by: LINDSAY SAKRAIDA, Features Director
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 prefer 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.
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 for things; 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, respectively accounting for 35% and 17% of all Valentine’s Day deals. For jewelry, expect to see aggressive discounts ranging from 60% to 94% off. Retailers to look out for include Szul, Jewelry.com, Blue Nile, Sears, and Amazon. Additionally, lingerie stores like Victoria’s Secret will likely offer some kind of promotion; last year we found 20% off coupons at VS and Frederick’s of Hollywood during the first week of February. Even department stores are worth sorting through, if you can find a storewide shopping pass that applies to V-Day worthy goods. 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
The best part about a holiday weekend isn’t necessarily the day off, but rather the inevitable sales. You can expect quite a few Presidents’ Day sales during the upcoming 3-day weekend, and they’ll take as much as 85% off on 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. Check out of Presidents’ Day sales guide for more information about what stores to hit up, and what discounts to expect.
For Many, the Amazon Echo is a Prime Purchase
Last month, many tech sites officially unveiled their full reviews for the Amazon Echo, so we polled our readers to see how many people are interested in buying the space-age-y home device. As it turns out, a lot of shoppers will, or already have, bought the Echo — largely because of the enticing deal that Amazon has running at the moment, which allows Prime members to purchase the always-on, Internet-connected device for just $99, or $100 off. While there’s no advertised end date for this promotion, the price is unlikely to get much better than this in the coming months, since demand has been high — some units won’t ship for four to six months — and it’s a first generation product. As far as brand-new gadgetry goes, the Echo is a rare opportunity for consumers to become early adopters without spending much money.
You’ll Have to Start Working Harder for Store Discounts
While retailers certainly aren’t cutting out coupons entirely, a recent Listrak study showed that discounts sent via email from the top 500 internet retailers, decreased by 45% in 2014. Meaning, stores are sending fewer coupon codes in their newsletters. Therefore, signing up for a newsletter won’t automatically get you a flat discount code, at least not as quickly as it used to. Instead, a shopper might have to wait for several weeks until such a discount comes, which means you might want to only commit to vendor newsletters for brands that you frequent regularly. For all others, consider honing your coupon searching skills instead.
Microsoft Announces Free Windows 10 Downloads
For the first time ever, Microsoft will offer its new operating system for free for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 users; Windows 10 will be free to download for up to a year, after which users will have to pay to upgrade. The release date is still unknown, so Windows 10 might not be available this month, but in the past, a new OS from Microsoft ushered in a lot of promotions from Microsoft Store and resellers. For example, when Windows 8 launched, Microsoft offered discounts on new systems when consumers traded in an older laptop model. If you’re not in a rush to buy a new Windows-based machine, it might be best to hold off on your purchase until you see what promotions are unveiled.
Good and Bad News for Free Music Fans
Last month, Apple quietly stopped offering a free single download of the week, a promotion that it maintained for a staggering 11 years. (That’s theoretically 572 free songs!) But never fear, because shortly after the internet picked up on this loss, Apple unveiled a new “Free on iTunes” section that prominently organizes content that’s free of charge. While it remains to be seen how often new content will be added to this section (the weekly free single at least adhered to a regular schedule), we’ll take this as a good sign for the time being. Anyone eager for free songs should regularly check this new section.
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
Although the Consumer Electronics Show was last month, and with it came a few new smartphone models, typically the 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.) Either way, a slew of new phones are on their way in the coming months, and since getting a new smartphone for most people entails committing to a 2-year contract, you’d be wise to wait and see what your options are.
Winter Apparel Continues to Fill the Clearance Racks
Last year, the Polar Vortex helped retailers clear out winter inventory in a more efficient fashion, and it looks as if Winter Storm Juno aims to make the 2015 winter season just as brutal. That said, we’ll still see excellent sales on winter apparel and accessories in February, as stores prepare to trade out seasonal inventory and unload any styles that just didn’t take off this year. In fact, we’ve been seeing numerous stores offer significant additional price cuts to their sale section, ranging from an extra 30% to 60% off — and that’s on top of tags that are already marked up to 70% off. Pay special attention to REI, Columbia Sports, Cabela’s, and Eddie Bauer for strong sales on rugged styles.
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.
On the low-end, we’ve found that deals on name-brand 42″ HDTVs have hit a plateau. Since October, the best deals on these sets have been holding steady at $300. By comparison, deals on off-brand TVs of the same size have been volatile with prices ranging from $270 (October) to $390 (December). As a result, we’re recommending shoppers in search of a new TV opt for a name-brand 42″ LCD. Look for prices at or below $300 for the most savings.
Meanwhile, off-brand 55″ LCD HDTVs tumbled to $250 in January, an all-time low that’s 37% cheaper than Black Friday’s best deal for this category. While unprecedented, retailers are marketing 55″ LCDs very aggressively. Just last month we saw almost twice as many deals for 55″ TVs than we did for 42″ TVs. Unfortunately, their name-brand counterparts have been on the rebound since Black Friday, seeing a small 11% price increase. So we recommend big-screen aficionados look for deals on 55″ off-brand sets, which includes manufacturers like Haier, Seiki, and Sceptre.
Windows Machines Rebounded in January, but MacBook Air Could See Price Cuts
Like TVs, laptops are currently undergoing a transitional period. Dell, Lenovo, Alienware, and a host of other manufacturers debuted new, oftentimes thinner, laptops at CES that take advantage of Intel’s new 5th generation processor. While we expected the new announcements to usher in a new wave of deals on Intel’s older, Haswell-based machines, retailers didn’t make much of an attempt to lure shoppers last month.
On the contrary, deal prices rebounded during the month of January across most laptop categories including budget Core i3 machines, mainstream Core i5 machines, and high-end Core i7 laptops. That’s not to say February will be a bad month for deals, but consumers should shop with caution. Nevertheless, mainstream Core i5-based machines will offer the best value when purchased at the right price. Look for deals in the $377 range, which has been the average low for these systems in the past few months.
Meanwhile, Apple fans looking to upgrade their MacBook Air may want to wait till the end of the month before making any purchases. Rumors are swirling that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will debut a new 12″ MacBook Air Retina toward the end of February. There’s even talks that the new laptop will jettison Intel for one of Apple’s ARM-based CPUs. Such an announcement could trigger a price cut on the current crop of MacBook Airs, if not from Apple, then from retailers looking to move their inventory.