Fact: unless it’s something marked with the words “Louis Vuitton” or “American Girl,” you probably shouldn’t be paying full price for it. It’s true. In today’s discount-shopping era, there are simply too many easy ways to score a mark down on just about anything.
Is it not on sale? Negotiate. (How? Easy. Step one is to simply and politely ask what “extra promotions” the sales associate can offer—some home improvement stores, in fact, allow cashiers to cut $50 off to close a sale to prevent a customer from defecting to a rival. If that doesn’t work, sweeten the deal by offering to pay cash for something and save the store the 3 to 5 percent credit-card transaction fee.)
Now, I’m a firm believer that a little bit of kindness, a big smile, and a lot of savvy will go a long way in saving you loads of money in all of your shopping. But it’s doubly—and even triply—true of these 30 items right here. If you’re shopping for any of these, go in armed knowing that you’re a fool for paying full price. And for more great advice on living your best life, don’t miss all of our great lifestyle coverage.
The double whammy of Christmas and New Year’s Eve means winemakers fight for market share by slashing prices, especially if you buy in bulk with a case or two.
Broadway Musical Tickets
It’s a curtain-raising nail-biter: log onto a reselling app, like StubHub, an hour or so before showtime, and the scalpers’ premium tickets will be slashed in price to move them before they become worthless—you might even pay lower than the original price. And if you’re traveling for a show, here’s the Supermodel’s Guide to Beating Jet Lag and Always Looking Great.
Buy these secondhand or at a trading site like GiftCardGranny, where unwanted giftcards are offered for resale at lower than face value. The original owner gets cash, while you get a 10 to 15 percent bonus to spend at a store you were going to visit anyway.
The Japanese fiscal year ends on March 31, so expect Sony and company to dump older models at firesale prices as soon as the accounts are closed in April. Shopping for a camera? Consider these 10 Next-Level Ones That Are Way Better Than Your Smartphone.
The 10 to 20 percent discount on last year’s model begins in September, when this year’s crop of cars arrives on the lot—and dealers need to make room. Focus your efforts on the end of the month, too, as that’s when they will be most anxious to make their sales quotas, and likeliest to discount further to do so. If you’re interested in picking up a car of your own, check out The Best New Cars to Hit The Road in 2018.
These are bulky for home improvement centers to store, so as soon as summer’s over in early September, expect them to be discounted to sell rather than stash over the long winter months. Deals will start around 10 percent off, and climb rapidly as winter draws closer.
Implausible as it sounds, cell companies like T-Mobile often used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to promote two-for-one or couples’ deals. Haggle hard, especially if switching carriers, for a free month’s service.
Renegotiate that gym membership in summer, when the amateurs and newbies have forgotten that New Year’s resolution and classes are least congested. Ask the membership retention staffer for a free month or two. And if you need an extra push to get moving, learn the 11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym.
Ever dreamed of owning your own yacht (or at least a skiff)? Plan ahead for off-season, or Q1, when the boat shows take place: announcing next year’s models mean the last crop will be priced to move.
Even if you’re over 18, you can benefit from back to school sales in August: pens, paper, and office basics should be discounted by 20 percent or more.
TVs and Home Theaters
In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, you’ll see major promotions on big game-worth big screens, especially older or last year’s models—at least 15 percent if not more.
Interiors firms have traditionally released their new styles in August (the new IKEA catalog, for example, debuts August 1), so clearance of 30 to 60 percent accelerates in July to make space on the showroom floor. Speaking of design: Here star designer Nate Berkus Reveals His Favorite Guilty Pleasures.
Towels and Bedlinen
Nineteenth-century department stores held what’s known as “white sales” right after Christmas—and most have retained this quirky tradition today. If you need new towels or bedlinen, promos of up to 50 percent off should appear just after January 1.
New season styles arrive in March, well in advance of the summer travel season. Just as they do, last year’s styles—which most would struggle to differentiate from the new designs—will be marked down 20 percent or more. Flying anywhere soon? Don’t miss these 35 Brilliant Travel Hacks Only Experienced Travelers Know.
Sportswear companies sponsor charitable walks and races, many of which take place in April or early spring. Firms often discount their sneakers as a coordinated promo with those sponsorships.
Condiments, Sauces, and Salad Dressings
Prices on ketchup and mustard are deeply discounted in late May, as BBQ and picnic season kicks off. Stock up for the entire year then, as most relishes like these will keep safely for months in a cool, dry place.
If you prefer to travel on two wheels rather than four, direct your attention to dealers at the coldest point of the year, in January. It’s when bike-riding is on the fewest folks’ mind, so you can haggle for the best deal.
Halloween is the high point for candy sales each year, so in early November, stores will always be lumbered with a surfeit of ghost-themed treats that will quickly be discounted 20 to 30 percent. Like sauces, candy keeps for months, so stock up now until next fall.
If you need some new swim shorts, wait until early August, once the bulk of summer vacations have taken place, and you can save 40 to 70 percent on board shorts, budgie smugglers, and anything in between.
During the back-to-school season, retailers overstock on denim as it’s de facto school uniform. By October, of course, whatever hasn’t been snapped up by students is left lingering on shelves until buy one get one free or half price promos kick in.
Forget the urban myth about fuel density—the difference between cold and warm gas is minimal. But you should fill up at breakfast anyway, because prices are usually adjusted at lunchtime, once the head office has sent out instructions to franchisees, or owner-operators have checked competitors’ prices nearby. Likewise, try to fill up midweek, as price spikes occur most commonly before the weekend.
The universal instinct for spring cleaning and decluttering means charity stores and vintage shops tend to be overwhelmed with donations in April—and they will price them accordingly to manage retail space. Ask, too, when the local dry cleaners make their donations of unclaimed clothes each month; the day after that, there will be top tier stock to browse. If you’re heading out to shop vintage, be sure to brush up on our 8 Tips For Shopping a Thrift Store Like a Stylist.
Wares at Outlet Malls
Black Friday is the worst time to shop at a regular mall, since it will be crowded and much of the stock on sale was brought in specially rather than marked down (in other words: it’s cheap, not a bargain). Instead, head to your local outlet mall that will participate in the promos, but relying almost entirely on the existing stock.
It’s best to buy a washing machine during September and October, when last year’s models are discounted to make room on the store floor for the latest models.
Harvest season is when most vineyards release their latest vintages, and so there will be an excess of great wine on offer. The result? Markdowns and promotions to help seize wallet-share amid the congestion.
Much like linens, cookware had a traditional sales window that stores continue to honor—October—partly because promotions also encourage shoppers to consider cookware as a gift for the holidays.
Thanks to a quirk of the industry, fridges are the exception in white goods—new models arrive in the summer, so you’ll snare discounts on current stock in late spring, around May.
In most boutiques and specialty stores, clothes will linger on the racks for around six weeks after they arrive—keep track of that must-have pair of pants until that 42 day window is reached, then plan a trip to the mall after work on Thursday, as the weekend’s sales are usually first activated then.
Weekly sales at supermarkets usually begin on Wednesday and end on Tuesday, so shop on Wednesday for the freshest items and to make sure that the most deeply discounted products are in stock. By the weekend, they may have sold out.
There is no magic day or time to score the best deal on any route, as computer algorithms change prices from moment to moment. Instead, sign up for alerts on any routes you regularly fly—or want to try—at AirFare Watchdog. Its staffers manually scour the web for unadvertised sales and will send you an email as soon as one that fits your criteria appears. Instantly book it, and you’ve created your own personal sale. And while you’re at it, see if you can snag The Best Seat On Any Airplane.