About midway through a season, clothing stores have sales where they start heavily discounting the merchandise for the previous season's weather. They're a great temptation to spend lots of money creating your immediate wardrobe and your wardrobe almost a year into the future. However, replacing seasonal clearance sales with garage sales can be an amazing way to save money -- even if you spend the same amount as you would have at the sale, you can still get a ton more for what you shell out!
Go at the right time of year. Garage sale season typically starts in April (March, in some places, and May in others, depending on the local weather) and goes until October (or September, or November, again depending on the conditions). If you go in April, people will typically have cleaned out all their winter clothes; likewise, if you go in October, people will be discarding the summer clothes they have no more need for. Depending on what you're shopping for, go at the right time of year.
Focus on the type of clothing you need. Don't get distracted by other interesting types of clothing, even if they seem to be good deals. Focus on the wardrobe you've decided to build, and know what you need to round it out. You can even make yourself a shopping list and try to check everything off it -- but if you do that, don't allow yourself to shop off-list! You can come back for the other season's clothes later.
If the host seems reluctant to haggle with you, use the "no one can wear right now" bargaining chip. Remind them that since the season is now warm (or cold, but for the sake of simplicity, let's say you're shopping the April sales), no one will be trying to buy a coat, and the fact that you're interested in buying it means they have a guaranteed sale. Usually, that will soften a host up and they will be more lenient about their prices.
When you get home, wash and store everything right away. Don't let it sit and mold around your washer just because you aren't planning on wearing it for a few months; get it clean and free of the old owner's smells, then put it away in your closet so you can accurately know how much you still need to buy to make your wardrobe complete.
Garage sales abound on our home page! Our free local listings can get you started on a weekend of productive saling.