It’s fall!! That means sweater weather (yay!), but it also means sales/coupon codes. So. Many. Sales. Friends & Family sales (they’re really coupon codes, which are better than sales IMO) have already started, some are ending, and some are imminent; I’m trying to keep all the sales & coupon codes up to date on Grechen’s Codes, so please check there for current offers and my more sustainable picks. And of course, there’s black friday/cyber monday coming next month.
Two years ago as part of my Minimal Closet series, I wrote the following piece about “surviving sales,” and I thought it time to share my sale shopping strategy again and get your input on how YOU survive friends & family season.
What is your sale shopping strategy? Do you shop sales? Or only with coupon codes? Do you shop out of season, or buy only in season? What do you pay full price for and what do you only buy on sale? What do you wait to buy during friends & family?
Sports have their “silly seasons” when players field offers and consider where to play next year, well, holiday shopping season is silly season for us shoppers. Which starts…NOW (or already has started…)! And isn’t ending any time soon.
But this year, I am minimizing. Perhaps you are too? Maybe you are at least trying to shop more consciously, not buying what you don’t need, and adding only beautiful & meaningful things to your life?
Its hard though, when silly sale season starts. There are Friends & Family codes this way and that, sales on sales, clearance items, and flash deals. And that’s only just NOW! Wait until Black Friday…
I’m sort of fanatical about getting the best deal on things, which is a big reason why I started Grechen’s Closet & then Grechen’s Codes; so you could easily find all the places to buy a certain designer online, and then look for coupon codes before you buy. I still believe in that, in shopping around, and looking for coupon codes, but I don’t buy on sale much anymore. And even though I HAVE been known to wait for a code if I know/hope one is coming, I don’t go out of my way to buy at a discount either.
Why? Turns out almost all my purchases the last several years were made with sale goggles on.
Shopping is personal, individualized; everyone does it differently, and everyone has their own reasons for shopping – other than necessity. So, if you’ve not gotten yourself into trouble buying on sale, or if when you go to clean out your closet, most of the items you decide to get rid of don’t still have the tag on them with the purple sticker on it from Last Call which equals 70% off, then carry on. You obviously don’t have a problem.
Still here? Yeah, me too. One of the first things I noticed when I made piles and boxes full of stuff to get rid of, is that most of the things I chose to purge were things I’d bought with price as the FIRST consideration. What I mean by that, is that first, I saw the price, then I thought, oh! I must buy that, it’s so cheap! Finally, I considered how it would work in my wardrobe. Wrong order.
I also bought without recognizing MY value, and that I AM WORTH MORE.
I was buying because I could, and because I wanted to. I wasn’t buying because I needed things, and sometimes I didn’t even LOVE the things I bought, but I was trying to fill an emotional void that was easier to fill by shopping than by actually doing the work. I also bought without recognizing MY value, and that I AM WORTH MORE. So I ended up with a lot of stuff I bought on sale.
Now, things are very different. I’ve done some of the work to realize why I emotionally shopped, and also important, I have a budget that I must stick to. Also, I simply don’t want as much stuff, and have become incredibly particular about what I choose to add to my wardrobe.
Some of the “rules” I try to follow now:
- If I need it and it’s within my budget, I’ll buy it at full price – if I can wait for a code, then I’ll wait. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at making lists, but have become better. I am constantly shopping, so I always have a running list of things I need/want/would like. Most of the time, things drop off and I don’t miss them, but if I’m really thinking about something constantly, I’ll make an effort to buy it. Enter rule number 2:
- I try not to buy anything without a 24-hour waiting period – whether I saw it online or tried it on in the store, I try to step away for a day or so. If I’m still thinking about it after that, then I go back and get it, or at least add it to a “must-have” list. Sometimes I fail at this. Like when I bought these Lululemon leggings. I actually left the store, made it a few feet away, then turned around and went back in to buy them. They’re totally worth it (also sold out now).In a comment recently Jen mentioned a 30-day rule: keep a list of the things you want/need and after 30 days if you still want/need them, buy them, whether on sale or not. I like this rule. For many items, they’ll either be on sale in 30 days, or there will be a coupon code, or some discount. Depending on the season, of course.
