Sale Shopping: The Do’s and The Don’ts

Your ultimate sale shopping guide by personal shopper and fashion stylist Jenni at I on Image

Your Ultimate Sale Shopping Guide

Your ultimate sale shopping guide will help you buy the right things. Avoid shopping stress, buyer’s remorse and stop second-guessing your purchases. Gain better style and spend less money. Written by personal shopper and fashion stylist Jenni at I on Image.

The shops are full of bargains but those bargains can be deceitful. Sometimes there is a reason why an item ended up in sale.

But it’s possible find the item of your dreams with a slashed price tag. Just learn my personal shopping secrets and have a little patience.

To help you navigate through the racks full of heavily discounted items (some hardly looked good on the model) I have compiled this list of the DO’s and the DON’Ts of sale shopping.

Learn the insider tricks from a professional personal shopper and learn how to shop the sales like a pro. All my personal shopping advice apply regardless if you are shopping in stores or online.

Sale Shopping DO’s

1. Plan Ahead

Go through your wardrobe item by item and see what you really need. Sales are great for filling in the gaps in your style narrative and replacing your trusted basics when the old ones have worn out.

I like to keep a wish list of items that I love but often I’ll buy them only when they go on sale. This is because I don’t impulse-shop but also because I am too busy shopping with my clients and end up forgetting myself in the process!

Look through your calendar for any upcoming events that might require a new outfit. I like to buy a dress when I see a gorgeous one and wait for the occasion to wear it.

I prefer this method instead of running around town last minute only to find out that you hate everything (including yourself for leaving it to the last minute).

It’s very important to set yourself a budget before you hit the shops. No bargain is worth going into debt or being unable to do things that you had originally planned.

Clever marketers have worked relentlessly to make you forget about your realistic budget. You need to keep your cool and to be one step ahead.

2. Buy Great Basics

These pieces are the foundation of your wardrobe and need to be replaced quite often regardless of their price. There is no point paying a full price when you can get a full update with a discount.

Remember that more expensive doesn’t always equal better quality. Fine fabrics just don’t last as long as solid materials so think about the purpose of the item before buying.

I rarely get basic tops from expensive brands as they tend to age very fast. This is simply because they get washed and worn all the time.

Same goes for anything white and all black cotton. That faded black grunge-look looks amazing in denim but quite unkept in shirts and tops. Yellowed whites remain a no-no.

I recently replaced a bunch of basic sleeveless tops that go under jackets, shirts and dresses. It sounds boring but I do need them every single day.

And so do you. Those great basics will help me to navigate my everyday style but also to tone down outfits that would otherwise be too much for a normal day.

READ MORE: Style tips on how to dress down your dressy items

3. Buy Amazing Classics

These pieces will give you joy for years to come and these evergreen pieces will be the corner stones of your signature style.

There are so many lists out there for The Ultimate Wardrobe Classics everyone needs to own but remember that you are free to define and choose your own classics.

To some a trench coat is a true classic when for someone else a biker jacket is the foundation of their wardrobe.

It’s all about knowing what suits your body, colors and your lifestyle. True style has never been tied to trends, no matter what every other fashion magazine or personal stylist on this planet might be telling you.

Here at I on Image you and your style intention are always the priority. Only then you can achieve a long-lasting style that is free from fads.

4. Buy Items With WOW-Factor

These are the items that take your wardrobe to the next level. It’s the advanced stage when building a wardrobe after you have mapped your perfect basics & classics (see points above).

With something truly amazing you can always elevate your style from basic to fabulous. I have made a strong case for dressing up, just because you can!

These eye-cathers tend to be pricey and are often made in a limited edition. If you manage to snatch one on sale then you can congratulate yourself for a job well done.

Wear them with denim, flats or a plain T-shirt if they feel too much for normal day time use, see point below.

READ MORE: Style tips on dressing up your trusted basics

5. Consider Price Per Wear

This is one way to look at the price of an item. The most expensive piece becomes a bargain if you wear it a lot throughout the years.

Hello trusted black wool pencil skirt that cost an arm and a leg, but that has been worn over and over again. On the other hand the cheapest item becomes expensive if you wear it only once, or gasp, not even once.

Think also ecologically and buy only items that you will really wear. Nothing is worse to our planet than excess fashion purchases.

