Paying less than your neighbor for everything from ketchup to cars often boils down to carefully timing your purchases right. The best time to get a deal often isn’t when you need the item at hand, but when the magic mix of seasonality, low consumer demand, and the likelihood that retailers are swimming in excess merchandise means that stores are eager to unload goods even if they have to take a loss to do so. This is why, for instance, you should shop for winter coats in March (this March especially) rather than November or December. What do smart shoppers buy in April?
Three resources recently weighed in on the matter: CBS MoneyWatch consulted the insight of Coupons.com expert shopper Jeanette Pavini, while bargain-hunting sites Cheapism and dealnews rounded up their recommendations as well.
While the three lists vary a bit, there’s some degree of consensus that deals are to be had in April on the following purchases:
High-Quality Secondhand Merchandise. April brings with it spring cleaning, and one of the main beneficiaries of spring cleaning are thrift stores and consignment shops, whose inventories explode thanks to folks who have cleaned out their closets and don’t want to be bothered with yard sales. Pavini says shoppers should also hit yard sales and flea markets early in the season:
Spring cleaning brings an “out with the old” mentality, so expect to see more garage sales, flea markets, and perhaps better stocked thrift and consignment shops. For the best selection of items, visit flea markets on opening weekend.
Real Simple magazine is another source arguing for the wisdom of hitting thrift stores in April. To really make the most of the season, head to thrift stores in ritzy neighborhoods—because this is most likely where wealthy folks are dropping off their barely used clothes and other merchandise.
Travel. If you can book a trip soon and actually travel in April or May, chances are you’ll pay a lot less than if you depart in the summer. This goes for nearly every destination on the planet. But even if you must travel in July or August, it’s probably in your best interests to book soon, rather than in June or in mid-summer. Generally, prices for peak season travel only go higher as peak season gets closer. Dealnews points to especially good cruise deals—spring is usually a good time to book, and cruises prices have plummeted this year in the wake of the Costa Concordia tragedy—while MoneyWatch suggests shopping in mid-April for deals on airfare to Asia, Europe, and other international destinations.
Laptops. Dealnews says that desktop-replacement quality laptops “are still at Black Friday levels,” and Cheapism agrees that spring is a terrific time to shop for a laptop, not in the least because stores face lulls in consumer demand. Laptops and other computer gear tend to be top of mind during back-to-school season and over the winter holidays, not in the springtime. To boost consumer interest, many stores discount merchandise heavily.
Cookware. At first glance, this entry is a curious one to include on this month’s must-buy list; is there an “off season” for cooking? But the reasoning makes sense. April is when many people must think about buying gifts for college graduations, weddings, and Mother’s Day. Cookware can make a good gift for any of these recipients, yet at the same time it’s not necessary to give a new skillet or a fancy new knife to any of these folks. How to stores make the case that shoppers should make cookware the gift they want to give? Often, they do so by hosting stupendous sales on these goods in April, when shoppers are out in full force hunting for gifts—and, ideally, good prices on those gifts.
Some TVs. Dealnews and Cheapism both make the case that right now continues to be a wonderful time to buy a 3-D TV, though there’s some discrepancy as to whether April is ideal for the TV market as a whole. Cheapism says that, “Along with the December holidays, April may be the best time to buy a TV,” but dealnews disagrees, stating, “April isn’t a big month for TV deals.” Unless we’re talking 3-D TVs this year, that is.