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What to Buy (and Skip) in December

Nov. 28, 2017
Holiday Tips & News, Shopping, Shopping News, Shopping Tips
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If you’re like many Americans, you got a lot of holiday shopping done between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But as December arrives, you likely have a bit more to do.

Before you set out on additional bargain-hunting trips, here’s a list of what to buy (and skip) in December in order to save you time and money.

Buy: Toys

If your son or daughter wants a flashy new “Star Wars” toy or a cuddly stuffed animal this year, it would be wise to wait until December to buy it — that’s when toy discounts are likely to abound. Expect great sales close to Dec. 25. And don’t forget about Super Saturday — retailers traditionally offer loads of savings on the last Saturday before Christmas. In 2016, last-minute Christmas sales included discounts of as much as 50% off at stores like Toys R Us.

» MORE: NerdWallet helps you save money this holiday season

Skip: Bedding

Cold weather may have you craving a new set of flannel sheets, but don’t throw out your old linens yet. Historically, the best prices on bedding and linens occur in January during retail “white sales.” In the past, we’ve seen white sales at department stores and even on Amazon.

In January 2017, Joss & Main offered up to 75% off sheets, mattresses, pillows and more. Target shoppers could spend $100 and save $25 or spend $50 and save $10 on bedding and bath purchases.

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. 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 even began on Dec. 24.

» MORE: What to buy every month of the year

Skip: Jewelry

December might be one of the most popular times for marriage proposals, but hopefully, those engagement rings were purchased in a previous month. In general, try not to buy jewelry close to holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Better deals typically are available during offseason times when retailers are more eager to discount their inventory. You also may want to try to negotiate the price.

Shop on: Free Shipping Day

Free Shipping Day is an annual event in December when participating retailers offer free shipping with no minimum purchase requirements for last-minute online shoppers. Plus, items will be delivered by Christmas Eve. This year, the one-day event is Dec. 15.

So far, confirmed retail participants include Target, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney. Visit at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Dec. 15 to see all available shipping offers.

Skip: TVs

Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — is the ultimate deal day on electronics, including television sets. If you missed the opportunity, you likely will see additional TV deals in December. But those who can hold out for longer will be rewarded with great prices leading up to Super Bowl. Check for HDTV discounts in January and February. Before the 2017 Super Bowl, retailers including Walmart and Amazon dropped prices on TVs.

» MORE: When is the best time to buy a TV?

Bonus: National Cookie Day

If you welcome any excuse to eat a cookie, 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. That included Whole Foods, which sold chocolate chip cookies for 25 cents each. Look for similar offers this year from your favorite grocery stores and dessert brands.

Saving money during the holiday season can be difficult, but NerdWallet’s tailored advice makes it easier. Sign up for free to reach your savings goal faster.

Updated Nov. 28, 2017.