Splurging on something can feel good, but I’ll admit: unearthing an amazing find for a fraction of big designer buys is way, way more exciting. Blogger-turned-author Shauna Miller definitely knows what I’m talking about and is celebrating all things budget-friendly with her soon-to-be released book Penny Chic: How to Be Stylish on a Real Girl’s Budget. With tips about editing down and organizing your closet and shopping second-hand (including a section titled, no joke, “Shop for Free”), it’s clear this former Glamour blogger is a skilled shopper.
On making wallet-friendly department stores a little less intimidating to shop:
“I do a little online research before to see what I like, which keeps me from getting distracted when I’m there. Most big stores have the same inventory online as in-store, so I recommend jotting down the item numbers or printing them out before leaving. Once you’re there, a store associate can help you track them down.
On becoming one of those thrift store shoppers who routinely finds fabulous vintage items:
“Since inventory is so unpredictable, a shopping list won’t get you far. The key is more about having a good eye. Keep an inspiration journal or Pinterest board that reflects your personal aesthetic and look through it to get on track before you start sifting through piles of used stuff that’s typically not merchandised very nicely. The other important factor is time. Save second-hand shopping for when you have patience to think creatively and dig in.”
On the smartest time to shop:
“I have strategic shopping tips in my book, broken down by retailer, and I think it’s really useful. Old Navy, for instance, announces their promotions on Fridays. For most stores, go early in the morning to avoid crowds. Retailers typically restock when the store’s closed, so the sooner you get there in the morning, the more selection you’ll have.”
On being buddy-buddy with sales people:
“It always pays to be friendly and social, especially in boutiques where personal discounts might be extended. But if you like your privacy, save sweet talking for the end so you’re not overly doted on as you shop. It can get overwhelming! On you’re checking out, see if they have extra coupons behind the counter or can give you any inside scoop on the next big sale.”
On things you can buy cheap that’ll come off as looking more expensive than they actually are:
“You can’t trust the tailored pieces at discount stores to be as flattering as their more expensive counterparts. Instead, look for simply constructed garments that don’t need zipper closures, since they’ll drape and conform to your figure. Keep an eye out for ponte-knits, jerseys, or similar fabric blends. They’re like a built-in tailoring system that works well with every body type.
“For non-stretch tops, dresses, and pants, go for larger sizes that hang off your frame instead of clinging. They’ll give off a more care-free appearance. The men’s department can be a great place to start. Check out plaid shirts, oxfords, and even khakis.”