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Mastering the Art of Successful Bargain Shopping

Updated on April 21, 2012

Nothing makes a woman more happy than getting a ton of clothes, all while saving a ton of money. Doing so, however, is a different, not so easy story. Successful bargain shopping takes time, patience, and lots of careful planning. It's not impossible though, and I've compiled a list of ways to get the most bang for your buck.

#1. Know What You're Looking For.

If anyone understands therapeutic shopping, it's me. I'm also quite familiar with overspending on things I really don't need. After realizing I had been spending more than I could afford, I knew I needed to do something about my spending habits.

I know what I want in my wardrobe, I just become overwhelmed with all the new items that I had never though of, therefore I overspend.

Finally, I came up with an idea. I bought a pocket-size composition notebook and began a list of what I wanted to buy. I made lists in different categories, such as Jackets & Coats, Shoes, and Bags. Eventually, I began to cut out outfit ideas from magazines and paste them into my notebook. With this notebook, I could write down everything on my fashion wish list, and it was cute and small enough that I could fit it in my purse to take with me when I went shopping.

I can honestly say this idea has saved me tons of money. It's hard for me to go spending-crazy when I have a fashionable little notebook reminding me of all the things I want. When you finally buy something on your list, just cross it off and begin your search for the next item. Simple as that!

#2. Know When Things Go On Sale.

I usually follow a rule of thumb I call the Six Week Wait. When a store puts a new item out for sale, it usually takes about six weeks for them to mark down the price. But don't wait around for the weekend. Most sales start on Thursdays, which is the best time to go to ensure that you get your size.

You can also time your shopping schedule with the out of season sales. There is a difference between fashion seasons and the seasons as we know it.

Spring-January-March
Summer-April-June
Fall-July-October
Winter-September-December

It never hurts to buy something for next year! You can usually get great pieces for a fraction of the price.

#3. Shop Around.

Thought this only counted for grocery shopping? Think again. A couple months ago, I got a shirt on clearance at Target for $4.49. Later that week, I was shopping at Kohl's and saw an identical shirt for $17.99!

No matter what store, they're all trying to keep up with the same current trends. Sometimes stores overlap their designs and you can end up finding identical items at polar opposite prices.

The easiest way to shop around for clothes is to see what's available in online stores to get an idea of what's in store, saving you gas and time.

#4. Join Mailing Lists.

Or emailing lists. Or both! Almost every online store now has mailing lists, sometimes both electronic and regular mail. If they're stores you shop at frequently, it doesn't hurt to sign up for both. Get things like coupons, discounts, first notice of sales, and sometimes even free stuff!

I for one am on Victoria's Secret snail mail and email list. For my birthday, I got an email for $10 off any purchase. A few weeks later, I received a set of coupons, including one for a free panty! (Who's complaining?)

Tip: If you intend on signing up for a large amount of store's emailing lists, it might be beneficial to create an email account specifically for the purpose of racking up all that mail.

#5. Become Part of a Rewards Program

There are TONS of stores that offer some sort of reward program nowadays. Any store, from Staples to Petco to American Eagle offer a rewards program. Usually it consists of something like spend a certain amount of money and get a gift card to the store for a set amount. Check your favorite store's websites to see if they offer one.

Warning: Make sure the reward cards don't cost money! It's not very rewarding if you have to spend money to get money. Also, research the programs before signing up. JC Penny's offers a rewards program where you get a $10 gift card for spending $250. Sounds great, except you have to spend $250 in a month. The points don't roll over month to month, so it's not very beneficial to be part of the program if you don't ever spend enough to get the rewards.

#6. Don't Buy Something Just Because it's on Sale.

Shirts on sale at Target for $5? Mind: These are practical, and super cheap. Let's buy every color! Reality: You don't need, and will not wear, every color. So buying all six colors and spending $30 on tshirts? Not worth it. It takes money out of your pocket and puts clothes that will never be worn in your closet. Buying one or two in standard colors that can go with anything is okay. But it's not a bargain if you're stocking up like you're going into clothing hibernation. Think before you buy.

#8. Don't Say "No" to Goodwill.

She is your friend, I promise you. There is no smell that a little laundry detergent can't get out. I have found some of the best pieces in my closet at Goodwill or other secondhand stores. Sometimes you can find items that still have the tags on it! The clothes are all extremely cheap, which means a lot of bang for your buck.

If you're one of those people that needs to wear brand names, just keep in mind that Zac Efron got his prom tux at goodwill. (;

#9. Shop Online.

Getting great deals doesn't necessarily mean shopping in store. Online stores have their own sales calendar. In the November 2011 issue of Glamour Magazine, Charlie Graham, a personal shopper from shopittome.com, shared her online sales calendar to tell us when things get cheaper.

January: Shorts, dress shirts, t-shirts, and jewelry.
February: Suits and skirts.
March: Intimates, outerwear, and coats.
April: Dress pants.
May: Sunglasses.
July: Sweaters.
August: Sleepwear, belts, and shoes.
September: Jeans and bags.
October: Swimwear.

Fashion is literally a continuous timing game, and it's all about learning to play along with it. Bargain shopping takes time and strategy, but it is possible. In the end, all of your work will be worth it. Don't give up on your bargains!

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