If you're looking to buy, timing is everything

October 7, 2012 

Amazing seasonal discounts are available if only you correctly time your purchases.

For example, 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 May is the month to stock up on ketchup and deodorant.

Here is a sampling of common consumer purchases and the best times to purchase them.Televisions

Contrary to popular belief, the weeks leading up to 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.

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, which doesn't sound like much, but it's $100 on a $1,000 3-D TV. It's also a good time to buy Blu-ray players and Blu-ray movies, Ramirez said.

Gym memberships

Summer is often the best time to negotiate a better deal at a fitness center.

"Most of the folks who made New Year's resolutions to work out have abandoned that by the spring, and other people would rather exercise outdoors when the weather is nice," said Mark Di Vincenzo, author of the new book Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00.

That dampens demand for memberships, giving you some bargaining power, he said. 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.

Condiments

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, as they come 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; 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 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.

Office supplies

Anything that could be construed as a back-to-school item might be discounted heavily in August and into early September. It's a great time to stock up on home-office supplies, such as pencils, pens and printer paper, even if you don't have a student going off to school.

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.

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.

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 to 30 percent, Di Vincenzo said.

Phone and cable service

Savvy consumers know they can often get a better deal from their phone or cable TV company if they simply ask for one. However, the tipping point for negotiating a better deal seems to be when you've had service for at least one year, Di Vincenzo said.

"After you've been a customer for a year, the company rewards that kind of commitment," he said. "You're not going to get it unless you ask."

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, filling up in the morning is better before prices change. Afternoon fuel-ups are better during times of declining prices.

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