How to avoid overpaying in December

Story highlights So-called flash sales can change holiday spending habits Their popularity — and promise of savings — is undercutting their value. Christmas is right around the corner. But just because you’re thinking about…

Story highlights So-called flash sales can change holiday spending habits

Their popularity — and promise of savings — is undercutting their value.

Christmas is right around the corner. But just because you’re thinking about the season doesn’t mean you’re out of time to pull out the credit card and buy your share of gifts.

While it may take some time to mull over all the holiday shopping you’ll need to do, the season isn’t the only time to shop. In fact, there are plenty of ways to get discounts on high-end items year-round.

This includes shopping for end-of-season clearance items like bathing suits and sweaters, and also picking up clearance items at events like New York Fashion Week.

But there are also one-day sales at many department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s — and these are just the most obvious examples. When it comes to finding really good deals, you’re best advised to travel a little bit further afield.

At the end of October, the week before Halloween, there are actually more retailers offering deep discounts than after the holiday shopping blitz has picked up over the course of the season.

At GEICO, a division of GE Financial Group, we’ve done some of the math. We pulled data from searches over a 13-day period at the beginning of the year, and compared that to the same week at the end of the year.

We found that sales even earlier in the year — often the week leading up to Halloween and during the fourth week of the shopping season — are often offered at deeper discounts than sales that occur closer to Christmas.

In our case, here are some examples:

GEICO: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Black Stainless Steel with Apple Rose Gold Antique Handle (Discount: 30% off)

Scan: Microwave, $49.99 (Discount: 75% off)

Macy’s: iPhone Xs Max, 32GB iPhone 8 Plus, Black Pink, Stainless Steel Case, 400GB Solid State Drive

Luxury florist FTD offers Christmas brunches — which take place in December — throughout the year at locations across the country. While this might seem like a questionable comparison, we did find that when FTD started offering pre-Christmas brunches in October, its sales were typically 40% higher than the January sales in that month.

Regular sales are almost always better than pre-Christmas bargains. What makes “pre-Christmas” sales better is that they’re almost always smaller than normal sales. But for whatever reason, people are more drawn to pre-Christmas sales because they want to complete their gift buying on the cheap.

‘The ‘in’ thing to do in October isn’t really the same as the ‘in’ thing to do in November or December,’ says Stefanie O’Connell, editor-in-chief at StyleSage. “I guess there’s this general feeling that if you don’t have everything you want then there’s something wrong with you.”

In general, the trend of “the in” thing — buying in April, May, June, etc. — has been on the decline. A study by Etsy found that sales throughout the year are “virtually identical” to those in November and December, a trend O’Connell shared.

We’re making ‘buy now or wait until the next available date’ a thing, right? This is a conspiracy perpetrated by the Trump administration… pic.twitter.com/gJHSE3lC9Q — Scott Murfey (@scottmurfey) November 9, 2018

But why should shoppers ignore October and November? Simply put, a lot of sales take place in October. For instance, in 2015 and 2016, 23% of the sales of clothing and home goods took place in October, according to a report from Amazon. So there’s plenty of time to get a deal on your holiday season shopping.

We did some more analysis on this. To sweeten the deal, we found that October is actually a good time to invest in a new computer because Apple and Dell tend to sell new machines in October at discounts of 15% and 20%, respectively.

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