Sep 8, 2007

Best Time to Harvest Deals in Autumn

Leaves aren't the only things that fall in autumn.

As retailers clean out old inventory and make room for the upcoming holiday season and new year, there are plenty of bargains to be found. Shop for the right items, and you'll see prices drop just as fast as -- if not quicker than -- the foliage outside. Here's our guide to what's best to buy in September, October and November.

When to Buy: September

Why: Next year's models are on the lot, meaning all vehicles in the current model year must get cleared out pronto, says Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for During this time, cash incentives from auto makers abound, plus dealers are more willing to negotiate.

If you're picky about the car you want, go to the lot early in the month, says Reed. While deeper discounts proliferate late in the month (as dealers grow more eager to move older cars), the selection is much more limited. "You get weirdly optioned cars and off colors," says Reed.

Holiday Airfare
When to Buy: September

Why: Booking your trip to Aunt Louise's house for Christmas a few months in advance offers you the best combination of fare selection and price, says Anne Banas, executive editor for travel advice site . Wait, and it's likely that you'll have to consider alternate airports and days, include a layover or two, or stomach a price you're not happy with. "By the end of October, things are pretty much booked up," she says. "Then, it's just about availability."

When to Buy: October

Why: Get this year's styles at clearance prices. Retailers start discounting their jeans after the back-to-school promotional push ends in September, says fashion expert Kathryn Finney, a.k.a. The Budget Fashionista . Expect even better deals this year, predicts Finney. "Dresses are very 'in' this year, which may cut into jean sales," she says. More stock on the shelves means bigger discounts at a faster rate.

Plants (Trees/Shrubs/Perennial Flowers)
When to Buy: September

Why: Nurseries and gardening stores would rather deeply discount their inventories of trees, shrubs and perennial flowers than try to hold them over until spring -- and risk losing everything, says Charlie Nardozzi, a senior horticulturist with the National Gardening Association. Even better news: "Now is actually also the best time to plant," says Nardozzi. "The soil is still warm so they'll put in a lot of root growth before winter."

When to Buy: November

Why: Get trendy shoes for less before the winter hits. In September, retailers push sneakers for back to school. But by mid-October, they've moved on to anticipating snowier pastures, says Finney. "Stores start to push more toward boots," she says. That means more sneakers on sale.

When to Buy: October

Why: Most new toys debut in September, says Jim Silver, editor of Toy Wishes magazine. "It's the start of the holiday season, so to speak," he says. Retailers begin making price adjustments based on what the others are selling a given toy for. By October, you'll see hot price competition -- and those must-have holiday toys that everyone will be fighting over in November will still be on the shelves.

Wedding Dresses
When to Buy: November (specifically, after Thanksgiving)

Why: "The dynamic of the wedding industry is that most people get engaged at Christmas, and most people who are planning [a wedding] get distracted by the holidays," says Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains." The result: very lonely bridal-shop owners anxious for business. "You have much more negotiating power," says Fields. You could easily save 15% to 25% on your dress or get free alterations (typically a $300 value).

When to Buy: September

Why: "Fall is always when the new bottles from last year's harvest show up on shelves," says Natalie MacLean, editor of Nat Decants , a wine education site. The crush of vineyards clamoring for your attention keeps prices low. The exception: high-demand, low-supply "cult wines" like Burgundies and California Cabernets. You won't find low prices on these, says MacLean -- but September is your best shot to snag these hard-to-find bottles.


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