The best and worst things to buy in February
February is always the shortest month of the year, but it still boasts big opportunities for savings.
February may be the shortest month of the year, but it's certainly not lacking in savings. You might not score as big of a discount as you would like on a Valentine's Day gift, but this month you'll find deals on several necessities like winter coats and tax software.
We've sorted through the DealNews archives of sales, coupons, and daily deals to find out what the best and worst things are to buy in February. Peruse the advice, then consider signing up for the DealNews Select Newsletter to get the best deals of the day delivered to your inbox.
V-Day Deals Won't Shine, But Savings Will Be Sweet
Since many Valentine's Day gifts are at their most in-demand during the first two weeks of February, the discounts on these items are generally pretty modest. However, that doesn't mean you should give up and pay full-price; at the very least, you should be able to find a coupon that slashes 20% to 30% off the gift of your choice.
Of the many deals we listed last year, jewelry and flowers were the most dominant category-wise. For jewelry, while most broad coupons and sales will be in that 20% range, sites like Szul, Ashford, Kay Jewelers, BlueNile, and Kohl's will cut up to 90% off select items. Flowers and gift baskets will see 20% to 50% off from sites like 1-800-Flowers, 1-800-Baskets, FTD, Groupon, and Proflowers.
For more details on what kind of deals to look for, check out our full Valentine's Day buying guide.
Prepare for Presidents' Day Sales
Although the majority of sales will span the holiday weekend leading up to February 15, Presidents' Day deals arrive early and stay late. In years past, we've seen them start as early as February 5, and last through February 22. Mattresses are the classic category to shop during these sales, and last year we saw discounts of up to 60% off at Sears, and up to 50% off with an extra 40% off at US-Mattress.
But other product categories saw an uptick in Presidents' Day sales for the last two years, with as much as 85% off a plethora of apparel, home items, and furniture. Some retailers tend to offer deeper discounts on existing sales, while others will lean towards modest coupons (likely an extra 20% to 30% off) that are applicable sitewide.
Look to clothing and department stores for a big Presidents' Day sale push. Last year, apparel sales were generally 50% to 60% off, sometimes on top of already-discounted clearance items, from Calvin Klein Outlet, Barneys Warehouse, H&M, Nautica, and more. Department stores like Walmart, Sears, Target, Best Buy, Pottery Barn, and Macy's cut anywhere from 20% to 70% off home goods.
Check out our Presidents' Day sales guide for more information about what stores to hit up, and what discounts to expect.
Keep an Eye Out for Tax Software Deals
While Editors' Choice tax software deals are sometimes hard to come by, February will most definitely usher in a plethora of discounts. Look for promotions that slash 30% to 50% off programs from H&R Block, TurboTax, and more. (TurboTax already had a 50% off sale in January, so it's likely to return again for eagle-eyed shoppers.) In general, these discounts won't get much better as Tax Day approaches, so if you see a temporary discount, you might want to jump on it so you can get taxes filed sooner than later.
Wait for New Models Before Buying a Smartphone
Typically, spring is when we see the big Android and Windows flagship models debut. That means, if you're interested in a new HTC or Samsung phone, for example, you should wait until these manufacturers release their new models, so you can score a deal on the previous generation. (Alternatively, a few months after the debut, the new models should start seeing their own discounts too.)
Winter Apparel Continues to Fill the Clearance Racks
Winter apparel is usually on clearance at this point in the season, as retailers make way for spring lines. But due to an unusually warm fall and early winter, retailers are swamped with unsold coats, scarves, and sweaters that will be on deep discount. Presidents' Day sales will make discounts even better. Look for 60% to 70% off cold weather apparel at all your favorite brands and retailers, including Nordstrom, 6pm, Eddie Bauer, and The Children's Place. Note that many items will be final sale, so be careful what you order.
42" and 55" LCDs Are Hot This Season
February is Super Bowl season, and while many retailers will have you believe it's a great time to upgrade your TV, DealNews data shows that most consumers treat it like any other month. Moreover, our deal data indicates that February prices are nowhere near November's best prices, making February an ordinary month for TV shoppers.
That said, January's Consumer Electronics Show was bustling with new TVs and technology, so while February isn't an ideal month for TV deals, it's still possible to find some good deals if you look in the right places. And now that 4K is becoming the new norm (and even 8K is appearing on the scene), 1080p (Full HD) is becoming the new value option.
We've found that in general, mid-size TVs (in the 40" to 55" range) have plateaued in discounts, so they are a decent buy any time. Last month, we saw 40" 1080p sets for consistently around $250; so look for offbrand sets for $240, and name brand sets for $275. Buying refurbished in either of those categories will further increase discounts. For 55" sets, the spread is a little wider, with off-brand HDTVs going for $300, and name brands starting at $550.
Free Food at Chipotle
You might have heard that Chipotle came down with a touch of E.Coli and norovirus, sickening hundreds of customers in several incidents since last year. In an effort to win back eaters and trust, the chain is allowing the managers of its locations to give away free food to lure customers. It's also running a Super Bowl promotion where the first 1,500 catering orders of 20 burritos or more will receive a $50 discount.
If our survey is any indication, diners are pretty evenly split about whether they will return to Chipotle. In any event, they shouldn't stop by on February 8, the day after the Super Bowl: Every location will be closed for staff meetings about food safety.
Be Wary of Super Affordable Ivy Bridge Computers
Microsoft surprised and disappointed many users when it announced last week that all new CPUs will only support Windows 10, starting immediately with Intel's Skylake chips. That means if you have a Skylake computer running an older version of Windows, you'll have to update soon or risk serious security and compatibility issues.
This is a big deal for enterprise users, but not the average consumer. Older computers, those with Haswell and Broadwell chips, will still be supported for Windows 7 and 8.1 for years, at which point they likely would be heading towards obsolescence for several reasons. But nobody likes to be told what to do.
Furthermore, the change is one more thing to consider if you're buying an older Windows machine, like one with an Ivy Bridge CPU. These are the most recent processors that really can't run Windows 10. They are still a good budget option for some, and will still be supported for years, but it's worth keeping in mind they just got even less futureproof. Retailers are already heavily discounting these older machines (we recently saw an Asus Ivy Bridge all-in-one PC for $500 off), so keep that in mind if you see too-good-to-be-true prices.
This article first appeared at DealNews.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.