What to Buy and What Not to Buy in December

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Holiday shopping is starting to get serious, and everything appears to be on sale. But savvy consumers know that seemingly ubiquitous discounting doesn't necessarily make this the best moment to make a purchase. What then, should consumers buy in December?

BUY: TOYS

Toys may be on sale already, but don't rush out right away to buy all the goodies for under the tree. The best toy deals of the year are yet to come. Mid-December is the best time to buy -- right in the midst of the holiday shopping season and before last-minute shoppers drive prices back up. The best bet is to hold off and shop the toy store exactly two weeks before Christmas.

BUY: TVS

Black Friday is the best time to score deals on electronics, but don't worry too much about missing the sales; December is still a great time to buy TVs. Blu-ray movies and DVDs are also reduced, but for other popular electronics, it pays to sit tight.

BUY: KITCHEN ITEMS

Planning to spend a lot of time in the kitchen over the holidays? Kitchen items are typically marked way down in December. Even if you don't plan to cook much this season, a mixer makes a good gift for the in-laws.

BUY: TOOLS

December is the time to buy tools -- particularly wrench, screwdriver, and drill sets -- for the handy people on your holiday shopping list.

BUY: HOLIDAY GOODS

Dec. 26 is the time to think about buying Christmas décor for next year. And if you haven't had enough Christmas candy by late December, pick some up for cheap.

BUY: GIFT CARDS

Many restaurants and some retailers looking to close out the year on a high note offer free gift cards to customers who spend a certain amount buying gift cards for others. A list compiled by DealNews shows the types of offers that shoppers can expect.

BUY: CHAMPAGNE

With New Year's Eve right around the corner, champagne drinkers have much to cheer about. December is the season of high demand but still the best time to stock up on cheap champagne, as stores vying for all that celebratory business lower their prices on the bubbly stuff.

BUY: WEDDING DRESS

Some big-ticket items are better buys than others in December. With the wedding season at a near standstill this month, dress dealers are looking to make a sale -- any sale -- so discounts abound.

BUY: A NEW HOME

If you're in the market for a new home, try to buy in December. Many sellers take properties off the market for the holidays, and those who don't are truly motivated, which means more negotiating leverage for buyers.

BUY: CARS

December is also a good time to negotiate a deal on a car. With the year coming to an end, dealerships are ready to cut prices.

BUY: SEASONAL PRODUCE

When it comes to stocking the refrigerator, don't be fooled by the cold temperatures. Many fruits and vegetables are in season and cheap. Try incorporating beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, onions, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash into holiday dishes. Seasonal fruits include clementines, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, pears, and tangerines.

BUY: HOLIDAY FOOD

National Pie Day, Eggnog Day, Candy Cane Day, Champagne Day, and Cookie Day all fall in December and see sales all month, so go ahead and treat yourself or pick up these seasonal favorites for cheap to share at holiday parties.

DON'T BUY: JEWELRY

Put purchases of jewelry and watches on hold in December. They're popular holiday gifts, so jewelers aren't hurting for business and are therefore less likely to feature deals or discounts.

DON'T BUY: A GYM MEMBERSHIP

With many people making New Year's resolutions to lose weight, gyms have no incentive to discount memberships. Better to wait until the weather gets nice again and people take their workouts outside.

DON'T BUY: WINTER WEAR AND GEAR

As a general rule of thumb, most items are discounted when they go out of season. Items such as skis, snow blowers, and winter clothing are tagged at close to full price. Put off buying these items until February, or even April, when demand is down and retailers are eager to unload inventory.

DON'T BUY: LINENS AND FURNITURE

Stores host their annual "white sales" in January, so don't shop for linens and towels yet. Furniture is also a no-no in December. It's not until January that retailers get anxious to clear the showroom for new products released in February.

DON'T BUY: CALENDARS

One end-of-year item not to buy in December: a wall calendar. Retailers are well aware old calendars cannot be repurposed, so discounts are few and far between. There are better deals in January or even February.

DON'T BUY: ELECTRONICS

Digital cameras, tablets, laptops, and the like are big holiday purchases for many folks but unfortunately not the best deals in December. The biggest discounts historically appear in November for Black Friday and again in January, when new models debut and the previous year's models are marked down.