Image: shoppers in New York City
TINA FINEBERG  /  AP
The nation's shoppers head back to malls on Sunday for post-Christmas deals as retailers woo them with deeper discounts and expanded hours.
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updated 12/23/2010 8:11:11 PM ET 2010-12-24T01:11:11

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.

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.

For gadgets like smart phones, price cuts are likely in January ahead of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, when manufacturers get shoppers excited about the next big thing.

One electronics category that might have good sales now is computers, says Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. Computers "haven't seen the sales traction retailers were hoping for," he says. Don't look for markdowns, though, on tablet computers, such as Apple's iPad.

Start shopping online Christmas Day
Most stores won't be open, but it's a different story online. On the Web, many retailers start post-Christmas sales a day early. Even if you don't buy, you can still you research what you want to buy in-person starting Sunday.

It is more convenient, and "You can beat some people to the punch and find things that could be sold out by next day," says de Grandpre.

Get there early
Many stores open earlier than usual. Target, Sears and J.C. Penney will all open at 7 a.m. on Sunday, for example. If you're shopping clearance sales, the earlier you get to the store, the more you'll have to choose from.

Stock up for next year
Some people are planners, and some aren't. But there's never a better time to save money on greeting cards, gift wrap and other holiday staples than after the holiday has just passed.

One warning: Don't do it unless you have a safe, dry place to store the items. Rolls of gift wrap that get bent and bruised will just mean you'll throw it away and buy more.

Save the cash
If you got what some consider the sweetest present of all, remember this: You don't have to spend it. Not right away, anyway. And there are uses for it that could wind up making the gift bigger in the long run.

Paying down debt or investing the money can make the gift keep on giving long after the holiday is a dim memory.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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