The Best and Worst Things to Buy in December

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This post by Lindsay Sakraida comes from partner site DealNews. 

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 altogether, 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 2011, many of the year’s top toys hit their lowest prices of the season in the two weeks before Christmas. In fact, that middle week of December specifically saw a staggering number 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, so prices often reflect that.

Put off buying a 2013 wall calendar

You may see some modest discounts this month and early in 2013 that will 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?)

Keep an eye out for gift card freebies

A popular promotion throughout the month of December, especially among 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 $40 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards. However, retailers are more likely to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain threshold: L.L.Bean offered a free $10 gift card to any customer who spent $50 or more.

Tools and hardware deals for dad

Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! Like last month, December is an excellent time for tools and hardware deals. In fact, last year, the month of December featured double the number of Editors’ Choice offers than any other month, save for November. Look for 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 Dec. 26, you’ll see discounts of 50 percent to 70 percent off seasonal goods. However, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to WalmartKmart, and Home Depot 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, the 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, FoodSaver, Williams Sonoma, and Sears.

Deals on NFL gear (if your team was terrible in 2012)

If your team has already essentially been knocked out of the running for the Super Bowl, then congrats! You can now start looking for discounts on 2012 merchandise. If your team is still at it, you might need to wait until the playoffs in January for some choice savings. Regardless of your team’s standings, though, we typically see a greater number of Editors’ Choice NFL deals in both December and January as stores start slashing prices in anticipation of the end of the season.

Skip buying jewelry for the holidays

Sorry, lovers. As our Media Editor 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, so if you haven’t already purchased something nice in advance, you likely won’t be getting the best deal. Sure savings exist, but you won’t be getting the lowest price we’ve ever seen for any pair of earrings. However, you can make the most of the season’s sales by using a broad department store or apparel coupon for a nominal discount, but many stores, including Macy’s, frequently exclude jewelry from these offers.

For electronics deals, wait until 2013 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 2013 models, which means that all the goods from 2012 will begin to see a round of discounts.

December brings added savings to name-brand HDTVs

When it comes to HDTV deals, it’s tough to beat the doorbuster prices we see on Black Friday. However, if you didn’t pick up a new set last month, there’s good news ahead as December is still a prime month for HDTV deals. In fact, last year name-brand 42-inch LCD HDTVs dropped an extra 5 percent in December (when compared to their best November price). Likewise, 46-inch and 47-inch name-brand LCD HDTVs dropped an extra 8 percent in December (when compared to their best November price).

3D fans, unfortunately, are still stuck paying a premium for the latest 3D technology. As a result, we once again recommend steering clear of any 3D TV deals, as you simply get more value for your money buying a traditional non-3D TV. (Based on our 2011 TV deal data, prices on 55-inch 3D HDTVs increased 10 percent from November to December.)

Desktop replacements are the new budget laptops

Black Friday and Cyber Monday offered an endless barrage of excellent laptop deals. And while traditionally the most aggressive deals are held for budget 15-inch laptops (those with Celeron or Pentium CPUs), this year we found many of the most aggressive deals applied to mainstream Ivy Bridge laptops. In fact, we saw 16-inch mainstream Core i5 Ivy Bridge notebooks drop as low as $360. (For those keeping track, that’s $4 under our Black Friday prediction.) We expect these aggressive deals to continue through December and to see deals from the likes of Best Buy, the Microsoft Store, and Fry’s Electronics.

If you’re shopping for a desktop replacement, we saw big drops on both budget Celeron-based 17-inch laptops (which dropped as low as $350) and well-equipped Core i7-based 17-inch laptops (which fell to $645, a price low we hadn’t seen since February 2012.) Again, we recommend looking at deals from Best Buy, Dell, and Lenovo.

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