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Why I Only Shop On Clearance - And Why You Should Too

Updated on June 20, 2014

I want to start by saying that these things SEEM like a no-brainer. My decision to share this stuff came after shopping with friends who claim to be on budgets, but never look at clearance. It doesn't make sense!

There was a time when I was young, with a job but no obligations. I worked and worked and earned all sorts of money, with plenty of choices of what to blow it on. I went on huge shopping sprees of $100 or more, and didn't give a thought to how 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! So, I'm trying to ball on a budget - I want to be stylin' and profilin', but I don't want to spend all of my leftover money.

How do I do this? 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

Let's say you want to buy a whole new outfit. Jeans, a fancy shirt, heels, and even some new frilly underwear. If you're shopping at the mall, let's say you'll buy your jeans from PacSun, your top from Forever 21, some heels from Charlotte Russe, and your underwear from Victoria's Secret. For the sake of this scenario, you're not shopping on any sort of sale.

That'll run you about $150. FOR ONE OUTFIT. How does that seem reasonable?

So now, 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 say - it is possible, and I know it from experience. These are my numbers.

Shopping Normally Priced vs. On Clearance

Normally Priced
On Clearance
48.00 (VS)
4.00 (F21)
12.50 (VS)
1.00 (Wet Seal)
39.95 (PacSun)
10.00 (PacSun)
Fashion Top
17.80 (F21)
8.00 (F21)
32.50 (CR)
7.00 (CR)
Shirt: $7, Forever 21 Shorts: $10, Wet Seal
Shirt: $7, Forever 21 Shorts: $10, Wet Seal

How often do you shop on clearance?

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Clearance Disclaimers

I know some of you guys probably think I'm crazy - a bra for $4?! But I'm serious. Forever 21 will have 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 things in your size - and so you may have to splurge on jeans or shoes. It's the only way to get something that fits you. But even if you do have that one item you splurge on, shopping on clearance can still save you massive amounts of money on everything else.

It's not easy to shop on clearance - 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. And just because there's a sale doesn't mean you have to buy something. The whole point of this article is to save money!

If you're up for it, here are some tips to clearance shopping.

Shirt: $7, Wet Seal Shorts: $4, PacSun
Shirt: $7, Wet Seal Shorts: $4, PacSun

Tip 1: Know Where and When to Shop

I generally steer clear of specialty stores. That's right, no Victoria's Secret or Journey's for me. I find specialty stores tend to sell the same products for more money than a normal store. If I want underwear, I'll check out Wet Seal. If I'm searching for bras, Forever 21. 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.

When the weather gets to changing, get to the sale racks. 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. At the end of this summer, I headed to 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 after discounts were applied, it was reduced to $50. Yes please!

Also, in the middle of fall I went on a search for sweaters. I didn't come up with many on sale, but I found a bikini at Charlotte Russe. It was (hold your applause) $0.99. REALLY. It was originally priced at $20, and it was a suit I had my eye on all summer. I was contemplating buying it, but I'm sure glad I waited.

Sure, I can't wear any of those purchases until next summer. But I'll thank myself then, when I don't have to spend an arm and a leg for a bathing suit and a few pairs of shorts.

Certain stores will have great sales year-round. Wet Seal always has a buy one, get one for a penny clearance sale going on in-store. You can also always find something good on Forever 21 sale racks.

$7, Forever 21
$7, Forever 21

Tip 2: Set a Budget

Know how much money you're willing to spend in a trip, and don't go over that budget. Even if you swear it's a good deal, you have to step back and realize that you are just buying clothes. Don't go over budget - that money can go towards your future or bills.

You should decide how much you're willing to pay for particular pieces, and search for the best deals. 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 it around $7 or $8 for a shirt, but I'll go up to $15 depending on how nice it is.

My shoe budget is $15. Seriously! I got a pair of plain white canvas sneakers from Wet Seal for $3.50. I also bought a pair of Wet Seal's studded gray converse-style shoes for $7. Charlotte Russe will have some pretty good shoe sales every once in a while - on one occasion, I got 3 pairs of heels, all around $7 each.

Forever 21 and Wet Seal will have pretty good sales on jackets once winter is up! I got a faux leather jacket from Wet Seal last year for $17. I call that a good jacket price.

Looking for accessories? Head straight to Forever 21. They have the cheapest and the coolest accessories out there. A lot of things are $5 or less, which is awesome compared to other stores. They have plenty of choices too.

$3, Wet Seal
$3, Wet Seal

Tip 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, wherever it is clearance is located. I know, there are such wonderful and beautiful 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, look elsewhere or come back another time. Keep your budget in mind!

Shirt: $3, PacSun Jeans: $6, PacSun
Shirt: $3, PacSun Jeans: $6, PacSun

Tip 4: Don't Be Afraid to Ask

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 has saved me a ton of money in the past. I had been looking for a durable pair of boots, and came upon some at PacSun. They were below a sign stating "Shoes 50% off," so I brought them to the salesperson and asked. They weren't sure, so they rang them up and found out they 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 half off, simply because it was their mistake. If I wouldn't have asked, I would've had to pay $50 instead of $25!

Shirt: $3, PacSun Shorts: $10, Wet Seal
Shirt: $3, PacSun Shorts: $10, Wet Seal

Tip 5: Get Connected

Find all of your favorite sites and join their e-mail and texting alert lists. It'll go straight to your phone when they're having a crazy sale, and some stores will give you discounts for even 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, I'll shop online, because it tends to have more options than the stores anyways.

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Save Yourself!

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 things for much much cheaper. Give clearance a chance!


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    • Wonder wool profile image

      Priyanka Estambale 

      4 years ago from United States

      A Lot can be saved. Thanks for this useful information. Next shopping trip will only be in clearance section for me. Awesome job!

    • a beautiful mess profile imageAUTHOR

      Alex Rose 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Right?! Spending that much is crazy, and just plain wasteful. Glad I'm not the only one trying to save for the future!

    • stephanie mclain profile image


      4 years ago from Texas

      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!


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