Be a fashion fiend on a budget
Dolly Parton once said, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap." But what about doing it the other way around?
Secrets of the trade
Finding the best deals at department and chain stores sometimes requires paying close attention to the last numbers on the price tags. According to Consumerist.com, the snarky website for savvy buyers, if the last number on any Target price tag ends with a four, it’s the final markdown and won’t get any cheaper. The same theory applies at the Gap with the number seven. (Gadget junkies, take note: Office Depot’s magic number is five, Radio Shack’s is seven.) Additionally, Gap’s markdowns happen on Wednesdays (on a recent visit, we found a gray, chunky cardigan sweater marked down to $12.97), so that’s the best day to skip lunch and do a little shopping.
According to local stylist Julie Watson, the holiday shopping season wasn’t a runaway success for retailers, so expect the deals to continue through February. Barneys and Nordstrom usually offer a designer discount range of 40 to 70 percent that should last through the first couple of weeks of the month, plus we could see deeper and earlier markdowns as we head into spring. Watson says she recently scored a Chloé jacket at Saks Fifth Avenue for $498 that was originally $1,660. But the key to scooping up the deals is to act fast. “When these sales do end, items are taken off the floor and transferred out of the store,” Watson says.
Always low prices. Always.
Some items are so cheap, they rarely need to go on sale. Steve and Barry’s (locations in Riverside, Chicago Ridge, Lombard, Mount Prospect) has received a lot of press over the last year, thanks to stars like Sarah Jessica Parker and Amanda Bynes designing lines for the mall retailer. While the clothes—all under $20—have been popular, the accessories are also a steal. Standouts in SJP’s Bitten line include a jacquard chain-handle wristlet, fabric headbands, a gold chain-mail purse and double-buckle belt, while Byne’s line, dear, features a white patent-leather bag, plastic bracelets and a gold-colored bangle clutch—all priced at $9.
Filene’s Basement (1 N State St, 312-553-1055; 830 N Michigan Ave, 312-482-8918) is an easy answer when it comes to finding Seven jeans on the cheap, but don’t skip the other departments in the store, especially tights and stockings. We found Calvin Klein knee-highs (originally $9) for $4 and Anne Klein socks (originally $15) for $6. And just about any dollar store in the city sells socks for, you guessed it, a dollar.
Local secondhand stores, such as pistol bazaar (1717 W Chicago Ave, 312-929-2350), are another good resource for hard-to-find designer (and imposter) looks. Owners Lana McAllister and Michelle deLeon hand-pick the inventory, which is best described as “hipster sexy.” The shop has special theme sales on Wednesdays, when certain vintage items are marked 25 percent off. For example, on Wednesday 6, all vintage items with pockets—including leather pants ($54)—are on sale. Other themes planned for the month include anything green and anything Samantha Fox would wear.
’Net a deal
Shopping online makes finding deals a hell of a lot easier, but the extra shipping costs can sometimes take away from the satisfaction of a great price. As anyone who’s ever made an Internet purchase knows, the checkout pages of most online stores have a field for coupons and promotion codes. Having them handy when you make the purchase, though, is a whole other story. Thankfully, RetailMeNot.com keeps track of available codes, so you should never have to pay full price again. When we visited the site, we saw codes worth 20 percent off at American Eagle and Banana Republic.
Can’t find a promotion code for your favorite online store? You can still get some money back even after you make your purchases. Ebates.com is an online shopping club that offers rebates on the stuff you buy if you shop through the site. It’s partnered with more than 800 stores (including Bloomingdale’s, Free People and Guess) and it promises up to 25 percent of your money back.
Foot the bill
We all know that websites like Piperlime.com and Zappos.com offer great deals on kicks (the site’s recent tag sale included Roxy canvas slip-ons for $17, with free shipping). You’ll also find low prices on shoes on the sale shelves at Akira (122 S State St, 312-346-3034). But with inexpensively made shoes often comes broken heels. Thankfully, Beehive Shoe Works (35 N Wells St, 312-263-4888) will not only repair a worn-down pair of heels for around $12 but it’ll also shine them for free if you ask.
Beauty is skin cheap
Sure, you look like a million bucks in your thrift-store designer finds, but the deals shouldn’t end with your clothes. Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars to get your teeth whitened, just visit the corner drugstore for Ultrabrite All in One Advanced Whitening paste ($2). In a recent study, Consumer Reports named the stuff the best over-the-counter whitening paste on the market. As for makeup on the cheap, head to The Cosmetics Company Store (1650 Premium Outlets Boulevard, suite 1159, Aurora, 630-236-8639). There, you’ll find discounted goods courtesy of Estée Lauder’s leftovers (from all of the company’s brands, including MAC and Clinique).
For hair services, you can always find a deal by visiting the students at the Aveda Institute ($14–$50, 2828 N Clark St, 773-883-1560), but nothing beats a trim at a top-notch salon for free. Point your Web browser to SalonApprentice.com, a site that matches new stylists with volunteers for free haircuts and color. And even though it isn’t exactly a steal, Halo for Men (21 W Elm St, 312-642-4256) does have a decent package, the Man ($44), which includes a shampoo, cut and style, along with a scalp massage, paraffin hand wax, hot-towel treatment and free touch-up two weeks after the cut. When you consider most posh salons charge around $50 for a trim alone, the Man is definitely the deal.