Consumer Reports tracks the prices of lots of products all year long, which means we can let you know which month (or, in some cases, months) you can find a deep discount on those items. In October, you'll find deep discounts on bicycles, computers, digital cameras, gas grills, lawn mowers and tractors, patio furniture, summer sporting goods, and winter clothing.
For the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, also look for deals on indoor furniture, large appliances, and mattresses, says Howard Schaffer, vice-president of merchandising and partner management at Offers.com, a coupon, promo code, and product deal site. "Consider shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, which may match or beat the best deals you can find online to get people into their stores," he says.
Just keep our usual caveat in mind: Great sales offen occur at the end of a season when inventories are thin, so you may not have a huge selection from which to choose. As a result, it's important to check our buying guides and our Ratings (including our brand reliability data) to make sure you also get a great performing product.
You'll find a deep discount on bikes in October, because we're approaching the end of the riding season in many places in the country.
Not sure which kind of bike to buy? Narrow your choice to one of the basic types. If you're an avid cyclist, you may prefer a conventional road bike. Looking for a leisurely ride on flat, paved roads? A comfort bike may be more your speed. If you favor rugged trails, a mountain bike might be best.
Take if for a spin. Before you make a purchase, ride a bike far enough to make sure that the brakes and shifters are easy to use, the fit is comfortable, the gears can go low enough for climbing hills, and the frame and suspension adequately smooth the bumps.
If you'll be riding with children, we have a guide to bike trailers that will let you take a child on your riding adventures long before she's ready for training wheels.
And read our bike helmet buying guide to make sure you get the best fit (subscribers can read our bike helmet Ratings).
If you're in the market for a new computer because your old model's performance is sluggish at best, try to beef up its performance first. For example, delete programs you no longer use. If that isn't enough, and if the computer is no more than four years old, add 1GB of memory. Adding memory is an inexpensive and easy way to upgrade your computer.
If you're running out of hard drive space, burn your music, photos, and videos onto CDs or DVDs, or onto an external drive, and delete them from your hard drive.
If that doesn't work and the computer is more than four years old, it's probably time to replace it. Check out our computer buying guide to brush up on the latest features and shopping tips (subscribers can check out our Ratings of laptops and desktops and our Ratings of computer stores). Also watch our laptop buying guide video below.
Pay attention to ergonomics. Especially when you're buying a laptop, try it before you buy it, if you can. The keyboard shouldn't bend under continuous tapping, the touchpad should be large enough so that your finger can cover the span of the screen without repeatedly lifting it, and touchpad buttons should be easy to find and press. Carry the laptop around for a few minutes and make sure it isn't too heavy or too big.
Think green when you buy. Some computers meet the new Energy Star standard for efficient power use. Energy-use guidelines cover three operating modes—standby, sleep, and running—with systems entering sleep mode within 30 minutes of inactivity. Power supplies also need to operate more efficiently. You probably won't notice much difference in the operation of your computer, but your electricity bill might go down a bit. Look for the Energy Star label on qualified computers.
3. Digital Cameras
Whether you're looking for a basic digital camera (simple point-and-shoots with just the features needed for routine shots), or an advanced model (feature-laden cameras that include sophisticated models that let you change lenses), now is a good time to shop. Our buying guide and Ratings of digital cameras give you the details on different models, and infomation on features and brands.
Do your research. Buying a digital camera can be confusing. There are hundreds of cameras available at many different types of retail outlets (online and in traditional stores), with prices ranging from $75 to several thousand dollars. Some cameras are small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Others are large and can weigh up to two pounds. Some are easy to use. Others look like you need an engineering degree to operate them.
Take the next steps. After you consider the type of camera you want and the number of megapixels you need, but before you dive into specific models, be sure to check out our brand profiles, which outline many of the most popular camera product lines and their respective character traits.
4. Gas Grills
Sadly, we're approaching the end of the grilling season (even though some of us have been known to clear a path through the snow to do some wintertime outdoor cooking), so you'll find some deep discounts on the stock still in stores.
Think about size. Match the grill's cooking area to the number of people you typically feed. Remember, manufacturers might include racks and searing burners when tallying cooking area. Our measurements are based on the main cooking area and how much food it will hold.
