Secrets to Clothes Shopping at Discount Retailers

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Marshalls department store
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

Do you have a closet full of nothing to wear, but can’t spend a ton on a new wardrobe? It’s time to head out to a discount department store, like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls or Ross.

Bargain hunters can find name-brand clothing at these nationwide retailers, as well as shoes, accessories, health and beauty products, and home goods. The best finds don’t always come easy, but persistence can pay off with amazing deals and new looks for you.

Learn the secrets to shopping at Ross, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and their competitors, including what to buy and the best days to shop.

Preparation is key

Woman in her closet
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Like most purchases you need to make, the planning phase is crucial. Take inventory of your closet beforehand to figure out what you need to buy.

Make a list to help you stay laser-focused when you’re out shopping. You don’t want to buy something you already have 12 of at home. You can also go through the racks more quickly if you’re looking for a specific wardrobe piece.

Before shopping, look for holes in your wardrobe. Maybe you need a denim jacket, slinky black dress, dressy blouse or other wardrobe staples. If you can’t quite figure out what is missing, don’t bang your head against the wall.

This article about building a minimalist wardrobe is a great place to start. Also, look up articles about wardrobe staples. A gallery of images can get you up to speed quickly and key you in to the missing piece to your wardrobe puzzle.

Learn the best days to shop

woman thinking planning
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Not all days are equal when you’re shopping at a discount retailer. Ask the manager or sales associate which days your favorite Ross or T.J. Maxx location does markdowns or sets out new inventory.

Those days are the best times to shop because you’ll have first crack at newly marked-down items. We’ve heard that Mondays are the best days to shop at Ross and T.J. Maxx, and Fridays are the best for Marshalls, but it really will depend on your local store.

Shoppers ages 55 and over should sign up in-store to join Ross’s free Every Tuesday Club. They’ll receive 10% off every purchase made on a Tuesday.

Most discount department stores hold big sales in January and July once the Christmas and Fourth of July holidays have passed. You can score even greater bargains during these sales events.

Know the color-coded tag system

Shopper disappointed by a clothing price tag
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At T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, white tags indicate a regular price at the store, red tags indicate clearance price and yellow tags mark a final clearance price.

If you see a yellow tag and like the item, snatch it up because the price isn’t going to drop any lower. There’s no similar system at Ross.

Stretch your dollars by buying classics

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Purchasing quality wardrobe staples like black and brown handbags, boots, denim jackets, leggings, ballet flats and dress pants not only allow you to get them for less, but also give you something you can wear over and over.

If you’re purchasing classics that you can see yourself wearing five years down the road, these items will become major dollar stretchers by default. Keeping them longer will help you reduce the need to shop any time soon.

With a little preparation and planning, you can be strategic about what you put in your shopping cart. This way, you can get more mileage out of an article of clothing. Think of it as building a foundation and not just snagging another bargain.