Late November is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, as bargain hunters ready themselves for Black Friday doorbusters as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is done. But this year, the pandemic has upended the typical sales holidays. Major retailers, including Target, Best Buy and Walmart, have already started their Black Friday deals, or are about to. And for many tech retailers, Cyber Monday is pretty much every day.

This means you should start your holiday shopping early this year, according to consumer expert Andrea Woroch. “If you do see something that’s a really good deal, snag it,” she says, because lack of inventory and on-time delivery could become issues if you wait too long. To help ensure you’re getting the best deals possible, Woroch also recommends using apps to help with comparison shopping or finding coupons; two of her favorites are popcart and Cently.

After you’ve finalized your shopping list and checked it twice, here are some of the best things to buy in November — and a few you should skip.

WHAT TO BUY IN NOVEMBER

Small Kitchen Appliances. Demand for these products has increased since the spring, when most of us started spending more time at home. Woroch expects to see good prices on trending items like the Instant Pot, Nespresso and Keurig coffee makers, and the Ninja Blender. “But keep in mind that November might be pretty chaotic in terms of trying to find best deals,” she adds. “Online prices are going to be frequently fluctuating because retailers will be changing their prices to meet the competition.”

Fall Clothing. If the autumn chill has you looking for new fall apparel, now’s a good time to bundle up. “I’m seeing a lot of good sales on some fall clothing,” Woroch says. “In November, retailers will have clearance deals — especially ahead of Black Friday, which is when we’ll start to see winter items.” Look for deals on everything from denim to sweaters and boots at department stores such as Macy’s, JCPenney and Target.

Toys. Woroch notes that toys historically don’t see discounts until mid-December, but inventory issues may crop up. “Though we are only seeing average savings across the board, hot items from Lego sets to video games to bikes may sell out quickly,” she says. “So, this year, I would say buy them in November — and to find better deals, look for additional coupons and track for price drops after you purchase something.”

Personal Gadgets. Working from home and remote learning have boosted demand for personal gadgets such as tablets and laptops, as well as video gaming systems and their related accessories, so expect to see some limited inventory in this category.

If you run into this issue, Woroch suggests broadening your search. “Maybe look for different models, older versions or refurbished options on sites such as Delloutlet.com and eBay,” she says. “Often they’ll have sales on top of the refurbished and outlet options. I expect this category will have many of the traditional Black Friday doorbuster deals on really hot items such as noise-canceling headphones from Beats by Dre.”

Older Apple Products. Apple’s release of the iPhone 12 means deals on older model phones and other products such as tablets, watches and AirPods. “If you want to upgrade, I recommend going for it now,” Woroch says. “A lot of stores like Best Buy have promised that they’re offering Black Friday prices ahead of Black Friday — and if anything drops in price from now until November 27, they will refund you the price difference. Take that into consideration and make sure you are keeping track of the prices and your receipts.”

WHAT TO SKIP IN NOVEMBER

Holiday Decor. Back away from the tinsel and put down that poinsettia. A rush of holiday spirit may tempt you to scoop up all kinds of holiday decorations, but Woroch says you’ll find better deals if you can wait. “Retailers are going to hold off on marking down Christmas trees, wreaths and most holiday decorations so they can recoup some profits,” she says. “Your best bet is to make do with what you have and shop after the holidays when everything will be on clearance and you can save it for next year.”

Luxury Goods. Luxury retailers have also been affected by the pandemic, which may leave bargain hunters wondering whether to start scouring stores for discounts. Woroch suggests holding off. “They need to be careful of their profit margins, so I wouldn’t expect to see any deep discounts — and definitely nothing worth jumping on this month,” she says.

Gift Cards. Picking up gift cards for loved ones who are always difficult to please may seem like a good idea right now, but you likely won’t see many discounts until mid-December. “On the plus side, you can always buy a gift card at the last minute and then mail it directly to someone,” Woroch says. “If you can’t wait, you can try sites such as Gift Card Granny, Card Pool and Giftcards.com. They always offer a variety of gift cards at some sort of discount, but the selection varies widely so you’ll want to shop around.”

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