Seasoned deal hunters know that it's not just about where you buy, but when you buy. As retailers put out new product lines and attempt to clear out old stock during the course of the year, prices on various items rise and fall.
Last November we took a look at which items tend to dip in price during the winter, but there are also several items that get more expensive during the colder months.
If you don't want to spend a lot of money this winter, here are eight items you should do your best to avoid buying until the weather warms up.
Corn and Other Summer Vegetables
Exactly what constitutes a seasonal vegetable will differ a bit depending on what part of the country you're from, but as a general rule you'll want to steer clear of vegetables typically grown in the warmer months, as they tend to be worse-tasting and more expensive come wintertime.
"Corn, in the middle of the summer, is going to be 15 cents an ear and taste great," says Jodi Furman, who writes the personal finance blog LiveFabuLESS. "If you buy now, it's going to be 40 to 50 cents an ear and won't be nearly as sweet."
Furman points us toward this helpful site, which allows you to select your area and discover which foods are in season during a given time of year. If you like fresh, local produce, it's a good place to start.
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Warm Weather Items
Back in November we advised you to go out and buy outdoor furniture and grills, which at the time were deeply discounted as retailers looked to unload summer stock.
Well, hopefully you listened, because by this point in the season, such items are generally back to full price.
"Anything seasonal for summer, it's not a good time to buy now," says Furman. "You can find swimwear [discounted], but shorts, T-shirts and outdoor stuff are more expensive, because spring lines are just coming out now."
Speaking of the great outdoors, you might be tempted to think that camping gear would be heavily discounted, as stores look to get people to buy during a slow time of year for outdoorsy activities.
But that's apparently not the case, says Lindsay Sakraida of DealNews.com, which tracks deals and discounts on a daily basis.
"You would think that no one's really wanting to go outdoors [in the winter], but we don't actually see as good deals as you do when things are warmer," she says. "They're trying to encourage sales when it is relevant to people."
By that same token, Sakraida says people are surprised to learn that travel gear such as suitcases aren't all that discounted during the winter.
"There aren't very notable deals," she says. "The best prices we see in the year typically start around March, and they hit their strongest point in August."
So if you've just booked your tickets for spring break, you may want to wait until shortly before your trip to buy your luggage.
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"The best sales on computers are not in winter, they're in August," says Mark Di Vincenzo, author of Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There. "Back-to-school sales are the best time to buy."
He says that you'll also see good deals on electronics a few months down the road, for an interesting reason: The Japanese fiscal year begins in April, which brings new consumer electronics products, which in turn brings discounts on last year's models.
This may go without saying, but at this point in the winter, it's too late to find a good discount on a snowblower.
"There's a high demand for snowblowers in much of the country in the winter," says Di Vincenzo. "You'll see them start to go on sale in March, but never January and February."
So if you're anticipating heavy snowfall in your area this winter, you can either pay full sticker price for a snowblower or stick with a shovel and wait until the weather warms up to get a discounted machine for next year. (Our suggestion: Pay a neighborhood kid a few bucks to shovel your driveway while you stay warm inside.)
If you'd asked us a couple weeks ago, we would've told you to run out and buy a new car. But now that 2011 is behind us, the discounts won't be as deep.
"The best time to buy a car is the fall, and the further you get in the season, the lower the price," says Di Vincenzo. "But sales aren't nearly as good in the winter."
The turning of the calendar has more to do with this than you might think. While many people advise buying a car at the end of the month to take advantage of salesmen looking to fill monthly quotas, Di Vincenzo says that annual quota is even more important.
"The big quota is the end of the year, so they're more willing to sweeten the pot in the fourth quarter," he says. After New Year's, not so much.
You might have heard that January is the perfect time to buy sheets and other linens, as that's when the big retailers have their so-called white sales. But Sakraida says that her site, DealNews.com, has examined such sales and found that they're more hype than reality, price-wise.
"[White sales] aren't really that much better than other sales we've seen, especially in June," she says. "A special name for a sale elicits excitement for an event, but it's not always all that special."