Spend Now, Cry Later: 16 Worst Gifts to Impulse Buy for the Holidays
Don't let those holiday sale promotions persuade you into buying something now that will be much cheaper later.
With retailers rolling out their holiday deals much earlier this year, you may feel compelled to splurge more than usual on gifts for loved ones (or yourself) right now. But not so fast. Every deal that’s available right now and in the weeks to come isn’t necessarily the best. In fact, depending on the item you’re coveting, you might be able to snag it for much less immediately following the holidays or at another time of the year.
We’ve enlisted the help of several smart shopping experts to identify 16 product categories holiday shoppers should steer clear of this year. Take a look.
Gifting that special someone with a bit of sparkle is sure to please, no matter the holiday. Just know that the winter holiday season isn’t the best opportunity to score a deal on a pair of diamond earrings or an 18-carat gold bracelet. In fact, the best time to shop for fine jewelry at a discount is in late February -- post-Valentine’s Day, says Casey Runyan, managing editor of BradsDeals.com. That’s when jewelry retailers will be offering their most aggressive sale pricing due to the drastic decrease in demand. The discounts available will vary based on the type of jewelry being purchased, the stone setting and precious metals used, she notes.
You may be tempted to stock up on extra blankets and other bedding during Black Friday sales to get cozy for the holidays. But you can snuggle up to more savings if you hold off until after the turn of the year.
Many retailers -- including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Overstock and Pottery Barn -- tend to fold their best deals on sheets, towels, comforter sets and other linens into their "white sales" in January, says NerdWallet.com consumer savings expert Courtney Jespersen. Consumers can expect to see savings of 50% or more on bedding during these sales, making them well worth the wait.
Between Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas cookies and that “quarantine 15” you might’ve gained over the past few months, getting back in shape may be top of mind. However, buying fitness equipment right now will have you spending more than you need to, says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst for DealNews.com.
Shoppers who can wait until January to purchase items such as hand weight sets, treadmills and rowing machines will find the biggest discounts then. “Last year, we saw exercise mats for as little as $10, three-piece kettlebell sets for $27 and doorway pull-up bars for $18,” she adds.
If you’re in the market for a laptop or desktop computer, hold off on purchasing one right now if possible. That’s because the savings offered during the winter shopping holidays won’t be as substantial compared to clearance sales in late January and early February, says BradsDeals.com’s Runyan. That’s in large part due to the Consumer Electronics Show, which is held in Las Vegas in early January. It’s where the top manufacturers unveil their latest products. To help clear out the previous year’s models, they’ll slash prices on their existing inventory immediately following the convention, she notes. So if you don’t mind buying a 2020 computer model at the start of the new year, you can save several hundred dollars compared to what you’d find on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Many retailers are already offering discounts on winter apparel and accessories as part of their early Black Friday sales. However, if you don’t need to buy a new stash of cashmere sweaters or a pair of Italian leather boots right now (because let’s be honest, we’re all sitting at home these days), continue to hold off. That’s because the very best deals won’t pop up until late January or February. “That’s when retailers begin trying to clear shelves and make room for spring styles," DealNews.com’s Ramhold says. At this time, you’ll be able to score significant savings on everything from coats to hat, scarf and glove sets. It’s the ideal time to stock up for the next winter season -- especially if you have children who will be too big for their current cold-weather clothing and accessory items by then.
So your extra time at home this year has made you realize you hate your living-room couch -- or that your office furniture is due for an update. You can start perusing some of your favorite furniture retailers’ websites now, but hold off on making any purchases. The most significant savings on furniture items can be found in January as manufacturers look to clear out their showrooms in preparation for the arrival of spring inventory, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.com. At that time, furniture retailers will be offering end-of-season clearance prices. If you have a particular retailer you’re fond of, be sure to sign up for their email alerts so you don’t miss when the sale launches.
With the sudden increase in demand for outdoor furniture sets as more people entertain outside during the pandemic, supplies are low. As a result, holiday shoppers shouldn’t expect to see prices drop on these items, Bodge adds. Consumers on the hunt for patio furniture won’t likely see any deals on these items until stock levels and demand return to normal, which could be months from now, she suggests.
Let your holiday spirit spill over into the days leading into the New Year. That's when prices on ornaments, lights, garlands, artificial trees and other seasonal items will drop like a lump of coal.
"Post-Christmas clearance discounts will be steep," says NerdWallet.com’s Jespersen. "Shoppers can stock up on wreaths, ornaments and wrapping paper at a major discount, then save them for next year."
