Buy Clothes Off-Season and on Tax-Free Holidays (90/365)

If you’ve checked out the thrift stores, outlet stores, and consignment shops in your area and still haven’t found the clothes you’re looking for, you can still save some significant money on your clothing bill by just planning ahead a bit with your clothes shopping.

Buy Clothes Off-Season and on Tax-Free Holidays (90/365)

I’ll use my oldest son as a shining example of what I’m talking about here. When he was five, he went through a growth spurt, causing him to jump from shirts sized 3T (which still fit him) to youth small shirts in about three months, which meant he blew through two sizes in that period.

We were simply scrambling for clothes that were appropriate for him. We visited a lot of thrift stores and and outlet stores looking for items for him, but we simply had trouble finding enough inexpensive clothes to provide an adequate wardrobe for an active five year old boy, one who winds up changing his clothes two or three times on a typical weekend day because of the creative messes he makes.

Eventually, we reached a point where we were going to have to buy him quite a few clothes. We planned ahead a little and utilized several different tactics for saving money on the purchases.

First, we capitalized on a tax-free holiday. Once a year, Iowa has a tax-free day in which you can purchase clothing and a few other select items without having to pay sales tax.

Many stores promote this and also offer sales at the same time, so if you patiently wait until the annual holiday rolls around, you can save some significant money on your clothing purchases. Many other states offer similar “holidays” from sales tax and, just like in Iowa, the stores promote sales during this time.

We also capitalized on some out-of-season sales. As summer winds down, short sleeved shirts often see a big discount at many stores here in Iowa (a similar phenomenon happens in late winter and early spring), and we sometimes use those sales to fill out our children’s clothing needs.

If you’re buying for an adult or use some sense in predicting sizes for children, you can buy clothes in the fall for the subsequent spring and summer, and you can buy clothes in the spring for the subsequent fall and winter.

Stores often heavily discount items during these periods, both to entice customers and to get rid of excess stock, as it’s often less expensive for the store to sell it at a discount than it is to ship it back.

A big key to all of this is planning ahead. If you find yourself with clothes needs, be patient and wait until the end of the season to fulfill them or wait for a sales tax holiday. Along the way, keep track of the items you actually need (yes, a clothes shopping list!) and use that when the end of the season or the tax holiday comes along.

Another tactic for those end-of-season sales and sales tax holidays: watch for flyers. The Sunday paper before a tax holiday is often loaded with clothes flyers and coupons, which can help you shave even more off your spending while also helping you to do a bit of advance comparison shopping.

Of course, you can stack many of these ideas. The Iowa sales tax holiday often comes late in the summer, which means that stores are often aggressively selling short sleeved shirts and other summer apparel both to get customers in the door and to unload inventory. This is a great time to not only check the typical clothing stores, but to take a peek at outlet stores and other types of discount stores.

No matter what clothes you buy or where you buy them, some sensible choices in advance can save you some real money.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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