Smart Holiday Shopping: Buy Now or Later?

Timing is everything - and that includes holiday shopping.

Many of us wait for "Black Friday" -- the big sales that start the day after Thanksgiving.

But AOL Consumer Adviser Regina Lewis says that's not always the way to go.

You may not have to wait for Black Friday to score some of the best bargains - and holding off could cost you.

On "The Early Show," Lewis offered advice on what to buy now and what to wait for:

Buy NOW (in November): Charcoal grills and grill accessories, Outerwear, TVs, Jewelry, Over-the-Counter health products

Buy LATER: Apple (iPods, iPads etc) products, Jeans (closer to Christmas), Linens/Bedding (January).

(Deals on specific items are constantly changing and our prices may not reflect the deal you can find at a given moment)

****BUY NOW****

BUY NOW: CHARCOAL GRILL and GRILL EXTRAS


There's not really a big market for charcoal grills after summer, and retailers don't want to store these for six months. Sending them back to a warehouse costs money, too. They'd rather just sell them to you at a deep discount and not have to deal with them over the winter. And Weber, the grill company, tells us that one 1 of 10 Americans cook their Thanksgiving turkeys on an outdoor grill … so could be a new way to cook the bird this Thanksgiving.

This is the best and last chance to get a grill. We have a Weber Kettle Grill (Weber 751001 22.5-Inch One-Touch Gold Charcoal Grill) for $146 with free shipping from Amazing (regularly $159.70).

Even more impressive is the deal we found on a cutlery set from J.A. Henckels Cutlery. This 13-piece set is forged from high-carbon stainless steel, then hand-honed for precision sharpness, each knife will be at its sharpest when performing the task at hand. We found it at Macy's (online and in the store) for $100! This set is regularly $270. We saved $170 dollars, or 63 percent!

BUY NOW: OUTERWEAR (Winter Coats and Jackets)

Stores tend to start selling outerwear well before it's time to wear it. So, while it was rolling out at full price in September and early October, you weren't as likely to find a deal. But it just so happens that right now, as it's starting to get cold in most places, sweaters, coats, and vests are all on clearance.

If you're a fan of Old Navy, you're in luck. Right now Old Navy is offering 50 percent off all outwear for women, men, kids and adults while supplies last. The offer is available for items in the stores and online. The sale covers their wool, leather, "frost-free" and many other styles.

But wait -- there's more: This Thursday, LandsEnd.com is launching a special "Family and Friends" promotion, including a special "discount code" for Early Show viewers. By shopping now and using deal code "earlyshow" and promo PIN "2010," viewers will get instant / early access, 30 percent off all orders, and free shipping on any order over $50 on LandsEnd.com.

The Lands' End Family and Friends offer runs from Nov. 12 - Nov. 15. HOWEVER, our viewers can get the Family and Friends offer starting on Tuesday.

Lands' End Women's Jacket $99
Sale Price: $70

BUY NOW: TVs

Every year, television prices decrease by 20-25 percent around the holidays, but this year, discounts may be steeper. According to industry analysts, the supply of flat-panel TVs far surpasses demand. At the beginning of the year, manufacturers were expecting expensive LED screens and 3-D sets to keep prices relatively stable. Many other manufacturers thought the World Cup would fuel sales. As it turns out, though, U.S. consumers haven't responded very enthusiastically, and aren't willing to pay more for higher-quality displays. Now, major companies are simply looking to cut their losses -- and, of course, their prices. "There's going to be a price war this Christmas season, and there's no way around that," says Tsutomu Yamada, a market analyst in Tokyo. "The whole strategy this year is 'sell earlier and sell for less.' That makes life miserable for the manufacturers." Bad for them, great for us. Forecasters say there could be a great deal of flat-screen televisions in Santa's sleigh this Christmas, but you don't have to wait until then to pick up this big ticket item.

Buy.com's Calypso 32" LCD $399
Sale Price: $299 (+ free shipping)

These rock-bottom deals are often for off-brand TVs - some you may not be entirely familiar with. DealNews.com predicts that Black Friday will bring great deals on no-name brands, but you'll have to stand in long lines to get the best of the Black Friday deals. Instead, you can find great prices on televisions all November long. If you are after the top brands, prices on those sets are more likely to drop as we get into December, closer to the holidays.

BUY NOW: JEWELRY

There are signs the chill on holiday spending is beginning to thaw. Consumers may not be giving gifts like it's 2006 again (before the Great Recession), but new surveys suggest some will spend a bit more and start giving presents that people want rather than simply need this year. Think jewelry (rather than slippers and sweaters). For example, the percentage of those who will ask for jewelry this year is up 13 percent, according to National Retail Federation. So even though demand for non-discretionary gifts such as jewelry is expected to rise this holiday season over last, we were able to find some amazing jewelry deals.

We found a sterling silver ring with an oval-cut sapphire (2 ct. t.w.) and diamond accents at Macy's. It's regularly $200, but we got it at a steal for only $79, saving over $121 dollars, which is slightly over 60 percent off!

Sapphire and Diamond Accents Bracelet
Macy's Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet $200
Sale Price: $79

With customers beating down the doors, jewelers have little to no incentive to offer up discounts this time of year. You tend to get more bling for your buck online. Business on one online jeweler, ICE.com, will surge by 40 percent at this time of year, it predicts. Customers will have access to the best deals on jewelry without having to stand in line. Christmas is the busiest time of year for jewelry, followed by Valentine's Day (which is also not that far away!)

Shopping tip: Black diamonds are the HOTTEST items in jewelry this season. And we have a couple great deals on black diamonds: Ice.com's 3 Carat Black Diamond Sterling Silver Bracelet w/ Black Rhodium ($495 regularly $795) That's a savings of $300 dollars or roughly 28 percent.
Ice.com's 3 Carat Black Diamond 14K White Gold Solitaire Stud Earrings ($375 regularly $495). That's a saving of 24 percent. Ice.com's 3 Carat Black Diamond Stud Earrings and Blue Nile necklace

BUY NOW: OVER-THE-COUNTER HEALTH PRODUCTS (FSA Qualifying Items)

The end of the year will be here before you know it. Did you know that upcoming changes will impact the use of Flexible Spending Accounts to buy many over-the-counter health products you won't be able to buy anymore? (FSA is a special account that allows you to set aside part of your pre-tax wages to pay for certain healthcare expenses for you and your family.) Think about getting many of your go-to over-the-counter buys now to maximize your FSA savings. A good place to start is Drugstore.com's FSA store. According to the site, they have over 3,000 FSA-eligible items on sale already. (Beginning January 1, 2011, fewer over-the-counter products will be automatically eligible for FSA. Item eligibility will be updated on the drugstore.com FSA Store to reflect the changes.)

Drugstore.com's Advil $20
Sale Price: $16

TO SEE ITEMS REGINA SUGGESTS WAITING TO BUY, GO TO PAGE 2.

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