I’m pretty sure I lost my mind earlier this week. The weather was rainy and chilly and dropped into the high 50s/low 60s so naturally I pulled out a sweater and my denim jacket to wear to work. Then when I got home, I pulled out my Christmas pjs (yes, you read that right, Christmas) and an oversized hoodie, ate some soup and fully embraced the winter/holiday spirit. Except, it’s still early September and the weather is teetering back and forth between 70s and 80s. I am definitely jumping the gun here! Which is so weird because I normally love summer and warm weather, but this year, I’m just ready for the holidays to kick in.
Anyways, speaking of a new season, does anyone else get bit by the shopping bug when a new season is upon us? I know I definitely do. All those new arrivals just speak to me! Like in Confessions of A Shopaholic when she is walking down the street and all the mannequins are tempting her to go in? That’s what it feels like when a new season hits. And I know it can get overwhelming because hello #budget.
So I was really inspired to start talking more about shopping on a budget during the Nordstrom Sale because I realized that we were all running around, chasing down these deals that just weren’t so great. You can read this post to hear more about my thoughts on the Nsale, but I digress. So today, I’m talking about my top 8 retailers that I frequently shop for the best deals, give some honorary shout outs and even share the places I think give you the worst deals!
Shopping On A Budget:
Wow, are we at all surprised that I’m shouting out Abercrombie first? Probably not.
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the brand. I even wrote a whole dedicated post, reviewing the retailer and explaining why I love them. It was the “it” thing when I was in high school to wear A&F and if you didn’t, you clearly lived under a rock. Then everyone grew out of it. But, they have since re-branded and are back and better than ever.
I think they have a wide selection, but they are especially great for basics and classic pieces. They have a great selection of denim, sweaters, button downs, camis, etc at pretty decent prices. But, what I love is that they always have some kind of sale going. It can be 40% off one week or even 60% off select merch or buy one/get one denim, there is just always some kind of discount going on. Plus their sale section is great. Sure, most sizes are sold out and you really have to comb through, but I’ve gotten tees for like $9. I normally pick up their denim for like $35 and like I said I’ve picked up tees anywhere from $5 to $10 and tops and sweaters from $15 to $25.
I always feel like I get a great deal when I check out because I get a ton of stuff for $100 and I’m part of their rewards program so I even gain points to get like $10 off my next purchase. I also think their quality and fabrics are great, which is really important to me. I don’t want to feel like I got a great deal and then the next day it falls apart so I think their quality is great. And I like that they use cotton because it is great for summer. Repeat after me, polyester does not breathe in the summer! And their sweaters are always soft and never itchy!
I actually haven’t always loved H&M. I found it to be so overwhelming and their clothes never fit me right, but I got pretty lucky last fall/winter with them and I’ve been a believer since.
My issue with stores like H&M is that the deals are never good because they never really have sales. If something is marked $35 then it’s going to be $35, today, tomorrow and next week. And the sale rack is usually a disaster and it’s stuff left behind for a reason. But, I actually like H&M best for seasonal basics.
Last fall/winter, I would pop in like every other weekend and walk out with a few sweaters, having only spent $30-40. I picked up several crew neck sweaters in multiple colors that were only $10 each that I rotated throughout the entire season. Surprisingly, the quality wasn’t that bad. They lasted me all season long and they’re still in pretty good condition that I can pull them out again for fall. But, I honestly wore them so much last year that if they were to have fallen apart, I definitely got my money’s worth.
So, I think it’s worth popping in, with no expectations and no clear idea of what you want and just look around to see what they have that week because I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Remember, seasonal basics!!
If you buy anything at Loft for full price, I am hardcore judging you.
My mom has been shopping at Loft for as long as I can remember and now that I’m older and working, I’ve started to really appreciate the brand as well. Shout out to their petite section! But, I feel like anytime you bring up Loft, people always associate it with work clothes or more mature apparel, but I don’t think that represents the brand at all.
Sure, they have a great selection that is appropriate for work whether you have a strict dress code or a more causal dress code, but their clothes are actually really fun and flirty and classic. Recently, they have continuously been coming out with fun printed pants, they always have a great selection of bell sleeve tops and drop hem dresses. I think their clothes are casual with a fun twist so you still look like you’re making an effort even if all you want to do is just be comfy.
What I love about Loft is that they always have a sale. They normally do 30 to 40% off new arrivals or full priced merchandise and they’ll do an extra percentage off sale merchandise. I like that they consistently have sales so I feel like I can actually pick up their new arrivals rather than having to wait until it is marked down and an item is almost sold out. And even if you really don’t want to wait, new email subscribers can get a percentage off their items and they constantly have flash sales on their site so I think it’s worth being an email subscriber.
