If you follow conventional wisdom, you'll be buying sheets and towels in January, a computer in July and a vacuum cleaner in December. But few shopping experts tell us why we should buy then. If they did, we'd be smarter shoppers. The best time to buy something is, obviously, when it's on sale, and that can happen anytime.
But it helps to have a roadmap. Bargain hunters can always count on a number of sales that retailers have every year. Some of us are hoping that a wheezing major appliance will hold out until Warners' Stellian's Extreme warehouse sale, always held in March, or we leave an empty space in the living room until Blu Dot's famous home furnishings warehouse sale in June. With a few traditional sales and a few surprises mixed in, here is the first half of the 2012 sale calendar.JANUARY
Through Jan. 28: Que Sera moving sale (Galleria, Edina, 952-924-6390, www.quesera-style.com). Thirty to 70 percent off jewelry, bedding, sofas, chairs, case goods, chandeliers and lamps at the high-end home accessories store. A few items are excluded from the sale.
Through Jan. 31: Natural Built Home FLOR carpet tile sale (4020 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., 612-605-7999, www.naturalbuilt home.com). Ten to 20 percent discount on the FLOR line of recycled and recyclable carpet floor tiles with low VOC. FLOR has many colors and patterns that are great for the basement. The tiles can be removed for cleaning and drying if they get wet.
Through Jan. 31: Shoe Zoo clearance (3146 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-3988, www.shoezoo.us). More than 500 styles of kids' shoes are on clearance at 50 to 70 percent off (regularly $50 to $120), including fashion boots, as well as shoes for dress, new walkers and school. Also: fleece jackets, dresses, kids' yoga wear and pajamas. This is the largest discount ever offered by the Zoo.
Wednesday-Jan. 28: Eversharp knife sharpening sale (344 NE. Taft St., Mpls., 612-379-1300, www.eversharp knives.com). Regular blade knives sharpened for $1, $2 for serrated and $3 for scissors (limit 10). Also on sale: a Wüsthof 8-inch reconditioned cook's knife for $75, reg. $150, including a free handheld sharpener.
Jan. 28- Feb. 19: Rosenthal Contemporary Furniture in-store warehouse sale (22 N. 5th St., Mpls., 612-332-4363, www.rosenthalfurniture.com). Many pieces priced at or near wholesale cost, including furniture, mattresses, art, leather, entertainment units and accessories.FEBRUARY
1-5: Gallery 360 Sweet sale (3011 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-2400, www.gallery360mpls.com). Twenty percent off jewelry, clothing, ceramics, glass and handmade gifts (artwork excluded). Also: Shop & Stroll with storewide discounts at participating neighborhood shops June 23-24.
3: Centerpoint Massage & Shiatsu School & Clinic class specials (5300 W. 35th St., St. Louis Park, 952-562-5200, www.centerpointmn.com). Last day to register for a Massage Basics CP#503 class ($50 if you mention the "Basics" discount, normally $75). Learn basic massage techniques for the head, neck, back, arms and legs in a single class from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 11. Also: Shiatsu Basics class CP#506 on March 10 (register by March 2).
18: Arc's Value Village winter clearance (four locations including St. Paul, 651-788-8300, www.arcsvaluevillage.com). Fifty percent off the entire store.
18: Nordstrom Rack's large-size shoe event (Mall of America, 952-854-3131; Maple Grove, 763-898-5300). The outlet brings in additional numbers of shoes in women's sizes 10 1/2 and larger and men's sizes 14 and larger. Also: May 5.MARCH
1-15: Designer Marketplace floor sample sale (160 Glenwood Av. N., Mpls., 612-381-8508, www.designermarketplace mn.com). An additional 20 percent off all floor samples and one-of-a-kind pieces.
8-31: Creative Lighting half-yearly storewide sale (1728 Concordia Av., St. Paul, 651-647-0111, www.creative-lighting.com). Discounts of 10 to 60 percent off all lighting, mirrors and home accessories.