- I don’t shop at H&M, Zara, Target, TJ MAXX, Marshall’s, Nordstrom Rack, Saks off fifth, Last Call, Old Navy, or Gap unless I’m looking for something VERY specific. I lose myself when I walk into one of those stores and become blinded by the sale prices. And then when they would send those 40% off one item coupons? Dead.
- I also don’t shop thrift stores anymore. I used to, when I moved to Austin, and I found some cool things, but no, they weren’t me, and no, I don’t have ANY of them left. Same with the designer consignment store I used to frequent; I don’t have anything left that I purchased there.
- I know the sale/coupon code cycles like the back of my hand. If you read here and/or at Grechen’s Codes, you probably do too. F&F codes happen twice a year, in the spring and fall, there’s black Friday/cyber Monday of course, and always sales/codes around EVERY FREAKING HOLIDAY here in the US. So, yeah, you can pretty much find a code/sale for anything if you can hold out long enough and pay attention to sale cycles. Also, Tuesdays. Online sales usually start on Tuesdays…If I know a sale or code is coming up, I’ll try and wait for it, but stick to a list and only buy what I need/want to add to my wardrobe.
Out of everything I have left in my wardrobe, less than 10% of it is made of up of things I bought on sale. It’s a pattern with me; the things I wear and love the most are the things I paid full price for (or with a coupon code). I don’t love or wear them more because I paid full price for them, but I think I do because I loved them enough and recognized their value in my wardrobe over time FIRST, before considering price. AND they are usually same season items. Sometimes that doesn’t work out, of course, but over the last 5 years, I’ve noticed that in most cases, I wear and keep the things I’ve NOT bought on sale.
I know now that the value of an item isn’t reflected in it’s price. The value is in what it adds to your life, how free it makes you feel, and how much pleasure you derive from it.
Tips for Sale Shopping:
- Figure out what you are willing to pay full price for and what you are not. I will always pay full-price for good basics, because those are the things I wear all the time; they are the foundation of my wardrobe. I buy those first, and get them “out of the way” so then I focus on getting other things with a code, or on sale
- Keep lists and stalk sites for markdowns or codes
- If you’re good at shopping out of season, then take advantage of the Nordstrom anniversary sale. If you’re NOT (like me), then avoid it completely. It will be too tempting…
- Black Friday: I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything during black Friday/cyber Monday sales, I think I’ve been pretty shopped out by then with the F&F codes. It’s a fact that now, these sales aren’t much better than sales/codes retailers have throughout the year (unless you’re crazy enough to go to Wal-Mart on Black Friday), so it’s not necessary to wait all year for them – you can generally find just as good, or better deals throughout the year
- Consider buying with codes rather than on sale – the friends & family codes usually come in spring and fall and are valid on new items, in-season items, so you’re not buying out of season (which I can’t do). I use F&F codes to stock up for the new season on basics and items that won’t make it to sale.
- Do not let yourself be swayed by price or discount amount – none of that matters in the end, the only thing that matters is that you love the item and that you will wear it happily (as long as it’s within your budget of course). Do not add something else to get free shipping, do not buy more because the site is offering 30% off $1,000 and only 25% off $500…
I’ll end with this gem from Janice at the Vivienne Files recently:
Just a loving reminder to think for yourself…
Take a step back, remember what you are looking for, what you need, what you don’t need, and your budget. Don’t be swayed by the price, the discount, or the rewards; they will mean nothing in the end.
What are your tips for surviving sales? Are you a list-maker? Sale stalker? When you purge your closet, how many things do you get rid of that you bought on sale?
I can relate to this post so much. Once I became more focused on what truly works for me and what doesn’t, very few sales catch my eye anymore. I wear a lot of neutral colors and items with clean lines. And I try to limit how much quantity I have. If I find something that fits my needs exactly it doesn’t make sense to wait for a sale. That size 6 shoe that goes perfectly with everything in my closet or the petite size S jacket that fits my weirdly narrow droopy shoulders perfectly likely won’t be around at markdown. Dept stores buy apparel and shoes in predetermined size assorted lots, which is why in Hawaii small sizes of certain things are hard to get (we have quite a few petite women here due to our ethnicity demographics). Online shopping has helped but still. I do however search for a coupon code before I click buy. And I always watch for the opportunities to price adjust. Many sales are a little bogus nowadays as it’s more of a special purchase situation (never sold at the “compare at” price to begin with) & the discounts at Macy’s are a regular ongoing thing if you have a Macy’s card. So I never go running when I get a sale coupon in my in box, I don’t go to shop a sale as it’s too tempting except I do like the Nordstrom semi annual but for that I go specific list in hand and and I only get what I think will meet my needs perfectly. You included some good self assessment questions to ask ourselves here which I’ll add to my notes as good to re-read now & then.
