14 March 2021 (updated)

Discount Shopping: How to Score a Bargain

Many consider discount shopping to be the most exciting American sport, and it can get pretty intense!

Here are six tips to help you get in on the bargain shopping action without going insane in the process.

Discount Shopping: The Basics

For some consumers, discount shopping is little more than clipping coupons at the grocery store or browsing a few websites for price comparisons before making a purchase on the internet. But the scope of available options and even knowing where to start when looking for a purchase discount can be pretty daunting. Here are six tips for discount shopping. So you can save time, money, and your sanity.

1. Discount Shopping 101: Research Different Brands

Some brands have 25-40% off sales almost every day. Unless there's some item you absolutely have to have, WAIT before you go to the payment page or make an addition to your online shopping cart!

These include J.Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Anthropologie, Boden, and Ann Taylor. You might also want to make sure you're getting free shipping along with particular deals. Some of these merchants will also give you a gift card or other bargain voucher so you can shop again with "free" dollars to spend.

Other brands, especially luxury brands like Chanel or Hermes will almost never have sales, so you will splurge if you want one of these items new. But it's still possible to score discount high designer items from local consignment boutiques or online consignment stores like The RealReal. Keep in mind, though, even used handbags, shirts, or shoes from these brands won't be cheap!

2. Consider Cost-Per-Use When Discount Shopping

Consider a tale of two shoes. (Full Disclosure- I've been doing a lot of fourth-grade math homework recently, in case you can't tell.)

One pair costs $50, the other costs $200. The $50 pair is fun, but not quite as well-made. You're able to wear it 25 times before you get tired of them and/or they fall apart. The $200 pair is a little more versatile and well-made, and you end up wearing them 200 times. Which is the better value?

The first pair costs $2.00 per wear the second is just $1.00, so even though they cost four times more upfront, they're actually less money per use! What a bargain!

This principle also applies to beauty or hair products, too. If you can find discount makeup or bargain shampoo, that's fantastic! But if you buy cheap things you use a day or two before throwing them out for something better, you might want to reconsider whether or not you will actually save money.  

3. Rent Clothes When You Want to Make a Special Statement

When you think about the cost-per-wear, it might make you question that amazing $500 cocktail dress that would be perfect for some wedding where you need to look fabulous since you might meet the man of your dreams, or run into an ex-boyfriend. How many times will you be able to wear that in the future?

Understandably, you need to look and feel confident, but you don't have to spend a fortune to look like you did. So what do you do?

  • Ask around to see if friends/family members are roughly your size and have something you can borrow. It's free, and you don't even have to walk into a store!
  • Dress up an existing item you have with fabulous accessories! Even if you might not be the same size as your friends, a great piece of jewelry fits everyone! 
  • Rent the Runway: It still costs money, but you get to feel like the belle of the ball for the night at a fraction of the price it would be to buy something new. They'll also ship it to you directly, so you don't have to risk catching COVID from shopping in the mall.
  • Thrift Store/Consignment: These secondhand dresses already worked well for someone else. They might be perfect for you, too! You can even find great discounts on secondhand clothes online at stores like ThredUp.

4. Discount Stores Offer Great Shopping Deals

I have many fond childhood memories of hiding in the clothing racks of TJ Maxx and Marshall's while discounting shopping with my mom and grandmother. There's no place like a discount store to offer great brands at a fraction of retail (allegedly-- sometimes this isn't quite the case.)

You can also download various shopping apps for retailers like Gilt Groupe, Zulily, Rue LaLa, and so many more! Just be careful about buying things online that might not have a good return policy. That can be risky! Also, be sure to research the price of the item before purchase, since sometimes the "bargain" might not save you as much as you thought.

5. If It Doesn't Work for You, It's Not a Good Deal.

How many items do you have that are close to being fantastic, but just aren't quite right? Even if you get them on sale, you're still overpaying. This applies to clothes that "will be perfect when you lose ten pounds" or shoes that "will be comfortable once I break them in". There's also the outfit that's not quite right, but "will look fabulous once you buy x, y, z to complete the look". These are not good deals; this is not discount shopping!

If you bought something that was an "All Sales Final" type of scenario and you can't return it, you have two options.

  1. Take it to a tailor to see if they can make it work.
  2. Consign or donate it. Even if you can't recoup your cost, you won't have that impulse purchase staring you in the face every time you open your closet.

6. Going Into Debt Isn't Discount Shopping

If you don't need something, no matter cheap it is, you're still spending money. This is not a good deal! Do not buy things you don't need, and can't afford. 

Sometimes I even have major shopping bulimia where I buy a few things, discount shopping or otherwise, and later realize that I really don't need them. The $7.00 return shipping I'll have to pay is a small price to pay for not having something that really won't work hanging around my wardrobe.

Happy Shopping!

Discount shopping is a fantastic way to update your wardrobe without having to pay full price. Just remember to use your best judgment, and don't keep things you don't really love.

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