What kind of woman likes to go bargain shopping? Any woman who wants more bang for her buck and just about any woman with a reflection and a pulse.
And because we help women of all shapes, sizes and economic backgrounds, we know that bargain shopping is a must for a lot of women. New clothing is a luxury they just can't afford.
However, economics aside, every woman, no matter how little she has, wants to buy herself something new. So, read on and learn how to enjoy the splurge with none of the guilt.
Here are the five ways to look like a million on a minimum wage.
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Let us marvel you with our psychic powers. How much prep time do you put in before you go shopping? We know what your answer is going to be. Zip. Right? You just get that primal urge or that extra space on your credit card and off you go. All we ask is that you take two seconds to take a deep breath check to see what you need, how much money you have, what's in and what's out.
Your first step is to go shopping in your own closet so you can make a mental or written note of what you want to add to it. See what needs to be replaced or if there are any basics you're still missing like tops to go under blazers or shoes that go with everything. You know the drill. Then try to think of a few classic pieces that might help to stretch what you already have like a white shirt with a French cuff or a little black dress.
2. KNOW WHAT TO BUY
What should a shopper look for when buying a “bargain”? Check the merchandise carefully. Is it well constructed? Are the seams stitched properly? Are there loose threads? If there is a pattern, does it match at the seams? If a store is selling seconds that are slightly flawed or irregular, there should be a sign or a tag from the manufacturer telling you so.
If merchandise is marked down, make sure you know why. Check for rips, tears, dirt or make-up smears. If you find a problem that's easily cleaned or repaired, check with the sales people to see if you can have the item at an even bigger discount.
3. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The best time to find bargains? Discount stores offer bargains all year round. But you can catch great buys at your favorite retail watering hole faster than you can say … holiday. And there's a slew of them. If you can time your urges, try to make them coincide with the following dates.
HOLIDAY SALES — President's Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, St. Patrick's Day, Easter/Spring Week, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, The Day After Thanksgiving (A big one!), After Christmas and After New Year's.
And there's more! In addition to the racks that every store keeps permanently stocked with sale items, each individual store or chain has developed their own schedule of advertised sales.
STORE SALES — Liquidation Sales, Fire Sales, Manager's Sales, Summer's End Sales, Winter's End Sales, Anniversary Sale, Inventory Sale and Closing Sales. (Some stores use the “Going Out of Business” banner to get you in for jacked-up prices. Some have been going out of business for years.)
Then every few weeks some stores will have a “take an extra 25% off” sale just for the heck of it. So, if you've seen a “must have” item but it falls into the “can't afford” column, just keep your calendar and local paper handy. Don't just check the advertising pages. Flip quickly to the business section. If the economy is down, stores will be using the “sales” bait to get you in.
4. WHERE TO GO
If you want movie stars, try Betty Ford. If you want bargains, hit outlet and off-price stores. And don't think they just get the items that didn't make it in the big time. They also get items that are overstocked, discontinued or that stores just had to get rid of to make room. It's like buying retail but without the cost. Try the following —
Department Store Outlets — 9.9% of your major department stores have one. Just check with your favorite and ask where they've stashed theirs.
Factory Outlets — Check your Yellow Pages for the one nearest you. Beware: quality can vary widely. Some items are not the expensive designer pieces you expect from the manufacturer.
Off-price Stores — TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, Dress for Less and the mother ship, Loehman's, to name a few.
Discount Catalogs — There are catalogs that specialize in discount items like Chadwick's and Bedford Fair. Some established manufacturers like Clifford and Wills put out several sales catalogs each season.
The Internet — We offer discounted fashions on our site but you can also search the “clearance” pages on the websites of your favorite retail outlet or manufacturer.
Discount Chain Stores — Target, K-Mart etc. They're stocking great basics these days — like cotton shirts and anything made of denim.
Resale Boutiques — The very rich clean out their closets and bring their clothes here. They're a great place to buy honest-to-God real designer labels without the sticker shock. Check your local Yellow Pages.
Thrift Stores — Check out a thrift store swarming with the very young and hip. Find out the day the “buyer” is in or when the store gets its deliveries. That way you get first shot at whatever comes in.