How to time your way to the best prices

There had been suggestions that this latest Black Friday would be all puff and no pound, as consumers tightened their belts or just lost faith in the bargains they were offered.

In fact, data from Barclaycard suggests it was a record day of sales, with its transaction volumes up by more than 16 per cent on last year.

But if you didn’t take part and you just can’t wait for January sales to hunt down a bargain then there’s some good news. The online price-tracking website alertr.co.uk has analysed onsite data and purchasing habits and reckons that the best deals are available this coming week – from 9 to 15 December.

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That’s because retailers will be competing for the last share of our Christmas spending and know that the best way to get our attention is by seeming to offer a bargain.

Different retailers offer different deals all the time and it can be hard to work out what is genuinely a good price and what is just hype. But there are certain times of year when you can pay a lot less for a lot more.

Here’s how to time your way to better prices and have a cheaper 2020.

Christmas stuff – late December/January

Okay, let’s start with the most obvious and nearest bargain time. Christmas is a fixed point, you know it’s coming every year.

So snapping up discounted wrapping paper, cards and even decorations in the sales immediately after the 25th makes perfect sense. And think how smug you can be this time next year.

A new or second-hand car – February and August

The UK system of biannual number plates means that there’s a rush to buy new cars with new plates in September and March.

In the months before then, many dealers want to shift their older stock to make space for the new cars they will need to fit on their forecourts. As people trade in older vehicles, that means that even the second-hand car market gets a rush of new stock.

This means dealers are keen to make a sale in February and August so you’re more likely to get a good deal. It also means they may be quieter as people hold out for the new plates so you have more scope to haggle.

Furniture – January

Most people who are planning new furniture want to get it in ready for Christmastime. That means that the January sales really can be a great time to find a bargain on a new sofa, table or other big purchase.

Garden furniture – October

By the time October rolls around no one is thinking about days spent in the garden and many retailers want to free up space in the warehouse for the Christmas stock they need to hold.

That means it’s a great time of year to find a bargain on BBQs, and outdoor furniture and toys.

If you can think ahead then this is the time to find a good deal.

Winter coats – April

It might seem like the height of summer is the best time to buy a big warm coat but actually, that’s the start of the coat-buying season as people look ahead to autumn and winter trends.

So, the right time to buy a winter coat is when it starts to look brighter and like it might soon be warmer – think spring or even earlier if it’s a mild winter.

Printer – spring

Admittedly it’s hard to plan ahead when shopping for a printer. You most likely need one because either your current printer has stopped working (they do, don’t they? They so often just stop) or because you don’t have one but have a sudden urgent need to print.

However, if you can wait then great because Which? found that printers fall to their cheapest prices between April and June. It suggests this is because the school year starts winding down and because older models start getting phased out.

Perishable food – 7pm (ish. But it varies)

It just feels good to buy expensive food items for a fraction of their price. Often supermarkets mark stuff that’s about to go off right down, sometimes half price. 

That’s why it’s useful to know exactly when your regular supermarket starts marking down the stuff that’s about to go out of date.

Different shops begin their discounting at different times – Asda typically reduces at around 7pm in the evening, M&S about an hour before closing.

Look online and find out the best time to snap up a deal at your regular supermarket but you will need to be really snappy as other shoppers can get quite competitive.

Toys – January

Unsurprisingly, immediately after Christmas is the best time of year to buy toys, according to a study by the credit card firm Marbles.

That’s not much help to parents who do need to ensure their kids have something under the tree in time for Christmas rather than Valentine’s. 

But it can be a good time to snap up toys ahead of birthdays later in the year.

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