During the holiday shopping chaos, it can feel like you need to buy everything now, now, now, or else you’ll risk missing out on the best deals.
Not every item reaches its lowest price point during the holidays, though. Retailers often rely on inventory changes and manufacturer rebates to determine discounts, and three-day holiday weekends are often some of the most popular sales times. Online disruptors like Amazon have recently changed markets as well, lowering prices year-round and forcing traditional retailers to keep up.
The key to scoring a great deal: Always do your research before buying any big item, says Jerry Thomas, president of marketing research firm Decision Analyst.
“The people who are in the business are much smarter than the consumer about their own business,” he says. “Regardless of time of year, people ought to do their homework if it’s a major purchase.”
If you’re in the market for a big purchase, like new furniture or appliances, or simply looking to plan ahead for next year’s gift-giving budget, use this guide to begin your search.
Car dealership sales are all about holiday weekends.
“For buying new cars, the holiday sales events are pretty good bets,” says Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book. “This year, the Memorial Day events were a bit better than the Labor Day sales events because manufacturers were able to control inventories in anticipation of a possible slowdown. The holiday sales events seem to be a good time, and manufacturers are looking to close out the calendar year sales on a strong note.”
If you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest, set your sights on the fourth quarter of the year. New models hit the lot starting September and October, so dealers will start marking down old stocks in the fall.
“Look for the closing model year rather than the new model year,” DeLorenzo says. “Dealers will be more anxious to move those older units off their lots.”
Used car sales also tend to follow holiday cycles.
“Typically it will follow the big sales events, and if a lot of people have leased vehicles, they tend to come back at those times of the year,” DeLorenzo says. “You’ll see a greater selection of certified preowned vehicles, especially around the time of big sales events as they take in newer vehicles in trade or from lease closeouts.”
Of course, not everyone can wait until the end of the year or a three-day holiday weekend to head to the lot. If you’re short on time, car dealerships are also known to drop prices toward the end of each month.
There are benefits to buying a home during certain times of the year, but it really depends on what exactly you’re looking for.
Spring and summer months see the biggest buying boom, with sales during this time making up nearly half of yearly purchases. Warm weather tends to inspire more listings, an uptick in open houses and more closed deals. It also brings more competition. You’ll have more choice during these months, but an increase in potential buyers may drive up bids.
You can also still buy a home during the slower winter market. There may be fewer choices, but if you do come across your dream home, you’ll often have more luck negotiating during winter’s buyer’s market.
Regardless, be aware of how your local market is faring.
“You’ve really got to go in and study that marketplace for a while,” Thomas says. “Then, regardless of the time of year, when a house that is appealing to you and is of good value comes on the market, you will recognize it instantly and you can put in an offer. If you haven’t done that upfront work, when a good house comes on the market or a good deal comes on the market, you’re apt to miss it.”
Mattress retailers traditionally schedule their sales around national holidays — especially three-day weekends when shoppers have an extra day to browse.
You’ll find deep discounts on mattresses around President’s Day in February, according to Consumer Reports. Stores like Mattress Firm and department stores like Macy’s reliably feature deals on Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day.
New models usually become available during the summer months (June through September), which makes May a great time to shop, too.
Today’s mattress market has evolved from solely brick-and-mortar retailers, though. The market has been disrupted by a host of online-only sellers like Casper, Nectar Sleep and Tuft & Needle. These brands tend to have lower rates than traditional retailers year-round, but they usually offer discount codes during the same holiday cycles.
If your linen closet is overdue for new sheets, towels and comforters, mark your calendar. January is “white sale” season, and it’s the best time to shop these home essentials.
Started in 1878 by John Wanamaker to boost post-holiday sales at his department store, January has a long tradition of providing steep discounts on bedding and linens for your home.
White sales in 2018 included up to 80 percent off bedding at department stores like Belk and Macy’s and 70 percent price drops from online home retailers like Wayfair and Overstock.com, according to RetailMeNot.
Television shopping is all about Black Friday. Beginning in early November, you’ll find deals on nearly every kind of television, from a 32-inch LED screen to a 77-inch 4K HDR visual experience with all the bells and whistles.
If you miss out (or don’t want to wake up at 3 a.m.), don’t worry.
“The deals really continue after Cyber Week all the way until the Super Bowl,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot.
