I love clothes. And I love shopping for clothes. I do not, however, enjoy spending money on clothes. The trick to being able to satisfy my fashion addiction is to spend very, very little money while shopping. This way, I can accumulate an unhealthy amount of cute clothes for my closet and not feel as guilty about it. Not to brag, but I am the undisputed Deal Queen. Compliment me on any item of my wardrobe and I will immediately tell you exactly how much I paid for it and where. To give you an idea of how talented of a shopper I am, let me tell you that I once scored a pair of brand-new jeans, in my exact size, at Old Navy for $0.27. You read that right. Twenty-seven cents. I wore those jeans for almost four years before they’d finally worn out. Almost every item in my closet cost me less than $5. If you’re impressed, and would also like to learn how to be a deal queen, read on.
First of all, I don’t shop at high-end places. I personally could care less if my purse is from Prada or Target. If you love designer clothes and name-brand clothing, some of this article may not apply to you, although check out my notes on thrifting for some more applicable tips. I’m more concerned with finding cute and unique clothes than I am about whose name is on the tag. Keep in mind that in order to be a true deal queen, you must never purchase anything that is full-price, and you must abide by the principle rule: head straight for the clearance section in any store that you’re shopping in. Ignore everything else. The best deals are lying in the oft-unorganized chaos of the clearance section.
There is a strategy for scavenging the clearance section efficiently. I am going to detail it meticulously so that you have a step-by-step guide to becoming a deal queen.
I personally start with a quick survey of the clearance rack to see if any item of clothing really catches my eye. If one does, glance at the tag and check out how cheap it is. For me, anything over $5 has got to be incredibly cute for me to even think about buying it, but your threshold may be different. If nothing jumps out at you, scan the rack more slowly, again to see if any clothing speaks to you. Check the tag. If the item passes the price test, look more closely at the item and ask yourself if it is cute enough to a) justify the price, and b) be worn more than once, ideally as a part of several different outfits. If so, ask yourself if you have any similar items in your closet, so that you don’t end up with, say 5 navy blue shirts in your wardrobe. Check the size and give the item a once-over to make sure it doesn’t have any tears or stains. If the item has passed your test, put in your bag or cart and move on to finish scanning all the clearance racks. Remember, if you want to maximize your deals, time is of the essence. Don’t spend too much time looking at just one item.
Now, look at all the clothes you’ve dumped into your cart. I’m actually not terribly judicious when pulling clothes off the rack, so I usually have a mountain of clothing to consider. I go through everything again and quickly determine if the item is cute/cheap enough to warrant me trying it on in the dressing room. Important: try your clothes on before buying them. You never know how uncomfortably tight or baggy, or weird-looking an article of clothing can look until you try it on. Don’t spend too much time trying on each item. Just decide if you like the way it looks and if you will really, truly wear it if you end up buying it. Don’t buy anything you’re not going to wear, even if it is only $2. Lastly, ask yourself if the deal is good enough. If the savings are insane, buy them and brag to everyone you meet how little it cost you.
So, you know how to shop like a deal queen, but where can you shop like a deal queen? Some of my favorite stores to buy clothes from include Kohl’s, Target, Old Navy, Gap and JCPenney’s (and if anyone in the UK is reading this, obviously Penneys/Primark). I also love to hit up thrift stores, especially Goodwill and Salvation Army. Each of these stores has different strengths, and you might have to adopt a different shopping strategy at each of them to score the best deals.
If you’re shopping at Kohl’s remember that they almost always have coupons online, often up to 30% off your entire purchase, including clearance items. You can also earn “Kohl’s Cash” while shopping during certain promotional seasons. You’ll earn $10 of Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend, and you can apply this cash to future purchases to save money. And believe me, you can buy a lot of clothes for $50 at Kohl’s. Their clearance section is usually banging, with 70%, 80% and even 90% off items. Apply a 30% off coupon and Kohl’s cash to your purchase, and you’ve practically stolen the clothes. JCPenney’s usually has coupons, as well, with 15% and 25% off coupons being the norm, and $10 off of a $25 or even $10 purchase coupons letting you get clothes for practically nothing.
You may have to dig through Old Navy’s clearance section to find deals as crazy as my $0.27 jeans, but you can score pants, shirts and sweaters for as little as $1.97 pretty regularly. Old Navy’s clearance section is often hit or miss, but when it hits, it hits. The same goes for Gap. Gap is a bit on the expensive side of the spectrum for me usually, but a couple times a year, I’ll go in and check out their jeans clearance. I love Gap jeans, and I’ve gotten several super cute pairs for less than $5 that have lasted me years.
Last, and certainly not least, are the thrift stores. I love thrifting. It’s probably the cheapest way to maximize the number of cute clothes in your wardrobe. Plus, it’s super sustainable and the money you pay at a thrift store usually goes to a charity to help people! Goodwill is probably my favorite thrift store, and it has stores all over the country. Goodwill usually has a diverse assortment of used clothing, so you can find really unique or even designer pieces for dirt cheap. Larger Goodwill’s in cities often have a clearance system. All articles of clothing are tagged one of about six different colors, and there will be a “color of the week” deal in which clothes with, say, a yellow tag, will be marked down to as little as $0.49 or $0.99. To score insane deals, search out clothes with those colored tags. You can even go as far as finding out when your Goodwill switches out the color of the week (typically on Mondays) to shop for fresh deals every week. The deal-maximizing strategies that I talked about earlier all apply to thrift stores as well. Also, check out this article, “A Beginner's Guide to Sustainable Fashion,” for more info about how to make shopping for clothes a guilt-free activity.
Now that you know how and where to shop for savvy savings, go forth and shop. Be the deal queen you were meant to be and fill your closet with cute clothes.