Personal Finance

The Best Time to Get Deals on Holiday Gifts

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In terms of spending, there’s a puzzling and frustrating question: When will I get the best bargain?

It applies to timing the market for good mortgage rates, scouring travel sites for dates with the best airfare or trying to figure out when the best sales will be for shopping.

Buying holiday gifts may seem trivial in comparison to choosing when to buy a home or when you can afford to go back to school, but gifts can be expensive. Consumers frequently overspend in the final months of the year, often leading to unpleasant debt, so knowing when deals are available can help you save money.

You may be thinking the holidays are stressful enough without deal hunting, but a recent survey shows the tie between anxiety and overspending. The extra planning may be worth it to your wallet.

Holiday deals aren’t limited to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and this year, Hanukkah gift givers will have to start well before those days. Thanksgiving and the first of the eight days of Hanukkah fall on Nov. 28 (Hanukkah begins at sundown Nov. 27), which is exceedingly rare. (In fact, it won’t happen again for 70,000 years.)

To help consumers, the coupon site Savings.com put together a shopping calendar for different categories of gifts: electronics, apparel, toys, books, home decor and food.

Based on the number of holiday deal days outlined on the calendar, it seems that books and toys will be the toughest to get for a good price, while scoring well-priced home decor shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

Spending more than you can afford, even if it’s all on sale items, isn’t going to translate into a season of joy. Before shopping, it’s important to set a budget so you don’t overspend and ding your credit by maxing out your credit cards. (You can see how your debt compares to that of other consumers using the free Credit Report Card.)

Electronics

November is the time to buy the latest gadgets for tech lovers, but remember not to blow the budget on high-priced merchandise so early on.

  • When to shop: Black Friday and Cyber Monday have the steepest discounts, but shopping Nov. 4 to 16 should also help save money.
  • What’s a good deal: 25% to 30% off

Apparel & Accessories

Steep discounts on clothing can make stores a crowded mess, but there can be some great last-minute deals.

  • When to shop: Cyber Monday and Dec. 15 are peak discount times, and the 10 days leading up to Christmas tend to be sale-heavy.
  • What’s a good deal: 35% to 40% off

Toys, Games and Sporting Equipment

Parents probably know  popular toys go fast, which is why deals are concentrated in the early days of December.

  • When to shop: The Savings.com analysis says deals are three times as good on Dec. 20, so it may pay to cut it close (though you risk having the store run out of the toy you’re trying to find). Otherwise, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Dec. 1 to 7 are the best bet.
  • What’s a good deal: 30% off

Books, Music and DVDs

For media lovers, there’s a small window of time to get the best deals, and it’s after Hanukkah and Christmas. The post-holiday gift-returning mayhem is the time to browse discounted novels.

  • When to shop: Dec. 26 to 30.
  • What’s a good deal: 50% off.

Home Decor

Buying someone a nice bookshelf for the holidays? Take your time.

  • When to shop: The last week of November and early December (and Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
  • What’s a good deal: 35% off.

Food, Flowers and Gift Baskets

As you can imagine, it’s best to buy some of these things a bit later, so they’re fresh. You’ll save the most right before Christmas.

  • When to shop: Buy any time in December, particularly Dec. 22 to 24.
  • What’s a good deal: 20% off.

Image: iStock

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