A Bargain Shopper's Comprehensive Guide to End-of-Season Sales

Guidelines for Seasonal Retail and Online Bargain Shopping for the Savvy Shopper

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End-of-season sales can be a bargain shopper's dream. Unlike unanticipated flash sales, end-of-season sales occur around the same time each year as retailers offer discounts on items associated with the season that's about to end to make room for the new season's items. But to take full advantage of these seasonal sales, you have to plan ahead. In preparation, here's a bargain shopper's comprehensive guide to end-of-season sales.

General Guidelines on Seasonal Bargain Shopping

Seasonal sales follow a general retail schedule that follows not only the seasons but also major holidays and other timely factors that affect shopper's behaviors. So if a bargain shopper were to commit any one fact to memory, it would be this: traditionally, spring and summer merchandise usually goes on clearance in June and July and fall and winter merchandise usually goes on sale in January after the winter holidays. With a little advance planning, you can save significant amounts of money and avoid charging up your credit card by planning your purchases around these guidelines.

The Bargain Shopping Rule of Thumb

To help remember seasonal sale timing, remember this economics rule of thumb: when demand is high, prices are high and when demand is low, prices are low. Most consumers are not planners, which is to say that they shop for their needs and wants as they arise, which when in sync with other consumers strongly dictates demand.

For those seasonal wants, you will see most people shopping at precisely the wrong time in terms of how collective demand drives prices up. But bargain shoppers know better. They are those consumers who buy lawnmowers, gas grills, and other outdoor summer equipment in the winter and buy snow shovels, humidifiers, and other items they'll need in the winter during the summer months.

They may look crazy, but they know something other shoppers don't.

Online Bargain Shopping Strategies

The internet has drastically changed the way most of us shop. If you shop online, you can often get great bargains at any time of year if you utilize some of the best online bargain shopping strategies:

  • Try checking sites that specialize in end lots and overstocked items, like Overstock.com or SmartBargains.com.
  • When looking for the best price on a specific item, it pays to use shopping search engines like Pricegrabber.com or Google shopping, which list prices from various online vendors for the item you're searching for.
  • To save money when shopping directly at a retailer's online store, be sure to take advantage of online coupons. Sometimes you can land a free shipping code or even a significant discount on your order. One way to find online coupons is simply to search the name of the store, the + sign, and the words "promotional code" or "coupon code." You can also go directly to a coupon website like Retail Me Not, Dealcatcher, and Coupons.com to look for coupon codes.
  • Don't forget to sign up for one of the many online shopping rebate sites, which negotiate deals with some of the largest online retailers to offer you up to 5% cash back on your online purchases. Try checking out Fat Wallet or Ebates.

Bargain Shopping Warnings

Bargain shoppers know how to find a deal, but they are also more likely to fall victim to some of these shopping pitfalls. To save yourself, keep these tips in your back pocket:

  • When shopping sales, remember that just because an item looks like it's marked down, you shouldn't assume you're getting a bargain. Know what the items you're buying usually cost - not just what the price tag says. You can get this information easily by comparison shopping online to get a feel for prices, then visiting your local stores to actually buy the items.
  • Buying something you don't really need is never a bargain, no matter how discounted the price is.
  • Even an item that's steeply discounted won't end up being a bargain if you put it on a credit card and don't pay it off right away. The longer you carry the balance on your credit card, the more the interest will eat into your savings on the item. Don't fool yourself into thinking you got a great price if you have to use credit to purchase it in the first place.

More Bargain Shopping Information

For a printable list of when certain types of items go on sale be sure to continue to page 2: Bargain Sales Months by Type of Item.

For a printable list of what items go on sale each month of the year, continue to page 3: Types of Bargain Sales by Month.

You can save a lot of money by buying big ticket items in the month that retailers traditionally reduce prices on that item. Though these general rules are most applicable to brick and mortar retail stores that carry inventory, you can see some of the same seasonal sale trends online.

Monthly Sale Seasons by Item

Looking to purchase any of the following big ticket items? Schedule your shopping trip during that item's bargain sale months to land the best deal.

