When to Buy

FRYE Owen Crepe Tall Boot

While I discourage buying sale items SOLELY based on low or discounted prices, I encourage savvy bargain shopping. And I’ve learned to monitor the price fluctuations of certain seasonal items. None of these will be shocking revelations, as the main pattern is that bargains emerge at the end of a season … but I thought I’d share my observations and see if you have any to add!

Coats: Late January

This is one of the few seasonal items that can typically be purchased relatively early in the season on sale. Coats often get marked down right after Christmas, so if you can bear to wear older outerwear until January, you’ll be able to nab a new coat for a song.

Boots: February

There are still many good deals to be had this late in the season – in fact, you will get some fabulous boot bargains if you shop in May – but sizes will be picked over. I purchased the Frye boots shown above in February of 2009 for $99. They later went back up to their full price of $300 and only a small selection of sizes were left. Tall boots, snow boots, and closed-toe booties will be your most likely targets since rain boots and anything open/airy is considered springy.

Tights:  February and March

I stock up on tights during these months, which constitute the dead of winter here in MN.  Black and charcoal are unlikely to be bargainous until much later – if at all, since tights are worn year-round in some climes and those two colors are classic and constant – but colors and patterns will be half-price or less by March, guaranteed.

Sundresses: Late August

So late in the season, we’re often sick of summery sundresses and it’s often the trendy styles that end up on the clearance racks. But if you keep your eyes peeled for basics and simple, classic styles, a few are bound to come your way.

Sandals: September

In many places, it’s still warm in September … but everyone is dying for wool sweaters, tall boots, and scarves. So sandals get slashed, and there’s a chance you might still be able to wear them immediately on buying.

Mall stores follow these patterns, as do online stores. My main source of amazing seasonal bargains is Amazon – you’ll be AMAZED by some of the deals if you monitor your favorite items over the course of a few weeks.

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  • Northern hemisphere end of season sales are a godsend to us here in the southern hemisphere – particularly those troublesomely expensive, but necessary, winter coats. I hit the online northern sales hard at that time, stocking up for the winter ahead – luckily winter stuff like coats and knits and tights tend to be more timeless than summer things, so we can get our winter wardrobe sorted for a song, right at the start of the season.

    • Eleanorjane

      How do you do that? I live in New Zealand and what with the exchange rate and incredibly expensive postage, buying stuff from the US and UK is normally not feasible… (Sadly, cos there’s a world of awesome stuff out there…)

  • In Texas, July is the time to shop!! You can still find some amazing winter clearance prices…and the clearance on summer begins with Back to School seasonal shopping..I save more money in July and have found the best deals during that time!!

  • Courtney

    On sale now: Boots! And other cold-weather gear! I recently nabbed two beautiful pairs of boots from Talbots for $30 each, plus three wool-blend dresses for under $18 each.

  • Thank you, thank you for this guide! I’m a novice seasonal bargain shopper, but last September I bought 4 pairs of ecco and sofft flats for $17 each at my local Dillard’s. (I would have bought 10 if they’d had my size!)

    I’ve never bought any clothing-related items from amazon–I’ll definitely have to check it out!

  • Diana

    I totally agree with all of this! Also, my fave thing to do is to save things in my amazon cart – every time you click on the cart afterwards it tells you whether the price has changed!

  • I thrift shop almost exclusively, and I have found the best stuff in January (I think people make resolutions to be more organized, or want to purge after getting gifts), and June (spring cleaning, end of school year, maybe?). The end of every season is also good, if you can think ahead enough to know you will need it next year! I just hate buying something for the next season, having it sit in my closet for eight months, and then being sick of looking at it before I even get to wear it, so I only buy off season if I absolutely love it!

  • Thanks Sal, this is great. Here in Florida, the woolies look out-of-season within a month or so, but when summer stuff goes on sale, woo-hoo! Courtney – I’m going to check out Talbot’s now : >

  • These are great, great tips! Back when I worked in a department store, I snagged a ton of designer tights during the summer. On major sale days, HUE tights would be $2 a pair (originally $20). So I’d advocate waiting a little longer to get them 🙂

  • I have a tip! I travel to Hawaii a few times a year – every time I go (especially in Jan/Feb) – the Nordstrom Rack in Honolulu/Waikiki always has Frye’s and Uggs boots. I’ve even seen them in red (Frye’s). I love your tips! Thanks for the reminders!

  • Since I mostly shop consignment and thrift, I find some slightly different patterns.

    Consignment shops tend to want clothes close to the actual seasons that are in or coming up. These items will usually be the previous season’s summer and spring items right now. Consignment shops usually have a clearance section of the end of the previous season, so sometimes you have to shop right out of season. I have two pairs of Kenneth Cole Reactions sandals that I bought in January this past year – it’s finally warm enough to wear them!

    Thrift stores are never quite synch up with the seasons. Staff will move summery stuff out front, but this is the time to buy off-season, as everyone cleans out their closets of all the winter things they don’t want anymore – off to the donation bin! You can really find some gems in the coats, sweaters, blazers and dresses sections as summer gets closer.

    • Sal

      Great tips, Sheila!

  • For a reasonable combo of sale prices & range of sizes, try boot shopping in late December, around Xmas, & early January. Better timing for those of us w/harder to fit feet (or calves!).

    One thing that I think really should be bought *in* season is a swimsuit, regardless of price. For most women, it’s hard to fit, & you want the best selection, so look between April & July. Even online stores have smaller selection in off-season. Same goes for shorts. I’ve often planned winter trips to tropical destinations, & when I tried to buy clothes in September or October, pickings were really slim (& I’m not, heh).

  • So useful! I’ve known to shop at the end of seasons, but this is perfectly presise! Thanks 🙂

  • I don’t have much luck buying on clearance — I’m not a standard size, so I do better shopping midseason when things start to be marked down. Once it gets to clearance, the jumble of racks and the difficulty of finding my size in the right color is daunting.

    I do keep an eye on the clearance racks from time to time, and snatch up something as I find it. I once picked up a nice cocktail dress for $8.

  • LOVE this post! I cant wait to print this off and use it as a guide when shopping.

  • Tiffany

    The advantage of being in the Southern Hemi is that end of season sales in your part of the world fit perfectly with our upcoming seasons! So when your end of summer sales are on, I can snaffle things in advance for our summer 🙂

  • Cel

    I only ever notice the sales once it’s too late and all the good stuff is gone. Or I suddenly need something once all the sales are completely over, d’oh!