If you make an unplanned visit to a clothing store, the regular prices can really kill your budget. But only suckers pay those prices. Here's how to spend significantly less than full price.

Seasonal Clearance Sales
Patient shoppers get the best deals by holding out for seasonal clearance sales, when stores unload their end-of-the-season inventory at discounts of 50% or more. Shopping these sales doesn't mean you'll have to wait until next year to wear your purchases or that you'll always be a year behind in fashion, either. That's because the end of a store's season doesn't coincide with the end of nature's seasons. Look for winter clearance sales in late December, January and early February, when you'll still have at least two months to wear your new sweaters and jackets. Summer clearance sales typically take place in August. Your favorite retailer might also have clearance sales at other times of the year, so keep an eye on the store's website to keep track of its sales.

It's true that your selection will be limited, and the jacket you love might be sold out in your size by the time a seasonal clearance rolls around. However, if you shop both in-store and online, you'll improve your chances of finding what you want. In-store inventories can differ significantly from online ones. A style or size that's sold out in one place might be available in the other.

Come-Back coupons
Some stores offer promotions that encourage you to buy now with the promise of additional savings later. For example, they might give you a coupon for $25 off your next $50 purchase when you spend $50 today. If you plan your purchases down to the dollar, you can get $100 worth of clothing for $75.

These deals usually have two caveats, however. First, some stores very carefully price their merchandise so that you almost have to spend more than the minimum to take advantage of the deal. It can be hard to spend an even $50 when the store's prices end in 90 cents. Second, these deals may only apply to full-priced merchandise, meaning you can't stack them on top of sale and clearance prices.

Printable Internet Coupons
Always visit a store's website before you visit the store in person to check for printable coupons, and look at the store's homepage for coupon codes before making an online purchase. Don't forget to actually enter that code when shopping online. A store will often announce a promotion on its home page but not remind you about it at checkout.

Online Cash Back
eBates, Shop Discover, American Airlines Advantage and other online shopping portals offer ways to earn cashback and frequent flier miles when you shop online. These rewards are small, but they do add up over time, and they can almost always be combined with sales and coupons. For example, if you visit ebates.com and click on its link to your favorite store before you check out, you'll get a percentage of your purchase back in cold, hard cash within three months.

Make sure to compare offers to get the best rewards. American Airlines might offer three miles per dollar spent, but for the same store, Discover might give you 5% back. The offers vary by store and by shopping portal.

Store Credit Card Promotions
Some stores offer exclusive sales and coupons to their store-branded credit card holders. Some stores also have a program that lets you accumulate points on your store credit card purchases, and redeem those points for discounts on future purchases. As long as you can use credit wisely and resist the temptation of all the advertising that usually accompanies these cards, their benefits can save you a lot of money.

Mailing List Coupons
Store credit cards might offer the best loyalty rewards, but sometimes you can get almost-as-good rewards just by signing up for a store's mailing list. Sign up for both email and snail mail to make sure you don't miss any discounts. Mailing list customers sometimes receive offers that aren't available to the general public. You might also get a special offer in your birthday month.

Receipt Surveys
The next time you buy clothes in-store, check the bottom of your receipt. Gap, Old Navy, Express and other stores often have a survey you can take online or by phone to get 10 to 15% off your next purchase. The downside of these deals is that you may not be able to use them online or combine them with other discounts. For the true bargain clothing shopper, 10 to 15% off isn't good enough, but if you need something new in a pinch, a small discount is better than nothing.

Credit Card Rewards
If you have a credit card that lets you earn points on your purchases and redeem those points for gift cards, look to redeem your points for gift cards to stores that sell clothing. Then use the techniques above to get as much clothing as possible for free with your gift card.

The Bottom Line
"Never pay retail" should be everyone's clothing-shopping mantra. It takes a bit of self-discipline and a touch of extra effort, but saving heaps of money on clothes is something anyone can do. You might occasionally miss out on an item you want while waiting for a sale. You'll also have to plan ahead and buy things when you can get them cheaply instead of waiting until you absolutely need them. But with so many ways to save money on clothing, there's really no reason to ever pay full price.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    The Honest Company Bundles Review: Are They Worth It?

    Learn more about The Honest Company and its bundle subscription services, which deliver discounted diapers, formula and other baby products to your doorstep.
  2. Budgeting

    Bark Box Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if BarkBox, the leading e-commerce subscription service for monthly doggie surprise boxes of treats and toys, is worth all the hype.
  3. Budgeting

    Blue Apron Review: Is It Worth It?

    Read about one of the top meal-kit delivery services in the United States, and learn more about what it offers and how much it costs.
  4. Investing News

    3 Amazon Business Segments to Watch in 2016

    We'll look at three divisions of Amazon that are likely to perform well in 2016.
  5. Stock Analysis

    JCPenney's Path To Profitability (JCP)

    Learn about what J.C. Penney's management team has been doing to profitably grow its business as the company recovers from years of revenue declines.
  6. Budgeting

    Bespoke Post Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if Bespoke Post, the fast-growing, e-commerce subscription service for men's lifestyle and grooming products, is worth all of the hype in this review.
  7. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Costco Stock (COST)

    Read about some of the biggest risks of investing in Costco stock. Gain a better understanding of its business model before buying in.
  8. Stock Analysis

    3 Predictions for Amazon in 2016 (AMZN)

    Learn the top three predictions for Amazon in 2016 as the company comes off an exceptional year in terms of revenue and expands into new markets.
  9. Stock Analysis

    5 Reasons Alibaba's Earnings Disappointed in 2015 (BABA)

    Look at the reasons why Alibaba's earnings disappointed in 2015, including weak economic growth, the soft renminbi and allegations of counterfeit products.
  10. Investing

    Seven Sustainable Retail Dividends

    Seven retailers which pat sustainable dividends when examining both the companies' payout ratios and free cash flows.
  1. Does QVC accept debit cards?

    QVC accepts debit card payments as one of its many payment options. The company, which is the world’s leading video and e-commerce ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can you pay off a Walmart credit card in store? (WMT)

    Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) allows multiple payment options for its credit cards, including in-store payments. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is QVC publicly traded? (QVCA, QVCB)

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Who do hedge funds lend money to?

    Many traditional lenders and banks are failing to provide loans. In their absence, hedge funds have begun to fill the gap. ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  2. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  3. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  4. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  5. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
Trading Center