Back-to-school doesn’t usually become a hot topic until August, but uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 has made it a top headline for several months. Because school will be back in session soon in some form, the accompanying deals will be, too — along with the typical end-of-summer sales, as so many of us do our best to make the long summer days last.

Here are some of the best things to buy in August — and a couple you should skip for now.

WHAT TO BUY IN AUGUST

Back-to-School Tech. Remote learning has made school items the priority, says consumer expert Andrea Woroch. Whether that means part- or full-time school from home, “generally speaking, people are going to be buying and spending more on tech for virtual learning.” Computers and related accessories top the list of items consumers plan to purchase for virtual learning, a survey for the National Retail Federation found.

If you’re a teacher or college student find out if you qualify for an educational discount, especially for Apple products, Woroch says. If you want to compare costs on tech products, Amazon will always offer competitive pricing, “but you can install a browser tool such as InvisibleHand, which will send you a pop-up notification,” she adds. “You don’t have to do any extra work while you’re browsing a site online, and they’ll let you know if that same model is sold at another retailer for less.” You may also be able to go to an in-store retailer and ask them to match cheaper online offers.

Summer Clothing and Seasonal Items. There is still plenty of time for fun in the sun, and a lot of deals will help you do it in style. “This is a good time to get some of summer clothing and summer seasonal items, such as swimsuits,” Woroch says. “We’re going to see huge clearance markdowns that will trickle into Labor Day, but you’ll have a better pick of the deals the earlier you buy.”

A lot of stores and sites will also allow you to apply coupons to their sale and clearance merchandise. “Not as many people are shopping in stores, so there’s an oversupply of clothing and other seasonal items. Coupon Follow offers online coupon codes, and apps such as Coupon Sherpa and Retail Me Not will tip you off to a deal before you shop at a particular store.”

She also recommends the app Dosh, which you link to your credit cards. Every time you use that credit card, you’ll get extra cash back from the app, on top of any rewards you may normally get for using your card. “So it’s an easy way to double dip on your cash-back shopping. And, with Fetch Rewards, you just snap a picture of your receipts, upload it to your account and you get points you can redeem for free gift cards to stores like Walmart or Amazon,” Woroch says.

Patio Furniture. If you’ve resisted the temptation to upgrade your outdoor furniture, now is the time to reward yourself. “August is a good time to get patio furniture and maybe umbrellas, because in many places it will still be hot into September,” Woroch says. “Discounts on outdoor furniture started at the end of June as retailers were trying to make up their sales, so act fast, as I expect inventory is going to go down quickly.”

Woroch also suggests looking on sites such as Offer Up for deals on used patio furniture. “A lot of people may be now upgrading their backyards, which means there’s going to be a surplus of extra secondhand options,” she says. “This is great because you can often find like-new collections for a fraction of the cost.”

Luxury Goods. If summer’s bright days have you wishing for a new pair of designer shades, you’re in luck. Luxury and high-fashion products have been on sale because people have been cutting way back on their discretionary spending. “So if there is something special you want — or maybe you want to buy a gift for the holiday season — you can find really good deals on anything from luggage to sunglasses,” Woroch says. “I’ve definitely seen big discounts on Ray Bans and from Tory Burch.”

Air Travel. The coronavirus has made flying less appealing (at least for the time being), but if you do have to travel, you’ll find deep discounts. “Airfare is really cheap right now,” Woroch says. “Plus, through the end of August or maybe even September, many of the airlines will also be waiving change fees.” That means if you’re considering holiday travel, Woroch suggests locking in a great fare now, because many carriers won’t charge you a change fee should you decide to reschedule later.

WHAT TO SKIP IN AUGUST

Fall Clothing. Dreaming of cooler temperatures may have you browsing for sweaters and boots, but don’t act on that impulse just yet. “You will see some sales of maybe 10 percent or 20 percent off on fall clothing for the back-to-school rush, but the best discounts come at the end of September and October,” Woroch says. “That’s when those retailers will really try to clear out that inventory to make room for winter and holiday merchandise.”

If your kids have outgrown everything, consider checking out a trade-and-swap site such as the Swoondle Society, an online member marketplace that will send you a prepaid shipping bag for about $5. You can then fill it up with your kids’ outgrown clothing and mail it back to them.
“They’ll assign a value to each piece and give your account a trade balance that you can then use to acquire items you want,” Woroch says. “It’s a really great option, especially right now.”

A New Car. Driving your own car is currently one of the safest ways to travel these days, so automakers have been ramping up their advertising. But if you don’t need a new vehicle, hold off on purchasing one right now, as new models will hit dealer lots in September. “When those new models for 2021 come out, there’s going to be a big, big push in October to really move those 2020 models,” Woroch says. “You’ll definitely have more negotiating power on this-year models in October. Wait until the end of the month — or better yet, the end of the year — for the very best deals.”

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