Great post, and super timely for me. Sales season is always a challenge although for me, it’s more with coupon codes than outright sales. My shopping style has changed (with conscious shopping more in the forefront) and I tend to be uncomfortable buying a lot in one go nowadays. (I tend to buy no more than 1-2 pieces at a time although I do find myself shopping more often.) However, site-wide coupon codes, I am often tempted to look at buying something because it’s a rare find or a good deal. Frequently I will want to buy some (usually expensive) item that I already own but in a different color, or something that I’ve seen on blogs or Instagram that’s popular (and hard to find) but not really my style. Definitely will be saving this post and revisiting it often to remind myself to shop smarter.
Could you elaborate just a bit on this: “how free it makes you feel.” Free in what way?
I am mostly a thrift shopper (not consignment) and I chose and limited myself to a few stores even at that. One I go to weekly and two others occasionally. All are church thrifts and I have been going to the same ones for over a decade. Maybe once or twice a year I might go to a particular Goodwill that I prefer over others I have been to. I also buy some things on eBay, often at a negotiated Make Offer price but I still wince at the shipping charges. I try to keep to an arbitrarily low monthly expenditure and eBay purchases will throw it completely off.
I no longer shop at retail season’s end clearance because I can’t successfully guess what I am going to wear the next time that season rolls around or what size I might be. Even a small shift up or down makes a difference. I do all my own alterations and at 5 feet, I almost always have to. Still, some things look better when I am lighter or heavier and alterations don’t fix that. I also don’t shop the famous sales like Black Friday.
I don’t shop at malls at all. I just don’t like the environment – the lighting, the music, the thematic sameness of the clothes on offer. Though I keep up on what trends are stylish, I don’t want to have the exact same things everyone seems to crave. If I think I want a particular thing and I go online to look at Google Images or Pinterest or eBay to see examples of it and find too many of it and its variations, I tend to lose my desire for it.
I don’t really like the shopping experience, not because of any negative try-on experience but more because of the frustration of locating exactly what I think I want. Seem like way too much effort. Actually, I don’t need a thing, I just like clothes.
Summer clothes are the hardest for me. My 3 favorite stores close for the summer, either for a brief period of a few weeks or some as long as 13 weeks. When they are open, they tend to only display seasonally appropriate clothing. So I tend to acquire summer clothing if they put some out in June, even if it is a cold June. So there is some pressure there to try and put myself in a mindset of envisioning wearing them in hot, sweltering weather when I’ve worn a coat that day.
Two traps I try to avoid as much as possible:
1, The item is a great hit with me and I want to replicate my success by adding other colors or even a duplicate in case it wears out. I’m probably too fickle for this and the duplicate would often go unworn and the original item soon, too! This doesn’t hold true for shoes because I have very fussy feet and even shoes that are comfortable for a long while, suddenly are not. But occasionally I will have duplicate pairs and end up wearing them both completely out and do wish I had a third.
2. The issue of price doesn’t come in first for me but is still still an issue. I shop first by color. And this works really well in the thrifts I frequent because people often donate a large part of their wardrobes and if you like one color, then it is likely that they have a lot of go with pieces to select from. But if I’m undecided about an item I find on eBay, in trying to see as many visual examples I can in order to figure out color and drape, I might find out how expensive it really was and I have to remind myself not to let the “savings” be a factor. That “outsmarting” the system is not a reason to buy.
Grechen Reiter says
When I say “free” I think I mean really that i feel like me – that is what makes me feel free; when everything just “clicks” sartorially and i can go on about my day without being uncomfortable or thinking that i’m wearing the “wrong” thing. if that makes sense.
totally agree with your first “trap” – it took me a very long time to learn that lesson; that i don’t need to buy duplicates immediately, because what i’ve learned over time is that the duplicate hardly ever gets worn. and by the time the original wears out completely, my taste might have changed anyway, so that I don’t want the exact thing again…