by Jane Magaro, Cheapism.com
If longer days and diet program ads are any clue, swimsuit season is quickly approaching. Toss out your old sun-beaten, pool-weathered bathing suit and prepare for a new season of pool parties and beach vacations with a new bikini. We updated our 2011 list of the best places to buy cheap bikinis and swimsuits for summer 2012. While the best time to buy swimwear is usually towards the end of summer, these swimsuit shops are selling bikinis cheap enough that you won't want to wait. And with such appealing designs, you might find yourself shopping for a few different swimsuits.
Old Navy. For an affordable selection of figure-flattering bikini styles, check out Old Navy's cheap swimwear for women. Both the e-commerce site and brick-and-mortar stores offer swimsuit styles ranging from the classic string bikini to fashionable decorated designs. Build your own bikini with $10 mix-and-match tops and bottoms, including this trendy Missoni-esque printed bandeau top.
Related: Best Cheap Sandals 2012
Forever 21. The mecca of cheap and cheerful fashion offers cute bikinis in the same vein. Hit the beach in up-to-the-minute swimwear with low prices that beat even the best clearance sales. But even if a neon banana print bikini isn't your thing, you'll find a range of dirt-cheap mix-and-match bikinis in varied styles and colors. For a bikini that will never be anything but "in," choose from the store's range of classic string bikinis in solid colors, starting at $4.50 a pop.
Target. Everyone's favorite big-box store, Target is more Tar-zhay when it comes to its swimwear. The retailer offers hundreds of different women's swimsuits targeted (sic) at tees to adults to mothers-to-be. And unlike many other discount stores, Target's swimsuit styles are hip and chic. Bikini tops and bottoms start at just $5 each, and some are even reversible, giving you two looks for the price of one.
Victoria's Secret Semi-Annual Sales. Come spring, the lingerie giant sells sexy swimwear to match. While Victoria's Secret has already started selling its summer bikinis for 2012, its 2011 bikini swimsuits are on clearance. For standard string bikinis, look at cheaper swimsuit shops like Forever 21 or Old Navy, but Victoria's Secret has the largest selection of sexy bikinis and embellished push-up swimsuits.
Related: Best Workout DVDs
The best time to buy Victoria's Secret swimsuits (or any VS items, for that matter) is during the semi-annual sales, which take place in summer and winter. The winter sale is over and done, but look for the summer clearance sale in June or July. Tops and bottoms often go for $10 and under.
American Apparel. Best known for its plain basics and solid colors, American Apparel swimwear nonetheless features lots of mix-and-match swimsuits in patterns and prints. Put together a sexy string bikini for under $12 or spring for a strapless cut-out one-piece swimsuit. Note that many of the bikini triangle tops don't have padding.
Bargain clothing stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross. For brand-name swimwear at bargain prices, check out discount retailers like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross stores. Because swimsuit styles don't vary too much from year to year, snagging a cheap bikini that passed for trendy last year will pass the fashionista test this summer, as well. For the best selection, shop early to beat other frugal beachgoers to the racks. These stores usually add inventory weekly, if not daily, so check back often until you find swimwear you like at prices that won't burn through your pocket.
Costco and other wholesale stores. Shop for an economy-sized bottle of sunblock at the same time you scout out the family's swimwear. Check the apparel section of Costco for deals on swimsuits pulled from seasonal overstock. While the range of styles might be slimmer than a typical retailer's, the prices are hard to beat. Shoppers looking for cheap swimwear, especially simple, classic bikini styles, should also take a peek at other wholesalers, like BJ's and Sam's Club.
More from Cheapism:
Best Cheap pools
Cheap Yoga Mats
Costco or Sam's Club
For more ways to save, follow Cheapism on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
To stay on top of the latest posts, read the Cheapism Blog.