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How to Shop the Sales Without Spending All Your Money

Posted on 4 min read

Quick confession: I’m not a big fan of sales shopping.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a bargain as much as the next person – it’s just that I don’t really enjoy having to fight my way through hordes of angry shoppers (and they’re always angry, aren’t they?) to find it. I’m lazy, in other words. And not much of a people person, if we’re being totally honest. Crowded stores, long lines for fitting rooms, shop floors littered with trampled-on merchandise: it’s just not my idea of fun, really.

Even the online sales aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, are they? I remember when I was younger (I almost typed ‘When I were a lass…’ there: you can tell I’ve slipped seamlessly into ‘old fogey’ mode, can’t you?), it used to be the case that you could find something you liked at the start of the season, then wait a few weeks for it to go on sale, safe in the knowledge that it would still be available when you got round to buying it. These days, though, stores seem to have sales so often that shopping has become almost a competitive sport (I kind of wish it WAS actually: I feel it’s something I could be really, really good at…): if you don’t buy the thing you’re after the SECOND you see it, you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Well, at least, that’s how I justify all those impulse purchases, anyway…

So, why is someone who doesn’t often shop the sales offering tips on how to shop the sales? Because, despite everything I’ve just said above, I know only too well how easy it is to get swept along on a wave of “OMG, that’s less than half price: how can I NOT buy it?” madness, and end up with an empty wallet and a collection of … STUFF… that you’ve no idea what to do with. Here are some easy ways to avoid that cruel, cruel fate…

how to shop the sales without the stress: some tips to help you make the most of the Black Friday sales
It isn’t a bargain if you’re not going to use it

Don’t buy things just because they’re cheap. No matter how deep the discount, if it’s just going to hang in your closet for years before being sent off to the charity store, it didn’t save you any money: in fact, it cost way more than it was worth. Trust one who knows.

If you have to buy something else in order to use it, think again

Ask yourself if you could build an outfit around that incredible sale item right now, using items you already own. If the answer is no, and you’d need to purchase something else in order to be able to wear it, it might not be quite the bargain you think it is.

Make a list, check it twice. Then check it again.

I love a good list, and they’re especially handy at sale time, because they help you focus on what you actually need, and stop you coming home with a pair of boots that are one size too large for you, but a TOTAL bargain, seriously. Not that I would know anything about THAT, obviously…

how to shop the sales without spending all your money
Shop your closet
before you go

If you’re anything like me, the phrase “shop your closet” probably makes you cringe a little. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to do a “wardrobe audit” before a big shopping trip: that way you’ll know exactly what you have, and avoid coming home with ANOTHER plain black sweater, to join the 32 you already own. Again, just taking these examples right off the top off my head here…

Dress for comfort, not style

Sale shopping is one of those times when you need to put comfort first. Choose clothes you can get in and out of easily (i.e. no tricky zippers, and nothing with dozens of fiddly buckles), shoes you can walk for miles in (Because you WILL be walking for miles, as well as standing in long queues), and light layers that won’t make you over-heat in the sub-tropical temperatures most stores tend to favour.

But try to wear something that flatters you

If you can combine function with flattery, do it: maybe it’s just me, but I know that if I catch sight of myself in one of the many mirrors at the mall, and I don’t like what I see, I’ll be much more likely to buy things I don’t need, having convinced myself I need a whole new wardrobe. (I’m also convinced that stores do this deliberately, in much the same way that hair salons always have the harshest, most unflattering light possible on their mirrors so that, forced to confront your own reflection for the best part of an hour, you end up willing to spend as much as it takes to just make it aaaaalll better.)

coffee and cake
Take an honest friend, or a camera phone

If you lack confidence in your ability to resist what seems to be a bargain, take a friend you can trust to be honest when you ask, “Can I wear this?” or, failing that, a camera phone: sometimes the camera picks up details the eye fails to see, and a mirror selfie is better than nothing in times of need. (Top tip: it might seem like a good ides to post those photos on social media in order to crowd-source opinions, but it’s only a good ides if you have REALLY thick skin. Or, er, so I’ve heard.)

Keep the receipts

Not all stores accept returns on sale items, but some do, so hang onto those receipts, just in case you DO end up with a bad case of buyer’s remorse!

Happy shopping!


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  • What Lou Wore 365
    November 23, 2016

    Oh I definitely never ever go to actual shops during the sales, especially with two children in tow. No fun for anyone and I don’t like all the people either! My sister always manages to ferret out some absolute bargains in store but I stick with online and even then mainly wait for Boden’s 70% off clearance sale. Plus, when I worked in River Island for a few years during college / university, they shipped in a load of old (tat) merchandise for the sales, we shared a loading bay with Next and they did the exact same thing…. Made me realise as I got older that the gorgeous coat or jumper I had my eye on was very unlikley to go into their Boxing Day sale and the stuff in the “50% off, 100% off, take if off our hands” sales was the same stuff as the year prior.

  • Charmaine Ng
    November 23, 2016

    These are great tips. I’m such a sucker for bargains, whether it be clothes or food. I end up with SO many unworn pieces – I literally only wear an eighth of my wardrobe.

    – Charmaine

  • Maria
    November 23, 2016

    In the past I would go to sales because I liked the idea of getting bargains… But in the end I always either returned empty handed because virtually everything I wanted had been sold-out/put back in the storage room/disappeared from the face of earth (never to be seen again). And I ended up with things I didn’t seriously need. Also, I hate the hoards of people that trump everything in their wake, and the battle for a parking spot, and the endless queues… That’s why I love the fact that sales are so frequent now, they somewhat diluite the madness, let you get what you’ve got your eye on at a discounted price, and you can jump the big end-of-season sales altogether! Also, online bargains sometimes are way better than in stores ones!

  • Miss Kitty
    November 24, 2016

    I read something years ago which I always go by – ‘if you don’t like something enough to pay full price for it, then don’t buy it.’ Not saying you should never buy something that has been reduced, I like 50% off as much as the next girl! But in the spirit of it, if you are only buying something because it is cheap, you are probably wasting your money.

  • Fashion and Frappes
    November 29, 2016

    I totally go by the advise Miss Kitty gave (above) and your advice – if you have to buy something else to wear with it, its not worth buying. So true!

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