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January Sales Shopping Strategies

NEW YORK -- January is the time of sales sales sales. But what are the best items to buy this month? With all the sales going on, how can you tell the real steals from the not-so-hot clearance items? Where are the best bargains? Should you shop online, in the store or from catalogues?

On "The Early Show" Friday, LaToya Drake, an AOL consumer adviser, walked viewers through some of the best approaches to January's sales in five areas: clothing, linens, furniture, electronics/theater, and fitness equipment.

Her pointers on navigating through the offers:

There are deals in January that won't come around again until the following year. January white sales are an annual tradition that originated in 1878 to boost sales of towels and sheets during what is typically a slow period. These sales begat other sales, and soon a lot of different merchants and brands were using January as a time to sell off the old for great prices, to usher in the new.

APPAREL

Clothes are a great way to take advantage of January Sales. Why? Because stores are clearing out the racks of fall clothes to make way for their new winter stock. And when retailers have to get rid of their stock, you get the savings.

As far as shopping online or at the store, for CLOTHES, it's really a matter of personal preference. Some people won't buy ANYTHING to wear unless they have tried it on. Some HATE to fight through clearance racks looking for the right size or color, and hate crowds. Also, when you shop online, you know right away if what you want is available or not. Either way works. Macy's has a GREAT 99 cent shipping code: Simply enter 99CENTS in the promotional code of your shopping bag screen to get great savings on shipping. Macy's has a great cashmere sale, Old Navy is offering big savings on a good deal of their stock, and Jos. A. Bank is making way for the new winter suits that have driven their prices way down.

Some Great Deals You Might Try:

Old Navy has up to 70 percent off its stock
Men's Solid V-Neck Sweater:
Sale: $9.97
Regular: $24.50

Macy's has great deals right now. First of all, you can get up to 75 percent off of selected clearance stock. Cashmere Sweaters:
Sale: $44.99 + $0.99 shipping (code: 99CENTS)
Regular: $99

Ralph Lauren Winter Accessories
3-Piece lambs wool hat, glove and scarf set
Sale: $59.99
Regular: $115

JoS. A. Bank has up 65 percent-70 percent off on pants, suits, jackets, you name it.

LINENS

This is the time when you buy high-quality items, including bedding with higher thread counts and towels that you hope will last you several years. While places like Pottery Barn and Kohl's have dedicated white sales, you can also score deals at Amazon (like a 1,000 Thread Count Percale Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set for $59.99; reg $189.99)

Some Great Deals You Might Try:

Kohl's offering 30-50 percent off bedding and 40 percent off bath collections

Pottery Barn offering up to 50 percent off over 500 items, both in stores and online during its winter sale.
Bedding (25 percent off plus free monogramming on select items)
Bath (25 percent off plus free monogramming

FURNITURE

This is another thing it's great to get in January. Furniture merchants stock their stores bi-annually, and one of those times falls in February. That means January is clearance time. How should you shop for furniture? Believe it or not, online is often your best bet. Why? In the case of Overstock.com, you can get delivery practically free, and delivery fees are very expensive these days. But ONLY shop online when you know AHEAD of time what you want. If you want to test drive a sofa or seat for comfort, shopping in the store is probably the best way to go. If you want to head to the store, Pottery Barn and Ikea have great deals for limited times. If you know what you are looking for, try RoomStore.com or overstock.com for even lower prices.

Some Great Deals You Might Try:

Online: Overstock.com has $2.95 shipping (you will save a bunch on shipping here; always worth considering if you know what you are looking for)

Capri Dark Brown Microsuede Sectional Sofa
Today: $871.99
Regular: $1,159

In-Store: Pottery Barn has up to 50 percent off

In-Store: Ikea has up to 60 percent off selected items

In-Store/Online: RoomStore
Sofa/Chaise
Sale: $695
Regular: $799.99

ELECTRONICS/THEATRE

January is a great time to buy electronics, especially home theaters. Why? Because the Super Bowl is around the corner, and people need new TVs. Also, the Consumer Electronics Show has just wrapped up, which means consumers and merchants know what's new, what's hot, and what's around the bend in technology. Which means they have to dump their old stock. Here, we recommend going TO THE STORE, because first of all, you need to look at the picture and quality of what you buy. Also, it's great to talk with an expert about what you need and what fits your home entertainment center. You can get great LCD's or HDTV's at Best Buy and Circuit City. At Best Buy, we found a great 55" Toshiba HDTV/LCD for $600 off the original asking price.

Some Great Deals You Might Try:

Try Best Buy's Outlet Center: It has some terrific deals like this one:
Toshiba 55" Class / 1080p / 120Hz / LCD HDTV
Sale: $999.99
Reg: $1,599.99
**Order online or ship to store

Circuit City has up to 50 percent off

Walmart:
VIZIO 42" Class LCD 1080p 60Hz HDTV
Online Sale Price: $498
Regular: $548
**The TV is available in store but the price varies by store

FITNESS EQUIPMENT

If you're not a fan of gym memberships, a faux gym in your home, by way of weights and cardio equipment, can help you work toward that New Year's resolution to lose weight. And Consumer Reports says January is the best time to buy treadmills and ellipticals.

Right now on Amazon.com, they have up to 40 percent off best-selling fitness equipment from top brands like Bowflex, Nautilus and Schwinn. Depending on your budget, there are deals on everything from gym-quality treadmills and ellipticals to smaller fitness accessories like a $10 ab trainer or a $20 yoga start kit, to complete boot camp-style DVD workouts for about $70. And everything in Amazon's fitness clearance section includes Free Super Saver Shipping. And you're going to want that free shipping option, especially if you're buying something heavy like a treadmill -- that's not something you want to try and lug home on your own from the local sporting goods store. Dick's Sporting Goods not only has a good clearance sale, it also offers free shipping to any order over $79.

The best deals we were able to find here were online, so here we recommend using your computer to get yourself the best bargains.

Some Great Deals You Might Try:

Amazon.com has up to 40 percent off on its gym and fitness equipment, and this on goods as large as treadmills or as small as workout DVD's.

Dick's Sporting Goods has free shipping on $79 or higher purchases. Check at your local store, or try online to see what's available.