It’s that time of year again where your bank account dips lower with every browser tab you open. But not every “Blowout Sale of the Season!!!!” ad is actually worth shopping. Here are the best things worth buying this month (even when it seems like everything is on sale) and what holiday spending traps you should avoid.
What to Buy in December
Gift cards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gift card deals will be everywhere this month. Apple, for example, typically offers iTunes gift cards at 20% off, says Karl Quist, president of Priceblink. That means you can spend $80 on a card and get $100 in store credit. Many retailers also entice shoppers to get big-ticket items by offering a gift card on top of a large purchase. “It’s easier for a merchant to offer a $100 gift card for merchandise in their store than to knock another $100 off the price of an item,” Quist explains. Restaurants want to get in on the holiday shopping game, so expect to see similar gift card offers, from 10% to 20% off.
Tools and hardware. It’s the slow season for home improvement, so look for big sales on equipment as stores try to cater to holiday shoppers and clear out this year’s remaining inventory. Pick up power tools and tool sets on sale as gifts for the DIY-ers in your life. And, hey, it may be the dead of winter, but soon enough you’ll be tinkering around the house with weekend projects, so might as well stock up now while the deals are hot.
Kitchen appliances. Look for markdowns on brand-name mixers, crockpots and small gadgets to help you be the best Ina Garten you can be. Grab a few as gifts for the chef on your list, or upgrade your own kitchenware and prep for weeks of holiday baking ahead.
Holiday decorations. Sure, day-after-Christmas sales can’t compare to Black Friday, but don’t count them out altogether. The biggest end-of-December deals will be on holiday decorations. Even if you’re not the type to load up on inflatable Santas for 2018, you can grab gift wrap, bags, ribbon and other items without the holiday embellishments to use year-round. Stock up on string lights and wintry decor to add some cheer to your space through the rest of the season — we’ve still got months of winter ahead of us, after all.
What to Skip in December
Electronic accessories. Not all tech sales are created equally. That’s because one way retailers recoup profits on heavily discounted electronics is to sell you add-on peripherals at a markup, Quist says. For example, if you’re getting a TV on sale for $700, what’s another $100 in the cables you need to get it hooked up right away? If you wait to comparison-shop online when you get home — or do it ahead of your big-ticket purchase — you’re likely to get a better deal on the cords, cases and adapters you need.
Winter clothes. We know — it’s freezing out and you’re tired of your winter wardrobe already. Well, with the exception of holiday deals on smaller items like sweaters, scarves, hats or socks, heavier winter apparel — like down jackets and snow boots — get their biggest price-cuts in January. So hold off until the New Year to make these purchases. And since it’s still cold until April anyway, you’ll have plenty of time to wear out your winter style before spring.
A gym membership. Fitness resolutions on the brain? You and everyone else. That means gyms are less likely to have an incentive to offer deals for new members. Translation: Stick with the gym you have for now. If you’re hoping to switch it up next year, gyms offer the best discounts in the spring or summer (basically when the weather is nice), and they’ll sweeten the deal to get members back into their weight rooms.