What to buy — and skip — in August

The time for back-to-school shopping is now

August is an oddball month in retail: July’s Prime Day is over and September’s Labor Day is still ahead. So what’s worth splurging on this month?

Before you hit stores or the web for some end-of-summer shopping, here’s your go-to guide for what to buy (and skip) in August.

Buy: Back-to-school supplies

First up on your August shopping list should be school supplies. Classroom products hit store shelves in July, but sales will be better in August — particularly as the beginning of school approaches. Look to back-to-school sales at department stores and office supply chains for deals on backpacks, pens, pencils and other essentials. And as with any sale, remember to apply relevant coupons and coupon codes.

If your state participates in a back-to-school state sales tax holiday, use that window to buy some supplies tax-free. Florida residents, for example, can make eligible clothing purchases of $60 or less per item tax-free Aug. 4-6.

For a full listing of participating locations, as well as dates and details for your state, see the Sales Tax Institute.

Skip: Major household items

Skip major household purchases, at least until the last day or two of the month. Labor Day and accompanying sales are around the corner. If it isn’t essential for you to make a major purchase in August, hold off until the big discount events arrive around Labor Day weekend. This year, the holiday falls on Sept. 4. (Sales may begin at the tail end of August.)

Labor Day is renowned for its mattress, appliance and home decor deals. Last year, Best Buy took up to 35% off major appliances, and Sleepy’s discounted almost every mattress by up to 50%. Price cuts reached 70% at Pottery Barn.

Buy: Outdoor products

With summer coming to a close, you probably aren’t planning on doing much work in the backyard. That’s exactly why outdoor maintenance products will reach low price levels in August. Buy these items now so you’ll be prepared for next year. If you need a new lawn mower, for example, take advantage of the deals you’ll find over the next few weeks.

Right now, outdoor products are up to 60% off at Pier 1 Imports, and patio furniture is up to 50% off at Home Depot.

Skip: iPhone

Pump the brakes on a new iPhone purchase for just a little while longer. Rumors are swirling that Apple is gearing up to release its new iPhone 8 as early as September.

New iPhone releases mean two things. First, there will be a new phone with fancy new features on the market that will instantly render your iPhone 7 out of date. Second, Apple and third-party retailers generally drop prices on previous iPhone models in the wake of a new phone, making September a great time for a deal.

Buy: Summer clearance

As autumn draws near, it makes sense to want to add some sweaters and sweatshirts to your wardrobe. But think again before you swipe your card. Prices at the start of any given season are generally higher than at the middle or end, so the price tag on that comfortable sweater you’re eyeing might not make you feel so warm and fuzzy.

On the flip side, now’s a perfect time to purchase summer clothing and swimwear. Since the warm season is coming to a close, retailers are trying to clear out old inventory to make room for winter weather necessities. If you’re going to buy any clothes this month, you’ll be able to save more on summer staples than winter wear.

Bonus: National Garage Sale Day and more

Great deals this month may be closer than you think: The second Saturday in August is National Garage Sale Day. This year, that’s Aug. 12. Lots of bargain hunters will be looking to sell or buy during this annual end-of-summer event. Look for offerings around your neighborhood and community.

And if you’re searching for other days to circle on your calendar, we have two more. Aug. 6 is National Root Beer Float Day, and Aug. 24 is National Waffle Day. Expect plenty of food freebies.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.