The lazy, hazy days of summer are still going strong, but if you have school-age kids, you know that August is when back-to-school sales really heat up.

A National Retail Federation survey says sales for back-to-school items are expected to hit a record-setting $37.1 billion this year — up from $33.9 billion in 2020. “I think people want to treat their kids and everyone is excited about going back to school,” says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.com. “The other factor coming into play could be the child tax credits, which feels like free money because it’s coming every month now.”

You should still expect other types of deals, too. “People who don’t have kids should take note as well,” Bodge says. “Everyone needs apparel, footwear and office supplies.”

So if you have items on your shopping list, here are some of the best things to buy in August and a few should you wait on.

WHAT TO BUY IN AUGUST

School Supplies

Before you start shopping, consumer expert Andrea Woroch suggests checking circulars first to see which retailers have deals on the items you need. “And look for coupons on sites such as CouponFollow.com, which have organized the top back-to-school coupons all on one page to make it easier to find a deal for the supplies you need to buy.”

Woroch expects office supply stores will have great deals on markers, crayons, notebooks and folders. “Staples has been known to offer penny deals like 5-cent folders in the past,” she says. “So this is also a good time to stock up on office supplies for yourself.”

Bodge recommends focusing on the big chains, like Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Amazon. “Walmart is doing a whole program to help teachers organize the back-to-school shopping lists for parents, which is interesting,” Bodge says. “So they’re offering some guidance as well as really good back-to-school deals.”

Laptops

There will be plenty of sales on laptops as students head back to school and college. “Walmart, Best Buy Outlet and Dell Outlet will offer good discounts on refurbished models,” Woroch says. “Brands like Acer will also offer new products at reduced prices — and you can even get an additional 5 percent off everything Acer with a coupon.”

Some states, including Alabama, Florida and Texas, will be hosting tax-free sales holidays on certain school supplies, which may include computers. For example, “Florida is waiving sales tax on clothing, school supplies and computers from July 31 to August 9,” Woroch says.

Summer Clothing

Woroch says retailers are already clearing out their summer clothing, making it a great time to pick up tees, tanks, shorts and other warm weather basics for the school year. And outlet centers will have deals on top of clearance sales.

“Keep in mind that many of these basics can be worn with layers all year round,” she says. “You can also earn extra cash back through CouponCabin.com, which is offering three times the cash back for online purchases until August 8 in honor of their birthday celebration. So right now, you can get 17 percent back at Levi’s, 7.5 percent back at Macys, 8 percent cash back at American Eagle, 6 percent back at Gap and 6 percent back at Kohls.”

WHAT TO SKIP IN AUGUST

Fall Clothing

Those fall fashion sales might look tempting but leave the fuzzy sweaters in the store for now. “You will see some teaser deals, especially closer to Labor Day, but unless you see a really good sale — more than 10 percent off — those are not the kind of deals you want to pounce on,” Bodge says. “These discounts will deepen as the fall season progresses.”

Cookware and Small Appliances

Though some back-to-school sales may include cookware and small appliances, try to wait until the fall for items in this category. “If you have a child going into college or a new apartment, try to let them get settled and figure out what they really need first,” Woroch says. “You will see better deals into September and early October.”

Smartphones

Apple often releases its newest iPhone in September, so you may start to see discounts on older models as well as deals from competitors like Samsung. But the timing is never set in stone, so it’s a better idea to wait for the new release news before you decide to upgrade, Woroch says.

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