Impulse-buying and running after trends is a fast-track towards a polluted environment. That’s another reason to stick to this sale shopping guide.

Knowing and owning your own style is the key. Buying an expensive item will just remain an expensive item when you notice that you haven’t really worn it (and most likely never will).

6. Read The Small Print

Check the store’s exchange and return policy in advance or at least before paying. Different rules may apply during sales. The shops have the right to refuse to refund or exchange a sale item.

They can also decide whether they will refund you in cash or in store credit/gift vouchers. Online stores will have to offer a refund but during sale period it might take longer for you to get your money back.

I try to work only with stores that have a fair sale policy but rules can change so better check it out every time to avoid remorse and disappointment.

Sale Shopping DO's by Personal Shopper Jenni at I on Image
Sale Shopping DO’s by Personal Shopper Jenni at I on Image – CLICK TO SAVE ON PINTEREST

Sale Shopping DON’Ts

1. Live In A Dream

You are not Carrie Bradshaw: You cycle in the rain, you have children, you don’t have time for ironing or dry cleaning as it is. Most likely, you don’t have a fancy event every week. Or if you do, can we please hang out?

I would like to encourage you to be realistic about your purchases. As I stated earlier clever marketers have done long days to make your experience a pleasant one.

However they will not know your reality or your values, such as your storage capacity or thinking about the environment. They just want to sell, and it’s all right, but you don’t have to play the same game.

Few are the people who really need new entire outfits weekly or even monthly. Majority of my clients enjoy more having confidence in their style choices and having a clear style intention, rather than actually getting something new.

New items may look amazing, but they will not change you as a person or your reality. Do you have a habit of reward-purchasing, comfort-buying or relaxing by shopping after a tough day?

It might be a good time to learn new habits to unwind. Maybe a nice walk or a funny chic-flick will improve your mood more than a new outfit.

2. Buy Short-Lived Trends

The sad and unfortunate truth is that the trend is usually over by the time the item reaches the sales rack. In that light it makes  more sense to buy an IT-item only if the trend has your name on it.

A good time to buy is when your favorite color or style of clothing is back in fashion.

For me it means broderie anglaise in the summer, sequins in the winter and Chanel-inspired jackets and flowy skirts throughout the year. I wear these items regardless of the trends.

The good news is that when you know your style, you will save a lot of money during periods when your own style is not available (hello 2014-2016).

And when your look finally is back in your can stock up, even in sales, knowing that you will have a lot of pleasure of the items for a long time.

3. Go For Second Best

If the fit or the feel is not right or the color doesn’t flatter your features simply move on to the next item. A bargain should never make you feel mediocre, or in other words, like a bargain.

Look for sheer excitement and settle for nothing less. You deserve to look your best self every single day of the year!

4. Give Up Easily

The best sale finds are definitely worth the browse. If your size or color is sold out it’s worth checking if it’s available online elsewhere or in another store.

Take a photo of the product details to ensure that you are hunting for the right one. Use the brands own code as your search criteria. Consider if another color would look better.

It’s also worth knowing that items with faulty sizing usually end up in sale so the item doesn’t fit then perhaps it’s an idea to try one size down or up.

Once I tried two size Ms and the other one was too small and the other one was a perfect fit. When comparing the items the other M had a 3cm wider waistband. The high street has a lot of room for improvement on their sizing charts.

5. Buy It Just Because You Can

The piece should still fit, feel good, flatter your features and fit your lifestyle. I admit being guilty of buying something just because it was cheap.

But if I look back I can tell that I have rarely been happy with those purchases. Too often they stay in the closet unused and unloved. There are only so many items that one wardrobe can handle!

Avoid duplicating items in your wardrobe, unless you are aiming for a personal uniform.

During a wardrobe editing session with a client we discovered a pattern of buying too many jeans and too many tops in a same style.

She could have worn the same outfit every single day with just a few adjustments but she was craving for change.

We agreed on a temporary ban to buy those items and concentrated on adding new styles in her wardrobe instead. Now she gets the best use of the items she already owned.

This takes me conveniently back to the point 1 on the DOs part of this Sale Shopping Guide: PLAN AHEAD.

