What to Buy Now for Summer Savings

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Cherry-pick winter's low prices for stuff you can use in a few months: clothing, cruises, champagne, camp, convertibles.

All shopped out? I hope not. Post-holiday sales and seasonal discounts can really prop up your spring and summer budgets.

Judicious use of seasonal or clearance sales helps keep wedding costs in check. Early-enrollment discounts make it cheaper to send your little Jacques Cousteau to marine science camp. And if you've decided this is the year to get yourself that sports car, why pay retail?

It isn't all champagne and Corvettes, mind you. Some deeply discounted "winter" clothing can outfit your family in summer, too. Your wedding-gift dollars go a lot further in the clearance section at Bed Bath & Beyond. And true frugalists do most of their Christmas and birthday shopping at this time of year.

"January is a huge, huge opportunity: Everything is on sale. They've got to get it out of the store," says Mary Alice Haney, editor-in-chief of ThisNext.

Shop now, in the winter, and save next summer. Here's how.

FOR THE HOME

I always associate this time of year with the "white sale," i.e., towels and other linens. But according to Savings.com, January and February are good bets for discounts on a ton of things.

Among them: office furniture, boats, home theater/HDTV setups, wedding items, boots and winter wear, gas grills, bicycles, cookware, video games, hardware, champagne, electronics, jewelry, linens, mattresses, patio furniture and party supplies.

(Note that some of these discounts began before January and continue past February. For more information, go here.

"Wedding items," "champagne" and "party supplies" — are you listening, engaged couples?

Categories like jewelry and hardware might lend themselves to wedding-attendant gifts. Your groomsmen might enjoy an all-in-one tool more than a pair of cufflinks, and some bridesmaids prefer pendants to picture frames. Or choose from other gift-y things that stores are trying to offload: spa items, photo albums, watches, candles and art books.

While you're at it, peek in at the January white sale and post-holiday clearances for tablecloths, serving dishes and other reception supplies. Celebrity chef/caterer Lulu Powers is seeing linen napkins for $1 each plus "crazy sales" on glassware and other items suitable for a wedding banquet.

Or, for a casual patio party come July. Powers is a big fan of using the extraordinary in the everyday. "Don't keep the linen napkins and champagne for special occasions. Enjoy it," says the author of "Lulu Powers Food to Flowers: Simple, Stylish Food for Easy Entertaining."

About that champagne: It's not always cheaper at this time of year. While some merchants find themselves with leftover bubbly on Jan. 1, "it's not the rule (that) all retailers overbuy," says Tom Wark of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association.

But it's definitely worth a few calls to wine merchants in your area. Those going the no-alcohol route should watch for clearance prices on sparkling cider; you can probably find it at salvage grocery stores, too.

THE GARDEN

Summer means gardening or maybe "yardening." Winter means good deals on both. See that one lonely lawnmower at the back of the hardware store? Make an offer, even if it's already on sale.

Or go to your favorite retailer's site and look for the word "clearance." A casual glance at the venerable Gardener's Supply Company showed up to 45% off items both practical (a raised-bed watering system) and ornamental (scrolled hose guides).

If you have a specific need, type phrases like "discount seeds" or "clearance tiki torches" into an online search engine. You'll discover things like the 50% discount on the "Seeds of the Month Club" in January (referral code "winter"). That works out to $12 for one year's worth (52 packets), says Michael Podlesny, aka Mike The Gardener, and the price is even lower you subscribe for two or three years.

The special will likely be repeated in February, to allow ample time for garden design and starting seeds indoors. The club also helps the dirt-deprived cope with what Podlesny calls "that winter feeling."

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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