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The countdown to Christmas is on in a holiday shopping season that saw Black Friday-like discounts in October. Early sales notwithstanding, December should bring a continued dose of deals and promotions, predicts the National Retail Federation. Before you set out on last-minute shopping expeditions this month, consult our list of what to buy (and skip) in order to save yourself time and money.
If your son or daughter is asking for toys or cuddly stuffed animals this year, it’s wise to buy in late December when better toy discounts are likely to abound.
Expect great sales close to Dec. 25. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, which should make the Friday before Christmas Eve (Dec. 23) a busy day for in-store traffic, according to retail insights company Sensormatic Solutions. If you’re planning to venture out, you might find a good price on toys retailers are set on selling.
Cold weather may have you craving a new set of flannel sheets, but don’t throw out your old linens yet. Historically, the best pricing on bedding and linens happens in January during retail “white sales.” Towel and bedding sales take place at department stores and online.
The savings are usually substantial. In the past, Joss & Main offered up to 60% off patterned and multicolored bedding picks. Pottery Barn shoppers could save 20% on bedding, towels and more. Overstock offered discounts of up to 70%.
Buy: Gift cards
After a year of historic inflation, it’s hard to know what truly constitutes a good deal. Gift cards can be your secret weapon against rising prices. “Buying gift cards gives the recipient the option to buy what they want when they want it — hopefully at a time when the price is a little lower,” says Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner of Retail Systems Research, or RSR, headquartered in Miami.
If this route feels a little impersonal, pair it with a thoughtful note. And make sure the card comes from a store or service your recipient likes.
December isn’t a bad month to buy a TV, but you probably could have done better in November, on or around Black Friday. You’ll find TV deals this month too, but those who can hold out a bit longer will be rewarded with great prices leading up to the Super Bowl. Check for TV discounts in January and the first couple of days of February.
Retailers including Amazon, Target and Best Buy tend to drop prices of TVs just before the big game. Best Buy, for example, has offered up to 30% off some 4K TVs in the past.
Buy: Christmas decorations
The best discounts on holiday decorations will be after Christmas, when big-box chains and department stores drastically cut prices (sometimes by as much as 80%) on artificial trees, ornaments, wrapping paper, stockings and other seasonal staples.
But if you want to buy some last-minute Christmas necessities for this year, expect discounts to increase as the holiday nears. In the past, some Christmas closeout sales began Dec. 24.
Skip: Leaf blowers and string trimmers
You’d think dropping temps in colder-weather states would make December a good month to pick up leaf blowers and weed eaters, but there are better times to buy. It’s best to buy string trimmers in the spring and leaf blowers in both early spring and fall, according to Consumer Reports. That said, there’s no harm in scanning home store circulars for lawn tool bargains because nothing is off limits when it comes to holiday sales.
If you welcome any excuse to woof down a cookie or two, how about getting one for free? Dec. 4 is National Cookie Day, and cookie shops will celebrate with sweet deals and freebies.
Last year, some stores offered free or discounted cookies to celebrate. Look for similar offers this year from your favorite grocery stores and dessert brands.