Six ways to get the most out of end-of-season clearance sales

Ann Hermes/Staff/File
Shelves are stocked by employees with seasonal and clearance merchandise at a Target store in Framingham, Mass.

Shopping end of season sales can be a great way to save big bucks on all things seasonal, from apparel to patio furniture.

However, we don't ever rush head-first into a clearance sale and spend all our hard-earned cash on last season's trash. First we want to make sure that the items on sale are practical, of appropriate quality, and most importantly, a good deal.

Below we've outlined a number of important points to consider before hitting the clearance aisles. Some of them may sound obvious, but it's always helpful to have a reminder to think twice, hit the fitting rooms, and double-check for coupon codes when the red sale banners go live and blind us.

Pre-Shop to Find That Perfect Fit

One problem you'll likely encounter when shopping these end of season clearance sales is that many items are on final sale, which means that you won't be able to return them if they're not a good fit. Because of this, you'll want to be 100% sure that you're making the right choice. We can't emphasize enough to be strict about your measurements and only buy items you know will be suitable — don't gamble on other sizes fitting you because you were planning on going on a diet in the near future.

We can't emphasize enough to be strict about your measurements and only buy items you know will be suitable.

One other way to avoid buying apparel or shoes you won't wear is to peruse clothing stores earlier in the season to see what works for your body, then snatch them up when the price drops at the end of the season. Even better: If you can then find those items for sale at Amazon and make use of the price-dropper alert tool Camel Camel Camel.

Nerd Up on Product Reviews Before Buying

The best way to avoid wasting money on cheap junk when shopping end of season sales is to read product reviews before taking the plunge.

If you're shopping for apparel, the Amazon review section can be mostly insightful (sometimeshilarious), while Good Housekeeping provides a thorough review guide on everything from home items to apparel, and electronics to groceries. CNETis also a helpful website if you're shopping discounted tech items and computers.

Search for Coupons to Shave Off Another Few Bucks

Just because an item has moved to the clearance section doesn't necessarily mean it's at its lowest possible price. Many stores tout sitewide offers as we approach the end of a season to clear out stock. Often, these discounts stack on top of final sale prices.

Just because an item is on clearance doesn't necessarily mean it's at the lowest possible price. Many stores now offer coupons that stack with clearance sales.

Coupons for department stores like JCPenney and Kohl's always stack with clearance goods, and the same usually goes for many designer stores like Crocs, the Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Shop Around and Make Sure You're Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck

If you're shopping end of season clearance sales online, there are a number of easy tools you can make use of to ensure you're getting your goods for the lowest possible price.

Google Shopping is a dedicated browser that allows you to search hundreds of online stores for a single item and organize by price. Even better, Invisible Hand is an add-on for your browser (whether you're a Chrome-ite or Firefox fan) that will pop up and notify you if the item you're perusing is cheaper at another store. Not to mention a certain website that always lists the lowest prices on items.

Shop Multi-Season Items That You Can Use All Year Round

The best way to make good use of end of season clear-outs is to buy items that will serve you all year round, rather than splurging on pricey goods that you can only use for one week of the summer.

Avoiding season-specific materials allows you to get far more use out of your end of season purchases.

For example, spend a little more and shop for weather-resistant patio furniture that you can use throughout the fall and winter too. When buying discounted shoes, avoid seasonal materials like suede and linen. By doing so, you're getting far more use out of your end of season purchases.

Price Adjustments May Mean You're Entitled to a Refund

If you've been unlucky enough to make a purchase only for the item to plummet in price during a store's end of season sale, it's not all doom and gloom. Many stores are willing to offer refunds for a limited time after a price adjustment.

Although many outlets that have a refund policy tend to exclude clearance markdowns, there aresome exceptions: Macy's and Anthropologie will offer a refund within 14 days, while The Limitedgives you 10 days to get in touch for a price adjustment. Familiarize yourself with your favorite stores' return policies and you could get a couple of bucks back once prices fall at the end of the season.

Once the red sale banners descend, it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement and shop for cheap and not-so-cheerful stuff. So remember to keep these simple pointers at hand, be pragmatic, and get the very best deals of the season.

Readers, what are your tips and tricks to avoid wasting money during end of season clearance sales? 

This article first appeared in DealNews.

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