I love clearance bins! I've got it down to a science and I know just when to hit them for what... Here's some tips that think will help others deocrating on a budget.
I have some tips for ANY decorator. Depending on your style hit the store around your favorite holiday or shortly after to get the clearance prices.
If you like Goth styles or strong blacks, oranges, and purple obciously you'll want to check around halloween. But it's also a good time to check for items in a modern, techie, or party room. You'll find a lot of glow in the dark items, stobe lights, black lights, optical illusion items, etc for a trendy look. Actually no matter your style it's a great time to check. Say if you have a jungle or carribean feel to your room there's a lot of masks and voodoo type accessories around. Or maybe you have a astronomy themed child's room, look for wizard capes to use as fabric for shades or whatever you can think of.
Around Thanksgiving you'll find more "home" colors like browns, muted oranges and yellows, and the occassional sage and olive greens. This is for people with more traditional tastes. You'll find lots of wicker items, candles, and other warm home items. Skip the turkey and corn ears tho, you don't want to look like it's tahnksgiving year round but you do want that comfy home with the family feel of thanksgiving. Preps may find many useful items around thanksgiving that have an outdoorsy feel to them.
Christmas is difficult to use year round since items are so specific to the season. But items in single colors like red, green, gold, and silver can be used year round if they fit into your decor. Also you can use crystal oranments to hang on curtains, doorknos, your rear-view mirrows. My aunt has a victorian style house with dark woods and ornate fabrics and crystal oranaments, saved ribbons from presents, bells, and dried natural items work well. Also goths may be surprised to find many interesting items around christmas that work with their style. I have a modern feel to my room and have picked up many basicred accents this time of year to brighten things up.
Easter is a great time to find bright lively accents to their rooms. It's a great season to find accents for young or Preppy rooms. Baskets that don't look completely childish and Eastery can be used year round. Chick or bunny items can be picked up for children's nurseries. I love to collect the small white bunny statues that can be collected this time of year that can be blended in with other white statues. (If only there were a holiday wear we celebrated elephants!) Plasits eggs can be used to store things in for children. Colored cellophane can be used for stain glass windows which people of all tastes goth to college partier seem to enjoy.
National holidays are good for traditional homes also. Frame items decorated with flags and other items. I've seen people use flag lights for decks all summer. You can keep these items out practically year round although they're usually best suited for outdoors, kitchens, living rooms... well you know what I guess you can put them anywhere. A antique patriotic painting over your bed or flag soap dishes in your bathroom. These items often go great with country style homes. But a neon flag sign would be a great addition to a dorm room too wouldn't it. The trouble is merchandise around these holidays are often sparse and have short shelf lives so you have to hunt them down quickly.
Jewish holidays are often not as commercial as Christian once. Good or bad I don't know but for decorating purposes you'll have to look a little harder especially if you want something without a Jewish symbol. If you are Jewish tho take pride and keep these items in your room year round! I often see things in light blue and silver for others who will buy anything on clearance like me!
Kawanza is such a beautiful holiday with bright lively colors and prints brought out as the winter blahs set in. It's a really beautiful holiday and those who celebrate it take a lot of pride in it.
Birthdays aisles are great to go down every now and then. Framing cards are great for everyone. Wrapping paper is great for decopage projects also. A lot of party favors and other items can be used for childrens rooms. Also themed party items are great. I've seen beach, western, disco, ethnic, and many more themes.
College students often enjoy the different fun things that can be found down these Birthday aisles Same goes for New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras. Gags and Gifts and other related stores have disco balls and unique lighting ideas. Streamers can be used to make interesting doorways like hanging beads that have been popular for decades.