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What to buy -- and avoid -- during Memorial Day sales

Retailers will slash prices on everything from home goods to electronics this holiday weekend, but just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's a good deal.

By Money Staff May 22, 2014 1:04PM

This post comes from Elyssa Kirkham at partner site GoBankingRates.com.


GoBankingRates.com on MSN MoneyFor many Americans, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer fun -- even if summer doesn't officially start until June 21. According to a survey published by RetailMeNot, many Americans use the long weekend to make purchases in preparation for summer, with 79 percent checking out Memorial Day sales.


But just because something's on sale doesn't automatically make it a good buy.


Woman looking at mannequins in boutique, smiling © Michael Hitoshi/Digital Vision/Getty Images"It’s easy for consumers to get trapped into the ‘it’s on sale so I have to buy it’ mentality, especially during big holiday weekends when retailers are really pushing their promotions," said Casey Bond, content director of GoBankingRates.


Trends for 2014 Memorial Day sales

Memorial Day sales are to be expected, but sometimes it takes a deals wizard to see through the haze to find the true money-saving offers.


"Shoppers can learn to use these three-day weekends strategically to plan seasonal purchases and buy the items they actually need at a steep discount," Bond said.


To guide shoppers to the deals that are the best year round -- not just the best for right now -- GoBankingRates surveyed over a hundred Memorial Day sales and asked some retail experts for their recommendations.


The site found that the best Memorial Day deals are being offered on apparel, home goods and travel, while deals on seasonal summer items like grills and outdoor furniture fall flat.


Buy now: Apparel, home goods, summer travel and TVs
Shop spring apparel on clearance. RetailMeNot found that 29 percent of consumers plan to shop for clothing this Memorial Day weekend through the beginning of June, and they have the right idea. "A lot of clothing stores will be holding spring clearance sales as they make room for summer inventory, while others hold seasonal sales with notable discounts," said Brandon Hunt, co-founder of DealScience.com.


Retailers running big Memorial Day clothing sales this year include Carter's, Aéropostale, TOMS and JCPenney.


Book summer travel plans now. GoBankingRates found more than a dozen travel deals on top travel sites like Hotels.com, Orbitz, CheapOAir and Travelocity for Memorial Day weekend trips and summer getaways. These deals are good news for the 20 percent of respondents to RetailMeNot's survey who said they would be booking summer travel in late May or early June.


Hit Memorial Day furniture sales and home goods stores. "Shoppers should invest in tools and appliances -- especially vacuums -- from stores such as Home Depot and Sears," Hunt said. Cookware is also likely to be discounted.


These sales are ideal for picking up a gift for the graduate in your life. Consider hitting Sears for its Memorial Day mattress sale, or Best Buy, Kohl's and Macy's for home items ranging from large appliances to furniture and bedding.


Memorial Day TV sales will offer shoppers big discounts. "It’s also worth checking out electronics deals; the best offers seem to be dedicated to HDTVs more so than any other type of electronic device,” Hunt said. Walmart and Best Buy are both offering discounted HDTVs as part of their Memorial Day 2014 sales.


Buy later: Grills, patio furniture and other summer items
Barbecues will be cheaper in June and July. "Generally, grill and barbecue prices aren’t particularly low this time of year," Hunt said, even though 13 percent of consumers plan to buy grills or outdoor furniture in late May and early June, according to RetailMeNot.


There will be some Memorial Day sales centered around these items, but the major discounts "might happen closer to summer, particularly the 4th of July," Hunt said.


Wait until August to buy outdoor furniture. "Outdoor items are summer's big-ticket seasonal grabs, and they aren't at their best prices yet!" said Marcy Bonebright, features writer for DealNews.com. Prices for patio furniture and outdoor decor will be at their lowest in August.


These Memorial Day sales trends were identified by GoBankingRates in surveying deals aggregated in partnership with BeFrugal, Gift Card Granny, Offers.com and RetailMeNot. Visit GoBankingRates.com to view the full list of Memorial Day 2014 sales and deals.


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