Sale Shopping Guide: The Dos and The Don’ts
This sale shopping guide will help you buy the right things in seasonal sales. Study carefully the DOs and the DON’Ts of sale shopping before hitting the shops. This way you will avoid unnecessary shopping stress, that dreaded buyer’s remorse and stop second-guessing your purchases. Gain better style and spend less money. This guide is compiled by very own Amsterdam based personal shopper and stylist Jenni at I on Image.
Right now the shops are full of bargains but sadly some of those bargains can be deceitful. Sometimes there is a reason why an item ended up in sale. And sometimes the item should have never been made in the first place… But it’s entirely possible to find the item of your dreams with a slashed price tag. Just have a little patience and learn my personal shopping secrets in this comprehensive sale shopping guide.
To help you navigate through the racks full of heavily discounted items (some hardly looked good on the model) I have written this list of the DOs and the DON’Ts of sale shopping. You too can learn the insider tricks of the industry and start shopping the sales effortlessly like a real fashion pro.
DISCLAIMER: All my shopping advice apply also if you are shopping the sales online.
Sale Shopping DO’s
1. Plan Your Sale Shopping 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 clothes 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 generally impulse-shop but also because I am too busy shopping with my clients and end up forgetting myself in the process. You wouldn’t believe how many times this has happened!
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 too late).
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 In Seasonal Sales
These pieces are the foundation of your wardrobe and need to be replaced quite often regardless of their price. For this reason only there is no point paying a full price when you can get a full closet update with a nice 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, especially the light color ones. 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 disheveled in shirts and tops. Yellowed whites remain a no-no so replace those regularly or stock up in advance. If you find a great basic top, I recommend buying two or even three of the same style because they will get used over and over again.
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. During busy work weeks it’s a life saver to have your Mon-Fri style in check. Being organized will help you put your best foot forward at the office but also when navigating workwear fashion for working from home days.
3. Buy Amazing Classics With A Nice Discount
Beautiful and elegant pieces will give you joy of dressing up for years to come and these timeless items will be the corner stones of your signature style. There are so many lists out there for The Ultimate Wardrobe Classics that everyone needs to own, but remember that you are free to define and choose your own style essentials.
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. For me the classics are: Quality knitwear, great coats, denim and fabulous everyday dresses. In the accessories front you can’t go wrong with nice work bags, gorgeous pumps and flattering sunglasses.
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 and looks 100% like you.
4. Buy Items With WOW-Factor For The Fraction Of Their Original Price
The show ponies of your wardrobe are the items that take your personal style to the next level. These come at the advanced stage of style after you have mapped and mastered your perfect basics & classics (see the points above).
These fashionable 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. These trophy jackets, statement shirts and once-in-a-lifetime dresses are rare gems. Buy now, wear forever. Style them down with denim, flats or a plain T-shirt if they feel too much for normal day time use, see point below.
With something truly amazing you can always elevate your style from basic to fabulous. I am always making a strong case for dressing up to the nines, so why don’t you just go for it? Perhaps you’d like to impress someone, or do it just because you can. There’s been a lot of talk about dopamine dressing, and while it has typically been linked to bright colors, you can easily interpret it to mean also any feel-good statement piece that puts you on a good mood.
5. Consider Price Per Wear
This is one way to look at the real price of an item of clothing. The most expensive piece becomes a bargain if you wear it a lot throughout the years. Hello, my trusted Moschino 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. 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).
Think also ecologically and buy only items that you will really wear. Nothing is worse to our planet than excess and unnecessary fashion purchases. Impulse-buying and running after trends is a fast-track towards a polluted environment. That’s another solid reason to stick to this sale shopping guide.
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. They might not credit you the delivery costs and you might have to pay for the return yourself.
I try to work only with stores that have a fair sale policy but rules can change any day so better check it out every time to avoid buyer’s remorse and disappointment.
Sale Shopping DON’Ts
1. Live In A Dream
You are not Carrie Bradshaw: You cycle in the rain, you have messy 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, such as your storage capacity, or your personal values, such as 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 for each occasion.
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? I must raise my hand here because I do it too. So do not feel embarrassed about it, just evolve to be more conscious about your habits.
This might also be a good time to learn new habits to unwind. Maybe a nice walk, delicious meal or a funny chic-flick will improve your mood more than a new outfit? Who knows, all you need to do is to try it out once in a while!
2. Buy Short-Lived Trends In Seasonal Sales
The sad and unfortunate truth is that the trend is usually over by the time the item reaches the sales rack, sometimes this happens even before it hits the shop for it’s normal price. 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 pleated 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. Maybe I’m getting old but a lot of the fashion out there does not excite me as much as it used to. Then I just don’t buy and save my money for something better. 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 Even If It’s On Sale
If the fit or the feel of the material is not right, or the color doesn’t flatter your features, then 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 In Sales
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 but you might be able to profit from those miserable sizing errors.
5. Buy It Just Because You Can In Sales
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 for a long time (if not at all!) with those purchases.
Too often they stay in the closet unworn and unloved. There are only so many items that one wardrobe can handle! Avoid duplicating too many items in your wardrobe, unless you are aiming for a personal uniform. In that case, go ahead and bulk buy those black sweaters and denim.
During a wardrobe editing session with one 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.
Shop The Sales With A Personal Shopper
Enjoy your sale shopping with this handy buyer’s guide. I hope you will find many fabulous things! Let me know how it went and share this post with another shopaholic.
Go shopping with a Personal Stylist! Read more about my personal shopping services in Amsterdam or shop with me online! Hiring a professional Personal Shopper is such a time and money saver + It’s a lot of fun, I promise!
This article was originally published on 28th June 2017 and updated on 24th May 2023
29 thoughts on “Sale Shopping Guide: The Dos and The Don’ts”
That’s a great way to manage your shopping Magdalene! Thank you for your inspiring comment xxx
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 .
There’s always a way 🙂
That’s a good idea!
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
Such a useful post! I am usually pretty good when it comes to sales and really thinking, will I wear this, do I actually want this x
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
thank you for these tips!! loveee that you pointed them out, especially since there is a lot of sale going on right now
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.
Great tips, especially this one”Remember that more expensive doesn’t always equal better quality. “????
Always happy to help Shana! Great idea to pin this for later too. Enjoy your weekend xx
Awesome post, thanks for sharing. Have this pinned as a reference before I go shopping again.
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!
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
Well, it’s been slim pickings so far!
Yeah… That’ll be a NO from me too!
I get the “would you review my book?”, theres no pay and you have to buy it. Lol….. ummm no
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
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
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
Hahaha, who hasn’t Marie? But we live and learn!
Thank you so much for your nice feedback!
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
Really good reminders! I think I’ve every “don’t” on this list! Ha
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.
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
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 🙂
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