There was a time when grabbing the best prices was all about where and when you shopped. Savvy shoppers would wait all year to buy sheets, towels and other household linens during January White Sales. After Christmas Sales were notorious and reliable. But things have changed with the advent of online shopping and red-hot competition between retailers.

So, is there a best time to buy specific consumer goods? That’s the question posed in today’s first question from one of your fellow EC readers.

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Dear Mary: I’m looking at new computers. When is the best time to buy one? Stella

Dear Stella: There is something to be said for seasonal pricing of some consumer goods. For example, you will probably get the best deals on outdoor grills and lawn mowers in July and August as retailers are gearing up for Christmas and they need to clear space.

Our friends at Consumer Reports tell us that April is the month to get the best buys on computers, but I’m not completely on board with that theory because it is way too general.

The best time to buy a new computer is when you really need one. If your current machine is broken, or you need greater performance or it’s a gift, etc.,—there’s really no reason to delay the purchase. Research your options, make a decision and then shop around.

If you’re planning to buy an Apple product, by all means wait for the next big product announcement, if you can hold out. You might be able to get a deal on the model that will be going out of production.

If you’re looking at a PC, you might see some discounts in late summer and into fall, but I wouldn’t expect any major improvements in that technology that would warrant a big price drop anytime soon. Hope that helps!

Dear Mary: Thank you so much for your column. I really enjoy it and learn a lot. In response to a recent post on TracFone, I wanted to let you know that I have used TracFone for many years and it has been good for me. The best deal I can find for one-year cards is at HSN.com. When they are offering the TracFone phone you want, you can usually get it bundled with the one-year card with minutes plus a phone cover and car charger, all for out the price of a one-year card alone. This basically gives you a free phone and accessories for the typical price of a one-year card alone. I have done this 3 times and it has worked out great. Thank you. Mike

Dear Mike: Great information, Mike. You taught me something new. I wasn’t aware until now that HSN (formerly the Home Shopping Network) offers TracFone products and service. Lots of your fellow EC readers are going to be grateful as well once they check that bundled pricing.

Dear Mary: I hope you can help me. I burned bacon in my microwave. Oh my gosh, does it smell awful every time I open the door! I have my bottle of Nok-Out but I’m not sure what to do with it. I hope you can give me some advice on this. Carol

Dear Carol: Sure can, Carol. Smoke is a tough problem whether in a microwave, car or other enclosed space. And thankfully in most cases, smoke is not too tough for Nok-Out.

You have to consider that once smoke gets involved in a microwave, it gets circulated through the entire appliance, potentially touching every nook, cranny and surface. Nok-Out applied full strength, must do the same by touching every place that is harboring that odor.

Start by unplugging the appliance from power. Next, spray it inside and out, top to bottom including any carousel, racks, filter and other parts making sure Nok-Out comes in contact with every part of that appliance. Nok-Out is not at all toxic or harmful, so you can confidently spray the fan blades and so forth, provided you can reach them without taking the oven apart. Do not attempt to do that!

Once you’re certain every square millimeter of the oven—its door, hinges, corners, crevices, seams, top, sides, bottom and every other surface—has come in contact with Nok-Out, allow it to dry completely. Leave the door open and don’t use it for at least 24 hours. That should do it. If you still notice the odor, give it the full treatment again. Good luck!.

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