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August: the best and worst things to buy this month

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David Wallace/The Arizona Republic/AP

(Read caption) A woman smiles as she cools off at the splash pad at Tempe Beach Park in Tempe, Ariz. on June 29, 2013. August is the last chance for most buyers to find deals on swimsuits, Sakraida says.

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During the last few weeks of summer, it can be fun to indulge in a happily lazy routine, perhaps lounging poolside with a cold drink in hand. But as appealing as that may sound, don't let that carefree attitude extend to any of your shopping excursions; there are still clear lines in the sand about what you should, and should not, buy this month.

For example, this month grills and patio sets will see red-hot discounts, but it would be smart to avoid buying a new tablet. And while we'll see great back-to-school sales in the coming weeks, don't even think of wasting your money on these eight items that your matriculating student may demand. For even more money-saving tips, here's our analysis of what you can expect from deals in August.

Back-to-School Shopping Heats Up

According to our deals from the past two years, August is the best summer month to get discounts on back-to-school items. While a number of sales that began in July will continue into August, expect more stores to cut prices even further. For example, apparel retailers like American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch slashed an extra 30% to 50% off sale items last year, and we anticipate seeing similar trends in 2013. That said, keep in mind that last year the best time to buy jeans was July through mid-August; after that, discounts from popular jeans brands dropped off.

Also keep an eye out for cheap dorm furniture from retailers like Walmart — which offered futons for as little as $89 last year, as well as computer desks for $29 — and special sales on backpacks and computer cases for as little as $10. As for back-to-school laptops, consider taking advantage of special promotions that bundle your purchase with gift cards, gaming consoles, and printers.

Summer Apparel on Clearance

As we near the end of the summer season, even retailers who don't cater to back-to-school crowds will begin to get even more aggressive with their clothing discounts, as they try to make room for autumn apparel. In fact, in the final days of July, we saw numerous Editors' Choice deals trickle in that offered enormous stacking coupons, and we expect to see much of the same in August. Look for base sales that take 40% to 70% off.

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Last Chance for Swimwear

Although swimwear falls into a general summer apparel category, it's important to note that after August, you'll be hard-pressed to find any swimwear deals. For the past three years, swim sales have significantly decreased come September, suggesting that most stores clear their inventory in August. As such, now's a great time to look for sales that take up to 60% off or more from department stores and retailers like Victoria's Secret.

The Best Patio Deals Arrive at the End of August

Although you might have already seen sales for summer patio furniture, if you truly want to pay the absolute least amount of money for a new set, wait until the end of the month — or even September, if you can stand it. Retailers like Sears and Home Depot will be exceptionally eager to clear out any remaining stock at this time, and discounts can reach as high as a staggering 90% off come September. Keep in mind, however, that the longer you wait, the less wide of a selection there will be.

Hold Off on the Kindle Fire — And the Google Nexus 7

For the past two years, Amazon has debuted a Kindle Fire tablet in early September: there's a very good chance that the retailer will do the same again next month, too. With just a few weeks between now and then, August is not a smart time to purchase the current Fire tablet; you'll soon be able to get a brand new model for roughly the same retail price, or, you'll find reseller deals on the previous generation. Either way, you'll get more for your money by waiting until Amazon's announcement.

Even if you're considering the Google Nexus 7 — Amazon's biggest rival in the extremely-cheap tablet market — it's still worth waiting for the Kindle Fire release; Google surprisingly introduced the second-generation Nexus 7 recently for $229, which is slightly more than the previous generation's price point of $199. All eyes will then be on Amazon to see if the store does the same. If the new Fire is cheaper, and the slightly pricier Nexus tablet doesn't sell like Google hopes, then we might see special promotions for the Nexus 7 that bundle the tablet with a media credit for music, videos, or books.

Grill Deals Are Red-Hot in August

If you've waited patiently to buy a grill this year, you may be rewarded this month with significant savings. Last year, we listed grill deals that slashed as much as $200 off entry and mid-tier models. Yet, this past July we saw no sales that came close. It follows then, that retailers will begin taking more widespread cuts this month. Look to vendors like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sears for the best deals.

55" 3D HDTVs Hit Rock Bottom

July was the most exciting month we've seen for big-screen HDTV deals since November, as the once prohibitively expensive 55" 3D TV hit an unprecedented low of $549. That's 23% cheaper than the best deal we've seen this entire year! Chances are slim we'll see a repeat of that specific deal in August, but regardless, it's still a great time to jump on the 3D bandwagon. Look for 55" 3D TV deals in the $549 to $659 price range, the latter being the average price we've seen this summer. Retailers like Fry's, Walmart, and Dell Home will offer the best sales; in fact, Dell Home has regrularly been bundling big-screen HDTVs with $100 or $200 gift cards.

Wait to Buy 32" HDTVs

If you're going back to school and need a 32" set for the dorm, wait until September to buy one. Current sets are priced higher than normal, with prices ranging from $230 to $280, but if this year is anything like last year, then September may offer the best 32" TV sales of the year, beating out even Black Friday's offerings. Next month prices should dip below $200.

August Means More Back-to-School Laptop Deals

The last-minute back-to-school crunch has arrived! August is your last chance to score a laptop deal before classes begin. Although prices in July didn't drop as low as we expected, we're still recommending shoppers look for deals on 15" Core i5 Ivy Bridge laptops with prices ranging from $299 (the all-time low we've seen) to $323, which was June's best laptop deal.

Alternatively, 15" AMD dual-core laptops have remained comfortably below $300 this summer, averaging $237. Likewise, quad-core 15" AMD systems have been hovering around the $375 price point for the same time period. If you're particularly tight on cash and can't wait until September to see if Intel prices plummet to $299 again, an AMD system can save you a few bucks — or in the case of the quad-core systems, provide more power than a dual Intel notebook of the same price.

Set up an email alert now to keep abreast of any and all of these best buys in August. And for more price trend information, check out our consumer shopping research page.

Lindsay Sakraida is the features director at dealnews.com, where this article first appeared. Louis Ramirez, a dealnews.com contributor, also assisted with the article. Original article: http://dealnews.com/features/what-to-buy-in-august/


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