The best and worst things to buy in December
Stock up on toys, hardware, and kitchen items, but avoid jewelry and electronics until the new year.
December is a month when you almost can't avoid shopping. You may have skipped Black Friday — overwhelmed by the offers, hype, and crowds — but the holiday season is a different beast all together, with gifts from loved ones, friends, and people you barely know coming at you from all angles. Maintain lots of holiday cheer by shopping wisely with our December buying guide. We've pored over the extensive DealNews archives of sales, coupons, and daily deals from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December. Here's what we found.
Get Good Deals on Toys ... By Still Waiting
Finally, it's the best time to buy holiday toys! Almost. In 2012, many of the year's top toys hit their lowest prices of the season during the middle of the month. In fact, last year that timeframe also saw an influx of Editors' Choice toy deals. Keep in mind, however, that shopping mere days before Christmas is probably not wise; retailers realize last-minute shoppers are desperate and less able to effectively comparison shop, and prices often reflect that.
Keep an Eye Out for Gift Card Freebies
A popular promotion throughout the month of December — especially amongst restaurants — is to offer a free gift card to shoppers who purchase one as a gift. For example, last year California Pizza Kitchen offered a $20 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards. Retailers, on the other hand, are more likely to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain order threshold: L.L.Bean currently offers a free $10 gift card to any customer that spends $50 or more.
Tools & Hardware Deals for Dad
Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! Like last month, December is an excellent time for tool and hardware deals. While the sheer volume of Editors' Choice deals dips after November, there's still an above-average number of significant discounts on wrench and screwdriver sets, drills, lawn-care tools, and more.
It's a Jolly Time to Buy Christmas Decorations ... After Christmas
At this point, it's common knowledge that holiday decorations see their greatest discounts after the holiday in question has passed, and this is no different for Christmas. If you wait until December 26, you'll see discounts of 50% to 70% off seasonal goods. However, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to Walmart, Kmart, and JCPenney for inexpensive options.
Stock Up on Kitchen Items for More Holiday Cooking
Although we noted that November sees the greatest number of cookware and kitchen deals, many sales and discounts last year carried over into December and resulted in an uptick in the number of Editors' Choice prices. Look for cutlery sets, bakeware, small appliances, and more from Macy's, Kohl's, Amazon, Williams Sonoma, and Sears.
Skip Buying Jewelry for the Holidays
Sorry, guys. As our Media Editor, Jeff Somogyi, put it last year, "Big Jewelry" has you in a corner this month. Jewelry just doesn't see its best discounts of the year before Christmas. Sure savings exist, but you likely won't be getting the best deal. However, you can still try to get a discount through broad department store coupons that apply to jewelry. However many stores, such as Macy's, frequently exclude jewelry from these offers.
For Electronics Deals, Wait Until 2014 Models Debut
If you didn't jump on the electronics deals during Black Friday weekend, then at this point, you might as well wait until January and February to buy a digital camera, TV, or other device. The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the official launch for many 2014 models, which means that all the goods from 2013 will begin to see a round of discounts.
Put Off Buying a 2014 Wall Calendar
You'll see modest discounts throughout the month and into 2014 that may entice you to purchase a calendar, but the first significant sales we'll see on these items come at the end of January and beginning of February. (You can of course see even bigger discounts the longer you put it off, but you actually want to use the calendar, right?)
Mainstream Haswell Laptops Undercutting Ivy Bridge
Opting for previous generation tech is one of the best ways to save money on computer purchases, which is why we've generally recommended opting for Intel's Ivy Bridge processor instead of Haswell. But for the past three months, 15" Core i5 Haswell laptop deals have averaged $408; 15" Core i5 Ivy Bridge machines have averaged $409. Though we still think Ivy Bridge laptops will likely drop further, we'd naturally recommend going for the Haswell laptop if the difference in price is minor. So if you're in the market for a new laptop, make sure to look for both options as the higher-end system might not be priced at the usual premium.
Brand Name TV Discounts on the Horizon, Panasonic's Plasma Farewell
If the deluge of TV deals we saw last month didn't tempt you, the deals we see in the next few months might. While there are typically some noteworthy brand-name deals in November, the month is mostly devoted to third-tier manufacturers like Insignia, Dynex, and Westinghouse. December marks the start of deals on high-end, brand-name TVs from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic, and LG. For instance, last year 55" 3D HDTVs dropped an extra 6% during the month of February (versus their low in November). While that may not sound like a lot, it could mean keeping an extra $50+ in your pocket. Expect these deals to begin in December and taper off in February.
On a different note, Panasonic recently announced it will be ending production of its highly-rated plasmas this month. While the news itself doesn't guarantee a fire sale on Pannie plasmas, it could encourage some retailers to discount the remaining stock they have, especially with new HDTVs being announced at CES in January. So if you want the most bang for your buck, it's worth looking at Panasonic plasma deals in the coming months. Popular models to look at include the VT60, ST60, and S60 to name a few, the latter of which is the company's budget plasma.
Ready to put this information to use? Set up an email alert now to keep abreast of any and all of these best buys in December. Also be sure to check out our gift guide, with all the latest deals that would make excellent presents this holiday season.
Lindsay Sakraida and Louis Ramirez are writers for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/what-to-buy-in-december/
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.