Sale Shopping DON'Ts by Personal Shopper Jenni at I on Image
Sale Shopping DON’Ts by Personal Shopper Jenni at I on Image – CLICK TO SAVE ON PINTEREST

Shop The Sales With A Personal Shopper

Enjoy your sale shopping with this handy style guide. I hope you will find many fabulous things! Let me know how it went and share this with another shopaholic.

Or would you rather go shopping with me? Read more about my personal shopping services in Amsterdam or shop with me online!

This article was originally published on 28th June 2017 and updated on 7th January 2021 with improved personal shopping advice and a better structure.

The blog about image consulting, personal styling, wardrobe advice, personal shopping and more

29 thoughts on “Sale Shopping: The Do’s and The Don’ts

  1. Magdalene says:

    I really love your tips. I have never bought an item because it’s on sale because I plan for what I need. But sometimes I use shopping to ease my stress from work but I add the items to my wishlist. So I can avoid impulse shopping. In the eventual buy when I am ready to shop, I get to select items in my wish list that I need and remove those that I don’t need. Thanks for this .

  2. I on Image says:

    That’s nice to hear Lauren! I admit being a recovering over-buyer but at least I know to keep the receipt so I can return all the fashionable mishaps xx

  3. I on Image says:

    You are welcome Esmee! So much wonderful things discounted right now. And if you can’t go to the shops, then be safe knowing that these tips apply to online shopping too xx

  4. I on Image says:

    Glad to hear that it resonated with you Didi! I have quality items in all price ranges. Of course it helps to know the materials inside out (it was part of my fashion and textile design education) but even I get surprised from time to time by something that looked ok but was actually made really bad.

  5. Didi says:

    Great tips, especially this one”Remember that more expensive doesn’t always equal better quality. “????

  6. I on Image says:

    Thank you for chiming in Lisa! Retailers don’t like my wishlist keeping but sometimes I just know that an item is going to be on sale. No point paying full price!

  7. Lisa's Notebook says:

    Planning ahead and buying classics and staples are both things I try to do. And if I’ve seen something full price that I can’t stop thinking about then you bet I’m going to grab it when it goes on sale! Great tips, Jenni, thank you! Lisa x

  8. Thephatgirlblog says:

    I loved that too. I adored the dress Carrie wore in the first movie with the giant flower. And obviously the Viven Westwood wedding dress. Lol. You’re one step ahead of me. I have yet to work with any brands :-p

  9. I on Image says:

    Yeah I wish I’d ever make $2/word! IRL it’s more like “here’s a discount code for a free delivery” & “good exposure” 😀 I loved how the show made high fashion work in “normal” life ie. outside the catwalks. SATC stylist Patricia Field is forever my hero for that x

  10. Thephatgirlblog says:

    Hahaha. That would make sense, Big being her “bank machine” I mean. I know she made $2/word which is nuts! But she never seemed to write. She didn’t cook any of her own meals, you never see he clean either…….. hmmmmm. Some of the stuff she wore was gorgeous and other things I’m just like ???????. Lol. I suppose I wasn’t meant for “high fashion”. I prefer the look of more classic useful pieces. <3

  11. Affluent Living Inc says:

    100% agreed, you make excellent, well thought out points. I liked how the article wasnt just about finding cheap bargains, but rather thinking about needs and longevity of clothes. A more sustainable approach

  12. I on Image says:

    Thank you for sharing! Yes indeed, those alleged bargains can be deceitful. Sometimes I’ve seen the item discounted before the sales (say -40%) and then during the sales the price goes up again (to say -20%). That’s why I wrote this so people would keep their cool.

  13. Unwanted Life says:

    I don’t think I’ve shopped in a sale for more than 2 decades now, especially for clothes, as I don’t no the fast fashion stuff. Most sales are trick to get you through the door or to shift old surplus stock

  14. I on Image says:

    Sorry hun, of course you are Carrie Bradshaw! Everyone else, you’re not her 😀

    Loved how they styled the series and it still has a huge influence on how I look at style. But of course it was totally unrealistic with all that crazy spending. Another theory: Big was always her sugardaddy, they just didn’t tell the viewers 🙂

  15. Thephatgirlblog says:

    I’m not Carrie Bradshaw? How could you say something so hurtful….. lol. Seriously? That girl spends $$$ like they are going out of style. I have a dream of one day having a wardrobe “full” of classic and vintage pieces. …… its a far, far, off dream. Great advice as always Jenni. xoxo

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