1. Be Organized. I like to take stock of what I have and what I've gotten for the holidays, compared to what I need. This year, I've found myself wishing for a simple black cashmere cardigan on several occasions. Santa neglected to bring one, so it goes on the list.
2. Read the Newspaper. It may seem old fashioned but there are coupons inside and stores put a lot of effort into sales circulars. Retailers want early business -- they're hoping to snap all your dollars before you run out or burn out on shopping -- and just like Black Friday, there are discounts for early birds.I landed my first job in journalism around the holidays, with a start date of Jan. 2. That Dec. 26, I woke up early to snag the extra discount at Filene's Basement, then headed to two more stores to do the same. I ended up with an entirely new professional wardrobe suitable for a 20-something in an office environment; dozens of pieces -- I was starting from scratch -- for less than $300.
3. Check Retailer's Websites. Many started sales online Christmas Day, some have websites set to launch the post-Christmas sales at midnight. You just might be able to get your sale shopping done before bed and beat the traditional early birds to the cashmere sweater/worm. And most retailers have extended the many free shipping deals through the end of the year.
Return and exchange. If you have any doubts about a gift, or are definitely planning to return something, do it now. Get store credit or spend the refund on a sale item or two, that way you'll get more presents for your present's value.
4. Spend Those Gift Cards. Again, you'll get a lot more for your dollar.
5. Shop the Department Stores. Some of the best deals of all are on luxe items that didn't sell for the holidays. Cashmere, accessories, and gift sets of beauty or fragrances all must be cleared out after the season.
6. Allow for One Splurge. You've got a list, you know what you want, but set aside money for one item that you just really want that's on sale. It's the unexpected little things in life that can really make a day, or shopping trip. It's easy to fall prey to impulse buys when in the throws of a sale. Go into this knowing you're getting one thing. Then do it, at 50% to 75% off. Cashmere sweater here I come.
7. Think Out of The Box. Go beyond the holiday gift items and think about stocking up on things you might need the rest of the year. Do your research and stay focused, and you'll get some unexpected items at great prices.
9. Winter Wear. Department stores in particular host huge clearance sales on coats, boots, sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves. Whatever they have left must go to make room for "resort wear" and Valentines Day gift items, depending on the department.
10. Know what not to buy. Shopping has its seasons and the after Christmas period is one of the best for snagging deals. But not everything is the best deal, in spite of signs screaming about deep discounts, not everything on sale is really such a great deal. Anything marketed to New Year's Eve will remain at higher prices: sparkly party dresses, dapper men's wear and jewelry (engagements are popular through the end of the year) won't be marked down as much as more traditional gift items and winter wear as retailers try to get as much margin on the remaining hot holiday items.