The best Labor Day sales — and what deals aren't worth the hype – NBC News

Labor Day was established as a national holiday 125 years ago as a day to, as the U.S Department of Labor puts it, pay “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Over time, Labor Day has also come to mean something else to Americans: sales. This holiday weekend, retailers will be honoring the enduring tradition of bringing savings to consumers across a number of verticals.

We consulted retail experts to learn which categories are anticipated to see the biggest discounts, as well as what they recommend shoppers do to avoid overspending during the shopping extravaganza.

Mattresses

The Fourth of July holiday ushered in some stellar savings on mattresses, but if you didn’t spring on a new bed then, now’s the time.

“With new inventory being rolled out in the earlier months of the year, summer holiday weekends are the prime time to get a new mattress,” says Rebecca Gramuglia, online shopping and deal expert at TopCashback.com. “While you’ll see discounts of as much as 70 percent off on mattresses, the savings don’t have to end there. With large items, don’t forget to haggle for deals on delivery, installations and haul-aways too. Online retailers will also sweeten the deal in the form of extras, like bedding or pillows."

Kristen McGrath, editor and shopping expert at Offers.com, predicts that the best Labor Day mattress sales will be found at Macy’s, Sears Outlet, JCPenney and Overstock.

Some of the best deals on mattresses so far:

  • Casper: 10 percent off mattresses
  • Mattress Firm: Savings of up to $600 on select mattresses, and a free adjustable base on mattresses over $499
  • Tempur-Pedic: $300 off the price of its TEMPUR-breeze mattress collection
  • AmeriSleep’s Labor Day sale: $200 off any mattress, up to $900 off adjustable bed packages and 25 percent off bedding accessories

Major Appliances

“Whether you’re moving into a new place or just want to upgrade your home, Labor Day Weekend is a great time to stock up on big-ticket appliances,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot. “Historically, items like refrigerators, washer and dryer sets and other kitchen appliances are on sale for around 40 percent off. Don’t sleep on these deals [but keep in mind that] smaller household appliances will be discounted later in the year for Black Friday and Cyber Monday so stick to the larger items now.”

Some of the best deals on major appliances so far:

  • Sears: Up to 40 percent off major appliances, with an extra 10 percent eligible for online purchases
  • Best Buy: Up to 40 percent off major appliances
  • Home Depot: Up to 40 percent off major appliances
  • Lowe’s: Up to 40 percent off major appliances

Laptops and computer workstations

“Black Friday sales are likely to see deep discounts on laptops, but Labor Day laptop sales aren’t to be ignored — you can find discounts of as much as 25 percent on Windows laptops over the weekend,” says McGrath. “If you need a last-minute computer for the new semester, now may be your last opportunity to score a laptop deal until November. Visit the stores and sites of major electronics retailers like Best Buy, Dell and Microsoft to catch the best laptop sales. Plus, Apple is still offering education pricing on select Macs and iPads through most of September.”

Some of the best deals on electronics so far:

  • Lenovo: Up to 57 percent off doorbusters and savings north of 40 percent on select laptops
  • Best Buy: An assortment of deals on Apple MacBooks
  • Dell: Up to 45 percent off computers and workstations
  • Microsoft: up to $330 off Surface Pro 6 and Type Cover, starting at $799; up to $500 off Surface Book Pro

Summer clothing on clearance

“If you’re looking to stock up on warm weather styles, now is the time to do it,” says Skirboll. “Retailers stocked their shelves with summer and back to school clothing at the end of June, and they tend to discount apparel items after they’ve been in store for around two months. That means Labor Day will offer great discounts on everything from shorts and tank tops to beach cover-ups and more. Last year apparel items were discounted by an average of 25 percent off during Labor Day Weekend.”

Gramuglia says that last year, TopCashback members “shopped the most in the fashion category with retailers like Carter’s, Gap and Michael Kors leading the list for the weekend of August 31st. We are predicting those same retailers will fall into the top 10 again this year, though we wouldn't be surprised if Adidas and H&M made their way towards the top of the list.”

