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Hey, sports fans: some ways to save on team apparel

Sure, we'll pay nine bucks for a Budweiser from the comfort of our outfield seats. That's part of soaking up the game atmosphere, right?

But frugal sports fans have to draw the line somewhere. For me, it's at $30 T-shirts.

Sports franchises know that fans love to don team colors and logos. They know we like to put caps on our kids and fly flags on our cars. And frankly, they gouge us for that privilege.

But there are ways to beat the premium prices for team gear.

Here are a few tips, sports fans:

Never, don't ever, shop in the stadium gift shop. Those stores are the Saks Fifth Avenue for football jerseys and miniature cheerleading uniforms. That's largely true of college campus bookstores and team websites, too. Take the Bucs, for instance. A pair of "Junk Food Tampa Bay Buccaneers Womens Tri-Blend Lounge Pants — Ash" are listed for $39.95 on the team site. I don't generally lounge and eat junk food in anything that sets me back 40 bucks.

Or how about the University of South Florida's "Bulls Mens White 2011 Sideline Polo" for $69.99?

Move along.

Try Kohl's. Try Bealls. Try Target. These cheaper-than-the-mall stores carry local team merchandise at good prices. They may not bear the label deeming your stuff "Official Gear of the Hoboken Hurlers" or what have you, but we're too smart for such ploys anyhow. A T-shirt is a T-shirt, and I found a whole rack of them at Bealls starting at $14, with another 25 percent off.

Other finds: Tampa Bay Rays hats for $20, with a buy one, get a second for 50 percent off special, and those "lounge" pants for $30, with 25 percent off.

All that said, it's always worth doing some comparison shopping. A youth size Florida State University replica football jersey was marked $46 at Bealls — a nickel more than at shop.seminoles.com

Even cheaper: thrift stores. Like everything else in a thrift store, you have to dig for it. But Goodwill and Salvation Army get old team merchandise on their donation trucks. Consider it vintage.

Time your purchases wisely. Don't buy championship gear right after your team wins the championship. It's tempting, but just wait. Bucs Super Bowl hats and T-shirts were on super-super-SUPER-sale months after they won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Also, at the end of each season, team sites like MLB.com and NFL.com offer discounted merchandise. And at the start of the next season, discounters such as TJ Maxx start putting out last season's gear at a very good price.

Painful though it may be, it pays to capitalize on your team's misfortunes. If your squad stinks, their apparel tends to populate the discount rack.

Unfortunately, in Tampa Bay, we never seem to have to wait very long for that to happen.

• My favorite bargain-hunting suggestion comes from my dad, a bleeds-orange-and-blue Florida Gators fan. He likes to buy polo shirts and button-ups in any variation of the team's colors, and then iron on a Gators patch just below the collar.

What do you get? A one-of-a-kind shirt to wear while you cheer on your alma mater.

Staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@tampabay.com

>>Money-saving ideas

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What tips do you have for saving money in this awful economy? Share your secrets for publication in a forthcoming feature. Send an email to heresthedeal@tampabay.com, check us out on Facebook at Here's the Deal Tampa Bay, or follow us on Twitter at @HerestheDealFL.

Hey, sports fans: some ways to save on team apparel 05/13/12 [Last modified: Sunday, May 13, 2012 10:33pm]

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