Shopping Savvy

We all know the economy is still bad, and improvment efforts are progressing at a snail’s pace. I may go so far as to suggest that said snail also happens to be blind, lost, and has no slime left to aid his movements. He is a very, very, sad snail, but is trying nonetheless. Good for him.

So even though we’re still waiting for the ‘snail’ to get its momentum back, that is no reason to abandon hopes of keeping up with trends and staying stylish in the name of conserving money. As a young college student, I know what it means to be on a budget, and have developed a few handy tricks for fashionistas and shopaholics alike to keep doing what they love- without breaking the bank. Read on for some of my (not so) best kept secrets for keeping your closet- and your wallet- full.

1) Accessories are king! (And queen, and prince…)

As I’ve mentioned in “Getaway Style”, accessories have the power to make or break an outfit. My personal favorites are earrings, and I have what seems to be roughly 23,4397 pairs currently in my possession. And the best part? The most I’ve paid for any single pair is less than $10.00. What’s even more surprising is that I’ve gotten a majority of them for only $1.50. Yes, you read that correctly- less than $2 a pair. So where do I get such steals? Forever 21, actually. Though it depends on the location, I have come across several Forever 21 locations in which the accessory department is huge- overwhemling, even. However, if you really take your time to look around, there is always a section of earrings, necklaces, and other accessories for only $1.50- all the time. It’s not a clearance or sale rack, or even a special seasonal section. And the greatest part (besides the price, of course) is that there is almost always a wide variety to choose from. Giant chandeliers (my favorite), basic studs, feathers, hoops, you name it, and there’s probably a pair or two available. If that’s not enough, there are also a TON of earrings for $3 or $4.50 each. Just keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll probably be surprised at the deals you can find.

If Forever 21 isn’t cutting it for you, another great place for accessories is Charlotte Russe. Just about every time I’ve been in there, jewelry is 2-for-$8 or some items might be 2-for-$10. Like Forever, there is a huge selection of styles and colors and sizes. Occasionally, I’ve also seen sale display tables of jewelry with rings and bracelets for under $2 or $3 dollars.

At these prices, you might be worried about quality, and I won’t tell you that anything you get at these places is top of the line. I’ve had some earrings from both Forever and Charlotte Ruse that I’ve had for years, and still look as good as the day I purchased them. However, occasionally a pair will fall apart in some way (losing rhinestones/paint/other parts, etc), but not nearly as often as you might think. The accessories are made to hold up as long as they’re trending, and at prices that let you buy all new ones when you’ve moved on to another style.

Moral of the story: At these prices, you can probably afford to go a little accessory crazy (as I love to do). Which is great, because bold necklaces, eye catching earrings, and statement making rings are what take your t shirt and shorts from straight off the rack to something that is uniquely you.

2) Online/Mail Offers

A lot of people are accustomed to automatically tossing out mail, or pressing ‘Delete’ when they come across anything that even resembles a store ad. These people, unfortunately, are missing out on some truely great deals.

For example, take my all-time, absolute favorite store- Express. At first glance, the prices on just about everything in the store are out of a typical college girl budget; $200 jeans and $150+ dresses are not something I can afford to update regularly. However, I (of course) have signed up for both their regular and e-mail offers, which have completely changed my shopping experience there. I now recieve short, to-the-point emails about upcoming and ongoing sales and promotions. Complete with pictures and helpful links, I can take a minute or two to peruse the ad, see if there’s anything I’m dying to have (there almost always is), and decide if it’s worth making a trip to the store or not. These e-mails also send me special coupon codes and deals that usually are not advertised to the general public. Being able to beat out everyone else for that coveted sun dress (and matching bag), and at a great price to boot? A definite win in my book.

If e-mails from stores are nothing but fuel for your spam folder, the physical, mailed ads from Express are just as lucritive. Just like the online versions, the mail-outs are chock full of beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes- that you can own! There are always special deal cards included as well, for insane discounts. My favorite is one (that I recieve pretty regularly) for $15 off your $30 purchase, (or $20 off your $60 purchse, etc.). At first I thought I had read it wrong, but it is, in fact, just what it says. Awesome.

Moral of the story: Sign up for the e-mails and mailings at your favorite stores. You never know what kind of great deals you can recieve as a store “insider”. Worst comes to worst? You can always unsubscribe from them later.

3) Online Coupon Codes

Just the other day, I was helping my mom place an order for some beloved Ann Klein shoes (her favorite) online that had been out of stock in her size at the store. With just a few simple clicks, I handed her the laptop back with the shoes ordered…and for 20% off. She was equal parts confused and happily surprised. With no sales going on, why did they ring up for 20% less than expected? And here inlies the magic of coupon codes.

I had discovered online coupon code sites a few years back, more or less by accident. Since then, my favorite, and most reliable (in my opinion), has become RetailMeNot.com. There you can simply go to the site, type in the store or retailer you’re looking to buy things from, and click search. In no time, you’ll have an entire list of coupon codes (and even some print outs for in-store shopping). These can be anything from an across-the-board 20% (or any other percent off), free shipping, or special deals on specific items. When you’ve found the best one for you, simply type it in the promo code box at “Check-Out” (when ordering online), and viola! Unexpected savings.

Also helpful is the fact that each code (or print out) has a large, bringly colored success rate percentage from all the users who have tried it. So if you come across one that’s more than say, 70%, that code will probably work for you, too. Anything less (or color coded red) is more of a gamble, but always worth a try. In addition, you can read reivews and comments by the people who posted the codes, as well as people who have benefited from it.

Moral of the story: Before you press “Place Order” on an online transaction, take 30 seconds and double check RetailMeNot.com (or any other site you may stumble across) and see if there’s a code you can use. By doing just this one extra step, you can oftentimes save a lot of money. As an added bonus? Sites like these aren’t just for clothes and accessories. Water and amusement parks, video rentals, you name it, and it’s probably got a code out there, just waiting to save you money.

With these helpful tips in hand, you can go out and shop-till-you-drop, only without all the guilt. And hey, with all that money you saved, maybe you can buy me a little something. 🙂

What other tips do you have for staying stylish on a budget?

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