Amid the post-holiday clearance rush, some purchases are better left until 2014.
Despite the enticing pitches—"We're clearing out!" "Our biggest sale of the year!" "Didn't get what you want? We can fix that!"—experts say sales aren't yet at their best for many items. Waiting until next year could mean better deals on purchases as varied as Caribbean cruises and winter coats.
"Everything, if you can wait, will be priced better in January," said Michelle Madhok, chief executive of sale-tracking site SheFinds.com. "Because people have access to a wider variety of items and are able to shop smarter, we're seeing more frequent price reductions."
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Some are short-term savings, while others are part of a longer-term downward trend:
For automakers, 2013 was a banner sales year—which could make 2014 even more competitive. "The pressure is on car companies to keep up the good news," said Lincoln Merrihew, vice president of transportation for market research firm Millward Brown Digital. Drivers are likely to see more money on the table as automakers fight for sales and market share. Truck deals in particular could be excellent, with launches such as the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado fueling competition in a market segment where supply already outweighs demand, he said.
On the used-car side, prices also have been dropping. According to Edmunds.com, the average used car sold for $15,617 during the third quarter of 2013, down 2.8 percent from the previous quarter. Deals are likely to get even better in 2014 as more cars come off their three-year leases, flooding the market, said Merrihew.
If you're in the market for outerwear, there's a short window in January when coats and jackets are at their cheapest, said Madhok. Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer are among the brands whose discounts have already reached as much as 60 percent off. Don't wait too long—by February, selection is minimal, if stores haven't already shipped the few pieces left out to outlets, she said.
In March 2013, a Supreme Court ruling upheld consumers' right to resell products they have purchased. At the heart of the case: a student who bought less-expensive international editions of textbooks, which he later resold on eBay. Shoppers are likely to see more of these inexpensive texts on the market in 2014, both from international sellers hawking new versions and students reselling used copies. Savings can be impressive. On Amazon.com, a new U.S. copy of the 12th edition of "Principles of Risk Management and Insurance" runs $212; a like-new global edition is as little as $126.
But international textbooks aren't always a good buy. "They're usually printed on very flimsy paper that's incredibly thin," said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president for Edvisors Network. The book might fall apart midsemester. Page numbering may also differ from U.S. edition. "So if the professor says read pages 33 to 53 for tomorrow, you have to figure out what that really means," he said. Renting a textbook or buying a used U.S. edition might be a better value.
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Missed the $200 Black Friday TV doorbusters? Don't worry—in January, "we're probably going to see even better deals than on Black Friday," said Brent Shelton, a spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com. Manufacturers often introduce new models during the International Consumer Electronics Show in early January, prompting price drops on the soon-to-be old models. Then pre-Super Bowl sales kick in. The resulting discounts are often as deep as those on Black Friday, but encompass a wider range of brands and models, Shelton said.
Last-minute cruise deals for January have already dropped below $60 per night in some cases, which represents discounts of more than 50 percent. Expect Caribbean cruises to stay cheap in 2014, as lines launch new routes and bring new ships, such as Carnival Splendor and Norwegian Getaway. "They have a lot more berths to fill," said Stephanie Serino, a luxury cruise consultant with Tzell Travel Group in New York.
Airfare is likely to get cheaper, too. JetBlue recently announced it would expand service to the Caribbean, adding five new routes to two new destinations, Port-au-Prince in Haiti and Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. "They come into the market and they take over the market," said Serino. That forces legacy carriers to compete with better-priced fares.
—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @kelligrant.