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Time Your Back-to-School Shopping for Maximum Savings

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When is the best time to buy clothes, laptops and school supplies this summer? We break down the calendar to give you the optimal money-saving shopping schedule.

Save on back-to-school supplies
Shopping around at various stores and websites is a great way to make sure you get the best price on everything on your back-to-school shopping list. But just as important as where you shop is when.

Different classes of products rise and fall in price at different points of the year. And since your shopping list might include everything from laptops to pencils to jeans, it's unlikely that everything on it will be at its cheapest at the same time. So instead of trying get it all done in one weekend, we recommend shopping over the course of the summer as your target items hit their lowest price of the season.

To find out the best way to time your back-to-school shopping, we turned to deal site Dealnews, which pored through its historical data to determine when different merchandise tends to see the biggest discounts. Here's how the site's experts recommend you time your shopping.

What to Buy Now:

• Laptops: Louis Ramirez, who covers technology items for Dealnews, says that the current standard for laptops is a 15-inch screen, a dual-core processor, a 500 GB hard drive and at least 4 GB of RAM. Based on that standard, he says now is a great time to buy: Right now, we're seeing deals that put those laptops at all-time low prices. For AMD processor laptops, you're looking at prices at $225 and up; Intel processor computers are starting around $299.

• Tablets: Tablets are less essential for most college students, but Ramirez says that we're also in the midst of some great Android tablet deals right now; they can be found at places like Walmart, Best Buy and Staples.

• Clothing (Especially Jeans): Dealnews staff writer Marcy Bonebright says that sales on clothing have started appearing earlier than usual. "Most back-to-school sales and discounts pop up in August, but last year they began in mid-July and kept appearing until the second week of September," she says. That's especially true of jeans: She says the best jeans sales are happening this month, so get moving if you want some fresh denim when school starts this fall.

What to Buy in August:

Dorm Furniture: While markdowns on individual furniture items can be found year-round, your best bet is to shop in August. According to Dealnews, last summer's first big dorm furniture sale took place at Target (TGT) in mid-July -- but it was followed by a better sale at the beginning of August. There were also good sales on dorm furniture at OfficeMax (OMX) and Walmart (WMT) in early- to mid-August, so it might be best to wait a few weeks to make the most of your shopping around.

Once you've got your futon, here are some tips on decorating the rest of your dorm on a budget.


• More Clothing: Dealnews' Bonebright also points out that some specialty apparel retailers are expected to take extra discounts on clearance items in August, so the truly thrifty may want to leave some space in the apparel budget.

School Supplies: If you just need basics like notebooks and pencils, it's worth it to start browsing the circulars now. Staples, for instance, has already started with the get-you-in-the-door deals that offer glue and pencils cases for 25¢. But Dealnews says that the absolute best deals on school supplies traditionally don't show up until August, so sit tight. That's also true of backpacks and laptop bags, both of which see their biggest discounts in August. So your best bet on that new computer you should buy now? Carry it around in your old laptop bag for the first month.

What to Buy After School Starts:

• Televisions: Finally, college students looking a small TV for their dorm room -- say, 32 inches -- should wait until September or November for the best deals.



Photo credit: AOL

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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