5 Foolproof Tricks for Sale Shopping

Real Style on 07.25.11
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Photo: Ann Taylor

July is almost over, and even though the temperature is still hovering at something that feels very much like the surface of the sun in most places, fall stock is rolling into the mall. While the idea of shopping for sweaters and wool-blend pants may make you itchy, keep this in mind: fall arrivals mean huge sales on summer clothes (because all those cute sundresses have to go!). And with who knows how many more weeks of heat wave in front of us, this is a terrific time to stock up on cool weather pieces.

But don't just run off to the mall and start buying willy nilly. If you shop smart at summer sales, you can get more and spend less -- and not wind up with Buyer's Remorse. Here are five strategies for making your money go further this summer.

1. Make a list.

Approach the sale rack the same way you would the full price rack -- with a plan. Before you hit the mall, take a hard look at what's already in your closet and then make a list of what you really need. I store my list on my iPhone; that way, I always have it with me. As you flip through the sales rack, keep an eye out for those pieces on your list. I recently scored a navy blazer (on my list!) at the GAP for $20 -- a fraction of the original $98 price tag.

2. Resist temptation.

J. Crew skirt

Photo: J. Crew

Never buy anything on sale that you wouldn't pay full price for. I realize that there are lots of pieces that are only feasible once they go on sale, but you get the idea: don't buy something solely because of the price. If a hot pink micro-mini isn't you at $75, it's still not going to be you at 75% off. I had been eyeing the navy blazer when it was $98; I knew it was a great piece, but I took the chance that it would still be available in my size once the sales started. And I was right!

3. Follow the Rule of Three.

Ann Taylor shoes

Photo: Ann Taylor

Don't buy anything, ever, that won't work with at least three other pieces in your closet. This goes for dresses and shoes as well. Even a trendy piece can be a useful addition to your wardrobe if it goes with what you already own. But if you're going to have to buy something later to wear with this piece you're buying now, it's not really a deal, even if the price has been slashed down to virtually nothing.

4. Focus on basics.

Banana Republic jeans

Photo: Banana Republic

The sale rack often consists largely of trendy pieces with a short shelf life. If you're really watching your budget, skip those (although the sale rack is a good place to pick up trendy items, if you're interested in that, since you won't pay much for them). To get the most for your money, look for classic pieces that you can wear this summer -- and beyond. In the summer, I shop for t-shirts, shorts, and swimwear; I also keep my eyes peeled for cute summer dresses and skirts in classic silhouettes. All of those are things I can wear now and later.

5. Don't forget the Internet.

Old Navy swimsuit

Photo: Old Navy

Brick-and-mortar stores don't necessarily have the same volume of inventory as their online counterparts. If there's something you really want, look at the brand's web site. Some chains will offer deeper discounts and shipping deals online, so you might get a better price than you would at the mall. And often, the local store will have limited colors and sizes, while the website will have a wider range. Old Navy has their swimwear on sale right now, but there's nothing left in store; I grabbed three more suits online for a fraction of what I paid four months ago. Since I already know my size, it was easy shopping.

What are your strategies for shopping end-of-season sales? And what are you shopping for this summer? Other than a cold drink, of course.

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