Shop for these items now to net big savings
By Jeanette Pavini
September isn’t just the month for heading back to school and work at the end of summer vacation, it’s the best month of the year to save a bundle on five popular items. Here’s what to buy, how to save the most and even how to keep saving after you’ve made your purchase.
September is an in-between time for travelers. Summer vacation is over and holiday travel is still a distant thought, so luggage tends to go on sale.
When it comes to luggage, do your research and invest in a quality bag, rather than just looking for the lowest price tag. Quality bags are usually made from durable nylon or leather, with flexible framing, sturdy zippers, and fully rotating, or spinning, wheels. If you are purchasing luggage online, check for coupon codes. At the very least, you can find free shipping.
Lightweight luggage should be a top priority for consumers to help avoid increasing airline fees. In 2011, airline revenue for baggage fees reached just over $3.36 billion, a significant increase from the $464 million just four year prior in 2007.
It’s harvest season for most North American and European wineries, which means it’s time to move inventory. Winemakers and distributors don’t want to have too much surplus on hand, so now you will find some of the best prices. If you enjoy wines from Australia, South America and other spots below the equator, you have about six months to go until harvest season.
Some grocery or drugstores offer discounts when you buy a case, typically an additional 10%. You may also find better value when you buy wines from lesser-known regions or less popular varieties. Chardonnay is the most popular table wine, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, according to The Wine Institute.
As we wrap-up the final days of summer, stores are saying goodbye to grilling season, and sending barbecues to the sale section. While consumers welcome the low prices, they aren’t necessarily saying goodbye to their own grills. Some 62% of consumers say they grill year-round, according to a survey by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.
Top priorities for people looking for a grill? An easy ignition system and large grilling surface. These days more households own a gas grill than a charcoal grill. Gas grills fire up more quickly and eliminate charcoal costs, but some foodies feel you sacrifice flavor. There are grills that run on charcoal, but have a built in propane system to get things started, giving you the best of both worlds: speed and flavor. Plus, you don’t have to use lighter fluid, which can affect flavor and emits fumes.
Bikes go on sale as we head toward fall and winter. Where you buy a bicycle affects how much you will pay. Specialty bike retailers were responsible for 18% of bicycles sold in 2011, but 55% of the dollars spent, with an average price of $680, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Specialty shops usually have a range of prices, on-site service departments, a knowledgeable staff and professional fitting.
If price trumps quality and personal service, then mass merchants are your best bet. While 70% of bikes were sold through mass merchants last year, they only account for 27% of bicycle dollars spent with an average price of $84. The remainder of sales came from chain sporting good stores (average price $249), outdoor specialty stores ($590), and the “other” category, which includes Internet sales ($380).
When it comes to bikes, one size doesn’t fit all. In fact, some models come in eight or more sizes. That’s where shopping at a specialty store may be helpful. You can also conduct your own bike fitting. The distance from the ground to the bike’s top tube is called the stand-over height. For road bikes, you should have about one inch of clearance when you stand in tennis shoes, straddling the bike. If ordering online, measure your inseam against the stand-over height, which will generally be listed. Sitting on the bike, your legs should still be slightly bent when pedals are at their lowest point and elbows should also be slightly bent when holding the handlebars.
Large appliance manufacturers commonly release new models in the fall, which means discounts on last year’s models. The change can be something as simple as a different color or handle and you can save up to 50%. Also ask if there are any floor models or open boxes that are discounted with the same warranty as buying new.
When buying an appliance, there’s the price you pay to buy it, and then there’s the price you pay every month to keep it running. That’s why energy usage should be a major concern. Before you buy a new appliance, check the Energy Star website for special offers and rebates in your area. You may also receive a rebate when you recycle an old appliance like a refrigerator.
In addition to being Energy Star-certified, certain features use more energy than others. For example, a top-mounted freezer uses 10-25% less energy than bottom-mounted or side-by-side models and automatic icemakers and door dispensers increase energy use by 14 to 20%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In J.D. Power’s 2012 Appliance Retailer Satisfaction Study, Lowe’s ranked highest in customer satisfaction with facilities, prices and delivery service ranking particularly high. Ranking second was h.h. gregg and third was Sears, which excelled at installation services.
In a brand customer satisfaction study, Samsung ranked highest for clothes washers, dryers, and refrigerators; Bosch for dishwashers; and Kenmore Elite ranked highest for ranges, cooktops, and ovens.
But it may not be the month for cars anymore
Cars have been at the top of the September best-buy list for many years but these days that may not be the case.
“September has historically been a good time for deal seekers, since it was traditionally the time in which automotive companies would introduce their new model year vehicles, so there would be good deals on the outgoing models. But times have changed and many auto makers do not necessarily plan their changeovers at this time,” says Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com.
Caldwell says you can still find good end of summer deals but in today’s environment, you may save the most through financing offers: low APR financing or leasing deals.
As for the cars themselves, generally you can find the best deal at the end of the month, but there is a catch. If a dealer or salesperson has already met their sales goal for the month, they may be reluctant to budge on price. As a consumer, it’s almost impossible to know where they stand with their quotas.