You can take advantage of big sales on mattresses several times throughout the year, but the winter holidays aren’t one of them, warns DealNews.com’s Ramhold. Consumers will typically find the deepest discounts on mattresses during Presidents Day (in February), Memorial Day (in May) and Labor Day (in September) sales, she notes. That’s when savings will jump to as much as 80% off.
If you want to capture your family’s most precious moments with professional quality photos, put down the smartphone and invest in a digital single-lens reflex or DSLR camera. While big-box retailers will try to entice shoppers on the hunt for such a camera this holiday season, the best time to purchase one is in February, says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. That’s following the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It's there that the newest electronics products -- from laptops to televisions to cameras -- are unveiled for the upcoming year. Bargain shoppers who can wait until then will see savings of up to 35% off on popular DSLR camera manufacturers including Canon and Nikon. Like many other electronics retailers, these brands will be looking to clear out older product models to make room for new inventory that will soon hit store shelves, he adds.
If you’re old school and like to hang a calendar in your kitchen or home office or prefer a sophisticated planner to help keep you on schedule, wait until mid-January if possible before buying a 2021 version, recommends Rather-Be-Shopping.com’s James. By then, you should be able to find calendars for as much as 30% off, James notes.
Black Friday-Exclusive Electronics
Big-box retailers such as Costco, Target and Best Buy are known for their Black Friday doorbuster deals on electronics (think: HDTVs and streaming media players). However, many of these products are exclusive to a specific retailer and manufactured exclusively for the holiday season. Savvy consumers who like to shop around won’t be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison, DealNews.com’s Ramhold says.
And many of these electronics models tend to be off-brand, and chances are you’ll likely end up replacing it much sooner than if you’d purchased a brand-name version. So rather than buy a Black Friday model simply because it's at a good price, opt for one you're familiar with and can find reviews for before you make a serious investment, Ramhold advises.
If you’re planning to update your kitchen or laundry room with new appliances, don’t overreact to holiday sales. Consumers will find deeper discounts on refrigerators, washer/dryer combos and the like during Presidents Day (February), Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September) sales, BradsDeals.com’s Runyan says. During Black Friday promotions, retailers generally offer 20% to 40% off these items -- compared to 30% to 50% off during the other popular shopping holidays, she notes. Also, you’ll usually find a better selection of brand-name appliances at these other times (think: Samsung, LG and Whirlpool).
If you’re stumped on what to gift dear ol’ Dad this holiday season, a new tool set might seem failproof. But if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, you won’t find the best bargains on tools during the Black Friday shopping weekend.
In fact, home improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s slash prices on tool gift sets, individual power tools, tool storage units and related accessories closer to Father’s Day in early June, says Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot.com. Buying a tool set during the winter months versus at the start of summer is the difference between getting 35% off the retail price now instead of 50% off later.
Cold-Weather Outdoor Gear
Don’t be fooled by any Black Friday or Cyber Monday “deals” you might come across on winter outdoor gear, such as snowboards, sleds and hiking boots. These items are priced highest during the winter months, because they’re at peak popularity, warns consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. Any discounts retailers may offer on new product models won’t be nearly as significant compared to end-of-season sales in late February or March, when you can score 50% or more off.
If you must buy outdoor gear right now (say, you’ve got someone on your holiday gift-giving list who’s an avid hiker), shop at a discount specialty store such as REI’s online outlet, Woroch recommends. She says consumers can expect to find deals of as much as 40% off cold-weather outerwear and sporting goods from previous seasons or overstock -- not merchandise made specifically for an outlet store, which tends to be of lesser quality.
It’s no secret that Apple plays by its own rules, especially when it comes to offering discounts on products. Holiday shoppers with their hearts set on finding bargains on the latest AirPods or Apple Watch won’t see any on the tech giant’s website or at its brick-and-mortar locations. That’s because Apple usually limits its special offers on new items to its annual product event in September, says BradsDeals.com’s Runyan.
However, you may find discounts on previous year’s versions. Like many manufacturers that offer clearance sales, the tech giant will be looking to make room for the new releases.
Video Game Consoles
In years past, Black Friday shoppers have been able to score discounts on the latest video game consoles that were released earlier in the year. However, that won’t likely happen in 2020, suggests Regina Conway, a consumer expert for Slickdeals.net. That’s because Xbox’s latest consoles -- the Series X ($500) and Series S ($300) -- just hit store shelves on November 10, and Playstation’s PS5 ($500) landed on November 12. As a result, demand remains high, and holiday shoppers shouldn’t expect to see significant deals on these items, if at all.