I LOVE clearance racks. In fact 99% of the time I don’t even look at the “regular” racks. I scoff at 40% off and literally “LOL” at 25% off. Retail prices are outrageous. I went shopping with my daughter and she brought over a shirt – “regular” price $60…even with inflation and rising costs- $60 for a single plain t-shirt is more than I am willing to spend when Ih ave 4 kids!
I like Quality but I refuse to pay more for a t-shirt than I do to feed that kid for an entire week. We are a clearance rack family. There are a few traits you have to embody and embrace to be successful at clearance shopping.
To be a clearance shopper:
- You must be patient.
- You must be willing to look for a needle in a haystack and leave happy even when you don’t find it.
- You must be good at math or use your phone calculator.
- You must be willing to ignore the screaming of “SALE” by the retail store and listen to your own “price checker”
- You must be cautious and be willing to examine closely.
In the past, we’ve gone to several stores and clearance rack hopped and ended up getting over $575 retail price worth of clothes and shoes for under $100. This included 5 pairs of shoes (one for each member of my family) and numerous pieces of clothing including a $60 jacket for my husband! Clearance shopping is how we did it!
Here are my top tips for clearance shopping:
- Be prepared to look through the entire rack. If you wear a medium don’t just look in the medium section. People change their minds about something and just shove it back on the rack- and not always where it belongs. My best finds have been in the small (and trust me I do NOT wear a small) section of the rack because people change their mind and just add it to the end where they walk by. Look through the entire rack- find something you like then check the size.
- Look for “classic” pieces. Jeans, blouses, etc. What was a “hot trend” last season may end up on the clearance rack and if you are fashionista who wants to look uber-trendy you may find the trendy pieces out of style. A good pt-shirt never goes out of style nor does a good pair of jeans.
- Look often. My daughter had karate practice every Monday. She didn’t want me to stay and watch “I’m a big girl,Mom” she said so I used that time to scour the clearance racks of my favorite stores. Of course, I came back early to watch her anyway! Clearance racks are ever changing what was there last week is gone now and new items have been added and additional markdowns taken.
- Don’t jump at the first round of clearance– unless it’s something you cannot live without! Many stores will go 25%, 50%, 75% and then final 90% off. I rarely buy anything until it hits 75% off the regular price or more.
- Know what you are willing to pay. Just like we have stock-up prices on groceries , a price point for clothes is great to have too. I try not to pay more than $15 for a pair of jeans and that is my highest price. Many retailers will mark down their jeans to under $5 just to clear them out before new styles or brands come in. Knowing what we are willing to pay allows us to avoid being tricked by their 50% off clearance stickers because we know that $29.99 really isn’t a good buy for a t-shirt.
- Use store rewards and coupons even on clearance items! Kohls gives Kohls Cash on your total purchase cost- and even clearance prices count towards that. They also offer 15,20 and 30% off coupons that can be used on clearance items. Target offers 5% off when you use your Target card, 5¢ off for each reusable bag you use and offers printable coupons for apparel through their mobile coupons and on their website. Using these discounts on top of clearance prices makes a great deal even better.
- Know the return policy. You don’t want to buy a great deal only to get home and find it doesn’t look as good at home as it did in the store mirrors (what magic do those mirrors have anyway? I swear everything looks better in the store!) Some stores have restrictions on final clearance- ask BEFORE buying.
- If you find a piece you LOVE but they don’t have your size- check their online inventory! Write down the item name, brand, etc all the info you have and when you get home check their online website. Many times their warehouse may still have some. Often shipping to the store is free! You can also use online promo codes to bring that price even lower!
- Look over the piece very well. Many times items purchased online and returned to the store are placed on clearance racks. Maybe it has a hole in it, it’s stretched or has a stain. Look over it carefully.
- For kids, buy timeless pieces a size bigger. Many times items on clearance right now are out of season. No wearing bathing suits in October usually- but I can get t-shirts and shorts for a song in November and buy them a size bigger for them to wear in May of next year. There is a danger in this: they may not Like or Fit in May. This tip works best for younger children- it’s VERY dangerous for pre-teen and teenagers! But my 9 year old doesn’t care usually and loves the variety of clothes I can get her for the next year. If they don’t fit or like it in May- you can resell it at a consignment store, online or pass it to a friend. With the money I save I don’t usually get too upset if one or two pieces are passed on.
- You won’t find an entire wardrobe on a single clearance rack in a single store. Visit several stores over several months and for 75% less than you’d pay at regular retail you will amass a wardrobe of quality pieces you love!
- Visit higher end stores. You will NEVER catch me paying full price at Macy’s, Dillards or even JCPenney! These stores are far too expensive for my tastes but they sell quality products. I don’t have to worry about a shirt from Macy’s falling apart after being worn once like I do with clothes from Walmart. And they run amazing sales! So even if you think that their clothes are out of your price range- check their clearance racks! There are gems to be found there!