By Lindsay Sakraida, dealnews Features Director, with contributions from Louis Ramirez The dealnews staff published more than 6,000 deals last July, which we've analyzed so that we can offer our readers a bit of advice while planning purchases this month. And it's a particularly important month to do so, since a number of sales will appear to be better than they are. So in order to protect your wallet and spend your money wisely, be sure to read through our July buying guide below for everything you need to know to shop smart this month. Black Friday in July Beginning in July, we start to see Black Friday-labeled sales. While this trend appeared to have lessened in 2011, as compared to 2010, there were still a few offenders. Target once again offered its "Back in Black Friday" sale in the middle of July, with other retailers following suit later in the summer. While enticing, be leery of the labeling; few of these Black Friday sales actually feature the rock-bottom pricing consumers come to expect from the "darkest" of shopping days. A Few Choice Sales Bursting with Savings on the 4th During Independence Day weekend last year, some vendors like Saks Fifth Avenue and bebe offered their best sales of the year so far, while most stores (like Macy's) mainly peddled middle of the road discounts. As usual, a discount is still money saved, but don't be tricked into thinking these are fleeting offers; many will reappear, or could potentially get better if you carefully keep an eye out for a coupon. First Chance for Sizable Sandal Sales Mid-Season As per usual with seasonal apparel items, the longer you wait this summer to buy sandals, the better the price you're likely to get. However, mid to late July is when we start to see some notable discounts on footwear. Look for flip flops for under $5 and sales on popular brands like Steve Madden, Polo Ralph Lauren, Crocs, and Teva. Mixed Messages on Sunglasses Many people crave a new pair of sunglasses in the middle of summer, but according to our deals last year, the best storewide sales (from retailers like Sunglass Hut and 6pm) popped up in September, November, and December. That said, as far as individual shades styles go, we fairly consistently see Editors' Choice deals from Oakley and Ray-Ban throughout the year. So, if you're not picky about the style and you just want a great price on one of these top two sunglasses brands, set up an email alert and wait for an Editors' Choice deal to roll in at any time. Grill Deals Slowly Sizzle Post Independence Day sales at department and hardware stores tend to discount summer-friendly purchases, like grills. However, if you can wait until August, you will likely see a greater selection of appealingly priced options; there were 30% more deals in August of last year than there were for July. That said, June this year already saw a greater number of grill deals compared to last year, and hopefully that trend will continue throughout July and into August. Wait Until September or October for Patio Sets We saw a large spike in patio and garden items in September of last year, but October brought the best markdowns. Several patio sets and gardening items from Sears, Amazon, and other merchants hit their lowest prices in October, as they were available for significantly less than we had seen them at over the summer. If you can wait to replace your existing patio set, cooler months will offer better deals on outdoor goods than July. Digital SLRs are Trending Hot Typically, we see a huge spike in the number of Editors' Choice DSLR camera deals during November and December, as well as new markdowns on old models once new cameras are released in the first quarter of the year. But lately we've been seeing a surprising number of all-time low deals on consumer DSLRs. For example, May saw more than twice the number of Editors' Choice deals, and June has continued to pump out a slightly above-average number for this time of year. Digital cameras are a good category to keep an eye on for belated graduation gifts. A Month to Tinker with Tool Deals Does your arsenal of DIY tools need a few new items? Or do you need to tend to repairs while the weather is warm and relatively manageable — heat excluded? July happens to be one of the best months of the year for top-shelf tool deals, matched only by November and December. Look for sales on tools sets, accessories, and tool storage units. Retina Display Takes the Spotlight, But the MacBook Air Brings the Deals Throughout the month of June, no laptop received as much media attention as Apple's new MacBook Pro Retina. And while we did see one deal shave $105 off the Retina's list price, chances are any deals we see in July will be modest. But fear not Apple fans, for July is bound to ring in an abundance of laptop deals on Apple's much-loved MacBook Air. We've already seen Sandy Bridge-based MacBook Airs hit new lows with prices starting at $740. So if you don't mind having a generation-old MacBook Air (which is still just one year old!), July is your month to buy. On the Windows front, Ivy Bridge-based systems will continue to see new lows as 15" Ivy Bridge systems continue to flirt with the $600 mark (as they did in late June). So $600 is the price to beat if you want an Ivy Bridge Windows machine. Meanwhile, desktop replacements continue their plateau at $800, so any deals you see under that price will offer the most savings. 46" HDTVs Are the Ones to Watch HDTV prices have generally remained the same for the past few months and we predict we'll see little to no price differences in TV deals throughout July. However, not all news is bleak. Last month we mentioned brand-name 46" HDTVs hit new lows, and we expect those lows to remain through July. So if you're in the market for a new HDTV, we recommend looking at 46" to 47" brand-name models and to look for prices in the $500 range. Anything at or below $490 is an all-time low for this category. Set up an email alert now to keep abreast of any and all of these best buys in July. And for more price trend information, check out our consumer shopping research page. Front page photo credit: SanJose.com Photo credits top to bottom: Facebook, Zimbio, Rain Show Gardens, and Basement Area Follow @dealnewsfeature on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.