yard sales, and flea markets are perfect places to get gifts. The only problem with these vendors is that you never know what you'll be getting -- you can't exactly predict what merchandise each sale or stand will have. However, being able to barter for the presents you buy is a unique experience. Just make sure you can stand putting the gifts away; some people can't stand the suspense, and want to hand over the present right away. They have to last until Christmas!
Speaking of the holidays, right after Christmas is a great time to buy presents, because stores are overstocked with merchandise they couldn't sell for the most recent Christmas and put it on pretty great sales. (This is also a good time to get decorations for next year!) Check out department stores the week and especially weekend right after December 25th.
Dollar stores offer some inexpensive items that, while potentially cheap in construction, are very inexpensive to buy. Often, you still exchange gifts with old friends only because of the sentimental idea behind it -- so if you get them something small that pertains to an inside joke you share, it will probably be sufficient.
Looking for a garage sale option that's later in the year? Try your local thrift stores, which are similar to garage sales in: they have second-hand materials, all selling for prices far below retail value. Though you can't haggle at thrift stores, everything is neatly organized into permanent categories, so you can go in knowing what you're looking for.
Purchasing clothing for presents? Go to department stores during seasonal switches. The best times are between winter and spring and summer and fall, when the new summer and winter lines come out, respectively. Stores making way for the new merchandise will put lots of the older items on deep discount, so just hunt down the discount racks for some amazing deals. (Buy yourself clothes while you're at it -- this is a great time to do so!)
Many other holidays throughout the year make retail stores put on sales, just to draw more crowds. Although you may not get all the items you're looking for on sale, plan your shopping according to the "theme" of the sales. For example, Father's Day sales usually have items like tools, electronics, and men's clothing on sale, so shop for the men in your life this time of year.
Online stores often save you money, as there's no middleman for the manufacturers to pay, but don't forget about shipping. Try to purchase multiple items from one vendor so you can combine shipping and save.
And, of course, no frugal Christmas shopping list would be complete without a mention of Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving is full of insanely good prices, but at a cost: you have to brave some ridiculous crowds to get to them, and often they're limited deals that only work for a certain number of items, so you have to go very early.
Need more frugal tips in your life? Check this blog -- and the other great ones here at GarageSaleCow.com -- on a regular basis for some great lifehacks!