Confessions of a Clearance Shopper


In light of the fact that I have spent the past three days scouring post-holiday clearance sales I thought it was a good time to revisit an old post I wrote several years ago. Even though my kids are older and not into as many of the Easter toys I still find enough good deals to make me feel like a winner. I am way too excited about the bag of Goldfish snack-packs I got for 30% off yesterday. Like, ridiculously excited. I may have had a horrible day otherwise, but at least I achieved victory over the Goldfish! I mean, come on, 30% off! But I must confess, even though he stopped being a member of our immediate family years ago it still seems wrong, very wrong, to walk past a 50% off Easter Thomas and not snatch it up. Oh, and for the record, he’s a Tank Engine. Thomas the Tank Engine, NOT Thomas the Train. He IS a Tank Engine, he PULLS a train. You gotta get these crucial details of life right, people! Anyway, let us embark on a clearance-shopping adventure from years past, but please keep in mind that it is intended to be tongue-in-cheek and MAY be exaggerated… a BIT…

We waited so long, with so much anticipation, that’s it’s a bit of a letdown when it’s over so fast. I was so excited, and lay awake at night dreaming about it, and jumped out of bed eager to experience… the post-holiday clearance sale.

Let me begin by explaining to you that over the past few years I have become VERY compulsive about saving money. Because, SAVINGS! Clipping coupons has become one of my hobbies, and I have to resist some hoarding urges when items are on sale. Not a crazy coupon lady by any means, BUT I confess I get a little too worked up and even tremble a bit when I debate how many to buy when something is on sale. I need to make sure I have enough to get me through until the next sale, because it would clearly be a tragedy if I had to pay FULL PRICE! Clearly. Oh, and those sales where you have to get TEN items to get the discount? They make me feel SO neurotic, constantly counting and counting again. Did I accidentally get 11? And HOW MANY SETS OF TEN WILL I NEED? And you would not believe the annoyance I feel when my $2.99 box of cereal goes on sale right after I bought it (even if I DID use a coupon). So just take my word for it that I take my clearance shopping VERY SERIOUSLY. So of course I get VERY excited when items are discounted the day after a holiday. Ridiculously excited. Because these savings are VERY IMPORTANT.

The morning after Easter I rushed the kids through breakfast so that we could be the FIRST into Target when it opened at 8:00. Hurry, hurry! When we got there I was upset at myself that it was 7:59 and OH NO!!! Two people got in BEFORE ME!!!! In my haste to get in the store I made the snap decision to put my Toddler in the stroller and let my Preschooler walk because that was quicker than carrying Toddler into the store and THEN getting a cart. That decision quickly came back to haunt me. As we ran, um, I mean walked VERY quickly to the “Seasonal” section I could hear Preschooler panting because he couldn’t keep up. Determined not to let him slow me down I picked him up (HEAVY!) in one arm and pushed the stroller with the other. Preschooler was dangling precariously from my arm, and the stroller was veering wildly back-and-forth because it was only being steered by one hand. Some employees (who had obviously seen my type before) chuckled at the sight and said, “Don’t worry, there are only two people back there!” To which I responded, “But I am looking for something SPECIFIC!” They clearly did not realize the crucial nature of my mission. VERY IMPORTANT. Because, CLEARANCE. And SAVINGS.

Finally we reached our destination and hurry, hurried through the aisles. It felt as frenzied as an egg hunt, people scurrying and trying to find the best deals and snatch them up first. Of course everyone was being VERY polite, but the competitive undercurrent was still there. I felt very strongly that these people needed to get out of the way of my savings. My heart was still pounding from our brisk jog, I mean walk, because who would have the audacity to almost run in a store, right? My brain was racing because somehow it seemed VERY IMPORTANT that I get eggs at 1/2 off so I can save 50 CENTS for next year’s Easter baskets. I had to make sure I bought enough, otherwise next year I might have to pay FULL PRICE. (FULL PRICE! That wouldjustNOTdo.) But the most important thing, what I really wanted, was the Thomas the Tank Engine Take-Along Easter set. I was getting increasingly agitated that I couldn’t find it. I rushed through all the aisles repeatedly, like a hungry shark circling a fishing boat. “Thomas where ARE you???” my desperate mind wondered. All I could find was the VERY LAST die cast Easter Bob the Builder set and I grabbed it. It didn’t matter that my boys weren’t crazy about Bob, because it was clearly a GOOD DEAL. I mean, come on, 50% off! SAVINGS!

