Consumer Reports tracks the prices of the products we test so we can tell you, month by month, what to buy on deep discount.
May is a great month if you're looking for a good deal. You'll find sales on computers, mattresses, and even high chairs and strollers. The best sales—when discounts are often as much as 50 percent off—come around Memorial Day.
This is also a good time to buy paint and stain if you want to take advantage of the warmer months (in many parts of the country) to spruce up your home.
To find out what's on sale the rest of the year be sure to check our calendar of deals.
While this is a good month to find a deep discount, it's probably not the time to buy jewelry, as prices typically rise around Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 8th this year), according to Maria Lalonde, shopping expert with Offers.com. You may want to send mom some flowers instead—there are plenty of good deals available.
Desktop and Laptop Computers
If you need to buy a computer, the month of May is the time to make a purchase. When shopping, keep in mind that desktop computers deliver more performance for the money than laptops. They also allow for a more ergonomic work environment than laptops and typically come with better speakers.
While laptops are portable, the keyboard will be a little more cramped than a desktop computer keyboard, and the prices tend to be higher. They're also more expensive to repair than desktops—something to consider before making a purchase.
Desktop computers: All-in-one models incorporate all components, including the monitor, in one case. The components are tightly packed behind and underneath the display, making them difficult to upgrade or repair, but they can be space-savers. Compacts or slim desktops are ideal if you lack space under your desk or if you plan to put the computer on your desk. Full-size models require a lot of room under or on top of your desk, but they are the least expensive and the easiest to upgrade and repair. Usually, they also offer the most features and options.
Laptop computers: Ergonomics can make or break a laptop. Try using the laptop before you buy it. The keyboard shouldn't bend under continuous tapping, the touchpad should be large enough so that your finger can cover the span of the screen without repeatedly lifting it, and touchpad buttons should be easy to find and press. Be sure to carry the laptop around for a little while to make sure it isn't too heavy or too big.
High Chairs and Strollers
Today's high chairs—whether they're made of wood, metal, or plastic—are loaded with features. They come with adjustable trays with dishwasher-safe inserts that make cleanup easy. Many also offer seats that recline to multiple positions. A great feature: Some let you change the height of the chair to accommodate your growing baby and to give you greater flexibility.
When it comes to strollers, you want your baby to be safe and comfortable. But think about yourself, too, since you're the one who'll be pushing it. There's a wide price range among types and brands in our stroller ratings. What makes one stroller worth $100 and another $1,000 or more? Several features drive up the price such as accessories, but we've found good models in a wide range of prices.
Strollers: Consider your environment before you pick a stroller. If you're a city dweller who relies on subways, buses, and cabs, you'll need a lightweight but sturdy stroller that folds quickly and is compact. If you'll be pushing it through snow or on unpaved roads or grass, a model with large wheels is a great option.
High Chairs: Check the high chair's harnesses. Although the current voluntary industry standard doesn't call for a five-point harness (a waist and crotch restraint with shoulder straps), they're safer than a three-point harness (which provide only a waist and crotch restraint) because they can prevent a child from standing up and possibly tipping the chair over. For more shopping and safety tips, see our buying guide. Check our ratings for the high chairs that did best in our lab tests.
Manufacturers usually modify innerspring mattresses for different sellers, changing the color, padding and quilting pattern, among other things. Then each seller gives the mattress a unique name. This makes comparison shopping difficult. But there are some strategies to find a good deal.
Test drive several models. Buy at a store, not online or over the phone, unless you've already tried the identical mattress in a store. A product manager for Tempur-Pedic told us that more online customers return their mattresses than shoppers who buy in a store.
Shop back to front. Start out with the least expensive bed from a few top brands, and work your way up in cost. Stores keep the priciest models up front, so head to the back of the store first. Our mattress buying guide contains lots of additional shopping tips. We put mattresses through tough tests; see which ones came out on top in our ratings.
Exterior and Interior Paint
Buying a can of paint should be easy. But walk into any home center or paint store and you’ll see just how confusing it can be to make a choice, especially if you are looking or a deep discount. We test dozens of interior and exterior paints in a variety of finishes to help you find the best one for the job and your budget.
Be strategic in how you select colors. Despite all the colors available, whites and off-whites remain the top-selling interior colors. With dozens to choose from, zeroing in on just the right white can be tricky; read "How to Pick the Right White Paint" for tips. For exterior palettes, it's smart to take a cue from other homes in the neighborhood, as well as from nature. For example, ochre and forest green play well in wooded regions, while earth tones are more suited to desert landscapes.
Try them out. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, buy small cans for testing. For interior projects, paint sample colors on large sheets of heavy paper so you can move them from place to place without having to paint the walls. Live with them for at least a few days. Observe how different levels of light affect the color throughout the day.
For exterior projects, paint a sample board with each color you're considering. Again observe the paint at different times of day as the natural light changes.
Wood stains are on deep discount in May. They provide a layer of protection that can keep your deck looking great for years; many will also protect fences and siding. Consumer Reports buys and tests various stains by painting wood panels and leaving them exposed to the elements. The best remained close to their original color after three years and effectively protected the wood from cracking. The most durable options in our ratings are often the most expensive, but their longer life should save you money over the long haul.
Know what kind of finish you need. Finishes vary according to how much of the wood's natural grain they show. The best opaque treatments tend to last the longest. But you may prefer a semi-transparent or clear finish for aesthetic reasons. Wood stains and treatments cost $15 to $50 a gallon.
Stick with our top picks. Today's wood stains have to meet environmental rules that lower volatile organic compounds, which are linked to pollution, smog, respiratory problems, and can cause headaches and dizziness. Some may even be carcinogenic. Top stains from our tests meet these environmental standards.
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