UNITED STATES—One of the biggest shopping holidays of the year has come and gone, and for most Americans the spending has come to a halt. However, for some Americans things are actually picking up. Why? Well many of us received gift cards for Christmas or money that is simply burning in our pocket and we are eager to spend. I would advocate trying to save some of that money, but I would be lying to you if I wasn’t honest about the fact that I had a few extra bucks that I wasn’t expecting and I’m hoping to spend those funds on myself for a change.

However, the key with any extra money that you have that doesn’t come directly from your bank account or paycheck is to make it stretch as much as you can. What exactly does that mean? It means look for sales and be smart about what you buy and not just buy something because it’s on sale. Christmas is so a week ago, but the Christmas candy, ornaments, wrapping paper and everything festive is at least 50 percent off at this point, but unless you plan to have major wrapping for 2019 and you are in need of new Christmas decorations this is the time to load up on those items.

If you’re someone who isn’t too into Christmas decorations, don’t waste money even if you have it. Use that money to purchase items that you actually want or need. Look, I’m someone who loves to get a great deal on clothing, but even I have come to the realization that many retailers will mislead you in epic ways. Listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you because it’s a game changer when it comes to shopping at many department stores or clothing retailers. Signage is always made to lure you into an establishment and it may not always be accurate.

You have retailers who say “entire store UP to 70 percent off” and then you have those signs that read “entire store 70 percent off.” Do you see the difference? Its one word: up. That word can be very misleading because when it says ‘up’ there are very few items that are actually 70 percent off and the ones that are it might be limited items in stock. You’ll enter the store looking for a deal and find that a vast majority of the store is only at a 30 percent discount.

Further things to be aware of is if the signage notes the ENTIRE store is at a certain discount that is more tantalizing because you know concretely you’re getting at least 50 percent or more off on all items in the store. In addition, you should be a firm believer in the notion that anything under 40 percent is not truly a sale. Yes, forty percent is better than 10 percent, but you know what’s better than 40 percent? Sixty or seventy percent.

I was recently at an outlet mall where one of the big retailers closed their doors and the entire store was at 90 percent off with an additional 10 percent off. I got a pair of $155 dollar pants for only $3. Yes, you heard me right $3 and they were top brand designer slacks. So you have to pick and choose your battles at times, but it’s always better to head out to the retailers over the weekend, specifically between Thursday thru Sunday. It’s very rare that the malls have sales during the start of the week, so you might want to hold out a few days if you can.

Another tip to get the best bargain, if the store is offering coupons where you can save extra money utilize them! That means you save some extra cash and you can stretch that gift card even more so that you can purchase even more items than you already purchased. I tell people all the time there is no better feeling than getting something for free. You might argue that is not possible, but trust me when you utilize that gift card and those coupons accurately you can put yourself in positions where you total for $30 of items becomes $1.50 or you get a sweater for only .41 cent. You don’t have to be cheap to get great deals you just have to be smart about WHERE, WHEN, WHY, WHAT and HOW you spend the money in your possession.