May Bargains
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What to Buy in May — and What to Skip

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May Bargains
gradyreese/istockphoto

May Bargains

Traditionally, May is the time to prepare for summer celebrations from graduations to weddings to cookouts. But while May's biggest parties may be on hold, there are still moms, newlyweds, and grads to gift, plus outdoor living and backyard grilling to prep for (even if it's immediate family only). Here's the lowdown on what to buy and what to wait on this month.

Related: What Americans Are Really Shopping for During the Pandemic

Buy: Kitchenware
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Buy: Kitchenware

Most years, cookware and small kitchen appliances are discounted in May as retailers target college graduation and wedding season. The coronavirus has forced many people to press "pause" on traditional celebrations, but you can still wrap up a set of pots and pans for a grad's first apartment, or shower newlyweds with kitchenware that will last for years. For more discounts, keep an eye out for Mother's Day promotions — kitchen gadgets make welcome and practical gifts for Mom.

Deals on Kitchenware
Target

Deals on Kitchenware

For basics, check big-box stores like Target and Walmart for bargains in this category, and don't forget department stores like Macy's and JCPenney, which are especially hard up right now. Finally, look for sales from higher-end specialty stores that do big business with wedding registries, including Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma.

Buy: Refrigerators
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Buy: Refrigerators

Your fridge is more important than ever, so don't wait for an aging model to fail on you now. New models of many large appliances are rolled out in the fall, but manufacturers typically introduce refrigerators for summer. That means spring can be the prime time to buy an old model for a cool price.

 Deals on Refrigerators
Costco

Deals on Refrigerators

Check Lowe's and Home Depot for some price wars in this category, but don't forget about your local appliance store, which could probably use your support right now. Another place to check for deals: Costco and other warehouse clubs. At Costco, appliance prices include a two-year warranty, in-home delivery, hookup, haul-away, and free tech service.

Party Supplies
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Buy: Party Supplies

May is usually the month when stores gear up with party supplies for summer, when graduation parties, wedding events, and pool parties abound. Even if some of those events are on hold, it might still be a good time to stock up for the next shindig, whether it's a luau or a bridal shower.

Deals on Party Supplies
Dollar Tree

Deals on Party Supplies

Our favorite place to stock up on party supplies year-round remains the dollar store, and if you're content with the basics, spots like the Dollar Tree still beat the big-box stores' sales. Your local grocery store will probably be discounting the goods in its paper products and party aisles, too.

Buy: Grilling and Picnic Supplies
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Buy: Grilling and Picnic Supplies

Backyard cookouts may be smaller affairs this year, but May is typically the time to buy everything from charcoal to grilling tools (though not grills themselves, as we caution later). Retailers see Memorial Day as the start of grilling season and offer deals on these items throughout the month of May. Like grilling provisions, picnic supplies also see discounts in May, with picnic season kicking into higher gear. Look for deals on paper products, condiments, picnic blankets, picnic baskets and picnic sets.

Deals on Grilling and Picnic Supplies
Target

Deals on Grilling and Picnic Supplies

Big-box stores and home-improvement chains both lay claim to this category, so make sure you compare prices at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe's before you make any big purchases in this category. 

Buy: Mattresses
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Buy: Mattresses

May is the best time to sack an old, saggy, or lumpy mattress. Take advantage of mattress deals this month as retailers try to clear inventory ahead of receiving new stock. Mattresses are also deeply discounted for Memorial Day, so check the offerings during holiday sale events.

Casper: 10% Off
Casper

Deals on Mattresses

While specialty stores like Mattress Firm always offer aggressive discounts, especially during holiday weekend sales, they may still be shuttered in some states. The same goes for department stores that sell mattresses. If their doors aren't open, you can shop these retailers online, or consider online bed-in-a-box retailers like Casper and Tuft & Needle. Most offer long trials so that you can feel confident about taking a chance on a mattress you haven't felt in person.

Spring Apparel
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Buy: Spring Apparel

With spring on its way out and summer easing in, retailers are antsy to clear out spring apparel and display new summer duds. May is the best month to scoop up spring clothes for cheap. Wait until mid-month, when sales begin and prices continue to drop through Memorial Day.

Deals on Spring Apparel
Gap

Deals on Spring Apparel

Department stores like Macy's and Kohl's will have plenty of fat seasonal discounts, particularly as Memorial Day sales roll around, though you may find that selection is getting picked over the longer you wait. Also look for blanket discounts on top of already-on-sale prices at retailers including Gap and Old Navy. For higher-end duds, look for Nordstrom to hold its Half-Yearly Sale at the end of the month. 

Star Wars
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Buy: 'Star Wars' Merchandise

"Star Wars" fans have claimed May the Fourth to celebrate the movie franchise, punning on the immortal line "May the Force be with you." Star Wars Day sees discounts on apparel, collectibles, video games, the movie series, and other merchandise.

Deals on 'Star Wars' Merchandise
Walmart

Deals on 'Star Wars' Merchandise

Last year, fans could find discounts on "Star Wars" Legos, toys, and games at Walmart, 20% off select "Star Wars" merchandise at Target,and a smattering of deals on themed products at retailers as diverse as Build-a-Bear and Game Stop.

Office Furniture
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Deals on Office Furniture
Office Depot
Secondhand Goods
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Buy: Secondhand Goods

Spring cleaning yields lots of inventory for second-hand sellers. Sales abound as thrift stores and sites hustle to move merchandise. It's a win-win: Sell your old stuff and replace it with new (to you) finds.

Deals on Secondhand Goods
TARIK KIZILKAYA/istockphoto

Deals on Secondhand Goods

Local thrift stores not yet re-opened? It's time to look online. Sites like ThredUp (clothing) and eBay (everything else) are a safe spot for people to unload their unneeded items, and for you to buy them at a discount. (While Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist may still be full of listings, meeting up in person to collect goods could violate any stay-at-home orders still in effect, not to mention social-distancing guidelines, so be careful.)

Do Your Research
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Skip: Laptops

With the school year winding down (or basically suspended), now is not the time to buy a laptop, though it's possible there will be some spotty deals as many people continue to work from home. Still, waiting until late June and early July is likely to save a bundle. That's when retailers including the Apple Store, Best Buy, and Costco usually start running back-to-school sales, and laptops are included in the discounts.

Skip: Grills and Patio Furniture
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Skip: Grills and Patio Furniture

Although May is a good time to pick up grilling supplies, the best time to buy a grill is after July Fourth, when retailers begin to look toward fall and start discounting this backyard staple. The same rule applies to patio furniture. You're better off waiting until summer begins winding down to snag bargains on these items.

Skip: Jewelry
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Skip: Jewelry

With Mother's Day on May 10, jewelry is in demand even when sales are just so-so. A necklace or earrings might have been nice for mom, but bargain-hunters might want a plan B — such as the kitchenware that's deeply discounted this month.