The Best and Worst Things to Buy in January 2018

Yes, the holiday sales are over, but some even better deals show up in post-holiday sales. Here's a look at the best bargains of the month.

Ready or not, 2018 is here! That means we’re done with the holiday sales and on to the post-holiday sales. While you won’t find everything on sale in January, some items are real bargains this time of year — like gym memberships, bedding and hotel stays. There are also some purchases that are not advisable in January, and we recommend you delay them if you can.

8 good buys this month …

We went through our sales data, checking out last January’s deals to find the ones that were worthy of an Editors’ Choice accolade. Let’s start with those.

1. Gym memberships

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, there’s a good chance you want to get healthy, eat better or lose weight — and the people peddling gym memberships know this is the perfect time to hook you. And we do mean hook, because gym membership contracts can be complicated, designed to part you from your money.

In January, you’re likely to find gyms waiving extra fees (which can range from $10 to $100 per year, depending on the gym), offering a free introductory period or providing a discount on their rates to make it easy to jump into a year of fitness. And if you don’t see any deals offered, ask!

Just be sure to read the contract carefully before signing up. Don’t commit to something you can’t afford — such as hidden fees, long-term contracts or steep rates that kick in after a few months. Most importantly, be sure you’ll actually go to the gym before you join. Plenty of people sign up in January but give up on their resolutions within a few weeks. If you’re one of them, you could get stuck paying monthly dues for the rest of the year.

Prefer to get in shape at home? Fitness equipment sales are less common; we saw more Editors’ Choice fitness deals in November and December. Still, there should be a few notable bargains. Look for Fitbits and other fitness trackers for as much as half off, with refurbished models offering the best deals.

Or, really save money on your fitness resolution. Check out this report on free and cheap apps to guide your workout at home.

2. Linens, bedding, and towels

It’s the season of white sales, a January tradition that originally offered deals on basic white sheets. Like most sale events, it’s grown over the years. Now you can expect to find sales on bedding of all kinds, as well as towels and other home essentials. It’s a good time to refresh bedrooms and bathrooms with new linens, with sales taking 50 percent to 70 percent off.

Last year, we saw those 70 percent off discounts at Macy’s, Overstock and Wayfair, but good deals could be found at JCPenney, Kohl’s and Target, too.

3. Clothes, especially winter apparel

Clothing sales account for the majority of January’s best deals. You’ll find a lot of winter wear on clearance racks as stores make room for spring styles. In most parts of the country, it’s still cold enough to make use of a warm winter coat — and if nothing else, you can grab a great deal on next year’s winter wardrobe.

But you can find a lot more than winter coats on discount. While winter jackets made up a quarter of last year’s sales, shoes made up another quarter — and there were also steals on everything from socks to handbags. Sales can chop up to 90 percent off retail prices, making January a great time of year to refresh your wardrobe.

Neiman Marcus Last Call topped the savings last year with that 90 percent discount, but expect bargain prices almost everywhere, even on big brands. Tory Burch, True Religion, Lucky Brand, Ralph Lauren, Steven Alan, Barney’s and Nautica all offered deep discounts.

You’ll want to hit these sales soon, because stock will be limited; when the style or size you want is gone, it’s gone for good.

4. Holiday decor

The holiday season is over for another year, which means all of the holiday stock left on store shelves is going to be on clearance. That makes it a great time to stock up on ornaments, lights, decorations, wrapping paper and more — you may even find next year’s Christmas tree at a deep discount!

With deals ranging from 50 percent to 85 percent off, you’ll want to buy now, before the last of the Christmas gear is sold out. Last year’s best sales were at Lowe’s, which offered strings of lights for $2 and a 6½-foot pre-lit Christmas tree for $19. Also check The Home Depot and Target, both of which are likely to slash prices on holiday offerings. That said, any retailer with seasonal items will be trying to get rid of them.

5. Hotel stays

Most travelers are back home after the holiday season. In January, the travel industry tries to lure in vacationers with lower prices. You’ll find rack rates for hotel rooms in most destinations with discounts of 20 percent off holiday peak season. Just avoid the higher rates around the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, when travelers take advantage of the long weekend (Jan. 13-15 this year).

The only snag is that booking airfare at the last minute can be pricey. We saw a few travel deals last January — with last-minute one-way flights starting at $18 from Frontier and $28 from United, as well as 40 percent off Greyhound — but usually you’ll save more by booking transportation in advance. However, you can take advantage of discounted hotel rates for destinations within driving distance (or start planning next year’s vacation early).

6. Broadway tickets

Because it’s a slow season for the travel industry, you can find deals on entertainment, too — and Broadway tickets are a guaranteed bargain in January. Broadway Week offers 2-for-1 tickets on many shows, including some of the hottest hits. (Sorry, “Hamilton” enthusiasts: the long sold-out show is unlikely to see any sales).

Note: Contrary to its name, Broadway Week runs for two weeks, from Jan. 16 to Feb. 4. You can start browsing ticket sales on Jan. 5.

7. National park visits

If you prefer the great outdoors, national parks make another entertainment option. Free entry days let you enjoy all they have to offer at absolutely no cost. In 2018, there will be four free days, the first on Jan. 15 for MLK day. Savings will vary depending on the park, but you’ll save up to $35 per vehicle.

8. Home furniture

In the furniture world, new styles hit the market in February, which means retailers will be trying to get rid of older stock in January. What you’ll find on sale will vary depending on what the retailer happens to have left, but expect darker, winter-appropriate palettes rather than the brighter spring colors that’ll be common later in the year. Deals will get better later in the month, but the longer you wait, the fewer choices you’ll have. To get the best sales, don’t be afraid to haggle: sometimes retailers will be willing to cut a little extra off to get old stock off the show floor.

This isn’t the right time of year to shop for outdoor furniture, however. Look for those items to start going on clearance in late summer.

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