How to Use That Gift Card Wisely

By Mae Anderson, AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — It's traditional for many to cap a long season of Christmas shopping with more shopping once the holiday has passed. They spend gift cards and cash and exchange clothes that were the wrong size, wrong color or just plain wrong.

However, people tend to treat gifts as "found money" and worry less about using the dollars wisely. But a little thought can make your after-Christmas dollars go a lot farther:

— KNOW WHAT A DEAL IS: Don't blindly assume you're getting a good deal just because you're shopping on Dec. 26. Stores know people will be spending gift cards and are less likely to scrutinize prices.

You can find good discounts on items like coats, hats and snow shovels that get less likely to sell with each passing day, because stores know they have to unload them. But more evergreen items like video game systems are much less likely to be on sale.

— WHAT TO TARGET: You will probably find the best deals on clothing, says Dan de Grandpre, editor-in-chief of Dealnews.com, as clothing stores clear out what's left of their inventory and get ready for new merchandise.

However, retailers stocked up somewhat cautiously this year. You might find a great deal on, say, a coat, but it might not be the ideal color or style.

There were probably better toy deals before Christmas, during price wars among Target, Walmart, Toys R Us and other toy sellers, de Grandpre says. Also, the hottest toys like Monster High dolls were scarce even before Christmas. Don't expect to find them now.

You aren't likely to find great deals on most electronics, either, de Grandpre said. For most items, January will probably be better. Stores discount TVs then to draw buyers who want to upgrade before the Super Bowl.

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