It would be great if the malfunction of your car, TV or dishwasher coincided with one of those once-a-year sales that are often advertised. But when do they happen? Are these, "We must slash all prices by 50%" sales just at the discretion of the store? Do they just have too many washing machines or couches or sedans, and need to get rid of them?
IN PICTURES: 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips

Wouldn't it be ideal to find out when these sales happened, and plan your life accordingly around them, rather than be at the whim of your fading clothes, broken-down jalopy or on-the-fritz flatscreen? Well, at the risk of sounding like an advertisement, now you can! We'll go through the best times of year to buy different major life purchases, and see how you can plan your year's purchases around sales. (Find out more, in Extended Warranties: Should You Take The Bait?)

  • House
    With a purchase as important as a house - the biggest purchase you're ever likely to make - there's no surefire way to get a good deal. It's always said that spring and summer are the best times to buy and sell homes. According to the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying and Selling a Home," when you look at the data, this is actually when most sales take place - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best time to buy.

    One good reason to buy during this time is that there are so many houses on the market, and the rules of supply and demand may apply, so the prices will go down, depending on how many sellers there are. However, the book gives another tip: people don't want to move around the holidays, nor do they want to sell their homes during winter when the homes won't look their best from the outside, so if they are selling during these down times, they must really want to sell their homes, and you may be able to bargain. (Learn more about the housing market, in Do You Need A Real Estate Agent?)

  • Cars
    New cars usually go on sale just before the new models are released. It's not just to make room for the new models, but also because the older models will have less perceived value, due to being already "dated."

    An article from the New York Times, written at the beginning of September, quotes Juan Flores, the director of vehicle valuation from Kelley Blue Book, as saying that the best time to buy a car is Labor Day weekend. This is because of the reasons listed above, as the models for the next year start arriving in September. Not only are dealers trying to clear out the lots by giving the best prices, they'll also give the best financing deals.

    An article on, written by the senior consumer advice editor, says that the best time to go during the month is at the end, because dealers often have monthly quotas to meet, and they are more willing to be flexible on price. So, if you don't go on Labor Day, maybe try the end of September. (Find out how to avoid the lemons and still spend less, in How To Get The Best Price On A New Car.)

  • Appliances
    Appliances are similar to cars; you should buy them just before the new models get in. This also happens to be in September. However, as with all electronics and many other things as well, buying during holiday sales can really help out. According to the Wall Street Journal's SmartMoney site, the best time is on bigger holidays like Independence Day, but retailers also offer big savings on smaller holidays like Columbus Day. So if you don't want to do all of your big-ticket shopping in September, wait until Thanksgiving.
  • TVs and Entertainment Systems
    Black Friday is the first big sale of the Christmas season, and it's famous for its door-crasher sales and incredible deals; but consumers may not want to stand in line on a cold November morning to get these deals. If that's the case, then wait. Christmas sales on HDTVs, sound systems and other entertainment ephemera don't go away once Black Friday is over. As well, if a retailer has a year where sales don't go quite as planned, they'll be trying to unload all of their goods once Christmas is over, and before the year ends. So wait until after holiday season to get the real holiday savings.
  • Furniture
    The best time to buy furniture is right after the holidays in January, and again in July. This is also due to the incoming new inventory. did an interview with Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for American Home Furnishings Alliance, who claimed that furniture stores, like everywhere else, need to clear out this inventory at these times to make room for spring and fall furniture lines.

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The Bottom Line
The above tips on when to shop won't really apply to you if you need to have everything cutting edge. You won't wait until retailers are trying to unload their older models - when the best deals are happening - because you'll want the product as soon as it comes out, and you'll pay the premium for that privilege. For the rest of us, however, it's always best to wait until retailers are looking to clear the showroom. (For additional reading, take a look at 20 Lazy Ways To Save Money.)

For the latest financial news, check out Water Cooler Finance: The Post-Stimulus Slump.

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