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My mom taught me an important financial lesson when I was younger — never buy when things are in-season. Though she may not have explicitly told me this, the shopping bags full of clearance decorations a week after Christmas and the bags of pink Hershey bars a week after Valentine’s Day were example enough. My mom is a deal master.

So when it came time for my husband and I to buy a Christmas tree to put in our new house, we looked a bit before Christmas, figured out the size and general specs of the tree we wanted to buy and then we waited. Patience is a skill all deal masters must acquire, whether you’re looking for a good price on holiday decorations or searching for your perfect credit card.

IMG_1299-v2I had it on my post-New Year’s Eve to-do list to find a Christmas tree. And this weekend, I get the deal of a lifetime. (OK, maybe not a lifetime, but it’s a few days later and I’m still on a deal-hunting high.)

While shopping at my local Sears store, I found the tree I’d been looking for. Original price: $359.99. My price: $110. Here’s how I did it.

Negotiating the Sale

After deciding this was the tree for my family (I liked that the lights had four different settings, it was 7’6″ — the exact height my husband and I thought would look good in our family room — and it was just three pieces, so it would be easy to assemble), I talked to the store associate and got lucky. Originally marked at half off, this tree was the last one they had — I’d have to take the store model that had been up since September. Bingo! That meant I had leverage.

After talking my way into a 10% discount since it was the floor model, I had another lucky circumstance arise — they had misplaced the box, so they would have to shrink-wrap it for me. Another turn of events that gave me leverage. I negotiated another discount for myself, contingent on getting the 3-year warranty info I desperately needed (after all, the tree had been up since September, so I wanted assurances in case the lights went out early on in my time with it). After all was said and done, I got that tree that I had seen in-store for $360 just a few weeks earlier for less than a third of the original price.

A Perfectly Timed Purchase

When I arrived home with the tree, it went straight up in my attic, to be used next year when Christmas rolled around again. (I also scored some wrapping paper for more than half off and some Christmas cards for a similar discount — both were socked away with the tree, waiting for their moment to be used next year. Not only does it feel great to save money like that, deal hunting for things you’ll buy anyway can also be helpful as you work toward other financial goals.)

Am I cheap for shopping the clearance section? Maybe, but I know that a similar tree model would have cost me that nearly $400 price tag if I waited until next year to get the tree of my dreams. If the key to real estate is location, location, location, then the key to deal-hunting is timing, timing, timing.

I texted my mom about my major find. Her response: “That’s my girl!”

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Main Image: Milenko Bokan; Inset Image courtesy of Kali Geldis

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