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Shopping Tips from the D.C. Goodwill Fashionista

Nancy Trejos

Now that I'm on a budget, I can't shop like I used to. I have to admit that I did buy a couple of dresses that I found on sale or had coupons for (only with cash, not a credit card.) The bulk of what I'm wearing this summer, though, is clothing I have worn for the last few summers.

But Ylan and I came across the DC Goodwill Fashionista's blog. Em Hall, as some people know her, has turned bargain hunting into an art. She often writes about it on her blog. So now that summer is here, and you might be searching for a cute new sundress, I asked her to be our guest blogger today. Here's what she had to say:

One might be inclined to think that because summer fashions have much less fabric than their autumn and winter counterparts, they would cost less. The DCGF, however, knows this is not the case. But fear not, frugal fashionistas – because I’ve put together a fool-proof plan to keep you looking great this summer--on a budget.

I like to think of summer shopping in terms of other summer activities: head outside and hit locations that are only available seasonally. Sidewalk sales, garage sales, and open-air markets are a great place to scoop up inexpensive goodies like jewelry, scarves, handbags (stay away from the knock-offs, please!), and sunglasses. You can often bargain for an even better deal. Buying in multiples also helps.

Next, you need to cover your basics: sundresses, tank tops, and skirts. Certainly one has to take work dress codes into consideration, but there’s nothing better than trading out those black pants and that button-down shirt for a floral frock.

Obviously, my favorite place to scope out a bargain is at Goodwill. But here are a couple of insider tips. First, you’ll find the best selection on a Monday evening or Tuesday daytime. That’s when all of the fresh merchandise that was donated over the weekend is hitting the floor. Second, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer variety of merchandise, go in with a somewhat specific purchase in mind.

With the economy being what it is right now, deep discounts are everywhere. If you’re in a mass retailer like Macy’s, always use those price scanners to check and see if the price of an item is actually lower than what’s shown on the tag. They’re so busy discounting shorts, maxi dresses, and tissue tees that they often don’t denote the most recent mark-down on the tag!

Even upscale retailers like Cusp and Barney’s are slashing prices. The magic number is 60 percent, because that’s the point at which most clothing is being sold “at cost,” or for the same amount the retailer paid wholesale for the item. So if you’re on the fence about a particular item, and it’s already marked down 60 percent or more, chances are that’s the lowest price before it gets sent off to an outlet store. If it’s still at 30 or 40 percent, ask the sales associate about the next round of markdowns. Fall merchandise will be hitting stores in about six weeks, so they have to make room.

Even small boutiques will often give you an extra discount if you just ask for it. Is that multi-hued cotton gauze skirt calling your name? Make them an offer they can’t refuse! Requesting an additional 10 to 20 percent off an item is usually reasonable.

Between the outdoor markets, the yard sales, the discounts, and some strategic shopping at Goodwill or your favorite resale store, putting together a summer wardrobe in a budget is really a breeze. Stay cool!

By Nancy Trejos  |  June 25, 2009; 7:02 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Nancy Trejos  
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I am wearing a dress to a wedding this week-end that I purchased at a DC Goodwill store !! I know there will be's already happened :)
And garage sales are another great source as long as the seller realizes it's a garage sale and not Nordstoms !! This a good article to remind us of some helpful shopping tips.

Posted by: marlie19711 | June 25, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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