One would think that after weeks of serious shopping, I'd be ready to take a break. But when store after store promotes merchandise being marked down 75 percent or more, there's no holding me back.
The current sales in stores are incredible. One retail manager told me that just like shoppers, retail is suffering from the recession. The goal is to move merchandise out as quickly as possible. Instead of gradually lowering prices after the holidays, some stores started dramatically slashing prices soon after Christmas.
Some of the best sales I saw were at the bigger department stores. Some merchandise that had been marked down 50 percent was marked down an additional 75 percent.
The problem I encountered was finding what I liked in my size, and much of the merchandise was out of place. A size 12, for example, might be in a size 8 slot. You have to be willing to go through all sizes to find something you like. And that takes time.
Shopping for a complete outfit during after-holiday sales has become an annual quest for me. Typically, I allow myself $100 to buy a complete outfit. This year, I lowered the amount to $80.
I don't shop for the sake of shopping. I shop for fashions that I will put to good use, things I will wear.
I have a method for my annual bargain shopping spree. First, I look for the main component of my outfit, whether it's going to be a dress or a blouse with a skirt or pair of pants. I never know what the piece will be until I find it on a sale rack. After searching at several stores last week, I found my main piece: a simple sleeveless, knee-length black dress at Belk.
A little black dress, introduced by designer Coco Chanel in 1926, is a must-have in every woman's closet. And though I own three, this one would become my new favorite because I love the fabric and the way it fits me. Made by designer Kim Rogers, the dress retailed for $48. I paid $11.99.
My next purchase was shoes. I knew this would be a challenge for my budget. After perusing shoe departments at four stores, I found my bargain at Sears: a black shoe boot for $19.99. The original cost: $69.99.
A short-sleeved waist-length sweater at Christopher & Banks was a perfect addition to the black dress. It retailed for $39.50; I paid $17.49.
My favorite purchase of the day was a camel plaid fringed shawl by V. Fraas at Belk. I got it for half its $48 retail price.
My last purchase to complete my outfit was a black knit scarf by St. John's Bay at JCPenney for $4.20. The scarf was originally priced at $28.
Less tax, my total expenditure was $77.67 with a savings of $155.82.
Clearly, judging by the crowds at area malls last week, many people shop clearance sales.
Wayne Collins, vice president of marketing and communications at United Way of Greater Chattanooga, said he likes shopping for bargains, as long as it's something he wants.
"The more I'm directly interested in what I'm purchasing, the more I enjoy the process," he said, noting that even a dollar-off coupon can make shopping for toothpaste more exciting.
After-Christmas shopping in his household is based on the advertising circulars, he said, noting that he and his wife scan the advertisements looking for items they need.
"At this time of year, I perceive the need for new shirts and pants for no apparent reason, so any kind of dress/casual clothes sale will get my attention," Collins said.
Collins, who recently returned from a visit with his family to his wife's native Poland, said after-Christmas sales were huge overseas.
"What's interesting in Europe is that media covers Dec. 27 in much the same way as American media covers Black Friday, and many Europeans generally accommodate by standing in lines overnight, shoving through the doors, throwing stuff at each other in the aisles, etc., to get at that after-Christmas bargain," he said.
Janet Wash Byrne, Chattanooga Endeavors office administrator, said she looks for sales in stores and online. "Bloomingdale's is having some great sales."
"Shopping is one of my favorite hobbies," said Signal Mountain resident Kathie Schalm Nance. "I don't shop for anything in particular, but I do beeline for the clearance racks. I guess I am a compulsive shopper, because if I see something I like, I generally buy it. I have started doing a lot of shopping online just for the pure convenience of it."
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...