Consumer Advocate Says Wait to Return Holiday Gifts

By Beacon Staff

If your family’s holiday gifting style is anything like mine, you probably have some returns to make (My mom once gave me a pair of pants that was five sizes too big because “they were cute and on sale.”) and gift cards to burn after the holiday season. But Consumer advocate Clark Howard says you will get much better deals if you wait until Jan. 5 to return gifts and spend as opposed to going right after Christmas. In a normal year when Christmas season sales are strong, Howard says retailers offer whatever they have left after the holiday at incredible markdowns. But this year is different. Howard says:

You may get some bargains after Christmas, but if you want really rock-bottom prices, wait until January 5. Retailers are going to be stuck with massive amounts of goods and those will be reduced to fire sale prices. If you have money that you can afford to part with, get out there the first full week of the New Year. Everything from electronics to clothing to appliances to furniture will be a deal.

Be careful if you shop from December 26 through January 4. The bargains are mostly fake ones during those 10 days because patterns are completely disrupted by gift cards. Most people are off from work between Christmas and New Years, have the time to shop and have the gift cards burning a hole in their wallets.

Stores are able to “pretend” to offer bargains in the immediate after-Christmas period and people feel like they “have” to spend right away with store credit from returns and that gift card dough. As a result, the discounts are relatively small. However, follow my way and your wallet will really smile on you.

Howard does warn buyers to be careful with gift cards: Some retailers will go under in 2009, and you don’t want to get stuck with a worthless card.