There are so many articles out there telling you how to save money and cut corners.
However, half the time the advice is so altruistic it would take you months, if not years, to completely change how you interact with the world. You know the advice I’m talking about – the “before you make a purchase take a minute and think if you’ll really be happy with the transaction later” tip.
Don’t get me wrong! It’s good advice, but it’s just unrealistic – especially for a lot of us who are living in a big city and need to pay for rent, internet, food, transportation, insurance, etc. where anything leftover goes to keeping our sanity for one more week.
The other half of the advice is such small changes that it would take an equally long amount of time to nickel and dime your way to making your rent payments. While storing the old change you found in your car and couch can amount to something, someday – it’s not going to help you in the short term.
Like instead of buying name brand coffee, buy generic coffee and save 12 cents on every purchase – YES, that does add up, but while you are piling up those miniscule savings, your bills are piling up.
So how do most of us handle this?
We do what we always have done and cut corners. Our car can go another month without an oil change. Our phone still works, you just can’t read anything in the top right corner or swipe your finger too fast. Our jeans aren’t ripped, they’re just fashionable.
Well, I can’t help you with your car or phone, but I have found some pretty nice tricks to reducing the cost of your wardrobe, which I quickly discovered was eating up about as much of my monthly expenses as my car payments were.
1. Deals Are SO Easy To Find
The first thing to realize is that certain stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s that have deals all throughout the year that should be taken advantage of. Both of those stores also have credit cards that offer additional savings to their subscribers. Additionally, small to medium sized stores run promotions throughout the entire year in order to compete with these huge clothing stores, so keep an eye out.
It seems a lot harder than it actually is, due to how much these stores need to promote, but social media is a great way to stay on top of it. You can start checking social media, as every store has a Facebook or Twitter page, but that can be tricky from the shopping perspective since you will be hardwired into looking up your favorite stores or the biggest brands and get caught back into the cycle.
Instead, look for Facebook deal pages or discount pages, as these places get approached by the smaller to mid sized retailers to promote their campaigns. Some companies run campaigns or contests throughout the year to promote their company and offer sweet deals (like free shoes for a year from KicksUSA or $2k from ModCloth) and others offer steep discounts on designer items! Definitely keep up with these pages. You never know when you’ll get lucky!!
2. Don’t Buy When You Can Rent
If you have a job where you have to dress professionally or are just someone that wants to mix up their wardrobe, it can get pricey. However, with sites like Rent the Runway, where you can rent clothing and accessories, or Bag Borrow or Steal, where you can rent handbags, there’s an opportunity to be fashionable and financially responsible all at once!
Additionally, there are sites like StitchFix, BirchBox, and Warby Parker that help you to save money by making sure you love what you want to purchase before you fully commit. How many times have you bought something online but it didn’t look like you thought it would when it actually arrived. There’s nothing quite like that disappointment.
StitchFix has you fill out a survey and then a designer will personally pick out outfits for you. If you like what they sent, you can purchase the items. If not, you simply mail it back. BirchBox sends you beauty samples that you can try out before purchasing the larger versions. This can save a lot of money in the long run. Finally, Warby Parker allows you to select a number of glasses to try on before making the final purchase. These and other similar companies are a great way to try on our try out items without going to the store!
3. Take Advantage of Credit Card Deals
A lot of people don’t do enough research to take advantage of credit cards like they should. Not only are cashback bonuses, store cards and other deals a great way to save on clothes, but they can be very helpful in other areas too.
As mentioned above, many stores offer cards specifically for purchasing items from that store. Stores like Target offer 5% cashback just for using the card to make in-store or online purchases. Definitely worth signing up for cards that can save you a little (or a lot depending on how much you tend to splurge at Target).
If you’re someone who loves to travel, but don’t think you can afford it, check out some credit cards with no international transaction fees, no annual fee and sign up bonuses. This college student spent three weeks traveling in Europe by using credit card rewards and cashback bonuses, so it really works!
