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When I was in my teens and 20’s, I felt like money burned a hole in my pocket. As fast as I got paid, I *needed* to spend it all. And I had no qualms at all about paying full retail price for things. $79 for a pair of sweatpants? No biggie. $129 for a new dress for this weekend. Sure!
It’s no wonder I had to ask my dad for gas money every week… Oh, the things I would tell myself if I could go back in time!
My mother is the queen of bargain shopping. She’s also the queen of stretching every penny out of your grocery budget! And eventually, my “bargain hunting gene” started to kick in. Nowadays, I don’t pay full price for ANYTHING. And I’ve become a thriftaholic (is that a word? Eh, it is now!)
I love shopping secondhand, both in stores and online. But I don’t ONLY buy secondhand – I do shop at the mall, too. Having said that, I never, ever pay full retail price for anything and I’m now rivaling my mum as the queen of bargains.
Friends don’t let friends pay full price for clothes, so here’s how I keep my family stylishly clothed and never pay retail:
How to Never Pay Retail for Clothes
1. Shop at Thrift Stores
I’m currently visiting my family in Australia a for some reason, I forgot to pack a pair of sweatpants in my suitcase. Given that it’s the middle of winter here (yep, we actually have winter in Australia) I was freezing my patootie off, so I went to the mall to see if I could find a bargain priced pair. The cheapest I could find was $25. Nope.
There just so happens to be an awesome thrift store about 2 minutes walk away from my mum’s house so I decided to check it out. And whaddayaknow… I found a pair of sweatpants in perfect condition for $3.75 – score!
I’ve only been here for one week and I’ve found two pairs of fleece pajamas for my son for less than $2, a gorgeous wool cardigan for $3.75 and a pair of yoga pants for $2.75. I don’t even know how much money I would’ve had to spend if I’d bought them all brand new at full retail price, but given that the fleecy pajamas are around $14 a pair, suffice to say I saved a lot of money.
2. Online Apps and Websites
In addition to shopping at regular bricks and mortar thrift stores, I also regularly buy items from online apps and websites, with Mercari and ThredUp being my favorites.
Just recently, I got the cutest NY Yankees windbreaker for my son for $4 from ThredUp, and a double-hood hoodie for myself for $12 from Mercari (they retail for over $50!)
Here’s the link to Mercari. (use the code GGXFQB and you’ll get $2 off your first purchase.)
3. Always Check Amazon
If you’re a regular reader here, you’re probably aware of my love of Amazon. I get all of my Lularoe style leggings from Amazon for less than half the price (the quality, price and prints are awesome) and I almost always buy my books from Amazon, too.
Amazon has a huge variety of cheap, cute clothes (so much so that it can be difficult to wade through them all.) But whenever I need a specific item of clothing, I’ll pretty much always check Amazon to see what I can find.
4. Sign Up For ALL The Mailing Lists
Retailers love giving coupons and special discount codes to their newsletter subscribers, so make sure you sign up for the mailing list of all your favorite stores.
If you use a gmail account the newsletters should go straight to your promotions tab, meaning they won’t clutter up your inbox. Otherwise, just sign up for a free hotmail account and use that email address solely for retailers newsletters.
Some of my favorite newsletters include Pink (I regularly get a coupon for a free pair of underwear,) Old Navy, Target, Belk, JC Penney and Macy’s, but virtually all stores will send out coupons regularly.
5. Use Ebates
For online shopping, Ebates is the best way to save money. If you’re unfamiliar with Ebates, the concept is simple.
Simply click here to sign up for a free account, (you’ll get a bonus $10.)
Then whenever you’re going to do any online shopping, first go to the Ebates site. Find the retailer you want to shop with and click on the link to their site. Ebates will track your purchases and give you a percentage of the total purchase price back in cash – too easy!
Every 3 months Ebates will send you a “Big Fat Check” in the mail or deposit the money into your Paypal account. Ebates also has tons of coupon codes which will save you even more money.
6. Buy Off-Season
Retailers always deeply discount their end-of-season clothes, making it a great time to get some amazing bargains. Stores like Old Navy usually have a large clearance rack with items discounted up to 90%. My most recent end-of-season bargain was a sweater I got for 90 cents!
Additionally, whenever I see end-of-season sales on kids clothes, I will buy items for my son to grow into. I have tons of clothes stored away for my son in sizes 2 and 3 (he’s currently in 18 months) that I got at a huge discount.
7. Always Check Discount Stores
I’m also a huge fan of stores like TJ Maxx and Ross, especially for workout clothes. In fact, I never buy gym clothes from anywhere else now. I recently got a Nike tank from TJ Maxx for $15.99 that retails for $45 and a pair of running shorts for $9.99 that retail for $39.99!
8. Keep Track of Sales
Some stores always seem to have a sale going on (which makes me think, is it reeeeally a sale when it’s always “on sale”…) but other stores have seasonal sales where they offer huge discounts. Victoria’s Secret has their semi-annual sale and large department stores also have big seasonal sales where you can get clothes for up to 75% off. Belk is one of my favorite department stores for sales – I’ve gotten items for 75% off before.
9. Shop at Outlet Malls
When I first discovered outlet malls, I had to check my pulse for a second – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Amazing deals can be found at outlet malls, but there are a few caveats.
First of all, try not to get swept away with buying ALL.THE.THINGS just because they’re cheap. It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.
Also, be aware that a lot of the items you see at outlet malls are there because they’re last seasons stock or because they’re ill-fitting, lower quality. I don’t care at all whether it’s last seasons stock (I wear my clothes for more than one season anyway!) but I always make sure to try everything on before I purchase it to make sure it’s not in the outlet mall because it’s so horrible that nobody wanted to buy it!
10. Borrow Special Items
My husband is in the military which means that every year we attend a military ball. As I’m sure you’re aware, formal dresses can be incredibly expensive. A couple of years, I’ve managed to score and find a formal dress at Ross for around $17-$18, but the years where I haven’t been so lucky, I’ve borrowed a dress from a friend.
When it comes to special occasion clothes that you’re likely to wear only once, then ask around to see if there are any family members or friends who wouldn’t mind lending you the item for a night.
11. Dye Your Clothes
Dyeing your clothes can be a great way to revitalize an item and avoid having to make another purchase. I had a pair of skinny black jeans that I absolutely loved. I wore them all the time in winter and after a year or so, they really started to fade, going from black to a kind of dark greyish color.
Besides being slightly faded, the jeans were in absolutely perfect condition so I really didn’t feel that it was necessary to buy another pair. Instead, I used this clothes dye and dyed them black again. They looked as good as new!
12. Try to Avoid Browsing
A lot of money can be saved by avoiding going to the mall “just to browse.” Because if we’re honest, nine times out of ten “just browsing” turns in “impulse buying.” And “impulse buying” usually means buying things you don’t need at prices that you probably can’t really afford.
Those are the 12 methods I use to never pay retail for clothes. And honestly, I’ve been bargain shopping for so long now that I don’t think I could bring myself to pay full price anymore. What about you? Do you have any other methods to save money on clothes and never pay retail? Let me know in the comments!