I never pay full price for clothes unless I’m buying a gift for someone else (and even then, I save if I can.) I know many people buy their clothes on consignment or at closeout stores like Ross and Marshall’s, but I’m not one of them. I always find shopping at these stores to be more effort than it’s worth. Instead, I stick to stores I trust.

Major department stores always have clothes on sale, but you can also find deals at the boutique chains if you know when to shop. Here are my tips for finding discount clothes:

Discount Women’s Clothing
I generally wear clothes from one store: Ann Taylor Loft. They’re well-made, they fit me, and they last a long time. Because I’m loyal, I never have to pay full price. In addition to shopping their sale section twice a year to refresh my seasonal items, I also receive regular discount emails. If you don’t receive discount emails, sign up at their website or look for coupon codes.

Here’s the trick: Shop only at a store with online shopping and in-store returns. Buy enough to qualify for the highest discount possible and receive free shipping. Then return what you don’t like to the store. In the fall, they also offer $25 off a purchase of $50 coupons. If you watch the dates, there’s usually a slight overlap between the start of the offer period and the end of the discount period so you can buy clothes at a discount and still receive the coupons.

Discount Baby/Kids Clothing
Target is the first choice for young parents. Even at full price they’re cheap, but they frequently have sales. When the price ends in a 4, snap it up. That’s the lowest it will go. Wise Bread offers additional tips for shopping smart at Target.

I’ve also spotted great prices and sales at Old Navy. Kids grow fast, so there’s no reason to spring for the pricey duds. However, if you like expensive clothes, watch Craigslist for warehouse and consignment sales like the one in Los Angeles. These happen all over the country and I’ve seen reports of moms buying $50 Gymboree outfits for $5.

Discount Seasonal Clothing
Did you ever wonder why department stores put clothes on the floor months before you want to buy them? It’s actually a century-old practice. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, clothing had to be ordered in advance. The wealthy would travel to Europe in the fall to buy their clothes for the spring. Although we don’t do that anymore, department stores still buy their clothes two seasons early, which means they hit the floor at least one season early.

In general, the clothes will already be on sale if you wait until the proper season to buy them. You can save even more by buying your clothes a year early. If you’ve worn something out by the end of a season and you want a classic replacement, buy it at the end of that season and save it for next year. For example, you can score cheap winter coats in March. Always stick to classics when buying early. Trendy items will probably be out of style by the time you pull them out of the closet next year.

Discount Shoes
Shoes are another area where it’s easy to save big. I buy them from shoe warehouses and I buy them late in the season to save as much as 50% off retail. For example, I recently bought two pairs of boots. The original price was $70 each. The warehouse price was $40 each. Because it was late in the season, they were 30% off. I then used an additional coupon. I bought both pairs of boots for $55 with tax, and received a $5 coupon for next time.

Discount Men’s Suits
Items like suits can be expensive, but you can still shop wisely. We’ve found that it’s best to avoid the uber-cheap suits. They wear out quickly, which means you replace them more often. Instead, we shop the semi-annual men’s sale at Nordstrom, big suit sales at Macy’s, and local suit discounters like 3-Day Suit Broker. We buy high-quality name brand suits for 50% off retail. When shopping for suits, look for super 100 or 120 wool. Although the higher grades sound better, they actually wear out more quickly.

These strategies save me at least 30% off my annual clothing budget. I buy clothes that will last a long time, which also keeps my spending down. If you have other strategies for saving money on clothes, let me know in the comments.

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