Post-holiday clearance sales can make a frugalista’s head spin. Armed with a gift card or some extra cash that was given as a gift, or even without the benefit of those extra incentives, those end-of-season clearance sales promise more bang for the buck at deep discounts.

We’ve all been there. We walk into our favorite clothing store and see a rack that says 75% off. Our hearts beat faster as we begin to drape piles of clothes onto our arms. Sometimes, in our crazed frenzy, we even skip the dressing rooms and head straight for the check-out lane. For half off or more, who cares about fit, right?

In the blink of an eye it’s easy to spend $50 on clothing that may never be worn. If anything can take away a clearance-shopping high, it's realizing that those clothes will never leave the closet again. Here's how to make the most of clearance sales and avoid buyer’s remorse:

Don't be influenced by a product's cheap price

Would that sweater with gaudy buttons and scratchy fabric still be appealing if it wasn’t on clearance? If it wouldn’t be worth a glance at full price (or even a higher markup on sale), put it back on the rack. If I'm still unsure, I mentally add $5 to the price tag. Most of the time it would still be a good deal, but that extra $5 makes me think about how much I really want that product. With further consideration, it is possible to realize the appeal is more about the bargain price more than the item itself.

Be realistic about how often the clothing will be worn

It's easy to come up with possible situations where that sleek cocktail dress will be worn: At that dinner party I may host someday! At that wedding I might get invited to one day! On that rare occasion that I attend a formal dinner! Really think about how often that item will be worn. Once? Twice? Never? Divide the number of realistic wears by the price. Is $5 per wear really worth it for this item?

Consider hidden costs when shopping online

This is a big one. It may be hard to pass up super-cheap clothing when shopping online, but there are many costs involved. Shipping could end up making the cost of that jacket considerably higher than it originally appeared. An even worse scenario? Buying hard-to-fit items such as jeans. It's hard to find a pair of jeans that fit on the first try, even in-store! Know return policies before making a purchase. If shipping is free for returns it’s worth the risk, but if the buyer has to pay for return shipping those jeans aren’t a bargain.

Take into account an item's quality

Often there's a reason an item is on the clearance rack. Maybe it's so thin it's see-through. Maybe the fit is off slightly. Or maybe it wasn’t a big seller because of the color or pattern. Examine the item for possible defects. Remember, some stores have strict policies about returns on clearance items. Consider looking at other items that are on sale but not on clearance. If those items seem to have better fit or be better quality, don't be afraid to pay a few bucks more for a truly good product.

Don't pass up an item ONLY because it's on the clearance rack

I’ve caught myself thinking like this many times. I admired the item when it was regularly priced, but when it was put on the clearance rack, suddenly it didn’t seem good enough. If it fits well and is something that will realistically be worn on a regular basis, finding it on clearance is a great steal. A KCL's passion is to look for that great bargain; if a great-looking, quality item just happens to make its way to the clearance rack, go for it!

This is a guest post by Lynn from Crandon, WI
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Shop Smart: Post-Holiday Clearance Sales Strategies