Thanks to social media and couponing blogs, tracking when products are likely to go on sale has become remarkably easy.

When you’ve got many pairs of eyes shopping in the same stores, the news that a favorite chain has just dropped a popular category of products into a bargain-basement price range can quickly spread from one shopper to thousands.

Learning when specific sales are likely to come around each year helps shoppers anticipate when they might expect a similar sale again.

For example, a large department store in my area drops the prices on their overstocked toys in early January. Later in the month, they run an unadvertised sale, which takes another 50 percent off the clearance prices.

This is a great deal for anyone looking to stock up on toys. I always anticipate this sale each year and begin “stalking” the store, visiting several times each week around the time I’ve learned to expect the prices to drop.

In past years, the sale has begun between the second and fourth weeks of January.

I’m not the only one watching and waiting for this great sale! Again, it’s unadvertised, so the only way to know if it’s running is to physically go to the store and find out.

On a Monday morning at 8:30 a.m., I walked in the store to find other “sale stalkers” loading carts with clearance toys. I quickly browsed around and bought many name-brand toys for pennies on the dollar: licensed action figures for my sons in the $2 range, popular interlocking brick building sets as low as 25 cents and character princess-themed dolls and toys for my nieces for $1.63.

For me, I’ve learned this is a sale I cannot afford to miss. I’m able to stock up on birthday and Christmas gifts at bargain prices.

As soon as I got home, I began spreading the word on my JillCataldo.com blog to other like-minded shoppers. Many were excited and replied to my post that they were headed to the store immediately. However, one reader wrote and asked, “Do you think this sale will still be running on Saturday and Sunday? I only go to that store on the weekend.”

There wasn’t a good way to sugarcoat my answer. I advised her that if she wanted the toys at these prices, she ought to go to the store as soon as possible. As word of the sale spread, the toys flew off the shelves, and indeed, by the weekend, I started receiving emails from disappointed shoppers that the clearance sale simply hadn’t “waited for them.”

I realize that not everyone can drop everything and run to the store on a whim, but waiting six or seven days after a rock-bottom clearance sale begins nearly ensures that there will be slim pickings on the shelves once you arrive.

I’ve got an oft-repeated adage that I’ve shared both in this column and in my live Super-Couponing workshops: You can spend time to save money, or you can spend money to save time. I am blessed to work from home and set my own hours.

If I want to take a morning off to shop, I can work in the evening and make up that time. The time I spent stalking this sale paid off well as it represents money I won’t be overspending for gifts later in the year.

Even for those working traditional hours, it’s still possible to work in a trip to the store for a good sale. My husband, who also loves this sale, headed out after dinner on the same day I shopped at another store location in the same chain.

He delightedly came home with a few more great finds: superhero action figures and play sets that our kids will undoubtedly love.

However, sales like these simply won’t wait for you. You’ve got to actively seek them out and take advantage of them before they’re gone. And, if you’re active on social media, consider sharing news of a great sale with other shoppers, too. They’ll thank you!

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.