Ten Items to Buy Before the End of the Year

If you didn’t get everything you wanted for Christmas or have been putting off buying something for yourself, here are nine things you might want to consider purchasing before the end of the year. Right now you may even be able to take advantage of some after-Christmas sales!

1. Home improvement
Not a lot of people are undergoing major renovations, but now is a good time to start planning when designers aren’t so busy, advises Rebekah Zavelof of KitchenLab and Design in a Bag in Chicago. Retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and Sears have great sales on tools and other DIY project necessities in attempts to compete with more traditional gift items like cashmere sweaters, toys and jewelry.

2. Appliances
Look for deals on major brands like GE, Frigidaire, LG, Samsung and Whirlpool–including non-commercial style appliances from the likes of Jenn-Air and GE, Zavelof says. Jon Abt of Abt Electronics advises shoppers: Buy more than one and get a rebate or discount.

3. Decor
Once the initial late-fall holiday-nesting phase passes, most of us are more focused on getting through the holidays than decorating or renovating, and the retailers specializing in home goods do everything they can to tempt you to do otherwise. Furniture stores like Crate & Barrel often have sales on dining room pieces. Remember to look beyond the highlighted gift items for deals on things you’ll want to use year-round.

4. Health items
There’s usually a rush at the end of the year of people making appointments for elective procedures like LASIK eye surgery to use up Health Savings and Flexible Savings account funds. But you don’t have to go under the knife, or red light as the case may be, to use these up. Non-invasive cosmetic procedures and products, new eyeglasses or even a therapeutic massage can quailify.

5. Fitness and weight loss
Buy a gym membership or join a weight loss program, and start using them before the rush of people trying to fulfill their New Year resolutions. Health clubs are more likely to offer deals or negotiate now, before their busiest season, and you get the benefit of less-populated classes and more personal attention from instructors, while everyone else is at the holiday buffet. You will establish a routine and lay the groundwork for success well before the New Year, so you can just breeze by the confused newbies at the club on Jan. 2.

6. Gift certificates or cards
Many retailers, restaurants, salons and spas are offering incentives to anyone buying gift cards, usually above a certain denomination. Lettuce Entertain You, for example, gives a $25 gift card for every $100 purchased in any increment, and at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, you’ll get a $5 card with every $25 purchased. The bonus card is labeled as such, making it inappropriate for a gift, but if you eat out regularly, you’ll put it to good use.

7. Items for your business
If you’re self-employed or a small-business owner, think about picking up that new printer or desk chair before the end of the year. And if you’re among the lucky ones not feeling the recession too keenly, you may really need the tax deductions thanks to improved profits. Take some time to take stock, and then take advantage of end of the year sales.

8. Stocks
There’s end-of-the-year financial maneuvering going on, and it may be scary to think about investing, but long-term planning is always a must. Kiplinger has some stock picks for kids that seem like good picks for just about everyone. At the very least, let this nudge all of us out of the spend mode and into a saving and investing one as we say goodbye to 2012.

9. Champagne and wine
It may seem illogical, what with New Year’s Eve coming up, but retailers really offer some great prices on the bubbly in December, when things get ultra competitive. If you’re not a champagne drinker, consider stocking up on wine as distributors offer special pricing on gift items, or a percentage off when you buy multiple bottles.

10. Used cars
Call it a shameless plug if you will, but the best time of year to buy a used car is in September through December. If you’re looking for next-to-new you can expect to save 10 to 20 percent on the previous year’s model once the new models have been released. Waiting until December means you’ll get an even better deal because it’s the end of the year. Dealerships that sell both new and used vehicles are more eager to reduce their year-end inventory.

If you’re in the market for a used car that’s a few years old, buying in December is much better than waiting until the first few months of the new year. Used car dealers are more busy during that time serving customers who wish to use their tax refunds as down payments. Vehicles move quickly during that time, so the perfect one for you might be sold by tomorrow, and as we learned in economics class increased demand can result in increased prices.

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