DUSTY WAL­LET

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National Post (Latest Edition) - Financial Post Magazine - - COLUMNS & DEPARTMENTS - Garry Marr writes per­sonal fi­nance sto­ries in the Fi­nan­cial Post. Email:gmarr@post­media.com

How to take the cheap ap­proach to all those spe­cial days.

Fe­bru­ary is one of those months with a pre-se­lected cel­e­bra­tion that en­riches re­tail­ers and soaks con­sumers. Valen­tine’s Day is no dif­fer­ent than other so-called spe­cial days when it comes to buy­ing things: Prices quickly rise just ahead of the day and you pay through the nose if you want your tim­ing to be spot on.

A 2014 study by Bloom Na­tion found that florists in the Los An­ge­les area paid about US 70¢ per stem prior to Fe­bru­ary 14, but that rose to US$1.85 on the spe­cial day. The re­tail price, mean­while, jumped from US$3 to US$6 per stem.

Go out for din­ner on Valen­tine’ s Day and you are guar­an­teed to pay more money for a meal. There are loads of restau­rants with a “spe­cial” pr ix-fix e menu that, as far as I can tell, is noth­ing more than an ex­cuse to jack up rates. In the ho­tel in­dus­try, the Valen­tine’ s get­away is a lu­cra­tive pack­age that helps fill rooms in what can bea slow time for leisure travel. The dream is a Wed­nes­day Valen­tine’s Day be­cause con­sumers can book weekend pack­ages be­fore and after the day. And, yes, rates are higher, too.

“There’s no ques­tion that the more In­ter­net-en­abled we all are and the more so­phis­ti­cated that the rev­enue man­age­ment is, help drive the abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late the rates,” says Lyle Hall, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of H LT Ad­vi­sory Inc ., which fol­lows the hospi­tal­ity sec­tor.

Mar­kets have be­come more ef­fi­cient and re­spond pretty quickly to sup­ply and de­mand. But it’ s hard for con­sumers to ar­gue they are be­ing gouged be­cause they can ben­e­fit dur­ing off-peak times. In­deed, there are ways to work this to your ad­van­tage. For ex­am­ple, trav­el­ling over Christ­mas or March break to lo­ca­tions geared for kids is go­ing to cost you be­cause that’ s what every­body wants to do dur­ing those pe­ri­ods .“Look at oc­cu­pancy around Easter and you see as pike ,” says Hall, adding that means hote­liers can charge more.

But Hall points out that if you book a trip to what is nor­mally con­sid­ered a business cen­tre dur­ing the hol­i­day pe­riod, you might ac­tu­ally save money. Goto Washington, D.C. over Christ­mas or New Year’s and you’ll find that ho­tel rates are down from when gov­ern­ment is in ses­sion.

In the re­tail sec­tor, it’ s well known that prices drop on Box­ing Day. Col­lier s International stud­ied fl ye rs for 44 prod­ucts dur­ing the 2014 Christ­mas sea­son and found re­duced prices on 36% of the items on Box­ing Day. Of course, it comes down to whether you can wait un­til De­cem­ber 26 to cel­e­brate the sea­son.

Prices also spike on most other “spe­cial” days. Mother’ s Day is an even big­ger day for flow­ers than Valen­tine’ s Day, but maybe a harder one to pass on. Me? I’m will­ing to take a pass on Fa­ther’s Day to save some bucks.

As for Valen­tine’ s Day, love comes at a price. But there’ s noth­ing to say you can’ t get a bet­ter deal by cel­e­brat­ing on a dif­fer­ent day.

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