I know what you're thinking, it's too early to talk about summer, it's only May! Well in many parts of the country, 80+ degrees is already becoming regular. Plus, summer in my mind starts when you start seeing graduations happening, because what comes after graduation? Summer vacation! Also, many of you might be tired of your pandemic wardrobe of gym shorts and oversized t-shirts. I'm not suggesting here that you remove the cobwebs from your business professional attire and throw them out (though if you are trying to get rid of them, donating or selling your clothes can be a great idea for this task). What I am suggesting, is that with the world opening up in many ways, vacations being booked, events being held, you might want to freshen up your closet. You might be thinking "Isn't it wise to buy clothes off-season?" and you'd be absolutely right! However, that doesn't happen as much as I'd hope, because we good at procrastinating, and if the last year has taught us anything, it's that you never know what's around the corner. So, here are my top 4 ways to save money when you're ready to show up at that backyard BBQ after over a year of isolation.
1) Go with Secondhand: Here's a great example of paying it forward. Every year, or every season, when you go through your wardrobe and frown at the clothes that no longer excite you, you probably donate them to a collection bin or at your local thrift store. What better way to keep the cycle going by purchasing pre-owned clothes as well! There are many stores like Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill where you can shop for gently used clothes, shoes, accessories, and other items. You would be surprised at what you can find and the eclectic choices available to you, from hats to golf shirts to sundresses. While the trendiness may be limited at these stores, secondhand stores can save you a good amount of dough, especially if you go through clothes like there's no tomorrow or if you're one of those "only wear it once" kind of people. Think buying preowned clothes is taboo? Check out this article or look at fashion figures you follow, and you'll probably find they are very supportive of vintage fashion not only for its frugal aspect but also the immense environmental benefits. If you're concerned about someone's lack of hygiene or laundry skills if you buy their clothes, most thrift stores have a strong sanitation process, and you should always be washing them on your own. On vacation when you find yourself buying something last minute? Invest in a clean steam press. BONUS! Some stores also give you "store credit" for donating your own clothes you no longer want, so you get discounted preowned clothes even cheaper!
2) Don’t Dismiss the Clearance Rack or Sale Items: I get it. Who wants to be that person seen in the corner with all the clothes jumbled together and thrown on the floor? It’s like being that one person sorting through the markdown shelf at the grocery store. (Hey, I’ve done it!) Here is the thing--while you might think those clothes are on the clearance rack because they are hideous, damaged, or no one wants them for good reason, look at the other side of the coin. Maybe you just happen to be shopping when they just got in their new fall collection for formal attire or jeans and the previous seasons’ are on that rack to get rid of. Retailers want to make room for what’s hot, and if some of the other stuff doesn’t sell in time, the clearance rack is usually its fate. In addition, if you're terrified of being caught wearing something that isn't fresh off the glitzy shelves of Nordstroms, you can always look for workout clothes, pajamas, undershirts, or other clothing items you wouldn't necessarily wear to a nice dinner out. Come to think of it, even higher-end stores have clearance racks, and sometimes their markdowns are even bigger because their "real estate" for shelf space is more valuable and there is more margin built into their prices. You’ve just got to ask yourself, “Do I have the patience to sort through a disorganized rack to find that one steal of a deal?”
3) Sign Up for Loyalty Programs: Whether it’s Macy’s, REI or Nordstrom, signing up for a loyalty program is easy. If you shop there frequently, why not get rewarded? Loyalty programs shouldn’t cost you anything, and generally, you can have other special benefits as well, such as extended sale hours or extra time to exchange/return. At REI, I
can be a member for just $20, which pays for itself if I get a bike tune-up, water bottle, and some gloves. Plus, you get invited to their amazing garage sales, they keep your receipts on file for you, and you get a dividend! How nice it is to save more on clothes by doing pretty much nothing extra. REI also has a special place in my heart because they give back so much, especially to conservation and outdoor recreation programs. Express will send you coupons such as $20 off your purchase of $75 or more, and Macy’s has a cool little savings pass that sometimes will add onto any other savings currently being promoted. These offers always change, so make sure your favorite stores are still keeping good on them. The other thing I'd suggest is that you take a screenshot or picture of any special promotion emailed to you or that you find elsewhere, in case you don't have wifi or forget to bring the actual coupon with you.
4) Use Your Smartphone to Comparison Shop on the Spot: This should also be easy for all you social-media butterflies. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone with data these days, unless it’s your Uncle Walter in his Montana ranch who would rather mail you a letter every time you text him. Given the fact that you might be out of luck with buying bucket list summer clothes at the last minute, shopping around on your phone can save you big bucks when there are no other promotions to be had. With the Internet at your fingertips, you can simply enter the name of the product on Google and use the shopping feature to see what the price is else-where. For example, I saw a pair of Kenneth Cole blue suede shoes I wanted at Dillard’s and looked up the product number to find it $30 cheaper...on the Dillard’s website! Then at Macy’s, I bought a carry-on suitcase for $100 less and a dress shirt for $20 less, all by finding it on competitor websites which they happily matched (most of the time). Now, there are also a slew of apps that can search for a cheaper price or even alert you if the price drops within a certain time frame, in case you want to go back to the store for a refund. For me, though, I don’t want 128 apps on my phone, so I just search on the spot. If you’re an app maniac, here are some suggestions: http://www.digital-trends.com/mobile/best-shopping-apps-iphone-ipad-android/