This post is brought to you in partnership with RetailMeNot. I’ve been using RetailMeNot for years, and all opinions and enthusiasm are my own!
Little known fact about me: I am not new to blogging. When I was in college, I maintained an “outfit” blog. Although it’s long since been deleted, I used to have a great time finding and posting thrift store, secondhand and bargain-store-created outfits.
I had always been frugal; my family often did our back-to-school shopping at secondhand stores when I was a kid. I remember hating it because I wanted to wear new brand-name clothes like everyone else. But after a while, I realized something: It was kind of cool owning unique pieces that no one else had. I got lots of compliments on my clothes, and I began to feel proud saying that I’d gotten them for a song.
I carried this attitude with me when I left for college in a much bigger city than I was used to. There were thrift and secondhand stores everywhere, and their stock varied wildly depending on the demographics of the neighborhoods they were in. In fact, now that I think about it, shopping this way helped me feel more at home in my new city while I explored the coolest stuff and searched for the best deals.
As a hobby, I would bargain hunt throughout the summer and look forward to wearing my best pieces on the first day of class. Even though the first day of school isn’t such a big deal once you’re older than, say, a college freshman, I still looked forward to it every year. There’s just something about the blank notebooks, new pens, new shoes and a fresh start!
Below is an example of a frugal outfit that I put together and posted on my blog in the mid-2000s. It’s definitely something I would have worn on the first day of school … and then I’d immediately regret wearing heels to campus. Because who does that?!
Teal scarf: clearance from Urban Outfitters (similar from Lord & Taylor; coupons here)
Tan crossover cardi: thrifted (similar from Macy’s; coupons here)
White tank: thrifted (similar from Express; coupons here)
Black belt: thrifted (similar from Macy’s; coupons here)
Boyfriend jeans: hand-me-down from my “little” brother (lots of similar options from Gap; coupons here)
T-strap pumps: Payless (similar from Forever 21; coupons here)
Nowadays, I do most of my shopping online because I don’t have much patience for sorting through racks and racks of stuff and then having to try it all on. Plus, online coupon codes keep costs down, though not quite as low as my thrift store finds.
Even though I’m no longer a cash-strapped student, I haven’t lost the bargain-hunting bug. If I were shopping for a back-to-school outfit today, here are five online shopping strategies I would use:
- Go in with a plan. If you’re shopping for back to school, take a look through your wardrobe and determine where there are holes. Do you need a new pair of stretchy jeans that will be comfortable during classes? A pair of gym shoes with non-marking soles? Make a list, and stick to it.
- Shop off-season. You can get way better deals when you shop for summer clothes in the winter and vice versa. It requires a little planning ahead, but it will be worth the effort in savings!
- Comparison shop. Is there an item you’ve been eyeing for a while? Make sure you check its price at a few different stores before you bite the bullet.
- Ignore store sections! Are you a lady who needs plain-white tees? Check the men’s section! Are you a guy who hates the colors of men’s running shoes? Try sizing up in a women’s pair. Are you petite? Take a look around the juniors’ section. You can find great deals that fit your style if you just think outside the section a bit.
- At checkout, search RetailMeNot for coupons. I ALWAYS check RetailMeNot to see if there are any coupons available that can be applied to my order. As you can see from the links above, you can easily find coupons for pretty much all of your fave stores.
RetailMeNot almost always has at least a couple of coupons to try—could be for free shipping or could be a discount percentage. It only takes a couple of seconds to search for coupons, so there’s no reason not to!
And if you’re a midnight-can’t-sleep-lying-in-bed-online shopper or need to look up deals on the spot while shopping in stores, you can download the free RetailMeNot app on your phone and get the same deals found on the full website.
Are you a bargain hunter like me? Do you prefer to shop for deals in person or online?