March Into Spring With This Month's Discounts
What do ski vacations, fresh mangos and frozen foods have in common?
Hint: They're all likely to be discounted in March.
For smart shoppers, March is a grab bag, with deals on everything from delicate spring flowers and luscious tropical fruit to digital cameras and powerboats.
Also on the calendar: bargains for those who crave a few hours of pampering, a high-energy exercise class or a quick ski getaway.
More likely to spend your money on frozen food than a vacation to frosty climes? You can still save a few bucks this month.
Here are more than a dozen items on which consumers can get some good buys in March.
Spring Flowers on Sale in March
One buy to brighten your home without draining your wallet is to decorate with seasonal cut flowers such as tulips, along with spring flowering plants such as primroses and tete-a-tete daffodils, says Carol Caggiano, spokeswoman for the Society of American Florists.
"It's a very good time of year for cut tulips, so there's a very good chance you can find a good buy," she says. You can save between 15% and 20%, she says.
With potted spring flowers, such as primroses, "their season is not that long, so this is a great time of the year for them," Caggiano says. In March you get bigger, healthier plants, rather than lower prices, she says.
African violets are another bargain you might not expect in springtime. "This is a good growing time for them," Caggiano says. "They don't like it really hot." You can save 10% to 15%, she says. And you'll get bigger, healthier plants for the money.
As with other flowering plants, says Caggiano, "the price difference may be marginal, but the quality difference is major if you buy in season."
Mangos, Strawberries on Sale in March
Mangos offer a good deal this month.
In the produce world, the mango "bridges the gap between the winter and summer season," says James Parker, team leader for the global produce buying office of Whole Foods Market. "Whatever you use peaches for, you can use fresh mangos for: ice cream, smoothies, tarts or eaten out of hand for dessert."
For the most versatile and juiciest fruit, look for yellow-hued varieties (such as the Manila and the Ataulfo), Parker recommends.
Out of season, you can pay as much as $3 each for mangos. This month, depending on the size, you can pick them up for $1.50 to $2 each, he says.
During the first weeks of March, Florida will be in peak strawberry production. So will Mexico and Oxnard, Calif., Parker says. That means great prices for strawberry lovers. Weather permitting, shoppers can expect to save about 25% from last month's prices, he says.
Parker adds that supplies of fresh fruit are very much at the whim of the March weather, and prices are, too.
Asparagus, Artichokes on Sale in March
Fresh asparagus is a good buy in March. Both the United States and Mexico gear up their output in March, and "we're expecting this year to see a significant overlap in the production of the two countries," says James Parker, team leader for the global produce buying office of Whole Foods Market. "So if you're used to paying $3 to $4 a pound, you could see the price drop by about a third during the month of March."
Artichokes are another good buy in March. As the volumes increase, the price goes down significantly, he says. Prices depend largely on size, and shoppers will save "roughly a third" on artichokes in March. If you've been paying $3 to $4 each, the price should drop by about a dollar, he says.
And while most folks associate March with leprechauns or spring buds, it also is National Frozen Food Month. Your grocery store might offer special deals on your favorite goodies from the freezer aisle. Look for promotions on mass-market brands that focus on two-for-ones, larger-than-normal coupons, bigger sizes for less or bulk buys, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" series of shopping guides and founder of thepurplebook.com.
Sporting Goods, Luggage on Sale in March
Got an athlete in your life? March is a good time for both winter and summer sporting goods, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" series of shopping guides and founder of thepurplebook.com. March especially is a good month for bargains on "high-end" merchandise such as boats, personal watercraft, skis and snowboards, she says.
On most items, shoppers can find deals of 15% to 40% off.
With boats, the sales staff might get incentives at this time of year "to see how much they can move early in the season," Mendelsohn says. Look for sales that offer anywhere from 10% to 20% off, she predicts.
One good deal you might not associate with March is luggage. "It's a great time to buy because it's after the holidays and before summer travel season," Mendelsohn says. But luggage is "not anything you ever save a ton on," and discounts tend to be in the 10% to 20% range, she says.
The best deals will be on bags in trendy colors or patterns rather than classic neutrals and basic black.
Outdoor Furniture, Shoes on Sale in March
With spring in the air, "it's a really good time to buy garden supplies and outdoor furniture" in March, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" series of shopping guides and founder of thepurplebook.com.
In February and March, consumers will get discounts on outdoor furniture and gardening equipment, she says. "Come April, people want to sit outside -- and that's when you pay the premium for it."
Mendelsohn's advice is to buy it now and leave it in the box until the weather warms up. You stand to save about 20% to 25%, she says.
Likewise, if you want to get a price break on summer shoes while the stores still have the sizes that fit, this is your month, Mendelsohn says. "March is the first round of discounts on summer shoes," she says. You can get the largest selection of colors and sizes, plus discounts of 15% to 20%, she says.
TVs and Digital Cameras on Sale in March
Did you miss the TV sales in December and January? While you may not get the same level of price cuts now, it's not too late to score a deal.
With the Consumer Electronics Show in January, many retailers are trying to clear floor space for merchandise that's hitting the stores in the summer, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" series of shopping guides and founder of thepurplebook.com.
"It's a really good time to buy televisions," she says. You can save up to 15%.
And because summer is high season for digital cameras (in part because they tend to be popular gifts for dads and grads), March can be a good time to score a better price, she says. Shoppers can find discounts of 20% to 25%.
Spa Days, Ski Trips on Sale in March
Looking for a price break on a little fitness training or some much-needed spa-style pampering?
You might just be in luck, if you time it right.
Nearly a thousand spas, yoga studios and fitness centers are participating in Wellness Week March 19-25, says Sallie Fraenkel, executive vice president with SpaFinder.com. As a result, these businesses offer a number of half-off deals and $50 specials, she says.
You can get everything from facials and spa treatments to massages and fitness classes, Fraenkel says.
"It's really a neat program," says Lynne McNees, president of the International Spa Association. "It's really a time to focus on yourself and take that time out."
Want to really get away from it all? For a March travel bargain, sample a ski destination, such as Vail, Colo., says Peter Greenberg, author of "New Rules of the Road" and travel editor for CBS News.
"There are still some spring break deals," he says. One Vail resort that's normally $700 a night can be had for $400, while another that normally books for $470 per night is $330.
The rule for finding March travel bargains: "You do it on the fly," says Greenberg.
"These sales disappear almost as fast as they appear. They have a limited life span."