This post comes from Ben Glaser at partner site DealNews.com.
Spring is (hopefully) at our doorstep, and even if you’re planning to stay glued to the couch for all of March Madness, you’ll also likely be doing a bit of spring shopping. To help you save big, we’ve mined the extensive DealNews archives for sales, coupons and deals from the past few years to guide you in your quest to make the most savvy purchases this month. From chocolates to iPads, here are the best and worst things to buy in March.
Treat yourself to chocolate
Did you not get the sweets you hoped for on Valentine’s Day? Well luckily you can peruse high-end chocolate shops for any lingering V-Day treats. As always after a holiday, themed sweets go on sale at any store with overstock. This month, look for treats that haven’t been gobbled up and you’ll find discounts of up to 50 percent off at places like Godiva. Also check the gift section of department stores for other decadent ways to treat yourself on a budget.
Skip the lingerie
You may think that immediately after the most romantic day of the year, you’d see huge discounts on lingerie. But, although we do indeed see some price cuts, it’s not really the best time to buy underthings. Instead, wait for June and July; that’s when Victoria’s Secret unveils its famed Semi-Annual Sale. Last year around the same time, we also saw excellent markdowns from a plethora of other retailers like Frederick’s of Hollywood, Maidenform, Aerie, Soma and Bare Necessities.
Hold off on buying spring apparel
It’s common knowledge that the best time to buy current season apparel is well after said season has begun. That’s why cold weather apparel is still such a hot buy right now. But how long until you can don the fashionable and cheap short sleeves, shorts and flirty dresses which have started to filter into stores? A good rule of thumb is to wait at least two to three months into a season in order to score the best discounts on weather-appropriate apparel.
In the meantime, if you simply must buy something new for spring now, keep an eye out for coupon codes that offer nominal discounts on whatever must-have full-price apparel catches your eye. When we did see discounts last March, there was often a big catch: Either very few items were eligible for the markdown, or these flash sales lasted only a day. But if you follow your favorite retailers on social media, you might get early notice about these opportunities, possibly scoring up to 40 percent off at Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and more.
Save on last year’s phones, wait for discounts on new models
Many new Android and Windows phones debuted at the Mobile World Congress at the end of February. That means a slew of 2015 models became previous-generation, and will very soon see discounts both on and off-contract. Samsung introduced two new versions, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which should mean the S6 will soon drop in price. (We most recently saw it discounted for $500 unlocked).
It’s also worth checking out phones from other manufacturers like LG, HTC and Sony, which also unveiled new phones at MWC. (Motorola is another popular alternative for Android phones, but the brand has not unveiled any new phones recently.) These brands consistently make well-reviewed handsets but get overshadowed by Samsung (and Apple). With their new models debuting recently as well, they will also be seeing prices drop.
Though if you have your heart set on one of the new models, it rarely takes long for new phones to see deals, and if you find a new device that strikes your fancy, waiting just a few months should yield a 50 percent-off discount. So if you’re not in a hurry, waiting a few more months to buy a new smartphone might be wise.
Old iPad Airs will be cheaper at the end of the month
Reliable sources have it that Apple will release a new iPad Air and a 4-inch iPhone, dubbed the 5se on March 15. That means the two previous generations of iPad Airs will drop significantly; that’s especially good news for consumers, as iPads tend to hold up well both in resale value and performance over a few generations.
As for the iPhone, there hasn’t been a 4-inch model since the 5s in 2013. This might not affect prices of the 6 and 6 Plus, but is good news for those looking for an entry-level iPhone and one that is more compact.
Enjoy cheap gas
Average U.S. gas prices have been below $2 since December 2015, which means this is a great time for a driving vacation. Low gas prices are also contributing to the lowest airfares since 2010, though you have to be aware of what your fare does and doesn’t include, like carry-on bags and meals.
It might be time to get Amazon Prime
Amazon announced last month that they would be raising the minimum order for free shipping from $35 to $49 for non-members of Prime, a 40 percent increase. (Eligible book orders of at least $25 will still ship free.)
That means that the arithmetic of your Amazon shopping might have just changed. You can continue shopping on the site without a membership; it still might be the most affordable option, especially if you make infrequent purchases that are usually over $49. Otherwise, it’s time to either pay for a $99 a year Prime membership, or seek alternatives to Amazon.
Free shipping is difficult for retailers, though, and it might be hard to find a viable alternative. A year ago, when Target lowered its free shipping minimum to $25 (in a clear shot at Amazon), we noted that Amazon was losing an estimated $2 billion a year on the service. Since then, Target’s rates have been maintained, but Zappos-owned 6pm surprised many by dropping their policy of free shipping on all orders. Other major retailers are likely to raise shipping minimums and offer incentives for shoppers to choose slower shipping methods.
Also, it’s worth remembering that an Amazon Prime membership comes with more than just free shipping.
55-inch TVs offer the best value
We’re hitting a dry season for TV deals, but not all hope is lost for consumers in need of a new flat-screen. But 55-inch sets are again providing the best value and most discounts. The best deals for a name-brand 1080p set have hovered around $400. But we’ve even seen name-brand 4K flirting with the $500 range. If you don’t care so much for brand names, you can knock $150 or so off your price tag.
Before you buy anything though, be sure to check out DealNews’ guide to the biggest myths about buying a TV.
16-inch Broadwell laptops at near-Black Friday prices
Intel’s current-generation Skylake processors are going in some surprisingly affordable laptops, but for value, it’s still best to go with the older-generation Broadwell or even Haswell processors. Last month, we saw 16-inch Broadwell laptops for around $400, though one was as little as $330. (The cheapest we saw on Black Friday was $315.) For those who want Skylake, your best bet is a 14-inch for around $500.
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