I love thrifting. Really I do. But sometimes it’s nice to have something that is entirely your own. For me, thrifting involves hours of combing through racks, looking for the small handful of dresses that aren’t worn out or stained, the ones that don’t still have a lingering smell of perfume or smoke or body odor. I’ve found some great finds at thrift stores, like my current vintage denim jacket, and an actual 1950s crinoline that I probably paid too much for, but every time I go thrifting I leave exhausted and headachy.
So for me, getting the chance to shop at a major retailer is amazing. American Eagle, Free People — I go nuts for this stuff. I keep track of my size for each of my favorite stores, since sizing is so inconsistent among clothing manufacturers, which makes it super-easy to shop online. Simply click on what you want, try it on when it arrives, and send back what you don’t like. No sifting through racks of old, smelly clothes, and none of that moment where you try on a dress you really like and discover that it has a weird stain on the left sleeve.
Of course, even when I shop at Neiman Marcus, I never pay retail price. Why should I? I’m a frugal fashionista. Here are a few of my secrets…Use these wisely, and you too will score fantastic looks, never before worn, for mere pennies.
The store credit card (no, really)
Retail store credit cards get a lot of hate, and for good reason. These cards charge significantly more interest than your bank credit card; check out NerdWallet’s list of retail card interest rates, which are often higher than 20%.
However, if you pay off your card in full every month, and I mean every single month, you can score some sweet deals. Think gift certificates, free shipping on online orders, and special discounts. That brings us to:
Take a look at this example: I receive a $20 gift certificate for a certain favorite retailer every time I hit a certain point level on my store credit card. For me, that averages out to a card every other month. Meanwhile, because I’m on the store’s mailing list, I get tons of special offers.
So I wait for The Big Sale. The one every retailer has, every quarter. By then I’ve got at least two gift certificates and a stack of offers that haven’t yet expired. I walk in, grab the clothing that is already marked at 70% off, add the gift certificates, and throw in a few of the coupons. In short: a few times a year, I get to stock up on clothing and pay, on average, under $10 for hundreds of dollars of merchandise.
(Be careful, though — some retailers are catching on to this and are making coupons “full-price items only.” Caveat emptor!)
Say you don’t want a store credit card (and there are many good reasons not to have one) or you don’t have time to wait for The Big Sale. How do you save money fast? By using online coupons, of course. There are plenty of online coupons available, but a few coupon sites do a little something extra. Upromise online coupons, for example, also help you earn money to pay for college or pay down your college loans. This is fantastic for us Millennials who love fashion.
Other sites, like Groupon or w00t, offer huge discounts on popular retailers. The trick is knowing exactly what you want, then using your online search powers to find it.
These are a few of the ways I get brand-new, designer fashion for a fraction of the cost. Yes, I still thrift — but on some days, I’m glad I don’t have to.