A warm March and a burst of brightly colored spring fashions are the perfect incentives for shoppers looking to update their wardrobes.
This season's trends, ranging from colorful boat shoes to super skinny jeans, are already obvious, and that makes it easier to get good deals. When everyone is selling the same looks, there's more competition. That can lower prices.
"The clearer the fashions, the easier to find a bargain," said Amanda Hallay, assistant clinical professor at fashion college LIM, based in Manhattan.
If you know the style and brand you want, price-comparison apps like eBay's RedLaser can make finding the best deal easier.
And if you're not wedded to any label, sites like shefinds.com offer guides to sales and online coupon codes, along with blogs and photos of what celebrities are wearing, says Dan Grandpre, editor-in-chief of deal aggregator Dealnews.com.
Make sure you follow their favorite stores' Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to get special discounts.
Chasing trends can easily get expensive. Fight that by investing in styles that you will still find appealing even when they're no longer trendy.
"You have to prioritize. If you are going to spend on shoes, you can cheap out on accessories," said Jodi Furman, author of a blog called Livefabuless.com, which offers tips on smart spending.
Here are four trends for the spring 2012 season and how to sport them without breaking the bank:
_ Boat shoes: Boat shoes _ the brown leather shoes with rubber soles that had their fashion heyday in the 1980s _ have made a big comeback this spring. But they've gotten a major makeover.
Retailers are stocking a rainbow of versions in brightly colored hues like neon yellow and hot pink, funky print designs and different materials _ at varying prices.
If you're on a tight budget, Payless Shoe Source offers a version from Dexter for $24.99. If you want to splurge, Gucci has them for $530.
If you want lots to pick from, it's hard to beat online shoe retailer Zappos, which lists more than 700 types of boat shoes for men, women, and children _ 70 brands in 25 colors and 15 materials, from rubber to mesh.
Purists can turn to the creator _ Sperry, which introduced the shoe in 1935. Its site sperrytopsider.com lists prices from about $60 to $300, and shoppers will find varied styles and colors. The $300 version is for the "authentic original," which is handcrafted and made in Maine.
If you don't mind something pre-worn, you can try second-hand stores or vintage shops.
And for the ultimate in savings, try looking in your attic or the back of your closet to see if you have kept those shoes from your college days; with just a little polish, the shoes could get a second life.
_ Super skinny jeans: A wide variety of retailers are pushing super skinny pants as tight as leggings. At the lower end, H&M and Target have them for about $25 or less.
And good news if you're carrying a few extra winter pounds: This season, the look is being paired with oversized tops that camouflage any bulges, rather than the skin-tight tops of seasons past.
"You don't have to be skinny to enjoy the skinny jeans," Hallay says.
_ Brightly colored prints: paisley, tie-die and "super flower."
With prints, remember that you don't have to buy the whole outfit to be trendy _ they can grab a scarf or a belt, or just a T-shirt, says Furman. A little color can go a long way.
And a scarf doesn't just have to be a scarf. Retailers are also marketing them as headdresses and even as tops.
You can also mix and match without looking out of fashion, says David Wolfe, creative director at The Doneger Group.
"This season, you can go crazy with color," he says.
_ Cuff bracelets: These chunky, wide bracelets can be found in all shapes, sizes and materials, from plastic to silver.
If you want unusual styles, try fab.com, which focuses on daily flash sales of unique designs including accessories that can be as low as $25, Grandpre says.
You can also check out Forever 21 and Payless at the mall, where you can get cuff bracelets for under $10. But don't limit yourself to low-price stores; the bracelets can be affordable even at high-end stores.
"This is a very democratic season," says Hallay. "Everyone can find something that fits in their own budget."