By Dan Shapley
Everyone loves a deal, but what are the best deals this time of year? The Daily Green talked to four experts to find out how to become a "Discount Druid," as Jeff Yeager, The Daily Green's Green Cheapskate calls end-of-season bargain-huntig specialists.
ss=”MsoNormal”>"They're the folks in Sports Authority trying on 50%-off Speedos right now, as the full-price winter parkas are being put on display," says the author, most recently, of The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means. But there's a lot more to fall bargain-hunting than eeny teeny bikinis…
1. Back-to-School Supplies
Believe the hype! Back-to-school sales are generally the best time to stock up on things like pens, pencils, notebooks and backpacks, according to Brooke Kalein, the deals editor for Wisebread.com, a community of bloggers who aim to "live large on a small budget."
"It actually is," she said. "They run the lowest prices right at the beginning of the school year."
So stock up on recycled paper, notebooks, pens and backbacks now.
2. Back-to-School Clothes
For clothing that's often back-to-school sales often offer the best deals, too, though Kalein recommends buying winter coats now because you can buy last year's styles cheap. And Diane MacEahern, author of Big Green Purse, and the blog of the same name, says that throughout the Northeast and much of the rest of the country, parents can wait for end-of-season discounts on fall clothing, since it hasn't been getting as cold as it once did in October and even November. The Big Green purse concept is to eliminate wasteful spending so that you can spend extra on quality, sustainable items and still save money – so MacEahern recommends said fall deals make shopping retailers like Nau affordable.
"In terms of clothing, 'green' clothes have a tendency to be more expensive than others," she said, "so buying them at the seasonal sales cycle is a great time to add them to your wardrobe."
Premium outdoor apparel is also on sale now, as Bill Kennedy, owner of Kenco, a 28-year-old independent outdoor gear shop outside Kingston, N.Y., knows. His clothing, from designers like Patagonia, is discounted as much as 50%. "I go and buy my stuff this time of year," he said with a laugh. "I say, I'd really like to have that shirt, and since I'm selling it at cost anyway, I'm going to grab it."
3. "New" Cars, Bikes and Boats
September is when automakers will be rolling out out the next (2011) model year cars, so it's among the best times to get a good deal on a new 2010 model year car, Yeager says. If you are in the market for a new car, buy one of the most fuel efficient models, and if you need a bigger car, consider an fuel-efficient SUV crossover.
Consumer Reports agrees that September is a great time to buy current year-model cars, if you're hunting for a deal: "You'll save money up front because dealers want to clear old inventory. New models almost always cost more than those they replace—even slightly tweaked models often get a price hike—and discounts are less likely."
"Perhaps more 'green,'" Yeager writes, "the same can be said for shopping for a new bicycle in the fall. Next years models are being released and stores are anxious to get rid of excess summer inventory."
If you're in the market for a kayak (like the Dagger Zydeco 9 Blem pictured here) or canoe, too, now's a good time for a deal on the last of this year's models, or this year's inventory, according to Bill Kennedy, owner of Kenco, a 28-year-old independent outdoor gear retailer outside Kingston, N.Y. "You can buy them at cost or below cost this time of year," he said. Interestingly, now's not a bad time to shop for a snowboard, snowshoes or cross-country skiis, if you don't mind buying this year's model before next year's hits the store in a month or two, Kennedy said.
4. Trees and Shrubs
Especially if they are varietals that won't flower until next spring or summer, fall is a perfect time to invest in some lawn and garden beautification. Retailers count on people losing interest in their yards as the warm weather wanes. But fall is one of the two best times to plant trees and shrubs, and many perennial plants that will flower year after year (early spring is the other, but prices will be higher then). Perennials are always a better bargain than annuals, in the long run, because they will re-emerge year after year.
"A few years ago I bought $900 worth of perennial plants for only $30 – they were already marked down by 80%, but I offered to take everything they had left in order to help them make room for mums, pumpkins and other fall fare," Yeager said. "It never hurts to ask."
It's also a good time to stock up on things like potting soil, pots and other gardening equipment, which is typically discounted, MacEahern said. And if you need a new lawn mower, Fall is the best time to get a deal – preferably on an electric model, to cut down on air pollution, and the asthma attacks it can trigger. But any 2010 or 2011 model should be a whole lot cleaner than the old model in the garage. MacEahern also recommends checking for deals on drip irrigation systems, sprinkling timers, and other devices that can help you keep next year's lawn and garden thriving while using water efficiently.
5. Lawn and Patio Supplies (and Contractors)
Similarly, deck and patio furniture, along with grills and grilling equipment, are often deeply discounted at this time of year as people turn away from their yards and back indoors. For anyone planning ahead, though, that makes it the perfect time to buy. If you're buying wooden patio furniture, consult the National Wildlife Federation's annual sustainability scorecard, or shop at The Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Target and Jensen Leisure Furniture, which now stock only wood furniture certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for sustainability.
If you're investing in a new patio, porch or deck, now may be the best time to find a deal on a contractor, too, Yeager says – just be sure to ask for an "off-season discount." Same goes, at least during late summer and early fall, for home weatherization work, according to MacEahern – which makes things like insulation or a new storm door triply lucrative because of labor and materials discounts you can snag before the real cold weather hits, because of the energy you'll save on heating your home this winter – and because federal tax credits worth up to $500 for many projects are good only through December 31, 2011.
6. Fresh Food
Finally, you might not think of food purchase in the same way you think of car or lawn mower purchases, or even clothing, but the Fall is a good time to find the best prices on locally grown fresh foods, MacEahern points out, since harvest time means lots of farmers have lots of produce they're trying to sell at the same time.
"It's a great time to shop at farmers' markets," said MacEahern, who lives in Tacoma Park, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., where farmers' markets abound. "Generally the quality is high but the food is expensive. Now there is so much food in farmers' markets that it's really cheap. I got these beautiful organic tomatoes for $3 a pound. It's more expensive than a grocery store, but it's a great price for organic tomatoes.
Article courtesy of thedailygreen.com