I enjoy fashion and looking trendy on a budget. I also create art, take photos, and save money by doing things myself.
I want to start off by saying that some of the advice below may seem obvious. My decision to share this information came after shopping with friends who claim to be on budgets yet never look at the clearance rack. It doesn't make any sense!
Once upon a time, when I was young, I had a job and no obligations. I worked and worked and earned plenty of money that I could blow on whatever I wanted. I went on huge shopping sprees of $100 or more without lending a thought to whether or not I might need that money in the future.
Those days are long gone.
Now, I don't have those choices. I have to pay for all of those adult things—car, rent, gas, groceries, etc. And I still have to save for the future! I want to be stylin' and profilin', but I don't want to spend all of my leftover money.
You're probably wondering how I balance looking hip without breaking the bank. My secret is that I only shop on clearance! Clothes are way too expensive. The only shirt I'll pay over $15 for is a Paul McCartney and Wings shirt. And $50 for jeans!? You've got to be kidding me. I've got some pretty strict clothing budget guidelines and a list of awesome stores to share. Please don't waste all of your money on overpriced clothing.
The Difference in Cost for Clearance Clothes
Let's say you want to buy a completely new outfit. You will need jeans, a fancy shirt, heels, and even some new, frilly underwear. You're at the mall, and you buy jeans from PacSun, a top from Forever 21, some heels from Charlotte Russe, and underwear from Victoria's Secret. For the sake of this scenario, you're not shopping in any sort of sale. All of those purchases will run you about $150. FOR ONE OUTFIT! How does that seem reasonable?
Now, let's say you're shopping on the same trip with your bargain-hunter sunglasses on. You search for the sale, and you demolish it. You end up spending $30. You're probably doubtful, but let me assure you that it is possible, and I know from experience. These are my numbers . . .
Shopping Normally Priced Clothes vs. Clothes on Clearance
|Clothing||Normally Priced||On Clearance|
$48.00 (Victoria's Secret)
$4.00 (Forever 21)
$12.50 (Victoria's Secret)
$1.00 (Wet Seal)
$17.80 (Forever 21)
$8.00 (Forever 21)
$32.50 (Charlotte Russe)
$7.00 (Charlotte Russe)
Clearance Shopping Disclaimers
I know some of you guys probably think I'm crazy—a bra for $4?! But I'm serious. Forever 21 holds lingerie sales, and the last one I shopped at had all bras for $4. I've also been blessed with a minuscule chest, so that helps, too.
I understand that sometimes it's impossible to find clothes in your size, so you may have to splurge on jeans or shoes. That may be the only way to find something that fits you. However, even if you do have that one item that you must splurge on, shopping on clearance can still save you massive amounts of money on everything else.
It's not easy to shop on clearance because you're not always guaranteed your size or style. You have to be patient and willing to shop around. You also have to know when to walk away.
Sometimes the sales won't have anything that suits you, and that's okay! Just come back another day. Just because there's a sale doesn't mean you have to buy something. The whole point is to save money!
If you're up for it, then here are some tips for clearance shopping.
1. Know Where and When to Shop
I generally steer clear of specialty stores. That's right, no Victoria's Secret or Journeys for me. I find that specialty stores tend to sell the same products for a higher price than the normal store does. If I want underwear, I'll check out Wet Seal. If I'm searching for bras, then Forever 21 is my first stop. I usually go to PacSun for jeans. I've gotten some pretty cute tops on clearance at LoveCulture. Keep up with your favorite stores online to see who has the best sales on certain products.
Get to the sale racks when the weather gets to changing. You'll find tons of clothes that are going out of season, and it's so much cheaper to stock up early than to go on a shopping spree later on. Towards the end of this past summer, I pulled up Wet Seal's website and got two pairs of shorts for $10, leggings for $8, and three shirts for $7. My order total was initially $95.86, but it was reduced to $50 after discounts were applied. Yes, please!
Also, I went on a search for sweaters in the middle of the fall. I didn't locate many on sale, but I did find a bikini at Charlotte Russe. It was (hold your applause) $0.99. REALLY! It was originally priced at $20 and was a swimsuit I had my eye on all summer. I was contemplating buying it earlier, but I'm sure glad I waited.
