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Smart Spending: Fend off the winter doldrums with good buys on TVs, laptops

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, file photo TV sets, are on sale in the Pembroke Pines, Fla. Best Buy store. As stores clear out older merchandise and new models get introduced, good deals abound if you want a big new TV for the Super Bowl or video games. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

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FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, file photo TV sets, are on sale in the Pembroke Pines, Fla. Best Buy store. As stores clear out older merchandise and new models get introduced, good deals abound if you want a big new TV for the Super Bowl or video games. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The winter doldrums strike in January and February, but there is one silver lining: it's a great time to buy electronics. As stores clear out older merchandise and new models get introduced, good deals abound. Here's a look at what to buy and what to hold off on in January and February.

— TELEVISIONS: Large-screen TVs are always a hot item on Black Friday, the busy shopping day after Thanksgiving. But those are usually store brands or lesser-known brand names. In January and February, higher-end brand-name TVs like Panasonic and Samsung start being discounted, says Louis Ramirez, senior editor at DealNews, a Web site that monitors pricing.

The reason? The Consumer Electronics Show, a yearly electronics trade show in Las Vegas, happens in January, and that's when manufacturers unveil new models. So older models are discounted to make way for new TVs.

"A lot of times the differences between 2013 and 2014 are very small upgrades, so the average person who just wants a new TV is just as well buying a 2013 model," he said.

The price to look for? For a 55-inch 3D TV, you should look for $700 and below, Ramirez says. And most retailers offer free shipping on TVs at that price, so make sure to ask about shipping deals, wherever you're shopping.

— LAPTOPS: The buzz is all about tablets, so it is actually a great time to buy laptops if a touch-screen tablet is not what you're after. There are also hybrid laptops/tablets that aren't too expensive as well.

"Retailers are slashing some prices right now to move laptops and PCs," Ramirez says. A 15-inch screen laptop should run about $400, he says.

— FITNESS DEVICES: Competition is high in the fitness device arena, with Fitbit, Jawbone, MIO, Nike and others all coming out with new versions of the workout-tracking gizmos recently. That might mean price cuts in coming weeks.

If you want to try out the devices first, Fitbit and Nike have free apps that you can use on your phone as a trial.

"You can try an app, and if you like it, you can commit to that and later on upgrade and actually buy the device," Ramirez says.

— GAMING CONSOLES: One thing you won't find a good deal on, Ramirez says, is gaming consoles. Because the new Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4 were just released late last year, the pricing hasn't gone down yet. The only deal you might find is if the consoles are bundled with games.

"You might see a PS4 bundled with two games or an Xbox that comes with a free year of Xbox Live (Xbox's multiplayer gaming and digital streaming media system), but demand is so high there is no incentive to discount," he says.

Ramirez said he expects modest deals on the Xbox One, about $50 off its $449 price, beginning in April. Meanwhile, PS4 deals could begin in March and the price could drop to $364 from $400. Those estimates and timing are based on what happened with earlier models.

One exception is the Nintendo Wii U, which has been a slower seller.

"If you want a next generation console on the cheap, look out for deals on the Wii U," he says, He predicts a price cut in coming weeks as Nintendo tries to move the systems.

You'll also get good deals on older models such as the PS3 and Xbox360, both of which have sold for as low as $149, he said.

"What's particularly great is that both Sony and Microsoft said they would support their older consoles throughout the year," Ramirez said. "So not only will you have new games to look forward to, but you can continue buying older (and now cheaper) games that perhaps before you didn't get a chance to play/buy."

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