Clothing is one of the most popular holiday gifts, and for good reason. Unless your gift list is composed entirely of full-time naturists, everyone needs clothes. But clothing also can be one of the more expensive and difficult items on your list.
Here are a few tips to make buying clothes for all ages less stressful, less expensive and more fun.
1. Carry a list of accurate clothing sizes for the gift recipients so you can take advantage of good deals when you find them. This also will reduce returns and disappointment on Christmas Day.
2. Remember, a piece of clothing that's too large can make a recipient feel like you think they're bigger than they are. If the piece is too small, the gift could make the person feel like they have gained weight.
3. Lists, lists, lists. Make a list before hitting the stores and stick to it. Lists help keep impulse purchases to a minimum, which can really add up.
4. Make note of gift recipients' favorite colors and styles. If buying a scarf, gloves or hat, note the color of their winter coat(s). When in doubt, black leather gloves make an excellent gift and usually can be found at deep discounts before Christmas.
5. Shop early and during off-peak hours for the widest selection and least pressure. You're more likely to grab just anything -- no matter the price or suitability -- when shopping at the last minute. Stores concerned about the recession aren't stocking as much inventory this year, so shopping early is particularly important for the best selection.
6. Do your research. Check online prices and compare those to prices at local stores.
7. Don't go overboard. Does that 4-year-old child really need designer labels or five different outfits for Christmas?
8. Consider sweatshirts or night clothes, which traditionally are worn larger and don't require perfect sizes.
9. Although outlet stores sometimes offer excellent savings, their prices may not be as big a savings as advertised.
10. Ask stores when new items are added to clearance racks (i.e., Target has certain mark-down days for each department).
11. Get a jump on Christmas 2010 and buy next years’ clothing at deep discounts during after-season sales, but avoid trendy items that may be out of style in a year.
13. Check out the dollar stores. While some items may be of inferior quality, you'll be surprised at some of the incredible deals you'll find on trendy items.
14. Remember kids outgrow pants more quickly than adjustable-strap overalls.
15. Buy longer pants for toddlers. Cuffed pants can be uncuffed as the child grows.
16. While trendy items are fun, classics last longer than fads.
17. Read the washing instructions before buying an item and try to avoid dry-clean-only clothes as these will be more expensive in the long run.
18. Thrift shops, consignment stores, flea markets, garage sales and online auctions often are loaded with great clothing finds at great prices.
19. Shop pop-up stores -- or quickie retail operations -- that appear in vacant stores at malls and other shopping centers. These stores can offer better prices as they don't carry the larger inventory or high overhead of permanent stores. Remember, however, that pop-ups will disappear after the holidays so avoid gifts that may need to be returned.
20. Shop the carts. Often found in the public portions of indoor and outdoor malls, carts also carry less overhead than permanent stores while sometimes offering unusual products.
21. Purchase wholesale by teaming up with friends and family shopping for children's clothing. Socks, underwear, scarves, hats and such are much cheaper when purchased wholesale.
22. Many mothers-to-be rapidly tire of their limited maternity wardrobe, so clothing can be an excellent option. While much maternity wear is greatly overpriced, not all has to be purchased in the maternity section. Check out plus-size clothing and menswear for useful items that also can be worn after the baby arrives.
23. Check clothing for defects before purchasing, particularly clothing on sales racks or at discounts stores.
24. For all-day shopping trips, bring your own lunch and/or snacks to avoid spending extra money eating out.
25. Most importantly, don't shop for yourself. The average shopper spends $90 during the holidays on items for themselves, so resist temptation and promise to treat yourself during post-holiday sales.
Photos by: gwen, Fuschia Foot, royalepea, [mini]marketing, lepiaf.geo, ex.libris.