The Best and Worst Things to Buy in May

Look to nontraditional Mother's Day gifts to beat pre-holiday price hikes. And now is not the best time to buy Apple products. It may also pay to delay buying a laptop if you can.

The Best and Worst Things to Buy in May Photo (cc) by bitslammer

This post comes from Lindsay Sakraida at partner site DealNews.

While it’s officially been spring for some time now, it seems safe to say that with the month of May comes definitive spring weather. And as the temperatures heat up, so too do the deals!

We combed through our shopping archives so that you can put that new-found active spirit to good use by hitting the malls (and surfing online, obviously) in search of the best buys in May.

In partnership with DealNews, Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson produced the following video about the best things to buy in May. Check it out, then read on for what you should, and should not, purchase this month.

Memorial Day sales and coupons: Some of the year’s best

Oftentimes, stores want you to believe that every holiday weekend will feature some of the deepest discounts of the season, but that isn’t always the case. However, as an almost mid-year event, we’ve consistently found that Memorial Day promotions tend to boast some of the best sales since January.

Keep an eye out in particular for a plethora of stacking coupons that will make already-discounted goods even cheaper; often these sales are the largest in recent months. (For example, last year Last Call by Neiman Marcus took an extra 40 percent off sitewide, including sale items, its best such coupon since Cyber Monday.)

Look to your favorite apparel, home goods, and department stores — as well as retailers with a history of offering a ton of regular coupons — for special holiday promotions.

Spring clothing deals heat up

Late April was an excellent time to start shopping for spring clothing deals, but the discounts really heat up in May. That’s because current-season apparel has now been on the shelves for about two months, and in order to make way for summer styles, retailers will begin offering discounts that could take 50 percent off or more.

If you want a particularly large discount, try holding out until Memorial Day weekend for those aforementioned stacking coupons. (And for a complete rundown of how to find and optimally use those coupons, check out our coupon guide.)

Opt for less traditional Mother’s Day gifts and save more

Last month, we suggested that shoppers buy their Mother’s Day gifts early to get the best deals possible. But, if you still haven’t bought Mom that perfect present, consider avoiding the traditional.

In the past, we’ve seen jewelry styles actually increase in price at the beginning of the month, and buying such items now means you may not be getting the best possible value. Instead, consider gifting Mom something that’s seeing great deals, like spring clothing or one of our Editors’ Choice deals.

Beef prices are on the rise … again

We certainly hope this doesn’t become an annual tradition, but history is certainly repeating itself. Just as they did last year, beef prices have once again hit record highs. In fact, the cost of beef is at its highest in 30 years due to drought.

Peak grilling season is still a ways off, but a savvy shopper should start finding ways to work cheaper proteins into their diet, like chicken, or less expensive cuts of beef like “chuck short ribs, beef back ribs, and shoulder clod,” according to NPR.

Hold off on Apple purchases

Apple will be holding its annual WWDC conference in early June, at which point it may debut a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — and possibly other devices as well. If you purchase any of these items now, you’ll be kicking yourself come next month, as many retailers will offer fresh price cuts on your device as it gets relegated to “previous generation” status.

And if you’re holding off in the hopes of buying those brand-new models, keep in mind that Apple products have been dropping in price much faster in the past year. For example, we found a deal on the 2013 MacBook Air that slashed 20 percent off just two months after it debuted (which would be about late August or September for this cycle).

The 60-inch HDTV remains king of the hill

March and April were both quiet months for TV deals, with a scarcity of bargains across most category sizes. Unfortunately, May is expected to follow suit, so consumers shopping for a new TV may want to hold off on their purchase if possible.

The only HDTVs seeing consistent deals are those in the 60-inch screen size category. Those TVs continue to dominate the deal arena, and April saw particularly good sales on 60-inch plasma TVs, which hit an all-time price low of $600. (These sets had otherwise been averaging $702 since the start of the year.)

Shoppers who want to upgrade their TV before the start of the World Cup should look at deals at or about the $600 range to get the most value from their purchase. Brands to look for include LG and Samsung, which are the only plasma makers currently left in the industry. By contrast, 60-inch 1080p LCDs have hovered around the $700 mark for name-brand sets and $500 for off-brand sets.

Laptop sales continue to decline

Although some manufacturers had hoped that 2014 would be the comeback year for PC sales, as we approach the halfway mark, reports indicate PC sales are still in decline. According to Gartner, global shipments declined 1.7 percent in the first quarter of 2014, compared with shipments from a year ago.

That doesn’t leave much hope for the remainder of the year, but for consumers it means that finding deals should be easy because prices will remain low. That said, we’re roughly two months away from back-to-school season, when we can expect to see some aggressive laptop deals. So shoppers will see better laptop deals in the near future if they can afford to wait.

Otherwise, we recommend looking at deals for machines that house Intel’s Haswell Core i3 processor. It’s the company’s budget chip. In March, 15-inch laptops with these CPUs took a healthy dip, hitting an all-time price low of $350. We expect deals on these systems to remain low through May, as the cheapest deals have averaged $383 in the past three months.

Microsoft offers discounts to celebrate the end of XP

Finally, Microsoft ended its support for Windows XP last month, which means consumers still using XP-based machines will cease getting software and security updates for their computer. However, Microsoft is making the transition to their latest operating system slightly easier by taking $100 off the purchase of any Surface Pro 2 or select Windows 8 PCs costing $599 or more.

To receive the discount, you must either bring your Windows machine to a Microsoft Store near you or surf over to the Microsoft Store’s website using your Windows XP machine. The offer is valid through June 15.

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