Back-to-school deals may be waning, but end of summer sales are just underway. We've found seven products on deep discount September, including MP3 players, bicycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers, and gas grills. Our market research experts keep track of price fluctuations, and can spot what's on sale all year long. This month you'll be able to take advantage of some great sales for the whole family.
A couple of caveats about our calendar of deals: There will always be exceptions. Stores in your neighborhood could find they're overstocked on an item at any time and mark it down, for example. So keep an eye on Sunday circulars, text alerts, and social media for price cuts in your area. And bear in mind that the best time to save money isn't always when you'll find the best selection. Deep discounts on some items here, like bicycles, mowers, gas grills, and garden goods, occur now because their season is coming to an end, which means inventories are thin. Other sales occur when new inventory is about to be delivered, like snow blowers and small electronics, so you'll find the best prices on older models.
1. Digital Cameras
Whether you're looking for a basic digital camera (simple point-and-shoots with just the features needed for routine shots), or an advanced model (feature-laden cameras that include sophisticated models that let you change lenses), now is a good time to shop. Our digital camera buying guide and our Ratings give you the details on different models, as well as information on features and brands.
Do your research. Buying a digital camera can be confusing. There are hundreds of cameras available at many different types of retail outlets (online and in traditional stores), with prices ranging from $75 to several thousand dollars. Some cameras are small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Others are large and can weigh up to two pounds. Some are easy to use. Others look like you need an engineering degree to operate them.
Take the next steps. After you consider the type of camera you want and the number of megapixels you need, but before you dive into specific models, be sure to check out our brand profiles, which outline many of the most popular camera product lines and their respective character traits.
2. Gas Grills
You don't need to spend a fortune to get great-tasting burgers, steaks, and chicken at your fall barbecues–especially this month. Our tests have shown that many lower-priced gas grills now have at least some stainless-steel trim, side burners for side dishes, and other perks once found only on the priciest grills. Check out our gas grill buying guide and our Ratings to help you find the right model before you hit the stores.
Give it a push. The more stable the grill, the better. Gently push the grill from several angles to see if it tips. Check the cart, firebox, lid, and shelves for sharp corners and edges.
Grip the handle. Your knuckles or fingers shouldn't be too close to the lid or your hand could get burned. And while some flaring is normal, typically the greater the distance between the grates and burners or flavorizer bars, the fewer the sustained flare-ups.
3. Lawn Mowers
While you're checking out the great deals on mowers this month, read our buying guide to decide which type of mower fits your needs; subscribers can find our recommended models in each category in our Ratings.
Don't be swayed by numbers. Our latest tests confirm that more horsepower doesn't necessarily mean higher-quality mowing. Mower manufacturers have swapped horsepower numbers for engine-size and torque specifications, but even those don't guarantee better results.
Consider your lawn. A gas or electric push mower is fine for a small lawn. But you'll probably prefer a self-propelled gas model for slopes and a lawn tractor for a lawn one-half acre or larger.
4. Small Electronics
Early fall is a good time to buy many small consumer electronics such as MP3 players, DVD players, and Blu-ray players. As with many items you buy, deciding which ones are right for you depends on which type fit your needs and come with features that are important to you. Our buying guides can help; for example, we have one for MP3s, DVD players, and Blu-ray players, and a list of other electronics guides.
Give them a try. For example, whichever type of MP3 player you choose, make sure you'll be comfortable using the device. Look for a display that is easy to read and controls that can be worked with one hand, useful features iPods lack. When it comes to home theaters, audition systems in the store and ask about a return or exchange if the one you buy doesn't suit you.
Consider online retailers, too. In recent years, the Consumer Reports readers we've surveyed who shopped online were more satisfied overall than those who shopped at a walk-in store. In fact, websites as a whole outdid walk-in stores for quality, selection, and price.
5. Snow Blowers
Many sales started on snow blowers last month, but prices will still be low in September. So if you couldn't bear to think about the white stuff piling up on your driveway in August, there's still time to get a great deal. You can pick up lots of shopping and safety tips in our buying guide, and you'll see which models did best in our Ratings.
Don't fall for sales pitches. Manufacturers and retailers also push bigger engines—typically expressed in cubic centimeters of piston displacement (ccs)—and wider clearing swaths. But as our Ratings show, size isn't everything when it comes to snow blowers. Some smaller machines can out-clear and out-throw the big boys for less money.
Look for important features. For example, it's a good idea to check out floor samples. Make sure you're comfortable with the height of the handle and with the chute adjustment. Look for a critical safety feature that stops the spinning auger or impeller when you release the handlebar grips.
We may be on fall's doorstep, but there are still months to take spins in many parts of the country. Follow our bike buying guide to find the best model for you.
Find a good bicycle shop. You'll probably pay more, but we think you're more likely to be satisfied. Bikes from big-box stores might not be properly assembled or well matched to your body. If you don't like the pedals or seat on a particular model, some bike shops will swap components at little or no cost.
Consider spending a few extra dollars. More money buys a lightweight frame made of carbon fiber, aluminum (or a combination of both materials), or high-strength steel and other high-quality components. But you can still buy a good bike for just a few hundred dollars.
7. Trees, Shrubs, Flowers, and Other Plants
September is a great time to fill in neglected parts of your yard. Trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants will be discounted at your local garden centers. For tips on buying, planting, and caring for them, read our fall lawn and yard checklist.
Time it right. For cooler regions, planting now through the end of October gives most plants a head start in the spring, since roots will grow in still-warm soil long after air temperatures drop. Where winters are mild, the fall planting season extends into winter. Be sure to soak the root ball thoroughly at least weekly if the weather is dry in your area. In the frigid North, apply mulch after the soil freezes to prevent the soil around plants from thawing and refreezing, which can damage tender new roots.
Measure the depth. Large bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, should be planted about 8 inches deep, and smaller bulbs, such as crocus, about 5 inches deep. If you're combining them with other bulbs, figure on two to three daffodil and tulip bulbs (full-size varieties) per square foot. For smaller bulbs, plant three to five per square foot—twice as many for a solid bed of color.
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