The golden rule of smart shoppers: maximize each purchase.
That doesn't always mean getting the best price, but getting the best price for what you really want.
Find out more secrets of highly successful sale shoppers.
Off-Season Reaps Best Deals
The best shoppers know to scour sale racks for short sleeves in November, wool sweaters in April, bathing suits in September. What you give up in selection, you make up for in spectacular savings (75-90% off isn't uncommon). Occasionally, you can save by also buying ahead of a season (Nordstrom's runs sales well before each season starts.)
Learn Sale Lingo
An experienced shopper can distinguish a promotion from a clearance, a two-for-one from a buy-one-get-one-half-off. She knows that sometimes something as simple as free shipping may add up to big savings, while 50% off on something she doesn't need is a waste of money. She shops smart.
Make Friends With Sales Staff
A great salesperson is a serious shopper's best friend. Not only will sales people tell you about upcoming sales, some -- especially at boutiques -- may even hold merchandise a day or two to give you time to take advantage of the sale.
End-of-Season Gives Best Selection
You'll save big -- 40% and up is common -- and get to shop from choice pieces if you shop immediately after the season. The day after Christmas is famous for yielding great sales on decorations, but did you know that retailers slash prices on clothing for that day, too? Don't wait too long, though, because many stores are carrying leaner inventories so if you wait until mid-January to shop for winter clothing -- thinking the stores will be packed with bargains -- you will most likely miss the sales and the store will be stocked with summer merchandise.
Invest in Classics
The most fashiony items will always be enticing when they are on sale, but remember that even the cutest trends have a short life cycle. If you want to get more than a few months' wear out of your purchase, stick with the classics. End-of-season sales yield great buys on pieces you'll wear for years, from cashmere sweaters to wool blazers to leather pumps.
Don't be Tempted by Odds and Ends
An embroidered skirt in teal from a big ticket designer at 70% off. Sounds impressive, but successful sale shoppers know that picking around in the odds and ends can be a disaster. If you don't have something in your closet to go with the item or if you really don't need it (or worse, if you don't love it and are just buying the brand) it's a waste of money.
Beware Coupons and Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Price
Retailers often put stipulations on coupons, such as requiring you to buy a certain amount before they take a discount (e.g. $10 off $50 or more). It sounds like a deal, but that example only amounts to a measly 20% discount. Select shoppers know they only save about 25% when they buy-one-get-one-half-price (ex: you pay $50 for one item, $25 for the next: Total of $75 on what would have been $100 purchase, thereby only saving 25%). Internet coupons -- which you can easily find by Googling the retailer you want to buy from -- can, however, save you big on items that you really want to buy.
Look for Flash Sales
Fashion flash sales are limited-time and limited-quantity sales. One of the most popular designer flash sales sites is Gilt.com. What you give up in selection and sizes, you gain by getting mostly in-season (or pre-season) goods of the highest quality at enormous discounts.