Tech Gift Guide: What Not to Buy

The holiday season is about spending time with family and friends; catching up and reminiscing about years past; and, of course, running to the store and barreling over an old man on a Rascal scooter to grab the last iPad on the store shelf. After all, this is the time of year to get the best deals on tech toys for your loved ones and maybe even sneak a few for yourself.

Or is it? As it turns out, you may not be getting the best possible price on products like TVs, video games, or tablets if you buy them during the holidays. In fact, better prices can largely be found just after the holidays as newer models of your most lusted-after gadgets hit the market.

So which products should you save your cash to purchase at a later time? We talked to Kara Kamenec, an editor with lifestyle site, who gave us the lowdown on the right time to buy.

Ah, the television. The one product that will, without fail, go on sale this holiday season. But instead of getting trucked by a 12-year-old who wants a new 50-inch screen to play Super Smash Bros., you should probably wait until mid to late January to grab that new TV.

According to Kamenec, besides Black Friday, TV deals are at their best in mid to late January, as TV manufacturers will have announced newer models in early January at the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES), and as traditional pre-Super Bowl deals kick in.

Don’t mind waiting a bit longer for that new boob tube? Kamenec says great deals can also be had in March, as TV makers and retailers seek to clear their stock of older models in preparation for those aforementioned new models to go on sale.

Laptops and tablets
Whoa! Have you seen the crazy sales stores and websites are having on laptops and tablets this year? It’s almost like they’re giving these things away.

True, the holiday shopping season offers some solid deals on laptops and tablets, but you know when you can get even better deals on these items? Back-to-school season.

As Kamenec points out, stores and manufacturers usually offer better deals on laptops during back-to-school shopping season, which now runs from July through September, than during the holidays.

If you can’t wait until then, though, you can also get some excellent deals on laptops in April, which is when companies generally start selling their newest models and need to get rid of last year’s products.

Kamenec says the same line of thinking follows for tablets, which are discounted most heavily during the back-to-school shopping season.

That said, there are still some great sales available on both laptops and tablets during the holidays, so if you see one at a price you like — and you really need it now — a laptop might still be worth a purchase.

Video games and consoles
Video games and video game consoles go on sale at different times of the year. Sure, there are definitely some quality sales to be found during the holidays, but if you’re looking for the best pricing on a particular game, you’ll generally want to wait two to three months after its release. For games that debut around the holidays, that means waiting until January or February.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. (Activision)
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. (Activision)

Similarly, PC games often see their prices slashed around the holidays, but the best time to buy is during one of online game distributor Steam’s quarterly sales. We’re talking about getting some of the latest games at incredibly deep discounts.

If you’re looking for a game console, Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Nintendo’s Wii U will certainly see their prices cut during the holiday season. But if you want to hold off for a bit, you can often wait until companies release their second-generation versions of their consoles.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on when those will go on sale, so this is one of those situations where you’ll likely want to scope out the available deals during the holidays and decide whether the price is right for you. Many times you’ll be able to find bundle deals that include a game with a console.

Digital cameras and DSLRs
Digital point-and-shoot cameras are slowly being taken over by smartphone cameras, but there are still a good number of people who prefer standalone digital cameras to their phones.

So if you’re looking for the best deal on a new digital camera, you should keep an eye out for sales running from December through February. That’s because, like TV makers, camera manufacturers are emptying out their stock of last year’s models to make room for the newer ones.

Digital single-lens reflex cameras, or DSLRs, are the kind of cameras you’d want to give to serious photography hobbyists, as they offer superior image quality to standard point-and-shoots. But they’re also far more expensive, with some prices exceeding $1,000.

To get a good price on a DSLR, Kamenec suggests skipping the holiday rush entirely and instead opting to snag one of these cameras between February and March, as new models will be rolling out following their debut at CES in early January. So if you can hold off a bit longer, you’ll likely see some top-notch savings.

Fitness trackers
Let’s get one thing straight: Unless someone has specifically asked you for a fitness tracker or has been dropping subtle hints that he wants one, DO NOT buy him one as a gift. You never know how he will take it.

If, however, you know someone who wants a fitness tracker and doesn’t mind getting one after the holidays, then you’ll want to do your shopping in January or between June and July.

That’s because, as Kamenec explains, a good number of people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, and fitness tracker manufacturers want to get in on the sales action. June and July, meanwhile, are the months when many people get back into or begin fitness plans and retailers look to capitalize on that with sales on fitness products.

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