What to Buy (and Skip) in January

What to Buy (and Skip) in January

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[Editor’s note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, in-store shopping may not be feasible, and some of these items may not be available.]

Now that 2020 is finally behind us, 2021 could be the year when you rejoin your family, go to stores again and save more money.

We created a guide to help kick off the money-saving part. Here are our recommendations for what to buy (and skip) in January, based on NerdWallet’s analysis of historical sales cycles.

Buy: Christmas decorations

The period after Christmas has long been the best time to buy Christmas decorations.

You may scoop up some post-Christmas deals on Dec. 26, but come Jan. 1, there will still be a handful of artificial trees, red ornaments and shiny wrapping paper on clearance. Stock up on holiday closeouts if you have space to store extra tinsel until next December.

Skip: Toys

Toys were hot during the holidays, but with Christmas over, January likely won’t see many worthwhile toy deals. The good news is, your little ones are probably set for a while with all of their December gifts.

Buy: TVs

The end of football season marks the beginning of television deals, as retailers help shoppers prep for viewing parties. The Super Bowl is slated for Feb. 7, and we expect retailers will kick off sales at the end of January, making it an excellent time to score a bargain.

Traditionally, major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and others discount a wide variety of TVs in assorted brands and sizes before the big game. Look for similar savings again in 2021.

Spot your saving opportunities
See your spending breakdown to show your top spending trends and where you can cut back.

Skip: Mattresses

Great deals on mattresses happen in February when Presidents Day sales bring discounts. For instance, in the past, Mattress Firm offered a free adjustable base with a qualifying mattress purchase of $599 or more. Nectar Sleep gave $125 off, plus two free pillows, with purchase of a Nectar mattress.

This year, Presidents Day is Feb. 15, so wait another month if you’re in the market for a new mattress.

If February is too soon for your budget, mattress deals will return in May, over Memorial Day weekend, and in September, over Labor Day weekend.

Buy: Fitness gear

January is a solid time to sign up for a gym at a discount, as many chains offer special New Year’s rates. But don’t spend that money unless you’re sure you’ll use the membership. All too often, new members lock themselves in for a full year, then stop showing up after a month or two. The pandemic may add more uncertainty.

If you prefer to work out at home, fitness equipment will be discounted, too.

Shop: White sales

You might not want to buy a whole new mattress, but you can save on the sheets and blankets that go on your existing one. January is when department stores host “white sales” to clear out their inventory of sheets, towels, blankets and more. Expect savings to be especially deep on clearance items. In the past, we’ve seen stores offer 60%-70% off bedding basics.

Bonus: Martin Luther King Jr. Day sales

You may not associate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with shopping, but retailers certainly do. The holiday falls on Jan. 18, and you can anticipate deals on clothing and home goods. Highlights from prior holiday weekend sales included up to 75% off linens at Bloomingdale’s and a coupon for 40% off a purchase at Gap.

Bonus: National Spaghetti Day

It’s not just sales to keep an eye out for in January. The calendar is filled with days of observation for just about everything, and one of them — National Spaghetti Day — happens Jan. 4. Use this day as your chance to get dinner on the house at participating restaurants.

Spend time to save money

As you’re searching for deals and end-of-season savings in January, keep in mind that waiting for low prices can be a trade-off, says Ozalp Ozer, a professor of management science at The University of Texas at Dallas. You’ll have to put time into the search. And buying when a better deal is available may mean that inventory will already be picked over.

But for the budget-conscious, the extra time and not risking regret is worth it.