It's no fun to feel like you're just steps ahead of the economy's toppling dominos, and it's even less enjoyable to go shopping under the cloud of a global credit crunch. But these troubled times might just be the perfect opportunity to check out the discounters that sell department-store castoffs and overstocks at serious price cuts.

It's no fun to feel like you're just steps ahead of the economy's toppling dominos, and it's even less enjoyable to go shopping under the cloud of a global credit crunch. But these troubled times might just be the perfect opportunity to check out the discounters that sell department-store castoffs and overstocks at serious price cuts.

Retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls offer name-brand apparel and accessories for all ages. Between holiday gift shopping and stocking up on winter staples, you might just hit the jackpot of savings.

Of course, stores like these aren't always as cheap as they seem. Here are some shopping strategies to keep in mind:

- Don't buy it just because it's cheap. Sure, it's your favorite label and the price is great, but does that really compensate for the hideous color? Spending money on something you're not going to love (or at least make use of) is a stupid way to spend money.

- Don't assume it's cheap just because it's in a discount store - you still have to comparison-shop so you know a good deal when you see it.

- Sign up for these stores' mailing lists. Coupons you get in your inbox or mailbox can help extend the savings.

- Thanks to the ailing economy, almost every store is offering price cuts and discount shopping days leading up to the holidays, which means you might just as easily find a steal at the mall.

- Watch out for damaged items. Although discounters' items are new and most are just extra inventory, missing buttons and tiny holes abound.

Filene's Basement/DSW

3704 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Northwest Side

Web: filenesbasement.com

This giant warehouse space is packed with a huge selection of ladies' and men's designer clothing, active wear, intimates and accessories - plus rows and rows of shoes at prices that would satisfy any budget. Footwear and denim - like True Religion, 7 for All Mankind and Ed Hardy - are the strong suits here. Right now, there's a great selection of cashmere sweaters and cold-weather accessories up front - warm, soft and about 60 percent off suggested retail.

Red sweater: LXRI Cashmere, $70

Striped cashmere cardigan: Wendy B., $70

Marshalls

Multiple locations

Web: marshallsonline.com

If you're in need of a sweater, sweater dress or winter jacket for the cold weather, Marshalls should be your destination. There are lots of colorful choices among what the store calls its "shopportunities"; it advertises a regularly rotating selection straight from department stores. It's also fun to look through the home items and health and beauty products on deep discount in the back of the store.

Red sweater dress: Kenneth Cole Reaction, $40

Little black dress: Calvin Klein, $50

T.J. Maxx

Multiple locations

Web: tjmaxx.com

T.J. Maxx's Runway at Maxx section, in one corner of the women's department, highlights dressier, work- and party-style pieces from designers like Prada and Vince on a rotating basis. Recently, 7 for All Mankind and True Religion jeans were also in abundance. The store's shoe selection and rows of handbags makes it a destination for winter accessories or holiday gifts. A HomeGoods section rounds out the rest of Maxx's giant space.

Oversized handbag: Guess, $60

Suede black pumps: BCBGirls, $70

Red Planet X

2843 Olentangy River Rd., Campus

Web: redplanetx.com

Unlike the other stores included in this shopping spree, Red Planet X is locally owned and offers a mix of new and used clothing, which means you can sell your unwanted clothes to save even more money. The focus, though, is on designer labels and, with its proximity to Ohio State, the selection skews toward the Campus crowd. Jeans could be considered their specialty, but there's plenty of variety packed into the space.

Jeans: 7 for All Mankind, $40