What to Buy, and Avoid Buying, in January

Happy New Year everyone! It's 2014, and another year of great bargains and money-saving tips is upon us. As we wind down from the festivities, it's important to know what deals are out there, and what "bargains" are actually just red herrings. Let's break it down for you. (See also: 20 Cheap Ways to Make January Special)

What to Buy in January

Did you know that January is a month filled with some bizarre holidays? For example, there's "Ditch New Years Resolutions Day" on January 17th, and "Backward Day" on January 31st (let's hope some retailers celebrate that one and put a few of the prices backwards for us!). There are also some unexpected sales to take advantage of this month, as well as the more obvious ones.

1. Fitness Equipment

After the holiday feasts and overindulgence, people want to get fit. Retailers will compete with each other to give you better deals on fitness equipment, with some people preferring to work out at home than join a gym. Expect to see savings of at least 30% on treadmills, bikes, home gyms, elliptical trainers, and even rowing machines. Better yet, wait a few more months and you'll see these almost new pieces of equipment being sold dirt-cheap on Craigslist! (See also: How to Stick to an Exercise Plan)

2. National Park Visits

Along with the odd holidays mentioned above, January 20th is Martin Luther King Day. To celebrate this, almost 400 national parks will be waiving their entrance fees for the day. While some are already free, others will give you free entrance worth as much as $12. It's a great time to check out the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. Take note though, the parks will be very crowded on this day, obviously.

3. Christmas Stuff

Trees. Wreaths. Baubles. Tinsel. Cards. Wrapping. Right about now the prices have been slashed on all of the holiday gear, with retailers like Walmart and Target discounting it by as much as 90%! Smart shoppers will take advantage of this now, storing it away for Christmas 2014. Now is the time to stock up on supplies for next year and bag a great tree or wreath for pennies on the dollar.

4. Furniture and Mattresses

Out with the old, in with the new…and the sales! New models of chairs, tables, sofas, and all sorts of other stuff are ready to be rolled out in February. Retailers don't want old stock hanging around, so you can pick it up for huge discounts. In particular, look for incredible savings on mattress sets, with deals of 50%–75% off.

5. Linens and Bedding

A little history for you. John Wanamaker first introduced the White Sale in the late 1800s. Since then, linens, towels, and bedding have gone on sale every January. So, if you're ready to spruce up the new bed (see above) with new sheets, or deck out the bathroom in new towels, now is the time to go shopping.

6. Tax Software

2014 brings another year of taxes. The IRS is starting to prepare for the April deadline, and discounted tax preparation software is hitting the shelves. Most of the software sold will have the ability to be updated online to reflect new laws. So get your discounts now, before the March rush kicks in.

7. Electronics

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in January. New models are being featured, and 2013/2012 models will be heavily discounted soon. All those laptops (especially touchscreen models), tablets, Blu-Ray players, digital cameras, and computer monitors that dazzled Christmas shoppers are now sitting around, being old and out of date. They need to be replaced, and that means you get a bargain. However, wait for big TVs.

8. Valentine's Gifts

Just as you're cleaning up the holiday wrapping, another big gifting day is coming into view. You'll see the greeting card aisles stocked with Valentine's Day cards. But it's about six weeks away, so the urgency isn't quite there yet. Don't wait and be one of the desperate people skimming through the poor selection of cards and gifts. NOW is a great time to find deals on jewelry, chocolates (look for long expiration dates), perfumes, and other romantic gifts. (See also: Frugal and Simple Valentine's Day Ideas)

9. Winter Coats

This one still baffles people. Right now, there is snow on my lawn. In many parts of the country, it's polar bear weather. But stores are always one season ahead, and spring is just around the corner. So grab a winter coat now, and you'll get a deal on something you can get several months' use out of before it goes into storage for the summer.

10. Homes

Speaking of nasty weather, would you want to go around looking at homes right now? Would you want to move in freezing weather? Exactly. No one is thinking about buying a house right now. And that's why it's a great time to grab a deal. Don't wait until spring when you'll be fighting the crowds. Do it now, and have some negotiating power.

What to Avoid in January

So, although January is great for deals, there are still a few pitfalls to avoid. Here are the top six offenders. Don't get these unless it's unavoidable (and remember, used gear from Craigslist is always a great alternative).

1. The Latest Gaming Consoles

Make no mistake, the Xbox One and PS4 are both still hot items. In fact, many people had trouble finding them for Christmas, and are still trying to grab a model. If you're really lucky, you may find a store doing a good bundle or a 10%–15% discount, but honestly, this is not a good time to buy either. However, if you don't mind an older version, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are cheap enough.

2. Gym Memberships

January is pure gold for gym owners. On January 1st at 12:01 a.m., people all over America, and the world, make New Year's resolutions to get fit and join a gym. This is the year! They're going to get fit. Some will do it, others won't, but almost all of them will run out and buy a gym membership. This glut of new members means the gym owners don't have to offer any kind of incentive. It also means that you'll have to deal with crammed locker rooms, no parking spaces, and queues forming for some pieces of equipment. Wait for the rush to die down, by April you'll see better deals. (See also: Legit Ways to Use the Gym for Free)

3. Big Screen HDTVs

Although the 2014 models will be debuting at CES, they won't be hitting the stores immediately. It will take a while for the retailers to start clearing out their HDTV stock, so wait until the very end of January and the beginning of February to start shopping for your new 60" monster!

4. Winter Sports Gear

Winter coats are on sale, so why not winter sports gear? Well, you may get a slight discount, but unlike winter coats, the winter gear is in very high demand. Stores don't like to discount anything that's in high demand. Wait until April or May, and you'll see prices slashed across the board.

5. Luggage

As families make plans to escape the nasty weather, they also look at replacing their old, beaten-up luggage. People are also preparing for the spring break trips, too. Either way, that spells full-price offers from retailers. Wait until the summer — you'll get genuine bargains then.

6. Patio Furniture and Grills

Retailers dumped their stock of patio furniture at the end of summer. That was the time to buy. Right now, they're starting to get in this year's brand new merchandise and will charge top dollar for it. If you want deals on grills and patio furniture, your best bet is used, on Craigslist.

What are you looking to save money on in January? Where are you finding the deals?

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Another year of great bargains and money-saving tips is upon us. As we wind down from the festivities, it's important to know what deals are out there, and what "bargains" are actually just red herrings. Check out our tips and ideas on what to buy and what not to. | #frugalliving #shopping #buyingguide

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Meg Favreau's picture

I've never been much of a big Valentine's Day person, but it never occurred to me to look for Valentine's gifts in post-Christmas sales. I bet there's a lot of good, decadent food stuff on sale.

Guest's picture

At first I thought that gym memberships would be cheaper with gyms offering good deals for the new year, and that gym equipment would be expensive, but after hearing these explanations it all makes sense. The smart thing to do would be to get a gym membership in December which is surely they're slowest month and they'd be offering deals.

Guest's picture

I just bought a new dumbbells first week of January and I'm happy that I already bought it! :) And yes February is a big month for me because it's my little girl's birthday and our wedding anniversary too! So now I'm planning what would be my gifts for my loved ones.