It's easier than ever to score deals on clothing and accessories, according to ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports. Sales and coupons are everywhere, and there's always something marked down online. But shoppers can do even better if they know how to work all the angles.
"It's easy to save money on clothes at end-of-season sales. But if you use smart strategies, you can save money on clothes at the beginning of the season when they have the colors you like and the sizes that you need," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.
Here are six must-do steps.
. Sign up for sales alerts. Most retailers have regular email alerts that let shoppers know about sales (in-store and online), discount codes, contests and more.
. Grab coupons. Never check out (virtually or in person) without searching for a coupon or a promo code to get a discount or free shipping. RetailMeNot.com is a good first stop.
. Scour online clearance racks. Many retailers offer deeply discounted items in sale sections on their websites, which can be a lot easier to go through than store racks.
. Try eBay. If you want a specific item (used or new) - say a size 10 black dress from your favorite designer - you might find it on eBay. f
. Be loyal. If stores you shop have a free loyalty card, sign up to save. A good one: The Shop Your Way Rewards card nets you savings at Kmart, Lands' End and Sears.
. Be a follower. Connect with your favorite retailers and brands on Twitter and Facebook, and you can get the first scoop on the latest sales, plus tip-offs to upcoming special promotions.
Here are some insider tips for your favorite stores.
. Target is a great place to shop for lingerie as their selection of underthings ranges from sexy to sporty. Recently, the store partnered with designer Josie Natori to create a line of loungewear and intimates with her east-meets-west sensibility. Gilligan & OMalley's bras, which start around $10, have done well in ShopSmart's tests.
How to Save: Check DailyDeals.Target.com for one great discounted item every day with free shipping, and follow TargetDeals on Twitter.
. J.C. Penney is a good source for trendy, low-budget tops and dresses - and designers are putting a fab twist on everyday basics for the low-priced retailer. New nicole by Nicole Miller pieces include easy-to-wear silhouettes in inspired prints.
How to Save: The store's Fair and Square pricing puts seasonal items on sale each month for the entire month (think bathing suits in July) and marks down clearance items to the lowest possible price - on the first and third Friday of each month.
. Old Navy offers an ultra-affordable workout wear line called Active by Old Navy that includes enough styles and colors to make you want to suit up and hit the gym. The GoDRY tanks and T-shirts ($14.94 to $16.94) wick away moisture, and the compression shorts help hold everything in.
How to Save: Shipping is always free for orders of $50 or more, and you can combine Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta orders.
These are the best sites you're not shopping yet.
. Amazon (amazon.com/fashion) offers a huge selection on clothing items and carries duds from brands like Alice & Olivia and Tracy Reese.
. DesignerApparel (designerapparel.com) is a great site for finding sales on high-end designer clothing. Shoppers can use this site to see where clothes by their favorite designers, from Alaia to Yves Saint Laurent, are marked down online.
. Refashioner (refashioner.com) is best for scoring vintage items. This eco-friendly fashion community is a gold mine of secondhand garments.
. Linda's Stuff (stores.ebay.com/Lindas-Stuff) is an eBay consignment store filled with lots of gently used gems and fab items from fashion-forward ladies around the world looking to make a return on their stylish investments.
Never buy anything online without first doing a search for coupon codes.