Since the holidays began, we've been pretty hard on the American shopper. "You don't need a Christmas tree for every room in your house!" we've barked. But that's because you need these reminders. Even at the height of the recession in 2008, people splurged on Christmas trees, with Americans spending more than $3 billion on them every year since.
In 2013, we're giving you permission to spend (wisely). There are many things, particularly big-ticket items, that you should buy in January and February. We consulted Consumer Reports' "When to Buy What" calendar to get the details on when retail stores change their inventory and when sales typically begin.
If you didn't splurge in December, January is a great time to buy, because most of the country is sick of shopping. Expect discounts on everything from carpeting to furniture. Here's what you should buy in the next couple of months.
It may seem obvious, but stalk your local CVS, Walgreens and big-box retailers: The holiday stuff you'll want next year is about to go on sale. You know how you're coveting your neighbor's Christmas light display? Everything you've been salivating over this season will soon be half off — the fake trees, the blow-up Santas, the Christmas cards. Buy them soon. You can store items in the garage; chances are, you'll want them next year. Remember: Not everything included in holiday sales is holiday specific. Red, blue, gold and silver wrapping paper can be used year-round.
Washing machines, ovens, dishwashers — older models of large appliances — tend to be deeply discounted in January. New models arrive in September and October, which is when sales typically start. Any remaining models must be sold early the next year. Deals will be good, but be warned: The selection will be small.
January and July tend to be the best time to buy furniture. Like cars, these big-ticket items have to be cleared from showrooms to make room for new models. Make a trip to the store to scout what's in stock for when the end-of-season sales begin.
Carpeting, flooring, paint, etc.
Almost everyone remodels when family comes into town. Whether it's something as simple as new pillows for the sofa or a massive renovation, people change their homes for the holidays. That means prices of carpeting and flooring drop drastically in January. Consumer Reports and FreeShipping.org recommend planning renovations for early 2013, because many household jobs that require technical skills will be discounted after the holiday rush.
By January, stores need to make room for spring and resort collections, which is good news for shoppers. The winter clothing goes on sale. Sure, the selection may be worse — you don't get the latest styles or the selection you would see in September. But if you're in the market for a classic wool coat or all-weather wear, it will be discounted.
January is also the time when cosmetic counters and drugstores discount makeup from the previous year. Right after the holidays, bold, glitzy lipsticks and glittery eyeshadows may seem a little too festive for work. Spring shades hit the counters, so the bolder stuff goes on sale. Look for drugstore coupons and stock up on essentials.
Bedding and linens
This is a bit of a tradition. In 1878, John Wanamaker discounted all the white linens in his Philadelphia department store, starting the annual tradition of "January white sales." The month was a relatively slow time for department stores, and the sales brought crowds in after the holidays. Retailers still use January as an opportunity to have sales on home linens and bedding. But, of course, linens now come in innumerable patterns and colors that couldn't be imagined in the 19th century.
After the holiday rush for new televisions, most stores will continue discounting those large flat screens in anticipation of the Super Bowl rush. Consumer Reports and the National Retail Foundation recommend buying televisions in January during the post-holiday sales. But remember, if stores are overstocked, you're likely to get an even better deal on televisions after the Super Bowl.
The bottom line: With so many people recovering from holiday spending sprees, demand for everything from appliances to winter coats tends to be down in January and February. Many retailers will lure shoppers into stores with sales in early 2013. If you were good this holiday season, treat yourself.