Call me a dork, but I love statistics. Shopping statistics, that is. Websites like DealNews.com now track the who, what, where and when of sales. As long as retailers follow their past patterns, you can use that information to save money this holiday season. How? Timing. Using several years worth of sale tracking data, DealNews can predict the best time to buy a particular type of product. I've taken the DealNews data for December and grouped it into a game of red light/green light.. Green means go-for-it. Red means stop. Don't buy this month. And yellow means slow down and see. Here goes!
Green Light graphic??
Gift Cards: DealNews says that in December, lots of retailers and restaurants offer free gift cards if you spend a certain amount of money in their establishments. It happened to me. By sheer coincidence I bought a bunch of stuff at the Container Store the other day and they thanked me with a $15 gift card! Look for these sweet deals!
Tools: November is the ultimate month for tools. Who knew? But apparently December is the second-best time to buy drills, saws, sanders and more. One note from a home improvement nut: if you're kind you'll buy your loved one power tools that can be used indoors this winter. It's so hard to wait for Spring to whip out new tools of destruction like chain saws and stuff.
Hardware: Ditto! Get some widgets to go with your gadgets and you can save on them too this month.
Kitchen Tools: With everybody prepping for Thanksgiving, once again, November is a key month for tools --in this case kitchen tools. But, face it, Christmas and Thanksgiving have grown so bloated that they've run into each other, so this is also a great month for culinary gadget deals, according to DealNews.
HDTVs: This one's predictable, as people prepare for the Super Bowl. But I thought it was worth mentioning since large high def televisions are some of the pricier things on many wish lists. DealNews says television prices were 5 percent lower in December than November last year, so if the sugar plums dancing in your head are flat and rectangular, go for it.
Laptops: Deal News describes the deals on both budget and mainstream laptops as a "barrage"... which sounds like a good thing if you are in the market. The website goes on and on about "Ivy Bridge" laptops for as low as $360 and if you --unlike me-- know what that means, then get ye to a big box store in December.
Red Light graphic?
Jewelry: If diamonds are a girl's best friend, December is not her best month. For whatever reason, the big jewelry stores do not give their deepest discounts in December. (Perhaps they are wise to the waves of desperation emanating from desperate husbands and boyfriends everywhere this time of year.) If you must buy jewelry in December, try to find a department store that offers a December coupon and doesn't exclude jewelry. Good luck.
Other Electronics: You'd think that since TVs and laptops are worth scooping up in December, other electronics would be too, but Deal News say "unh uh." The editors' reasoning? Since the Consumer Electronics Show happens in January, that's the beginning of the new model year and it's the time that discounts pop up for the old model year. The CES runs January 8th through 11th, 2013, so if you want a camera, cell phone or other smaller eletronic gadget, that's the time to be on the lookout.
Yellow Light graphic?
Toys: Buying hot toys for Christmas is a perilous feat. On the one hand, you want to save money. On the other, you want to save yourself from the wails of protest of little lap-sitters who specified this year's "it" toy as their heart's desire. Tread carefully, dear parents. You'll get the best price if you slow down and use caution just like you do at a yellow light. But if the kids in their car seats are clamoring for a certain thing, you might best scoop it up early and often. Hey, if you get more than your quota, you can sell the extras on EBay and make up your savings that way!
The Best and Worst Things to Buy in December
Published 3 hr 10 min ago
By Lindsay Sakraida, dealnews Features Director, with contributions from Louis Ramirez
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 all together, 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 of sales, coupons, and daily deals from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December. Here's what we found.
Get Good Deals on Toys ... By Still Waiting
Finally, it's the best time to buy holiday toys! Almost. In 2011, many of the year's top toys hit their lowest prices of the season in the two weeks before Christmas. In fact, that middle week of December specifically saw a staggering number of Editors' Choice toy deals. Keep in mind, however, that shopping mere days before Christmas is probably not wise; retailers realize last-minute shoppers are desperate and less able to effectively comparison shop, so prices often reflect that.
Put Off Buying a 2013 Wall Calendar
You may see some modest discounts this month and early in 2013 that will entice you to purchase a calendar, but the first significant sales we'll see on these items come at the end of January and beginning of February. (You can of course see even bigger discounts the longer you put it off, but you actually want to use the calendar, right?)
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 $40 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards However, retailers are more like to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain threshold: L.L.Bean offered a free $10 gift card to any customer that spent $50 or more.
Tools and Hardware Deals for Dad
Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! Like last month, December is an excellent time for tools and hardware deals. In fact, last year, the month of December featured double the number of Editors' Choice offers than other month, save for November. Look for significant discounts on wrench and screwdriver sets, drills, lawn-care tools, 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 50% to 70% off seasonal goods. However, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to Walmart, Kmart, and Home Depot for inexpensive options.
Stock Up on Kitchen Items for More Holiday Cooking
Although we noted that November sees the greatest number of cookware and kitchen deals, the sales and discounts last year carried over into December and resulted in an uptick in the number of Editors' Choice prices. Look for cutlery sets, bakeware, small appliances, and more from Macy's, Kohl's, Amazon, FoodSaver, Williams Sonoma, and Sears.
Deals on NFL Gear, FTW (If Your Team Was Terrible in 2012)
If your team has already essentially been knocked out of the running for the Super Bowl, then congrats! You can now start looking for discounts on 2012 merchandise. If your team is still at it, you might need to wait until the playoffs in January for some choice savings. Regardless of your team's standings though, we typically see a greater number of Editors' Choice NFL deals in both December and January as stores start slashing prices in anticipation for the end of the season.
