Off-Season Shopping Is Da Bomb!!
I’m sure you’ve all experienced the panicked rush of a Halloween gone bad at some point in your lives (“Halloween is THIS Monday??!!”)…maybe you had a costume party to attend, and didn’t have the time to costume shop til the day before (or the day of!) and spent hours running madly from store to store, picking through costume leftovers for hours, until you finally scrapped together some semblance of a semi- presentable costume that ended up costing you $80 just to look like the hooker version of yourself in a bad wig. Or maybe you waited too long to decorate the house for trick-or-treaters, and rushed like a hurricane through the store closest to your home, grabbing decorations and candy bags and fake spider webs without any regards as to how much it was costing you (or how GHOULISHLY tacky the end result was going to be!)
That was me this Halloween. We had just gotten our new house, and I snatched up whatever I could, in whatever place was convenient. I enjoyed handing out candy at my very first Trick or Treat in my own home, but it came at a price.
That was when I swore to become a devotee of ” Off Season Shopping”. This is a technique where you wait an appropriate time till after the end of any major holiday, and then score decorations, costumes, and really anything even remotely related to that holiday at deep, deep discounts. (Example: Everyone needs body lotion, perfume, make-up, etc. Even though these items aren’t specific to Christmas, the jingle-jangle season is the time when cute “gift sets” of these items are lining every self in the stores. Why not buy them two weeks after Christmas, enjoy 75% off of your favorite products, and use them all year long?)
Imagine my elation when I found three aisles full of premium Halloween overstock at Kmart yesterday at 90 % OFF!!! (Did I mention that Halloween is my favorite holiday??)
So run, don’ t walk, to your local Kmart now if you’d like to avoid next years “What should I wear?” or “Let’s decorate the house” panic”. Not only did I buy enough to “trick” out our house for Halloween next year, but I also got the basics for some costume ideas, AND some toddlers/baby costumes that I could sell on eBay for PENNIES on the dollar.
For a total of around $20, Mike and I bought:
- 2 bags of fake spiderwebs to decorate the porch
- 2 (extremely realistic) looking packages of thick, stick on fake blood for our large front window that looks out onto the porch
- Some fake blood/makeup in case we decide to be something SCARY next year (zombie Barbie and Ken is looming heavily in my mind!!)
- 2 bags of red devil (with little horns! so cute!) rubber duckies…just because I thought they were adorable!
- Trick or Treat candy bags for the candy-seeking kiddos
- 4 different Halloween wigs (a short black bob, a long platinum wig, a vampire wig streaked with grey, and a long, red Rapunzel-type do.
- TEN infant/toddler/kids sized costumes that aren’t too trendy but are infinitely cute (these were around $1.50 each!) We tried to choose the most hassle-free, high-quality costumes that wouldn’t go out of style so that we could sell them on eBay next season and make a few dollars. Even if we sell them at half their retail price, we should make a $100 from our efforts…enough to buy a small flat screen to mount to the wall of our bedroom next year!! Imagine if we would have had more to invest in this endeavor! My mom does this every year, because costumes make a killing on line every September/October! Especially for small children, whose costumes basically consist of a warm, one piece garment that does not really need to be tried on or fitted.
- A few fairy wings in different colors, which can be used for many different costume ideas…fairy, Tinkerbell, butterfly, bumble bee, etc. etc. etc.
We stuck our heaping bags ‘o Halloween fun in a storage closet and vowed to forget about it until next October. A good $20 invested!!
The Best Places to Locate Unbelievable Seasonal Sales
- The Marts: Kmart, Walmart, Target…starting the day of or after the holiday, you can start scoring 50 to 75% off. Wait a little longer (like I did), and you can get cartloads of 90% merchandise for $50! Don’t forget to use your rewards card to make these dollars spent go farther! And bringing your own shopping bags to cart your merchandise home can save you 5 cents per bag at Target.
- Drug Stores: Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS will also severely discount seasonal merchandise. Used saved +UP or Register Rewards to lower your out of pocket cost even more!! Stock up on candy right after Halloween! Buy your Christmas candles and ornaments right after Christmas! Also use $5 off $25 coupons (Dollar General) or $3 off $15 coupons (Rite Aid), and you’re paying even less!
- Department Stores:JC Penney’s, Macy’s, etc. Off-season clothing can be had at unbelievable prices (and great brands!) when you rifle through the clearance racks, often up to 80% off. Now’s the time to get next summer’s bathing suits for the whole family. Likewise, grab your boots, gloves and scarves in the summer! And sign up online to receive special coupons and promo codes for your fave stores that you can use to save even more off of your super-cheap scores!
