A Guide to the Best Labor Day Sales

Retailers are offering steep discounts, but you have to know where to look.

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Shoppers, take your marks: Retailers are offering juicy deals this Labor Day weekend in hopes of getting people to loosen up the tight grip on their cash. "Retailers know it still takes incentives to bring people into stores and encourage them to buy, so we're seeing a lot of aggressive promotions," says Ellen Davis, vice president at the National Retail Federation.

[In Pictures: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money.]

Some of the steepest discounts are on children's clothing and mid-range electronics (items in the $400 to $500 range), which some retailers take losses on in order to get customers into their stores, Davis says. She adds that back-to-school sales are still going strong in many regions, since not all schools have started the school year. According to a recent Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor, about 4 in 10 respondents said their back-to-school budget was smaller than last year, and many shoppers are waiting until the last minute to start spending.

Amazon and Wal-Mart are leading the pack with incredible deals, says Brad Wilson, publisher of www.BradsDeals.com. For a few items, however, he says patience will pay off: Prices on E-Readers, 3D televisions, and tablet PCs will drop even more over the next month or two.

The hot summer means that many stores are running low on warm-weather clothes. As a result, retailers are featuring fall items early. "A lot of retailers are trying to get shoppers to think about cooler weather," says Davis. Retailers are also keeping a close eye on Hurricane Earl, which could complicate shopping plans on the East Coast.

Here's a guide to the best Labor Day deals:

JC Penney is offering free shipping on online orders over $49, and taking 50 percent off furniture and mattresses. Shoppers can find discounts throughout the store, on everything from clothes to jewelry to home-related goods.

[For more money-saving tips, visit the U.S. News's Alpha Consumer blog.]

If you're in the mood to take advantage of the three-day weekend with some do-it-yourself projects, Home Depot makes it easy: The store is featuring grills, paint, and bathroom gear, such as vanities and faucets. In many cases, online shoppers can get free shipping, as well as 10 percent off energy-saving appliances such as washers and dryers.

Macy's Labor Day sale covers clothes, luggage, jewelry, furniture, kitchen gear, and more. Online shoppers who spend more than $99 can get free shipping, and clearance items are an additional 25 percent off.

While Target tends to avoid announcing specific sales in advance, the store features weekly discounts all year through newspaper circulars. It also recently announced a new service for shoppers: Coupons delivered directly to your cell phone. Shoppers can sign up at Target.com.

Lovers of the outdoors can find discounts of up to 30 percent off at REI, which is featuring camping gear, sporty clothing, and accessories such as Nalgene bottles. A four-person tent, which normally sells for $349, is marked down to $250, while select canoes are 15 percent off.

At CVS, shoppers can take 25 percent off of beauty products, including Revlon and L'Oreal brands, through September 6. Online shoppers can take advantage of free shipping on orders over $49 as well as $10 off orders of at least $50. (Just enter LABORDAY50 at checkout.)

[Visit the U.S. News Personal Finance site for more insight and money management tips.]

Best Buy's end-of-summer sale focuses on enhancing at-home entertainment centers. Shoppers can snag a Samsung 46-inch HDTV and Blu-ray player for just under $1,000 and get as much as 15 percent off television stands. Movies and video games are also on sale. But shoppers in the market for 3D televisions might want to wait to buy until the holidays, says Wilson, when prices are expected to fall dramatically.

Mac is offering rebates of up to $200 off and giving free iPod Touches to college students—as well as teachers—when they buy a new Mac through September 7. Dell is also offering student discounts on its dedicated educational Web page and promises to match lower prices if you find one on the day you buy your new computer.