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Best things to buy in January

It's a great time to buy winter apparel and electronics. But hold off on the iPad 2 and laptops for now, unless you're looking for a desktop replacement.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 10, 2012 5:14PM

This guest post comes from Lindsay Sakraida at Dealnews.


After all that shopping you likely did in December for the holidays, you may be looking forward to a month without having to whip out your credit card. But January is an excellent month to bag deals on select items, like winter apparel or a relaxing vacation package.


So before you resign yourself to steering clear of stores altogether this month, check out our list of the best and worst things to buy in January, which we compiled after poring over the extensive Dealnews archives of sales, coupons and individual products from years past. Post continues below.

Spring for winter apparel. Normally, it can be hard to hold out if you're actually lacking the appropriate apparel for the weather, but we've had such an unseasonably warm winter so far this year that you might only now be feeling the strain of waiting to buy new sweaters, coats and the like.


Many after-Christmas sales focused on winter apparel discounts, but many of those retailers will offer stronger sales and bigger coupons this month. Expect sales that take up to 80% off merchandise, and look for stacking coupons that slash up to an extra 50% off.


Among the stronger sales we saw in January last year: a 50%-off printable coupon from The North Face outlet stores, then Editors' Choice-caliber discounts from French Connection, Express (which progressively offered deeper discounts throughout the month), Levi's, J.Crew, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, and Barneys New York.


Catch electronics clearance sales. The end of January is when we start to see another wave of major discounts on electronics, including the higher-end items that were largely excluded from the Black Friday mayhem. As new HDTVs, home theater systems, and more are unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show, retailers will begin to put old stock on clearance in an attempt to make room for the incoming stock. Keep in mind, though, that while we'll begin to see sales in January, discounts will also spill heavily into February.


Another month for furniture. While November sees the highest number of furniture deals of the year, January is a close second. Several manufacturers will release new styles in February, and retailers will begin clearing out old, bulky inventory. Last year, we saw such deals from Sears, Pottery Barn, Home Depot, and Amazon.


Don't buy the iPad 2. Now is probably a terrible time to buy an iPad 2, as Apple is rumored to be announcing the iPad 3 in late February. Last time the iPad was refreshed, we immediately saw discounts on the refurbished original iPad sold directly from Apple. Moreover, we saw a large number of resellers discount the tablet this holiday season, so expect more iPad 2 bargains once the next generation is made official.


Resolve to buy discounted fitness equipment. A popular New Year's resolution is to get in shape, and both gyms and fitness gear manufacturers aim to lure shoppers into using their products or services to accomplish this goal. As a result, we saw several special coupons and sales online in both January and February for equipment and training DVDs. We also saw another spike in top-shelf fitness deals again over the summer, likely another time when the seasonality spurs vows to lose weight.


Vacations with quick turnaround. Although airfare is likely to increase in price this year, due to carriers cutting back on routes and thus increasing demand for a smaller number of seats, this time of year is in fact a good time to get a deal on a vacation package -- if you're willing to jet off sometime soon.


Last January saw the highest number of Editors' Choice packages of any month, which means several flight-and-hotel-combo deals where at their lowest price of the year. Top offers last year ran the gamut from south of the border locales (Cancun, Dominican Republic, Buenos Aires) to places further abroad (Egypt, Europe, and Australia). Just note that many of these prices will only be valid for trips through March and early April.


Stop at travel gear. It may be a good time to book a vacation, but don't think about shopping around for a new suitcase. Deals on luggage and other travel gear didn't pick up last year until about March, and they really came out in earnest in August. Make do with your old carry-on, and hold out until at least March to see a better chance of getting a top-notch discount.


Hold out for bedding and linens. Numerous stores will offer a "white sale" in January, and we saw a slight uptick in the number of deals offered this time last year. However, the volume of discounts in June was actually much better. If you can't wait until spring to replace your linens, then look for bedding-specific sales from the likes of Sears, The W Store, Designer Living, Wal-Mart, SmartBargains, Overstock, and West Elm.


Gear up later for the outdoors. Although it might seem that retailers would need incentive-like discounts to move outdoors gear in the middle of winter, items like hiking apparel and equipment aren't at their best prices of the year in January.


According to our archives, we saw the highest number of top-shelf offers on outdoors gear in May and June. Since spring is generally when people begin to feel compelled to stretch their legs more and get outside, this seems like ideal timing anyway.


Expect new price points for certain laptops. Our archives indicate that January isn't the best month to purchase a new laptop either. Those bargain-bin prices that tempted us throughout November and December are for the most part gone.


But this year we're noticing a new trend: Dual-core desktop replacements (those powered by a Pentium processor or AMD A series APU) are hitting rock-bottom never-before-seen prices. Since November, we've seen two Toshiba systems, a Dell, and an HP system plummet to $350, $350 and $300, respectively. All four deals were Editors' Choice picks, and we wouldn't be surprised to spot another 17-inch system at this price point again in January.


To maximize your money, opt for a system with a Sandy Bridge Pentium processor or AMD A Series APU (instead of the Pentium P6200, which uses Intel's older Arrendale architecture).


High-end scores in HDTVs. January typically doesn't include the variety of eye-bulging price lows we see during the Black Friday weekend. However, what you will find in January are deals on name-brand HDTVs from the likes of Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic. In the two months following November, we've seen the lowest prices all year on these sets, meaning the time is now to buy a new, premium HDTV.


If you want the latest tech, 55-inch 3-D TVs were 3% cheaper in January than they were in November and December; they dropped from $1,550 to a new low of $1,499.


Last, but not least: Christmas treats.  Who cares if it has a Santa Claus on the tin? Heavily discounted goodies abound this month from Starbucks, Cheryl's, Wal-Mart, Godiva and more. Start 2012 with something sweet, even if it temporarily interferes with your New Year's resolution to get in shape.


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