The do's and don'ts of Labor Day shopping

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Shop Like a Pro During Labor Day Sales

A Labor Day shopping strategy might not be your highest priority, but if you want to emerge from the weekend with a cart overflowing with new stuff and a wallet that's still full, maybe it should be.

Follow these do's and don'ts to maximize your money-saving potential this holiday weekend.

Do: Buy luxury items.

Big sale events, like Labor Day, are a good opportunity to splurge on expensive purchases without having to pay full price. Use the weekend's percent-off promotions to snag that fancy tote or glitzy necklace you've had your heart set on.

Last year, Labor Day sales translated into big discounts on designer labels and luxury products. Neiman Marcus took 40 percent off regular prices both online and in-store on seasonal clearance items, while Bloomingdale's discounted select items by 60 percent. Look for similar offerings again this year.

Don't: Buy everything that's on sale.

Not every product that's advertised this Labor Day is a smart buy.

Back-to-school supplies and summer clothes will see deep discounts worth your while, but some sale merchandise -- such as toys and fall clothing -- are best bought later in the year when their prices will drop even lower. Shop in December for toys and October for fall clothes. Plus, Black Friday, anyone?

The electronics aisle is another area we'd recommend avoiding if you want the lowest prices on major tech purchases. For example, last year Target offered a Samsung 40-inch LED Smart TV for $399.99 over Labor Day. Fast-forward to November, and the retailer's 2014 Black Friday ad featured a Samsung 40-inch Smart LED HDTV for $327.99.

Similarly, last Labor Day, Best Buy offered savings of up to 25 percent on select HDTVs. On Black Friday, though, the store advertised select HDTVs for over 30 percent off their original prices.

Do: Use your smartphone.

It's always good to have a friend on your side, especially one who can help you spot the best opportunities to save. This year, that friend is digital, specifically your smartphone. Here are a few ways your phone can aid your shopping ventures this Labor Day:

  • Price comparisons. Before you shop, load up your smartphone with price comparison apps like RedLaser. Comparing prices before you make a purchase can save you from spending more than you need to.
  • Sale news. Long before you stand in line to buy that new patio set or backpack, sign up for the mailing lists of your favorite retailers. Doing so will alert you to special offers.
  • Coupons. In case you forget your physical coupon at home, your smartphone can save you. Pull up a digital version of the coupon, and ask the cashier to scan the barcode at checkout.

Don't: Do all your shopping early.

Labor Day sales don't just happen on the holiday. They take place over the course of several days, sometimes even a week.

Plan your shopping over this extended discount time frame so some of your purchases are made at the end. As sale periods come to a close, retailers will be extra eager to move their remaining stock. This could translate into even bigger price cuts. Last Labor Day, stores like Nordstrom extended their sales several days past the holiday.

Of course, you'll want to balance this strategy with the risk of stores running out of inventory. Amazon, for example, is marking Labor Day with a selection of deals on movies, TV, books and music. These offerings are available only while supplies last.

Buy any must-have items early (before they sell out), and hold out for the rest.

Do: Stock up on summer steals.

Use the holiday weekend to score some serious deals on all things summer. We're talking about swimsuits, short sleeve shirts, outdoor accessories, grills and the like. You can expect the end of the season to translate into big price cuts.

You may not be able to get much use out of these items this year, but you'll be thanking yourself when next summer rolls around. For apparel, we recommend looking at retailers such as Old Navy, Macy's, JCPenney and Sears, all of which hosted impressive clothing promotions last year – in some cases up to 50 percent off.

Don't: Limit yourself to retail stores.

Finally, department stores and big-box locations, such as Wal-Mart and Target, aren't the only places to grab Labor Day savings. Seasonal discounts can be found on such varied items as amusement park tickets and restaurant meals, and in the past, there's been Labor Day deals at Discount Tire.

So, before you make any purchase over the long holiday weekend, inquire about Labor Day deals or freebies, and always conduct a quick search for any relevant coupons.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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