A Reluctantly Prudent Shopper's Tips and Tricks

Let's just get something straight, right off the bat (ooh, double idioms): I'm only a frugal shopper because I have to be!

You hear that world? Only because I have to be! (*lowers shaking fist*)

What does that mean exactly? It means, yes, I could float on actual, literal clouds after the thrill of purchasing something on sale, or with a coupon code, or during some promotion, but it doesn't mean I don't wish I could just buy everything I want without having to plan, or wait, or be that dirty little word: frugal.

Being frugal led me to wait before splurging on this Zara dress when I first saw it in stores. Scored it on sale for $20 a month and a half later! Not only do I love this dress, but it's a real show stopper when I'm standing up and not making faces at Chili's in it...

Having decent shopping skills is definitely something to be proud of, because not everyone can be this cute on a budget. That isn't cockiness by the way; it's the truth. Look at this picture:

I got this amazing pink blazer in the clearance section at Target. It was under $15!
See? Relax.

I don't know...maybe it's necessary to have some interest in fashion to care about things like sales, and rewards cards, and clearance racks, because when I tell people that my outfit is under $50, or my bag isn't high end, or my unique dress was only $10, I still get saddled with, "WH-WHAT!?" As if other people don't know the secret!!! (The secret is smart shopping by the way.)

I'll never forget this girl, Christina, from high school asking me how I afforded my clothes, a closet mostly comprised of American Eagle Outfitters items. AE and Hollister were a big deal in high school, okay; don't judge me. All my peers cared about anyway was the brand's name stamped across my hoodie or that eagle emblem embroidered into my polo shirt that I styled with the collar propped up. I know...

Anyway, she was surprised when I told her most of my apparel was $20 or less and came straight from the clearance rack. As in, I walked into the store and made a beeline toward the back to access the hidden gems in clearance. Can you believe that Christina really thought I was rolling into the mall spending forty bucks on polos or $80 on a track jacket like I was Mr. Monopoly just because of how I was dressed??? DOES SHE EVEN KNOW ME!?! I'm cheap--I mean, frugal...again, because I have to be. Not because I want to be. There's a difference! Learn it!

I received so many compliments all summer long on this dress from Zara. I only paid $10 for it at the end of summer clearance sale! It's worth it to go clearance diving!

Well, Christina got me thinking then, and being that people are still clueless as to how to shop smart, I'm still thinking about it! I realize that people may actually need some shopping tips. You, too, can look stylish all year round with a little help from your reluctantly prudent shopper friend: me.

So here we go:
  • Subscribe to emails from all your favorite shops and follow them on social media (think IG or Twitter). These are the first places brands and businesses let you know there will be a sale/ promotion. They even give exclusive coupon codes, percentages off and free shipping just for being an insider. I can't tell you how many times I've waited for an email from Old Navy, guiltily one of my favorite brands, for a "No Exclusions" promotion, where everything is on sale, even best sellers! Sure, you may get an email everyday, but if you've got your eye on something and want to wait for a good deal, it's so worth it. Like the time I bought a $90 Loft dress for $42! When it comes to retail, sometimes patience really is a virtue.

  • Shop the racks! The clearance racks! I like to do this when I'm bored and don't really need anything. You know, those days when you're wandering around the mall aimlessly, looking for something to spend money on...or is that just me, because retail therapy is a thing. Google it. I'm not crazy, you're crazy. Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, clearance. It's a good idea to wander into the clearance section of your preferred store (you can do this online as well), because you never know what you might find and for what price! There were a few items I had my eye during summer season, and by mid season, where'd it end up? In the clearance racks, for a price I could afford!

  • Shop at the end of a season. So here's the thing about frugal shopping: you won't ever really be on trend with the current season, unless you're splurging on the spot or shop somewhere less expensive and sometimes for lesser quality products. When you shop at the end of the season, there are either huge sales to get rid of last season's goods to make room for the new season, or the clearance racks are packed with marked down goods. Notice how percentages off of clearance items/ already marked down products happen at the end of the season. They just want to get rid of stuff at your benefit. If you want to stock up on pieces that are either transitional (meaning you can wear/ layer/ style them throughout all seasons) or classic (pieces you'll always be able to wear regardless of trends, i.e. striped shirts or a LBD), now is the time! And the best news is that you've got totally new threads for the following year! If you're a mom shopping for your kids, it's best to buy clothing, coats, or shoes a few sizes up.

  • You should also be waiting for holiday sales/ promotions. There's at least one holiday--official or not--every month. If you're eyeing something in the store or have a few items in your cart online you just can't justify purchasing at full price, check your calendar for the next holiday coming up. Most likely, there is some sale or promotion coming up. Again, be patient.

  • Coupon codes, rewards cards, credit cards! Whether you're buying something online or in the store, always check for a coupon code for a last minute total reduction or free shipping. Download apps (like RetailMeNot) or check the websites of your favorite spots and see if any discount or promotion is being offered. Visit a place often? Consider a rewards or credit card from that store. My husband loves the pants from Banana Republic, so he has a credit card that offers percentages off, which he can use not only at Banana, but its partner stores, like Old Navy, Gap, and Athleta. I love shopping at Target and Loft, so I have a Target Debit Card, which offers 5% off of every purchase, even the Target Starbucks. My Loft Credit Card collects points based on how much I spend that add up to a reward I can use to shop more! Bank Cards are also your friends. If you qualify, apply for a credit card that offers cash back rewards when you spend money on gas, groceries, etc. I know Bank of America also offers something called Cash Back AmeriDeals, which gives you 5-10% cash back at locations listed online like Panera Bread, Starbucks, Casper, Michael Kors Outlet, etc.

  • Based on your job, find discounts you qualify for and use them! My awesome sister works at Lowe's and their employees have so many cool benefits like percentages off local restaurants and certain brands. My husband's company also offers discounts on travel/ hotels or Six Flags tickets for example. 

  • Outlet malls always seem to have some promotion going on, because they're essentially a warehouse of a brand's products from last season(s). That's why I usually wait to buy my Kate Spade novelty bags at my local outlet mall, because I know it'll be reduced to a price that won't break the bank.

  • This last one is pretty obvious, but check out thrift or vintage stores (even the ones online) if that's your thing. I've also heard of clothes swapping parties among friends and acquaintances. Give it a try if you're so inclined, because as far as I'm concerned, style isn't about labels and cost. It's about your natural and personal flair and expression.
You feel me?

Well, that's all I can think of right now!

Do you have any tips to share about saving money when you're a fashionista? Let me know in the comments, and I'll add them to my post! Thanks for reading!




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