Labor Day has become one of those shopping holidays when retailers advertise big sales to get people into stores, but shopping this weekend is not without its overpriced perils.
“Labor Day is actually a great time to find deals, because a lot of retailers are trying to get rid of summer merchandise so they can make room for fall items,” says Erin Konrad, a spokesperson for CouponPal.com. Often, says Jon Lal, the founder and CEO of BeFrugal.com, “Labor Day sales take additional discounts off already-reduced clearance items.”
But you need to be a smart shopper to score the best deals. First, “make sure you do your comparison shopping: a lot of retailers will label their wares with a Labor Day promo, but it might not be any different than their normal discounts,” says Lindsay Sakraida, the features director at DealNews. Use apps like RedLaser, which scans the barcodes of items and tells you if the same items are priced lower at other stores, or a site like PriceGrabber, which shows you the lowest price available at other retailers, to facilitate comparisons — factoring in additional savings you’re getting from coupons (use an app like Coupons.com, CouponSherpa or RetailMeNot to find coupons) and shipping costs to get the final cost.
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Shoppers also must be patient: “Although it’s tempting to get shopping at the very beginning of the weekend, you’re actually more likely to get the best deals later — so shop Monday if possible,” says Konrad, although she notes that you risk having a smaller assortment to choose from.
And finally, shoppers need to be savvy about what they buy or they’ll end spending way too much. Here’s what consumers should — and should not — consider buying this Labor Day weekend.
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Skip: Electronics. “Avoid buying major electronics like TVs and game systems, as you’ll be able to find them for deeper discounts during Black Friday and the holidays,” says Lal.
Skip: Fall clothes. Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch says that while retailers will promote Labor Day sales on select fall fashion, you’ll get better deals on most items later in the season, such as during Columbus Day or Black Friday, and sometimes even later; for winter essentials like coats and boots, she advises you wait until after Christmas for the best bang for your buck. The reason: Since these fall clothes recently hit stores, they’re unlikely to be deeply discounted, says Konrad.
Skip: Toys. “Toy stores and major retailers that sell toys are holding out for later in the fall when they release the items that are new and popular for the holidays,” says Lal. Indeed, toy deals are often best in December, says Johan Mengesha, a spokesperson for SlickDeals.com. “That’s one thing that actually pays off to procrastinate with as a parent,” he says.
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Buy: Summer clothes. “Bathing suits and other summer clothes are at their lowest prices at the end of August, as retailers try to make space for fall apparel,” says Trae Bodge, a senior editor for RetailMeNot.com. Furthermore, around Labor Day, stores will start unveiling coupons that take an additional discount on end-of-season sale items, says Sakraida. These coupons, in combination with discounts already in effect, can help you save 50%-80% off the original price of an item, says Woroch.
Buy: A new car. “Labor Day is an ideal time to purchase a car, if you’re willing to buy an existing model,” says Lal. “Dealerships are trying to move inventory to make room for new models debuting in September, and you can find good deals and incentives on previous years’ models.” Bodge says that SUVs in particular are good deals over Labor Day weekend.
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Buy: Back-to-school items. “If you waited on any back-to-school shopping, you can now find apparel and supplies on sale during Labor Day and afterwards, as kids head back to classes and retailers need to make room for new inventory,” says Lal. This includes laptops, says Woroch. “Retailers are promoting back to school/college deals on laptops through early September,” she says.
Buy: Grills and patio furniture. “Patio sets and grills are also going to be heavily marked down, as stores try to clear out their inventory,” says Sakraida, who adds that you can get discounts of up to 75% off. She cautions, however, that “if you’re not particular about what you get, these items might receive even heavier discounts after summer is officially over.”
Other summer-related items are also likely to be a good deal. Bodge recommends buying new air-conditioning systems or units now if you need them, and Lal says that pools are on sale often.
Buy: Appliances and mattresses. “Most appliance retailers release sales and specials during holidays like Labor Day,” says Woroch, who adds that you can expect 10 – 30% savings off the original price. “Be ready to bargain, though, and compare prices as stores typically price match competitors.” Stores like Best By and Walmart WMT, -1.50% , as well as Home Depot HD, -1.87% and Lowe’s LOW, -1.88% (both of which not only price match, but will beat the competitor’s price by 10%) all have a price-match policy.
“Mattresses are another popular holiday weekend sales item, and stores will knock up to 60% off select models,”says Sakraida. “Watch out for the shipping costs though; these heavy items can rack up a $70 or more delivery fee, so driving to the store is your best bet.”