Eight of the best and worst things to buy in January

January is an excellent time to get a head start on shopping for other seasons at a discount. With a little planning, it's easy to spot the right sales. 

Fitbit via AP/File
The Fitbit Surge, among the few fitness trackers with built-in GPS and heart-rate monitors.

The new year is upon us, and after all that shopping you likely did during the holidays, you may be looking forward to giving your credit card a rest. But January is an excellent month to bag deals like winter apparel or early Valentine's Day gifts.

So before you resign yourself to steering clear of stores all together this month, check out our list of the best and worst things to buy in January, which we compiled from our extensive archives.

Resolve to Buy Discounted Fitness Equipment

Looking to start the New Year with a new physique? Retailers are there for you, offering deals on sports and fitness equipment. While we don't necessarily see more deals after Christmas, we definitely see better sitewide discounts from a range of vendors, including sporting goods stores and department stores that have lots of fitness goods.

Last year, stores like Dick's Sporting GoodsTargetSears, and NordicTrack had after Christmas discounts of 25% to 50% on select sporting and fitness goods, including additional discounts on items that were already on clearance. Groupon even had sales of up to 90% off fitness deals. Sales included everything from bats and balls to free weights, as well as lots of fitness trackers.

This is also traditionally a good time to get deals on gym memberships. Look for gyms to at least lower or completely waive sign-up fees; if they don't outright offer it, ask for it. The best deals will also give you a month or even two months for free. If you're willing to pay for a full year upfront, the gym is more likely to be receptive to your requests for discounts.

Spring for Winter Apparel

Most of the U.S. has enjoyed downright spring-like temperatures right through December, which was terrible news for retailers selling outerwear. But their loss is your gain: With all that leftover inventory and prime outerwear buying season over already, retailers will be discounting coats and sweaters like crazy. Outerwear deals were picking up earlier than ever this year, and we expect discounts to be the best we've seen, as the traditional winter clearance season begins.

Apparel deals notably dominate After Christmas sales. Last year, some of our most popular sales during that time included discounts from Nordstrom, Target, Banana Republic, and Columbia. Sales went as high as 70% off select items (at Amazon), with most discounts around 40% or 50% off, plus additional discounts on clearance items.

Visit Our National Parks, Free of Charge

January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and in celebration, all 409 national parks will feature free admission. While a large number of our parks are already free of charge, notable parks that are waiving their fees include several of the most-visited in the country, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Olympic National Park. You'll save roughly $12 per person if you're arriving by foot or bike, or about $20 to $25 per vehicle.

Keep an Eye Out for Early Tax Software Deals

While tax filing software and service deals will get better as the season goes on, we saw Editors' Choice deals as early as January last year, which is good news for early bird filers. The quantity of deals could increase in February, though, if you want more options.

The best deal we saw last year knocked TaxACT State and Federal to just $12, which popped up in February and several times in early April. Throughout the season, including January, we more typically saw deals drop to the $20 to $25 dollar range, or up to 50% off. That usually resulted in about $10 to $20 off the retail price for software from H&R Block and TurboTax.

Regardless of when you buy, be aware of whether the package you're buying includes the cost of submitting your state returns; frequently, these services will charge extra for state, and if it's included in the cost, that might make it a better overall deal.

Get an Early Start on Valentine's Day Gifts

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Fortunately, after Christmas sales will continue to provide some amazing sitewide discounts from Swarovski and Blue Nile, each cutting 50% to 60% off select items. January also sees numerous discounts on diamonds and pearls from retailers like Szul and WinPearl. And lots of those department store end-of-year sales will include jewelry and accessories.

Also, keep an eye out for Valentine's Day flower sales from 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora to start just before the end of the month, as well as chocolate sales from Harry & David and Godiva. These sales will cut 20% to 25% sitewide, or will offer free shipping (or both).

Steep Savings on Christmas Decor

We know the timing is far from ideal, but January is a great month to buy Christmas decorations. Try to think ahead and stock up for next year! Last year, we saw tons of post-Christmas decor clearances from Home DepotSearsLowe'sKmart, Target, Crate and BarrelPier 1 Imports, and more. Most cut up to 70% off the seasonal inventory, with some going as high as 89%. Look for discounted trees, lights, ornaments, inflatable lawn figures, stockings, model villages, and more.

Look for Even Cheaper 4K TVs

As usual, the Consumer Electronics Show will take place in Las Vegas early this month, unveiling new developments in many of your favorite devices. And that will mean discounts on all the older-generation things that see upgrades. What's more, sales will get even better once the new model is actually available to buy. This timing can vary from device to device, so be aware of release dates.

CNET is guessing that 4K TVs will become the norm at this year's CES, which makes sense, as these high-end sets finally saw decent discounts and good value this past Black Friday. That means 1080p sets will become the new entry-level TVs, and 720p will be a bargain.

Otherwise, it's best to stick with TVs in the 40" to 55" range during January. After the amazing deals of the holidays, TV discounts are quiet for several months. But these mid-sized sets have plateaued in discounts, so they're usually available for a decent price. Look for deals that will drop 40" sets to $250, or 55" sets to $480.

Wearables on the Rise

Other CES predictions say wearables will really explode this year. We were pleasantly surprised to see the Apple Watch get significant discounts on Black Friday, with prices dropping as low as $299. However, rumors are swirling that a new Apple Watch will debut in March; but, based on its history, discounts on the new model will be modest through the summer, so it's still worth considering an Apple Watch deal now if you're devoted to getting a discount.

Similarly, fitness trackers were another hot item for the holidays, often bundled with a gift card. New technologies could push these items further into mainstream territory.

This article first appeared on DealNews.

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