Since holiday shopping season is upon us, I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of my cheap shopping secrets and add a few new ones. I actually enjoy buying Christmas gifts, and consider staying within budget a fun challenge, so here are a few tips I've picked up over the years:
Shop in store
Unless you have a free shipping code or a large order, you'll usually get a
better deal in person once you add $8 to the cost of the item you found
online. I tend to use websites to scope out things I want, and then
purchase them in person (and often cheaper!) If the website doesn't have a "find in store" feature, I'm not shy about calling a store and asking them to look up the style number to find what I want.
If you only go to a store once a month on Saturday afternoon with
everyone else, you won't have much of a chance of scoring that piece
from the previous collection that was returned and marked down
because the lunch time shoppers already scooped it up. It's a numbers game - the more you shop, the better your chances of getting lucky.
Shop during the work week, if you can
Shipments of new merchandise often arrive on Mondays and Tuesdays, which means that stores are looking to move existing stock over the weekend to make room. If you show up late in the week, you'll get first dibs on the markdowns.
Keep an open mind
If you walk around looking only for the perfect leopard loafers for your sister, you'll be unlikely to
find exactly what you want in a single afternoon. However, if you're
constantly looking at sales, then you will have a chance at scoring an amazing pair of wedge booties in her size (or yours).
Constantly shop for gifts that don't come in sizes
I'm known to come across great deals on jewelry and accessories (which
don't take much room to store) and buy in bulk, then worry about who gets what. Banana Republic is one of
my favorite sources for cheap jewelry, I get to appear as though I've
spent a lot when in reality I sometimes paid about $7 for something that
was originally $49. I know this is controversial, and that
sometimes the items aren't returnable, so I only do it for friends I
know very well and are sure to like what I choose for them.
Find out where the markdowns live
I'm lucky to live in a large city, and most stores I shop at have
several locations within a 20 mile radius. I am not shy about chatting
with salespeople (I used to be one) and will flat out ask if there's a
store where the clearance goods get shipped to. Often, a retailer will
keep full-price merch in an affluent location where it's likely to sell
faster, and send the markdowns to a store with the space for it and the
traffic to move it quickly. Gap and LOFT both do this in Dallas, and
those are the locations I hit most often.
The reverse image search is your friend
If you are buying from a company that sells things they do not manufacture, chances are the photo they have online is the standard product image. By saving this picture to your computer and then doing a reverse image search (with Google, click on "Images" in the top right, then click on the little camera in the search box), you can see who else is selling it. This has worked especially well with online boutiques like Lulu & Georgia, where I've found items they sell for less than half the price on Amazon or Overstock.com. I've also found the same pair of boots on sale at Anthropologie and Piperlime, and even though the price was the same, having options like this might allow you to avoid shipping costs or use a coupon code.
Download an app that will allow you to scan barcodes and compare prices (Amazon, ShopSavvy, Pricegrabber)
If you're looking to purchase something electronic, or widely sold, be sure to scan the barcode with your Amazon app to be sure you're getting a good price. Unless you've procrastinated, it's typically worth it to wait a few days and save $7.
What's your favorite tip for staying in budget? Do tell!