But, if I were to provide some constructive criticism, I find that items are sometimes on sale in stores, but not online. I also hate that they don’t offer free shipping unless you spend $125. I just think in this day and age when most retailers have free shipping and returns, I’m so put off by those that make you pay for shipping! I also think they have pretty poor customer service at least in the stores I’ve been to and I’m not always a fan of their quality or fabrics. That sounds like a lot, but I swear, they are still one of my fave brands and I think you can get a ton of items even if you’re on a budget!
I feel like so many people have been very much aware of how great Old Navy is for years and I am totally late to the game!
I stopped in to Old Navy frequently prior to my vacation to Puerto Rico in May because I love having a whole new wardrobe for vacation, but I also didn’t want to blow the budget. I was really impressed with their selection and the fact that they had trendier pieces. They had a great dupe for the Madewell Central shirt that was much more affordable and came in so many fun prints like a palm print and a sunglasses print. They also have really fun graphic tees with cute slogans like “Oh Hey Vacay.” And as many mini and midi dresses as your heart could desire. Plus an amazing active wear line and swimsuits that don’t break the bank.
Their prices are great to begin with, but there is always a sale going on and they always offer coupons when you purchase something, which draws you back because you want to take advantage of those coupons! I think they are a great option if you want to build up your wardrobe more and if you want to try new trends without breaking the bank.
Normally Asos would be on my “not so great deals” because they rarely have sales/deals and when they do, there are 101 strings attached to them. But, their assortment is insane and there are so many options so you can find anything you are looking for and everything you weren’t even looking for. Plus, I’ve managed to get some great deals so I’m including it in my list of top 8 retailers.
They have some really great cotton dresses in every color of the rainbow for around $25 which is great to pick up some summer basics or if you’re going on a tropical vacation in the middle of January. Their sale section is pretty strong and they restock pretty frequently so its worth checking back constantly if something is sold out. They have tees and tanks that they sell in sets so like 2 tees for x amount of dollars. And they have some pretty trendy and great pieces that won’t break the bank. Plus, I personally think you can find even the most specific item on their site that you won’t find elsewhere.
With that being said, they also have things that are a bit overpriced in my opinion, but every now and then they have sales like spend this much money and get this percentage off, which I fully took advantage of when I was shopping for my vacation. Now, there are strings involved! If you return something and fall under the line of the amount you were supposed to spend, they won’t refund you. So if you spent $200 to get $75 off and you return something and fall under the 200 mark they won’t refund you because in their eyes they think you no longer qualify for the deal. I think it’s bad business to be honest and no other retailer I know handles promotions like that so just keep that in mind, but it’s a decent deal to take advantage of.
Don’t judge me! But, I am counting these big retailers as one because I don’t particularly prefer one over the other, I think all of them have a great sale every now and then.
I’ve become so spoiled with online shopping and shopping at direct retailers that shopping at large department stores just overwhelms me, but I do think if you have time to actually go in stores and look around you can find a great deal. Plus most of these department stores offer in store pick up so you can still shop online.
It goes without saying, you can literally get anything from big department stores and there are almost always a deal or a coupon you can take advantage of, especially around the holidays. When I like something, but don’t necessarily want to shell out the money or if I think an item should be on sale, I’ll do a quick google search and most of the time I will find that item at a department store and on sale.
I also think it broadens your options. Like, if you walk into Abercrombie, you’re only getting Abercrombie merch obviously and you’re sticking to one style per say. But, when you shop at a department store, I think you can find more variation and even things that you normally wouldn’t have looked at or gravitated towards.
I know when I’m stuck in a style rut, I like to browse to kind of re-inspire myself. And it’s a great place to look if you are looking for more high end, designer pieces because even if you are willing to shell out the money, you should still take advantage of some percentage off.
Plus you can almost always ask the cashier at check out if they have any coupons and most of the time they are nice enough and will tell you about one and apply it to your total.
I could be making this up, but I feel like J.Crew sales have gotten better And J.Crew Factory has always been a great place to get a good deal!
J.Crew used to be one of my fave retailers and every now and then I’ll stop in and find a great piece that I love. They are pricier and at times I think they are a bit overpriced, but when they have a sale, it really is great. They used to only do 25% which is annoying when everyone else would do at least 40% off, but recently I’ve been seeing them do more 40 percent off sales plus if you have a student or teacher ID you can get an additional percentage off.
They don’t always have sales so it’s a bit of a waiting game with them, but I think it’s worth subscribing to their email list to keep up. I particularly like shopping their sales especially when it’s extra percentage off sales. They are kind of the older merchandise and sizes may be sold out, but if you’re not really eyeing anything specific and kind of just shopping to shop, I think it’s fine. They had an end of summer sale a few weeks ago and I managed to pick up two things for myself and two sweaters for my mom and paid a little over $100.
The one con is their shipping, it’s not free until you spend over $100, seriously everyone should have free shipping!
J.Crew Factory on the other hand, I feel like always has a sale and they have such an identical selection to J.Crew, with the smallest difference in quality so they are a great option as well. I particularly like them for their swimsuits, accessories and anything I want at J.Crew that I don’t think deserves the hefty price tag.
