Shopping has always been an outlet for me, but as I’ve gotten older (and more cognizant of my finances,) my go-to hobby seems to be at odds with being financially responsible.
But there is a middle ground, a way to satisfy my shopping itch and not wreak havoc on my budget in the process — discount shopping.
Here’s my roundup of the 10 best discount stores — for both clothing and housewares — plus how to shop the stores to get the best deals.
Once you slog through the racks and racks of $14.99 polyester numbers, you can score some great deals at this perennial favorite. I start at the back of the store in the clearance section, rife with quality brands like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Nike and Jones New York, and even designer brands like Missoni, Kate Spade and the occasional DVF piece (if it’s a Runway store.)
While TJ Maxx is my go-to for blazers (I won’t pay full price elsewhere), I once scored a Michael Kors leather bomber on sale for $60, and six years later it’s still one of my wardrobe MVPs. Their shoes are also a must-pursue section, though I’d recommend shopping in the offseason for a better deal. (Who doesn’t love buying booties in July?)
Other great finds can be found in the pet section, where essentials like waste bags and shampoo are deeply discounted and toys start at $3.99 (though I might avoid these if your pooch is a heavy chewer since they aren’t the most durable).
Who doesn’t love Costco? Huge shopping carts, or flatbeds loaded with teddy bears larger than your actual family members? I originally discovered this wholesale store because my husband loves to buy household necessities like cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels here since buying in bulk (usually) saves time and money. But Costco has so much more to offer, once you get past the sheer overwhelming size of the store.
At Costco you’ll find throw pillow sets for less than half of what you’d pay elsewhere, high-quality workout clothes for both men and women, and even a pair of Ray-Ban aviators at 25 percent off the retail price. They also have great deals on Hunter boots in some stores, and my coworker swears by their women’s layering tanks.
Costco also boasts a great selection of men’s clothing from their in-house brand Kirkland, from khakis to their signature men’s dress shirts, lauded by some as one of the best men’s shirts on the market, and a total steal at less than $15.
If you’re like me and wearing preworn clothes doesn’t gross you out, then consignment stores are a great way to boost your wardrobe with minimal impact to your budget. Greene Street is my personal favorite, but Buffalo Exchange and 2nd Time Around are other great options, and each city usually has its own local spot.
You have to be willing to painstakingly flip through the racks, and you may have to deal with that weird, grandma’s basement smell, but the rewards are often worth it — like the black Theory blazer I’m currently wearing that cost me a mere $14. Plus, this type of shopping is environmentally responsible.
One might think that Marshalls, HomeGoods and TJ Maxx are one in the same, (and to be fair, they are owned by the same company, TJX Companies, but to a seasoned shopper, these stores each have their own specific personality – and an inventory to match. While TJ Maxx is my discount clothing go-to, (and Marshalls is a close second), HomeGoods is an interior enthusiast’s heaven.
I always check the clearance section first, but home interior staples like candles, diffusers and photo frames are always deeply discounted.
Here’s how I approach Amazon: Anything I can’t find elsewhere, I order from here. (To be fair, it’s not a traditional bargain store, but an e-commerce site.) If you don’t have an Amazon Prime membership, this may not be an economical solution for you, but for those who do, the rock-bottom prices coupled with free two-day shipping is hard to beat.
I’ve ordered everything from a pair of Freshly Picked knockoffs for a baby gift to professionally cut photo mats for a framing project to those really nice, velvet hangers that I’ve always wanted. While others swear by their designer section, I haven’t made that leap yet. But I did just get a $20 coupon in the mail, so that might be my next discount shopping endeavor.
Old Navy has evolved from its days of seasonal American flag tees and $2 flip flops to a fast fashion powerhouse for men, women and children. I tend to visit Old Navy four times a year, a month or two before each season begins — that’s when you’re more likely to score, as many popular items sell out quickly.
My favorite items: Old Navy’s women’s midrise Rockstar jeans which are, at full price, a mere $29.99, and an exact dupe for many other high-end brands; men’s crew-neck tees and the seasonal women’s dresses.
An online consignment site and brainchild of Tracy DiNunzio, (founder of Recycled Bride), Tradesy is basically a virtual high-end consignment store. The site boasts a wide range of designer duds and bags and a lenient return policy. It’s a great place to score that designer piece you can’t quite bring yourself to pay full price for.
Worth noting: You can also sell your gently used goods on this site. All you do is download the app, snap a picture of the designer item you want to sell (brands like J.Crew, Kate Spade and Michael Kors sell best), and the site automatically cleans your photo, connects you with buyers and even provides you with a shipping label. While you pay an admittedly steep 19.8 percent commission to Tradesy, it’s a great way to rehome old clothes you no longer wear.
Love J.Crew but hate the prices? Me, too. Enter the brand’s cheaper, more accessible cousin. While there are a few brick-and-mortar J.Crew Factory stores, (usually in outdoor outlet malls), I usually find my deals online.
You can find all the same kinds of things available at J.Crew, from your classic navy-and-white striped boatneck top to that gingham shirt that everyone seems to have, but my personal favorite items to scoop up are bathing suits (on sale, of course) and jewelry, which are affordable, unique and stand the test of time. But keep in mind that returns aren’t free and many of the deeply discounted pieces are final sale.
I used to think of Loft as a store where my mom shopped, but now it’s one of my staples. I wear their jeans almost exclusively, and they always have a great, seasonally rotating selection of blouses and tops.
The secret to shopping at the Loft, a more affordable branch of the higher-end Ann Taylor — and what makes it a great bargain destination — is its 40 percent off sales, which happen fairly often. Wait for those, and you’re bound to get an unbeatable deal.
The Dollar Tree
I used to completely write off dollar stores, that is until I discovered the hostess’ paradise that is Dollar Tree. Not to be confused with Dollar General or Family Dollar (yes, there is a difference), Dollar Tree has great deals on things like wine glasses, candles, seasonal decor and party supplies.
Case in point: I once hosted a large gathering and didn’t have enough wine glasses for the group. I managed to score 10 or so glass wine glasses at Dollar Tree for $10, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, a few of those wine glasses are still in my weekly repertoire, even years later.