5 Best Gifts To Buy Between Now and Christmas

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- With little more than two weeks until Christmas, you'd hope much of the shopping would be finished already.

Keep hoping.

Thanksgiving night, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are but memories. Online retail favorite Green Monday just passed and the only retail holiday left on the calendar is Free Shipping Day on Dec. 17. It may as well be Begging For Scraps day, as even the always-optimistic National Retail Federation says only 3.5% of Americans planned to still be shopping for Christmas presents this late in the season.

With the way this holiday season has unfolded so far, though, it wouldn't be too surprising to see shoppers still rushing around looking for deals. November was somewhat of a wash for retailers, with Macy's ( M), Target ( TGT), Nordstrom ( JWN) and Kohl's ( KSS) all reporting drops in same-store sales despite Black Friday shopping. The 16 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters saw an overall 1.6% same-store sales increase, much lower than the 3.3% analysts had predicted.

The U.S. economy grew 2.7% in the third quarter, according to the Commerce Department, but household purchases increased a scant 1.4%. That's the slightest pace in more than a year and down from early estimates.

It's not like retailers have a lot of time to turn that around, either. Of the $35 billion in online sales last holiday season, less than $4 million was spent in the days following Free Shipping Day. The $2.8 billion made during Christmas week, though, was a bigger haul than stores made on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

We consulted with the folks at consumer pricing and ratings site Decide and found the best buys retailers are offering this late in the season. While stores usually don't get into a really charitable mood until the after-Christmas sales, discounts on the following five items help goose the numbers a bit:

Juicers

Really? Juicers? Do only people with bushy eyebrows who appear in late-night infomercials go shopping this late in the season?

Let's leave Jay Kordich out of this for a second. For the uninitiated, a juicer can be a scary and unexpectedly expensive proposition. The juicer Decide considers the best on the market -- the Omega J8004 Nutrition Center commercial masticating juicer that literally pre-chews fruit for you -- goes for an average $260. Want Breville's juicers for the average home? The conversation starts at $100.

Fortunately stores are looking to clear stock around this time of year and make room for new and updated products, so you'll see price cuts as deep as 16%. That's $41 off in the Omega's case and upward of $20 for your average juicer. What good is that fancy new smoothie maker if you can't afford fruit?

Blenders

Anyone who's ever been suckered into a Black Friday store by promises of a low-priced blender knows that only the somewhat lesser hand-held versions get the heftiest price cuts.

You know that's not what you're trying to buy. You're thinking of something with a pitcher, a stand and a place in a Jimmy Buffett song. Something that won't give you carpal tunnel syndrome every time you try to make a daiquiri.

Yeah, those aren't a particularly good deal around Thanksgiving weekend, but they're a decent bargain in the days before Christmas for the same reason their distant cousin the juicer is: They're old and they've got to go. Much like the juicer, the blender's discount hovers around 16% in the week or so before Christmas, so don't hesitate to pick one up for a holiday party if necessary.

Microwaves

Is there any bigger kitchen afterthought than this particular appliance?

Sometime after the pizza roll, frozen burrito and Hot Pocket-fueled days of youth, public favor turns against the microwave. Your coworkers burn popcorn in it, your family refuses to clean it and you've resorted to using it only to reheat things you're none too excited about eating or drinking anyway. Of the three items Craftmatic used to give away with its adjustable beds in the late 1980s and early 1990s, only the microwave was spared the fate of the tube television and VCR.

It's no wonder you've waited this long to buy one for your college-age or newly single relative. The lethargy only works in your favor, though, as microwaves are roughly 10% less expensive this late in the season. If you're resigned to giving a microwave as a present, the level of thought and money you put into it should at least be equal.

Laptops

Tech companies know full well that if you aren't picking up a laptop for Christmas or during a back-to-school sale, you likely aren't going to buy one until you need one.

With a long stretch between those two periods and the Consumer Electronics Show in January making everything they sell in December almost instantly obsolete, it's in their best interest to get as much product as they can out the door immediately. That's why you'll start seeing non-Mac laptops and even older Apple models going for as much as 20% off in the waning days of the holiday season.

While you may be able to get a better deal in January if you're self gifting, this is likely the easiest way to get someone on your list a decent laptop for less.

Video games

Common wisdom says there's no better day on the calendar to buy video games than Black Friday.

Sorry, but common wisdom is a jackass.

Decide put together a great set of graphs comparing this year's hottest games and the price performance of their previous installments during the holiday season. If Activision's ( ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops II follows the same path as its predecessor, its Black Friday price will not only hold in most places, but drop even lower just before Christmas. Though Microsoft's ( MSFT) last Halo game was released online, its price plummeted in the days just before Christmas and should give those wishing for cheap copies of Halo 4 some hope. If you're hoping to snag a last-minute copy of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed III: Revelations, though, prices may not get much better than they are right now.

Oh, and forget about a cheap version of Nintendo's Wii U console. If you can find it at all, it will be a minor Christmas miracle.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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