While it might be tempting to buy the latest, greatest Christmas decorations early in the season, the best deals happen after the holidays.
Many stores put holiday items on sale the day after Christmas. As the days go on, the deals can get even better, since these items are extremely seasonal; after all, at this point the average holiday decorator is planning to pack items away rather than add to this season's display.
Big-box stores and chain-based drug stores are great places to get deals after the holiday. As the seasons change, the store needs its floor space for other incoming goods, such as garden and patio supplies for spring.
If you do decide to stock up on decor after the holidays, avoid falling into the "on sale" trap by making a list of what you're seeking before visiting the stores. Only purchase items on that list if you want to save money after Christmas is over.
If a holiday decor piece you like, such as an artificial tree, costs too much at your favorite store, price matching might offer a solution. Many well-known stores such as Walmart, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond will price-match a competitor's everyday price or sale price, saving you the hassle of extra stops on your shopping trip. Walmart even matches prices found at online retail sites like Amazon.com.
It's important to note that Walmart will only match an online retailer's price if both Walmart.com and the online seller have the item in stock and if the item is sold by the actual retailer, not a third-party seller. The other catch is that price matching typically applies to a specific brand or model of product, and it might be difficult to find the same brand in two unrelated stores. Walmart and other stores also limit customers to one of each item per day; in other words, you probably can't pick up ten strands of outdoor lights via price matching at one time.
Price matching can offer significant savings when used on expensive items, such as holiday trees or outdoor light displays — especially when you can avoid shipping charges or driving great distances by picking up the items locally.
Old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs tend to use more electricity than the newer LED lights, a fact that is particularly pertinent around Christmas. The savings can be significant if you switch from large C-9 incandescent light strands to their LED counterparts.
In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that a six-foot Christmas tree lit 12 hours per day for 40 days with old-fashioned C-9 light strands uses, on average, $10 worth of electricity, while a tree lit with C-9 LED light strands for the same amount of time uses only 27 cents worth of electricity.
Incandescent mini-bulbs cost $2.74 to operate, according to the same Department of Energy report, while running LED mini-bulbs for the same time costs just 82 cents. The figures are based on 50 C-9 bulbs or 200 lights per tree.
LED bulbs are also safer than their incandescent counterparts because they do not get as hot when lit. LED strands can be plugged into one another in the same wall outlet without overloading the circuit, since they draw relatively little power.
While you might not find many coupons specifically for seasonal decorations, some stores — such as crafts chain Michaels — offer weekly coupons ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent off any one item in the store. The coupons are offered in print form on sales circulars and digitally via the company's website.
Always read the fine print on weekly coupons from Michaels — and any store, for that matter. Some coupons, such as the 20 percent off deal mentioned above, are good even on sale items, while larger discounts are often valid only on non-sale items. Michaels also frequently offers coupons good for specific items, such as wreath forms, ribbons or picture frames. These deals are excellent ways to save on supplies for DIY Christmas decorations.
Coupons.com savings expert Jeanette Pavini recommends checking manufacturer and retail store websites to find additional holiday coupon deals. Additionally, you should check out their social media pages and visit Coupons.com for the latest offers.
"Look for coupons on Coupons.com for the stores you want and their competitors," Pavini said. "You can always bring in a competitor's ad to match the coupon offer."
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Making your own Christmas decorations offers you the opportunity not only to save money, but also to flex your creative muscle. If you aren't sure what to make or where to begin, sign up for a free decoration-making workshop at your favorite local craft store. Michaels, for instance, hosts free classes on the Saturdays leading up to Christmas. Learn how to make festive ornaments, wreaths or even gingerbread houses.
To participate in the Michaels classes, you might need to purchase the base of craft, such as a clear ornament or a wreath form. However, the store takes care of the add-on materials and everything else needed to complete the project.
Save the most money by spending little or nothing at all — make Christmas decor from items found in and around the home. Even if a few craft supplies are needed to finish the project, the cost is still minimal.
"A big trend is rustic decor," Pavini said. "There's a lot you can do by bringing the outside in. Find some pine cones or fallen branches, tie a ribbon [on] or spray paint [it] a festive color, and it's a simple, on-trend decoration at a low cost.
Deal-sharing sites, such as FatWallet.com and Savings.com, aggregate discounts, coupons and deals in real-time, displaying offers for both online and brick-and-mortar stores. These sites come in especially handy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as they can help you determine where to find the best deals on lights and artificial trees without searching through loads of flyers or store websites.
To find deals, enter a search term such as "Christmas" or "Christmas decorations" into the search box on either site. Click on any individual deal that shows up in the search results; some results will be limited-time sale offers, while others will be coupon codes to use at checkout on a store's website. For example, FatWallet.com currently shows that Ace Hardware offers up to 45 percent off LED Christmas lights.
Pavini said you could even earn money while hunting for holiday decor deals.
"If you find a code elsewhere that Coupons.com doesn't have, submit to their Savings Guarantee, and they'll pay you $25," she said.
Many of the best deals are not found in traditional stores. Thrift stores and garage sales often offer an abundance of Christmas decorations and crafting supplies — especially if you shop months before the holiday season. Consignment shops that carry home decor can also be good sources of Christmas items. Some independent resale shops will even offer cash or store credit when you trade in unwanted items, resulting in more money to spend on seasonal decor.
The internet can also help you find the decorations you seek. Sites such as gsalr.com show garage sales near you; just enter a zipcode, and the site will pull up all of the upcoming sales.
"Use Facebook groups, Craigslist and websites like Nextdoor to find holiday decor that's slightly used or even brand new from your neighbors who have over-purchased or are moving," said Pavini.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: