After being whipped into a Black Friday shopping frenzy at the end of November, consumers will keep buying up to, and even after, Christmas. That's partly in order to satisfy their holiday gift-giving needs; but it's also to buy things they need and/or want at good prices.
Not everything is a deal during this period, though. It's best to avoid high-end TVs, laptops, and winter-weather sports gear, among other things, but there are some amazing bargains to be had. December is a time when anything might be on sale, and savvy shoppers might snag a better-than-expected deal late in the season.
The following items are smart to buy during the last month of the year nearly always. That doesn't mean you shouldn't comparison shop or be wary; but traditionally, there are a few categories that should be bought before December ends.
Video game console bundles
Both Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) tend to lower the base price for their top-tier gaming systems heading into the holiday season. This year, both the PS4 and the Xbox One are being offered for $299 in a number of different bundles.
Both companies reserve the right to revert to the previous $349 pricing when the holiday season ends, but past practices say that even if that happens, it likely won't be a long-term change. Instead, $299 is the new norm, but it's still best for consumers to buy now because the bundle offered now may not be equalled during the rest of the year.
Sony and Microsoft are offering their base console along with a top-tier game -- Star Wars: Battlefront or Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for Sony, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and The Lego Movie Videogame for Microsoft. In addition, a number of retailers have run specials periodically during the holiday period offering extra accessories, gift cards, and more.
Finding the best deal on a game console before the end of the year involves being a bit crafty, and doing your research. But even the stock $299 deals are excellent when you consider that the consoles are being bundled with $60 games that are high-demand titles.
Buy the opposite sports season
While you'll want to avoid skis and snowboards during their high-demand season, December can offer big bargains on golf gear and bikes. Admittedly the selection won't be as good as it would be during the height of the season, but if you're willing to buy last year's model, the savings can be significant. It's a simple case of supply versus demand.
Sporting goods retailers and bike shops still devote space to golf and biking during the winter when less people are willing to buy. In some cases, especially in local, non-chain shops, you might even be able to bargain a better deal because you'll be taking dead inventory off the floor, freeing up space and cash for the retailer.
Do you need a wedding dress?
December is a slow month for weddings, in general, but it's also a month where the entire marriage industry cools off. That makes the end of the year a perfect time to buy your wedding dress for a spring or summer marriage. "With the wedding season at a near standstill this month, dress dealers are looking to make a sale -- any sale -- so discounts abound," wrote Cheapism.com.
Of course, as with anything else, a deal is only valuable if you actually need the item. Buy a wedding dress if you have plans to get married, not as a speculative hedge against a possible, but not imminent, future wedding.
Anything that needs to be shipped
Target (NYSE:TGT) has been offering qualified free shipping this holiday season giving customers three-to-five-day delivery service on all online orders. Its chief rivals Wal-Mart and Amazon chose not to match that deal, but free or reduced-rate shipping deals abound across the retail space. Target's deal, which ends on Christmas day, is a bold move from the retailer designed to boost its online business and encourage sampling by customers of its two main rivals.
In addition, a number of retailers are part of Free Shipping Day, which takes place Dec. 18. On this made-up sales holiday, a huge array of retailers will either offer across-the-board free shipping, or select deals that will be delivered for free. In some cases, this will be the only day during the entire year when these companies throw in the cost of shipping.