Experts say you should only spend about 5 percent of your take-home pay on clothing, and if that sounds like a rather restrictive number, we’re right there with you. What’s a fashion-obsessed girl to do? Shop smarter. Accordingly, we put together our top nine hacks for getting the best deals, so you can buy the items you want even on a budget.
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1. Get cash back when you make a purchase (no credit card reward program or weird scam site needed)
Ebates.com gives you a percentage back (usually between 3 to 5 percent) on online purchases from a multitude of shops, including Barneys, Shopbop, and Topshop. It may sound too good to be true, but all parties benefit: Ebates gets a commission on your sale for referring you to the retailer, the store gets your business through Ebates’ referral, and you get cash back on your purchase. Independent reviews are favorable, and one Who What Wear editor swears by it.
Most store managers have the discretionary ability to give up to 15 percent off an item, so make sure you’re talking to the manager before you ask. If the item has a minor imperfection that you can easily fix at home—loose threads, a button missing, or a stain—tell the manager you would be happy to take the defective item off their hands at a discount. If you’re too embarrassed to ask for a discount directly, ask about upcoming promotions or sales. Try the line, “I’d love to remain a loyal customer, but I don’t have the budget for this now.”
3. Know which months offer the best discounts on certain items.
Since the fashion world’s favorite sale tracking app Hukkster recently closed, we’ve started using an app called Worth It. The app lets you follow items that you’re interested in buying, then alerts you when the price drops.
5. Use free in-store returns.
Many retailers (including J.Crew, Gap, Zara, and Topshop) that charge for returning online orders via mail will accept free in-store returns. We’d rather take a trip to the mall than stand in line at the post office any day—just be wary of the allure to buy more merchandise when you make the return!
If you aren’t in a rush for your item, put it in your shopping cart and leave it for a few days. Some retailers will email you a coupon code to entice you to check out. Zappos and Levi’s have used this tactic before, so it doesn’t hurt to try!
7. Don't pay sales tax.
When online shopping, check the customer service page to figure out if that retailer charges sale tax in your state. You’ll be charged sales tax if you buy from an online store with a physical location in your state, so if you can find a place where your item is sold without a brick-and-mortar store near you, you’ll save money. If you have your sights set on an expensive item, and you have accommodating friends or family in a state that doesn’t charge sales tax (Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, or New Hampshire), ship it to them and have them mail the item back to you. This may seem tedious, but on a big-ticket item like a designer purse, it can save you over $100.
8. Know when your favorite stores make markdowns.
There’s usually a certain day of the week when a store marks down its merchandise. Make friends with the sales team, and they’ll usually let you in on the day their discounts go into effect. With this knowledge, you can be one of the first to shop the spoils of the sale.
9. Watch the price on an item, even after you already bought it.
Almost every store will honor a price adjustment. If the item you bought for full retail goes on sale within a certain time period (check the store’s policy for the exact dates), you can get refunded the price difference. We recommend using the previously mentioned Worth It app to get price drop alerts on anything you’ve purchased.
What sneaky ways do you save money? Let us know in the comments below!