While I was distracted by my clearly very important mission my Toddler, who was still strapped into an umbrella stroller, had discovered that his feet could touch the floor and scooted away from me. Preschooler decided to help retrieve Toddler, but in his effort to rescue his baby brother from certain death in the center aisle he accidentally knocked the stroller over and dumped Toddler flat on his face. By then both kids were screaming, people were staring, and I was clearly a terrible mother. But hey, SAVINGS!

Once the chaos had abated I took a moment to pause and center myself, ready once again to tackle this VERY IMPORTANT mission. With a deep, shaky breath, I rifled through a pile of random junk toys. I clearly have magic shopping skills, because I found the object of my desire buried deep in the recesses of the shelving. A victorious cry of “I FOUND IT!” escaped from my lips. In retrospect that was a big mistake, just like blood in the water. Three other shopper sharks showed up right next to me, and they looked HUNGRY. They gazed at the prized Thomas the Tank Engine Take-Along Easter Set in my hand and I prepared myself for a fight. “Are there any more?” one mother asked, eyes full of longing, “That is what we were looking for.”  “I’m sorry”, I replied, “But this is the only one, and I kinda need two anyway.” I looked down and she was pushing two boys about the same age as mine in a double stroller. I sighed and reached out my hand with a peace offering, “Do you want Bob the Builder?”  With a squeal of delight she cried, “Oooh! We like Bob even better!” She got way too excited. Ridiculously excited. And with that, I had made a new best friend.

My best friend and I spent the next many minutes helping each other out. You see, when we are not busy battling each other over the last chocolate bunny, women totally BOND over savings. It was all~ Me: “Hey, I grabbed the last four light-up ducks. Want two?” Her: “I have two Thomas Easter pull-back toys. Want one?” THOMAS!?! SCORE! It was REALLY nice of her to share, by the way, because she has two boys. But I DID give her the last Bob, after all.

After a LONG while I realized I just had to walk away. It was hard to do because I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I just browsed the aisles one more time I would find one more thing that I might need and it would be 50% off! And I would hate to have to pay full price next Easter. I didn’t find any good plastic eggs, but I was pleased because I found Thomas (even though he was upside down AND backwards and buried and clearly hiding from me), and the light-up ducks and a few other cute things. Even better, I resisted the urge to buy fattening Easter candy even though it was 50% off. I bid my new best friend goodbye and we marched, victorious, towards the front of the store.

At the checkout counter I got a bit worked up again, because on several items they tried to cheat me out of my coveted 50% off status! You have to watch those cash registers, they are sneaky! When I was finally done checking out I stopped for a moment to intently study my receipt for infractions. I soon heard a female voice ask, “Ma’am? Is that your child out there?” I looked up to see that my youngest had scooted, still strapped into the stroller, through both sets of sliding glass doors and was being tended to by a stranger. I was HORRIFIED. “I had my daughter stop him at the sidewalk,” the kind woman reassured me. Once again I realized that I am a terrible mother… with an audience. To assuage my guilt I gave Toddler the Thomas pull-back that had been found by my new best friend. I immediately regretted the decision, because I wouldn’t have it for next year’s Easter basket and might have to pay FULL PRICE to replace it. I wondered if I could fix that problem, since there WERE several more Targets I hadn’t gone to yet… but I stopped myself with a stern inward -No!-. I tried NOT to think about all those stores full of goodies on clearance, their siren song calling out to me, taunting me. Maybe I would have felt better about it if I had some half-off candy for comfort.

After checkout I saw my new best-friend one last time and we exchanged numbers, saying “I’ll call you! We’ll go to the park.” I knew it would not actually happen, since clearly our friendship had run its course. But even if we had grown apart it was still nice to pretend. And besides, there is always the chance I might see her at the post-Christmas sale…



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