What You Should (and Shouldn't) Buy in February

By Dana DratchBankrate.com

When it comes to discounts and deals, February isn't all hearts and flowers.

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If you want to get the most for your money in February, it pays to look beyond the specials and sales and really shop around.

While some items (luggage and patio furniture, for example) probably won't sport discount stickers in February, other items are frequently discounted. You have to love a month that offers deals on both workout equipment and chocolates.

So if you're watching your bucks and looking for bargains, here are a few things that likely won't be discounted in February -- along with a couple of items that should be wearing more attractive price tags.

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    Looking toward spring and thinking of sprucing up a patio or outdoor space? You probably won't find any bargains in February.

    Grills and patio furniture are just beginning to hit the stores in February, says Sharon Banfield, public relations director for PriceGrabber.com. "So you're going to pay full price if you buy right now."

    Unless you live in warm-weather climes and can use those purchases now, you're better off waiting until the temperatures rise and the prices drop, she says.

    Expect better deals: For patio furniture, grills and accessories, you probably won't see sales until Memorial Day, Banfield says. Then you'll see price cuts of 25% to 30%.

    What is on sale in February: Skiing and snowboarding equipment are on sale.

    "There are only a few more months in ski season, so you're going to see a lot of sales in ski shops," Banfield says. You can save at least 40%.

    You might find deals in secondhand sports equipment, says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. People are selling equipment they got for Christmas or the new year. So selection is good, and savings can be significant, he says.

    Occasionally, you may find the odd piece of luggage marked down for a Presidents Day sale, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" online shopping series and founder of ThePurpleBook.com.

    But for the most part, you still see luggage at full price in February, she says.

    Expect better deals: "I would wait until fall," Mendelsohn says. "Because in September and October, you can save up to 20%" on luggage.

    What is on sale in February: Bedding and furniture are on sale. Look for sales on mattresses, box springs and pillows around Presidents Day, Mendelsohn says, at savings of 20% to 40%.

    You can find deals on bed linens at the same time. While the range of price cuts is wide (30% to 60%), look for the deepest cuts on winter-weight sheets and comforters.

    And you might see the start of some good furniture deals as new products start to roll into stores. Look for discounts of 15% to 20% on last year's models, says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation.

    February jewelry sales are a mixed bag. You'll see some deals before Valentine's Day, but not everything's on sale. And the word "sale" alone doesn't automatically connote your best deal, says Sharon Banfield, public relations director for PriceGrabber.com.

    Her advice: Be cautious, and do your homework. Because Valentine's Day is largely an impulse-buy holiday, you can get good deals if you shop around and compare prices starting around Feb. 4, Banfield says. Some items will be discounted 30% to 50%.

    Expect better deals: August and September are the best times for getting a deal on fine jewelry, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" online shopping series and founder of ThePurpleBook.com. That's when you can find more discounts, often in the 30% to 40% range.

    What is on sale in February: Valentine's Day candy -- starting Feb. 15. So if you love chocolates and don't mind a heart-shaped box (or other Valentine's Day trappings), this is your kind of month.

    Look for holiday-themed goodies (such as candy and cookies) at up to 75% off, Banfield says.

    Even though makers unveil new models of digital cameras in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, you likely won't find real deals on digital cameras in February, says Hillary Mendelsohn, author of "thepurplebook" online shopping series and founder of ThePurpleBook.com.

    Expect better deals: If you missed the discounts in November and December, don't worry. Cameras tend to go on sale in May and June, Mendelsohn says. Look for discounts of 20% to 30% in the days leading up to graduation season, Father's Day and summer vacations, she says.

    Or wait until next January, and get up to 45% off on some models, says Sharon Banfield, public relations director for PriceGrabber.com.

    What is on sale in February: Cellphones, tablets and networking gear are on sale. In February, look for discounts of 25% to 30% on last year's models of those consumer-electronic mainstays, Banfield says.

    Ditto on other home electronics -- everything from TVs to vacuum cleaners, says Augie Grant, professor at the University of South Carolina and editor of "Communication Technology Update and Fundamentals." Pick up last year's models in February, and save 20% to 40%, he says.

    With TVs, you typically can get deals on new models the week before the Super Bowl, Grant adds.

    Need a few new pieces for your warm-weather wardrobe? If you're a die-hard bargain hunter, you probably won't be buying in February -- unless you're shopping secondhand.

    Summer clothes are just arriving in February, so most will be full price, says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. Though retailers might have discounted some swimsuits to create interest, he says.

    Expect better deals: These will be in the second half of June, when you can find discounts of 50% to 75% on summer clothes, he says.

    What is on sale in February: Winter clothes are on sale. In most of the country, February means it's still cold. So this is when you can score 50% to 70% off the winter clothes you can wear now. Look for specials on hats, gloves, scarves and "anything for winter," Butler says.

    You can also get deals on things you wish you didn't still need, such as snow shovels and snow blowers. Look for price cuts of 30% to 50%, says Butler.

    When it comes to February travel, a lot of people target the 14th, says Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor and founder of PeterGreenberg.com. While Valentine's Day packages at hotels often include flowers, candy and Champagne, they're often not the best travel buy, he says.

    With Valentine's Day falling on a Thursday, "that lends itself well to a four-day weekend," he says. And "there are lots of manageable overseas trips in February -- just make sure you have a passport."

    And what could be more romantic than Paris? In February, "there are no lines in museums, no lines in restaurants and airfares are down," he says.

    You'll save 30% to 40% over the cost of that same trip in April, Greenberg says.

    Want to stay stateside? Try a bed-and-breakfast in the days before the holiday. If you check in Monday and check out Thursday morning, "you'll get a great deal because there will be no one there," he says. "You will own it." You can save 50% or more over what you'd pay for a Valentine's Day stay.

    For Valentine's Day itself, plan a romantic evening at home, Greenberg says.