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Save the TV and iPhone for later: What to buy and skip in August

Now's the time to shop for back-to-school purchases and summer apparel, especially if there is a tax holiday in your state.

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    A mother shops for back-to-school items with her son in St. Joseph, Mo.
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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 weeks, 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.

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Tax-Free Purchases

Fifteen states will offer sales tax holidays this month (two others had tax holidays in July). And of those, a whopping 13 fall somewhere between August 5 and 7. (Maryland and Connecticut buck the trend, holding theirs later in the month.) 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.

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Click here for a rundown of all participating states and their corresponding dates. And remember: It's great to avoid paying sales tax, but don't forget to still compare prices to online options, especially if you're buying something big like a computer.

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 clothing clearance sales to stock up on some last-minute summer gear. Expect to see summer sales from the likes of Michael Kors, 6pm, Nordstrom Rack, and Dick's Sporting Goods, all of which discounted select items by at least 60% last year.

And if you're looking for shoes during these back-to-school sales, August will provide more deals than July, and more Editors' Choice deals than September. This is especially true for kids shoes, which saw 40% more deals in August than in September. So consider stocking up for the school year now.

Back-to-School Laptops

Our data has shown that in past summers, laptop prices typically drop an extra 8% to 25% in August and early September. And last year, August had 19% more Editors' Choice laptop deals than July, and four times as many as September! More recently, we've seen aggressive discounts from stores like Adorama, Dell Home, Lenovo, and the Microsoft Store, on laptops from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus.

Back-to-School Office and Household Supplies

Remember, you don't have to be a student (or have one) to shop back-to-school sales. Office supply stores slash prices for one of their biggest events of the year, so everyone can take advantage of reams of paper, notebooks, pens and pencils, tissues, and paper towels often going for literal cents. (Last year, we saw Staples-brand paper going for a penny a ream after rebate, and Kleenex for 37 cents.)

If you are shopping for your student, we found that Target offered the best deals on supplies, based on sample school shopping lists for grades K through 8. They were followed closely by Walmart. Amazon didn't have the best prices, unless you're buying in bulk, which might be great for big families or those who want to pool with other families.

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: Last year, there were a whopping six times as many Editors' Choice patio furniture deals in August than in June or July. 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, Walmart, and Sears, with discounts that ranged from 40% to 68% off.

Mattresses

Although mattresses are generally not a major sale item for this month, last year (for the second year in a row), Sears, Walmart, and US-Mattress held respectable sales during the latter half of August. These took 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.

Xbox One

Microsoft is dropping the slimmer, faster Xbox One S on August 23; in anticipation, the company slashed the price of the older generation Xbox One twice in the month of June alone, to $279 for baseline models. We cautioned you then that prices on older consoles would drop further once the S actually hits stores; sure enough, by the end of July, the Microsoft Store was offering the console bundled with games and an extra controller for $249. Other retailers will likely slash that price even further by the end of August.

Of course, gamers have a dilemma if they want the latest system, but are on a budget. In addition to the S, Microsoft also announced a high-end system codenamed Project Scorpio. But it's not scheduled for release until late 2017, and could possibly cost $500 or more. Some gamers may prefer to buy an affordable Xbox One, and waiting a year or two for the S or Scorpio to go on sale.

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Grills

Though we know you want to take advantage of the last weeks of grilling season, prices on both gas and charcoal grills (not to mention smokers) will drop significantly in September. While grill discounts bring prices to the mid-$100s in August, they can be had for $75 next month.

HDTVs

August is actually not a bad month for TV deals — it has more discounts and more Editors' Choice deals than any other summer month, and is followed by a steep drop in deals in September. However, if you can believe it, we're already looking ahead to Black Friday! If you're going to drop hundreds of dollars on a major purchase, it might be worth waiting less than four more months for truly great deals.

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 $450. 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 set for around $150, or even a 720p set for $110.

iPhones and iPads

This month, retailers will try everything to get you to upgrade your iPhone or iPad. However, August is a horrible time since 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. Look for bargains from Apple resellers like Walmart, Best Buy, and eBay.

This article first appeared at Dealnews.com.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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