12 Ways to Get Great Clothes at a Deep Discount

It was probably somewhere around child No. 3 that I stopped caring. Jeans and pullover tops turned into my comfy daily uniform.

When my husband commented one day that I was dressing like an 80-year-old – a valid point since most of my clothes at that time were gifts from my elderly mom and aunt – I decided I had taken the casual look a little too far.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that clothes tend to fall into two categories: cheap in every sense of the word and shockingly expensive.

Following are some strategies that will make you look like a million bucks without scorching your budget.

1. Buy used … really

Before you turn up your nose at thrift shops and garage sales, know there are plenty of nearly new items just waiting to be snatched up for a fraction of the retail price. My local thrift store practically gives away its clothes, and there are some nice brand-name items to be found for those willing to search the racks.

2. Go to consignment stores — in person or online

If you’d rather not go on the thrift store treasure hunt, find a consignment shop catering to your clothing style. You can save even more by taking your unwanted clothes to the consignment shop and selling them there.

And now, as with most everything, there are online versions of consignment stores where you can get a vast array of choices and offload your past treasures. The RealReal, for instance, specializes in “authenticated” luxury goods. It’s not cheap, but it’s also far from full price on these designer items. Harper’s Bazaar ranks other fashion consignment sites along these lines, and explains how each one works. Swap.com, by contrast, is a consignment site with more mainstream and affordable clothing, as well as sporting goods, kids clothes, maternity items and so on.

3. Check out Craigslist

If you’re in the market for some high-end accessories or accents at a somewhat more reasonable prices, check out Craigslist offerings in your area. A quick search of the “clothing+acc” listings of the site in my area for instance, turns up several handsome designer bags for sale — including a Kate Spade New York handbag ($100), a Dooney & Bourke “hobo” style leather bag ($175), and a Coach Signature “wristlet” with sales tags still attached ($65) — as well as Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses ($40), a men’s wool sweater from Barney’s New York ($100), to name a few items. A friend of mine recently purchased a beautiful Filson wool coat off of Craigslist — paying $75 for the used (but virtually indestructible) item, which goes for more than $400 new.

4. Hold out for the sale

If you don’t want to go the used-clothes route, at least do yourself a favor and never buy retail. Some of the high-end designer boutiques won’t run traditional sales. However, virtually all the mainstream clothing stores do and many regularly discount products by up to 50 percent off.

Certain items tend to go on sale during specific months. Or, if you can hold out until the holiday shopping season, you can often find retailers that discount their entire stock by up to 50 percent.

5. Buy out of season

Even better than buying on sale is buying clearance items out of season. Summer clearance usually hits its peak around July as stores try to make way for fall fashions. October is when to look for the start of fall markdowns, while January can be prime time to pick up winter items. By April, many spring outfits will be moved to the clearance racks.

Clearance pricing is often progressive. Stores may start by dropping the prices 20 or 30 percent and slowly increasing the discount until it hits 70 percent or more. For the best selection, you’ll want to shop the clearance sales early. But if you’re not too particular or if you wear a less popular size that doesn’t sell as fast, wait until the end of the sale to save the most money.

6. Search for a coupon

You can make your own sale by finding a coupon to buy regular-priced items. Even better, combine a coupon with a sale for double savings.

Find coupons in your local newspaper inserts or sign up for your favorite store’s mailing list to have them sent directly to you. Many stores are increasingly offering discounts for signing up for text alerts as well.

For online shopping, search for coupon codes or other promo offers before making a purchase.

7. Go to a sample sale

If you live in the big city and covet high-end clothes, try your hand shopping a designer sample sale. Often held in a warehouse or similar location, sample sales are how designers unload excess merchandise. Sales may be advertised locally, or you can head to websites like Racked.com or TopButton.com to find them in major U.S. cities.

While sample sales can be a good way to pick up designer duds for less, not everything will be a deal. Research the brand for its regular prices before hitting the sale.

In addition, sample sales can be a different shopping experience from what you’ll find in a store. There may be no dressing rooms, but you’ll want to try on everything because these items may have been altered to fit models. Wear some form-fitting undergarments or a leotard you don’t mind the world seeing.

8. Follow online flash sale sites

Those who don’t live in the big city may never have the experience of stripping to their skivvies in a warehouse full of women during a sample sale, but they can get comparable savings at online flash sales.

Websites like Gilt.com, HauteLook.com and RueLaLa.com offer flash sales that are the online equivalent of a sample sale: limited quantities of designer items at deep discount.

However, like sample sales, you have to know your pricing because not everything is a deal. Plus most sales are final, so be sure you really want the item and have your sizing correct before ordering.

9. Shop the discount stores

Another way to get designer clothes for less is by shopping discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. These stores buy excess inventory from manufacturers at a deep discount and then pass a portion of those savings on to customers.

You can find plenty of high-end brands, from Coach to Ralph Lauren. But inventory is constantly changing, so if you see something you love, better buy it now. The discounters work directly with the brands instead of liquidators, so you can feel confident you are getting the real deal.

10. Bookmark a few blogs

With so many sales circulating cyberspace and your local stores, it can be hard to keep tabs on all the deals. Rather than try to do it all yourself, let a blogger do the hard work. A number of blogs track fashion sales and post alerts when rock-bottom prices appear.

Here are some blogs worth bookmarking:

11. Choose quality over quantity

When I decided to update my wardrobe, I made the mistake of heading to the nearby superstore to browse the clothing section. The clothes were not the most modern fashions, but they looked OK and the price couldn’t be beat.

Unfortunately, the quality of the clothes matched the price. They didn’t wash well or hold up to repeated wearing, and left me feeling as frumpy as the shirts my octogenarian aunt had gifted me.

Rather than buying on price alone, look for value. Shop for clothes that are constructed well, even if it means you pay a little more upfront. In the long run, you’ll spend less on one good-quality shirt you can wear over and over again than you would if you buy a half-dozen cheap ones that don’t last the season.

12. Host a clothing swap

Finally, paying nothing is the ultimate way to dress for less. If you have a group of friends with similar taste and sizing, organize a clothing swap. These events can be as simple as inviting two or three friends over for coffee and asking them to bring a few clothes. Or, they can be as involved as collecting clothes in advance and turning your home into a virtual store for a couple dozen friends and acquaintances to “shop.”

Oprah Magazine provides more details on how to set up a successful clothing swap.

How do you stay fashionable without breaking the bank? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Kari Huus contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How Much of My Social Security Can My Ex Take?
How Much of My Social Security Can My Ex Take?

A man wonders if his ex-wife will siphon away his Social Security benefit.

9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50
9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50

These products will instantly improve your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.

8 Things I Always Buy at Costco
8 Things I Always Buy at Costco

From bacon to birthday cakes, here are my favorite deals at the popular warehouse store.

7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs
7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs

Here’s how to lower your medical expenses without skimping on care.

7 Gadgets Under $60 That Can Boost Your Health
7 Gadgets Under $60 That Can Boost Your Health

These Amazon finds can help ease foot aches, boost energy and even protect your heart.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.