A poll of some serious bargain hunters offers these tips for smart seasonal shopping:
* THINK TRANSITIONAL: Summer's hot, bare looks may be on your mind, but don't pass up the heavier or long-sleeved clothes that may still be hanging around the clearance rack. That black, long-sleeved T-shirt will see plenty of service come fall. A bright shell top can go it alone now and under an easy jacket later.
* ROOM TO GROW: If you're shopping for children and can budget some money for the year ahead, pick up basic pieces with plenty of growing room. Children's essentials don't suffer the fluctuations of fashion and will always be needed. A double reduction now may mean quadruple savings next year. After all, when is the last time you saw new season prices drop?
* SPLURGE: The trouble with some bargain hunters is that they often lose perspective. Sensible purchases are fine, but what about the fun factor? One pair of reduced but still-pricey gorgeous sandals will give more pleasure than two sensible pairs of work-a-day shoes.
* CLOSET TACTICS: If you are buying out of season, store your new purchases with their seasonal siblings. Memory plays tricks and it's easy to lose track of the one wintry bargain you found in July. One wool gabardine designer skirt made a picnic for the moths when it was left out among the cottons through the summer.
* CHANGE OF MIND? Check the store's return and exchange policy on reduced merchandise. Chain and department stores usually have generous return policies. Smaller retailers and specialty boutiques cannot afford the space to carry left-over and out-of-season items. Final sale stock should be clearly marked, but it's always wise to ask.