Sure, I can't wear any of those purchases until next summer, but I'll thank myself when I don't have to spend an arm and a leg for a bathing suit and a few pairs of shorts later on.
Certain stores will have great sales year-round. Wet Seal always has a BOGO (buy one get one) for a penny clearance sale going on in-store. You can also always find something good on Forever 21 sales racks.
2. Set a Budget
Know how much money you're willing to spend on a shopping trip, and don't go over that budget. Even if you swear to yourself it's a good deal, you have to step back and realize that you are just buying clothes. Don't go over budget because that money can go towards bills and your future.
You should decide how much you're willing to pay for particular pieces and begin searching for the best deals.
- Jeans: I won't spend over $15 on jeans, and I can usually find them on sale for cheaper at places like PacSun and Forever 21. Ideally, I try to keep my spending at around $7 or $8 for a shirt, but I'll go up to $15, depending on how nice it is.
- Shoes: My shoe budget is $15. Seriously! I got a pair of plain white canvas sneakers to decorate from Wet Seal for $3.50. I also bought a pair of Wet Seal's studded gray converse-style shoes for $7. Charlotte Russe has some pretty good shoe sales every once in a while. I got three pairs of heels that were all around $7 each.
- Jackets: Forever 21 and Wet Seal will have pretty good sales on jackets once the winter season is over. I got a faux leather jacket from Wet Seal last year for $17. I call that a good jacket price.
- Accessories: Looking for accessories? Head straight to Forever 21. They have the cheapest and the coolest accessories out there. A lot of items are $5 or less, which is awesome compared to other stores. They have plenty of choices, too.
3. Head Straight to the Clearance Rack
You really need to get in the habit of walking straight to the back of the store or to wherever it is that clearance is located. I know that there is such a wonderful and beautiful selection of clothes all throughout the store, but put on your blinders and close your wallet.
Consider the clearance rack your only option. If they don't have what you're looking for, then look elsewhere or come back another time. Keep your budget in mind!
4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Confirmation
Sometimes, people put things on sale racks that don't belong there. Don't be afraid to ask a salesperson if an item is really on sale or not. You should probably do it before you get to the register because you don't want to hold anybody up who's trying to check out.
Asking for confirmation on an item's price has saved me a ton of money in the past. One time I had been looking for a durable pair of boots and finally came across some at PacSun. They were below a sign that said "shoes 50% off," so I brought them to the salesperson and asked for confirmation. The associate wasn't sure, so they rang me up and found out that the boots weren't actually on sale. The salesperson asked where I had found them, so I pointed to the sign above the shoe rack. They gave the boots to me for half off simply because it was their mistake. If I had not asked, I would've had to pay $50 instead of $25!
5. Get Connected to Your Favorite Stores Online
Find all of your favorite stores' websites and join their e-mail and texting alert lists. You'll get a notification sent straight to your phone when they're having a crazy sale, and some stores will even give you discounts for being a part of their mobile alert list.
If the e-mails pouring in are advertising a lot of good sales, head over to the mall! If there's free shipping, then I'll shop online because it tends to have more options than the stores anyways.
There's no reason to spend a fortune on clothing (or any other goods, for that matter). Clearance is overlooked by a lot of people, but in the end, you'll get basically the same items for so much cheaper. Give clearance a chance!
ex prez on January 02, 2019:
Sometimes clearance items are market down only 10-30% which isn't really "clearance" to me," more like a sale. I like 50% or more.
Priyanka Estambale from United States on January 18, 2014:
A Lot can be saved. Thanks for this useful information. Next shopping trip will only be in clearance section for me. Awesome job!
Alex Rose (author) from Virginia on January 13, 2014:
Right?! Spending that much is crazy, and just plain wasteful. Glad I'm not the only one trying to save for the future!
Stephanie from Texas on January 13, 2014:
A Beautiful Mess,
I love shopping sales and hate spending my hard earned money. I never have understood why people spend $100+ on one pair of jeans or shoes. Thanks for sharing your inside info!