Although not so obvious, July actually presents a great opportunity for families and homeowners to save a lot of money. From 4th of July sales, to early back-to-school offerings, to numerous summer clearance events from just about every retailer on the planet, the advertised discounts can be overwhelming.

For example, this year with July 4th falling on a Thursday, 4th of July sales began showing up the week before to catch the attention of potential shoppers who may be taking advantage of an extended holiday vacation with a short week. This creates hundreds of sales events for a 10+ day period of time. So when and what really presents the best opportunities to save in July?

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For 4th of july sales, this marks the kick-off of summer clearance. Yes, it seems summer just started, but retailers will use the entire month to reduce prices on seasonal products to clear inventory for back-to-school and fall shopping events. Look for good bargains on outdoor summer items like outdoor activity gear (yard/pool games, seating, coolers, patio and grilling accessories, camping and fishing) and home appliances and furniture (especially kitchen, living room and bedroom big ticket items). Consumer Electronics retailers will join the frenzy by discounting last year’s models on HDTVs, home audio/video systems and other select computer and laptop models. And although there will be some discounts on grills and air conditioners, it may payoff to wait for later summer clearance sales.

Mid-July brings the full court assault of summer clearance sales. These sales usually present “better then 4th” deals for summer apparel and swim wear, pool accessories and patio furniture, grills, air conditioners and other home appliances and decor. The list of products that fit into summer clearance sales is enormous. It’s best to create a budget, a shopping list, and monitor and compare prices early to avoid making impulse purchases, assuring you get a good deal. This is also a great time to stack savings by utilizing a category discount (like 50 percent off $100 purchase) with a mail-in-rebates, free shipping or free in-store pickup and/or cash back. Sites like will have their annual Summer Cash Back sales featuring 100+ top retailers offering increased savings.

Late July will still present shoppers with various summer clearance events, but there are also some hidden savings for families during the early back-to-school sales. Some of these can start as early as mid-July and they last through August and into September clearance, so like summer clearance, it’s advantageous to make a shopping list and start to compare prices now. Early back-to-school buyers should look for the biggest savings on last year’s laptop models (more features than most students require), smartphones and clothing discounts from retailers who get a jump on displaying this inventory. This is also a good way to assure you get the size, color and style you, or your child wants. Lastly, be sure to take advantage of any student or teacher discounts (10 to 20 percent from many top brands) that may apply, especially for big ticket items like computers, printers, software and laptops.

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Tip: It’s always helpful to set alerts for any big sale items you may be thinking about purchasing. Often you’ll get a timely coupon in your email inbox saving you a lot of work looking for savings. Deal forums and coupon sites make this easier and usually have savvy community discussions on a number of seasonal topics, products and store ratings and they willingly add real life, up-to-the-minute tips and tactics to help you make smarter purchasing decisions.

Brent Shelton is an online shopping expert and media relations specialist for FatWallet. Brent has 15 years of B2C marketing experience, analyzing online shopping behavior, retail trends and personal finance strategies to help bring awareness of the latest money-saving trends and tactics to both journalists and consumers. Follow Brent on Twitter@brentsheltonnow and on Google+.

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