I admit...I love shopping, after all I'm a bit of a girly girl and enjoy the whole shopping experience. I also appreciate some of the "finer" things when it comes to shopping (like I'm the one with Coach and Dooney & Bourke and Guess bags, leather coats, an iPod, an SUV, etc etc etc) but I don't like to pay for them. Do I steal them? No, not quite; that is illegal after all. I just never pay full price for those things. There are some really smart ways to get the things that you want, at a discount (sometimes a deep one), and no one has to know -- unless you're like me and likes to say "OMG, I just got this great bag that's normally $100 for $20, how awesome is that!!"
For me, shopping on a budget can be really fun and a bit of a struggle all at the same time. It's fun when you find an awesome deal on something you want, and disappointing when you have to put something down that you want because it's out of your budget. But there are ways to get more of what you want out of your budget, without a lot of effort.
Sign up for email alerts If you have stores that you frequent a lot, check them out online and see if they have email alerts. Sometimes you can also sign up for periodic mailings where they will send discount cards in the mail that you present in-store for additional savings. Some of my favorites are New York & Company, Victoria's Secret, Bath and Body Works, Macys and JC Penney. I get frequent emails and regular mailings from all the stores, plus you also get email "heads-up" about upcoming sales before then general public. Most stores you would find in a mall have an online store and have a place to sign-up for offers/updates.
Shop discount stores Now, I admit, I've gotten some great deals on random things at Walmart and Target, but these are not the discount stores I'm talking about. I mean stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, Kohls; even online stores like overstock.com and 6pm.com. These stores generally carry the same brands you can find at department stores, but at lower prices. About two months ago I found this style Dooney and Bourke bag at Marshalls for $89.00, and the bag retails for over $200. It's huge and I use it for my book bag for school.
Plus, these stores usually have Lay-A-Way options. If you're close to pay day, and not sure if you can swing the cost, but don't want to lose it; put it on layaway, which will hold it in store for 30 days. You usually have to put at least 10% down and there's a $1-5 layaway fee added to the cost of the merchandise, but it's a great way to pay out the merchandise before you take it home.
Clearance racks "But aren't clearance racks full of last years clothes?" Well yea, but you still wear "last years clothes" next year if they fit, right? It's the same concept here. Many times you'll find "last year's clothes" on the clearance rack, but sometimes you can also find things that are very current. They could be on there because the store is trying to make room for new merchandise or they could have been mis-marked (their loss is your gain in this one). Clearance racks are also a great place to find staples or layering pieces. I find a lot of regular t-shirts, jeans, work pants, etc on clearance racks. Even when it comes to accessories, you can find "costume" jewelery for $5 a lot of the time, and handbags and shoes, etc. Sears had a really great clearance sale a few months ago and I walked out with about $250 worth of clothes for abut $60.
Ebay Another awesome place to save some money on clothes, shoes, etc. Ebay is really good, especially if you are searching for something specific. You can also set search parameters for price, size, color, and even items that are brand new with tags still on them. Of course, with shopping online, you usually have a shipping charge, but depending on the item, it can still be less than buying it in the store. This is where I have gotten a Coach bag, a Dooney and Bourke, countless Guess bags, as well as two leather coats, and my J. Crew peacoat two years ago. This is a great place to look for that item you put back in the store because it was way out of your budget. On Ebay it might just be inside of your budget.
Consignment stores These do take a little searching to find, sometimes. You can usually do a google search of "Consignment store" and your zip code to find them in your area. These stores sell "second hand" (and sometimes items that were never used/worn - with original tags) items that are of good quality. The owners of these stores inspect the items before they are put out for sale, so there is nothing with holes or stains, or anything like that.
These are some of my tested and true methods of being able to shop without busting your budget. Does anyone have anything else they do that works for them?