Labour Day sales aren't always as good as they seem -- here's how to get the best deals

Target employee cash register sale shoppingJustin Sullivan / GettySteer clear of sweaters, and don’t buy an iPhone.

It’s Labour Day Weekend, when we celebrate American workers by spending our hard-earned money buying new stuff.

On the bright side, most of it seems to be on sale.

Retailers are pros at catching our eye with enticing deals. You’ve probably received emails with subject lines like “50% off EVERYTHING?! Make room in your closet” — that one landed in my inbox from JCrew.

While some of that is just marketing speak, it is possible to score some really great deals right now.

Here’s how to make sure you don’t spend a penny more than you have to this Labour Day weekend. You do labour hard for those pennies, after all.

End-of-season sales are best

Now is not the time to stock up on cosy sweaters or Halloween costumes. The deepest discounts will be on summer apparel and warm weather items like air conditioners and outdoor furniture, as retailers clear out space to make way for the holiday shopping season.

Avoid electronics, especially the iPhone

This should go without saying, but don’t buy an iPhone this weekend. Apple plans to unveil the iPhone 8 on September 12, and prices on all previous versions of the smartphone are likely to drop once it does.

Follow the shopping experts

Following sites that aggregate the best deals — such as DealNews and CouponSherpa — on Twitter or Facebook can take some of the guesswork out of finding the sales that are worth your time and money. Business Insider’s Insider Picks team is keeping an eye on all of the best Labour Day sales as well. Subscribing to your favourite stores’ email lists can also help you monitor discounts, as long as you filter them to resist online shopping when you shouldn’t.

Shop the clearance rack carefully

Buying stuff just because it’s on sale isn’t bound to help your budget. Discounts really only matter if you were planning to buy the item anyway. Make a shopping list before you start browsing online or head to the store, and only snap up the items you truly need. Otherwise, it’s better to pass — especially if it’s final sale. If ignoring a great price goes against your DNA, try putting the item in your digital cart and walking away for an hour. By the time you come back, the urge to purchase is likely to have passed.

Ask stores to price match online offers

If you find cheaper prices online but want to make a purchase in store, ask an associate whether the store matches prices for the same item sold at a lower price elsewhere. Often you’ll get a ‘yes,’ and all you have to do is show the website on your phone as proof.

Ask for price adjustments if prices drop further

Deals may fluctuate throughout the weekend, so if you see a price drop on an item you’ve already purchased, you might be able to get a refund on the difference. Keep in mind most stores have a time limit on when they will make a price adjustment, so the sooner you ask the better. Getting a refund can be as easy as sending a request via email with your original order number, or calling the customer service number. Never underestimate the power of politeness and persuasion when asking for a courtesy refund.

Some purchases come with price protection against future sales

Some credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer price protection — an attractive benefit that grants a refund when a retailer refuses to adjust the price you paid. Price protection typically extends for three months from the date of purchase, so if you buy something on sale during Labour Day Weekend, but find a better deal next month, you’ll be covered.

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