December is a month when you almost can't avoid shopping. You may have skipped Black Friday, overwhelmed by the offers, hype, and crowds. But the holiday season is a different beast altogether, with gifts from loved ones, friends, and people you barely know coming at you from all angles. Maintain lots of holiday cheer by shopping wisely with our December buying guide. We've pored over the extensive DealNews archives from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December.
Shop for Toys During the Mid-Month Sweet Spot
Last year, for the first time ever, Black Friday week overtook any given week in December for the most Editors' Choice toy deals. But if you didn't finish all your holiday shopping last month, there are still ways to save. According to our data, toy sales will increase in volume, with discounts of up to 85% off, during the middle two weeks of December: roughly December 7 through December 20. That's a big range, so there's no excuse to put your shopping off to the last minute. But if you need another reason to shop early, consider the fact that prices sometimes go up right before Christmas, as retailers take advantage of desperate shoppers who have less time to shop around and compare.
Keep an Eye Out for Gift Card Freebies
A popular promotion throughout the month of December — especially amongst restaurants — is to offer a free gift card to shoppers who purchase one as a gift. For example, last year California Pizza Kitchen offered a $20 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards. Retailers, on the other hand, are more likely to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain order threshold: L.L.Bean currently offers a free $10 gift card to any customer that spends $50 or more.
Or Shop for Cheaper iTunes Gift Cards
December is by far the best month to find discounts on iTunes gift cards, averaging about three deals per week. You're most likely to score a $50 card for $40, or other increments at 20% off. Buy some as easy gifts for the holidays, or stock up for yourself and effectively save 20% on everything you download in the coming year. To see all our tips on how you can save money on these cards, read our guide.
Pack Lightly for the Holidays
This December will see two major airlines increasing fees for checked baggage. Spirit Airlines is inexplicably tacking on a $2 surcharge during the holiday season, bringing the cost to about $42 for a checked bag. Meanwhile, JetBlue sadly announced that it will no longer allow a free checked bag for customers who purchase the lowest-price ticket. (Maybe pay attention to the price difference in those tickets if you'd otherwise have to pay $25 to check a bag.) As TIME points out, the only remaining airline that allows free checked bags is Southwest Airlines.
Tools & Hardware Deals for Dad
Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! Like last month, December is an excellent time for tool and hardware deals. Last year, the number of Editors' Choice deals increased slightly month-over-month, as did the total number of sales (an increase of about 18%). Look for significant discounts on drills, wrenches, general tool sets, lawn-care items, and more.
It's a Jolly Time to Buy Christmas Decorations... After Christmas
At this point, it's common knowledge that holiday decorations see their greatest discounts after the holiday in question has passed, and this is no different for Christmas. If you wait until December 26, you'll see discounts of 40% to 75% off seasonal goods. However, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to Walmart, Target, and Sears for inexpensive options. Also, keep in mind that any seller with fresh-cut trees is likely going to start discounting them around December 20.
Stock Up on Kitchen Items for More Holiday Cooking
Although November saw a great number of excellent cookware and kitchen deals, our data shows that December should be even better, with a 55% increase in Editors' Choice deals and more than 100 additional offers. Look for cutlery sets, cookware and bakeware, small appliances, and more from Kohl's, Amazon, and Kmart.
For Electronics Deals, Wait Until 2015 Models Debut
If you didn't jump on the electronics deals during Black Friday weekend, then at this point, you might as well wait until January and February to buy a digital camera, TV, or other device. The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the official launch for many 2015 models, which means that all the goods from 2014 will begin to see a round of discounts.
The Xbox One is Trending Hot for Deals
Last month, Microsoft announced a price cut for the Xbox One, dropping it to $350 for the base model, and $450 for the version with Kinect. While we find these retail prices to be underwhelming, it has signaled many stores to start offering even more discounts. The price on the Xbox One was regularly slashed to $329 during Black Friday, and it was bundled with all manner of gift cards and video games. We expect that to continue through the holiday season.
The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, didn't see quite as many discounts; we did see some all-time low prices, dropping to $319 at one point last month. But it's more likely that you'll find deals that offer value through bundled accessories or games.
December is Still a Hot Month for TVs
Black Friday TV deals were on average 22% cheaper than our best TV predictions, but now that November is over, what's in store for TV deals in December? Traditionally, December and January are the best months for deals on name-brand HDTVs. But there are signs that trend is coming to an end. Last December, deals on name-brand TVs rose slightly. Moreover, we saw a significant number of deals on brand-name TVs last month, which is generally not common on Black Friday.
While we don't expect December deals to be cheaper than Black Friday, we also don't expect them to rise much either. In fact, should deal prices rise, it's likely they won't go above our November TV predictions. So maybe you won't get that 40" 1080p HDTV at $119, but you may still get a similar 40" HDTV for at or under $178.
December might also be the month retailers discount big-screen (60" and up) HDTVs. Deals on these sets were noticeably scarce throughout most of November. Likewise, off-brand 55" 4K TVs were missing during last month's deal frenzy. As a result, it's likely we'll see some off-brand 4K TVs, such as those from Seiki, join the deal fray this month.
Premium Laptops Will Be Cheaper This Month
November saw modest laptop deals with only two of our four predictions coming to pass. But there's good news: Last year, December's best laptop deals were 6% cheaper than November's best prices, particularly on 15" Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7-based machines. (Budget and ultraportable machines were cheaper during the month of November.)
So while you won't see any sub-$100 laptops this month, you will see better deals on premium machines such as those with Intel's top-of-the-line Core i7 CPU, which last December enjoyed a 7% price drop when compared to November's best deals on these machines. Likewise, mainstream machines — those with 4GB of RAM and Intel's current Core i5 CPU — enjoyed a modest 5% price drop last December (when compared to November's best prices). As we noted in our laptop predictions, deals on mainstream laptops have been steadily dropping in price since April with no sign of prices plateauing just yet. It's hard to imagine one of these machines costing less than Black Friday's best price of $300, but December may be the month that record is broken.
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