The Best and Worst Things to Buy in July
We published thousands of deals last July, which we've analyzed to offer our readers a bit of advice while planning purchases this month. And it's a particularly important month to do so, since a number of sales will appear to be better than they actually are. In order to protect your wallet and spend your money wisely, be sure to read through our July buying guide below for everything you need to know to shop smart this month.
Plan a Trip Now for Late August
According to several different reports, it appears as if late August is the cheapest time to travel, both in terms of hotel pricing and airfare. Priceline.com data demonstrates that Disney World-accessible hotels are at their best during the second to last weekend. Why? This time frame falls right before Labor Day, so it's likely a less traveled weekend; as a result, hotels and airlines push discounts to fill rooms and seats.
Speaking of cheap travel, you can maximize your savings this summer by opting for a city in which hotel pricing across the board has dropped year over year.
Can't Wait to Buy an Air Conditioner? Opt for Energy Efficiency
Last year in July, we saw an uptick in air conditioner sales and discounts. And while in some cases these models will get cheaper in August and early September, you can still save 20% or more, or as much as $150, on a unit while you need it most. And if you're careful about how you run it, you can make up for any lost savings with a lower energy bill. (Some examples: Blocking out direct sunlight can keep the room substantially cooler naturally, while a programmable temperature control saves a full $180 a year.)
Apple's Cheaper iMac is a Terrible Deal
Last month, Apple debuted a cheaper iMac in its line of desktops. But while a similar strategy with the MacBook Air saw the manufacturer dropping the price and simultaneously upgrading the specs, Apple instead is offering a cheaper price because it removed some premium features in the process, including 500GB of storage and a high-end graphics card — two specs that are actually worth more than that $200 discount. If you want to pay less, we recommend instead buying an Apple-refurbished unit of the previous-generation iMac since it has a better configuration.
Summer is 'Blah' for TV Deals, Opt for Off-Brand Sets to Save
Summer months are generally a bad season for TV deals, but if you find yourself in dire need of a new set, there are a few categories you should look at. Off-brand 55" LCDs, for instance, have been holding steady at $500 since January, the second-best price of the year. Look to Best Buy and Sears for deals on models from the likes of Westinghouse and RCA.
60" LCDs, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs. Earlier in the year prices were aggressive, ranging from $699 to $747, but for the past two months the best deals for this size category have averaged $944, which is a high we haven't seen since 2012. Plasma sets of the same size offer a better value, averaging $626 and occasionally dropping to an all-time low of $600. Look for deals from Sears, which has offered the best bargains to date.
Finally, you may see some 32" 1080p LCD TVs discounted as retailers begin their back-to-school sales. Currently at $189, these TVs are at their second-best rate of the year and just $9 over the best rate we've seen in 2014. Just keep in mind that if your college-bound student can wait until November, these sets may get even cheaper around Black Friday; last year, a freak sale marked one of these sets down to an astonishingly low price of $110!
Mainstream Laptops Hit New Low, 1080p Deals Ramp Up
July is expected to be a hot month for laptop deals, as back-to-school sales continue to roll out. (After all, back-to-school season is the second-best time of the year to buy a laptop.) Ultimately, you'll get the biggest savings with touchscreen systems and mainstream 15" laptops (equipped with Intel's Core i5 Haswell processor and at least 4GB of RAM). The latter hit a new price low of $380 in June, about $70 below the average from the previous month. This sets a new benchmark for the category, and provides a preview of the type of deals we'll see in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, 11" touchscreen systems hit an all-time price low of $199 in May, a price we might see again if retailers get aggressive. Should 11" prove too small for your needs, you can opt for a 15" touchscreen laptop with deal prices ranging from $300 to $330.
Finally, laptops with 4K displays are slowly hitting the market. For shoppers, this means you can expect to see numerous deals on laptops with a "lesser" 1080p resolution. For the average student or home user, a 1080p laptop is more than sufficient, and the best deal we've seen so far for a 15" system has been $499.