THERE GOES THE SUN
Products currently sporting clearance tags may appear to be summer's leftovers. What's the point of picking up a new beach towel when days spent frolicking in the surf are about to become just memories? But with a little creativity, summer sale items can be suitable for year-round use. Hit a department store, grocery store, mom and pop store, or big-box store and see the potential in the items sitting on half-empty shelves or crowding the bins strategically placed to move merchandise out the door. Fill a cart with these end-of-summer bargains that can be cleverly reimagined and come in handy all year.
Related: Summer Clearance and Early Back to School Deals
Spend the afternoon in the stands at a football game, on the soccer sidelines, or poking around the craft tables at an outdoor fall festival and you may come home happy with the outing but not with the unexpected, off-season sunburn. Stock up on sunscreen to avoid painful burns and the accompanying health hazards.
The end of summer doesn't mean the end of sun and glare, whether it's during a drive or on the slopes, where skiers, sledders, and snowboarders can be dangerously blinded at times by the brilliant white snow. Grab a few extra pairs of sunglasses (be sure they provide 100 percent UV protection) and keep one in each car, a gear bag, or near the keys so they're always on hand.
A plush beach towel might seem like a summer necessity, but prices -- especially for fancy towels from leading fashion designers -- can reach three figures. Take advantage when they go on sale and don't wait for the beach to use them. Instead of hitting the shower with a plain, old, monotone bath sheet, add flair to daily bathing with designer stripes, a nautical motif, or whatever theme will have you dreaming of the next splash in a larger body of water.
Gone are the days swimsuits were worn for just a couple of months a year, and primarily outdoors. While many climates allow year-round outdoor swimming, even those at the mercy of the seasons can pick up some bargain suits for use at an indoor pool at the gym, a weekend escape to a hotel, or even off-season travel.
For a family reunion, game day, kids' party, or any other occasion when it would be nice to have an extra fridge, grab a giant-size cooler at a not-so-giant price. It can be placed just about anywhere to keep drinks, grilling ingredients, or desserts cooled to the proper temperature. When not in use, a cooler provides a vacuum-sealed place to store dry goods.
Disposable plastic and paper tableware gets deeply discounted when sporting a warm-weather motif, and what's a palm tree here or there? It might brighten up a winter day to set up a tiki-themed or gingham-checked table. Stock up for an autumn picnic, tailgate party, or the next time your child invites the whole team over for post-tournament pizza and wings.
Layers are the key to comfortable dressing. If the heat's not working, a tank top or T-shirt under a sweater adds welcome warmth, and if the heat's working too well, you can feel free to tear off the sweater knowing you're properly dressed underneath. Collect an array of inexpensive tees and tanks for the coming chilly days and fired-up furnaces.
Outdoor planters are no longer just plain terra cotta flowerpots. From Tuscan-inspired cachepots to Zen garden containers, they can be brought indoors to freshen up tired houseplants -- but don't stop there. Grab a rectangular planter for magazine storage, pick a playful one for pet food storage, and use one depicting Mediterranean shores to hold rolled-up towels in a bathroom.
Billowy summer scarves that accompany a stroll along the boardwalk or a run to the ice cream stand can also make a stylish transition indoors. A bit of clever tying (or the most basic sewing) turns them into unique and fun pillow covers. Longer styles can become bright table runners that just might, in the dead of winter, be a nice reminder of warm breezes.
Who says sandcastles are the only ones kids can build? Grab plastic rakes, shovels, and castle forms and look forward to the next snow day. The snowman just might have some competition for attention when the kids want to build their first snow castle.
So what if a tote bag has a summer theme? Use it to carry books from a quick run to the library or as a reusable bag at the grocery store. A discounted tote with a floral theme, eye-catching geometric pattern, or beloved character can make an unexpected gift bag for a present -- turning one gift into two.
S'mores scream summer, from that first taste at camp to the finishing touch on a backyard barbecue. But clever marshmallow lovers can delight in the treat year-round. Marshmallows' generous shelf life (six to eight months beyond the "best by" date) will see them through countless cups of hot cocoa and other treats, including indoor s'mores and the many recipes that put the classic s'mores flavor into forms such as pies, brownies, and milkshakes.
A simple backyard fire pit can extend the outdoor season well past Labor Day. Grab one -- or more -- and send out invites for autumn or early winter get-togethers. Pop on some tunes and gather around, roasting hot dogs and sipping hot cider or hot cocoa with a cozy throw over your shoulders and a crackling fire in view.
In the summer, footwear may not get a second thought. But come the rest of the year, when there may be rain puddles or slushy melting snow, it takes a beating -- bad news for people serious about their pedicures. Grab a few comfy pairs of sandals at a deep discount and use them as post-pedicure sandals without worrying about weather damage. College students living in dorms can use clearance flip-flops as shower shoes.
A hot bath or shower on a cold day turns the room into a foggy wonder. Who wants to throw on a bulky robe and stand in steamy surroundings, perspiring while trying to dry their hair? A light summer cover-up -- the type thrown on over a swimsuit for a run to the snack bar -- can be a playful alternative. It can be as loose as you want and as colorful as you dare (and maybe also be good to sock away for a Mother's Day gift).