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What to buy in October — and what can wait

TODAY logo TODAY 10/1/2021 Gabriella DePinho, Shop TODAY and Shari Uyehara, Shop TODAY

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The start of October is usually the beginning of a month-long, eager build up for those that love Halloween. But this year, October shoppers might want to start the holiday shopping they might normally put off until November or December. According to Kristin McGrath, a senior editor and shopping expert at RetailMeNot, 83 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they were planning on starting their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving this year — about a fifth of them (22 percent) said they would get started in October.

People are likely to continue giving tangible gifts this holiday season rather than experiential gifts like gift cards to restaurants and spas, noted Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group. “There's going to be high demand for these traditional, tangible gifts to give,” he said. “We're not back to pre pandemic lifestyles yet.”

As a result, Cohen advises shoppers hoping to get specific models and brands of products to start looking now, just to make sure they get exactly what they want in time for the holidays. But there are some exceptions. While shoppers might feel inclined to immediately start shopping for big ticket items, McGrath suggested shoppers wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best deals. While some of the bigger sales will be in the months ahead, shoppers can still find sales when they go shopping this month.

To help give you an idea of the best discounts right now, we compiled the best deals across retailers we think you’ll want to know about.

Related: From Apple AirPods to Dyson vacuums and more, here are the most purchased Black Friday deals we covered last year.

October 2021 sales

  • Ashley Homestore: Up to 25 percent off online featured items through Oct. 5
  • Brooklyn Bedding: 26 percent off sitewide with code ANNIVERSARY26 through Oct.5
  • Competitive Cyclist: Up to 22 percent off select kid’s bikes
  • DSW: Extra 25 percent off Michael Kors products through Oct. 11
  • H&M: Up to 50 percent off select fall styles while supplies last
  • Lands’ End: Up to 40 percent off any order using code APPLE through Oct. 6
  • J.Crew: Up to 40 percent off fall essentials and up to $100 off boots only through Oct. 4
  • Lucky Brand Jeans: Save 40 percent on purchases over $150, and 20 percent on purchases over $100 through Oct. 6
  • Microsoft: Save anywhere from $75 to $750 on select Surface laptop and tablet models
  • Nike: Up to 40 percent off select sale styles
  • Olay: Up to 50 percent off clearance items, while supplies lasts during their #SkincareGhouls Sale
  • Overstock.com: Overstock is celebrating their 22nd Anniversary with up to 70 percent off select products, including 65 percent off guest bedroom essentials, through Oct. 5
  • Pier 1: Up to 20 percent off Fall & Thanksgiving Seasonal Products
  • SkinStore: 25 percent off Expert’s Choice Limited Edition Bag OR 15 percent off your purchase with code CLEAN and get a Mystery Beauty Bag when you spend $130 or more through Oct. 31
  • Sun & Ski Gear: Up to 60 percent off select gear and apparel
  • Williams Sonoma: Up to 75 percent on select clearance items

Related: We spoke to professional pumpkin carvers about the best way to carve and preserve a pumpkin this Halloween.

What to Buy in October

Both McGrath and Cohen advised shoppers to look for fall clothing this month. McGrath noted that sales racks should be full of denim jackets, light-weight hoodies, and other items that should work across seasons. She highlighted Old Navy, Gap and Kohl’s as places with “great selections” when it comes to end-of-season sales.

While Labor Day had major sales for large patio sets, McGrath said shoppers can still expect to come across leftover sets at stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart, where they should be discounted by 60 percent or more. She also suggested the end of October will be a good time to find other patio necessities, like fire pits and outdoor throw blankets. In addition, while shoppers may be eager to decorate for Halloween, McGrath suggested the end of the month, including the day of Halloween, is the best time to find the lowest prices. “This is not only a strategic way to save effortlessly, but also a great way to get ahead of next year’s Halloween decor shopping,” McGrath said. “When it comes to Halloween candy, this is a vital Nov. 1 buy.” Of course, buying Halloween candy on Nov. 1 keeps you from using it during this Halloween.

With the leaves turning and the weather beginning to change, retailers will start stocking up on winter camping gear, which means other equipment will need to be sold to make room. McGrath suggests looking for fishing gear, coolers, light-weight clothing and tents this month to be ready for spring and summer 2022 outdoor adventures.

In terms of preparing for holiday shopping, Cohen advises starting to look for video games, toys, and specialty home appliances like coffee makers, as specific makes and models might face a shortage in the months ahead. Similar to 2020, McGrath said shoppers can expect to find “Early Black Friday” sales, which might go by names like “Pre Black Friday Sales” and “Black Friday in October” from retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Target, Costco and more. In these sales, shoppers should expect to find deals on clothing, toys, appliances, wireless earbuds, home and holiday decor and other smart home tech.

What to avoid buying in October

While these “Pre Black Friday” sales will offer great deals on a wide variety of products, shoppers should hold off on purchasing luxury items when getting ahead on holiday shopping . Even though shoppers might be tempted to beat the rush, McGrath said they will not find the best deals. McGrath says to hold off on perfumes, new-model phones and TVs until Black Friday sales in November.

Additionally, she suggested waiting for Black Friday price cuts to purchase winter gear from retailers like Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Academy Sports + Outdoors.

Related: New releases include Dagne Dover bags, Girlfriend Collective sleepwear, Ethique moisturizer and more.

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

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