December is a month traditionally cluttered with sales. While that may sound like a dream come true for some, it actually makes shoppers vulnerable to overspending, especially since the National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase by 4.1%. Conflicted by year-end sales, free shipping promotions, and an unforgiving holiday countdown, it's easy for shoppers to give in to the first discount they see.
But just like we cautioned shoppers to be vigilant in November, so too must they be sharp in December; many products you see on sale pre-Christmas will be significantly cheaper post-Christmas. We understand nobody wants to give gifts late, but if you have the luxury of trading gifts after December 25, or if you happen to be shopping for yourself, we've compiled a list of items you should buy after the holidays.
Clothing & Apparel
Apparel is the one item you absolutely shouldn't buy before Christmas. Sure, you're bound to see various clothing deals leading up to the holidays, but 45% of all after-Christmas sales are for clothing. Moreover, the majority of post-Christmas apparel deals are Editors' Choice level, meaning they're the biggest discounts of the year. Basically, you'll save more on the majority of items if you wait.
Shoppers looking to save a few bucks should especially avoid buying items from the Gap (and its sister sites Piperlime and Banana Republic). These stores save their biggest percent-off discounts for the day after Christmas. Other brands that offer better post-Christmas sales include 6pm, Express, Macy's, and New York & Co. Our rule also applies to luxury brands. Brooks Brothers, Saks, Calvin Klein, and Betsey Johnson hold above-average after-Christmas sales, so if you can manage it, you'll want to avoid buying anything from them before the holidays.
We applaud anyone who starts their new year's resolutions in December, but if getting fit is your top priority in 2015, you may want to hold off any purchases until January, because that's traditionally the month that offers the best deals on exercise equipment. For instance, last year, Sears' pre-Christmas fitness sale was trumped by its after-Christmas sale, which took an extra 10% off items that were already marked 40% off. NordicTrack, Weider, and Powerline are just a few of the brands that see better discounts after the holidays.
Come mid-January, deals get even better, with sales from stores like Amazon, Sports Authority, and Walmart jumping into the foray. Expect these retailers to offer fitness gear discounts that range from 40% to 90% off. Even fitness accessories see better discounts in January, so whether you're looking for workout gear or exercise machines, it pays to wait until after the holidays.
Most Consumer Electronics
November brought an astonishing number of TV and laptop deals, many of which shattered our carefully-picked predictions. While many of those deals will bleed into December, you'll want to be cautious of what tech you buy. Every January, manufacturers convene in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, where the year's new TVs, laptops, and gadgets are unveiled.
For December shoppers, that means the tech you buy today will be outdated within weeks. And even if you don't mind owning a previous generation, it also means you could see bigger savings on those items in February and beyond, when the new merchandise starts making its way into store shelves.
Just as January marks a new month for consumer electronics, so too does February for furniture. Traditionally, most new furniture collections debut in January and February, which makes the new year the best time for furniture deals, since many items will be on clearance.
Horchow, West Elm, Home Depot, Target, and Crate and Barrel are just a few of the major retailers who heavily discount their collections in January. You'll even see a few mattress sales, although we've found that the best mattress deals come in April. Expect to see furniture clearance sales that take between 40% to 75% off regular prices. Meanwhile, mattress sales will see slightly more modest discounts of 40% to 60% off from retailers like Sears and JCPenney. By comparison, the best furniture sales in December will take just 15% to 30% off regular prices.
Black Friday triggered an explosion in record-breaking laptop deals. Budget laptops dropped to $100, whereas more powerful mainstream machines hit $300, both of which were unprecedented. This month we're again seeing a surge in laptop deals, with an emphasis on 15" laptops that rely on Intel's mainstream processor, the Haswell Core i5 CPU.
But as great as these deals may seem, 2015 is guaranteed to bring better offers because manufacturers are expected to roll out laptops that use Intel's next-generation Broadwell Core M processor. (There are some Core M systems available today, but wider distribution is expected in early 2015.) For consumers, that means any laptop you buy today will likely be even cheaper in the coming weeks. For comparison, when deals on Haswell laptops first appeared in June of 2013, deals on previous-generation Ivy Bridge machines fell an extra 8% in price that month.
Buying Christmas decorations post-holiday season may seem counter intuitive, but in terms of savings, it's a no-brainer. Starting December 26, many stores will sell their holiday decor at prices that are 40% to 75% off. Even if you don't use them immediately, these holiday items can be stored for December 2015. You can find these deals from mainstream stores like Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, and Pottery Barn.
So remember: The temptation to make all your purchases during December's first sales is strong, but if you can wait, post-Christmas sales may offer the better bargain. And if you can resist both the sales and a second helping of Christmas cookies, you're stronger than we are.
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