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Looking for good buys? Don't get caught up in the hysteria. Know your 'bottom line'

Q. The ads for boxing week sales seem to start earlier every year. While we don't go shopping on Boxing Day, it's tempting to pick up a few things during the following week. Are the deals really worth it?

A: The sales at this time of year can look enticing--and so they should, as retailers look to enhance their bottom line.

But the real bottom line you need to consider is your own. Ask yourself a few questions as you think about what you might still like to buy over the holidays:

  • Is this something I have planned to buy?
  • Do I need this item?
  • How much can I afford to spend?

It's very easy to be swept away by the advertising and offers created for this time of year. In reality, many of these sales will occur again early in the new year and at the end of each season throughout 2011.

Take advantage of markdowns then to avoid standing in long Christmas season line-ups, only to miss out on the few items a retailer had at a special, low price.

Look at your budget before you decide to hit the stores during boxing week. If you use a credit card, and don't pay it off in full every month by the due date, it can add as much as 50 per cent to the purchase cost of everything you buy.

That $500 leather jacket will cost closer to $750 by the time interest and fees are added on over time. Is it still a good deal at the higher price?

If you've decided you can afford a little shopping during boxing week, shop with the spare cash in your bank account and buy things you used up during the holidays this year.

Purchasing things such as gift wrap, stationary, seasonal tableware or a few decorations lets you to enjoy the shopping season, with the added benefit of starting to plan ahead for next year.

However, rather than buying into the frenzy of more holiday shopping, consider doing things that you don't have as much time for during the rest of the year. Go skating with your family, hit the slopes, enjoy a coffee with a friend or invite your neighbours to help polish off the turkey.

Boxing week deals are only deals if you can truly afford more than just the box.

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