Got Cash? Here Are 7 Ways to Spend Your Dough

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For someone like Ben Popken, who has a good job and a steady income, there has never been a better time to have cash to burn.

"With all the deals going on, I feel like I'm rich," said Popken, who is co-executive editor of Consumerist.com, a Web site dedicated to consumer issues.

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"Cash is king in the down economy," said Popken, who put his yearly income in the "upper five figures." "There are definitely deals to be had."

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Popken thanks the recession for creating the deals he says are better than ever. "Before the recession ... companies that were putting out deals were really just giving little nudges to people, 5 percent or 10 percent off," he said.

But these days, for instance, a refurbished MacBook Air, which retails for at least $1,500, cost him a little more than $1,000. "That's a significant price drop, even for a refurbished machine," he said.

He also said he saved nearly $75 on a brand new Sony Cybershot digital camera by combining coupons on Dell.com.

Industry experts say that Popken's experience is not unusual: There's a deal to be found in nearly every corner of the market, from unbeatable prices for new cars to extravagant vacation packages to that dream home you never thought you'd be able to afford.

"Really and truly, there are great deals out there on everything from apparel to electronics, if you're willing to spend," said Mike Gatti, senior vice president of communications for the National Retail Federation.

"Everyone is trying to push their inventory out, and so they're cutting prices," he said.

ABCNews.com compiled a list of the top seven items people who aren't down and out because of the recession should look to spend their money on -- from car deals to vacations to the latest gadget you'd love to have.

Travel

Erik Torkells, the editor of Tripadvisor.com, said that now is the time for consumers willing to spend to "live it up.

"It's a great time to travel anywhere," he said. "Flights to Europe used to be in the $800s, round trip, and you're seeing them for half that now. The world is more within reach than it has even been."

Hotels are also more inclined than even to sweeten the deal, said Torkells, who advises people looking to travel to ask for a free breakfast or complimentary valet parking.

Ian Jeffries, the spokesman for Expedia.com, said that destinations such as Las Vegas, New York City and even islands in Hawaii are cheaper than they have ever been.

"In Las Vegas, the average daily hotel rate for this summer compared to last summer is 25 percent cheaper," he said. "Hawaii is also a great deal -- hotel rates are down 18 percent compared to last summer."

Cars

For consumers tired of looking at the old set of wheels in the driveway, now is the time for an upgrade.

"The car deals across the board are great right now," said Jack Nerad, a market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "The basis of the demand has been so low that everyone is competing that much harder."

Nerad said that there's a deal now for a Honda Civic lease for $149 a month, after a $2,600 down payment.

"That's a terrific car with a great reputation and great reliability and just great all around," he said. "That's kind of eye-popping."

Even luxury cars, such as BMWs, aren't out of reach, Nerad said. With the lease of a new BMW, one customer received no-cost maintenance for four years. "It's a great deal," he said.

Scott Painter, CEO of TrueCar.com, a Web site that tracks vehicle transactions nationwide, said that the Mercedes Benz you've always thought was above your pay grade may now be attainable.

"If you're looking to buy a car and you're a Mercedes buyer, it's the best time ever for you," Painter said.

He said all Mercedes models are selling at 10.2 percent below their sticker prices. "It's a buyer's market," he said.

Homes

With home prices having dropped nearly 20 percent in the past year in most major metropolitan areas, industry insiders said that now is a great time to purchase that second home you've been eyeing.

"There are deals to be had," said Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, an online realty company.

"There are plenty of people who went and put half a million dollars into a new home who are now sitting on a giant pile of regret that you can buy for a song," Kelman said.

Kelman said that areas in Arizona, Southern California and Florida -- places that were hit hardest by the real estate crunch -- will often boast the best deals for consumers looking to buy.

Jesse Loomis, the vice president of business development at Bid4Assets, an online auction site for high-value items, agreed that real estate is a buyer's market.

"There is a lot of bank-owned inventory, which leads to very competitive prices," Loomis said. "Now is a very good time to pick up a second home or an investment property."

Fine Dining

People who never would have considered dining at their neighborhoods' ritziest restaurants can now do just that by taking advantage of the restaurant industry when its desperate for business.

"This is, obviously, one of the most challenging times for fine-dining establishments in several decades," said Hudson Riehle, the chief economist for the National Restaurant Association.

"From a consumer perspective, it's a great time to get a great deal at their favorite fine-dining establishment," he said.

Riehle said that restaurants are doing everything from offering more fixed-price menus to treating patrons with free desserts or appetizers simply for showing up. "There are innovative approaches going on within the industry to lure customers in," he said.

"There is no better time than now to get out and try that neighborhood fine-dining restaurant you have been wondering about."

Consumer Electronics

Have you been yearning for a new iPhone or BlackBerry? If you have the money to burn, now is the time to pounce, according to consumer electronics industry analysts.

"Consumers are finding great early-summer deals on consumer electronics products that are very popular this time of year, including netbooks, smartphones, GPS, e-books and, of course, the always popular high-definition TVs and cool new broadband-enabled video devices that allow families to download and watch movies at home," said Jason Oxman, senior vice president of industry affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association.

Oxman said that consumers should look out for great deals on electronics such as Blu-Ray players from LG and Samsung, which are available for less than $250.

And with the next generation of Apple iPhone's hitting shelves later this month and driving the cost of the original iPhone down to a mere $99, smartphones will continue to be some of the best deals on the market, Oxman said.

Clothing

With fewer consumers heading to the malls and store managers struggling to move inventory from the floors, deals abound at local clothing retailers.

"The real question is where aren't there deals," said Stacy Janiak, the vice chairman and U.S. retail leader for Deloitte LLP.

"You can't go to very many places and not find some promotion, discount or offer to take advantage of," Janiak said. "You can walk the malls and still see 20 percent off or 50 percent off; the apparel industry is struggling."

Until stores can move old inventory out and new inventory in, customers will continue to thrive off sales that boast the slashing of prices and many two-for-one deals, Janiak said.

Furniture

For people hit hard by the economic downturn, spending money decorating their homes or replacing old furniture is the last thing on their to-do list.

So, for consumers who are willing to spend on furniture and home decor, deals are plentiful.

"Right now, it isn't really a bad time for anything, even home redecoration," Deloitte's Janiak said. "Any big ticket item that has been something that consumers have been holding back on will be on sale right now."

Jim Green, a furniture industry insider, said that consumers who are willing to haggle could come away with furniture at discount prices.

"Absolutely, without question, there are furniture deals to be had," Green said. "Every furniture company needs business dramatically."

Green advises people who are willing to spend cash on furniture to negotiate on upholstered items more so than wood pieces because of the price of manufacturing.

"A consumer who walks into a retail store will have better luck negotiating for a special-ordered sofa than they would a dining room set," he said.

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