Nobody wants to pay full price. However, when shoppers think of the world of fashion, they sometimes forget to employ all of the savings resources they would use on a trip to the grocery store. These seven money saving tips will help cut your costs of clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other fashion accessories.
#1: Join and Use Loyalty Programs
Almost anywhere you shop—grocery, automotive, pet supply stores, and every shop in the mall—the cashier asks for your phone number. Why? The retailer likely has a customer loyalty program, and your phone number attaches your transaction to your account.
Depending on the retailer, your account might contain digital coupons you can clip ahead of time to save more, bonus coupons sent only to specific members, member-only discount days, etc.
#2: Follow Your Favorites
Each store or chain makes its own decisions on when and where to advertise their sales. Find out the best ways to track your favorite brands’ sales so you won’t be caught unprepared.
Even if you are not a constantly searching shopper, it’s good to know roughly when sales end so you don’t forget to take advantage of a specific deal. Last January, I thought I would have an almost-free bag of lingerie from Victoria’s Secret by combining several savings methods—but I went a day late. I had missed the sale. I could still do the deal, but I only got one free item, instead of the five I could have gotten if I hadn’t missed the sale.
Don’t miss the sale. Whether this means enrolling in the store’s email list or following them on Facebook or Instagram, sign up.
#3: Know Who Carries What
Some brands are everywhere. You can buy Hanes men’s underwear, for example, at JCPenny, Kohl’s, Walmart, Target, Amazon.com, and many other places, even Hanes’ online store. Other brands may seem more unique to a specific retailer, but if you do a simple internet search, you may find them elsewhere.
Does it matter whether you bought your Gloria Vanderbilt jeans at Kohl’s, JCPenney’s, Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club, or eBay? It does! Even if all of those places had the same exact pair of jeans (your size, your style, your color, etc.), and even if they were the identical price, you might collect loyalty points for shopping at one of those places, you might have coupons for some of those places, and you might have discounted gift cards you can use at those places.
#4: Use Coupons
When you signed up for the store’s loyalty program you provided an email or phone number, to which they probably sent coupons. Read them. Know the small print well enough to know when and how and on what merchandise a coupon can be used.
Also look for coupons in the store’s sale ads delivered through the newspaper, usually on Sundays. While the full-color insert section is typically a haven for manufacturer coupons, some retailers pay for ads on the newspaper pages.
However, many fashion retailers know customers prefer digital coupons via convenient coupon apps. They look for digital methods of getting digital coupons into potential shoppers’ phones, beyond the loyalty club. While the best known of the couponing apps is probably Ibotta, which is focused on grocery, there are also apps for fashion retail coupons, like VIP Perks provides coupons on “everything non-grocery,” including retail fashion, salons, auto repair, home improvement, travel, and entertainment. Look through the VIP Perks coupon app for what fashion coupons are available in your area and if the savings are bigger than the app price, buy the membership. Even better, use a coupon code to slash your price on the VIP Perks coupon app, like the 50TAMPABAYTECH online code that takes 50% off the price of any of the VIP Perks memberships and also gives half of what you spend to the Tampa Bay Tech High School.
#5: Learn Clearance Schedules
Some stores’ clearance schedules are posted, analyzed, and discussed in depth online. Target’s clearance information is widely available, for example. Other large chains sometimes do not coordinate their markdowns, claiming each store creates its own clearance schedule. Others, like individual boutiques, may choose to clear out older merchandise only when they have new fashions to fill the floor racks—so their clearance timing might be subject to supply chain issues as well as the local market’s seasonality.
If you followed Tip 2 to follow the brand for sales information, you will likely get notifications of major clearance events, too. However, especially if you buy clothing in department stores or superstores, it’s worth noting that clearance tagging happens more often than advertised. Know your store’s pattern so you can evaluate an item’s worth as it crosses from the “new merchandise” to the clearance racks.
#6: Buy and Sell at Consignment Stores
Consignment stores buy and sell lightly used clothing and other items. They are often known as “second hand,” or have the word “repeat” or prefix “re-“ in their names. While most seem to focus on children’s clothing, it’s for good reason—children grow out of their clothes and need the next sizes.
Thrift stores are also great places to find discounted clothing. People usually donate items to thrift stores; people sell items to consignment stores. According to the U.S. government, more people shop in thrift and consignment stores than in factory outlet malls; and the number shopping in consignment and thrift is almost as high as the number who shop at fashion stores.
Twenty years ago, consignment stores felt more independent. Nowadays, there are consignment chains with locations across many states. There are even multi-brand consignment companies, like Winmark Corporation, which owns Play It Again Sports (consignment sports equipment), Plato’s Closet (consignment teen and young adult clothes), Once Upon a Child (consignment children’s clothes and baby equipment), Style Encore (consignment women’s clothes and accessories), and Music Go Round (consignment musical instruments). In other words, the consignment fashion industry is trending corporate. Look for consignment shops near where you live, of course, but also in areas where you expect there would be a larger number of participants. For example, spot a children’s consignment store across from a popular park, library, or school? It will have more shoppers using it, and more turnover of stock. Have teen clothes but no teen-focused consignment in your area? Look around the local colleges.
While you plan to shop at the consignment store, you can also save money long-term by selling to the consignment store. Clean out your closet. If you bought a dress for $20 and later sold it in consignment for $15, it’s like you really only spent $5 on the dress.
If there’s not already a popular consignment store in your area, there may be a simple reason. Some consignment brands operate as seasonal pop-up markets. Rhea Lana’s consignment program, for example, is a highly organized festival of selling and buying that takes over a large, empty space, transforming it into a department store for less than a week—and participants love it. You decide your items’ selling prices in advance, tag them, and drop them off.
#7: Stack Your Savings
If you have been following all of the above tips, here’s where it really pays off. Learn to stack your savings. This means saying, “No,” to impulse buying. You’ll want to plan ahead and be organized.
Never let the “cannot be combined with any other offers” small print at the bottom of a coupon ruin your plans. There are ways to legitimately combine deals. There’s nothing wrong with earning points or rewards from your favorite store’s loyalty program on a purchase that used a coupon and for which you paid with a gift card. Right? That’s a triple-saver. Here are some real-life combinations I have used recently to get the best prices possible:
I bought a Hot Topic gift card on Ibotta, which gave me 5% back from the card’s price. Then I used a VIP Perks coupon for 30% off Hot Topic in-store. Am I a member of Hot Topic’s Guest List loyalty program? Yes, I earn 1 point for each $1 spent and every 100 points=$5 rewards. So I got about 33% off the purchase—plus a $5 reward for my next Hot Topic shopping trip.
This was a fun one! I bought Aeropostale gift cards from Sam’s Club at 25% off the card value! Right now, I only see 4% off cards and the 25% off gift cards are listed as “out of stock,” so WAIT for them! I combined the Sam’s Club Aeropostale gift cards with a $10 off $50 purchase coupon from the VIP Perks coupon app. So, I saved about 47%. This was one of my favorite deal stacks.
Once Upon a Child
Stacking deals works at consignment stores, too! I saw an educational children’s toy in the window of Once Upon a Child last November and knew someone on my gift list who would love it. The price tag said $25. I went home. I first did an internet search for similar items and found the one in the store window was about 20% off the next-best retailer’s price. Then I found a 20% off coupon for Once Upon a Child in the VIP Perks app. And last, I went through my kids’ outgrown clothes. The cashier offered me $21 total for the three pairs of very nice youth sports shorts; I think I paid $9 each for them two years ago, so that was reasonable. I handed her the 20% off coupon and the $25 toy in the window. She h