Have you ever wondered how to get deals and score some stellar clothing in the process? Have you ever looked at a person and thought, “They look like they spend thousands on clothing–I could never look like that!”? Have you ever thought that you didn’t need to worry about style or fashion because following the rules of style seems too complicated?
You’re in luck. The following posts are designed to help you create a killer wardrobe at minimal cost. But first, you need to change your mindset. You have to be willing to do what many people don’t: haggle, nitpick, and change your habits. If your style of shopping involves going to big department stores to find the trendiest items, or going to specialty stores just to buy a name brand, then you’ll never be able to design a wardrobe on a tight budget. You will get, at most, a few new articles of clothing per year, and by the time you’ve completed your wardrobe, it will be so outdated, you’ll need to start all over again. You must change your mindset and put your pride aside to grab those deals. It will be worth it when people start complimenting you daily on your wardrobe!
First, you have to lower yourself to go to placing that specifically sell at lower prices. This includes thrift/resale shops, places like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Burlington, and others. The larger chains (Burlington, Marshalls, etc.) won’t have nearly as low of prices as thrift/resale shops, but they sell new merchandise, which most people are comfortable buying. Going into a thrift/resale shop can be rewarding and exciting, or it can be gross and revolting. If you are buying a gift for someone, it’s best to go to a chain and buy new, unless you know that the person doesn’t mind used clothing.
I love going to resale shops, and I’ve gotten some fantastic deals. Oftentimes, the people working at those stores (like Goodwill and Salvation Army) aren’t aware of finer men’s clothing labels, so a lot of good suits, sport coats, and blazers come through there. You can find dress shirts, ties, and hats, as well, but these items tend to show their age and wear a bit more, so be careful what you buy.
If there is a “fancy” or “upscale” neighborhood somewhere in your vicinity, find a resale shop as close to that neighborhood as possible. You will be amazed at the items that people take to those stores. I have a small circle of upscale thrift shops that I frequent, and have made some great purchases at up to 90% off retail price for garments that look brand new. However, to ensure that you’re getting a good deal, you need to know what to look for: brand names are a good indicator, but you might not always recognize some higher-end or tailor made clothing. Look for the materials used in manufacture and also country of manufacture. Try to get 100% natural materials (cotton, silk, wool, etc.) and avoid polyester, spandex, rayon, etc. Be sure to know the price point of certain items to ensure that you’re getting a good deal. Make sure that you you know when the sale days are (thrift shops usually use some sort of color coding and have certain color tags on sale on particular days of the week). Use these to your advantage and get the best deals that you can. Also, familiarize yourself with their return/sell back policy. If you’re buying a gift for someone, they might not like it, then you’ll need to take it back. Another aspect to this is that many thrift stores offer discounts if you donate your clothes. Know these policies and maximize them. If you get a discount for donating, use it, and use it often. You’ll be able to turn in clothes that you don’t wear for new ones (or at least new to you!).
When going to a chain store or specialty store, you can still find good deals, but it takes a bit more work. Memorize the following phrase and use it often, “Can you please show me your clearance section?” Go to the clearance section FIRST. This isn’t the last stop, but the first stop in savings. After a season is over, you’ll be able to find excellent deals on the previous season’s attire. Don’t be afraid to shop for next year’s wardrobe!
This brings me to my next MAJOR point. You’ll be able to find lots of cheap, trendy clothing for next to nothing. That’s because some manufacturer (probably in China) will pump out millions of pieces of clothing to ride on a trendy wave. Don’t get fooled into buying these clothes. Buy CLASSIC style pieces that don’t follow fashion trends. These will be stylish in next year’s wardrobe and for a decade or more to come.
When you’re in the clearance section, look for quality merchandise. Oftentimes, cheap, low quality items will wind up in clearance simply because they don’t sell. Avoid these. If people en masse aren’t buying an item, there’s probably a good reason for it. Look for single items, or a style that only has a couple of items on the clearance rack. Look for the designer label first and then the material second. A 100% wool blazer from a lesser manufacture will outlast and look better than a 100% polyester blazer from a better manufacturer.
After you’ve found an item that looks nice, try it on. If it’s a good fit, great. If it’s a bad fit, don’t get it. If the sleeves are a bit short or a bit long, that’s ok. You can get it tailored. If it’s a bit loose in the mid section, that’s ok, too. If it’s a jacket that’s too long or too broad or tight in the shoulders, don’t buy it. Shoulders really can’t be fixed, and the length of the jacket is difficult to correct at an affordable cost. Almost anything can be taken in (or let out) a little, and usually for around $10. Finding a $300 blazer on clearance for $30 and then spending $15 at a tailor is a steal. Buying an ill-fitting garment at any discount isn’t a steal–it’s a mistake. Fit is the most important factor in any garment. A properly fitting cotton sweater will always look better on you than a baggy, sloppy cashmere.
After you’ve found the item(s) that you want, examine the item carefully. And I mean carefully! Look for any snag, loose thread, slight imperfection, etc. Make note of every defect and then, with great confidence, walk up to the register and say to the clerk, “This is a really nice article of clothing, but there a couple snags, one of the buttons is loose, etc. Could I get a discount on it?” A retail chain can always take an additional 10% off. Always. Even on clearance. Always. Don’t be afraid to ask. I can’t tell you how much embarrassment I’ve caused my wife by asking for deep discounts. I also can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved on designer labels by being bold and asking for a discount. James 4:3 says, “You have not because you ask not.” Use this mentality when you go shopping. 🙂
When you approach the register, nearly every chain store offers a loyalty program with discounts for signing up. They also offer credit cards with rewards. If you’re savvy, you can sign up for the rewards program and the credit card for deep discounts, then pay the card off and close it out. This is great for making big purchases, like adding multiple items to your wardrobe in one trip. Take advantage of coupons, doorbusters, etc. Also, if you’re going to a place like Jos. A. Bank, where they offer “buy one get 30 free,” (although, they’re not doing that anymore) you can say, “I don’t want 6 suits. I want one. Can I buy one for 65% off retail?” They will. Every time.
Finally, the best way to maximize your money is to be sure that you purchase quality items at as low a price as possible. Buying one finely crafted wool suit, even at $300, will be a better investment that 3 polyester suits at $100, each. If you buy quality products at the lowest prices, you will be happy for years to come. If you buy cheap junk, you will be happy for about a week. When the material starts to pill and you start looking shabby, you won’t be happy. Shop smart, look for deals, and don’t be afraid to ask for better deals. The more you ask for, the more you’ll get. If you can’t get the item at the price that you want, put the merchandise down and walk away. You’d be surprised at how many times a clerk will tell you to turn around and work out a deal. Make it your goal to never, ever pay retail prices!