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Image: People shopping in New York City.
SHANNON STAPLETON  /  Reuters
There are plenty of popular items — including bedding and bathroom linens — available at a sharp discount in January.
By
updated 12/28/2010 7:29:35 AM ET 2010-12-28T12:29:35

If you are among the Americans who manage to make it through the holiday season without decimating your budget, the new year presents a wonderful opportunity for bargains. So what to buy in January? Some stores are eager to clear out Christmas overstock, while others are simply desperate to generate foot traffic for out-of-season items and make room for new product lines.

With desperation comes deep discounts, here are 15 items that you can save big on if you're willing to wait until January.

Motorcycles
There are few quieter places to spend a January afternoon than a motorcycle showroom floor in the northern part of the U.S. For the best deal, look for bikes left over from the previous model year and be prepared to drive a hard bargain. If you're shopping for a used bike, look for sales listings by private individuals. Anyone selling their bike in the middle of winter is probably eager to make a deal.

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Carpet and flooring
Most customers in the market for new flooring will pull the trigger in time to have it in place for the holidays. You should find plenty of eager, attentive salespeople to wait on you and be ready to deal, just after the holiday season is over.

Video games
The newest, flashiest games have been on the store shelves for a couple of months already, so stores that high-balled prices during the shopping season will start competing on price, a game you can win.

Suits
As clothing stores prepare to cycle into their warm-weather collections, take advantage of clearances on fall/winter suits. Just watch your diet over the summer, so that the suits will still fit next fall.

Air conditioners
Come the first hot day of the spring and you won't be able to find an air conditioner installer available in the whole county, but in January they are sitting by the phone, cooling their heels. Now is a great time to get three quotes (you do get multiple quotes, right?) for that new system. Come the first hot day of the summer, you'll be cool as a cucumber.

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After a couple of months of foul weather, then Christmas, most people have broken down and bought that warm coat. If you haven't, good for you: Sales should abound. Just don't expect the widest selection of styles and sizes.

Boats
Like motorcycle shops in the frozen north, boat dealers draw few customers in winter. You could wait until the boat shows, but there you're unlikely to get a great price, since the dealer has put time and money into the show that he'll need to recoup. Visit the showroom on a snowy afternoon, drive a hard bargain, and you might find yourself ready to launch, come the first warm spring day.

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Big appliances
After stocking up for the holiday rush, appliance dealers will be eager to convert some of the remaining inventory to cash and clear space on the showroom floor for the newest models. This could be the right time for that new stainless steel fridge or convection oven.

Bedding and bathroom linens
January has been white sale time ever since John Wanamaker of Philadelphia started the trend in Philadelphia in 1878. Many stores will be vying to sell you new sheets, comforters, towels and pillows, at the year's best prices.

Outdoor gear
Aside from those hearty devotees of winter camping and hunting, in most of the U.S. there are few shoppers in the outdoor gear aisles in January. Look for good prices this month on tents, stoves, backpacks, kayaks, fishing gear and other products designed for the great outdoors.

Wrapping paper
Is there anyone in the U.S. still unaware that January is the time to buy wrapping paper?

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Electronics
Waiting until January to buy electronics is a bit of a gamble; the really hot items may be out of stock, and those put on sale may be less popular. If you can find the item that you really want, at a good price (not the one you might settle for but will never be happy with), jump on it.

Houses
Common wisdom tells us that spring is the best time to sell a house, and midwinter is the worst. Therefore, anyone putting their house on the market during the worst selling time must be a "committed seller," one that might well be willing to compromise on price. Wait just a few months and you might find yourself in a bidding war for the same place.

Bicycles
One of the first things people think to do when spring arrives is trot out their bicycle for a spin. That spin usually is to the bike shop for repairs. In January, though, bike shops are quiet and owners are interested in clearing out current models to make room for new ones arriving in a couple of months.

Furniture
It too has its seasons, and many companies release new models in February. Stores with unsold inventory often put some of it on sale to make room on the showroom floor.

Because January offers so many bargains, it's also the perfect time to use up those gift cards that you received, before you forget about them.

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Explainer: The top 10 business stories of 2010

  • Image: BP CEO Tony Hayward surveys gulf spill repair work
    AP

    In 2010, the economy rebounded fitfully from the Great Recession — starting strong, wobbling at midyear but showing enough vigor by year's end to quell fears of a second recession. Yet Americans hardly felt relief under the weight of high unemployment, which began the year at 9.7 percent and is now 9.8 percent.

    An oil spill devastated the economy and environment along the Gulf Coast and hammered energy giant BP's stock price and reputation.

    China muscled past Japan to become the world's No. 2 economy, a reminder that the global economic order is shifting and America's supremacy is diminishing.

    It was a year of job shortages and swollen budget deficits that disheartened Americans and caused deep losses for incumbent Democrats on Election Day. The Federal Reserve tried with scant success to jolt the economy with record-low interest rates.

    The struggling economy was voted the top business story of the year by U.S. newspaper editors surveyed by The Associated Press. The oil spill in the Gulf came in second, followed by China's economic rise.

  • 1. Economy struggles

    Image: Unemployment brochures are seen on display at the employment training facility, JobTrain, in Menlo Park, Calif.,
    AP

    Climbing out of the deepest recession since the 1930s, the economy grows at a healthy rate in the January-March quarter. Still, the gain comes mainly from companies refilling stockpiles they had let shrink during the recession. The economy can't sustain the pace. The lingering effects of the recession slow growth.

