Unless you’re capable of sewing your own wardrobe — or you’re a nudist — at some point, you’re going to need to shop for clothes.
Even if you’re not a fashionista, clothes shopping can be a lot of fun. Matching patterns and styles, trying on outfits, picking out the right look for the right event — there are entire magazines and television shows devoted to artfully shopping for attire.
But if you’re not a careful shopper, you can also fall into some traps. There are so many options, from boutiques to giant department stores, each with their own way of selling and pricing. It’s little wonder a shopper can feel lost in a land of designer labels and impressive price tags.
Before heading out to fill your closet, try on this advice for size. These dumb clothes-shopping mistakes could cost you plenty.
1. Falling for a fake ‘sale’
When you see a price slashed by 50 percent or even more, that’s a deal worth nabbing, right?
Not so fast. Make sure the supposed original price hasn’t been hiked up just to make this “deal” look juicier.
Do a little online research for the actual list price — or at least to get a sense of what other retailers are charging for the item — so you’ll know if that bargain is the real thing. To learn more about this trick of the trade, check out “Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying a ‘Sale’ Price.”
2. Not getting cash back
Are you passing up free money for items you’d be buying anyway? Here’s how to cash in on purchasing clothes:
- A mobile app like Ibotta earns you cash back in many stores.
- Shopping online? Try cash-back portals such as Ebates, TopCashback and Swagbucks Shop.
- So long as you are paying off your bill in full every month and thus avoiding interest charges, you can also earn money back by paying with a cash-back credit card.
3. Neglecting to follow your store online
Many major stores will text you a coupon if you sign up to receive their promotional emails. And you can collect coupons and learn about special sales by following the stores you like on social media.
Guarding your personal email address with your life? No problem. Set up another email address through a free email service and use it just for those deals, promos and purchases.
4. Being clueless about sale schedules
Stores love schedules. If you shop frequently at a particular chain, learn its schedule for markdowns and annual sales — and take advantage.
Nordstrom devotees, for example, know the store’s big anniversary sale comes in the summer. But the half-yearly spring and fall sales are also bargain-filled. Ask the clerks if you don’t know. These sale schedules aren’t state secrets.
5. Passing up an outlet store
Plenty of other big-price stores have lower-cost cousins, too. Or just head to a nearby outlet mall for discounts on everything from jeans to jewelry.
6. Mooning over designer labels
If you’re papering your home with $100 bills, or are actual royalty, ignore this advice. Go ahead and buy all the designer clothes you want.
For the rest of us, the cachet of a fancy label isn’t worth the major-league prices. Levi’s jeans, for example, wear at least as well as pricier brands, and they have great old-school cred.
If you simply must own designer products, hunt for gently worn versions at a secondhand or thrift store.
7. Buying new when used will do
Be sure to check reputable secondhand stores before you buy new.
No one on the ski slopes will know if your snow pants have schussed down that mountain before — on someone else. The same is true for a barely worn prom or party dress, work clothes, school clothes, seasonal garb, sports attire and just about anything else you wear.
A few tips:
- Become an expert thrift store shopper by reading “5 Expert Tips for Better Thrift Store Shopping.”
- Find shops that specialize in gently used sports clothing and gear by searching online for a city’s name and “secondhand” gear and sports.
- If you live where winter sports are popular, look for garb and equipment at annual local ski swaps.
8. Caring for your clothing improperly
Examine each garment’s washing instructions before you buy. Think realistically about clothing care before wasting money on high-maintenance garments unless you’re up for doing the required care.
Before falling in love with those beautiful linen pants, for instance, remind yourself that, even if they are a bargain, they’re bound to wrinkle. And you hate to iron. Or if they’re dry-clean only, your money will be wasted if you’re likely to toss them in a hot dryer.
9. Choosing paper receipts
If a store offers a choice between an emailed receipt and a paper copy, choose email every time. That way, if your purchase disappoints or doesn’t fit, all you need to do is search your email box for the store name to retrieve it.
Tell us your favorite tips for clothing shopping. Share them in a comment below or on our Facebook page.
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