NEW YORK (Money Magazine) - Seasonal pricing is often the key to getting the best deals in the fun category.
The lost art of haggling can also generate some nice discounts. Just think of it as asking for a price break over and over until they give you one. Let your inner 2-year-old come out and play.
Seasons matter - If you're in the market for a two-wheeler, now's the time to buy, says Lucien Orza of Briarcliff Bike Works in Braircliff Manor, N.Y. (The worst time: spring, when prices typically peak.)
New models come out in the fall, so last year's models will be discounted at least 15 percent to 25 percent.
Service is worth it - Bikes arrive from manufacturers just 60 percent to 70 percent assembled. It's the responsibility of the dealer to put together the rest -- wheels, brakes, seats, controls, handlebar and rear derailer. So before you buy, survey local enthusiasts (they're the ones with grease stains on their calves) about which shop provides top-notch service.
Bricks and mortar discounts - For the best deal on new releases, head to your local book superstore, like Barnes & Noble, where most go for 30 percent off. (That's about as much as you'll get for a new hardcover at any Web site, once you've factored in shipping costs.)
Plus, if you join the stores' membership clubs -- $25 a year at Barnes & Noble; $12 at Waldenbooks -- you save another 10 percent.
The web saves too - But for last year's popular titles, surf the Web. We found Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" in paperback for $9.57 at Amazon.com, 40 percent off the cover price of $15.95.
Bulk buys pay - Get 'em in bulk from the cinema Web sites. At Loewscineplex.com, you can buy five-ticket packs for $25, or $5 a flick, a 50 percent discount in some cities (tickets valid Monday-Thursdays only, and the promotion ends on September 30). At Regalcinemas.com, 50-ticket packs go for $275 (or $5.50 a ticket).
Schuss the Web - If you know exactly which skis you're after, shop online.
Warm weather discounts - If not, hit the resort towns in the spring and summer. Resort shops will be slashing prices on last season's models to make way for new ones (having the latest technology is imperative among ski bums).
Demo deals - For extra savings, buy demo models, which tend to be high-end and have little wear and tear. Skip the rentals -- they've had it.
Glut is good - A rise in imports coupled with an oversupply of California grapes means values are everywhere.
Master sommelier Andrea Immer, author of "Great Wine Made Simple," suggests looking for California Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from up-and-coming regions and subregions like Paso Robles and Monterey.
If you prefer French, buy great chateaus in off-vintages -- 1999 Bordeaux, for example. Or buy the second labels: Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild sells wine under the name of Carraudes de Lafitte for one-third the price of the premier cru.
For everyday values look to Chile, Australia and other Southern Hemisphere wine powers.
Dining out formulas - To find a good wine value in a restaurant, Immer suggests this classic yardstick:
Take the most expensive entree on the menu and multiply the sticker by 1 1/2. (So if the filet mignon is $26, look for a bottle of wine around $39.) "Expect to find a good range of choices at that price point," says Immer, "and don't feel you have to spend more."
The old choose-the-second-least-expensive-wine on the menu also remains a good strategy. "Restaurant wine buyers give a lot of attention to the low end of the price scale," Immer says, "so there are great values and quality gems in that category."
How much is too much? - The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association says the median initiation fee is $150 and median monthly dues are $52.
To reduce your bill, check with your company's benefits department: Many employers offer health-club discounts (as do some health insurers).
If you go it alone, shop in summer, when attendance is down. And haggle: If you threaten to walk, many gyms will make you a better offer, says eDiets.com's Kelli Calabrese.
Save with class - Of course, you should be honest about how often you'll go. The average annual gym tab is $774. Yet the typical American visits the gym 92 times a year, which works out to fewer than two weekly workouts at more than $8 apiece.
If you don't think you'll make it to the gym twice a week -- or your gym costs are above average -- you might be better off taking individual fitness classes. One example: A 25-class card costs $200, or $8 a class, at Downtown Gym & Fitness Club in Fort Lauderdale.
Skis: Geardirect.com offers some of the lowest prices on ski equipment and will match prices found at other Web sites and stores. Go there now to catch the tail end of a most excellent summer sale, with last season's models selling for 50 percent off.
Callaway Great Big Bertha II: This titanium driver -- Callaway's newest take on the Big Bertha -- has a suggested retail price of $500. But at Golfalltheway.com and Clickandsavegolf.com, it's all yours for $360 -- 28 percent less. Shipping is free.
Holiday stationery: Snow & Graham offers everything from standard seasons greetings to groovy coasters that double as party invites. Through Sept. 30, get 15 percent off custom imprinting on the store's entire 2003 holiday selection. A set of 30 coasters (the minimum order) costs $105 at snowandgraham.com.