If you’re not concerned about the latest and greatest models, you can always shop end-of-season sales, as last year’s models are discounted to make room for new ones. TV manufacturers generally release new models in the spring, between February and April, so you can still score a great deal on last year’s top sellers just in time for Super Bowl Sunday.
Appliance sales come around when manufacturers release new models. Luckily, household appliance models don’t change too drastically each year, so you won’t miss out by buying last year’s model. These inventory changes generally happen during fall months, but some may vary.
Appliances are also marked down during Black Friday and three-day holiday weekends. Home Depot offered up to 40 percent off appliances this Labor Day, and Best Buy had a similar discount on Black Friday.
You can find the lowest prices on kitchen appliances — specifically kitchen ranges, dishwashers and refrigerators — in November, according to Consumer Reports. Prices, though lower than other times of year, may fluctuate throughout the month, so observation is key.
“The data show that keeping an eye on a model’s price over a matter of weeks could save you hundreds of dollars,” according to Consumer Reports.
Unlike some other items, though, you can’t always wait until the best time of year if your refrigerator gives out or your microwave short-circuits. In that case, you can often find online deals year-round or shop end-of-month sales when salespeople are looking to make last-minute commissions.
Furniture manufacturers have two restock periods throughout the year: February and August. This means the best time to hit the showroom floor is when salespeople are looking to clear out last year’s inventory, in January and July.
If you’ve had your eye on a new couch or bedroom suite, prices will drop as these months go on, but you’ll also risk lower stocks. There are variations from store to store, but keep in mind that you’ll see different seasonal offerings during these two sales periods. January clearances will lean more toward heavy fabrics and dark woods, while July sales will be lighter upholsteries and spring palettes.
For even more savings, ask salespeople if you can take the “as is” showroom floor samples if they are still in good condition.
Computers and tech
Sales on laptops, headphones and tablets are all about back-to-school.
Consumer Reports advises buying these items in August, at the peak of school shopping season. This year, Apple bundled a pair of Beats headphones with each laptop or tablet purchase as a back-to-school deal, while Best Buy offered $150 off all MacBook Pros.
For gaming systems and smart-home devices, don’t overlook Black Friday deals. This Cyber Week, retailers like Best Buy, Target, Amazon and Walmart offered dozens of deals on tech items ranging from Roku Smart TVs and Xbox Ones to Fire tablets and Chromebooks.
The best time to buy jewelry is when demand is low but supply is high. In other words, any time that isn’t near a major holiday.
“In general, try not to buy jewelry around any big holiday season,” Skirboll says. “You’ll find better deals around the off-peak times. So don’t buy close to Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Mother’s Day. Try to buy in the in-between times, and that’s when you’ll find better savings.”
If you’re looking for diamonds for your significant other or another loved one, plan ahead and shop before the gift-giving season approaches.
The best time to shop for your child’s must-have toy is in December, when Santa’s workshop is in full swing.
“The best time to buy toys is actually the 10 days leading up to Christmas,” Skirboll says. “That’s when the steepest discounts will be.”
Don’t wait too long, though.
The most popular toys are also the ones most likely to sell out. Keep your eye on prices beginning in November so you’re able to snag the best deal on each toy before it’s gone.
The best time to buy any items for your summer garden parties or barbecues is, of course, when the temperature cools down.
Outdoor grills, patio furniture and even air conditioners all go on sale in fall, when demand falls. This is the best time to stock up for next year. Look to retailers like Lowe’s, Home Depot and even Bed, Bath & Beyond during August and September for clearance prices on summer items. You may even score some great clearance deals into October, but you’ll also risk depleted inventories the longer you wait.
Fitness equipment and gym memberships
Whether you’re an at-home fitness fiend or more of a group fitness gym-goer, there are two times each year to find the best discounts: just after New Year’s and when the weather heats up in summer.
“Historically, we see the best deals on fitness equipment come January,” Skirboll says.
Fitness brands want to take advantage of New Year’s resolution-makers’ enthusiasm by marking down their products. Gyms and fitness studios, too, traditionally waive enrollment fees or offer monthly discounts during January.
When the weather breaks in spring and summer months, many gyms and fitness equipment retailers offer steep discounts again as customers forgo indoor exercising for the great outdoors. You may not see discounts as steep as in January, but a slump in indoor fitness means reliable sales during warmer months.