<strong>By Cherie Lowe</strong>
Forever the Christmas season will be a time for family, food, decorating giving and receiving.
You’ve heard me speak before of the many spending traps awaiting us during this most wonderful time of the year. We purchase gifts for ourselves instead of the ones we love. We overbuy seasonal paper goods and holidays baubles. We hit the drive-through one too many times as we bustle between holiday parties and Christmas programs. But believe it or not, there are items you should stock up on before the end of the year.
Don’t rub your eyes in disbelief. Occasionally, it’s OK to spend, even if you’re a frugal gal like me. If your budget allows, this month you should be on the prowl for a handful of items. Make the most of all-time annual low prices and don’t miss the opportunity to save money before the year ends.
Oh how I love both making and devouring the cookies, candies and special treats of the holiday season. Our local grocery stores and big box retailers count on culinary nostalgia and generosity to fuel our sweet tooth and spending.
The prices of already affordable baking essentials dip even lower during the month of December. From flour and sugar to spices and chocolate chips, you’ll find weekly specials on these key ingredients to stock your kitchen pantry. Most have incredibly long shelf lives, so check the dates and then add an extra item or two to your cart.
I’m guessing your family might enjoy playing a board game or two when you gather together during the holidays. We love classics such as Phase 10 and newer games like Pie Face, too. During December, games drop in prices too. Online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores both lure you down the aisles with great deals on family fun. You won’t find a better time of the year to buy a game so if you’re looking to add a new favorite to your family’s collection, take advantage of the prices.
<h3>Solid red party goods</h3>
Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July — nearly every major holiday features the color red. Many sports teams and children’s characters do, too. For this reason, keep your eyes peeled for reusable solid red party goods you might be able to stretch beyond the current holiday.
Skip items with seasonal trees or snowmen, and look for solid red or red checked items to add to your collection. From large serving bowls to baskets and caddies, there are plenty of holiday items that you don’t have to pack away to use next year.
Bonus points if you wait until after Christmas to purchase these on clearance.
<h3>Slow cookers and kitchen appliances</h3>
While the best deals for small kitchen appliances peak on Black Friday, low prices persist through the end of the year. If you’re in need of a slow cooker, one of those new pressure cookers, a coffee pot or dozens of other modern kitchen conveniences, now is the time to buy. In January, the prices will bounce back up and won’t return to their bargain status until next Black Friday.
The centerpiece of many holiday meals, large cuts of meat also become bargain loss leaders for grocery stores and big box retailers enticing holiday shoppers in the door. Clear out your freezer and make room for all of the turkeys and hams, pork loins and beef roasts. If at all possible, subdivide the meat into smaller portions (this works well with the pork loins and beef roasts but can be more challenging for hams and turkeys) before freezing. We won’t see lower prices until late spring when hams drop in price again around Easter.
Seasonal discounts don’t have to sink your finances. You can use those annual low prices to bolster your budget in the new year. Fill up the pantry and make way to prepare frugal meals instead.
<em>Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to [email protected]</em>