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Month-by-month guide for finding bargains

It used to be that consumers had to wait until after the holidays to get good deals on gift items, greeting cards and so forth, or shoppers had to wait until well into a season to get needed clothing or supplies. Happily, it's increasingly a buyer's market, and in recent years, some of the best sales often also take place immediately before the related holiday or season.

Here's a month-by-month guide for the best times to purchase all sorts of consumer goods, based on my experience as a longtime shopping columnist in New York City:


Sad, but true: The average American gains seven to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. And what do they resolve? To diet and exercise, of course. Retailers are right there with great sales on workout and sports gear and apparel. The enormous interest in the annual Super Bowl has made the two weeks prior to the game a huge TV-sales period, second only to Christmas.

  • "White sale" items -- sheets, pillowcases and blankets
  • Computers
  • Workout and sports gear
  • Blowouts on winter wear: coats, scarves, gloves, hats and boots
  • Televisions


She may be weary, women do get weary, seeing that same shabby couch. And lamp shade and recliner, for that matter. And men do, too. Especially in the inclement, stay-in-the-house month of February. To the rescue: Traditional Presidents Day sales of furniture and housewares. And while you're cooped up inside on your new sofa, it's a great month to look for spring and summer cruises.

  • Jewelry
  • Chocolates
  • Fragrance, toiletries
  • Resort and cruise wear
  • Furniture and housewares
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Whether you're off on an early spring cruise or just getting a jump start on warm weather vacation planning, the good news is that this is the month luggage is likely to be priced to move. As the month comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, stormy weather outerwear usually is marked down to move in March.

  • Windbreakers and raincoats
  • Gardening tools
  • Luggage
  • Frozen foods (it's National Frozen Food Month!)


Now that you've done your spring cleaning, you can't help but notice how grungy the walls look compared to the rest of your polished and bright abode. That's what the paint and wallpaper retailers figure -- and that's why they tempt you with cut-rate prices on wallcoverings.

  • Spring finery
  • China
  • Kosher foods
  • Eggs (chocolate and chicken-laid)
  • Wallpaper and paint


It's Memorial Day and the traditional kickoff of summer. You can spend the first long weekend of the year in your backyard or at a picnic -- or by spending big bucks on a big-ticket apppliance. Retailers try to lure you into the latter by traditionally putting major appliances on sale.

  • Major appliances (Memorial Day weekend)
  • Barbecue and picnic foods
  • Summery handbags and totes
  • Pre-season savings on swimsuits and sandals


Summertime and the living is leisurely -- which is why merchandisers know you'll be looking for portable entertainment devices like DVD and CD players and boomboxes.

  • Summer fashions
  • Hardware and home fix-it tools and materials
  • Televisions and portable music players
  • Dairy foods (Happy National Dairy Month!)


Now that the heat is really on, you may notice that ceiling fan you hoped would take you through another summer isn't quite up to the job. Fortunately, July kicks off the super air-conditioner sales. And if you also stock up on crafts supplies often marked down at this time of year, you can play indoors in comfort.

  • Deeper discounts on summer dresses, suits, shoes and swimwear
  • Air conditioners (now through September)
  • Major appliances (Fourth of July weekend)
  • Barbecue and picnic foods
  • Craft supplies


Because outdoor furniture is seasonally related, retailers know August is "last-chance gulch" for you to spring for some -- and what better incentive than a swan-song-of-summer sale?

  • "White sale" (see January)
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Fresh produce
  • School supplies
  • Pre-season fall fashions
  • Swimsuit and other summer-wear "steals"


September's a big food month as people start stocking up on canned goods for the winter, and the month many charities typically launch drives for foods with long shelf lives. It's also desperation time for home sellers who missed finding the right buyer in the spring and summer but want to be moved before the worst winter weather sets in.

  • Homes
  • Scooters and bikes
  • Deeper school-supplies sales
  • Canned goods


This is the month car dealers are forced to make room for new models and start slashing prices on last year's cars. The best time to buy a car -- new or used -- is late in the month as salespeople strive to meet or beat quotas.

  • Candy, for the neighborhood ghosts and goblins
  • Cars
  • Outdoor sports equipment


Before you shiver your timbers under winter's full blast, retailers vie for your heavy blanket and down comforter dollar with tempting sales.

  • Fall-clothing blowouts, winter-wear markdowns
  • Blankets, comforters
  • Thanksgiving fixings: cranberries, turkey, yams, etc.


Used to be you had to wait until after December to get good buys on holiday-related gifts and goodies. But not in today's market. Indeed, seems almost everything a person could covet is on sale -- except for that computer you really, really want. Which is why we have the wonderful month of January when computer prices tend to be cut to the quick.

  • Perfume, ties, sweaters, jewelry, billfolds and other popular gift items
  • Food serving and storing pieces, from crystal to plastic
  • Party foods and treats -- roasts, cakes, pies, etc.
  • Holiday greeting cards (Once it's one minute past the holidays, don't dare spend more than half the preprinted price!)

-- Posted: March 19, 2004
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See Also
MAIN: Power up your sales lingo
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Practice the art of comparison shopping!
What consumers want from comparison shopping
Frugal U. definitions
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