If you're like me, and several other (mostly) women that I know, you love stepping into those stores and taking it all in. I think my heart races each time I walk into a Baby Gap. The clothes are so stinkin' cute!
Photo Courtesy of JCrew.com
Now, I know that I am on the shop-a-holic side of the spectrum, and that I tend to over-do it sometimes. . . just ask my hubby:
* I am an impulse buyer.
* I love me some retail therapy - picking out clothes is fun for me.
* I am bad with coupons; half the time I have a coupon I forget to use it - I'm working on this.
* I don't mind consignment sales, but much prefer new clothes.
But there are definitely some things that I am not:
* I am NOT rich, nor do I have a huge budget to work with.
* I am NOT looking to get in debt thanks to my clothing obsession.
I'll stick with the mortgage and student loans thanks!
With those things in mind, I have come up with some tricks over the years to getting some good deals on the clothes I love so much. These aren't extreme couponing kind of deals by any means - if you want to find that, you usually have to buy used stuff. I do pretty well a lot of the time though. I thank my mom working in retail management for several years, my own shopping experiences, and modern technology for my bargain shopping SKILLZ (yes, I'm lame. . .what of it?).
Retail-shmee-tail - I like to shop at stores like Baby Gap where a single pair of toddler boy's pants retail between $30 and $45. Even worse, I recently discovered the JCrew line of kid's clothes called Crew Cuts. There, a cute little skirt retails between $50-$80. . . sometimes more. Oh, and how cute is anything Ralph Lauren for little babies?!? Paying manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) on a wardrobe worth of these clothes is a good way to go broke. I occasionally pick out a special piece at MSRP that I don't want to wait on for a sale, but that is by far the exception to my shopping. You can fill your child's closet with great quality, new, name brand items, for way under MSRP.
Timing is (almost) everything - This is by far the most important factor to successful bargain shopping. Retail stores cycle through sales and obviously some are much better than others. The most obvious time to buy clothes is at the end of a season, but that isn't always practical with a growing child. There are plenty of sales towards the start of a season, just not at the very beginning. As fall approached this year, I realized that Baby Boo had practically no warm clothes; everything that she had prior to the summer had been long outgrown. I bought her some staples at a consignment sale in early September for next to nothing, and then waited it out until October when a lot of the warmer stuff starts being clearanced out too.
How to get the discounts:
Credit cards - Several stores have their own credit cards with rewards programs that go along with them. I have a handful of store cards that I have for the retailers that I know I use the most. These are potentially dangerous because they have sky high interest rates that you don't want to get stuck paying. Responsibly owning these cards includes having the discipline to only spend what you can pay off right away. If this is something you can manage, then getting cards for a select few stores that you particularly like is useful in several ways:
- The rewards points - Most store credit systems reward you with each purchase. The basic program is often a small bonus, but can really be maximized on days when they double, or triple (or more) the points. Once I got quadruple points off of a large purchase because there was a special deal going that day with the purchase of any accessory. I learned about the deal through a promotional email. Thanks to that $5 purchase, I received a $40 rewards certificate.
- Receive special coupons or notification of sales only available to card holders. Most also send you a gift card for your birthday.
- Most cards will give you a special bonus discount off of your first purchase. These discounts often include sale and clearance items so plan these acquisitions carefully.
Other Membership Programs - Some retailers offer membership programs that don't require opening a credit account. The rewards are usually not quite as good as credit card based programs, but can still be very nice. The most notable example I use personally is Gymboree's Gymbucks.Mailing Lists - Most retailers at least offer a mailing list; whether it be snail mail, email, or a combination of both. I have an email account that is dedicated purely to these mailing lists and it pays off big time. I receive some pretty nice coupons thanks to the mailing lists. Even better, I am notified of sales which goes back to timing being (almost) everything. Many stores now have texting services too where they send you special notifications or coupons to your phone. They can get obnoxious, but can yield some great savings.Specialize - Knowing how to work the sales can be time consuming. I stick to a small handful of stores that I really like, to buy the vast majority of my clothes. This way I maximize rewards programs, don't have a ton of store cards in my wallet, and can keep a better eye out for the really big sales. I know what the rock bottom price sales are for each respective store, so I know when to pounce.More on timing - It can take time to really learn when the good sales are for each store, but it pays off so much once you do. You need to know when the good sales are, and also how to recognize when the sales are at their best:
- Keep records: Remember big sales when they happen either mentally or written down. If the after Christmas specials are the best at store A, keep that in mind for next year.
- Ask sales clerks what to expect: I saw what looked to be a great sale at Gap the other day (all sale merchandise was an additional 50% off). I took advantage of it, and when I was paying for my items I asked the cashier if the sale ever went any better. She told me that as far as she could remember, an additional 50% off was the lowest the sales went. From now on, I doubt I will bother with 25% or 30% sales for my bargain hunting. The employees may not always tell you, but when they do, it can be valuable information.
- Google it: There are plenty of people out there figuring out the best way to work sales by combining sales and coupons, and writing about it online. Do a little digging and you'll find websites, blogs, and forums of this nature. Also, when shopping online, I always check coupon code sites like retailmenot.com for freebie discounts.
There you have some of my strategies for bargain shopping. As mentioned earlier, this isn't extreme couponing where I get $1000 worth of clothes for $23, but they are prices that I can afford to fill a closet with.
Here are some recent examples of my bargain shopping. Prices are approximate since I'm working from memory, but they aren't more than 50 cents off:
Plaid shirts are very popular for boys right now and I think they are adorable:
Right to left: $4 & $2.50
My 2 year old loves graphic tees, so I stock up when the prices are good:
Right to left: $3, $3 & $2.50
Nordstrom Rack is great for certain brands like Ralph Lauren.
They email me when they have additional markdowns:
Clockwise from the top: $10, $4 & $8
Sometimes you can get some deals off of the truly outrageous brands from Nordstrom Rack like Juicy Couture or Burberry. There, it is all about luck and keeping an eye on that clearance rack:
$12 (retail was $90-some)
Always a staple:
Right to left: $3, $5, $3 & $5
Gorgeous embroidered jeans:
Right to left: $2 & $1.70 (each)
-Sweaters and sweatshirts-
A must have in my neck of the woods:
Right to left: $4, $5 & $2
Adorable paired with tights in cooler weather:
Top Photo (clockwise from top): $5, $3.50 & $12 (retail $79)
Bottom Photo: $9
The right one is a great example of how awesome Old Navy baby gear can be:
Right to left: $4 & $1.50
I am so in love with the detail on the Crew Cuts pair:
Right to left: $1.50 & $9
I haven't shopped there in a few months so there aren't many examples here from Babies'R'Us, but they have some awesome clearances that can be combined with coupons ast times:
Right to left: $5, $2 & $1.50
I haven't been shopping much in Macy's lately, but sometimes I come up on some great clearance items. Their baby department is great for full outfits like this Guess one. Though not pictured, it came with a matching hair bow and tights:
$5 for full outfit
Sometimes you just get plain lucky, even at stores that you don't expect major bargains from. I happened to walk through Bloomingdale's a few months ago on my way to another store when this hooded tunic caught my eye:
$4 (retailed at $59)