What to Buy (and Skip) in December

Holiday Tips & News, Shopping, Shopping News, Shopping Tips

If you’re like many Americans, you’ll get a lot of holiday shopping done between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But despite a drawer stuffed with receipts and more than a few bags full of gifts by the time December arrives, you likely won’t be finished.

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 better 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 2015, last-minute Christmas sales included 30% off all Hot Wheels merchandise at Big Lots and a Little Tikes Jump ’N Slide bouncer for $199.99 (regularly $269.99) at Kmart.

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 2016, Macy’s launched bed and bath closeouts with discounts of 40 to 60% off on select styles. Target shoppers could spend $100 and save $25 or spend $50 and save $10 with a coupon code, plus save up to 15% on select bedding and bath items.

Buy: Christmas decorations

The best discounts on holiday decorations will be after Christmas when big-box chains and department stores drastically cut prices 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.

Last year, some Christmas closeout sales began Dec. 24. Sears offered up to 60% off Christmas trees and decor, while Target marked down some decorations by 50%.

» 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 off-season times when retailers might be 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 retailers offer free shipping with no minimum purchase requirements for last-minute online shoppers. This year, the one-day event is Dec. 16.

So far, confirmed retail participants include Cabela’s, J.C. Penney and Tory Burch. Visit FreeShippingDay.com at 12:01 a.m. EST Dec. 16 to see all available shipping deals.

Skip: TVs

Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — is the ultimate deal day on electronics, including television sets. If you miss 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 HDTV discounts in January and February. Before the 2016 Super Bowl, Sears, Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon dropped prices on TVs.

Bonus: National Cookie Day

You probably welcome any excuse to eat a cookie, so how about getting one for free? Dec. 4 is National Cookie Day, and cookie shops will celebrate with sweet deals and freebies. Last year, Great American Cookies gave away classic chocolate chip cookies to people who shopped at participating stores on that day. Look for something similar this year from your favorite dessert brands.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Updated Nov. 21, 2016.