Checklist: New Year's bargains

  • Clothing. Seasonal clothing, boots and accessories are marked down. Now is also the time to look for wardrobe staples such as white cotton shirts and black, tailored trousers. Replace worn-out undergarments and sleepwear and stock up on socks and pantyhose -- all of which are on sale. And don’t forget to look for eveningwear; stores often buy too much in anticipation of New Year’s soirees.
  • Accessories. In January, accessories such as scarves, bags and jewelry are marked down.
  • Housewares. Come the New Year, stores also mark down many items to outfit your home. Chefs will find cookbooks and kitchen supplies on sale. Do-it-yourself decorators will come across deals on fabrics, carpeting and rugs. Indoor gardeners will be able to pick up plants and flowerpots at reduced prices.
  • Fitness gear. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, many Americans pack on pounds. If your New Year’s resolutions include getting back in shape, now’s the time to buy on-sale sports and exercise equipment, as well as workout apparel.
  • Electronics. Get deals on gadgets you need to comfortably cocoon. Radios are marked down this month. Also, look for deals on small appliances. (They make great gifts for weddings and other occasions, but keep in mind that warranties frequently begin on the date of purchase.) And if you’re looking for an upgrade, computers are often on sale in January. Plus, look for deals on televisions the two weeks before the Super Bowl, when stores try to lure in those who want a new set to watch the game.
  • Kids’ stuff. After the holiday rush, children’s clothing is marked down and toys are bargain-priced. Get something a tot can use right away, or stock up on gifts for birthdays and other events. Baby carriages are also available at reduced prices.
  • Holiday accessories. The best time to buy holiday wrapping paper, decorations and cards is in the New Year when stores are desperate to unload them. Get a jump on next season and save if you have enough storage space.
  • Entertaining. Be a good host or hostess without breaking the bank. In January, stores mark down glassware. Look for specials on wines from around the world, and stock up while you can, as some varieties have limited availability.
  • Returns. Sales can make you swoon, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Check the items carefully before you buy. Some imperfections might not matter -- a shelf with a light scratch will still hold books -- but something you can’t use is never a deal. That’s another reason why it’s so important to check a store’s return policy. It’s bad enough to buy something defective; it’s even worse if you can’t get a refund or an exchange.

Having a shopping strategy will also save money. Buy what you need, not things you didn’t know you wanted until they were 50 percent off.

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