designer clothesA friend’s husband recently reviewed his closet and quipped that his polo shirts would last him through the rest of his life. That’s one of the realities of shopping as we get older. We don’t really need a lot of new things. But frankly, this makes shopping much more fulfilling because, if we’ve gotten clear on our style and our needs, we can go for quality. I always advocate for quality in general, but particularly if you’re planning on replacing an old favorite, try upgrading to something similar but more high-end. Generally, when you pay more you’re going to get better quality in fabric, cut, or construction.

Still, everybody – and I mean everybody – loves a bargain. If you know how to play it right you can usually get that higher quality item for a better price. And if you search for coupons for that retailer you can often get free shipping or the equivalent in discounts. Here are the secrets to quality shopping at a bargain.

When you buy something from an online website you are pretty much guaranteed to be that site’s new best friend. You’ll get daily emails with updates on the latest bargains. Also, if you find something you like on sale and put it in your shopping cart but don’t click the final button to order it you will sometimes get a reminder email. If it hasn’t been sold out, it will often be on sale.

A good salesperson can be your first alert for when one of your favorites are about to come on sale. Some retailers (Nordstrom comes to mind) have shopping assistants who will even put aside things for you that are about to go on sale.

Depending on how much time and effort you want to put into it, there are several price-tracking websites that will let you know when a particular item goes on sale. (Note: Many have come and gone out of business but the remainders are pretty solid.) Here are a few:

Outlet “collection” websites are companies that partner with design houses or retailers who want to unload excess merchandise. As with bricks and mortar outlets, some of the items are not actually regular merchandise on sale but cheaper stuff manufactured specifically for these websites. Still, if you have patience and know what you’re looking for you can find some real quality bargains.  Many sites offer free shipping both ways with a minimum purchase.

Here’s my somewhat long “short list” of some of the best online outlet sites. Zappo’s answer to department store outlets. Some real finds here, including an epic amount of jeans.

Barney’s Warehouse: $20 to $200 and up, always interesting and stylish.

Bluefly: carries items from over 40 designers but unless you want pre-owned handbags, you won’t find Chanel…sigh (anyone out there know of a Chanel outlet?)

Century 21: From designer to schlock

Gilt: the granddaddy of the genre: from very high end to affordable

Hautelook: Online version of Nordstrom’s Rack – mixed quality

Ideel: Limited time sales of designer (or overstock) items

Last call: Neiman’s own: requires some patience sorting through it all but still…

Lyst: Has a sale page that re-directs you to several other sites.

My Habit: Amazon’s discount warehouse. Some things they’re practically giving away, (and you can tell why) and are some higher end.

Ruelala: limited amounts, name brands/designers, high quality.

Saks: a little less pain inducing than Neiman’s site, but still a lot of good stuff.

The Outnet: (my personal downfall) heavily discounted designer and in-house brand. This is net-a-porter’s discount wing.

Yoox: Yikes! As “bad” as the Outnet. Somebody hide my wallet. (I love that they show available sizes right on the page.)

There are also online outlets for specific labels, like Coach, Tommy Hilfiger and J. Crew. Search on the name of your favorite design house plus “outlet” and shop away.

Such a deal!

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