Cool Ideas

Save Money on Clothes

by Stephanie Nelson

People often ask me how to save on clothing. "I need to save money on clothes, but by the time I go to clearance sales they never have the right size or color. Full price clothes are so expensive-do you have any ideas how I can save money on clothes and still get the clothes I like?"

Yes, it is possible to save money on clothes at the beginning of the season when they have the colors you like and the sizes that you need. You just need to learn Strategic Shopping! You can save a lot of money and get great clothing if you know how to time sale shopping, where to find coupons and special offers, and how to take advantage of little-known store policies.

For example, if you have your eye on an outfit at a favorite store when it's full price, try waiting. Many new season styles are available long before Mother Nature has decided it is the new season, so by the time their first sale begins, you will still have plenty of time to wear your new clothes. Last year I saw a beautiful cashmere winter coat in the store in September (when it was still 70 degrees outside). Only one month later it went on sale for 25% off, and I found a 25% off online coupon with free shipping for that store. By using a little Strategic Shopping, I saved $120 by waiting and still got the coat in plenty of time for cold weather.

If you have a few favorite clothes stores, be sure to sign up for any mailing lists, free catalogs or email newsletters. You will be the first to know about any sales early in the season and will be invited to attend advance sale days for preferred shoppers. You will be more likely to get the sizes and colors you need if you shop early in the sale.

You can learn the promotional strategies and little-known pricing policies of your favorite stores by reading their website, looking for promotional details in their advertising circulars, and talking to the salespeople in the store. For example, a favorite store of mine marks clearance items down on a specific day each week. By talking to the salesperson, I found out which day that is so I can stop by the store on that day and get the best selection of bargains.

If you like to shop online for clothes, there are many online coupon codes available for clothing stores. Simply go to any coupon code site and look for the "apparel" category to find dozens of coupons for popular retailers. You can also enter the name of your store and the term "coupon code" or "online coupon" in a search engine to find sites with good offers for your stores.

Ask the salespeople at your favorite stores what their return and price guarantee policies are to save more. For example, one of my stores has a policy that refunds the price difference on any item you purchase if it goes on sale within 14 days of the date you purchased it. Many stores have similar policies, but you need to ask the salesperson for details (I have never seen this policy posted prominently in their store or on their website, although it has been in effect for years). Therefore, it also makes sense to save your receipts and pay attention to sales announcements after you buy items at your stores.

If you shop at a store on a regular basis, it may make sense to get their credit card. Credit cardholders frequently get special coupons, discounts during their birthday month, rebates on purchases (usually 5%, with double rebate periods of 10% throughout the year), advance notice of sales, free shipping with online orders and more. This strategy only makes sense if you pay the card's balance off each month, because clothing store credit card interest rates are usually fairly high, and would not be offset by the savings realized from special cardholder privileges.

If you live near a mall with clothing stores you like, visit the mall's website and sign up for their email newsletter. The website will probably have special promotion information, free coupons, or preferred shopper privileges. Email newsletters will also give you advance information about special sales and promotions, as well as coupons for some stores.

Some shoppers even get part-time jobs at their favorite stores for a double benefit. The job helps them save money on their families' clothes by adding their employee discount to the best selection of bargains while earning money at the same time!

You will really save big when you combine a coupon offer with a sale item. Keep an eye out for coupons for your favorite stores, which you can find in the newspaper, in their catalogs, and on the retailers' own websites. Many retailers send out coupons to preferred customers in the mail or in their email newsletters, as well. Look in store catalogs for coupons. You can print coupons for some clothes stores from www.couponcabin.com as well. Even the Entertainment book has several coupons for national and regional clothes stores. You can preview coupons available before you buy a book at www.entertainment.com.

If you live near any outlet malls, you can find many good coupons for dozens of outlet stores. Some outlet malls have coupon books available for about $5 at the mall's management office. For example, at www.premiumoutlets.com, you can print a voucher that entitles you to a free coupon booklet at the management office. You can also print coupons for selected outlet stores at the outlet mall's site. Visit your outlet mall's website for similar promotions.

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' Good Morning America. You can find more of her savings tips in her book "Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at www.couponmom.com. Copyright 2006© Stephanie Nelson.

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