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Boxing Day sales: How to score the best deals

There are two types of people: those who love shopping on Boxing Day and those who don’t. Eithne Whaley falls in the former category, the senior editor of deal-finding site SmartCanucks’ blog is ready to hit the malls first thing on Dec.26.

“I enjoy the atmosphere,” Whaley says of the frenzy that drives some away. “I have a fairly good idea of what I want and how much I’m willing to pay. You always find fun, unadvertised deals in-stores.”

Whaley is among the 62 per cent of Canadians who will be jumping on deals on Boxing Day. That figure comes from a recent poll by the Bank of Montreal, which also found that men are more likely than women to be planning to take advantage of sales by a margin of 66 to 58 per cent.

Of those polled, 22 per cent planned to shop for themselves, while another third expected to buy items for themselves and others.

Is it worth it to wait until Boxing Day?

Some stores have already started offering Boxing Day sales, but there are still door crashers and other discounts to be had on the Canadian equivalent of Black Friday.

“If you haven’t been watching for sales, it’s a good time to shop at low prices across the store rather than on just one item you want or need, and they may have that item you’ve been waiting for on sale,” Whaley says. “Personally, I’ve bought most of the items I would usually have waited to buy on Boxing Day, but I’ll still shop on Boxing Day just to see what they are offering.”

Some items in particular are worth waiting for, says Adrienne Down Coulson, general manager of Ebates Canada. (The site gives you a percentage of your purchase back in cash when you shop at participating merchants, such as Victoria’s Secret, the Bay, and Old Navy.)

“The types of products where you may find great discounts include electronics -- such as TVs and video-game consoles -- home appliances, and apparel,” Coulson says.

Can you skip the mall and shop online?

Shopping experts agree it’s a good idea to do comparison shopping online before you shop in-store, if at all. Many retailers start their Boxing Day sales at midnight on Dec. 25, Coulson notes.

Although shopping online in your p-jays is far more relaxed than being out with the masses, it isn’t necessarily hassle-free.

“You can run into issues when shopping online,” Whaley says, pointing to a recent mess-up at Staples, which offered Apple TV for $79 as a door crasher online and in-store. But it didn’t have the inventory, and many online shoppers who’d handed over their credit-card info found out the next day that their order had been cancelled.

“You also have to consider shipping costs,” Whaley notes. “Many retailers offer free shipping over a certain amount, but then are you buying something you don't really need or want just to get free shipping?”

Other tips

  • Make a list of what you want and need ahead of time.

  • Do your research ahead of time so you know when a deal is a deal. “Often stores will advertise something at 50 per cent off, but it’s 50 per cent off a price they would never sell it at in the first place,” Whaley says. “Often stores put items in the flyers priced higher than their usual selling price.

  • Consider commuting. “Good deals are often limited quantities,” Whaley says. “Find out what time your store opens and be there if you really want a door crasher. It might even be worth going to a nearby but smaller shopping area if you live near a very busy one to increase your chances of getting the deal.”

  • Divide and conquer. “Get a few friends or family members to shop with you,” Whaley suggests. “Each take a door-crasher store and get items for the others. But check if items are one per customer first.”

  • Leave the little ones at home if you can. “Malls are crazy on Boxing Day,” Whaley says. “With the crowds, it’s too easy to get split up and much easier to shop without them.”

  • Budget. BMO’s poll found that 30 per cent of Canadians had a fixed budget for holiday spending, 47 per cent had a flexible budget, and 21 per cent had none at all. The bank suggests setting spending limits to avoid getting carried away.