I used to live for the sales. I could spot seasonal discounts at thirty feet and would be one of those people who couldn’t wait to hit the shops as soon as the Christmas turkey had cooled; part of the festive joy for me was nabbing a bargain or picking up something I thought was a steal, just as much as it was pulling a cracker or wearing a jaunty hat. The buzz I got from rummaging through the rails and finding a dress with 50% off was unparalleled, and it became a little addictive; I’d be there picking up bags, shoes, dresses, accessories that I knew were too good a steal to miss, even if they weren’t necessarily something I would’ve looked at if they were full price. Walking along the street with armfuls of bags and bargains made me feel like a character from Gossip Girl, but more often than not I was finding those items lingering in my closet at the end of the season with the tags still attached.
Although in the store I rationalised the purchase, when I got my bargains home they rarely fit perfectly or were something I could reach for time and time again; I was making compromises because it ‘was such a bargain’, rather than focusing on finding wardrobe staples I knew I’d enjoy – regardless of how much they cost. Often that bargain dress ‘I just had to have because it’s only a tenner’ would ride up, stretch at the boobs and generally leave me feeling a bit self conscious, or those sandals that were oh-so-pretty would cut my feet to shreds and cost me more than the fifteen quid they set me back in blister plasters.
Maybe it was a sign of getting older and wanting to be comfortable, or maybe it was just a need to ensure my clothes fit perfectly and would suit me in the years to come, but I just found myself avoiding the sale rails altogether. I couldn’t be bothered with the rummage; I couldn’t bothered with the feeling of getting my hopes up that that lush looking top was in my size, only to find out it wasn’t; I couldn’t be bothered to figure out what I’d style each random tassel cardigan or spotty denim jacket with, or when I’d get a chance to wear a full length sparkly gown between now and my next black tie wedding. It just became more of a chore than enjoyment, so I stopped it altogether.
The ASOS sale may always be one of my guilty pleasures, but on the whole I’ve stopped sale shopping in favour of investing in pieces I know I’ll get loads more wear out of than a fuschia off-the-shoulder number. I’ve moved away from cheap and cheerful, in favour of key pieces I can dress up or down and that will last for years without looking tatty; buying cheap often leads to buying twice, but buying wisely can mean your overall expenditure is reduced if you’ve always got items in your wardrobe you love and rely on.
Take this Monsoon dress: I had the gingham version and have worn it so many times, so as soon as I saw it in a linen material and floral print I knew I just had to have it. It’s the perfect midi length, keeps me cool but covered up, features a print that’s just as easy to wear in the spring as it is in the autumn, plus is has pockets! It may have been £60.00, but I know I’ll wear it so many times before the winter hits – and it’ll be a seasonal staple for years to come. I could’ve bought three sale dresses that I would’ve worn less for the same price, but sometimes more isn’t necessarily better.
My general rule of thumb is now to have a quick look in the sales of some of my favourite stores (Next, Monsoon, Marks & Spencer, Zara, River Island) and skip the rest altogether; I can’t bear the sale rails of New Look or H&M, mostly filled with crap that’s taken out of the stock room time and time again until they can get rid of it for three quid. If I find something I would’ve bought for full price and genuinely think I’ll get a lot of wear out of, I go for it – but if I’m just interested purely for the irresistible discount, I put it back in favour of spending my hard earned cash on something to be cherished. I’d far rather have a wardrobe full of dresses I know flatter my curves and will never really go out of style, rather than a closet full of sale bargains I feel uncomfortable in or save for one occasion a year.
Saying that, sale shopping can still be a lot of fun and save you a lot of money – if you buy wisely. You may have found your closet bursting with things you thought were a bargain but you never wear, or your bank account empty because you’ve been trying to chase a high from finding the ultimate saving, but a few adjustments to the way you shop could make all the difference…
When the sales start, the first port of call should be the brand’s website: you can filter by style, size and price, so you only view what’s actually suited to your needs. This filters out all the rubbish, the things you love but sold out in your size months ago, and the pieces that have a ten quid discount but still remain nearly a hundred British pounds. It’s far quicker, you have visibility on what’s available and you can try it all on from the comfort of your own home.
ONLY BUY WHAT YOU LOVED BEFORE
Rather than trying to find any old bargain, it’s far more satisfying if something you had your eye on before is now available for half the price; a key way to reign in your sale shopping is to only buy what you loved before, but maybe couldn’t justify at full price. When browsing sales I specifically look for items I’d saved or pinned, rather than being persuaded by a random tea dress that’s now only £19.99; the majority of sites now have a ‘favourite’ option, so you can save everything you fancy and just have a look to see if any have been reduced when the sale starts. Easy!
INVEST IN TRANSITIONAL STAPLES
Yes a yellow polkadot body suit may seem like a great idea while you’re standing in Topshop, but realistically how much wear are you going to get out of it? Sticking with buying styles, shapes and colours that you know you can turn to from one season to the next will ensure you’re shopping wisely – so avoid impulse purchases that don’t fit your usual aesthetic or style, instead picking out the bits and bobs that will help you transition from one season to the next, or remain a staple for months to come.
THE SEVEN DAY RULE
If in doubt, take it back. I tend to stick with a ‘seven day rule’ that essentially means that if I haven’t worn it or wanted to wear it within a week, I return it; if you’re not dying to get that dress on or use your new bag, do you really need it? Of course if it’s the height of summer and you’ve just nabbed yourself some great cashmere it’s slightly different, but generally speaking if you don’t love it enough to get it on ASAP then you won’t love it enough to wear it in a few months time. Get rid and find something else to splurge on instead.
So in a nutshell: shop better, not more.
How do you tackle sale shopping, or do you avoid it altogether?
Monsoon Leia Print Linen Dress | £60.00 | LINK
Photos taken at Hitchin Lavender (£6.00 to cut as much as you like!)
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