For example, by using the Discover Miles card you get 1.5x miles on every dollar you spend. Discover also offers a CashBack card that charges no international transaction fees and can help you with day-to-day purchases as well. Also, other travel cards offer bonus miles for just signing up (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card). The Marriott Rewards card also can help you save on your hotels too!
Also, something to note about looking for a card for traveling abroad – make sure there are no international transaction fees. These fees can surprise you when you get your bill after your trip. Sometimes these fees can tack on an additional 2-3% so it’s important to find a card without those tricky fees.
For more credit card tips, check out Nerd Wallet’s picks for best cards with sign up offers, cashback bonuses, and no foreign transaction fees!
4. Free Shipping Is Always Worth It
This one seems obvious, but still needs to be said. If a company is offering free shipping, take them up on their offer! It is only natural to want the new pair of shoes you just bought the next day since you want to wear them out this weekend, but it is not worth it.
Shipping a pair of jeans across a couple of state lines can cost you anywhere from an additional 12% and up, which immediately inflates the cost of any purchase you make. You click on an item thinking that you are buying a $70 pair of pants, which you think you might be able to afford, and then by the time you are finished with the checkout, you have spent closer to $80.
There are some ways to help with this too, of course. Amazon Prime is only $99 for the year and offers free one or two day shipping on so many items. Additionally, some stores like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and Payless offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount. But what if you only want one $25 item? With shipping, you could be paying $30 in total. How do you avoid that?
Check to make sure they offer free returns first. Then, if they do, add some items to your cart to reach the limit that meets the requirement for free shipping.
Once you get the package, send back the items you don’t want and you’ve just saved money on shipping. While this is a bit more of a hassle, if you really want to save a few bucks, it’s a good way to do so. Or try finding stores that offer both free shipping and returns regardless of the price of your purchase, like Old Navy and GAP.
5. Time Your Purchases
Are you a last minute shopper? Fight that urge! For Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries and other holidays, make sure you have your gift(s) at least one week beforehand. That means making your purchases at least two weeks before the specified date. If you wait too long, not only is there a chance you may not get the item in time, but you could have to pay astronomical fees in shipping in an effort to get it on time. Make sure you stick to sites ordering deadlines to get your items on time and for a lower price.
On the other hand, another natural urge is to buy something that we want to wear and then wear that item immediately. This is the toughest one to do because it goes against our nature. We want the immediate gratification of the purchase. However, the best deals on clothes occur at the end of a season. So instead of buying your bathing suit as soon as they are released in store, wait until August or Labor Day. Instead of buying a new winter coat or sweater in October, wait until late March or April to save.
However, if you can handle the disappointment of looking in your closet and seeing clothes that you love but can’t wear until next year, then you will be able to cut your spending by almost a third! There are even sites that tell you the best time to buy an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry.
6. Be Wary of Black Friday “Deals”
Everyone always makes a big deal about Christmas and Black Friday shopping, but don’t be fooled!
A lot of these deals sometimes turn out to be a total scam.
To make sure you don’t fall prey to these “deals,” go into the major department stores a few days before Black Friday to check normal prices. Then, when you go into the store on Black Friday you’ll sometimes notice that expensive items have been marked up so that they can put a 50% off sticker on the item. The item then turns out to be just as expensive, if not more so than before. Not all stores do this and it doesn’t happen to all items either. Just do your research to make sure you don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes.
Also, while the same scams can occur on smaller holidays, don’t discount them either. Sales on popular weekends like Memorial Day, President’s Day and Labor Day are usually swarming with sales to be had. A lot of these deals tend to be more legitimate because stores are trying to get rid of their current inventory to make room for the next season’s merchandise.
Therefore, get your calendar in check, and have an alert set for the week before every holiday, no matter how small, and just do a quick search to see what type of deals are out there. You will be astonished at home many things you couldn’t afford will be 40-50% off for a holiday like Flag Day.