Save Money and Look Great Part 2: Department Store Shopping

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Striped blazer: similar here| Patterned top: similar here| Ruffle, tiered skirt: similar here| Sunglasses: Tory Burch cheaper here and similar and much cheaper here| Shoes: Madden Girls Digitize here (so comfortable)| Bag: Hermès Ostrich Kelly Sellier 32 here and cheaper here and wayyyyyy cheaper here| Watch: Anne Klein similar here| Scarf: Fur mink – mine is real, but similar faux option here

I think my mom ruined me in a good way, if that’s even possible. I remember when I was a pre-teen and teenager, we would go shopping every single Saturday. The stores we frequented were Gimbels, A&S, which later became Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. I spent about half the Saturdays of my teen years in these stores.

That wasn’t even the bad part. Shopping at any store besides these was an unspoken, forbidden thing. Mentioning that I had been to a store such as K-Mart garnered belly-holding, guttural laughs from both her and my sister. I quickly learned not to venture outside of department store shopping. I did, however, have a brief stint of thrifting while I was in college. My roommate/suitemates and I would go to The Salvation Army to get clothing. When my mom saw me in them, she almost had multiple coronaries.

After our son was born, as a mom, I had to learn how to shop on my own. I knew that I had to find good deals on kids’ clothing, so I would frequent Gap, Old Navy, Children’s Place, and other stores. We were always able to find such great deals at these stores. What I ended up doing was buying what he would need for the next year. This helped us to buy his clothes at unbeatable prices because we bought them when they were on sale as opposed to when we needed them.

My husband and I have successfully used this same strategy over the years. We both agree with buying quality items at a reasonable price and not having to replace things over and over…and over again. That’s why when I saw the phrase “cost per wear,” a lot of things made more sense to me. Now I understood why my mom would give me such a hard time about shopping at discount stores. Apparently, she had learned the hard way that “cost per item” was not the way to go.

So if you’re wondering what all this even means, I’ll be happy to explain. This post is the second in the series of how to look great without spending a lot of money. In the original post (here), I wrote about the reality that not everyone has a lot of money to go shopping every day. I also wrote that you can revamp the same outfit by just changing accessories, etc. In this post, I want to write a bit about department store shopping.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday morning. I informed her that I was going to Macy’s and Pier 1 to figure out new bedding. She commented that she hadn’t been to Macy’s in a long while, and the main reason was that she didn’t want to spend a lot of money. What was interesting is that she then went on to say that she had been buying “cheaper” clothing because she thought she was saving money, but she realized that the “cheaper” items were falling apart, she was replacing them too often, and then was surprised that she wasn’t actually saving money. It was at that moment that I knew I had to rush home and finish writing this post.

Here are four of many reasons why you should consider shopping at a department store:

  1.  Department store shopping is probably the cheaper..ahem…less expensive way to buy clothing…and I know I’m going to get in trouble with people that frequent the thrift stores. Let me put it a different way. Shopping at a department store miiiiight cost more upfront, but if your item lasts for many years, then how expensive was that item? Most times I can find t-shirts for my son that cost between $2-$5, dress shirts for the hubs that are $15 or less, and shoes for me for $10 or less. BOGO at Macy’s?! Yes! Look here to read about it.
  2. Department stores stand behind their products. Did you know that some department stores will take back merchandise even after a year? A WHOLE YEAR! Sometimes even past a year. Yes, you can wear those shoes for a few months, and if for some reason, they start to fall apart, you can take them back. You won’t need a box, and in some cases, you won’t even need a receipt. I have two examples of this that I’d like to share. The first one is a coffee pot that I used for a few months and was able to bring back to the store. The other is a bedding set that I bought in a twin size and when I needed a full size, they allowed me to trade for the size I needed. I’ve never been able to do that at a thrift store. I am not proposing that you return random items for sport, but if there is an issue with something you bought from a department store, they will do whatever it takes to satisfy you as their customer.
  3. The quality at department stores are superior to discount/thrift stores. Of course, I know that people find great brands at thrift stores, but that doesn’t happen all the time. When that happens, it doesn’t always have a tag on it. If you do find something at the thrift store that is of high quality, and if there is a problem with it, you don’t have much of a recourse to returning or exchanging it. After buying clothes at many different types of stores, the quality I get at the department store is not one I’m willing to sacrifice. Even if I will buy less expensive clothing for my husband and me, I will not do so for my son. He is ALL boy. He needs strong, durable clothing. I can’t take the chance of getting him clothes with no return/refund policy in case something goes wrong. Again, I know that I might not get popularity votes on this blog post.
  4. If you love using coupons, you should love department stores. One of my favorite things to do is to bargain shop and use coupons. I do that more at malls than at the supermarket. Before I go any further, I must clarify something under this point. When I say that department store shopping is the way to go, I must let you know that I mean for you to find sale items at these stores. I never, ever buy anything full price (except certain handbags that NEVER go on sale but increase in price every year). I have found some of the best prices on shoes and clothing at some of the most “expensive” department stores. I used quotes on the word expensive because that’s the word people use. That is not the word I would use because I don’t think department stores are expensive. Many times when we buy clothes, we find rock bottom prices, and then we are allowed to use a coupon on top of that. A few months ago, we bought my hubby six pairs of jeans and spent $40.  That made them less than $7 each! They were originally $80 jeans. First, you might be wondering why we bought six pairs. We did that because as a couponer, I learned to stockpile on good deals. He doesn’t wear them all at once, and he’s not growing anymore, so buying them at that price will save us money over time. The other reason we bought six was because we had a coupon that took $10 off a $25 purchase, so we used that coupon twice. I don’t think I’ve ever found brand-new men’s jeans at a thrift store…and I don’t think I ever used a coupon at a thrift store. Another quick example of this is a really “expensive” toaster I just bought this past weekend. It was on clearance with an additional 50% off. I paid $20 for it.

In taking a look at my outfits, I try to look put-together. I do not spend my days shopping (I do that at night hehe). I really am a deliberate shopper. I usually only go shopping if I am specifically looking for something, and even before I get to that point, I check and recheck prices everywhere. Occasionally I do go browsing with a friend and end up coming home with something cute, but that really isn’t the norm. I do find that we spend less money on clothes because when we buy clothes, we’re not having to replace them. I do shop at Ross, Marshall’s, TJ MAXX, and stores like those, but for the most part, I shop at department stores. I especially like to buy my handbags and shoes at the department store, but I will buy some shoes at some of the stores listed just above. My handbags only come from boutiques and department stores.

In trying to stay a tad bit trendy, I opted to wear the mink fur scarf the day I took these pictures. This was a gift to me from my hubby (along with a matching hat that cannot fit my head over my natural hair), but definitely opt for the faux fur option as the weather starts to get cooler. I also liked pairing the stripes with a patterned shell shirt underneath. I thought it would be more fun than a plain shirt, and I was right haha. And as I wrote in the last blog post, I am wearing the same skirt, but styling it a different way. I just love versatile pieces that can be worn different ways and with different accessories.

So after I wrote all this, you might still be thinking that not spending a lot on clothes and accessories and  shopping at department stores are completely juxtaposed to one another. I promise you that they aren’t. I am in no way asking you to give up thrifting because you can definitely snag great deals that way. I especially love visiting a thrift store when I’m out of town or in an upscale area. I do know that I have had much better success with shopping at larger stores, and the purpose of these last few blog posts is to show you how you can look as though you spent a ton of money without actually spending much at all. The first point I brought out a few days ago was styling the same clothes in different ways, and I believe that shopping at department stores is another way you can accomplish this.

I’d love to know your thoughts about department or thrift store shopping.

XOXO Delaine

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