Top 6 Fourth Of July Buys
Who doesn't love a good bargain, right? Seasonal sales are usually based upon consumer spending habits and month-to-month trends.

However, with the economy and employment numbers still teetering on unstable ground, retailers have had to get a little more creative than usual to lure in customers. Here's a sampling of some good buys consumers can expect for July 4 and the weeks that follow. (For other ideas on how to save you money while you shop, see 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)

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1. New Vehicles
Summer months are traditionally when auto dealers try to unload their supply to make room for incoming next-year models. After a sluggish May, sales picked up a little in June and analysts are predicting deeper price cuts and better interest rates for July and beyond with the hope of increased sales before the 2012 models are available in September.

Gas prices, the economy and manufacturing slow-downs (due in part to Japan's decrease in production following natural disasters and factory losses) have altered consumers' choices but the purchasing trends have remained pretty much the same. Look for added incentives, rebates, low interest rates and fuel-efficient models to be a major part of the marketing push this summer. (Plan your purchases for the year around the best sales. Don't miss A Map To The Year's Best Shopping Deals.)

2. Back-to-School Items
For millions of children, the school year just ended. But for their parents, the time to grab the best bargains for next school year is now. Items such as winter clothing (Can you imagine trying on sweaters and coats in July?), boots and shoes, and stationery items will line the shelves this holiday weekend, many with discounted prices.

Why the rush? Because retailers know that consumers are a) busy and b) cost-conscious. Retailers are also in a constant tug-of-war with their competitors, so successful early sales are crucial to the bottom line.

A recent survey by BIGresearch showed that nearly 45% of consumers said they were being "more practical and realistic in purchases," up from the year before. Even families with income of more than $100,000 a year are frequenting discount retailers instead of high-end department stores for items, and are using coupons and deals more often. (For more on back to school, see 15 A+ Back-To-School Shopping Tips.)

3. Electronics
When it comes to gadgets and gizmos, the turnstile of "new and improved" models seems to never end. In fact, according to a recent article in the New York Times, in 2010, on average there were six new laptop models and one new TV model introduced each day. New camera models were offered every other day. That incredible pace is supported by unceasing consumer demand for the newest and the coolest. Toss in cell phones, mobile devices, electronic book readers, music players and it's no wonder the Consumer Electronics Association is forecasting revenue to surpass $186 billion for 2011. With all those new products, retailers are always looking to reduce inventory supplies, which results in excellent deals for shoppers, but especially so in the summer when retailers are scrambling to boost semi-annual revenue numbers.

4. Outdoor Living
The summer has only just begun but consumers can find some great bargains on outdoor furniture, like patio sets and hammocks, as well as grills, umbrellas and gardening supplies. Why? Retailers figure that most consumers already purchased these items in the spring - to be ready for the unofficial start of summer, aka Memorial Day - so now they need to make showroom space for new items for the fall. Tip: these items have no expiration date, so a sale is a sale, no matter how you look at it.

5. Ho-Ho-Ho
The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans spend about $700 billion during the holiday season, so why not spread the wealth throughout the year? More and more discount and mid-tier department stores are promoting "Christmas in July" super sales, akin to the annual Black Friday push that has become a mega-shopping event the day after Thanksgiving. In 2010, some store ads even featured Santa in a red and white bathing suit instead of his fur-lined garb.

The smart shopper would be wise to take heed. The products are generally of the same quality, but the prices are lower than they will be in a few months when the real Christmas shopping blitz begins. Look for bargains in home appliances, jewelry and home décor. And if you get your shopping done now, you may just have time to do a little extra baking and primping come December. (To read more on Christmas in July, check out Christmas In July: How Much Can You Save?)

6. Patriotic Purchases
Ah, yes, the real meaning behind all the July 4th celebrations is loyalty and love of country. And Americans are ready to show their colors. In its annual Independence Day survey, the National Retail Federation stated that 20.1% of Americans plan to purchase some sort of patriotic merchandise (flags, patriotic clothing, etc.) and 64.4% will host or attend a holiday cookout or party, up from 61.9% last year. Food retailers and supermarkets have already begun discounting barbecue items, like hot dogs, hamburgers and other meat products for grilling. The smart shopper should stock up their freezers while prices are low. However, carefully date packages and follow food safety recommendations for freezing to insure healthy eating.

The Bottom Line

July is the perfect time for vacations and relaxing. But wise shoppers who spend a little extra time can find some excellent bargains this time of year. (For more ideas on shopping, read 12 Ways To Shop Smarter.)

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