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The Best and Worst Things to Buy in August

Now is not the time to upgrade your iPhone, but deals on grills, laptops, and travel are at their prime.

Although August lacks a major commercial holiday, it's still a busy month for retailers and deal hunters alike. Back-to-school sales are at their prime this month and in the coming week consumers will be inundated with end-of-summer clearance sales. As an added perk, select states will offer tax-free holidays, which are ideal for big purchases. So before you dismiss the dog days of summer, you'll want to read our buying guide to see what sales you should take advantage of this month.

And for more deals every single day of the month, consider signing up for the DealNews Select Newsletter to get the best deals of the day delivered to your inbox.

Make a Big Tax-Free Purchase

Seventeen states will offer sales tax holidays this month starting on the first of August. On each state's designated days, shoppers will be able to purchase select products such as computers, back-to-school supplies, and clothing without incurring any sales tax. Among the states participating in tax-free shopping are Florida (August 7-16), Texas (August 7-9), Connecticut (August 16-22), and Georgia (July 31-August 1). Click here for a rundown of all participating states and their corresponding dates.

Don't Upgrade Your iPhone or iPad...Yet

This month retailers will try everything to get you to upgrade your iPhone or iPad. However, August is a horrible time to upgrade your Apple gear because Apple traditionally unveils new iPhones and iPads in September and October, respectively. That means any Apple handheld you buy today, regardless of its current price, will be significantly cheaper in the weeks to come. Based on deals we saw last September and October, an iPhone 6 can drop as low as $50, whereas an iPad Air 2 could fall to less than $359. Look for bargains from Apple resellers like Walmart, Best Buy, and eBay.

Stock Up on Summer Apparel

Summer may be on its way out, but the first half of September traditionally still has warm weather. That means you can take advantage of August's summer clearance sales to stock up on some last-minute summer gear. Expect to see summer sales from the likes of adidas, REI, and Moosejaw, which last year took from 50% to 85% off summer apparel and shoes. Also expect to see summer dresses and swimsuits on sale from Victoria's Secret and Last Call by Neiman Marcus with prices slashed by as much as 50%.

Upgrade Your Patio Furniture

While it may seem odd to upgrade your patio furniture so far into the summer, August is actually a great month for buying new outdoor furniture because deals are at their lowest price of the season and any furniture you buy today you'll still be able to use throughout August and most of September, when temperatures are less humid to begin with. Last August we saw major clearance sales from Target, Pottery Barn, and Sears with discounts that ranged from 50% to 75% off.

Now is the Time to Buy a New Grill

In addition to patio furniture, August also boasts the most outdoor grill deals with sitewide sales from Sears and Target that take from 25% to 60% off various charcoal- and gas-based grills. Deals will include brands like Kenmore, Weber, Char-Broil, and La Hacienda. To compliment your grill, also look for accessory sales from Target and Sur La Table, which last year slashed prices on grilling equipment by up to 75%. If you don't find a deal on the right grill, many of these sales will spill over into September, particularly around Labor Day.

Labor Day Begins in August

Every major holiday experiences a sales creep and Labor Day is no exception. Last year Labor Day deals began on August 7th with sitewide sales from travel sites and Orbitz. Each site discounted stays at select hotels throughout the country and combined it with stackable coupons that took an extra 5% to 15% off. With some children heading back to school in late August, this time is also an opportune moment to find cheap airfare deals.

Mattress Deals Make a Quick Appearance

Although mattresses are generally not a major sale item for this month, last year Sears and US-Mattress held respectable sales during the latter half of August taking 50% off select mattresses with an extra 10% to 40% off via a stackable coupon. That's on par with the best mattress deals we see in April and May, which are traditionally the best months for mattress shoppers. The main difference between August deals and spring deals is that during the spring months we tend to see more deals from a larger number of vendors, whereas in August only a small handful of retailers offer good mattress deals, which also don't run as long as their spring counterparts.

Back-to-School Laptops Sales Are At Their Prime

Windows 10 is officially out, but don't let Microsoft's marketing hype get to you. Sure, the new operating system will pack many cool features, but you don't need a top-of-the-line laptop to enjoy them. Instead of focusing solely on systems with Windows 10, we recommend you take a look at all of the back-to-school laptop deals available this month. Our data has shown that for the past two summers, laptop prices typically drop an extra 8% to 25% in August and early September.

To date, the Microsoft Store is having the most aggressive deals with prices at or around $350 for a very capable 15" laptop with Intel's latest Core i5 Broadwell CPU, at least 4GB of RAM, and at least a 500GB hard drive. And although Apple finally kicked off its back-to-school sale, we recommend Mac fans instead turn to stores like Best Buy for their Apple shopping. There you'll find the 2015 MacBook Air 11" Laptop for around $749 or oftentimes, Micro Center slashes the 2014 model to $700 with in-store pickup.

Hold on the TV Deals

HDTV deals have been scarce most of this summer and August looks to be no exception. Sure, it's still possible to find a few Editors' Choice-level deals if you look, but generally speaking, August is not a great month for TV deals and the prices you see today will pale in comparison to what's to come in the fall.

However, we realize sometimes things break unexpectedly or perhaps you have a student heading off to college. If the former, look for name-brand 55" or larger TVs priced at or around $500. You can save an extra $100 if you opt for an off-tier brand. For college students, late August and September tend to see a rise in deals for 32" 1080p LCDs. Last year, prices on these sets dropped 14% during the last weeks of the summer. With average prices at around $175 thus far, you could find deals on these sets in the $150 range come late August.

Senior Writer Emeritus

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Unless marked as a "Sponsored Deal," the opinions expressed here are those of the author and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the companies mentioned. 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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I am not sure if now is the time or in the Spring to buy a mattress? Help!
So basically what Verizon is doing is saving themselves the cost of subsidized phones and say, "Hey we have the market, we have the towers. You don't like it? Screw you." Its nothing new for them(unlimited data anyone?), but it is certainly a large jump. I would have guessed that they would have gradually phased out the amount of the phone they subsidized and then eliminated it. Instead they've said all at once you should just pay the extra $450 (Iphone for example) for each person, but at least the bill before phone costs is $20 cheaper (At least for our family plan of 3, which I would suppose is the norm). For those of you doing quick math that's $8/month MORE in Verizon's pocket for me, extrapolate that to every one of their over 100 million customers. Pay-as-you-go is looking more and more desirable. It seems with all of the massive increases in technology, costs should be going down, way down, instead of up as they have been for quite some time.
Louis Ramirez (DealNews)
@davelevy It really depends on how much data your family is using. In a nutshell, here are Vz's new plans starting Aug 13 (each comes with unlimited talk/txt):

$30/mo 1GB
$45/mo 3GB
$60/mo 6GB
$80/mo 12GB

All plans are shareable and you pay $20/mo per smartphone line. You can choose to buy your phone for the total cost upfront or pay in monthly increments. You're also free to switch plans at any moment (since you're contract free).

However, if you sign up before Aug 13 (under a subsidized plan) you're grandfather in, but you're also locked in for the duration of your contract.
Been thinking though that with Verizon's new plan reducing the BYOP discount from 25 to 20 that a family could save money by upgrading before the new plans come out on the 13th?