Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

As I write to you this week, my Chicagoland home is covered in a gorgeous blanket of snow, and the Midwest is enduring some of the coldest temperatures we’ve had in years!

You might think this would be an odd time to discuss clearance shopping for winter coats, boots and snow pants, but incredibly, this is the time of year that winter gear goes on sale.

While discounting winter wear while there’s still snow on the ground in many parts of the country doesn’t seem to make much sense, it’s exactly what many department stores do.

Their sales floor plans are always a few months ahead of the time we actually may need to buy these things. Case in point: Three different big-box stores I frequent have clothing racks devoted to swimwear and shelves of gardening tools, gloves and supplies in stock right now.

The first day of spring is still more than a month away, but stores want to capitalize on sales in these warmer-weather categories right now.

What does this mean for us?

By watching and waiting for clearance prices, we can grab some incredible deals on winter-category items.

Each year, without fail, I find winter boots for my children priced 50-75 percent off before winter’s end in March.

I buy the next size up that they will wear the following winter. Last March, I picked up a pair of $54.99 winter boots for myself for just $13.75 – 75 percent off – in February!

Outerwear isn’t the only category that takes a big drop in price as winter turns to spring.

If you’re a fan of flannel bedsheets, start watching department stores for clearances on these as well, as they’re considered a seasonal winter item.

At one department store I frequent, I’ve seen king-size flannel sheets already 50 percent off their original price of $69.99. Sheets can be expensive, but by watching clearance sales, I have purchased them for under $20 per set.

Shopping at the end of one season for items you’ll need for the following season is a great habit to get into.

Keep in mind that as a new season approaches, any items that were brought in for the season that’s coming to an end will eventually drop into the bargain range, as stores want to clear them out and make room on the shelves for the next season’s items.

If you’re buying seasonal items when you need them, you’re often paying a premium to do so.

Someone who needs a new swimsuit or beach towel for the summer will pay a much higher price versus the person who shops the clearance racks in fall.

The same is true for anything considered seasonal: Buying grill tools, brushes, aprons and mitts will be cheaper near the end of summer than near the beginning.

There are certainly times when we must buy an item we need right now, but our family really tries to anticipate the needs for the following season, then buy what we need when those items are being cleared out at bargain prices.

Near the end of summer last year, a storm blew our glass-topped patio table over, shattering the tabletop into thousands of small pieces.

We began looking at home centers for a replacement table. Once we selected one, we waited until November to buy it. Why?

The home center had close to a dozen identical tables in stock, and we knew that as winter closed in, the chances of picking the table up at a lower price got better and better.

Finally, the table went on sale for 50 percent off its regular price, and we saved $90. We haven’t even assembled the table yet, and it’s still in its box in our garage, but you can bet we’ll bring it out as soon as the weather warms up and we’re enjoying dining outdoors again.

Have you gotten any great deals shopping seasonal clearances? I love hearing your success stories too. Feel free to drop me a line at jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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