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What to Buy Right Now

They say timing is everything. That goes for finding a good bargain, too. There's no secret to smart shopping. You just have to do a little homework before shelling out your hard-earned cash. Here are a few items you can pick up in the next few weeks that can save you a few bucks.

Clothing
March is typically the time of year when retailers are clearing their racks for new spring and summer fashions. That translates to great deals for shoppers on coats, outerwear, winter accessories and boots. Consumers can really stock up for next winter – and perhaps even get a head start on holiday gift shopping.

Meanwhile, early shipments of summer footwear and bathing suits have arrived, so customers can take advantage of pre-season sales of the latest styles for sandals and strappy shoes and beachwear before prices hit their peak.

Food
March is National Frozen Food Month, and supermarkets and retailers are featuring special sales all month. Companies are also offering coupons in weekly circulars and online. Customers can find bargains for everything from breakfast items to vegetables to full-course meals. According to Packaged Facts, U.S. consumers spent about $56 billion on frozen foods and beverages in 2010, and analysts predict $70 billion in sales by 2015.

If you have a freezer, now is the time to buy all your favorites. Some frozen foods can be stored for up to a year, but consumers should check the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service for guidelines.

Electronics
The International Consumer Electronics Show, held in January, featured all of the new models, including the hottest hand-held devices and small consumer electronics (MP3 players, DVD, Blu-Ray players, iPads). Traditionally, the new models hit the shelves in March so you can pick up "older" models at deeply discounted prices.

Now is also the time to shop for televisions, which have their biggest sales surge at Christmas and just before the Super Bowl.

Other discounted items include laptops (probably because school is winding down and the demand is less), computer accessories and digital cameras.

Sports Gear
Need skis, snowboards or ice skates? Now is the time to make your purchase. The first hint of spring brings major sales on these items and accessories, with retailers offering discounts up to 70%.

You can also snag some bargains on golf clubs (pro shops are usually pushing new models before the season tees off, so last year's sets will be discounted).

Seasonal
Unless you're a real die-hard fan of grilled foods, your barbecue gear is probably tucked away until Memorial Day. But now is the time to check out grills and grilling accessories that may still be on the shelves from last year. Models of these items don't change much from season to season, but retailers would prefer to display the latest models (with all the bells and whistles). The same goes for gardening tools and lawnmowers, which you can probably pick up at pre-season prices.

Retailers would rather not tote items like snow blowers and shovels back into storage, so check out home supply and hardware stores for good deals. The same goes for humidifiers and space heaters, which you can easily pack away until next winter.

Odds and Ends
Planning for a vacation later in the year? Cash in on reduced prices for luggage and travel bags. While you're at it, you may want to scour travel sites for deals on cruise packages (depending upon your destination, the height of the season is usually warm-weather months), family resort vacations (they typically bump up prices after school lets out) and early-bird vacation home rentals (owners would rather secure bookings in advance, so you can sometimes get a free extra night or reduced rates), all of which can save you a bundle, especially if traveling with a family.

The Bottom Line
Even in a good economy, smart shoppers are wise to seek out discounts and deals on household items, and take advantage of sales and coupons. The savings can add up to be quite substantial.



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