Guide to the Best July Fourth Sales

Shoppers can score $100 tents at REI, patio sets marked down at Home Depot, and discounts at the Gap.

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The Fourth of July is better known for fireworks than discounts, but retailers are still giving shoppers plenty to celebrate this weekend. The Gap is taking up to 70 percent off its clothes, while Macy's is going all the way up to 80 percent on some items. At Home Depot, shoppers can buy a new, seven-piece patio set that's usually $499 for $374 (plus free shipping). At REI, campers can buy a two-person tent for $99, down from $149.

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"There are great deals online, but [the sales] are not really on people's radar, whether it's camping equipment or grills or patio furniture," says Brad Wilson, founder of Bradsdeals.com. That's because most people spend the Fourth of July at home with family and friends, not at the shopping mall, he says. But he adds that the big, nationwide sales are out there if people are willing to look.

According to Marina Gray, director of merchandising at the coupon site RetailMeNot.com, the biggest July Fourth sales tend to be summer-focused, with an emphasis on outdoor home products, vacation gear, and summer clothing.

Here's your guide to the top July Fourth sales:

Macy's: Stores are featuring discounts of up to 80 percent off, and macys.com offers over 25 percent off plus free shipping in many of its departments, including women's dresses and swimsuits.

Lord & Taylor: Some dresses (including long and short cocktail dresses) are over $100 off and throughout the weekend, customers can take an extra 20 percent off while shopping online with the code "July4." Summer sandals are also half-off in many cases, as are handbags.

The Gap: With 70 percent off throughout the weekend, men's button-down shirts are going for less than $40 and t-shirts for under $20. (Free shipping on orders over $50 applies to online customers.)

REI: The outdoor retailer's summer sale, which ends Monday, features 30 percent off tents, sleeping bags, and other camping gear. (Men's North Face shirts are going for under $40.)

Sears: Kenmore appliances, including refrigerators, washers, and dryers are 30 percent off (other brands get 15 percent mark-downs). Clothes, mattresses, and patio furniture are also discounted.

Home Depot: A 25 percent discount on appliances means shoppers can get a $600 Maytag dishwasher for under $400, and a $400 microwave for just under $300. Frontloading LG washers and dryers are going for under $700 each, and a stainless-steel Maytag refrigerator that normally sells for $1,200 is discounted to $898.

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Crate & Barrel: The home décor retailers' summer sale knocks 60 percent off dishware, lamps, bed linens, and other items; decorative candles are going for 50 cents each.

Travel: Dan de Grandpre, editor of DealNews.com says he expects travel companies to roll out last-minute deals this weekend. Virgin America has already listed its deeply discounted fares for weekend travel ($200 for a first-class ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles, for example), and other airlines will likely soon follow suit, he says.

Gray of RetailMeNot.com adds that this year, more people are booking travel online with coupons, a trend she attributes to higher travel costs.

Final words of wisdom: If you really love a store or brand, follow it on Twitter and "like" it on Facebook, suggests Grandpre. That's because many retailers announce deals early on social networking sites and even offer exclusive coupons to friends and followers. "You'll get a lot of noise, too, so only do it if you love that brand," says Grandpre. He also suggests "preshopping" online before hitting the stores to strategize about where to go (and whether the better deals are actually online).

Free shipping for online customers is often an option, especially around sales holidays like this one, so shoppers should always search for coupon or free shipping codes before finalizing their purchases.

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Just as important is knowing what not to buy this weekend. Grandpre says back-to-school sales feature steeper discounts on electronics, children's clothes, and anything else related to hitting the books. Also, classic summer items, including grills and patio furniture, will likely drop in price even further later this summer. So as long as you're not hosting the party this weekend, you should wait to buy them.