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Let’s face it: You’re probably going to spend a lot of time (and money) shopping this month.
Whether you’re buying gifts for loved ones, stocking up on groceries or taking advantage of limited-time offers, you’ll be very familiar with both the mall directory and the Amazon homepage come Dec.31.
Keep in mind, though, that some deals are better than others. While you’ll come across plenty of discounts this month, here are the items you’ll find at truly unbeatable prices.
“The best time to buy toys is actually the 10 days leading up to Christmas,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot. “That’s when the steepest discounts will be.”
Walmart, Amazon and Target are your best bets for discounts on this year’s most popular toys, like LOL Surprise dolls and Hatchimals. You may also score deals on must-have toys at unexpected spots. At Barnes & Noble, LEGO Batman and Star Wars toys are 30 percent off until Dec. 25. And Walgreens is advertising a buy one, get one 50 percent off deal on Funko, Shopkins and other toy brands throughout the month.
Don’t wait too long for prices to drop, though. “You don’t want to wait too close to Christmas or your specific toy might be sold out,” Skirboll says.
If you didn’t buy a new flat-screen TV or streaming device during Black Friday or Cyber Week, it’s not too late.
Skirboll says deals on electronics will be available throughout the month of December, January and the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. According to Dealnews, you can get BOGO deals and discounts at Best Buy and up to 60 percent off various items at World Wide Stereo.
Don’t forget to look for manufacturer coupons if you have a specific model in mind. You can compare deals from different retailers and shop at stores that will match the lowest price you find.
If you can wait until after the holiday frenzy has ended, the last week in December is one of the best times to score a great discount on a new car.
“Towards the end of the quarter, that’s when car dealerships are really trying to drum up business (and) make sure that they’re meeting their quotas,” Skirboll says. “So end of December is when you’ll find good car deals.”
Manufacturers and salespeople alike want to close out the year on a high note, so you may have better luck negotiating throughout the month of December as the end of the year approaches.
At some retailers this month, you’ll find gift cards discounted below their face value or bundled with other deals. This is often done to entice customers to visit a restaurant or store after they’ve given out the gift card.
Last year, restaurant chains like Applebee’s and Maggiano’s — and retailers like DSW and Regal Cinemas — gave their customers the chance to earn a bonus gift card with a minimum gift card purchase.
If you’re at a loss for what to buy someone on your list this year, get them a gift card from their favorite restaurant or store.
Start thinking about which home improvement projects you want to take on in the spring. Now is the best time to shop for tools and hardware.
Not many people are taking on DIY projects in the winter, so retailers often mark down everything from power drills to tool kits in December. Check out sales at big-box stores like Home Depot. But don’t discount your local hardware store and chains like Ace Hardware, where you may find even better deals on popular brands.
Seasonal produce and holiday goodies
If you’re hosting the family holiday dinner this year, you should be able to find all of the essential ingredients on sale this month.
Turkey, ham and prime rib will be marked down at the supermarket, but look for deals at retailers like Omaha Steaks and Honey Baked Ham, too. Seasonal fruits and vegetables include greens like kale and chard, winter squash, radishes, clementines and cranberries. Throughout the month of December, look for discounts on items at your local grocery store and winter farmers market.
This month, you’ll also have the chance to snag a deal on a snack or two. Last year on National Cookie Day (Dec. 4), Insomnia Cookies, Great American Cookies and Cinnabon all offered freebies. Similarly, cupcake connoisseurs have been able to score deals at Gigi’s Cupcakes, Sprinkles and Baked by Melissa on National Cupcake Day, which falls on Dec. 15.
Stock up on your New Year’s Eve bubbles ahead of the countdown.
“Champagne companies compete with each other and they know there’s a way to drive sales through promotions. So that’s what they do,” Skirboll says. “They promote the heck out of their champagne items with sales and deals and discounts, just in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations.”
Uncorked champagne has a shelf life of more than a couple of years (if stored properly), so go ahead and buy a few bottles this month. That way, you’re prepared for any celebrations that might occur next year, like a wedding, graduation or birth.
Don’t rush out looking for a sale on ornaments just yet. The best time to buy holiday decorations is the end of December, when they’re all moved to the clearance racks.
“Everybody knows, but it’s good to remind people, don’t buy holiday decorations before the holiday is over, or you’re going to miss up to 75 percent off,” Skirboll says.
As you pack away this year’s decorations, take inventory. Replace any broken or out-of-date pieces and stock up on decor before the new year. You’ll save money you can set aside in your bank account and spare yourself a trip to the mall next December.