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January 4, 2013

Cha-ching: Love a bargain? Buy next year's gifts now

She calls herself the 75- to 90 percent-off Girl. Others do, too.

Vera Howell doesn’t love to shop, but she loves to save money. It’s the thrill of getting a deep discount that drives her to the stores.

She buys almost all of her gifts for the following Christmas — and enough for birthdays and other events through the year — in January, when retailers deeply discount their merchandise. She also watches sales in March for winter items, and discounted summer items in August.

“I got earrings that were $60 for half price, then I had a coupon and then I got another percentage off, and when it was all said and done, I got them for $4,” says Howell, 72, of Detroit.

That’s not all. In addition to buying when items go on clearance, she also is smart about leveraging coupons and watching for stores that are going out of business, and tries to be patient, waiting until items are marked down as far as they can go before they sell out.

“I have to determine if it’ll still be there after the New Year,” she says. “Jan. 2 is when things really go on sale.”

Right now, she notes, Fashion Bug is liquidating.

“So everything is 60 percent-70 percent off,” Howell says. “I buy all this stuff up, and then for birthdays, or if I’m having a party, I give them as door prizes and things like that.”

She leaves the price tags on it all, so friends and family can see how much she saved. “They just want something from the 75- to 90 percent-off Girl,” she says, laughing.

Sherry Holbrook wanted to change her lifestyle, but to make it work, she knew she’d have to change her spending habits, too. The 38-year-old mother of three was working full time as a controls engineer for an auto supplier, and with a husband who often works out of town, Holbrook was having trouble managing it all.

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