10-11: Warners' Stellian extreme warehouse sale (550 Atwater Circle, St. Paul, 651-222-0011, www.warnersstellian .com). Overstocks and scratch-and-dent appliances offered near or at wholesale prices. Manufacturer warranties apply but all sales are final.
29-31: David Rosenberg's spring/summer sample sale (location to be determined, 612-343-3221). Women's and men's midline clothing and jewelry at or below wholesale cost. Dates are tentative.APRIL
6-7, 13-15, 19-22: Gage & Gage gift bags, wrapping and accessories sale (660 Industrial Circle, Shakopee, 952-233-2081, www.gagewarehousesale.com). Shop the first weekend for a lot of Easter-themed products, as well as bows 25 cents or less; gift boxes 20 cents to $2; gift bags 10 cents to $2; ribbon, tissue, napkins, paper plates, beach bags, hats and wine caddies. The sale is in conjunction with the Canterbury Craft show April 20-22 and the gourmet foods sale below.
13-14: Textile Center garage sale (U of M ReUse Program warehouse, 883 29th Av. SE., Mpls., 612-436-0464, www.textile centermn.org). Fabric, yarn, threads, notions, kits, patterns, tools, beads, buttons, sewing machines, sergers, looms and knitting machines priced at 25 to 50 percent of the original cost. Admission $25 on April 13, $1 on the 14th. Bag sale ($1) from 3-4 p.m. on the 14th.
17-20: Stroke of the Heart greeting card warehouse sale (3792 Williston Road, Minnetonka, 952-945-9495). Locally designed greeting cards with watercolor designs priced as low as 35 cents, boxed note cards $4.50 and magnets and note pads $1.50.
19-22: North Aire Market gourmet foods warehouse sale (1157 S. Valley Park Dr., Shakopee, 952-496-2887, www.northaire market.com). Maggie and Mary's dry gourmet soups ($4), cheeseball mixes ($3) and smoothie mixes ($3) sell for 40 percent less than in retail stores.
26-28: Sample It spring/summer clothing sale (Days Inn, 7851 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington, 612-377-6967, www. sampleitsale.com). Clothing and accessories for kids, juniors and adults, including Billabong, Nick & Mo and Quiksilver. Additional 25 percent off the last day.
28-29: Munchkin Markets kids' consignment sale (Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Education Building, Falcon Heights, 651-253-0897, www. munchkinmarkets.com). Admission $1 or a nonperishable food item on Sat. Sale includes baby equipment, kids' clothes, toys and accessories. Most items half-price on Sun. For a list of more Twin Cities kids' consignment sales in the spring, go to www.mnkidsconsignmentsales.com or www.twincitieskidssales.com.MAY
18-19: B.T. McElrath Art-a-Whirl chocolate sale (2010 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-331-8800, www.btmcelrath.com). Truffles, season-end closeouts, overruns and limited-edition snacks discounted 20 to 70 percent.
23-June 3: Nordstrom women's and kids' half-yearly sale (Mall of America, Bloomington, 952-883-2121, www. nordstrom.com). Also: Men's Half-Yearly Sale June 15-26.
24-28: Half-Price Books 40th Anniversary Sale (seven Twin Cities locations including Apple Valley, 952-431-0749). Twenty percent off storewide.
28: Memorial Day thrift store 50 percent off sales. Save 50 percent storewide at participating thrift stores such as Savers, Unique, Valu Thrift and Arc's Value Village.JUNE
8-10: Cooks of Crocus Hill annual garage sale (877 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-228-1333, www.cooksofcrocushill.com). Clearance, samples, closeouts and discontinued items, store fixtures and school cookware discounted 40 to 75 percent.
9: Fun Sisters annual tent sale (4253 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-9872, www.thefunsisters.com). Save 50 percent or more on purses, jewelry and shoes. Nothing over $15. Weather-permitting.
Unknown: Blu Dot warehouse sale (13098 George Weber Dr., Rogers, 612-782-1844, www.bludot.com). Call or become a fan on Facebook for exact sale dates in June.