The Best and Worst Things to Buy in December

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Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.

This post comes from Lindsay Sakraida and Louis Ramirez at 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.

In partnership with DealNews, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has prepared the following video about the best things to buy this month. Check it out, then read on for more details.

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 that 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 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 $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. For instance, L.L.Bean is offering a free $10 gift card to any customer who spends $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 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 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 Dec. 25, 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.

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 those 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 or 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 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 those 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-inch Core i5 Haswell laptop deals have averaged $408; 15-inch 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-inch 3-D HDTVs dropped an extra 6 percent 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-plus 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.

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