Thursday, January 22


I am The Naked Co-Ed. In real life, this translates to really cheap but reasonably well-dressed student. I hope. Also, emphasis on reasonably. So it's about time I put my ultimate, secret guide to bargain shopping in writing. And I'm going to start us off with the super secret takeaway of this whole post: shop often, but rarely buy.

So we can end the guide right there! But you may be thinking, what does that mean, dude?

An easy outfit for cheapsies, with neutrals for even easier mixing and matching. Thrifted Club Monaco sweater, $2, thrifted Lacoste long-sleeved tee, $2, light-wash boyfriend jeans, H&M, $20, Target suede booties, $14.

Let me lay it out for you like this. Bargain shopping is a militant state of mind, not a leisurely activity. Well, it will become a leisurely activity if you ingrain the principles into your daily routine. This sounds very communist. Except for the whole commercialism/materialism part. Shopping often means you need to always be on the lookout for a good deal. But buying rarely means you only buy something when it is a good deal, or really worth the splurge.

In addition to this motto is selection. Do not be selective with your shopping venues. Go for the widest breadth possible and hit up every store you could possibly fathom.

Case and point (also don't be scared of my warped-mirror face on the right). Blanket scarf from eBay, $12, thrifted GAP jeans, $4, thrifted J. Crew button-up, $3.

You could do this:

"Regular-priced:" I would guess most girls shop at Nastygal, Forever21, H&M maybe Urban Outfitters.

Higher-priced: here is where we get more designer-y with Shopbop, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor and lifestyle-aspiration-shillers Anthropologie and Free People. Some of you might like LF.

Highest-end: Designer boutiques, like Chanel, Prada, Saint Laurent, and designer department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Maybe Intermix for you urban ladies.

Vintage: you'll probably log onto Etsy once in a while to find the perfect concert/festival statement piece.

Free People vs. Hollister/AEO/Charlotte Russe
For the forever-at-Coachella gal, the aspirational outfit might be grounded by a Free People dress, but stores such as Hollister and Charlotte Russe sell the exact same aesthetic.
Free People short gold dress $148 / Charlotte Russe long sleeve romper $29 / Hollister Sweater $14 / Hollister Top $14

But this is the better selection, in my opinion:

Regular-priced: keep Forever21 and H&M, but swap Nastygal for, Charlotte Russe, and Asos (sale section mostly). For more "regular-priced" stuff, frequently peruse discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Nordstrom Rack. Swap Urban Outfitters and Free People for Hollister and American Eagle Outfitters (seriously, guys, they sell so much of the same stuff). Also, if you lean preppy, consider Old Navy. The quality is good and the styles are simple, if trendy. Additionally, always check out Kohls, Macy's, JC Penney and Sears for trendy items. Edit: AND TARGET (thanks, Caitlin)!

Higher-priced: shop the sales at Shopbop and Nordstrom, only. And please, I beg you, consider GAP. The quality is great, and things frequently go on sale for an extra 40-60% off. The recent seasons look so much like the minimalist/luxe trend you see from top designers (think Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang, etc.). And the jeans are incredible. It's hands-down my favorite store. By a million! And I am not even getting paid to say that!

Highest-end: for highest-end items, keep a secret Pinterest folder wishlist and check back every few days to see if the prices go down; additionally, make trips to outlet malls for those one-of-a-kind pieces you have to dig for. Consider consignment shops (see below). If you need to splurge, limit it to one of these items and make sure it's timeless: coat, boots, work heels, or handbag. These items are super functional so I understand wanting a fancier one, especially if the quality is supreme!

Vintage: get up and go to a thrift store. Or three. The more the merrier. For curated vintage, consignment shops are great, too. Online consignment shops are incredible--The Real Real is my jam. Don't rely on Etsy to give you the best price. That girl in Williamsburg who wakes up at 2PM, visits her parents upstate, leaves to peruse the thrift store, and resells her "finds" on Etsy for $75 is conning you, by the way. If you're advanced, keep an eBay watch list and dig around for items there, too; it takes patience but can be worth the wait.

Super Trendy for Less

For the super-trendy shopper, here is an outfit that plays off of more expensive blanket scarves, cableknit sweaters, destroyed jeans, and Chelsea booties.
Old Navy long sleeve sweater $20 / Gap blue jeans $42 / American Eagle Outfitters black booties $50 / Aerie blanket scarf $30 (Remember that all of these items are under promotion with an extra % off)!

My recommendations for specific shopping venues:

For retail stores: when you get there, just go straight to the sale rack. Seriously. Because the quality isn't the best, the items may not last as long, and the sale will be appropriately priced for that mitigation.

For websites: Look really often. I mean almost every day. And make sure you check to see if there are extra coupons for your purchase. It's pretty simple here.

For discount stores: look high and low, and go to places you wouldn't suspect such as Ross Stores and Burlington Coat Factory. I found spotless Superga sneakers at a Ross Store for $1.50. I kid you not. I've found Marc Jacobs and Haute Hippie for cheap at Burlington Coat Factory. You never know until you look. Patience is key in these stores, though, as you will be sifting through racks on racks on racks.

For higher-end stores: pay attention to seasonal sales. Make sure you do at least some price-comparison between stores. See a cute bag from Marc Jacobs? Compare it with prices at each fancy department store, and the boutiques. Be diligent, yo! This is key.

For outlets: do not fall into the made-for-outlet trap. If you frequently check out designer collections online or in stores, when you get to the outlet, you will be able to spot items as Mainline. Please do your research! About 70% of items in outlet stores are made for outlet, or "MFO." Outlets are best for digging, like thrift stores. I highly recommend forgoing Woodbury Commons for Jersey Gardens if you are in the NYC area and interested in outlet shopping. Jersey Gardens has a Victoria's Secret outlet where I got 5 bralettes for $10. Just saying. Also, it has Lord & Taylor, Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Century 21 outlets, where the Mainline items are higher in quantity!

The famous $1.50 Superga sneakers from Ross Stores, plus $2 thrifted Boucheron trays for a fancy bathroom.

And always remember:

Raid your family members' closets. Raid your own closet! DIY something. Sell your infrequently worn clothes to make up for a new purchase. Try to buy classic pieces whenever you can. Don't be snobby; great finds lurk in even the strangest of stores. Have fun with it all.

Super-borrowed from the boys. My dad's old Rolling Stones tee and my ex-boyfriend's jeans made into cutoffs. Free!

You might be thinking, where are the outlet sites? Or maybe, hey, I get email discounts! True. I have not included everything you need to know above. But that's because it is nearly impossible to track down every bargain. Cover all your bases, keep your eyes peeled, and Happy Shopping.


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