MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And now, we turn to matters of personal finance and, as we are about midway through January, we thought we'd ask, how's that new year's resolution going? According to a poll from Marist University, spending less and saving more money is one of the top five resolutions Americans made for 2013.
But what if you just can't resist those cute pumps or that stress-relieving massage or you really need some new sheets and towels or that oil change? It turns out that there are actually optimal times in the year to buy certain things.
Mark Di Vincenzo has studied all of this. He is a contributor to Time magazine's Smart Spending column. He's author of several books and his latest is "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4."
Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us and Happy New Year to you.
MARK DI VINCENZO: Happy New Year to you, Michel.
MARTIN: Let's start with the title of your book, "Buy Shoes on Wednesday." Now, full disclosure. You had me at buy shoes, but I did have to ask: How did you figure out that there are optimal times to buy all kinds of things, and not just cars? Because I think people understand that, you know, it's good to buy cars at the end of the model year when dealers want to clear their lots. How did you figure out that it doesn't just apply to cars?
VINCENZO: Yeah. There's some logic to buying or the timeliness of buying, but I was a journalist for 24 years working at newspapers and had a lot of experience on doing research and just finding out information and all the information in this book comes from experts. None of it comes from me and it's all from people who know their stuff, people in retail or health or the world of education.
MARTIN: Are you one of those guys who just really likes a deal yourself?
VINCENZO: I do. My parents were raised during the Great Depression and they were frugal out of necessity and I lived with them for 18 years and some of it rubbed off on me and, you know, if I can save money, I'd like to do it.
MARTIN: What are some of the things that it makes sense to buy in January?
VINCENZO: There's a lot of big ticket items that you should really consider. January and February, to a certain extent, are the two best months of the year to buy a house and the reason for that is there are fewer buyers and there are more eager sellers. The other thing is mortgage rates are incredibly low right now. They may be for much of the year, but they're probably not going to go down any more than they are now. It's just a great opportunity to save literally tens of thousands of dollars.
MARTIN: I was kind of excited to hear - and I'm hoping that a certain person in my life hears this conversation - that January is a very good time to buy jewelry. And why is that?
VINCENZO: Yes. January is one of the six non-gift-giving months. You know, the gift-giving months are February because of Valentine's Day, May because of Mother's Day, June because of graduations and Father's Day, and then the last three months of the year because of Christmas. The other months are when you're likely to see jewelry on sale. I'm talking about real sales as opposed to the sales you see in anticipation of Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, when the jewelry stores typically raise prices and then they announce these sales that really are not true sales.
VINCENZO: But, in January...
MARTIN: I didn't know that.
VINCENZO: Yeah. It happens and the jewelry stores led the way at this. Other retailers are doing it now, as well, but smart shoppers are going to buy jewelry in January for Valentine's Day gifts.
MARTIN: One of the other surprises that I learned from your book is that January and February is a good time to buy a prom dress. Now, why would that be?
VINCENZO: Yeah. Who's thinking...
MARTIN: I don't need one, but you know - but thank you for asking, but...
VINCENZO: Yeah. Who's thinking of buying a prom dress in January? Right? A great to buy then is the selection is the largest and, you know, some of the most popular styles are going to sell out long before prom season, so it's not like you're saving a lot of money, but it really gives you a lot of time to buy shoes and have your dress altered and get those other prom-related accessories. Once you have your dress, then you can get the other things.
MARTIN: One point you also make in your book is that there are lots of things that are subject to timing, like gift cards. Now, it would not occur to me that you could actually get a deal on a gift card, but you say you actually can and January is a good time to do that.
VINCENZO: That has to do with what's happening at Christmas. More and more gift cards are being given as gifts. You know, they're a little more personalized than cash and, you know, obviously, they're very easy to ship and send, so they've become really popular Christmas gifts. But a lot of people who get gift cards, they don't really want them. You know, they may not like that store so much. So what they're doing in increasingly large numbers is they're waiting until January and then they're selling these things online. You know, they're selling them on different websites, everything from eBay to GiftCards.com. There's a site called GiftCardGranny.com and they're really willing to get whatever they can get for them, so it's not unusual to be able to get a gift card at 15, 25, even 35 percent off.
MARTIN: And, before we let you go, why is your book also called "Tweet at 4?" You say buy shoes on Wednesday. Well, first of all, why do you buy shoes on Wednesday? Why Wednesday?
VINCENZO: There are organizations that study hundreds of thousands of online sales in a given year and, for whatever reason - and it's sort of a mystery - Wednesday is the best day to buy shoes online.
MARTIN: And why tweet at 4?
VINCENZO: You should tweet at 4 if you want a lot of people to read your tweets or to retweet your tweets because the largest percentage of people are tweeting between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M., and it's really - regardless of what time zone you're in. It's a time of day when people are at work. Their workday is winding down. They're starting to become less productive, surfing the net and they're doing a lot of tweeting.
MARTIN: Well, thank you, Mark. We'll check back with you later in the year when you can tell us more things to do at various times of the year if you want to save money or even perhaps make some money.
Mark Di Vincenzo is a columnist for Time and author of "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4." He joined us from member station WHRO. That's in Williamsburg, Virginia. Thank you.
VINCENZO: Thank you, Michel. I enjoyed it.
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