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Pogue’s Basics: Money – Don't buy items when prices are at their peak

Prices fluctuate all the time. Supply, demand, the price of raw materials, the price of gas, location, the economy—all of it affects product pricing.

You can’t do much about any of that.

What you can do, though, is control when you shop. In certain industries, the prices for products always drop at certain times of year, like clockwork.

Actually, what’s a little nonsensical is that there are usually two times for big price dips. First, there’s the time when demand is highest (sales on toys before Christmas, TVs before the SuperBowl). Second, there’s the time when demand is lowest (sales on candy after Halloween, bathing suits after swimming season).

Here’s your master cheat sheet:

  • Bathing suits. What store wants shelves full of swimwear that’s no longer selling? Prices are lowest for the year in August, as the swimming season ends.
  • New models roll out in September and October each year. That, therefore, is a great time to find sales on last year’s bikes.
  • New models usually debut in February, so you can count on big discounts on last year’s models on Presidents’ Day weekend.
  • Camping gear. Giant price cuts arrive in August; the summer’s over, and so is demand for this stuff. Look for another rash of sales in October, too.
  • Right after Halloween, every store and its brother slashes prices to unload all the unsold candy.
  • Car parts and service. April is National Car Care Month, so you may spot special sales this time of year.
  • Many car companies roll out next year’s car models in the fall, so you can get fantastic deals on the current year’s cars around September.
  • The fancy stuff goes on deep discount right after Valentine’s day (shocker).
  • In general, clothing for each season goes on sale a couple of months before the next season begins. In February, for example, they put winter clothing on sale for 50 to 70 percent off, to make room for the incoming warm-weather stuff. Similarly, spring clothing goes on sale in May, to make room for summer wardrobes; summer clothes’ prices drop in August; and, of course, discounts on fall clothing emerge around November.
  • Computers go on sale in September, once the back-to-school rush is over. There are more big discounts in November, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • As graduation/wedding season approaches, you can find good deals on kitchen stuff in April and May (especially Memorial Day weekend).
  • Sales for sailings usually arrive in January and February, when people are booking their spring-break and summer cruises. In late October, there’s another round of sales—both for people planning holiday cruises, and for the cruise lines to unload cruise cabins that aren’t selling well.
  • In late November, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken on mythic proportions in the gadget world. Every gadget category goes on sale: TVs, laptops, phones, tablets, cameras, and so on. Every store and online retailer fights for headlines, and the winner is you.
  • Fitness equipment. January, after the holidays and while New Years’ resolutions are still in force. Huge deals, from 30 to 70 percent off.
  • New models arrive every February and August, so the best deals (on outgoing models) are available in January and July. Also look for big sales in November, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Office furniture often goes on sale in May and October.
  • The big rush to buy these is, of course, before July 4—so the prices drop right afterward. Prices crash again in October, as the weather gets cold.
  • Gym memberships. The best deals, logically enough, sprout in June; that’s when demand is lowest, as people head outdoors for physical activity.
  • Holiday decorations. As you’d guess: Prices crash right after each holiday. Buy Halloween decorations right after Halloween, Christmas decorations right after Christmas, and so on.
  • Home improvement. Home Depot has its own special Spring Black Friday sale every April.
  • Scout for deals in July, when there are no gift-giving holidays for miles to boost stores’ sales.
  • Shop in June, and then again during the back-to-school frenzy in August.
  • Lawn mowers. They go on sale in August and September, when nobody needs them anymore because winter is coming.
  • Look for the “white sales” in January.
  • New styles appear around March, in readiness for the summer travel season—so you can snap up great deals on last year’s suitcases. In August, another round of price cuts settles in, since people are pretty much finished with their summer travels.
  • The entire industry blows out last year’s models over Memorial Day, so watch for crazy sales in May. More sales around July 4 and Labor Day weekends.
  • Office furniture.
  • School supplies. August, of course. Back to school!
  • Ski stuff. The big sales are usually in March, since nobody’s buying gear for this winter anymore.
  • You can find delicious deals as high as 50 percent off in April, as shoe stores try to shoe you up and shoo you outdoors.
  • Shop in July, since Father’s Day is now over.
  • Are you kidding? Right after the holidays. January. Everything’s marked down. (Then again, you may also find some big sales before the holidays, too, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.)
  • TV sets. February, to make room for the new models and to accommodate SuperBowl frenzy.
  • Wedding dresses. Nobody’s buying wedding stuff in November and December, so that’s when the bridal shops mark down their wares to make room for the new year’s designs.

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