The Best and Worst Things to Buy in July

Here's what you need to know to shop smart this month.

Beth Pinsker | with contributions from Louis Ramirez from Dealnews.com

Dealnews editors published more than 6,000 deals last July, which they’ve analyzed so that they can offer a bit of advice while planning purchases this month. Many consumers might be itchy to get started on their shopping for back-to-school season, or even for the winter holidays, but don’t be easily tempted into jumping the gun. Here’s Dealnews’s advice for shopping smart this month:

Christmas in July, Black Friday Every Day
This time last year, we started to see Black Friday-labeled deals in earnest over the summer; in fact, one of our most popular sale listings was for Target’s “Back in Black Friday” sale at the end of July. Not to be outdone, Toys “R” Us pushed a “Save Like It’s Black Friday” sale as well as a “Christmas in July” event. While obviously enticing, be weary of the labeling; few of these Black Friday sales featured the rock-bottom pricing that consumers come to expect from the “darkest” of shopping days.

Back to School Starts in July?
If you’re planning a back-to-school shopping spree, it may be wise to wait until August for deep discounts from the major retailers. But if you keep your eyes peeled this month, you can still snag a few necessary items at great prices. For example, last July we saw select deals pop up in this category, including a selection of backpacks at Staples that were free after rebate. Also, look out for apparel sales with big percent-off discounts at stores like Levi’s and Abercrombie & Fitch. (After all, kids need new jeans on an annual basis, at the very least.)

Clearance, Clearance, Clearance
What can you get that’s good in July? Just about anything on clearance. Last year, we saw clearance sales on a wide range of items, including swimwear at Victoria’s Secret, dishes at Mikasa, and “geek chic” items at ThinkGeek. And, as you might expect, most of these sales were pretty popular with our readers; the top five clearance sales last year came from Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike (with two listings a week apart), Graveyard Mall, and Finish Line — so keep an eye out for these vendors in 2011.

Fly Away, Almost For Free
With gas prices dropping instead of rising precipitously, we’ve already seen a lot of airfare sales this summer. And if last July’s deals from a variety of airlines — including Southwest, JetBlue, Air France, Air New Zealand, AirTran, Virgin America, United Airlines, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, and LAN Airlines — are any indication, you can expect to see even more this month.

Sports Gear: Top Deals for Baseball and Golf
With the NFL still in lockout mode, don’t count on a retail push for football memorabilia. But while the news is bad for gridiron fans, baseball fans can profit in July, as we saw sizable sales on caps from Kohl’s and Lids.com this time last year. If you’re more of a golf person, you can also score some good deals this month, particularly on clubs and local-deal golf packages. Last July, one of the top 10 deals was for a golf club set from Amazon.

TVs
Although 55″ LED LCD HDTVs hit a new low in June this year ($1,048), the summer is generally not the best time to purchase a new TV. However, if you must, keep an eye out for models that are at or around the $1,048 mark. As for 3D TVs, last month we predicted 3D prices would continue to go down. However, June’s best 3D deal was $170 higher than May’s, proving again that although we may see solid deals during these months, the true HDTV bargains won’t begin until November.

Laptops / Tablets
Pulling the trigger too fast on a system in July might mean missing out on a lower-priced system in August (and even lower prices in the fall). Last year we saw better deals on 16″ Core-based systems in October than we did in July, and deals on 17″ desktop replacements were actually higher in July than they were during the months leading up to December (when they reached their low point). That’s not to say there will be no laptop deals this month — we’ve seen a slow, but steady drop on systems built around AMD’s E350 APU. (Keep an eye on our laptop roundup for the best deals each week.)

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