Skip Buying Jewelry for the Holidays
Sorry, lovers. As our Media Editor put it last year, "Big Jewelry" has you in a corner this month. Jewelry just doesn't see its best discounts of the year before Christmas, so if you haven't already purchased something nice in advance, you likely won't be getting the best deal. Sure savings exist, but you won't be getting the lowest price we've ever seen for any pair of earrings. However, you can make the most of the season's sales by using a broad department store or apparel coupon for a nominal discount, but many stores, including Macy's, frequently exclude jewelry from these offers.
For Electronics Deals, Wait Until 2013 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 2013 models, which means that all the goods from 2012 will begin to see a round of discounts.
December Brings Added Savings to Name-Brand HDTVs
When it comes to HDTV deals, it's tough to beat the doorbuster prices we see on Black Friday. However, if you didn't pick up a new set last month, there's good news ahead as December is still a prime month for HDTV deals. In fact, last year name-brand 42" LCD HDTVs dropped an extra 5% in December (when compared to their best November price). Likewise, 46" and 47" name-brand LCD HDTVs dropped an extra 8% in December (when compared to their best November price).
3D fans, unfortunately, are still stuck paying a premium for the latest 3D technology. As a result, we once again recommend steering clear of any 3D TV deals, as you simply get more value for your money buying a traditional non-3D TV. (Based on our 2011 TV deal data, prices on 55" 3D HDTVs increased 10% from November to December.)
Ivy Bridge Hits All-Time Low & Desktop Replacements Are the New Budget Laptops
Black Friday and Cyber Monday offered an endless barrage of excellent laptop deals. And while traditionally the most aggressive deals are held for budget 15" laptops (those with Celeron or Pentium CPUs), this year we found many of the most aggressive deals applied to mainstream Ivy Bridge laptops. In fact, we saw 16" mainstream Core i5 Ivy Bridge notebooks drop as low as $360. (For those keeping track, that's $4 under our Black Friday prediction.) We expect these aggressive deals to continue through December and to see deals from the likes of Best Buy, the Microsoft Store, and Fry's Electronics.
If you're shopping for a desktop replacement, we saw big drops on both budget Celeron-based 17" laptops (which dropped as low as $350) and well-equipped Core i7-based 17" laptops (which fell to $645; a price low we hadn't seen since February 2012.) Again, we recommend looking at deals from Best Buy, Dell, and Lenovo.
Ready to put this information to use? Set up an email alert now to keep abreast of any and all of these best buys in December. Also be sure to check out our gift guide, with all the latest deals that would make excellent presents this holiday season. And for more price trend information, check out our consumer shopping research page.
We went through our records from last year, and besides finding out that we have a serious lack of restraint when it comes to our eggnog budget, we turned up some interesting info pertaining to the price trends of last year's Fabulous 15 list – and by extension, price trends for new holiday toys in general.
Bypass Black Friday, Collect up to 63% in Savings
You may be tempted to buy the season's hottest toys sooner rather than later – maybe even during a Black Friday sale – but don't!
All of the deal data we have on these "Fabulous" toys tells a similar tale: to get the best price, wait until the last possible moment to make your purchase; on the whole, not even Black Friday – the hottest of all shopping days – can beat this technique.
Last year nearly all of the toys we saw deals on hit their price lows during the two weeks leading up to Christmas. We saw Air Swimmers drop 50% in price, Lalaloopsy Silly Hair dolls drop 63%, and Let's Rock Elmo fall 57% in price. Those are some significant savings that shoppers would only have gotten by skipping the Black Friday deals and waiting 10+ days for December.
Wait for It ... Wait for It ...
Seriously, wait. Wait to buy those toys as long as you can stand ... then wait just a bit longer. Hold off on toys and games purchase until you're either about to pass out from the stress of disappointing a child or until it's just not physically possible to have the toy delivered to you in time to get it hastily wrapped and thrown under the tree. Deal-hunting is not for the weak! To get the best deals, you're going to have to sweat a little! This is the price we all pay for getting lowest-ever prices! (Except for, you know, the price that we pay for the item.)
Now, we realize that for some people paying slightly more than lowest-of-the-season prices is OK if it means peace of mind during an already stressful time of year. In that case, we can relax the window of opportunity a tad and say: Wait until December to buy toys. Last December, we saw all the toys we had Black Friday information on drop in price. Sure, the prices got better as the month progressed, but deals from early in the month offered savings, as well. Purchase one of the Fabulous 15 – or any "new release" toy – in December, and you're likely getting a good deal.
The LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Ruins Everything
One caveat we'd like to mention: The LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer kinda threw a wrench into our data set. It had an MSRP of $100 and that is where it stayed all season long. The good news? Even if you waited all December for a deal on a LeapPad Explorer, you were never going to end up paying more than anyone else did. Annoying, but at least not costly!
The Moral of the Story
In the coming weeks, many consumers will be tempted to pull the holiday shopping trigger early. Stores will entice you with savings. Tell them, "Get thee behind me, storefront!" and wait. Then keep waiting, patiently, until the 14-day window before Christmas, when the toys of the season are likely to be at their lowest prices.
If you already have a thorough list from your child, consider setting up an email alert for those toys, and to know immediately when any one of them goes on sale. (Also keep an eye on our daily toy deals as we begin our descent into the holiday season.) Because if the Tickle Me Elmos and Zhu Zhu Pets of the toy industry have taught us anything here at dealnews, it's that, occasionally, there is a toy so hot that the deal will sell out faster than a garage band approached by a record label.