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The Best and Worst Things to Buy in August

By Lindsay Sakraida, dealnews Features Director; with contributions from Louis Ramirez

best and worst to buy in AugustWhile the waves and ebbs of shopping can be dictated by the economic tide, among other ever-changing factors, there are also certain annual trends that merchants follow faithfully (when conditions will allow). And to understand these trends means a consumer can shop with greater savvy for saving.

So, at dealnews, we've mined our extensive archives of sales, coupons, and individual products from the past few summers to find trends that can guide the buying experience in August. Here's what we found:

Back to School:
Although many experts speculated that back-to-school sales would start early this year, August is when we started to see the biggest discounts in 2010 — especially if you're looking for a backpack. This time last year, Kmart took 50% off backpacks, JCPenney offered styles from $2, Lands' End took up to 50% off backpacks and lunch bags, and Kohl's had a sale with selections starting from $12.

Additionally, many stores last August began in earnest to offer special discounts for kids. (We've already started seeing this in July this year.) But be weary of the marketing: Sometimes these kids-specific discounts might fall short of the normal storewide offers you'll also see this month. For example, last August Old Navy took 20% off kids apparel in early August, but then 10 days later took 30% off sitewide — which of course applied to those same kids items. The lesson? Don't jump merely because it's listed as a kids' or back-to-school promotion; you might find even better deals during a non-branded sale.

Back to School for the College-Bound:
August was a fantastic month for discounts on dorm furniture, specifically from Walmart. Whether you're in the market for amorphous bean bag chairs, futon-like couches, or stacking storage, most of the deals we saw on these items last summer came from Walmart, and several were at all-time lows. Additionally, look to both OfficeMax and The Container Store for sales on office units and storage goods.

While it's common to see coupons for swimwear early in the summer, the big "end of season" sales tend to come in August. In fact, Victoria's Secret offered its hands-down best discount on the very last day of the month in 2010. Also look to Lands' End and Eddie Bauer for big swim sales this month. Keep in mind though that there may be no benefit to holding out any longer than that; we listed virtually no swim deals in September.

Aside from the typical "off-season" rates, you may not think of accommodations as an area where you can find major sales or discounts. But we do in fact see coupons and sales, and last August Orbitz took 15% off most hotel stays via a coupon, which was its best of the year. And, that coupon was valid for stays through March, so you won't necessarily need to worry about a small window of opportunity for booking. Additionally, Hotels.com offered one of its best sales ever this time last year, with markdowns of up to 50% off with a stacking 10% off coupon. Both offers suggest that August might be an ideal time to finally book that hotel for a vacation you've been considering.

While you can find great deals on shoes throughout the year (particularly if you're willing to buy old stock), last August featured some pretty stellar sales from noteworthy brands and merchants. Thanks to a fantastic $10 off coupon, JCPenney offered shoes for as low as $2, while Crocs posted an outlet sale with styles as low as $9. We also saw excellent sales from Timberland, Famous Footwear, and Steve Madden (the latter of which was the greatest clearance offer we'd seen all year, with a smoking 70% off sale with an extra 50% off), among others. If you're jonesing for new shoes, August is a particularly good month to browse.

Although we find deals on individual grills throughout spring and summer, we inexplicably don't see that many general grill sales, which can make general browsing a little difficult. That said, we did see some modest sales on grills at Sears throughout August last year, so it might be a good place to start.

It may seem logical to think that bikes will benefit from late-summer sales, since they get prime use during warm weather. This was true for 2009, with sales from Performance Bike and REI at the end of August, spilling into most of September. Our research from 2010, however, shows that those same merchants offered sales that stacked with their best coupons around the holiday buying months of November and December. That said, Nashbar offered its largest coupon ever last August, so it's worth keeping an eye out for a repeat.

Last year, August proved to be the best month to buy a new 16" Core i7 laptop during the summer months (June through September). The price low back then was $858. So, if you must buy a laptop before school starts, August is your month. However, be warned: Last year's August deals were easily trumped by October deals. In fact, October's best offer for a 16" Core i7 laptop was $89 under August's best deal. So far this year, $650 has been the magic price to beat for a 16" Core i7 machine. So if you see any such laptop deals this month at or below $650, it'll very likely be the best deal we've seen this year for a system with this configuration.

55" LED LCD HDTV deals for the month of July were on par with the deals we saw in June ($1,048 being the best deal for both months), which suggests that August will bring more of the same as retailers slowly begin to prep for the major sales around Black Friday. In 2010, August and September saw a minute uptick in TV prices before they began their steady descent for the holidays, which also indicates that the summer isn't an ideal time to make any TV purchases. Deals on 55" 3D models have generally been under $1,369 for most of this summer, so any price under that mark will ensure you're getting the best rate. But again, we expect these sets to hit new lows come November and December.

Ready to put this advice to good use? Set up an email alert for these and other categories, so you'll know right away when we list the best deals in August.

Photo credits, from top to bottom: Klearchos Kapoutsis,
Tom@hk, Jesslee Cuizon, and Johan Larsson via Flickr

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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