If you're looking for bargain fashions, now's the time to shop.
Many stores are clearing out last year's trends, getting ready for the 2014 spring and summer lines of everything from clothing to shoes and accessories. And the savings can be drastic online and in stores.
However, if you're shopping online for bargains, don't forget to factor in shipping charges. A $69.95 skirt on sale for $19.99 at The Limited, for example, costs $31.78 when adding shipping costs and taxes. And you must spend $125 to qualify for free shipping at The Limited.
While online shopping is increasingly popular with many Americans - the National Retail Federation reported shopper traffic at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores fell to $17.6 billion this year, down from about twice that number in 2010 - there are still folks who prefer to try on clothes before making a purchase.
Many enjoy the physical hunt for rock-bottom-priced fashions (retail therapy is fun), and especially like the immediate gratification of getting the item as soon as they hand over the money.
Angie Daly, of Chattanooga, says she's a January bargain hunter.
"My daughter wasn't able to make Christmas here this year but it was much better for her because I was able to find more great deals afterward," she says. "It was Christmas all over again. We had a blast with her visit this past week. She got a lot more stuff than she would have otherwise. After-Christmas sales are the bomb. She appreciated it, and I am the hero."
Although you may be tired from doing so much holiday shopping in November and December, January sales offer remarkable chances to save. Peruse the sale advertisements in the newspaper, then head out to stores and look for bargains.
For this story, the goal was to buy a complete outfit for $100 (excluding taxes). The key is to look for something that you would ordinarily wear if you were shopping retail. You don't want to make a purchase just because it is on sale.
And it was easy. Sales around Chattanooga are incredible, with a lot of merchandise available in most stores. The hard part was limiting to $100. It would be easy to spend hundreds of dollars, while saving hundreds. Over the past weekend, sales ranged from 20 percent to 75 percent.
Banana Republic had a 40 percent off the entire purchase, in addition to already marked-down prices. A $120 faux-fur-trimmed wool/cashmere sweater jacket was marked down to $54.99, with an additional 40 percent off; it ended up costing $32.99.
At Belk, a long, purple, tapered long-sleeved sweater by Ralph Lauren retailed for $169 but was on sale for $50.39 and a coordinating scooped-neck sleeveless tank by Calvin Klein was $11.39, after originally costing $39). The total without tax was $61.78.
Sales associate Ann Haynes says the drastically marked-down prices have brought in the crowds.
"We actually started having sales earlier this year, before the holidays, and we've gotten a good response," she says. Recent added discounts have reduced some prices to around 70 percent off retail, she says.
With the key pieces purchased at Belk and $38.22 left in the $100 budget, leggings seemed a perfect item to complete my outfit - and maybe a pair of shoes while keeping to the budget.
The leggings were easy to find because most fashion stores carry them. A pair of dark grey GapFit leggings at Gap - well made with pockets - were $14.99, usually retailing for $54.95. They upped the total to $76.77, leaving $23.23 to spend on shoes - ones that would look good with leggings.
They were found at T.J. Maxx - black patent structured ballet flats by Me Too. Retail they cost $59, but were marked down to $35, then further reduced to $20.
Grand total: $96.77.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.