Seasonal savings: Shopping by the calendar

From air conditioners to travel, here's when to buy it at the lowest price.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 20, 2012 12:41PM

This post comes from Renee Morad at partner site Money Talks News.

Logo MoneyTalksNews on MSN MoneyEverything from the Bible to popular country songs suggests the importance of timing -- being in the right place at the right time.

Marking calendar with red pen © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesProper timing is also important when it comes to shopping. Nearly every product and service has its own sales cycle, so the calendar can help you score the lowest price on anything from a kitchen renovation to clothes.

While there are no absolutes -- any retailer can discount its merchandise any time -- here's a list of common purchases where proper timing may score a deal:


Air conditioners: Retailers look to clear out air-conditioning units after summer ends, so expect the biggest savings in October.

Back-to-school gear: Backpacks and other back-to-school supplies are marked down during the first week in July and continue throughout September. Some laptop manufacturers roll out their back-to-school sales in August for shoppers with student IDs.

Bicycles: As cooler weather arrives in September, particularly on the East Coast, bikes are parked on the sales racks, with markdowns of up to 30%.

Boats: Prices on boats and personal watercraft tend to sink in March.

Cars: New Year’s Eve may be the best time to buy a new car. What’s driving these bargains? The calendar is just about to flip, which makes the current models sound dated. And after experiencing a lull around the holidays, dealers want to meet their annual sales quota to get a big year-end bonus. (See Best Time to Buy a New Car? Now.)

Clothing: January marks the end of the winter clothing season, so expect to find coats, hats, scarves and flannel pajamas up to 70% off.

Beachwear is typically marked down 20% to 25% in January and February -- and then again in July, when savings reach up to 70%. In fact, many summer wardrobe items are deeply discounted in July at 50% to 75%.

Spring promotions begin in March and continue throughout April, which is the perfect time to stock up on clothes if you wear a size that’s hard to find. In May, you’ll save even more on your spring wardrobe, but at the cost of a reduced selection.

Denim and other fall apparel items hit sales racks in September and are usually discounted even more throughout October.

Cosmetics: Cosmetics and fragrances are typically marked down two weeks before Mother’s Day in May, just when spa specials are also tempting shoppers.

Electronics: Black Friday in November is a bargain hunter’s paradise for deals on TVs, laptops, tablets and other consumer electronics. But if you’re not willing to fight the crowds, look for deals on Cyber Monday. December is also a good time to buy a new TV.

Grills: Barbecue bargains start in April and heat up in May and June, leading up to Father’s Day. Since Memorial Day jump-starts grilling season, you’ll also see deals for soda, condiments, charcoal and other barbecue-related supplies.

Halloween costumes: Another shopping trick: Plan ahead for Halloween. Shop online for costumes in September to beat early October’s price hikes.

Homes: The best time to go house shopping is when nobody else is -- typically right after the holidays when the weather is cold, the kids are in school, and everyone is tapped out.

Home furnishings: Memorial Day and Labor Day are the big weekends for deals on everything from mattresses and sofas to dining room sets. Showroom models -- particularly appliances, furniture and lighting -- also hit their sales peak in December, as stores gear up for next year’s models. Homeowners looking for deals on patio furniture should hang tight until March.

Home goods: January is the month of white sales, so expect to see plenty of deals on linens, but also on cookware and furniture. These sales continue into February. May’s wedding season also brings deals on small housewares such as coffee makers and vacuums; look for savings of 10% to 30% off. China and flatware prices are lower in September, when stores gear up for the new season’s patterns.

Jewelry: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend year-round, but are a shopper’s best friend in December, when markdowns can reach 30% to 50%. Jewelry sales -- particularly online -- are slow in July, so shoppers can find savings of up to 50%.

Luggage: Deals on luggage roll out in March, when the holidays are over, but summer travel hasn’t picked up yet. They’ll make another visit to the clearance section in May.

Produce: When it comes to many purchases, the expression "buy straw hats in winter" applies: Buy out of season for the biggest discounts. With produce, however, discounts happen in season. Look for larger citrus fruits -- such as grapefruits and oranges -- in January, after they’ve had enough time to sweeten. Blueberries are also a good January buy. Think mangos and asparagus in March, melons and peaches in May (good weather permitting) and apples in September.

Remodeling: If you're thinking of home remodeling, you might find a bargain on both materials and contractors in January, since construction often experiences a post-holiday winter lull.  (See 23 ways to lower the cost of home improvement.)

Shoes: New athletic footwear usually hits stores in February, so older stock could be discounted up to 40%. Boots tend to go on sale as winter wilts, and sandals are cheaper at summer's end.

Sporting events: Score discounted tickets for basketball and hockey in February, just as the spotlight on football fades. By July and August, you'll find deals on baseball tickets and gear, as teams are being eliminated during pennant races.

Sporting goods: Since February marks the end of football season, team memorabilia hits the clearance rack. March is the month to stock up on new skis and snowboards for next year’s season. Camping equipment prices cool down in October, providing discounts up to 30% off.

Toys: Last season’s toys are heavily marked down in October as retailers clear inventory before holiday shopping kicks off.

Travel: The best cruise deals are available during offseason in April. If you experience the winter blues, book a beach vacation in December; many are discounted up to 50% off from Thanksgiving through the third week in December.

The above are only rules of thumb -- different retailers and service providers offer discounts for different reasons at different times. And remember, you can always save 50% or more by buying used or applying the techniques you'll find in posts like The 10 golden rules of saving on everything.

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