Smart shoppers have a secret: buying in the off-season. Rather than heading to the stores at the same time as everyone else, they shop for items at non-peak times, when retailers are more likely to unload old merchandise and there’s not a lot of demand to drive up prices. By shopping for winter clothes in March and summer sports equipment in August, these savvy consumers can save big.
You can do the same. Whether you’ve got kids who are growing out of their winter gear or you just want to save a few dollars, the trick is knowing what items and services to buy when. To help you out, we’ve put together this list of seven items that are usually cheaper in the off-season, from real estate to Christmas cards.
1. Holiday cards and décor
The best time to buy holiday cards and décor is just after the celebration in question, when unsold items go on clearance. Snatch up Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and ornaments in the weeks after the December holiday and look for Halloween decoration at the beginning of November.
“You can find excellent deals on Christmas cards in January,” according to The Peaceful Mom blog. “[E]xpect discounts up to 80% off, as retailers want to get rid of the leftover inventory from the holiday season.
2. Real estate
Yes, there’s an off-season for real estate. Shopping for a home in the winter could save you money, since there tends to be less competition among buyers that can drive up prices. Plus, people who list their homes in the winter may be eager to sell quickly, perhaps because a job loss or other event is forcing them to move, according to the Realtor.com.
“Off-season sellers are typically more motivated, thus more willing to make a deal,” real estate agent Dave Fry told Realtor.com.
3. Outdoor and lawn items
As temperatures turn cool in September and October, stores tend to slash prices on outdoor items like lawnmowers and grills, according to Consumer Reports. The fall is also a good time to get a discount on patio furniture.
[B]ig box stores don’t have a garage to store the furniture they haven’t sold. So instead, they slash the prices of their inventory in October to quickly get rid of it making it a great time to buy,” notes the Frugal Farmer blog.
Wedding vendors frequently offer discounts during the less popular months. “In summer, demand is high, supply is lower and venues have the ability to demand a higher asking price,” Jamie Miles, the editor of The Knot, told the Denver Post. “But if you’re looking to get married in the winter, you have more of an upper hand with your vendors and wedding professionals. You may be able to negotiate.”
Keep in mind that the off-season in your area will be determined by climate. Getting married in the winter can save you big in chilly northern and midwestern states, while summer is the time to get a deal in the southwest.
5. Winter sports gear
The spring months of March and April are the best time to find bargains on winter sports items like skis and snowboards. Discounts can be as high as 80%. April is also a good time to shop for hats, gloves, winter coats, and sweaters.
Once you have your new gear, you don’t have to wait until next winter to try it out. Spring can also be a great time to score a deal at ski resorts, according to travel expert Peter Greenberg.
Vacationing at non-peak times can save you a lot of cash, provided you’re willing to deal with less-than-perfect weather. Caribbean cruises are cheaper during hurricane season, notes Condé Nast Traveler, while trips to Europe are more affordable from November through March, when the weather tends to be cold and rainy.
“Off-season airfares are often hundreds of dollars cheaper,” writes European travel expert Rick Steves. “With fewer crowds in Europe, you may find you can sleep for less: Many fine hotels drop their prices, and budget hotels will have plenty of vacancies.”
Off-season travel isn’t without its headaches, though. Not only do you need to prepare for inclement weather, but there’s also the possibility that certain tourist attractions may be closed or have limited hours. Be sure to check ahead of time so you can be sure you’ll be able to see all your must-visit sites.
7. Gym memberships
Many people sign up for new gym memberships in January, intent on sticking to those New Year’s weight-loss resolutions. But you can save if you wait until June to find a new gym, when many people are more focused on outdoor activities than indoor exercise.
“You’ll find lower fees and waived enrollment fees to lure you to their treadmills,” notes April Dykman of Get Rich Slowly.