Personal finance: how to afford those big purchases

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When Brandy Baxter had to replace the entire heating and cooling system in her home several years ago, she asked contractors if they offered deals at certain times of the year.

She learned that if she waited until February, the low season for such work, she could get a lower price. Baxter, a financial coach, says she saved about $6,000.

When it comes to saving money on big purchases, timing is sometimes everything. Taking advantage of certain holiday weekends and seasonal discounts can result in significant savings, which is especially helpful when inflation continues to drive prices up. Consumers can also consider their own cash flow fluctuations and buy big ticket items when they can best afford them.


“There are two fundamentals: buy items during the shoulder season and buy items during holiday weekends,” says Kimberlee Stokes, founder of ThePeacefulMom.com, a website for moms who want to save money. and get organized. “It takes some planning.”

Here’s how to plan your purchases to make the most of your budget.

Traditionally, three weekends of the year — Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day weekends — are the best for deals on appliances, furniture and mattresses, says expert Trae Bodge. in smart shopping at TrueTrae.com, which offers savings advice. For electronics, Black Friday in November is the perfect time to buy, closely followed by Amazon’s Prime Day sale, which took place this week.

Bodge adds that some specific items have unique sale periods. TVs typically see their lowest prices in late January and early February, just before the Super Bowl.

If you miss a specific sale, Stokes says not to worry. The key is to plan ahead and track prices so you can shop during price dips, such as seasonal lulls. Buy winter sports equipment in the summer or outdoor furniture in the fall, for example.

“If you can control yourself and wait, you’ll get better deals,” she says.

It’s also worth watching for markdowns associated with inventory buildups, as supply chain issues continue to cause problems. When chains like Target and Walmart have excess inventory, they tend to offer big sales, sometimes at unexpected times.

You don’t need to track prices manually – apps and browser extensions can take care of that job. Honey browser extension fetches coupons from the web; CouponCabin alerts you to cashback and coupon opportunities; and Rakuten activates online store coupons and cashback at checkout. Amazon Assistant lets you know if Amazon offers a lower price when you shop elsewhere.

“If you don’t have at least one extension installed on your computer, you’re leaving money on the table,” says Bodge. By tracking prices ahead of sale weekends, you can make an informed decision on whether a good deal is worth it, she adds.

Baxter recommends saving the items you follow to a wishlist, a service offered by many online retailers as an alternative to placing items in your shopping cart.

“If I need retail therapy, I put it on the list, and then I can see when the price goes up or down,” Baxter explains. “You can satisfy this desire for consumption without parting with your money.” Sometimes the retailer will alert you when the price of an item on your wishlist drops.

Many states offer duty-free holidays, which can be a great time to buy big-ticket items that aren’t otherwise on sale, suggests Baxter.

There are times of the year when you may experience increased cash flow from sources such as a tax refund, annual bonus, or birthday and graduation gifts. If so, these times can be ideal for making major purchases without going into debt, says Kevin Mahoney, founder of Illumint, a financial planning company for millennials.

Conversely, certain months tend to see more spending on things like annual insurance payments, summer camp fees, or vacation gifts. Avoiding other major purchases during these times can help your budget absorb the many demands, advises Mahoney.

“It’s important to be aware of times when costs are rising and perhaps delay purchases until those points have passed and you see how your budget has held up during those times,” he says.

Although sometimes you don’t have a choice – for example, buying a replacement water heater because yours broke down – in many cases you can plan your purchases in advance. This allows you to take advantage of sales periods and gives you more time to search for exactly what you want.

“Waiting to buy can give you more clarity,” says Mahoney — another reason to add items to a wishlist before adding them to your cart.

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