SLADE COLUMN: Timing is everything for big savings
Some people are what the marketing folks call innovators, or early adopters. They're going to buy the latest and greatest stuff and pay top dollar for it.
I'm what those marketing people call a laggard. I'm the guy with a 19-inch cathode ray tube television in the living room, and stereo equipment that was acquired when Ronald Reagan was president.
Call me frugal, or call me cheap, but I tend to hold on to things as long as they still work. That saves money, and it also allows me to buy quality products that may have been unaffordable when they first hit the market.
When it does come time to replace something -- that TV's time is coming soon -- I want a good deal and I want something that will last. I've found that planning ahead and timing purchases to match seasonal sales and product upgrade cycles can help.
Look what happens to consumer electronics when the new models come out. Prices for televisions, computers, e-readers and other devices drop sharply.
A black-and-white Amazon Kindle e-reader cost $259 two years ago. Today, you can get one for as little as $79, and the new Kindle Fire color version with web-surfing ability is selling for $199.
Today's $350 32-inch flat-screen televisions were selling for more than $500 two years ago, more than $700 four years ago, and more than $1,500 six years ago, according to a pricing report I spotted in CNN Money. As bigger and fancier models come out, prices on smaller units with fewer features plunge.
When I finally upgrade my television, I can feel like a savvy shopper knowing that if I had traded up a few years ago I would have either paid much more, or been able to afford much less.
And then there's the timing.
When I purchase a new TV, I'll buy it after the Super Bowl, because that's when post-holiday prices for televisions come down the most.
Likewise, if I were in the market for a new Apple iMac or iPad, I would wait until the next model comes out. Typically, the new model is the same price as the old model, and the old model goes on sale.
I've had three Macs, and each one cost nearly the same price, though I bought them in 1988, 1998, and 2008. Several were the previous year's model, and at least one was refurbished.
I always kept the computers until there was a compelling reason to replace them -- usually something to do with speed, memory or program upgrades. I knew that the longer I waited, the better the next one would be.
Had I replaced my computer every three years, as an early adopter might, I would have bought 10 computers instead of three.
Sometimes it's hard to wait and make purchases when prices are low. If you need a winter coat in December, you won't want to wait until they're sold at close-out prices in February.
We all know that popular holiday items such as slippers and gloves will be half-price the day after Christmas, which is no help if you need to buy gifts.
But when it comes to big-ticket items, and particularly home electronics, a little patience can pay off handsomely.