Some of the best deals on apparel so far:

  • J.Crew: 40 percent off summer styles
  • Old Navy: 40 percent off anything
  • Express: 50 percent off summer essentials
  • Ann Taylor: $50 off full price dresses and sandals and an extra 40 percent off all sale items
  • Asos: 20 percent off styles
  • Lord & Taylor: Up to 40 percent off sitewide
  • Kate Spade: An extra 30 percent off sale styles

Outdoor furniture and grills

Just as retailers must clear out all those leftover bikinis, crop tops and bermuda shorts, so too must they sell off remaining patio sets and other summer gear.

“The demand for patio furniture wanes after Labor Day,” says McGrath. “During the holiday sales, retailers take 70 percent to 90 percent off outdoor dining and leisure furniture, as well as décor and appliances. Shop sales at Kohl’s, Kmart and Overstock to score a colorful hammock or a glorious mermaid-shaped fountain for less.”

Outdoor grills are also seeing significant markdowns.

“Expect to see great deals on grills over Labor Day weekend as stores look to make room for winter items like space heaters and snow blowers,” says Skirboll. “Last year grills were discounted by an average of 65 percent off, so if you’re in the need for one now is the time to buy.”

Some of the best deals on outdoor furniture and grills so far:

  • Houzz: Up to 75 percent off outdoor furnishings
  • Bed Bath & Beyond: Up to 50 percent off patio furniture
  • Target: Up to 25 percent off patio sale and clearance items
  • REI: Up to 40 percent off outdoor gear, and up to 50 percent off its ‘peak deals
  • Lowe’s: Up to 20 percent off grills and grilling accessories
  • Walmart: Patio sets, grills and other outdoor staples for hundreds less than list price.

Travel

“Some shoppers may not be thinking about travel as they are just returning from summer vacation, but don't sleep on the savings,” says Skirboll. “Airline tickets are commonly discounted in the early fall. Travelers can find the best deals approximately eight weeks before the intended departure date, making the long weekend a great time to start planning holiday trips and winter getaways. In fact, RetailMeNot data shows that the average discount for travel this time of year is 58 percent.”

Skirboll adds that consumers should set up fare alerts, “so you can make sure you are getting the best price.”

The best deals here depend on where you’re traveling to and from, but check with sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels.com and Travelzoo.

Wait on buying TVs, Halloween costumes, toys and fall apparel

One of the best ways to avoid overspending on Labor Day, is to pass up the deals that aren’t worth the hype. Skirboll pointed out earlier that you should wait until later in the fall to buy smaller appliances, while Palmer advises to hold back on purchasing “halloween costumes, toys and fall clothing — we will see lower prices for these items later in the season.”

Use price comparison tools and cashback browser extensions

“Given the price fluctuations at this time of year, it’s more important than ever to compare prices before buying,” says Kimberly Palmer, a credit card and personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “Use tools like CamelCamelCamel to track prices if you’re shopping on Amazon, the Honey browser extension to scan prices across the web while shopping online, and the app ShopSavvy to scan barcodes in stores and check for lower prices nearby. Sometimes even though items are marked as part of a Labor Day Sale, they actually will drop even more in price at other times.”

Cashback browser extensions such as TopCashback, Rakuten and RetailMeNot Genie are also free and easy to use for quick savings opportunities. For instance, right now you can get eight percent cash back on your Macys.com purchases through RetailMeNot, and up to 10 percent cash back on Lenovo purchases through Rakuten.

“TopCashback.com is hosting an exclusive Double Cash Back Weekend starting Friday, August 30th through Monday, September 2nd,” says Gramuglia. “The money-saving website is featuring increased cashback rates from retailers including Adidas,Dell, Smashbox, HelloFresh andGap amongst other popular, household names spanning all categories from fashion to home and garden to beauty all weekend long.”

Follow your favorite retailers and influencers on social media

Skirboll stresses the importance of following your favorite brands on social media, so you can be the first to know about sales and discounts, while Gramuglia notes that shoppers should also keep in the loop of social media influencers.

“Influencers nowadays are the new brand ambassadors — whether it’s mom, fashion, beauty or travel bloggers, they tend to partner with relevant brands and receive discount codes to offer their followers,” says Gramuglia. “This may require some digging online if this is unfamiliar territory, but a simple Google search can yield great results. Pro tip: if you’re using a cashback site, coupon codes that aren’t featured on the site may result in not receiving cashback."

More tips for a better Labor Day

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