We had to have an accessory shout out of course! Although, I know Zappos does sell clothes and I got a coat I had been eyeing at the end of winter for like over 50% off, but I digress.
I really don’t use Zappos as much as I should, but I think they have great deals and they have free shipping. I especially love them, when I get into a shoe trend or fall in love with a specific shoe too late and it’s pretty much sold out everywhere, I can usually find it on Zappos and on sale.
They don’t always have the best deals where it’s a major percentage off, but if I can’t find an item on sale anywhere, I can at least find it at a somewhat lower price here. So I think it’s worth browsing the site from time to time!
I tried to really only include the retailers that I frequent so I could really share my experience with getting deals and my thoughts on the quality of items. But, I wanted to give a shout out to the retailers that I think have great deals and great items, but I just don’t frequent them enough!
AMERICAN EAGLE – I used to be a huge fan in high school and although the brand is seen as younger, they have some great pieces. They have great basics like denim, flirty camis and classic tees. I also love a flowy top and they have a ton. Worth checking out because their prices are great, plus they have great sales, especially their sales on sales.
GAP – Now ya’ll know I’m a loyal VS customer, but Gap’s sleep section gets me every time. I love their prints and I always manage to stumble upon a sale in there. I got a flannel button down sleep top that I wanted to wear as a regular top on sale for $10 and I just randomly wandered in one day. They also have active apparel which is great, denim and a ton of tops. Plus I think they have coupons you get when you purchase something that you can redeem later.
THE SALE SECTION AT MADEWELL – Every time I wander into Madewell, I head for the sale section and every time I find an amazing item, I always ask myself why I don’t go in more often?? What I love about Madewell’s sale section, especially in stores is that they have a good inventory still so you can typically find your size. I will say their sale is still quite pricey so I like when they have a sale on top of the sale and you can also use your student/teacher discount on top of that if you have it.
THE NOT SO GREAT DEALS
I always strive to be honest with you guys, so I had to share the places that I think aren’t that budget friendly and don’t give you the best deals.
ZARA – I feel like everyone is going to disagree with me, but I’m actually not a huge fan of Zara! I feel like every time I go into Zara, it’s because I spot one thing in the window or in the front that I like and it’s always $49.95 and the quality is never that great. Literally every single thing I’ve purchased, with the exception of two coats has been $50. That’s not a great deal! $50 for one item and nothing has ever lasted. I have shirts with the seam coming undone, loose thread, etc. I know it’s great for trendy items, but I think it’s not worth the money at all!
FOREVER 21 – I’m sure you’re so confused because Forever 21 is the poster child for bargain shopping, but I don’t think the deals are great. I wandered in, earlier this summer and I feel like they’ve raised the prices and believe you me, it’s definitely not worth it. The materials are super flimsy, they are practically falling apart in the store and their sizing is so weird. Even the size small people have to try on the size large. Plus the store is a disaster, just not worth it for me.
NORDSTROM – I love Nordstrom. I said it before, but I really do. They are the only retailer that I actually have a store credit card with, but the deals aren’t always there and they aren’t always great. Nordstrom rarely has sales. They have their big annual one and I think two more, but it’s not like they have weekly deals. Plus, items sell out so quickly so you can’t really wait it out. With Nordstrom, if you like something, you either buy it full price or you don’t. While I love the retailer, there is just no wiggle room with the budget so that’s why it’s on my don’t list, but I really do love them still.
MADEWELL – I love Madewell. LOVE! I live for their aesthetic and their brand and their items, but honey it is expensive! And because of that, I feel like I always miss out on items I want. They have sales, but rarely and when they do, it’s only 25% off, even their sales alone are pricey with items being marked down to $50. Madewell also has a pretty loyal following so items so items seem to sell out quickly so it’s hard to wait for sales. Again, don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I always feel like I have to go in with a higher budget.
I think shopping on a budget and learning how to get the best bang for your buck is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your wallet. Not that I’m money bags over here, but I used to have a non-existent/ super tight budget for shopping so I got creative and it really helped me explore my style and learn how to re-use pieces and how to scope out the best deals.
I think it’s just important to note that you shouldn’t shy away from those stores you think you can’t afford because they most likely will have sales. And you shouldn’t just gravitate towards stores that are thought of as budget friendly because most of the time they never have sales and you end up spending more. I’ve spent more on a top at Zara than I have at J.Crew. Isn’t that crazy?!
So be sure to shop around and subscribe to those emails. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice good quality and getting exactly what you want just because you are shopping on a budget. It’s worth spending a little more or waiting a little longer for a sale and having an item you can wear again and again rather than thinking you got a great deal and only having an item for less than a season.
Anyways, thank you so much for reading! I hope I’ve helped in your new fall arrivals shopping adventures. Would love to hear any thoughts you have of my favorite retailers. Do you agree? Disagree? You can tell me!
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