Smart Buying

Score the Best Deals on Shopping

Timing your purchases, using deal sites and smart phone apps, and swapping rather than buying new can help you snag great deals that won't empty your wallet.

Time a purchase

Buy at the right time for the best deals.

Televisions. Prices on high-definition, flat-screen TVs have plummeted. But don’t settle for just a good price. You’ll find the lowest prices in early February following the Super Bowl. Retailers discount last year’s versions before the new ones come out in March.

Cruises. The best time to book a cruise is January through March, known as “wave season.” That’s when cruise lines unleash summer cruise deals to compete for customers.

Appliances. New appliances hit stores in September and October. Shop Labor Day weekend for deep discounts on older models.

Furniture. Showrooms get the latest merchandise in February and August, so look for clearance deals in January and July. Discounts of 10% to 50% are typical on last year’s furniture, which will be nearly identical to the new versions.

Gym memberships. You’ll pay less to sculpt your six-pack abs by nabbing a deal on a gym membership. Look for cut-rate promotions during the summer lull in business, especially in June. Try haggling for an even steeper discount.

Airfares. Farecompare.com found that Tuesday at 3 p.m. is the cheapest time to buy a ticket. The cheapest day to fly? Wednesday.

Cars. You’ll get the best deal with the best selection of options if you buy in August. For a steal, wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Shopping sites

From clothing to vacations, log in to save. Visit any of these flash-sale sites to snag luxe goods at bargain-basement prices. You may need to request an invitation, which could take a couple of days to clear.

Gilt.com, ShopItToMe and RueLaLa sell designer clothes for men, women and children at 40% to 70% off, depending on the site. For home furnishings, check out Onekingslane.com, which outfits your house with fashionable accents. Sales last three days.

Jetsetter.com sells luxury vacations for up to 50% off the retail price. Admission to the site is by invitation only, but you can request an invite on the home page. Sales last seven to ten days.

Some sites offer the amenities and prices of flash-sale sites without the lightning-quick promotions. Revolveclothing.com offers free shipping on men’s and women’s clothing.

Swapping

Trade what you have for what you want. The upswell of collaborative consumption has helped spur the creation of services that pair people who need something with people who have it.

Swap.com lets you connect with 500,000 other swappers to trade items such as electronics, jewelry and books. There are currently 1.5 million items to choose from. If you want movies, try Swapadvd.com. You’ll get credits for DVDs you post and mail out. Then use the credits for movies you want. If you’re looking to rent or borrow something like a drill or a tennis racket, try Neighborrow.com or SnapGoods.com. Both sites connect you to people nearby.

If your kids are outgrowing their clothes, Thredup.com lets you get rid of old duds and find used ones that fit. And if you’re taking a trip, try zimride.com for arranging rides from one city to another.

Apps for the mall

Don’t leave home without them. These apps compare prices, score coupons and even help you haggle.

Scan barcodes with Amazon Price Check (Android, iPhone), Google Shopper (Android, iPad, iPhone) or RedLaser (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone) to compare the store’s price with online offerings.

If you don’t want to order online and wait for shipping, check out Goodzer (iPhone), a “search engine” for local goods. Plug in the item you’re looking for and the app will show you nearby stores that carry that product.

At Scoutmob (Android, Blackberry, iPhone), unlike at Groupon and Living Social, you don’t have to purchase a voucher in advance. Find a coupon, show up at the venue, show the cashier your phone, and claim the deal at the register.

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