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As Holiday Shopping Approaches, How to Keep the Most Money in Your Wallet

Fall is the time to rein in budgets after summer, which has the year's highest price tag. Here's what to buy when, to keep the most in your wallet.
People walk through a shopping mall in the western Austrian city of Innsbruck
People walk through a shopping mall. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

Fall is about colder temperatures and stores marketing every type of pumpkin-flavored item you can think of — and some you couldn’t have, like Pumpkin Spice Pie chips.

People sit under a canopy of fall leaves during a warm afternoon in Boston
People sit under a canopy of fall leaves during a warm afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts. REUTERS/Brian SnyderREUTERS

But it’s also about reining in budgets after summer, which has a higher daily price tag than any other season.

September, October and November are full of seemingly unavoidable expenses — back-to-school supplies, Thanksgiving flights, and holiday gifts, to name a few. Holiday sales in 2015 increased to $626.1 billion according to the National Retail Federation.

Here's the low-down on what to buy when, to keep the most money in your wallet.

September: Laptops, Summer Gear, and Denim

September is a great month to buy computers because of the great back-to-school deals. If you’re looking for a Mac, opt for the Apple refurbished store — it offers a 15 percent discount and the same warranty, and the models might even be more reliable due to the heavy vetting process, says Caroline Thompson, senior content strategist at Brad’s Deals.

Thompson also recommends checking laptop prices at third-party retailers like B&H Photo Video, BuyDig, P.C. Richard & Son, and Adorama. Other products on sale this month include swimsuits, pool toys and denim. Jane Thomas, professor of marketing at Winthrop University, recommends stocking up on summer clothes and shoes, outdoor toys, water guns and sidewalk chalk for fall birthdays or Christmas gifts.

And if you’re looking to save on travel this month, Thompson recommends Hawaii, where you’ll save on plane tickets, car rentals and hotel stays.

October: Wheels and a Trip to Mexico

October is the month to buy a car, since dealerships have to move older models to make room for the new ones that came onto the lot in September — and that includes used cars. Other items on sale include air conditioners, lawn mowers, luggage, and patio furniture. If you’re planning a Halloween decorating spree, Thomas advises holding off until a week before to buy — or even waiting a few days until November to save 80 percent off decorations for Halloween 2017.

For travel savings, choose Mexico this month — the current hot season there means an abundance of all-inclusive resort deals.

November: Candy, Wine, and Black Friday

Get up on the morning of November 1 and go to the store for candy, Thomas says, because whether you’re using it for stocking stuffers or holiday cookies, you’ll save 75 percent. Then, call your friends and plan a girls’ night in because you’ll find a lot of wine on sale this month.

As for Black Friday, one important thing to remember is “you’re looking for steals, not for deals,” says Thomas. Make a list ahead of time so you don’t get dazzled by low prices on things you don’t need. The good news is that you can plan ahead because “most retailers use the exact same Black Friday deals year after year,” says Thompson.

Thompson recommends doing all your Black Friday shopping online, since “doorbuster” deals can be lower quality (like off-brand televisions). One key tip: If you’ve got your sights set on the new iPhone 7, wait until Black Friday — and bring your old iPhone to trade in. Stores like Target and Walmart offer discounts plus gift cards for up to $200, meaning you can often technically make money by buying the phone there. And good news for T-Mobile customers: You can turn in older iPhones for a free iPhone 7 with no monthly payments, says Thompson.

With Hayden Field