What Should You Be Buying Right Now?

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Upon contemplating a purchase, the first question a consumer must ask is: Should I buy? If the answer to that is yes, the next question is: When? (Contrary to the behavior of many consumers, you don’t have to buy right away, you know.) Here’s some help answering both of these questions in terms of everything from cars to meat, perfume to iPads.

So, should you be buying …

A Car?
Soon after the tragedies in Japan, the idea surfaced that because of factory slowdowns or shutdowns overseas, there were could a shortage of Japanese cars. As a result, it seemed likely that prices would rise for many cars—most obviously imports made (or mostly made) in Japan, and especially for vehicles with good mileage, which have already become more in demand since gas prices have risen. While different theories suggest Thanksgiving weekend or Labor Day weekend or other times give the best opportunity for buying cars at the cheapest prices, few point to the end of March as the absolute best time of year for buying. Nonetheless, because of gas prices and the situation in Japan, some are advising to buy soon in order to avoid larger price increases down the line.

Not so fast. In an LA Times story, while some observers see a possibility of further disruption to the market, with dealer incentives disappearing and limited choices for consumers, here’s another expert’s take:

“Don’t run into the marketplace and purchase a new vehicle unless you absolutely have to. Wait for gas prices to come down and the Japanese earthquake to no longer be an issue,” said Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book.

iPad 2?
Many, many reviewers have weighed in on the merits of the iPad 2. But should you buy it, or another tablet? What if you already have the original iPad? Here are simple answers to those questions:

If you bought the original iPad, then no, you probably shouldn’t bother.

But if you’re a tablet newbie, then the iPad 2 is for you.

Nintendo 3DS?
A Boston Globe columnist weighs in with thoughts on the new handheld video game device that has a screen showing 3-D images without the need for gamers to wear special 3-D glasses. Overall, though, the review holds that the device is “more gimmick than gamechanger.” And inevitably, as all early adopters know, the technology will get better and cheaper in the future:

The 3DS is quite a good game console, and likely to get better. Later this year, Nintendo will issue software upgrades that will add a Web browser to the device, as well as the ability to view movies via Netflix. Still, $250 is a lot to pay for one extra dimension, when you can get along fine with only two.

All Sorts of Other Electronics?
In light of consumers accumulating all sorts of gadgets in recent years, the NY Times helpfully suggests some pieces of electronica that one can get rid of. Who needs another buying guide, right? On the list of items to jettison are the GPS unit, the digital music player, the camcorder, the USB thumb drive, the point-and-shoot camera, cable TV (possibly), and the classic old desktop computer:

You may have one now, but are you really going to replace that deskbound PC when it becomes out of date? Assuming you are not a hardcore gamer or a video editor, laptops have all the necessary computing power the average user needs. If you want to replicate that desktop experience, you can always connect your laptop to a larger display and keyboard.


Early spring, per ShopSmart magazine, is the ideal time to stock up on meat made for barbecuing—steaks and ground beef especially. Why? These items are more in demand during the height of barbecue season. So the idea is to selectively scoop up bargains beforehand, provided you have a freezer that’ll accommodate the inventory:

The seasons determine what kinds of meats consumers buy in quantity, which can drive up prices. So if you have a freezer, you can save on your meat bill by buying in bulk just before the season starts.

Winter Coats?
If you’re playing the off-season shopping game, in which you stock up on goods that are deeply discounted because they’re not top of mind with consumers, March is the time to shop for winter coats, boats, and frozen foods, among other items.

Check out FreeShipping.org’s “Best Time to Buy Guide” for month-by-month suggestions for bargain hunters. Here’s one of the recommendations for March (it’s cheap in January too):

Christmas and Valentines Day are among the two biggest sales months for perfume. If your sweetie can do without this holiday, waiting a few weeks can save you a bundle. (Remember, we’re giving shopping advice here, not relationship advice.)

Bear in mind that if you really don’t need something, or if there’s a decent chance you’ll use it once or not at all, well then there’s no good time to buy. Buying just isn’t a good idea, even if you manage to get a “good” price.