- Supermarkets/Grocery Stores: Run, don’t walk, to your local grocery store in the days after Halloween for cheap candy, after Thanksgiving for cheap turkey, and after Christmas/Easter for cheap ham. Slice it, bag it, and freeze it for next-to-nothing lunchmeat for the next 6 months if you have the freezer space.
Right now, ‘Tis the season to buy next years Halloween essentials! So I encourage you to try Kmart, or Walmart, or Target…or whatever local store has its Halloween goods on super-clearance. Not only will you be MUCH better prepared yourselves for the scare-frenzy of next Halloween, but if you’re a semi-entrepreneur, it will allow you to make a few dollars to fund that new TV, weekend getaway, or kick-ass prize-winning costume for next All Souls Day!! I plan on implementing this technique after Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, and so on…If you commit to doing this each holiday/season, you can build up a pretty nice inventory of goods to sell on eBay the next year. All you need is a digital camera and a PayPal account, and you’re in business for some serious money on the side…all just for going shopping!! If you’ve never sold on eBay before, the site offers an excellent wealth of informational articles/videos to teach you the ins and outs of selling goods on the site.
Yes, eBay (and PayPal for that matter) takes a “cut” of your profits, but when you buy your goods at almost-free prices, there is still a great profit margin to be had.
Tips For Virgin eBay Sellers
- Buy Low!! 75% is good, but 90% off is fantastic. The less moolah you’re investing, the more moolah you’ll be raking in next October when time-starved mommies need a cute, warm lobster costume for little Ryan. eBay and PayPal will take a small cut of your sale, so finding great deals will make that cut hurt much less. And the internet is where more and more people are turning to purchase these goods, especially working moms and dads who don’t have time to navigate crowded stores in between 10 hours at the office and dinner at home.
- Take Great Pics!! Don’t even think about listing your wares without pictures!! Take if from an avid internet shopper, I won’t even THINK of purchasing something if a picture (or four!) isn’t available of the actual item. Well lit pictures of the ACTUAL ITEM (not a stolen image from someones site of the same item) taken in your home greatly increase your chances of selling at the price you want. Include pics from different angles, and if there are any flaws (small stains, holes, etc.) take a picture of these as well. Trust me, it’s better to be up front about any small defects then to have an irate buyer hounding you for a refund.
- Use the acronym NWT or BNWT in the listing title. In eBay speak, this means “New With Tags” or “Brand New With Tags” if your tend to be a bit long-winded. Some people are only looking for brand-new merchandise, and having NWT in bold in your heading will catch these buyers eye. And take pictures of those tags, especially if you are selling a brand-name or couture item. For instance, I’ve sold a lot of Juicy Couture items on eBay that I bought off season. A summer romper I purchased had Juicy tags that stated the retail price was $200. I sold the romper the next summer for $120, even though I only paid $60 for it (because I purchased it when it was severely discounted in the winter). You gotta have patience to make a profit sometimes!!
- When it comes to costumes, clothing or anything else, stick to items that have somewhat of a “classic” appeal. For example, last summers ridiculously trendy favorites may not sell so well this summer. Same with costumes. Stick with the classics: for example, I bought “Awwww!” inducing toddler costumes that included a googly-eyed monster, a frog, a pumpkin, a lady-bug, a bumble-bee and more. This years hot cartoon characters may be a HUGE faux pas in a kid’s world next Halloween. Children are notoriously fickle!! As are discerning parents who want their pride and joy decked out is something cute, warm and “in-style”.
- Keep shipping and handling fees fair. On eBay, you have the option to set a price for your shipping/handling fees. While some people bloat them to ridiculous prices so they can lure buyers in with a super-low price on the actual item they are selling, this shady technique rarely works. Not to mention it is considered unethical. I recommend using USPS Priority Mail flat rate shipping boxes (which are, incidentally, free at your local post office…they will even deliver them to your house for free!) which cost the same to shop anywhere in the Continental US regardless of what weight the package is. This will make it WAY easier on you (unless you like trying to calculate the shipping weight for each individual package depending on the state you are sending it to), and your buyer will be very aware that you are charging fair shipping. It’s not frowned on to “jack up” your shipping a tiny bit to cover your “handling fee” (ex. tape, special wrapping, time you put into packing and shipping), just keep it to a $1 or less if you hope to become a popular seller.
