Not that we needed more reasons to shop this season, but the 80 percent off discount signs hanging in store windows are an irresistible enticement to wander inside. But beware of overzealous purchasing during summer sales: “If you’re on a budget, a summer sale is a really great idea,” says Erin Nadler, personal stylist of Better Styled, which provides shopping and fashion consulting services. “But I think before you even go shopping, you need to do your research.”

She suggests leafing through fashion mags (ahem!) to glean your favourite looks from the upcoming fall trends, and conducting your discount shopping accordingly. Here are Nadler’s top five summer shopping tips when hitting the sales racks this season.

Summer sales shopping tip #1: Plan your attack

Like anything worth fighting for, make sure you game plan your summer fashion shopping trip. “What makes a great deal is a classic and versatile piece. A lot of women go crazy— they see something on sale and they buy it, but it doesn’t fit in to their wardrobe and it doesn’t have a purpose, and they know what to do with. That’s not a good sale,” she warns. “You want to look for pieces that are classic, that are versatile, that you could wear year-round and that are on trend for what’s coming up in the year.”

Best bet: Avoid buyer’s remorse from impulse splurges: “Look to see what’s in your closet, what might be missing, and how you can maybe mix and match your clothing better,” says Nadler.

Summer sales shopping tip #2: You can never have too many accessories—seriously

Something to keep in mind once you’ve strategized and are out in the field, er, store: “One of the easiest things to buy and what’s always on sale— and an easy way to update your wardrobe with—are accessories,” she says. “You’re going to see a lot of really great bags on sale,” says Nadler, listing off summery coloured bags, printed scarves, wraps, bracelets and chain necklaces. Bonus? “All of these pieces can easily go into the fall season and are great items to mix and match with what you already have to really update an outfit.”

Worth repeating: “Accessories are the best pieces to pick up on sale.” For an investment piece, go for a fabulous oversized bag in aqua or purple to liven up an otherwise dark fall wardrobe. “You can wear it into the early parts of fall, but then pull it back out in spring/summer,” says Nadler.

Summer sales shopping tip #3: Pick up transitional pieces

Nadler suggests scooping up “evergreen” staples, like blazers and cardigans, which will take you through those cooler August nights and well into the fall season. “You want to look for something that’s well-tailored and classic, so that you can mix and match as much as possible,” she says, suggesting a classic navy blazer as a year-round must-have. Her other transitional pick is cashmere blend cardigans, which can be layered over a blouse in the fall, or worn indoors in air-conditioned offices during summer months.

Just watch for colour: “If you want to stay in the neutral colour palette, then you can very easily mix and match, but if you go with something that’s bright neon or colourful, then you are in the spring/summer tones. But there’s no reason why you can’t take it to next spring/summer also!”

Insider shopping tip: “Stores like Banana Republic and J. Crew always have their wardrobe staples on sale at this time of year.”

Summer fashion must-have: Top floral dresses

For more expert summer fashion sales shopping tips, read on to the next page…

Summer sales shopping tip #3: When all else fails, buy denim

As denim comes and goes each season, stores inevitably mark down inventory to make way for the newest crop. What this means for us is that the $240 pair you’ve been coveting all season will likely be on sale and within reach, Nadler affirms. “A dark denim boot cut jean—I don’t care if it’s now or three years from now—it’s always the perfect piece,” she says. And the rainbow of coloured denim we’ve come to know and love all season will also be sticking around.

Hot pants tip: “I always tell my clients to go with a colour that can be mixed with as much of your neutrals as possible—I really like red. The red bottom, a lot of people are afraid of, but I love them because they go with everything: navy, beige, it’s so easy.”

Summer sales shopping tip #4: Avoid having a closet full of trends

What makes a great sale purchase? “The
best pieces to buy and the most exciting deals for us as women is when it’s something that’s classic and we say, ‘Oh my god, I needed that and I found it on sale!’ And something that you can mix and match and everyone wishes they had bought on sale too!” she adds, laughing. But be wary of trendy items that might not work come next spring: “When your wardrobe is too trendy and it’s less classic and pulled together, you end up having to pitch what is trendy every single season.”

Discerning shopper’s challenge: “Sales are great for picking up the items you might have left behind at the beginning of the season,” she says, referring to classic staples like a beige belt or that bag you’ve been eyeing since March. “But if you’re not sure, the best bet is always to leave it behind, go home and think about it and see what it might work with— and then go back and invest in it, rather than buying it and regretting it.”

Summer sales shopping tip #5: Layer up for fall

“The big trend over the last couple of years is layering,” says Nadler about the slew of go-to tanks, long sleeves and T-shirts. But these
comfy essentials can get quite costly, especially when you’re wearing several of them at a time. “So these are really nice items that you can pick up on sale,” she says, adding that even
colourful items can be nicely layered under a dark swear or fur vest for fall.

Colour boost:
Bright, colorful clothing is going forward into next spring, so don’t be afraid to pick up a fab aqua-coloured tank that you can layer,” Nadler says.

Read more:
Top 6 pleated skirts for summer
Fall 2012 trends: Chic pantsuits
The 8 best clutch bags