It's an unusual and unprecedented time to be a consumer. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way we shop, with everything from toilet paper and hand sanitizer to bottled water and beans topping the list of products disappearing from store shelves.
While most of us are focused on the bare essentials, chances are good there will still be things you'll want or need to buy to help you maintain some semblance of normalcy while practicing social distancing. The usual business operations and seasonal sales are mostly out the window, but Annemarie Conte, deputy editor of Wirecutter’s Deals and Money sections, suggests keeping an eye out for discounts on things you know you’ll use in the short term.
“Don’t buy anything you can't afford or won't use within the next three to six months,” she suggests. “Keep a shopping list of things you need and then look for good deals on those items.”
Conte also recommends shopping locally whenever possible. “People are getting very creative in how they create revenue streams,” she says. “For example, one of our local restaurants in New Jersey started selling their wine and packaged beer at a 30 percent discount to customers.”
If you still want to know where the discounts are, below are a few near-term deals experts think you’ll be able to find in April — and what you can hold off on for a few more months.
WHAT TO BUY IN APRIL
Gardening and Home Improvement Supplies. Spring is typically the time of year when home improvement picks up, but now that almost everyone is spending a lot more time at home, these projects are more prevalent than usual.
“You can order online in most cases and then go pick it up, which is becoming much more common to reduce contact,” Conte says. “Hardware stores are still considered essential businesses, so you can definitely do home improvement projects and pick up the supplies you need.”
Consumer expert Andrea Woroch says that painting supplies will still be on sale. “Sherwin Williams, for one, always runs deals on their paints this time of year,” Woroch says. “You can get 30 percent to 40 percent off their paint and all the gear that goes with it: brushes, rollers, drop cloths. There are usually deals on power tools and smaller items like hammers as well.”
Outdoor Fitness Gear. According to Conte, places like REI are still planning a big outdoor sale in May. But if you're going outside to exercise now, you can still find deals in April. “REI has a members sale of 20 percent off one full price item running through early April,” she says. “People can invest in this gear now and have some solo activities to look forward to enjoying without harming other people.”
Car Maintenance Supplies. Even though people aren’t driving as much as usual, your car will still need a tune-up — and April is still National Car Care month, so car maintenance stores will likely offer deals. “Advanced Auto Parts, for example, will have lots of deals on different items for your car,” Woroch says. “From tires to car cleaning supplies, you’re looking at maybe 15 percent to 20 percent off these types of items.”
Easter Candy and Decorations. While social distancing has shut down most church services, kids can still go on Easter egg hunts in the yard (and will still want to eat sweets, no matter the season).
“Stores like CVS and Target, especially, will have deals up to 50 percent off candy before the holiday — but right after Easter, you’ll see 75 percent off. It’s a great time to stock up,” Woroch says. “I always grab the chocolates because they’ll be marked way down. The wrapping is very holiday focused, but you can use them for baking — and the festive-looking sprinkles are great to have on hand for events like kids’ birthday parties.”
Air Conditioners. You may not yet be feeling the seasonal heat, but Conte says April is historically when deals on air conditioners start. “Although it might feel early, some areas of the country are already getting warmer now,” she says. “And with more people spending more time at home, they’ll be thinking about that, so we still expect to see good deals on all types of units.”
WHAT TO SKIP IN APRIL
Summer Clothing. Your home inbox is likely flooded with deals on all kinds of apparel, especially those of the summer variety: swimsuits, sunglasses, sandals, T-shirts and shorts. But it may be worth it to wait. “The better deals will come mid-summer,” Woroch says, “If you can, hold off until at least Memorial Day.”
Pool Gear. Your summer vacation plans may have morphed into staycation activities, which could certainly feature your backyard pool. But Woroch says to hold off on water guns, inflatables, noodles and floaties and until summer actually starts in June, which is when these items will start to go on sale.
Jewelry. You may see some sales online as retailers look to make up for lost in-store revenues, but Woroch says this is not a good time to buy jewelry. “There will be better deals around Mother’s Day and again around graduation season,” she adds. “And then those sales will slow down again until the end of the year.”