Think about space. Next factor in how much area the grill will take up on your patio or deck. Some of the grills we tested are a whopping six feet wide.
You'll find more shopping tips in our grills buying guide. (Subscribers can find our recommended models in three different size categories in our gas grill Ratings.)
5. Lawn Mowers and Tractors
Even if you don't plan to shop for a mower, you could end up doing so if you own an older model and it breaks. The latest data from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that push mowers usually aren't worth fixing after four years and self-propelled mowers after five years. Older tractors might be worth repairing, but getting them to and from the shop can add expense.
Consider how you'll use it. Most models come ready to mulch, bag, or side-discharge clippings. But mulching or bagging with a riding machine usually requires a kit that costs $50 to $500.
Check the features and controls before you buy. Most tractors and riders let you speed up or slow down with a convenient pedal instead of a lever. Among self-propelled mowers, Toro models let you vary speed simply by pushing the handlebar, while Hondas let you adjust the ground speed without removing your hands from the handlebar.
For more tips, read our buying guide; subscribers can also review our Ratings of lawn mowers and tractors.
6. Patio Furniture
As the outdoor living season has been coming to an end, patio furniture has been on sale for several weeks now. As a result, inventories in October are likely to be extra thin–but that means you can get a deep discount on what's left. "Patio furniture will likely be marked down anywhere from 50 to 80 percent this month," says Schaffer. Buying the right furniture can help you transform your outdoor space into a place you’ll want to hang out until winter's chill forces you indoors. Some well-made sets are reasonably priced, but you do have to know what to look for in outdoor furniture.
Consider the material. For example, choose untreated natural wicker only if it will be protected from the elements. Otherwise go with outdoor plastic wicker. Resin plastic is a good choice for poolside or in salt air, but strong winds can knock lightweight pieces around, so choose sturdy chairs, and ones that are wider, allowing guests to get comfortable.
Try it out. Before you buy, sit in the chairs and pull them up to the table. Check that the seat height is fine, and your knees don’t touch the table. You’ll want chairs that are roomy with comfortable armrests. Cushions should be well padded, water resistant, and fit well. And be sure the legs of the table don’t get in the way.
7. Summer Sporting Goods
The end of warm weather in many places also means the end of peak camping season. Stores like Cabela's and Camping World are looking to move camping inventory and discount prices by as much as 30 to 50 percent, says Schaffer. You can also find huge discounts on summer sporting goods in stores, such as 60 percent off baseball items or 50 percent off golf gear.
Haggle, haggle, haggle. In a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 2,000 American adults about their haggling habits, 89 percent of people who said they haggled received a better price at least once. To increase the odds you can negotiate a better deal, remember that nothing is off limits. You should always be polite. And make sure you know what constitutes a fair price before you start. For more tips on becoming an expert haggler, read our tips on effective bargaining.
Consider consignment. Luxury consignment shops are good places to find first-rate deals on second-hand goods including sports gear any time of year. You might find the deepest discounts, however, on sporting goods at outlets; read our guide to outlet shopping.
8. Winter Clothing
A new coat is likely to be one of your bigger clothing purchases if you live in a cold climate, and one of most used items in your closet during the winter. Other winter clothing will also be marked down this month to make way for new winter lines, so the duds on deep discount will be from last year.
Time your purchase. Shopping at the right time can save you even more. Kohl's fans, for example, should check out the "Gold Star Clearance" racks, where prices are slashed up to 80 percent on weekend nights. In some stores, shoppers who are 60 years old and older get an extra 15 percent off on Wednesdays.
At Target, women's clothing is generally marked down on Tuesdays, men's on Wednesdays, and kids' on Mondays. Markdowns at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx usually happen on Wednesday.
Hit the outlets We've looked over the clothing sold at outlets several times, and we've found most of the goods are good, even if there are some shortcuts taken (like less expensive buttons or fewer stitches per inch) on items made expressly for the outlets to lower the price from regular retail versions. Just look over each piece of clothing carefully to make sure there are no loose threads, tears, or other faults.
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