It's a simple fact that clothes wear out and styles change. This means that it's inevitable that everyone needs to repair or replace clothing once in a while - even those that absolutely despise shopping for new clothes. For frugal shoppers, this means buying clothes when you can get the very best prices, which can often take a bit of pre-planning. Luckily, there are a few simple guidelines you can follow when trying to get the best deals on new clothing. (For related reading, see A Map To The Year's Best Shopping Deals.)
SEE: Budgeting Basics
Stores typically reorganize their racks on Thursdays in order to replenish stocks for the weekend rush. Stores also generally mark down items that will be on sale over the weekend on Thursday evenings. If you want to beat the rush and get to those sales items first, Thursday night's a great time for bargain shoppers to hit the malls. You won't have to compete for the bargains like you would during the busy weekend either.
Six Weeks into the Season
If you're in need of clothes for this season, try to avoid giving in to the urge to buy all the exciting new arrivals when they're first in the store. About six or eight weeks after an item arrives, the price is marked down. If you can wait a measly six weeks, you're likely to get a better a price than if you buy immediately. One of the downsides is that some very popular items might sell out over the six-week period. Although, if you're purchasing from a chain store, you can always ask a sales associate to phone other locations to see if your item might be in stock elsewhere. Another great perk of waiting to buy is that it helps to curtail any impulse spending. If you've completely forgotten about that item before the time is up, chances are you didn't really need it anyway.
End of (or out of) Season
If your clothing size doesn't change much from year to year, stocking up on clothing at the end of the season is a great way to save money, and to have a good supply of new clothing available for next year. This works well for many classic or staple items, like suits, pants, jeans or cardigans that aren't prone to going out of style too quickly. Trendy items may be a bit more risky as they tend to become passé after a season or two.
Keep in mind that fashion seasons are different than the seasons marked on your calendar. When it comes to fashion, the new season usually begins about two months prior to the official change of season. Given this fact, if you wait until the end of the season, you should still be able to get a little bit of wear out of a new item before having to pack it away for next year.
In January or February, you can start looking for cold weather clothing. Jackets and winter accessories often start to go on sale around this time. August is when you'll find bathing suits, summer clothes and sandals on sale as the summer starts to come to a close. Athletic footwear often goes on sale in January when people are looking to get going with New Year's resolutions, though you'll often find sneakers on sale again in April. Jeans go on sale in October after the back-to-school rush has subsided.
Scout the Sales Online
Many popular clothing retailers allow consumers to subscribe to their newsletters online. Stores will often send out advance notice to their subscribers of big sales, or perhaps even allow subscribers to pre-shop at special events. If you get the newsletter, you'll know when all the promotions are happening at your favorite stores so you'll know when and how you can save on those clothing items you've been admiring. You may also find that some stores offer discounts at their online stores that may not be available at the brick-and-mortar stores. (For additional reading, see 6 Common Pitfalls Of Brick-And-Mortar Shopping.)
Discount and off-Price Retailers
Not interested in planning your shopping trips according to seasons and sales? Discount and off-price clothing stores can be a great choice. These stores typically buy large volumes of clothing from stores that have excess inventory, are clearing space for new merchandise or have gone out of business. You may not always be able to find what you need, and you might find that some of the clothes on sale in these shops are completely out of season. But if you've got the time to spend and the desire to dig, you might find a few gems. Keep in mind that many of these discount retailers also sell staples like socks, hosiery, t-shirts, active wear and other items that are not as prone to seasonal changes.
The Bottom Line
Whether you find shopping for clothes to be the most entertaining activity in existence or whether you detest it more than anything, we all need clothing. Not only is it a good idea to buy once a season's already started, it's typically best to avoid buying too close to a major holiday when many clothing items are purchased as gifts. On the other hand, once these major holidays have passed, clothing items usually go on sale to liquidate the excess stock (sales after Christmas, for example). Though it's prudent to follow these guidelines for frugal clothes shopping, keep in mind that bargains can be found at any time during the year, and in every season. It's just a matter of scoping out the sales and having the courage to battle the crowds. (For more information, read 5 Avoidable Shopping Mistakes.)