In September, some items are on sale more than others, but knowing what to look for is the key to helping you save. Here are some of the best bargains of the month.
According to Dealnews.com, the cheapest airfare deals of the year can be found in late September. In recent years, Vision and Spirit airlines offered one-way fares for as little as $1 (yes, $1!), while JetBlue has advertised fares for just $29 each way.
These prices are as low as they go, but they also come with restrictions. So, if you're flexible with your schedule, you'll have a better chance of nabbing a super cheap ticket.
This month is also a great time for coffee lovers, as September 29 is National Coffee Day. On this occasion, you can score a free or discounted cup of joe from chains like Krispy Kreme, McDonald's, Waffle House and 7-11, all of which have offered special deals in the past.
So, when it comes to your September purchases, use these tips to save big this month. Being a savvy shopper is all about knowing when to open your wallet and when to keep it closed.
How to Outwit the Airlines
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The shortest path between two points may be a straight line, but rarely does that seem to apply to airline routes. You might not be surprised by a layover in Chicago if you're flying from Boston to Seattle, but rarely will you find so obvious a route, especially on discounted and last-minute tickets.
Flying from New York to Dallas? JetBlue (JBLU) will make you lay over in Boston. Taking a short hop across the Adriatic Sea from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Venice, Italy on Iberia? Expect to lay over in Barcelona, Spain. That's because most airlines have hubs that they operate many more flights through, which make them cheaper. For example, American Airlines (AAL) has its largest hub in Dallas-Fort Worth, while United Continental (UAL) now has its largest hub in Houston (United's top hub was Chicago O'Hare before the merger).
If the 2005 Wes Craven thriller Red Eye has led you to pass on booking overnight flights, you might be missing out on some bargains.
A round-trip flight on British Airways from New York City to London on an afternoon in early July can cost approximately $1,500. An evening flight (after 6 p.m., although it varies by airline), however, can cost less than $1,000. And it's not just the transatlantic route. Red-eye flights are traditionally less expensive, not as full, and offer shorter lines at check-in and through security. And after all, time is money.
Travel newsletters like Johnny Jet, websites like Airfare Watchdog, or airline-specific social media feeds often provide flash and last-minute deals. Some sites, like Kayak, will automatically prompt you to set up an alert for a particular destination once you've done a couple of searches with the same departure and destination locations.
While many blogs and websites theorize on the best time or day to buy an airfare, there is no magic formula. Only by regularly comparing fares against other dates and airlines will you know when to make your purchase.
A good indicator of how easy an airline is to fly is its policies on changes and cancellations. While the policies are as varied as the quality of the in-flight meals, the information is easier to quantify. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes an annual list of fees generated by each airline. In 2011, Delta (DAL) charged a whopping $766 million in change and cancellation fees. Alaska Airlines (ALK) charged a mere $10 million (And lest you attribute the big difference to the relative sizes of the carriers, Delta only carried nine times as many passengers as Alaska Airlines.)
While the cost of flying may be increasing, airfare deals can always be had with a little patience, persistence, and research. Whether you're traveling alone, with colleagues, or with your family, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your flights this summer. Maybe even enough for another trip.