A month-by-month guide to shopping smart

Try these tips to help you save when you spend.

Maybe this is the year you’re finally going to get to Bali. Or maybe you’re ready to make your home “smart” with the latest networked devices. Whatever your year has in store, now’s the perfect time to look to the months ahead and make a plan. Because no matter how much you make or how you like to spend, saving when you can is always savvy.

Think like a retailer, not a consumer

Behind the ads and markdowns that inspire us to shop is the simple rule of supply and demand. When you think like a business—with concerns like moving older versions and meeting end-of-month goals—you’ll likely discover more opportunities to shop smarter. Keep an eye on the calendar: whether it’s gym memberships or winter coats, you can often find better deals if you shop the off-season.

Let the season be your guide

When the market isn’t dictating price, the time of year is. Sometimes, prices do drop when demand peaks—think champagne, gift cards and toys around the holidays—but it’s good to take advantage of the valleys, too.

Think about a seaside summer resort. During the peak season, it can command high prices, but during winter months, occupancy is way down—and prices reflect that. Apply the same logic to purchases like patio furniture, winter sports gear and seasonal clothing, and you’ll take advantage of better prices.

Let’s take a month-by-month look at the best times of the year to shop—and the lulls between when you can save in unexpected ways.

January, February and March

  • Warm-weather impulse buys like golf clubs, gas grills, air conditioners and bikes aren’t moving off the shelves—now’s a good time to find some deals.
  • January marks the annual Consumer Electronics Show, so look for discounts on existing gadgets and laptop models to make room for the new ones.
  • Furniture and home goods companies release new products in January and August, so look for deals during the months following those periods, when older styles get cleared out. It’s also the best time to re-up your bed linens.
  • Even luggage is getting smarter, with tech add-ons like USB ports designed to make travel a little less painful. With summer travel around the corner, upgrade now when new styles launch in late January.
  • Also, March is National Frozen Foods month, so stock up on high-quality meats and seafood to have year-round.
  • This is a good time to go house hunting. Warm weather, foliage and extended daylight hours help houses show better but also lead to more motivated buyers. The selection might be thinner, but holding off until the days between winter holidays or the last few weeks of summer could save you thousands.

April, May and June

  • April is National Car Care Month with deals on car parts and services—so planning for new tires and tune-ups now could save you.
  • It’s tempting to buy a new TV in January before some of the year’s major sporting events, but wait until the end of the Japanese fiscal year in March to get deals on these and other electronics.
  • Refrigerators come with an array of cool features these days, making them more like luxury gadgets than plain old kitchen appliances. Whether you’re remodeling with a sleek stainless-steel model or want a smart fridge that pings you when the milk runs out, May is the month when new models are released and last year’s get a little less pricey.
  • Join a gym in June—most people’s New Year’s resolutions have worn off, and they’d rather be outside.

July, August and September

  • Summer is a between season for gift-giving holidays, so expect demand to be low for unique gifts and jewelry.
  • Jet set to warm weather hot spots during slightly off-season months, when rates on villas and hotel suites dip significantly. (Just remember it’s hurricane season.)
  • July is another prime month to shop decor and furniture sales, so put off that room redesign for midsummer.
  • Take advantage of back-to-school sales by picking up laptops, PCs and printers—great for those with home offices. Also, wait to upgrade certain tech products until September when the latest versions launch.
  • August is when next year’s car models arrive on the lots, making it a smart time to upgrade your ride with the (still brand-new) models from this year.
  • As summer’s warm weather fades, get deals on outdoor furniture, lawn equipment and camping gear from now into October.
  • Traveling over the holidays? Buy airfare now while you’re still a couple of months out.

October, November and December

  • Oenophiles should stock wine cellars now after the harvest season has yielded all new vintages.
  • During fall months, dermatology practices and med spas often give deals on procedures designed to treat all that summer sun exposure, making it a good time to invest in treatment packages and products.
  • It’s easier to negotiate car prices now when dealers are working toward year-end bonuses based on how much they’ve sold.
  • Need a lawyer? You may be able to negotiate a lower legal fee toward the end of the fiscal year for the same reason.
  • This is the time of year to invest in those larger, high-efficiency appliances of the future. If you’d like something with more bells and whistles, feel better buying now when prices tend to drop.

Tip: Use technology to monitor prices year-round

Apps are getting smarter all the time—some even run price comparisons on e-commerce sites around the web in seconds. Leverage apps like Google Flights and Hopper to find the best fares, and watch for price drops on flights you’ve got your eye on. Also, look into browser extensions and plug-ins like Capital One Shopping, Honey and Gumdrop—they do the legwork for you, finding coupon codes and deals.*

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