Best and worst things to buy in December

PHOENIX - 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 all together, with gifts from loved ones, friends, and people you barely know, coming at you from all angles.

Make the season that much easier and more enjoyable by shopping wisely. It's always easier to cope when you know you're getting a good deal.

Dealnews.com reviewed their archives of sales, coupons and individual products from the past few seasons to guide you in your quest for the savviest purchases in December.

Here's what dealnews.com found:

BUY A BIKE

For many of our northernmost readers, it may be treacherous to go bike riding in the winter, but you should consider purchasing a bike this month all the same.

WAIT ON TOYS

Finally, it's the best time to buy holiday toys! Almost. Many toys will hit their lowest price points of the season the closer we get to Christmas. However, if the opinion of many friends and family members is any indication, most consumers are eager to get their toy shopping out of the way early. In that case, if you can just hold out until the 14-day period before Christmas, you'll improve your chances of getting the best deals on these items.

KITCHEN ITEMS FOR HOLIDAY COOKING

Even though the overall volume of deals last year was down in December from November, December held strong with Editors' Choice-level deals, and even slightly edged out November in this department. Look for top offers from Macy's, Kohl's, Amazon, FoodSaver, Williams Sonoma, and JCPenney.

TOOLS 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 percent 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.

CHRISTMAS DECOR AFTER THE HOLIDAY

At this point, it's almost 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 literally the day after Christmas, you'll see discounts of 50 to 70 percent off from stores like West Elm, Home Depot, Sears, Crate & Barrel, and Macy's.

BLU-RAY MOVIES AS 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.

HOLD OFF ON CALENDARS

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.

BAD TIMING FOR 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 in advance, you might not be getting a great deal.

WATCHES DON'T SEE DISCOUNTS

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. Be sure to keep an eye on the deal-a-day sites that specialize in watches, like ChronoShark and World of Watches.

TOP-BRAND HDTV'S

Black Friday is over, so it's time to forget about TV's, right? Wrong. There are some rock-bottom prices on numerous sets during the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday, but many of the best prices were from off-brand manufacturers.

DESKTOP REPLACEMENTS

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 (from November) an average of seven percent in December. But 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 percent (from November's lowest price) in December of last year.

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