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What to Buy in December: Ugly Sweaters, Toys, and Cookies

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (December 16) gets major buzz on social media, so be sure to stock up on unsightly knitwear this month. thesweaterstore.com

Your bank account may still be recovering from Black Friday, but get ready to open your wallet again this month. Retailers are lining up some enticing deals, particularly around toys, gift cards, Christmas decorations, jewelry, and even electronics.

Plus, December 16 is Free Shipping Day, which has the participation of more than 720 retailers thus far, according to the official site.

We've rounded up some of the most anticipated deals, along with some exclusive tips from retail experts.

Hot Toys Go High-Tech 1:25

Toys

"December is one of the best months of the year to purchase toys [because] retailers know parents are looking for just the right presents, and oftentimes, toys are on that list," said Courtney Jespersen, retail expert at NerdWallet. "Shoppers should absolutely look for sales in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas."

Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, noted that the 10-day period before Christmas is when most toys are deeply discounted.

"Last year, we saw discounts anywhere between 20-40 percent off from retailers like Toys 'R' Us and The Disney Store," said Skirboll, adding, "Amazon is a great choice for toys because the marketplace will be continuing its Black Friday celebration through most of December with limited-time deals."

Though the deals may be heightening towards the end of the month, shoppers should keep in mind that as the clock ticks toward Christmas, those popular toys will be going, going, gone.

"Saver beware: While waiting may get you deeper discounts, you risk the toy selling out," said Skirboll, and pointed to the following deals now available via RetailMeNot:

ShopKo: $25 off any $100 purchase (except electronics) December 2

Gilt Groupe: Sale on toys under $15, $25, $50 from December 2 thru December 15; also on Gilt, the Toys Hotlist, touting an extra 30 percent off with the code GIFTS30, from December 2-5

On Coupons.com, check out several discount options on Toys R Us purchases, including $50 on all LEGO Dimensions Starter Packs plus 40 percent off all figures, fun packs, and more.

Survey: Shoppers to spend $31 billion on gift cards 0:21

Gift Cards

"Late December and right before Christmas break is the best time to buy gift cards," noted Brent Shelton, online shopping expert at FatWallet. "Dozens of stores offer discounts (e.g. $80-$90 for a $100 gift card), especially for restaurants, movies, and local entertainment."

Shelton recommends browsing eBay for discounts on gift cards from retailers and gas stations, and also to keep an eye out on gift cards from iTunes.

"[We anticipate] $100 in iTunes credit for $80, and a few discounts may be even better," said Shelton.

Benjamin Glaser, Features Editor with DealNews, recommends checking out Target for iTunes gift cards. "Our favorite deal is $100 of credit for $75."

This deal hasn't dropped yet, apparently, with Target still touting iTunes gift cards available at face value.

Jewelry

"Jewelry doesn't really see big discounts during Black Friday, so don't worry if you didn't get anything," said Glaser. "December is actually the best month between now and Valentine's Day to pick up gold, diamonds, pearls, and more. (February sees more deals, but December has deeper discounts.) Look at jewelry stores, but don't forget department stores, which sometimes discount their jewelry sections. Last year, we saw pearl necklaces starting from $8."

Via RetailMeNot, you can get 10 percent off a purchase from Zales through December 8, and from Eve's Addiction, up to 75 percent off for clearance sale items, an additional 30 percent off clearance items, along with free shipping on orders $50 and above through December 31.

While many of the deals currently running at Macy's are an extension of Cyber Monday offerings, shoppers can expect new or continued savings on sparkling gems from there as well. Same goes for jewelry sales from Sears and JC Penney.

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TV sets made with LG Display flat screens are displayed for sale. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

Electronics

Black Friday and Cyber Monday highlighted mighty deals on electronics, but December is ushering some solid savings in this category, too.

"December is a great time to upgrade your tech if you haven't already," said Skirboll. "The sales for electronics continue well after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, usually all the way up until the Super Bowl."

Skirboll recommends the following deals via RetailMeNot:

BestBuy: 10 to 30 percent off upright, handheld, stick, and robotic vacuums from December 11-24

Vonage: A $50 Walmart gift card with signup, plus $9.99 per month for a year from December 6-12; and a $50 Macy's gift card with signup, plus $9.99 per month for a year from December 13-19. Another deal includes a $50 Amazon gift card with signup, plus $9.99 per month for a year from from December 20 until January 3.

Shelton anticipates major sales on TVs, adding that while deals this time of year normally are not as exceptional as they were the final week in November, "4K TV, especially 50-65" and 1080p TVs 60" or larger" should be seeing deep discounts, possibly surpassing those offered during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, signaling that retailers didn't sell as many as they'd hoped.

"Keep an eye out for better overall pricing of these TV sizes from eBay, Sears, Wal-Mart, and perhaps a limited selection from Amazon, as well," Shelton said.

Shoppers walk among illuminated Christmas decorations in a shopping mall at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz
REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch REUTERS

Christmas Decorations

Despite it being the prime time of year to stock up on Christmas decoration items, retailers will still be eager to push inventory, offering shoppers big savings. The key is to wait until mid-December to fill your carts.

"The longer you wait to purchase Christmas decorations, the better. Savings will be steep in the days leading up to Christmas. Last year, Target had already marked down select Christmas decorations by 50 percent by Christmas Eve," said Jespersen. "But you'll likely get the best deal if you wait until after Christmas. Most retailers launch Christmas clearance deals beginning on December 26."

Although you're sure to get heavy discounts, keep in mind that most of these items will be offered as final sale.

"You may not be able to return what you buy, so be content with your purchase. Some retailers won't allow you to return Christmas items after Christmas Day," said Jespersen.

Pier 1 Imports has all Christmas items are on sale, including ornaments, candles wreaths and more. Pottery Barn has lowered prices on stockings, tree skirts, and personalized gifts; and Wayfair is touting savings of up to 70 percent on holiday decor.

Cookies and Ugly Christmas Sweaters

December hosts a couple of quirky shopping holidays that signal sweet consumer deals including National Cookie Day (December 4) and National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (December 16). Deal seekers with a sweet tooth or a fondness for hideous reindeer prints should keep an eye out for promotions.

"Shoppers can expect plenty of dessert brands to serve up a helping of freebies on National Cookie Day," said Jespersen. "Insomnia Cookies, for instance, is giving away a free traditional cookie with any purchase. Cookie fans should keep an eye out for these promotions on social media, as they're usually promoted by brands there."

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is an event that may not be as big a deal for retailers (or consumers), but given the buzz it got last year on social media, it's definitely worth looking into.

Nationaluglychristmassweaterday.org has a list of retailers that are selling unsightly holiday sweaters, some, like The Sweater Store, for under $20.