Holiday Shopping… On A Shoestring Budget!

imageWho knew that the tanking economy would actually be a boon to holiday shoppers? Well, sort of. Due to the sharp drop in consumer spending, big name department stores across the country have been forced to unload excess inventory. As a result, a bonanza of mind-blowing clothing and accessory bargains can now be found both in-store and online. As a case in point, off-price retailers like Loehmann’s, DSW and Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue’s designer outlet) are currently offering coveted designer merch for up to 75% off retail!

This is just but one of several ways to score a red-haute holiday wardrobe on a shoestring budget. From cracking online discount codes to comparison-shopping sleuthing and haggling to hosting a “swap shop,” here are some sure-fire insider tips for tweaking your look, without putting pressure on your purse. Read more after the Jump!

imageHost A Swap Shop

Is your wardrobe in need of a minor modification or a major makeover? Either way, a “swap shop” may be just the ticket. This ingenious girls-only shopping soirée allows you to acquire coveted clothes while leaving your wallet at home. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other clotheshorses and swap war stories from the women’s front. Think you’re prepared to wave good-bye to your garb? Read these top tips for hosting a successful swap:

Swapping 101:

• First, send out an e-vite, the easiest way to get a gaggle of girls together Just make sure you give people enough time to clean out their closets and pack up the goods.

• When guests arrive, dump all the clothing into a central pile, making it easy to rummage through. Trade treasures for items of equal value. To avoid catfights, have each guest pick a number out of a hat (like a holiday party grab bag) giving first dibs to the person
      with the lowest number.

• Clothing and accessories should be gently used. Any garments with holes or stains are taboo. Launder or dry clean items before bringing them to the swap.

• Donate unwanted items to charity. Many organizations such as Housing Works and The Salvation Army offer free pickup services. Soles4souls.org will gladly accept gently worn shoes.

imageBarter for Brand New Clothing Bargains!

With today’s shaky economy, unsold designer goods are piling up in retailers’ stockrooms like never before. And since major department stores and independent boutiques are so desperate to sell stock before the arrival of next season’s shipments, sales are no surprise. Less well-known, however, is the fact that major retailers are willing to reduce prices on brand new clothing items and accessories, so long as you ask. Simply approach a store manager about the particular item in question, attempt to negotiate on the price, and they’ll likely shave off anywhere from 10% up to 30%. Sounds crazy, but in this depressed economy, it can’t hurt to ask.

Think you have the chutzpah to haggle in a major chain store? Better read these expert barter tips:

•  Politely ask the store manager if they can reduce the price of a garment when you get to the cash. If they refuse to offer the discount, either pay full price or walk away.

•  Shop around! If you know that another retailer offers the same clothing item at a cheaper price, politely mention this to the store manager, as they might be willing to match it.

•  Deals are often left to the discretion of salespeople. If you’re denied once, it doesn’t hurt to find a different salesperson or store manager and ask again.

Take Advantage of Online Discount Codes

imageBelieve it or not, but you don’t have to pay full price for designer clothes or accessories, thanks to discount codes lurking around in cyberspace. Have you ever noticed that little blank discount box that appears on just about every online retailer’s checkout page? Well, there is a quick n’ easy way of tracking down those mysterious promo codes. Crack ‘em fast with these full-proof online shopping tricks:

• “Google” the name of the store you’re inquiring about along with the words “promotion” or “discount code”. This is guaranteed to generate multiple promo codes for that particular e-tailer. Alternatively, there are also a number of sites that might help you track down discount codes, including:

Reesycakes.com: equips shoppers with the tools they need to make savvy purchasing decisions, such as discount codes for major online retailers and printable in-store coupons.

Salegrab.com scours the web for the hottest sales so you don’t have to. Simply sign-up for a free account, then search for all your favorite designer brands by category (clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and home and garden) and you’ll instantly see the current sale price! Plus, you can even sort by sale, saving, price, votes and new, making salegrab.com that much easier (and fun!) to navigate. Make sure to tag your “grabs” (those tiny green squares beneath each item) to access all your favorite picks within the central “MyGrab” page. Happy hunting!

NearbyNow.com offers a fun new way for shoppers’ to find products or sales at your local mall, and even pick up the merchandise the same day from the Internet or phone before venturing outside. On the site, type in your state, click on the nearest mall, then enter the product you’re looking for. Find something you like at a price you love? Check to see if it’s in-stock. Once you register, you can even receive coupons sent straight to your cell, so you can walk right into a store and take advantage of special deals. This saves you money and time.

CurrentCodes.com: lists coupon codes for hundreds of well-known online stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor and Armani Exchange.

CouponCowgirl.com: a sassy, social shopping site that compiles the best online deals, bargains and coupon codes to use towards your favorite products and brands.

Just keep in mind that online discount codes constantly change, so you have to keep scouring the web to get the best deal.

imageComparison Shopping is Key

The best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to visit comparison-shopping sites such as ShopStyle.com and Glimpse.com before you buy. These sites enable you to search for just about any designer item by name and will instantly tell you how much that particular item costs along with a list of major e-tailers that carry it. This will save you from making costly impulse purchases. Plus, when you haggle at your favorite department store, you can mention you saw those butt-firming Seven jeans for $30 cheaper online and they’ll likely match the price.

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Look Out for Online Discounts & Luxury “Flash Sale” Sites!

Bargains on runway styles can now be found throughout the country’s major department stores, independent boutiques, online retailers and outlets. Markdowns of fall and winter clothes and accessories are already in full swing! Case in point: discount e-tailers like Bluefly.com are offering current season designer stock with prices reduced as much as 75% off! So rather than wait til’ January to score Theory’s coveted patent leather peep-toe booties at the store (currently $495), Bluefly.com is selling the stunners for $222.99 – that’s more than half off! Even “Flash Sale” sample sites such as Ideeli.com are unloading unsold designer bags from Lanvin and Bulga for half the price. However, due to the time-sensitive nature of flash sales (36 hours or less), you have to act fast to score the stash. Come winter, even Net-A-Porter.com, the cutting-edge designer e-boutique, will be selling leftover luxury goods on their soon-to-be launched discount site, theOutnet.com.

imageAnother must for frugal fashionistas is ShopItToMe.com – a trusty (and free!) virtual shopper that alerts you (via email) when stores put your favorite designer clothing brands on sale in your size.

Lookout for Layaway!
Believe it or not, but layaways, a payment practice that became popular during the Great Depression but dissipated due to the prevalence of credit cards, is suddenly back in fashion thanks to the credit crunch. So the next time you’re at your favorite department store and find yourself drooling over that Diane von Furstenberg sequined vest, it’s worth asking the sales associate if you can put a down payment on the piece (typically 20% of the cost) and bring it home once you’ve paid it off. Just make sure you can cough up the cash before the pre-determined purchase date (typically eight weeks) or you’ll likely be stuck with a store credit.

With a little moxie and some groundwork, it won’t be long ‘til you become a bonafide bargainista. Some final words of wisdom: as with any e-tailer, make sure to check return policies and shipping fees before you buy. Happy shopping!

How do you plan to save money this holiday? Share your shopping strategies with the Fashion Junkie community!

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