A few days after my disappointing Stitch Fix experience, I got to do one of my absolute favorite things: shop. I hadn’t been shopping, like full-day, cover-the-whole-mall kind of shopping, in at least four months. If you’re not a shopper, that might not sound like much, but it is for me.
See, despite my generally frugal ways and desire to live a financially responsible life, shopping is a big vice. I talked about this a bit during my discussion of lifestyle inflation and the key factors that have led to it over the years. Shopping is a major line item in my budget; at times, it is a far larger line item than I’d like to see.
But personal finance is personal, and shopping for clothing is something that I really enjoy. I enjoy not only the act of shopping and purchasing new clothing, but also wearing that new clothing – going to my closet each morning to pick out a pretty outfit to wear, and feeling extra confident knowing that I both look and feel good. It is still a struggle for me to accept that it is OK that I love shopping, that I am allowed to spend money on clothes if that is something that I value, but sometimes I just feel frivolous.
Over the years, I think I’ve developed some pretty successful techniques for shopping smartly and getting a good (OK, great, if I might toot my own horn a bit!) deal.
- As with grocery shopping, one of the best ways to save money when clothes shopping is to pick your location strategically. If you go to Sak’s Fifth Avenue, there is no way you’re getting out of the store with anything in hand for less than a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, if you shop at an outlet mall, you can easily find tons of great deals on beautiful, well-made clothing. At the outlet malls in my area, you can also get a coupon book (it’s free if you’re a AAA member) that will get you further discounts at nearly every store.
- Another way to be strategic about shopping is to shop during what I like to call “shopping holidays.” I find that holidays fall into two categories – shopping holidays and non-shopping holidays. Basically, stores are either closed entirely on certain holidays (like Christmas and Thanksgiving), or they’re open and have awesome sales (like just about every other holiday). Now, there is a downside to shopping on holiday weekends in that there are often bigger crowds, but I find that the benefits outweigh the costs. A lot of the time, stores will have sales where the entire store is 40-60% off. Nothing beats that.
- Holiday weekend sales also apply to regular mall stores. Even better, a lot of the time sales at full-priced stores can be found online as well. One of my favorite strategies is to shop during a non-holiday weekend so that I can try on what I like and find what size works best, and then wait to buy until a sale pops up. These days, even without holidays I feel like there is a sale going on every other week. It is super simple to keep an eye on an expensive item of clothing until a 40-50% off coupon becomes available, and then go online to buy it. You already know what you want, and you save big by just having a little patience.
Outlet shopping FTW!
I thought I’d use my recent, Columbus Day weekend shopping trip to illustrate just how successful these savings techniques can be. For this trip I planned to go to the outlet mall with my best shopping buddy: my mom. I embarked on this trip with my Stitch Fix in the back of my mind, and I was confident that I could find pieces that I liked better for less money at the outlet mall.
Let me tell you, this was one successful shopping trip. My mom found a few items for herself and some shoes for my grandmother, all at great prices. I, as usually, found a few too many things. Oops! I wound up buying 11 items from three different stores: Banana Republic Outlet, Loft Outlet and Ann Taylor Outlet. This included 1 necklace, 4 tops, 2 skirts and 4 pairs of pants. The grand total for all 11 pieces was $264. Full price, these items would have cost $630, so I saved about 58% and averaged only $24 per item. Not bad!
Let’s compare this haul to Stitch Fix. My first fix included 1 necklace, 3 tops and 1 pair of pants. The total for all five items was $276. If I had purchased all of the items and gotten the 25% discount, I would have paid $207 in total, or an average of $41 per item.
This means that I paid 42% less per item shopping at the outlet mall as compared to Stitch Fix. Of course, I also got items that I liked better and were of higher quality. Outlet mall for the win!
Do you like to shop? How do you get the best deals?