Even if you haven’t hauled out the holly yet — or finished up your Thanksgiving leftovers — it’s time to pull out your gift list and check it twice. Because between all the extended Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Free Shipping Day deals (not to mention the timing of the major holidays this year) December is going to be a month of discounts.
“This year feels unique in the way that all the holidays seem to be layering on top of each other,” says Annemarie Conte, deputy editor of Wirecutter’s Deals and Money sections. “Retailers have been trying to bring people in since early November. It’s one continuous shopping sprint. If you wait, they will also be trying to capture the last-minute shoppers.”
So whether you’re looking for gifts for loved ones or just a deal for yourself, here are some of the best things to buy in December — as well as those items you should hold off on purchasing.
WHAT TO BUY IN DECEMBER
Gift Cards. These are the perfect gifts for the people who are impossible to buy for (or for the ones who weren’t even on your gift list at first). Expect to see discounts of between 10 percent and 20 percent on most types of gift cards. “People should also keep an eye out for Apple and other tech companies because, rather than giving you a direct discount on the product, they will issue you a gift card to their site,” Conte says.
Smart Home Technology. Prices on devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home (and their accompanying accessories) will continue to be discounted throughout the month. “Part of this is that these manufacturers are still trying to make smart speakers ubiquitous in people’s homes,” Conte says. “Amazon and Google really want to make sure that everybody has one. The early deals indicate more than 50 percent off — sometimes a little bit more and sometimes a little bit less — on these items and smart speakers.”
Conte notes that Walmart will also likely get in on the action and create a price war. “It’s always good to price match for yourself before you actually pull the trigger and buy something,” Conte says.
Toys and Gaming Consoles. Retailers will continue to have deals on gaming consoles and bundles (the system, a controller and a game) well into December. “In this category, the streaming services that go along with a lot of these consoles are also being discounted, and the accessories are as well,” Conte says. “Some of those accessories are sometimes even a better deal than the console itself.” But wait until mid-December before snatching up other types of toys, Conte adds, because that’s when toy sellers try to appeal to the people who are scrambling for last-minute kids’ gifts.
Amazon and Google really want to make sure that everybody has a smart speaker in their home.
Cars. If you are in the market for a new car, experts agree that year-end sales events offer the best deals for prospective car buyers — especially if you can hold off until the last week of December. All dealerships have monthly, quarterly and yearly sales quotas, and December includes all three. In addition, dealers and auto manufacturers want to move any unsold inventory off their lots before the end of the calendar year.
“My husband and I were just looking for our first family car in December of last year — but we ended up getting a car that day,” Conte says. “They said they could take a loss on the car because they would get incentives from the manufacturer for making their quotas.”
Small Kitchen and Personal Care Appliances. Food plays a huge part in holiday celebrations, so it makes sense that most kitchen appliances would go on sale. “They are giftable, but they’re also things that people may want to buy for themselves,” Conte says.
Conte says the Wirecutter Deals team has noticed that electric razors and toothbrushes also consistently go on sale in December, possibly because retailers are trying to capture those “ ‘I’ll buy one for you and I’ll buy one for me,’ ” shoppers.
Bath Linens. Traditionally, the January White Sales are the best time to buy bath linens, but if you simply can’t wait, you can still expect to find deals. “These are also things you would buy for yourself and give as gifts to somebody on your list,” Conte says. “Especially if you have guests coming and your towels are looking a little raggedy.”
WHAT TO SKIP IN DECEMBER
Storage and Organizing Items. Even if your holiday clutter starts driving you crazy, you should hold off until January before buying any type of storage solution. “That’s definitely a New Year’s resolution hit,” Conte says. “That’s when sales tend to start for everyone whose resolutions are to declutter.”
Mattresses. If your old or lumpy mattress is preventing you from settling in for a long winter’s nap, you might be tempted to treat yourself to a new one. But try to hold off until February, when Presidents Day sales will feature much better deals.
Fitness Equipment. Even if you want to get a jump on your New Year’s workout goals, this should not be on your wish list. “Fitness equipment goes on sale in mid-January, so you’re going to want to wait until then,” Conte says.
Televisions. If you missed the sales in this category on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you should wait until the end of January to early February before picking up a new big screen, or any TV at all. “As the Super Bowl gets closer, you’ll see much better deals,” Conte says.