    The benefits of an $814 billion government stimulus program fade. Consumers cut spending in favor of building savings and slashing debt. Businesses hesitate to hire. Cities and states lay off workers. Growth slows through spring and summer.

    Unemployment stays chronically high. In May, the number of people unemployed for at least six months hits 6.8 million — a record 46 percent of all the unemployed.

    Pointing to the deficits, Congress resists backing more spending to stimulate the economy. The Federal Reserve seeks to fill the void by announcing it will buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds to try to further lower interest rates, lift stocks and coax consumers to spend.

    As the year closes, the economy makes broad gains. Factories produce more. Consumers — the backbone of the economy — return to the malls. Congress passes $858 billion in tax cuts and aid to the long-term unemployed. Yet more than 15 million Americans are still unemployed. Economists say a full economic recovery remains years away.

  • 2. Gulf oil spill

    Image: Plaquemines Parish coastal zone director P.J. Hahn lifts his boot out of thick beached oil at Queen Bess Island.
    AP

    An explosion at a rig used by BP kills 11 workers and sends crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill devastates the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast and causes environmental damage that may last for decades. BP sets up a $20 billion fund to compensate fishermen, restaurateurs and others whose livelihoods were damaged.

    The oil giant still faces civil charges and a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and lawsuits from hundreds of individuals and businesses. BP's stock market value shrinks by more than $100 billion after the April 20 disaster before bouncing about halfway back.

  • 3. China's rise

    Image: Workers install scaffolding at a construction site as a Chinese national flag flies near by in central Beijing.
    Reuters

    China passes Japan as the world's second-biggest economy. The World Bank says it could surpass the United States by 2020. China's gross domestic product is spread out over 1.3 billion people — amounting to about $3,600 per person. That compares with GDP in the U.S. of about $42,000 per person. In Japan, it's about $38,000 per person. China's thirst for raw materials and other products helps the rest of the world recover from the recession. Still, the U.S. and Europe complain that China gives its exporters an unfair competitive edge by keeping its currency artificially low.

  • 4. Real estate crisis

    Image: Home for sale
    AP

    Housing remains depressed despite super-low mortgage rates. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dips to 4.17 percent in November, the lowest in decades. But home sales and prices sink further. Nearly one in four homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, making it all but impossible for them to sell their home and buy another.

    An estimated 1 million households lose their homes to foreclosure, even though the pace slows after evidence that lenders mishandled foreclosure documents. Some did so by hiring "robo-signers" to sign paperwork without checking their accuracy.

  • 5. Toyota recall

    Image: Toyota Master Service Technician Mike Blomberg inspects a gas pedal assembly.
    AP

    Toyota's reputation for making high-quality cars is tarnished after the Japanese automaker recalls 10 million vehicles for sudden acceleration and other problems. Toyota faces hundreds of lawsuits alleging that some models can speed up suddenly, causing crashes, injuries and deaths. Toyota blames driver error, faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals for the unintended acceleration. The uproar damages its business. Toyota's U.S. sales rise just 0.2 percent through November in a year when the industry's overall sales climb more than 11 percent.

  • 6. GM's comeback

    Image: GM headquarters
    AP

    General Motors stock begins trading again. It signals the rebirth of a corporate icon that fell into bankruptcy and required a $50 billion bailout from taxpayers. GM uses some proceeds from its November initial public offering to repay a portion of its bailout. (Washington still holds about a third of GM's stock.) GM's recovery helps rejuvenate the industry. Sales of cars and light trucks rise 11 percent through November compared with the same period in 2009. Shoppers who had put off replacing their old cars return to showrooms.

  • 7. Financial overhaul

    Image: Barack Obama, Christina Romer, Timothy Geithner, Barney Frank, Paul Volcker
    AP

    Congress passes the biggest rewrite of financial rules since the 1930s. The law targets the risky banking practices and lax oversight that led to the 2008 financial crisis. The law creates an agency to protect consumers from predatory loans and other abuses, empowers regulators to shut down big firms that threaten the entire system and shines more light into markets that have eluded oversight. Republican critics say the law goes too far, imposing burdensome rules that will restrict lending to consumers and small businesses.

  • 8. European bailouts

    Image: Athenians walks behind a board showing exchange rates at a foreign currency exchange shop in Athens on Wednesday.
    AP

    Greece and Ireland require emergency bailouts, raising fears that debt problems will spread and destabilize global markets. European governments and the International Monetary Fund agree to a $145 billion rescue of Greece in May and a $90 billion bailout of Ireland in November. The bailouts require both countries to slash spending, triggering protests by workers. Investors fear that debt troubles will spread to Spain, Portugal and other countries, weaken the European Union and threaten the future of the euro as its common currency.

  • 9. 500 million Facebook users

    Image: Mark Zuckerberg
    AP

    Facebook tops the 500-million-user mark. It expands its dominance of social media and further transforms how the world communicates. If it were a country, Facebook would be the world's third-largest. Facebook tightens its privacy settings after criticism that personal information is being disseminated without users' knowledge or permission. Founder Mark Zuckerberg is named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" and is the subject of a high-profile movie about Facebook's creation.

  • 10. iPad mania

    Image: Customer uses an Apple iPad
    AP file

    Apple Inc. unveils the iPad, bringing "tablet" computing into the mainstream and eroding laptop sales. Apple is expected to sell more than 13 million iPads this year. The iPads sell about twice as fast as iPhones did after their 2007 introduction. The price of Apple stock rockets more than 50 percent in 2010. Competitors scramble to try to catch up. They include the Dell Streak, BlackBerry PlayBook, the Samsung Galaxy Tag and HP Slate.

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