Cutting Corners: Shopping Edition

I’m a girl, so I get it… shopping is like kryptonite’s ugly older step sibling. I fall victim to the buy-high. But shopping doesn’t have to be as much of an expense. I’m not advocating clipping coupons, don’t worry (though that works, too); just sharing some hard-learned insight about how to satiate champagne taste with beer money.

1. Shop Sales

Given the fact that retailers strategically markup merchandise so that they can give you a bogus discount later and not take a profit hit, I’m inclined to smack any self-respecting fashionista upside the head if she buys something not on sale. I begrudgingly sign up for emails from my favorite stores—LOFT and Land’s End (I describe my style as soccer mom who reads fashion magazines)—and only look if they have a sale. No sense in teasing myself. I also know their sales tactics pretty well (I worked at LOFT), so I know that “25% off one item” is child’s play. I don’t bite until they throw me a 40%-off-everything bone.

Some sales fly under the radar, as well. I always—always—ask about student discounts (and still have a student ID for that reason; we can talk morals later...), and I’m not afraid to ask the friendly employees if they know of any discounts. In an absolute pinch, I also advocate exercising the price adjustment muscles.

While I’m a fan of some loyalty cards (CVS comes to mind), do not sign up for store credit cards. While the perks seem great, the repercussions of store cards will haunt you for years—it doesn’t matter how diligently you pay off your balance. Here’s an illustrative story to prove my point. Just. Say. No.

2. Shop Smart

Sometimes sales are hard to come by. That’s where technology comes in. Retail Me Not (or honey), used online or in-store, is a godsend. I applaud any woman who marches up to the checkout requesting that a store honor an online discount. If you never ask, you’ll never know.

When I am online shopping, I frequently copy and paste the name of an item into Google, and sift through the results. You might be surprised how often Amazon is overcharging. There are also apps (hello, Red Laser) that make comparison shopping easy and instantaneous. Shop smart and ye shall be rewarded.

3. Shop Seasonally

If you’re on the look-out for something specific and timing isn’t an immediate priority, then hold out until the timing’s right. Ever tried to buy a bathing suit in November? Then you’ve experienced first-hand the glories of the seasonal sale (or lack thereof).


Lifehacker compiled a 2014 calendar of “The Best Time to Buy Anything.” Many make sense—Broadway tickets go on sale in February when the polar vortexes scare away tourists, gym memberships dip in the summer when people are outdoors and have inevitably abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. Keep tabs on the necessities and make proactive purchases when goods are cheap. Then you can avoid the mad rush to find a winter coat in February when all the spring goodies are making their debut (True story. I need a coat, not a bikini).

So tell us, what are some of your favorite budget shopping tips?