The Best and Worst Things to Buy in December

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. Keep your holiday cheer level high by shopping wisely. (See also: Shopping Calendar: The Best Time to Buy Anything)

We've pored over the extensive dealnews archives of sales, coupons, and individual products from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December. Here's what we found.

Buy a Bike, Use it Later?

For many of our northernmost readers, bike riding in the winter is implausible, but you should consider purchasing a bike this month all the same. While other months might have seen greater volume of bicycle deals, we saw the most Editors' Choice-level bargains during the month of December last year from vendors like REI, Walmart, and Performance Bike. Otherwise, the next time we saw a substantial number of deals and sales came in May.

Get Good Deals on Still Waiting

Finally, it's the best time to buy holiday toys! Almost. As we've mentioned before, many toys will hit their lowest price points of the season as we get closer we get to Christmas. Last year, many of the tops toys of the season hit their lowest points in the week before Christmas. That said, during the week before that, we saw a staggering number of Editors' Choice toy deals on the whole; in fact, it was the best week of the month for top-shelf discounts on toys. Shop during this period, and you'll improve your chances of getting the best deals.

Stock Up on Kitchen Items for More Holiday Cooking

Although we noted in our last buying guide that November is the best month to buy cookware, the sales and discounts last year largely carried over into December. Even though the overall volume of deals was down slightly, December actually slightly edged out November with the number of Editors' Choice-level offers. Look for top offers from Macy's, Kohl's, Amazon, FoodSaver, Williams Sonoma, and JCPenney, on items such as cutlery sets, bakeware, and small appliances.

Tools and Hardware Deals for Dad?

Last year, both November and December were excellent months to buy tools and hardware items, matched only by the month of July for Editors' Choice offers. November this year however proved to be significantly less thrilling in this department, with about 50% fewer top-shelf deals. We're hoping though that December will deliver like it did last year, with significant discounts on wrench and screwdriver sets, drills, lawn-care tools, and more.

It's a Great Time to Buy Christmas Decorations! (After Christmas, That Is)

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 from stores like West Elm, Home Depot, Sears, Crate & Barrel, and Macy's. If you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to Walmart and Kohl's for extremely inexpensive options.

Blu-ray Movies Make Budget-Friendly Gifts

As we noted last month, November — and specifically around Black Friday — is a great time to get inexpensive Blu-ray disc movies, but this good fortune extends into December. While we saw a slight drop-off in top-shelf deals last year (there were about 20% fewer Editors' Choice offers in December than there were in November), the cumulative discounts were still much better than any other month throughout the rest of the year. That means movies and TV shows may be an ideal gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Put Off Buying a Wall Calendar

You may see some modest discounts this month and early in 2012 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?)

Wait to Buy Jewelry

Sorry, boyfriends and husbands of the world. As our Media Editor put it during last week's podcast, "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 a piece in advance, you might not be getting a great deal. You could always try to get around this by using a broad department store or apparel coupon for a nominal discount, but many stores, including Macy's, frequently excludes jewelry from these offers.

Like Jewelry, Bad Timing to Buy Watches

Just like jewelry, watches don't see their best discounts of the year during the holiday season, likely because so many shoppers feel more compelled to buy them in December. But unlike jewelry, there's a small trend toward decent deals for watches before the clock strikes Christmas. During the first and second weeks, we saw a handful of Editors' Choice offers that featured significant price cuts. Be sure to keep an eye on the deal-a-day sites that specialize in watches, like ChronoShark and World of Watches.

Time to Look Into Top-Brand HDTVs

Black Friday is over, so it's time to forget about TVs, right? Wrong. We saw some rock-bottom prices on numerous sets during the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday, but many of the best prices were from off-brand manufacturers. And though we saw some choice name-brand deals last week too, they were generally more than their off-brand counterparts in the same size-category. But according to a recent feature, top-brand sets will approach prices that are comparable to Black Friday during the mid-December to February time period. It may be a good time to set an email alert for your favorite manufacturer and screen size, so you can catch those prices when they hit the site.

Opt for Desktop Replacements Over Other Notebooks

Despite its proximity to Black Friday, December has never been an ideal month for buying a laptop. In fact, dealnews data shows that for the past three years, laptop prices for a 15" to 16" dual-core system have gone up an average of 7% from November to December. That's not to say all hope is lost. If your Christmas list still includes a laptop you might want to check out deals on desktop replacements (systems measuring 17" or more) as prices on those systems dropped 40% (from November's lowest price) in December of last year. And with the influx of laptop deals we saw this past Black Friday, we wouldn't be surprised if a few solid deals trickle into December. Just don't expect them to be the year's best.

This post is by Dealnews.

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Guest's picture

Please note: If you are going to buy a blu-ray movie as a gift, you better make dang sure the recipient has a blu-ray player. They cannot be played on a regular dvd player.