  • Appliances: Manufacturers introduce new lines in the spring, so dealers generally try to get rid of inventory during the winter months. Bargain Sale Months: December through January
  • Electronics: Stores want to make room for new merchandise that debuts at the International Consumer Electronics show the first week in January, so they're very motivated to get rid of their existing inventory, often discounting these items between 20 to 50 percent after the holidays. Bargain Sale Months: Late December through January
  • Furniture: Furniture sales slow down as summer ends, so dealers start marking down furniture starting Labor Day weekend. Bargain Sale Month: September
  • School Clothes and Supplies: Those who wait until school is about to start will miss the bargains on school supplies. So get a head start on all the other parents. Bargain Sale Month: July 
  • Winter Clothes: Clothing is a popular item for holiday gifts, so sales slow down after the holiday. Retailers generally drop prices to stimulate more sales. Bargain Sale Months: Late December, early January
  • Cars: Get bargains on new cars that are last year's models just as the new year's models are about to come out (up to 20% off) in October. More bargains take place between Christmas and New Year's as dealers put on a final push for sales before the year end. Bargain Sale Months: October and late December
  • Party Dresses and Formal Clothing: Sales for party clothes tend to hit their peak just before the winter holidays, so retailers drop prices after the holidays to stimulate sales. Bargain Sale Months: Late December, January
  • White Sales: Save 15 to 50% on sheets, blankets, comforters, other bedding, towels, etc. after the holidays. Bargain Sale Month: January.

For a printable list of what items go on sale each month of the year, continue to page 3: Types of Bargain Sales by Month.

Bargain shoppers know that they can save by buying certain items in the month that retailers traditionally reduce prices on that item. Though these general rules are most applicable to brick and mortar retail stores that carry inventory, you can see some of these same seasonal sale trends online.

January Bargain Sales

In the market for a new computer? You might want to wait until after the winter holidays and hit the stores in January.

  • post-holiday sales
  • fall merchandise
  • furniture
  • home appliances [li[cookware
  • bed and bath linens
  • rugs
  • sports equipment
  • computers and other electronics

February Bargain Sales

You might not be thinking about new furniture in the heart of winter, but you could get a real deal in February.

  • jewelry
  • perfumes
  • gift items
  • electronics
  • floor coverings
  • housewares
  • furniture

March Bargain Sales

It may still be a bit chilly outside, but warmer weather is right around the corner. You might want to buy that new air conditioner in March.

  • spring clothing
  • wedding gifts
  • air conditioners
  • washers and dryers
  • garden supplies
  • outdoor winter sports gear
  • luggage
  • china

April Bargain Sales

Thinking about taking a trip? April might be a good month to make the purchase.

  • spring clothing
  • yard and garden supplies
  • bridal gowns (save up to 70%)
  • furniture
  • cruises
  • European vacations
  • paint and wallpaper

May Bargain Sales

Your kid's sport seasons may be coming to an end, but there is always next year.

Consider stocking up on sports equipment in May to get a deal.

  • gifts for Mom
  • silver
  • watches
  • athletic clothing and shoes
  • linens and towels
  • wedding gowns
  • furniture
  • cruises
  • European vacations
  • home maintenance items

June Bargain Sales

If you've been eyeing that new big screen TV and missed out on the Black Friday sales this year, not to worry.

June's got your back in terms of sales.

  • gifts for Dad
  • fishing and camping gear
  • men's cologne
  • summer items
  • storm windows
  • summer clothing
  • televisions
  • building materials

July Bargain Sales

Back to school is right around the corner, get a head start by getting your school shopping done early in July.

  • air conditioners
  • summer items
  • school supplies
  • school clothes
  • summer sports equipment

August Bargain Sales

Hopefully you didn't go all summer without working lawn equipment, but if it's time to replace, August might be your best bet.

  • school supplies
  • school clothes
  • summer clothing (bathing suits and sandals)
  • linens and towels
  • lawn and garden equipment

September Bargain Sales

Buying winter wear in September won't tempt fate when it comes to the weather, but it will save you some dough.

  • winter wear (winter coats, gloves, scarves)
  • summer clothes
  • outdoor grills
  • lawn furniture
  • bicycles
  • housewares

October Bargain Sales

Depending on what you fish, it might not be fishing season any longer, but you can stock up for next year in October.

  • winter wear (winter coats, gloves, scarves)
  • last year's car models
  • fishing equipment
  • houses
  • crystal
  • silver
  • glassware

November Bargain Sales

Getting chilly? Stock up on space heaters and blankets before Thanksgiving in November.

  • houses
  • quilts and blankets
  • space heaters
  • winter clothing

December Bargain Sales

Time for a new microwave? Try buying your appliances in December.

  • clothing
  • appliances
  • gifts
  • wrapping paper
  • holiday cards
  • other holiday items

More Bargain Shopping Resources

For information on bargain sales months by types of item, be sure to check out page 2: Bargain Sales By Type of Item. New to bargain shopping? You're not going to want to miss out on the Bargain Shopping Strategies on page 1.

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