Stop? Go? Hold: Using Sales Data to Save More on Holiday Shopping

Call me a dork, but I love statistics. Shopping statistics, that is. Websites like DealNews.com now track the who, what, where and when of sales. As long as retailers follow their past patterns, all that information can be used to save money this holiday season. How? Timing. Using several years worth of sale tracking data, DealNews can predict the best time to buy a particular type of product. I've taken the DealNews data for December and grouped it into a game of red light-green light. Green means go-for-it. Red means stop. Don't buy this month. And yellow means slow down and see. Here goes!

GO!

Gift Cards: DealNews says that in December, lots of retailers and restaurants offer free gift cards if customers spend a certain amount of money in their establishments. It happened to me. By sheer coincidence, I bought a bunch of stuff at the Container Store the other day, and the store thanked me with a $15 gift card. Look for these sweet deals!

Tools: November is the ultimate month for tools. Who knew? But apparently December is the second-best time to buy drills, saws, sanders and more. One note from a home improvement nut: If you're kind, you'll buy your loved one power tools that can be used indoors this winter. It's so hard to wait for spring to whip out new tools of destruction like chain saws and stuff.

Hardware: Ditto! Get some widgets to go with your gadgets, and you can save on them too this month. Kitchen Tools: With everybody prepping for Thanksgiving, once again, November is a key month for tools -- in this case kitchen tools. But face it, Christmas and Thanksgiving have grown so bloated that they've run into each other, so this is also a great month for culinary gadget deals, according to DealNews.

HDTVs: This one's predictable, as people prepare for the Super Bowl. But I thought it was worth mentioning since large high-def televisions are some of the pricier things on many wish lists. DealNews says television prices were 5 percent lower in December than November last year, so if the sugar plums dancing in your head are flat and rectangular, go for it.

Laptops: Deal News describes the deals on both budget and mainstream laptops as a "barrage"... which sounds like a good thing if you are in the market. The website goes on and on about "Ivy Bridge" laptops for as low as $360 and if you -- unlike me-- know what that means, then get ye to a big-box store in December.

STOP

Jewelry: If diamonds are a girl's best friend, December is not her best month. For whatever reason, the big jewelry stores do not give their deepest discounts in December. (Perhaps they are wise to the waves of desperation emanating from desperate husbands and boyfriends everywhere this time of year.) If you must buy jewelry in December, try to find a department store that offers a December coupon and doesn't exclude jewelry. Good luck.

Other Electronics: You'd think that since TVs and laptops are worth scooping up in December, other electronics would be too, but Deal News say "unh uh." The editors' reasoning? Since the Consumer Electronics Show happens in January, that's the beginning of the new model year and it's the time that discounts pop up for the old model year. The CES runs Jan. 8 through Jan. 11, 2013, so if you want a camera, cell phone or other smaller eletronic gadget, that's the time to be on the lookout.

SLOW

Toys: Buying hot toys for Christmas is a perilous feat. On the one hand, you want to save money. On the other, you want to save yourself from the wails of protest of little lap-sitters who specified this year's "it" toy as their heart's desire. Tread carefully, dear parents. You'll get the best price if you slow down and use caution just like you do at a yellow light. But if the kids in their car seats are clamoring for a certain thing, you might best scoop it up early and often. Hey, if you get more than your quota, you can sell the extras on eBay and make up your savings that way!

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