Summer is on its way out, which means sale season is on its way in. As stores prepare to put the newest collections on display, they’re looking to get rid of older inventory – and are pricing it to sell.

As you may imagine, these end-of-season sales are the ideal time to stock up on both essentials and wish-list items, but how can you be sure to make smart purchases without getting carried away (and denting your bank account)? Here are the top tricks to keep in mind.

Plan Ahead
While it may sound fun and spontaneous, setting out on a shopping trip without a clear idea of what you’re looking to buy can lead to overspending and overconsumption. So, planning ahead is essential: Which shops have the best sales? What items are you looking to buy? How much are you willing to spend? Do you have enough time allocated to get it all done? Don’t get sucked in by deals – get organised.

Set A Budget
That’s right, plan your finances ahead, too. Calculate your income, expenses and any outstanding debt to determine how much you can reasonably spend on your shopping trip. It might sound stressful, but in the long run it will allow you to relax and enjoy yourself, knowing that you won’t end up in a tight spot this month, and you’ll be motivated to only buy what you really need (or desperately want). Bonus: You’ll be taking charge of your finances, which is never a bad thing.

Take Inventory
Sometimes we accumulate so many clothes in our closet that we forget they exist, so before setting foot in a shop, you need to review what it is you really need. Write down what you have and what’s lacking from your wardrobe – perhaps a new black camisole to replace a ratty old one, or a complementary blouse to match a skirt you haven’t worn yet – so that you don’t end up wasting time or money at the shops. As personal shopper Alice Gaviria advises: “If you go to the store with your list in hand, you’ll avoid temptation, you’ll focus on what you need, and it’ll be easier to achieve your goal.” While you’re at it, take this opportunity to purge your closet of any worn-out or never-to-be-worn-again items.

Create A Capsule Wardrobe
Sale season is perfect for renewing your stockpile of basics, especially those items like socks, underwear and pajamas that are worn day after day and may need replacing. Jeans, sportswear and key items, such as camis worn under blouses and cardigans, are also contenders. “Trends are only for a season – they reach their peak and are often never worn again,” says Gavira. “And although fashion is cyclical, you never know when a trend will return, so it’s better to focus on investing in timeless garments.”

Think of putting together a capsule wardrobe for all occasions with versatile and classic items, like a trench coat, a leather jacket, a white blouse, a black dress, white sneakers, a pair of well-fitting jeans, sweaters and a printed dress. None of these garments are ever ‘over’, and you can get wear out of them all year long, no matter what’s currently in style.

Consider Quality
The price is usually the first thing you consider when shopping, but that can be a trap. Carefully check every item that’s on sale; the discounted clothes may have stayed on the rack for a reason, namely a lack of quality. Look at the fabric and stitches: Is the material very thin? Are the stitches too visible or too loose? Is the print mismatched along the seams? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you may want to think twice about the purchase. It’s better to spend a bit more on an item that will last and look good for years to come.

Try Everything On (Yes, Everything)
The pressure, the lack of time and even pure laziness can discourage us from trying clothing on before buying it, only to get it home and realise it doesn’t fit or just doesn’t look good. So when planning your outing, allow yourself plenty of time to visit the dressing rooms – even if it means standing in line. This way you’ll avoid wasting time returning items to the store (possibly only for store credit that you’ll never use), and there’s the added benefit of giving you the chance to find the item in the right size before it’s sold out.

Check Return Policies And Sale Conditions
Speaking of returns, always make sure you know the store’s policy on returning or exchanging items before you make a purchase. Ask the staff how long you can return something after the purchase is made, how the money will be repaid to you (some shops only offer store credit) and what items are exempt from the policy. Also be sure you understand the sale conditions – what discounts can be combined, what the original price was versus the discount, etc. – to avoid any ugly surprises at checkout.

Do Some Online Reconnaissance 
Use your internet sleuthing skills: do a preliminary online check of the items you want and their discounted prices, comparing them with other brands or with online prices to ensure you’re getting the best deals – depending on what you’re shopping for, sometimes you can even get the same item for cheaper at a different online store.

If there’s a store or brand you like in particular, subscribe to their newsletter to get the inside scoop on upcoming sales and offers. If they have an app, download it – this can help you save your favourites and keep track of what you want, ensuring a quick and easy shopping experience (and no impulse buys). If you’re shopping online, another trick is to abandon the shopping cart: add what you want to your cart, then simply close the browser and wait a couple of days before going back to the site. Some online stores track these abandoned carts and offer discounts to encourage you to finalise the purchase when you log back on.

Ask Yourself: Need Or Want?
“Making impulse buys is a very common mistake,” says Gavira. “We fill up our basket with items that we rarely wear or are almost impossible to combine.” So before buying, ask yourself: Would I really want this if it wasn’t discounted? Will I get enough wear out of it? Even something cheap is a waste of money if you won’t make use of it more than once. We recommend that every time you have a garment in your hand, ask yourself what events or places you would wear it to, and how many other items in your wardrobe can you pair with it. Don’t get swept up in the excitement of the moment. Remind yourself that there will be other cute items and other sales.

Treat Yourself
Of course, we’re not advocating the fashion equivalent of a salad-only diet – there’s room for a little indulgence. Discount season is the ideal chance for you to treat yourself to small luxuries, but the key to avoiding excess is to give in to wish list items that you’ve been eyeing for a while, rather than momentary whims. Maybe you’ve been pining for a pair of bright red heels you saw in a boutique window? Or perhaps a killer dress you found online? Check if they’re on sale, and if yes, go for it! Shopping should be fun, and if you’ve been heeding our other tips, there will be plenty of room in the budget for a couple of goodies.

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