Many careful shoppers know that many types of clothing are discounted near the end of the season.
But consumers might not know there are predictably ideal times to buy televisions, gym memberships and perfume. And probably very few know that May is the month to stock up on ketchup and deodorant. Meanwhile, some people think they know why buying gas in the morning is a good idea, but they’re probably wrong.
Fundamental to the concept of seasonal buying is that prices change – sometimes dramatically, and sometimes frequently, especially online. That’s why timing your purchases works, racking up huge savings if you repeatedly buy on price dips throughout the year.
“The whole thing about buying things at the right times is about saving money, and people want to do that no matter what the economy is like,” said Mark Di Vincenzo, author of the new book “Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00.” “The smart shoppers are the folks who are looking and planning ahead.” Here is a sampling of common consumer purchases and the best times to purchase them.
• Televisions. Contrary to popular belief, just before the Super Bowl is not the best time to buy a new high-definition TV, although that’s when you’re likely to see the most advertisements for them. In fact, November and December are clearly the best times, said Louis Ramirez, senior features writer at DealNews.com. “Those are the two months you must buy a TV,” he said. In November, you’ll see generally good deals leading up to and including Black Friday. It’s an especially good time to find deals on lesser-known brand names, such as Best Buy’s house brand Insignia, he said. “Come December, you’ll see deals on the brand names, the Samsungs, Panasonics and Sonys,” he said. “Then prices creep up a little bit after the holidays.” Buying in November or December might save you 10 percent.
• Gym memberships. Summer is often the best time to negotiate a better deal at a fitness center. Look for waived sign-up fees and a free month or two.
• Deodorant. May or June are the best times to buy deodorant. Not only do prices fall but the most lucrative coupons are available then, making deodorant very cheap and sometimes free. The reason seems to be linked to anticipation of hot weather, Di Vincenzo said. “It’s a good opportunity for stocking up,” he said. May is also a good time to buy condiments, such as ketchup, mustard and relish, as supermarkets lure you into stores with great prices on those items and visions of warm-weather picnics and barbecues, said Di Vincenzo, whose new book is a follow-up to his first, “Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon.”
• Perfume. January and March are the best times to buy, after Christmas and after Valentine’s Day. Savvy gift-givers will buy perfume in January for Valentine’s Day and in March for Mother’s Day, Di Vincenzo said. Jewelry pricing also follows that pattern to a degree, he said.
• Clothing. Besides buying off-season clothing, January can be a generally good month to search for excess holiday inventory that’s heavily discounted, Di Vincenzo said. Another favorable time for spring and summer clothes is in May, leading up to Memorial Day sales. And Wednesdays are the best times to buy shoes and children’s clothing online, while Sundays are best for buying swimsuits online, said Di Vincenzo. He doesn’t have logical explanations for those; just that’s what patterns show in price data collected by ShopItToMe.com, which tracks online sales from more than 100 retailers.
• Tablet computers. You probably don’t want to buy a tablet computer just before a newer one – say, a Kindle Fire or iPad – is released. Watch news headlines for the timing. Announcements on hot tech gadgets are usually poorly kept secrets. “Wait for the announcement, then you’ll see deals on the previous generation,” Ramirez said. It won’t be the latest, but frequently updated products might not change much. For example, the newest iPad introduced in March had a better screen, but the iPad 2 is still a very capable device, he said. And its price starts at $100 less than the newest version.
• Laptops. Because laptop computers are a school item for many college students – and even some high-schoolers – good deals abound as the kids gear up to head back to school. “You can find huge discounts on laptops in August and if you’re lucky even bigger discounts in September as retailers try to clear what they didn’t sell in August,” Ramirez said. And Intel recently released a new processor, so your computing power won’t be obsolete for a while. “Whatever you buy now is going to be solid for a good time to come,” he said. Prices might spike a bit when Windows 8 is released in October, he said. If you buy a discounted computer now, you’ll be able to upgrade the laptop to Windows 8 for $14.99. See WindowsUpgradeOffer.com.
• Smartphones. The wireless phones that double as handheld computers are largely split into Apple iPhones and those running on the Android operating system, made by such manufacturers as Samsung, HTC and Motorola. “The thing about Android is there is a new phone pretty much every week,” Ramirez said. That’s good for consumers because new models quickly eclipse old ones, whose prices then drop. Amazon.com’s wireless store often has among the best deals, he said. If you desire the latest and greatest iPhone, waiting several weeks until refurbished models are available from Apple is a good strategy.
• Holiday gifts online. Most people know Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best days for holiday shopping over the Internet. But right behind them are the weekends just before and just after Halloween, when you can score discounts of 20 percent to 30 percent, Di Vincenzo said. “Those sales tend to go away and you don’t see them again until days before Christmas,” Di Vincenzo said, excepting Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
• Gasoline. A common myth is that fueling up in the morning is best because gasoline is denser in the cool morning temperatures and you get more for your money. Any savings will be negligible, according to Consumer Reports. But timing your fuel-ups can matter for a different reason. Gas station operators typically work day shifts and check out competing prices in the morning. They generally don’t get around to changing their own prices until between 10 a.m. and noon, Di Vincenzo said. So, during a time of rising prices, fueling in the morning is better before prices change. Afternoon fuel-ups are better during times of declining prices.Gregory Karp, the author of “Living Rich by Spending Smart,” writes for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.