Two weeks ago, high temperatures where I live were in the 40s for several days; with low temperatures below freezing a couple of those days. Last weekend, my friends in Cleveland, OH experienced another epic spring snowfall, while many in the upper central plains continue even today with their cold temperatures. The calendar might say “spring” but the weather doesn’t always align with our hopeful schedule of the four seasons.
I learned a long time ago to dress for the weather not for the season. And with that, I have to say that shopping “out of season” is one of my favorite things to do. You see, retailers don’t care what the weather is doing outside. They will try to force you into dreaming of whatever comes next, inside, filing their stores with what they want to sell, rather than what you may need to buy. Autumn-colored clothes quickly follow the red, white and blue of July. Winter coats fill racks in September. Spring’s pastels are plastered everywhere in January. And the sleeveless tops of Summer make their debut before the Ides of March!
Because of retailing’s over-anxious, and sometimes obnoxious attempt at rushing each new season, they are equally motivated to get rid of the last season’s leftovers to make room. And fortunately for us bargain hunters, it can be a clothing gold mine of great finds; perfectly useful outfits with still weeks worth of wear to go. And for people like me, who’s more concerned with function than with what some fashion magazine tries to tell me is in or out at any given time, those bargain finds can last not just a few more weeks, but years after!
Recently I went shopping to update my wardrobe, with great results. I got all five of these tops for only $32.00; and that’s with sales tax! No, I didn’t get them from a discount store. But I did get them at a tremendous discount. Their material is thin enough to wear comfortably, with or without a light jacket, through the next several weeks, but their “colors” are meant for Fall (which is when I will gladly take them back out of the closet and begin getting even more wear from them). So off to the sale rack they went!
All but one of the shirts was regularly priced well over that total of $32.00 spent. They actually had been repeatedly marked down over the weeks, and these were some still left. I happened to go into the store when they were having their “final” Final Sale! Everything on the sale rack, whose price ended in $.98 was further marked down to $9.98! Yes, that meant the $29.95 shirt was now less than ten dollars; the $34.95 one was also $9.98; as was the almost $60.00 one! Five shirts for less than the cost of what the higher one of them would have cost me alone — if I was the type who paid full prices for my clothes!
What drew me to that store, on that day, was the $25.00 off coupon I had off anything $50.00 or more. It was getting ready to expire. I had waited as long as I did to use it because I knew I would find some great deals in the transition of the seasons at the store. And so I did! With my total coming to just under $50.00 (a purposefully deceptive practice by this particular store that I’ve just come to accept), I was forced to purchase one other thing; unfortunately a five dollar item to make up a difference of mere cents; but that’s no accident. I’m convinced the main retailer knows exactly what they’re doing when they run those coupons — you can never get right to $50.00; always will have to go over to use it!
It was still worth the trip and the cost to pay so little and get so much; not just for the sake of shopping, but to end up with clothes I have already worn, and will continue wearing, including later this year and most definitely into next and beyond.
My advice to other bargain shoppers who are looking for deals and wanting to maintain a budget?
- Stop worry about what’s coming down the runway during Fashion Week. The fashion designers, sellers, and retailers are trying to make money convincing you that it’s not cool to wear “last season’s” stuff. In reality, unless you work in the fashion industry, your friends and coworkers are not keeping up with when or where you bought your clothes, or what’s suppose to be “in or out” for the average woman!
- If you need to do some shopping, do it during a time, and with the retailers who offer you something in return (i.e. store cash dollars, coupons, reward points). They’re doing it to get you back into the store. But you’re doing it to take advantage of the savings on your next shopping trip.
- If you can split your shopping needs up. Purchase half of what you need when those retailers are offering coupons (the old, spend $50 and get a $25 rewards coupon for your next visit). Then return to pick up the rest of your items using the coupon or points you earned the last time you were there. Four weeks ago, I bought two pairs of pants that I needed for a trip, which is what earned me that $25 coupon that was used to help buy those five tops later.
- Sign up for the emailing lists of the retail outlets you visit the most. It might seem bothersome to start getting all their emails, but that’s the best way to keep up with when they’re having a major sale. Then choose that time period to do your shopping. Just be sure to confirm that the retailer will allow you to use that coupon on items marked down on sale. Another tricky thing you have to watch out for.
- Never go shopping when you don’t need anything. But always remember that you can make purchases for the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions of other people in your life; and still reap the benefit of bargain shopping and savings for yourself!