This time of year you see plenty of sales signs in stores. You might think just about everything is discounted after the holidays.
But Consumer Reports product research experts, who track prices all year long, have compiled a list of items that are typically discounted most deeply in January. So if you're shopping for the best deals, here are the things to put on your list.
Bargains on bedding
It's the month for white sales, but buying new sheets might not be as simple as checking the pricetags.
Only 4 of 23 sets of queen-size sheets performed well enough for us to recommend them in our 2010 test. As for the other 19, we found a litany of problems: Some fitted sheets easily ripped or came apart at the seams in our strength tests. Other sets had fitted sheets that popped off the corners of mattresses they claimed to fit, or flat sheets that fell short on the sides of the bed. And some wrinkle-free sheets weren't.
So if you're in the market for new sheets, check out our tips on choosing the best sets. Subscribers can read how different brands performed in our Sheets Ratings. If you're shopping for young children, see our crib bedding buying guide.
By the way, if you've ever wondered if it's possible to fold those fitted sheets neatly, watch the video below.
Ellipticals mimic the motion of running but without the impact. Every model is a little different, so you shouldn't buy a treadmill or elliptical before using it in the store. That's especially important with elliptical exercisers because the movement is less familiar than walking or running, and each machine has a slightly different pedaling profile. See our elliptical buying guide for more shopping tips.
In our tests we've found ellipticals that cost $2,000 and up were well-built and felt stable to our testers, more like the $5,000 machines at gyms. And they were less likely to have defects. But you can still get a good basic model for less. In our Elliptical Ratings (available to subscribers), the quality score reflects the severity and frequency of those defects.
Discounts on toys
When toy shopping for young children, follow the manufacturer's age recommendations displayed on the package. Although you might think that a more "advanced" toy will present a welcome challenge, in reality, it could be a source of frustration.
Avoid magnets and toys that have them. Small magnets can be accidentally swallowed by children and they can do tremendous harm. The CPSC recommends keeping toys with magnets away from children younger than six. For more shopping and safety tips, read our toy buying guide.
If you're shopping for older children, you probably know tablets for kids are hot. See how different models did in our lab tests; the video below provides some great shopping tips.
Price cuts on treadmills
Spending several thousand dollars on a treadmill can get you sturdier construction, better hardware, and more features. But you can get a decent machine that provides a great workout for much less.
You should also take other factors into account before buying. One important consideration is the amount of space you have for a treadmill. Nonfolding models take up as much floor space as a couch or dining room table. A folding treadmill can save you about six-square-feet.
Our treadmill buying guide provides lots more shopping tips; subscribers can also take advantage of our Treadmill Ratings to make wise buying decisions.
TVs for less
It's possible to find good TVs selling for a few hundred dollars, while others go for several thousand, and there are many sets that fall in between those extremes. Screen size, features, brand, and more affect the price. Our TV buying guide will help you get the most bang for your buck, no matter how much or how little you want to spend.
It's hard to judge TVs well for yourself in stores. That's because TVs are usually set to a Retail or Store mode, which pumps up brightness and color to a level that looks great under fluorescent lights. Subscribers should consult our TV Ratings before hitting the stores to make sure you get a set that performed well in our lab tests.
Winter clothing sales
As temperatures plummet, you'll luckily find good deals on winter clothing this month. Shopping at the right time can save you even more, say the editors at Shop Smart magazine. Kohl's fans, for example, should check out the "Gold Star Clearance" racks, where prices are slashed up to 80 percent on weekend nights. Every Wednesday, shoppers who are 60 years old and older get an extra 15 percent off.
At Target, women's clothing is generally marked down on Tuesdays, men's on Wednesday, and kids' on Mondays. Markdowns at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx usually happen on Wednesday.
Another clothing item that will be cheap this month: Swimsuits.