January Sales: What to Skip & What to Score

It's a new year and stores are working to get in a new line of inventory. But what's worth buying? Here are things to grab now and things to avoid.
Woman shopping while looking at her phone

If December is the month of giving to others, January is the month to treat yourself! No sooner do we polish off the last of the eggnog and get the decorations stored until next year than we get bombarded with sales on sales on sales. Even if you received everything on your wish list, it’s hard to resist all the “last chance” deals and steals, especially if you’ve got gift cards burning a hole in your pocket. But just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you’re saving money.

Before you run out and take advantage of all the major markdowns the new year brings, take a deep breath and ask yourself, do you really need it? Will you use it? Or are you just falling prey to the FOMO on a deep discount? For example, if you’re a black coffee girl, you might want to pass on the fancy barista-style coffee maker, even if it is a whopping 75% off. But if you’re dropping $10 a day on your latte habit, then, by all means, snap it up! We’ve broken down some of the most common January sale categories to help you determine what to score and when to skip.

Women shopping in the winter; Christmas shopping

Fitness Equipment

SCORE: If you, like millions of others, made fitness one of your resolutions, you’re in luck! Many retailers make it easier for you to stay on track by offering discounts on fitness equipment throughout January. This is a great time to invest in a large item like a treadmill, stationary bike, or fancy fitness tracker. You can also pick up smaller items like dumbbells, athletic shoes, yoga mats, and more.

SKIP: If you know that an at-home treadmill will most likely double as a coat rack, then you aren’t saving money by buying one. Instead, you might get more bang for your buck from a gym membership. Most gyms offer huge first-of-year deals to get you moving in the right direction.

Bedding and Linens

SCORE: For over 140 years, shoppers have looked forward to stocking up on bedding and other household linens during January White Sales. This annual tradition began with John Wanamaker, who started the department store concept in 1876. He called it a White Sale because white was the only color option for linens back then. Today, most major department stores have a January White Sale, and you can find a rainbow of colors. It’s a great time to replace any threadbare sheets and towels or stock up on extra sets for when company comes.

SKIP: There really is no downside to this one. If you need linens for your home, this is the best time to get them.

Holiday Décor

 SCORE: If that pre-lit tree you bought ten years ago is starting to look a little more Charlie Brown than Rockefeller Center, January is a wonderful time to replace it. You can also find excellent deals on ornaments, decorations, and almost anything and everything holiday. Whether starting from scratch, adding to your collection, or replacing worn or broken items, you’ll score holi-deals galore.

SKIP: This one can be dangerous because, let’s face it, there’s so much cute holiday décor out there, but do you REALLY need one more inflatable Rudolph? Take a tip from Santa: make a list, check it twice, and then stick to it.

Beauty Items

SCORE: Many beauty companies put together special color palettes or product collections during the holidays. These items get marked down substantially after the season, not because they are no longer on trend but because of the packaging. This is the perfect time to experiment with brands, products, or colors you’ve always wanted to try but never allowed yourself to splurge on.

SKIP: That bright red lipstick and matching gloss may look pretty in the package, but if red isn’t your color, it doesn’t matter how much it’s marked down; don’t get it.

TVs

SCORE: Want to watch the Super Bowl on a supersized TV? Watch the stores for super deals between now and then. Retailers need to move inventory to make room for newer models, and what better time than with the year’s biggest televised sporting event coming up?

SKIP: Make sure you research the various makes and models before you pull the trigger on this big purchase. Again, just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. It could be that the brand didn’t sell for a reason.

Small Kitchen Appliances

SCORE: We aren’t talking about the nearly impossible-to-come-by Ninja Creami. Think basic coffee makers, toasters, waffle irons, popcorn poppers, and other small appliances. You’ll find some good deals on these this time of year if you need to add one to your kitchen or pick up a couple for upcoming housewarming or wedding gifts.  

SKIP: If you don’t love to cook, a waffle iron, even one that’s on sale, probably isn’t going to change that. Do you love the convenience of microwave popcorn? Then you probably won’t use the more time-consuming popper. Think about what makes sense for you and choose accordingly.

Everyone loves a sale, but at what price? To ensure you get the most for your money, don’t just wander around the nearest mall, stopping at every store with a sale sign in the window. Remember that many of these sales are final, so be honest with yourself about what you will or won’t use. Set a budget and adhere to it, regardless of how “too good to be true” a sale item seems. Have a plan and know exactly what you want to buy and where to go to get it. With a little preparation, you can score some good finds while saving your money.

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