“When to buy: On a Wednesday, 21 days (or a couple of days earlier) before your flight.
Why: Airlines make major pricing changes (and run fare sales) every week, typically on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings. About 21 days out from your flight, you’ll see plenty of deals out there as airlines scramble to fill seats, says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, a consumer travel advice Web site. Don’t wait much longer, she cautions; prices jump significantly from 14 to seven days ahead of departure.”
The Best Time to Buy Everything, Smart Money, September 5, 2005 (via Rebecca Blood)
This is a keeper, more behind the jump.
When to buy: During a holiday weekend.
Why: You’ll find sales on select models all year long, but retailers bring out the big guns for holiday weekends, says Carolyn Forte, homecare director for the Good Housekeeping Institute. But don’t worry about spending your Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends shopping for a new fridge — smaller holidays like Columbus Day and President’s Day have their share of sales, too.
When to buy: During your pregnancy.
Why: Once you know your due date, keep an eye out for end-of-season clearances, recommends Alan Fields, co-author of “Baby Bargains.” “If you’re [newly] pregnant now, you know you’ll be having a baby next summer,” he says. “Well, right now, stores are closing out all the summer clothes.” You can pick up newborn essentials like onesies for less than half price. (For more ways to save, see our column Oh Baby!)
When to buy: Hours before the curtain rises.
Why: How does a $25 front-row seat to the smash musical “Wicked” sound? Several musicals offer same-day ticket lotteries that offer up orchestra seats at inexpensive prices. If you’d rather not gamble on getting a seat, wait in line at the famous TKTS booth in Times Square. There, you can get tickets for hit musicals for up to 50% off. On a recent night, prime seats were available for “Hairspray,” “Rent,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Beauty & the Beast.” (For the right times to drop by TKTS, and other ways to save, see our column A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)
When to buy: Weekday mornings in September.
Why: By September, all the next year’s models have arrived at the lot, and dealers are desperate to get rid of the current year’s leftovers, says Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com. It’s the prime time of year for incentives and sales, not to mention bargaining. “Any car that’s been on the lot for a long time loses its value in the eyes of the car salesman,” he says.
Heading to the dealership on a weekday morning also helps because there’s low foot traffic, meaning you’ll have ample time to negotiate and fewer people trying to buy the same car. The more demand, the less willing a salesman is to go down on price, says Reed. (For more, see our column Summer Car Savings.)
When to buy: December
Why: Most people assume that because everyone wants a good bottle of Champagne for New Year’s Eve that prices go up during the holidays, says Sharon Castillo, director of the Office of Champagne, USA, which represents the trade association of growers in the Champagne region. But due to fierce competition among the Champagne houses, prices are actually lower during the holidays than they are at any other time of year. (For more on picking the right bottle, see our column Break Out the Bubbly.)
When to buy: Thursday evenings, six to eight weeks after an item arrives in stores.
Why: After an item lingers in stores a month or more, retailers start dropping its price to get it out the door, says Kathryn Finney, author of “How to Be a Budget Fashionista.” These season-end clearances tend to be the same month that designers host fashion weeks (February and September) to preview the next fall or spring collections. So smart buyers can check the catwalk to see if any of this season’s trends — say, leggings or military-style jackets — will still be hot next year, and then scoop them up on clearance.
Hitting the mall on a weekday ensures you’ll get a good selection. “On the weekend, you’ll only get picked-over stuff because the stores don’t have time to restock,” she says. By Thursday, most of the weekend sales have begun, but everything available is on the floor.
Computers and electronics
When to buy: Just after a new model is launched.
Why: When the latest and greatest of a product is released, you’ll often see prices drop on what had previously been the best thing out there, says Tom Merritt, executive editor for CNET, an electronics review web site. Case in point: When Apple released the Nano last September, prices for the now-discontinued Mini dropped 12%, from $199 for a 4GB to about $175. So keep your eyes open for announcements from major manufacturers. Want a little less work? Time your purchases for after big annual technology show like MacWorld (next held Jan. 8-12, 2007) and the International Consumer Electronics Show (next held Jan. 8-11, 2007).
When to buy: Early morning or late evening on a weekday.
Why: Time your trip based on whether prices are rising or falling, advises Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks, a consumer guide. Gas stations tend to change their prices between 10 a.m. and noon, so hit the pump in the early morning if gas prices are on the rise. Go later in the day if prices are falling. Tipsters on GasPriceWatch.com reported that on Sept. 3, a WaWa gas station in Lanoka Harbor, N.J., was offering regular gas for $2.85 a gallon. One day later the station’s price had dropped to $2.65. In that case, going early would have cost you 20 cents more per gallon.
Try not to buy gas on the weekends, Brain says. Gas prices are often slightly elevated, as stations try to profit from leisure travelers. (For more ways to save, see our column Save on Gas.)
When to buy: A day or two before you give it.
Why: These days, gift cards carry a plethora of hidden pitfalls, from expiration dates to dormancy fees, says Dan Horne, a professor of marketing at Providence College known as the “Gift Card Guru.” That countdown to fees starts as soon as you buy the card. “You don’t want to short-change the recipient,” he says.
When to buy: Sunday evenings.
Why: Store sales tend to run Wednesday through Tuesday, says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game, a consumer savings program. On Sunday, you’ll also have the latest round of manufacturer’s coupons from your morning paper. “You can maximize your coupons available for that shopping week,” she says. Heading to the store close to closing time means you’ll have access to sales on fresh items that must be sold by the end of the day, such as meats and baked goods.
Of course, you’ll also benefit from in-season items that can be frozen for use later in the year, says Gault. That means turkeys at Thanksgiving and hams at Christmas and Easter. During the spring and summer, buy fresh produce. Peaches bought at $1 per pound now can be kept frozen for smoothies and pies throughout the winter, she says.
Shrubs, Trees and Other Plants
When to buy: Fall
Why: Take a break from raking up leaves to purchase trees, shrubs and other perennials for your yard. Prices nosedive after midsummer, as garden supply stores and nurseries try to clear out their stock. You can also get great deals on bulbs during the fall. Just store them according to the package instructions for best planting results next spring. For more, see our column Cheap Landscaping Tricks.)
When to buy: Six to 12 months after a particular model is launched.
Why: A new TV drops in price after a few months on the market, says CNET’s Merritt. Although there will be newer models out there, it’s unlikely they’ll offer any significant improvements to justify that brand new price. “The technology is proceeding at such a pace that the models out there are not going to be obsolete anytime soon,” he says. (For more, see our column The World Is Flat.)
When to buy: Between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Why: Boutiques are stocked up on dresses for the post-Christmas rush (many people get engaged over the holidays), yet traffic is low, says Fields, who also co-authored “Bridal Bargains.” “It’s not a busy time to buy a wedding dress because people are thinking about the holidays,” he says. You’ll also have room to bargain.
When to buy: Early fall.
Why: For best selection, you can’t beat the fall harvest season. That’s when most vineyards release their latest vintages. Buying in August and September is also your best shot at snagging so-called “cult wines” — those with limited production and high demand, says Kathleen Schumacher-Hoertkorn, CEO of New Vine Logistics, an online interstate wine retailer. (For more, see our column Buying Wine Online.)