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Save money during annual shopping sales in Europe

Part cultural activity, part extreme sport, traditional sale periods in European countries offer American visitors the chance to make the most of the weak dollar.

In many places, sale periods are government-regulated and countrywide. And even in countries where the government doesn’t determine sale periods, tradition usually dictates a major markdown sometime during the winter and again in summer.

To shop like a local and get prices you just won’t find the rest of the year, you’ll need to know two things: the word for sale and the sale dates. Here are a few of the big ones to note:

Call them: Les Soldes
Find them: Sales occur in mid-January and mid-June, and last up to six weeks.

Call them: Las Rebajas
Find them: The winter sale starts around January 7 and runs through most of February and sometimes into March. The summer sale starts in early July and lasts into August.

Call them: Le Saldi
Find them: The winter sale runs during January and February, and the summer sale takes place in July and August.

For more sale dates, check the European Consumer Centre database. Choose a country from the left navigation, then scroll down until you see the “Sales” section.

As for the best time to hit the sales, it depends on whether your aim is selection or price. By shopping early in the sale period, you’ll find a better variety, but shopping near the end of the sale often means further price reductions.

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