- Add a personal touch. Whether it is a friendly message to your buyer through eBay inquiring if the sale was satisfactory, a business card included in the packaging, or a small trinket “free gift” sent with the purchase (I used to send a 10% off coupon to encourage repeat buyers), a little personality, creativity and good-nature go a long way on eBay. People like to know they are dealing with a “real” person selling “quality” goods rather than some impersonal warehouse in China shipping out thousands of shoddy knock-offs every day. A picture of yourself on your sellers profile can also help matters. People want a face behind the business name XOXOValentineLingerie4U.
- Keep track of your expenses!! I use a simple paper business ledger to track what I paid for an item, what I sold it for, and the fees that eBay/PayPal have charged me. This will let you see in black and white whether you are REALLY making a profit that’s worth your time, or if it’s time to throw in the proverbial towel.
- Start Small!! Don’t start off buying and listing 100 items. Take it from me, you will only burn yourself out. Start with only a few to test the waters, learn the ropes, and see if you like the eBay selling game, and then gradually increase your number of listings as you become quicker and more proficient at it. Remember, if it’s taking you 5 hours to design a listing page for a ring you are selling for $5, what’s the point? I suggest sticking to the same template for all your listings. eBay will allow you to save a template that you can use for each listing, and you will only have to change the crucial details, rather than rewrite the whole thing from scratch each time.
- Clearly define your payment, shipping and return policies!! For example, do you only want to ship to the US, or would you consider shipping internationally (in which case you will have to deal with annoying custom forms, amongst other uncertainties!). Will you only accept PayPal as a payment (I do!) or will you accept checks or money orders?? Can your buyers return items for a refund? (This gives people a certain piece of mind, but I only offer returns within a certain time frame, or if I have misrepresented the item in some why. This protects me against impulse buyers who are just suffering from buyers remorse and decide they want their money back. Returns are a pain in the butt, and they will cost you money in the long run!)
- Offer DETAILED measurements/size information for clothing!! This will avoid most “I’d like to return this” scenarios. For example, if my kid’s costume is sized small, or 2T, I list it as that in the title, but I also offer additional info in the description, such as the length, waist size, etc. People appreciate a detailed, professional representation of what you are selling. If you need a mentor, look to your favorite online clothing site. What kind of information do they offer about the products they’re selling?? Probably detailed measurements, what material the clothing is made of, washing instructions, and maybe a short background on the brand name. Do the same, and you will appear 100 times more professional than most of your amateur eBay sellers.
- And PLEASE, cool it with the music, sound effects, animation, unreadable calligraphy, etc. Not only is it insanely distracting, but for some people’s computers, it’s too much to handle. Do you want 25% of the population to be unable to load your listing because their internet isn’t fast enough?? I think not.
Hope these tips helped if you’re considering selling some of your “off-season” scores to make yourself a few extra bucks!! Remember, you can buy merchandise this way simply to benefit yourself or your family by keeping costs low. You can buy better products for less that you know you’ll need next year. This is also a great way to stockpile gifts for Christmas, Birthdays, Graduations, Etc.
Because what sounds better?? Full price or 90% off next time you need a Christmas ornament or some vampire teeth?? Often, goods found at these deeply discounted prices can be used at times other then when they are intended to be used. (Ex…a sexy platinum blonde wig can be…ahem…utilized…for other purposes than topping off your Marilyn Monroe costume at Halloween…yes, think with your dirty mind, my friends!!) Also, fall-colored paper plates/cups/etc. that you may find for pennies after Thanksgiving will work great in the summer when you hold an impromptu cocktail/appetizer party. It’s all about planning!! I recently picked up bunches and bunches of summer colored plates, napkins and silverware for around 20 cents a package after the first leaves had begun to turn. They have served me well at Mike’s Birthday party, Steeler-game get togethers, and nights when we get ultra-lazy and decide to order in a pizza…and don’t want to deal with washing dishes either.
This concept can also be applied to clothing/shoes. For example, I often buy sandals online all winter long because they are dirt cheap. I can get DESIGNER sandals (I’m talking $400 pairs of shoes) at a price I can afford. Try going to Amazon.com and clicking the 75% off or more section of their shoe or handbag department and seeing what you can find. Your foot size (barring pregnancy!) isn’t going to change, and if you stick to classic styles, or don’t really give a crap what anyone else thinks about your style (like me) you can snatch up deals like you wouldn’t believe. I bought quite a few pairs of L.A.M.B sneakers this year for $6.99 that were originally $150.00, and got some quality silk robes for Christmas presents for $5.99, just because they were more of a “summer” style than a “winter” style.
I am LOVING off-season shopping!! My bargain-hunting friends, give it a try!! Patience is a virtue that is well-rewarded if you’re a deal-seeking gal (or guy!)