What to Look for When Shopping for Wardrobe Basics

With so many clearance sales going on right now, you can find some amazing deals on basic staples for your wardrobe.

When buying wardrobe basics it is important to select quality-made clothing so that it will be able to withstand frequent wear and cleaning.

If you are not sure how to pick out a quality-made garment, we listed 3 of the most important qualities you will want to check before you make a purchase:

  • Color Saturation: If you are buying a dark color such as black, make sure it is a “true” black and doesn’t have a faded look to it. The lighting in some stores doesn’t accurately portray the color. If you can, take the skirt to the window and see how it looks in the sunlight. You may also want to compare it to another piece of clothing that is black to see how the colors against each other
  • Fabric Quality: You can tell just by touching the fabric if it feels thin or cheap. Also, check the label of the garment to see the fabrics used (it is also a good idea to check the washing instructions)
  • Workmanship: Check all of the stitching on the garment (especially the hem) to make sure the stitches are uniform and secure. Take extra care to inspect the thread to make sure it isn’t fraying. If your garment has a zipper, be sure to test it to make sure it slides up and down smoothly

If are not confident you can pick out a good fabric or workmanship, try going into a high-end store to look at the quality-made clothing they offer. You can even try on different items to see how they fit. You don’t have to buy anything, but with all the amazing sales going on right now, who knows, you might get lucky and find a great bargain on something that you normally could not afford.

Not sure what basics you need in your wardrobe? We have a list of 11 Basic Items Everyone Needs in their Closet

Why you Should Always Check the Return Policy

For some reason I have stopped checking return policies, I mean, aren’t they all pretty much the same (each gives you a specified number of days to return the item if you are not satisfied) — or so I thought.

I order so much online and last week while I was placing an order on a popular website (a website that I have ordered from in the past) – I discovered something very disturbing about their return policy, so I wanted to share this experience will all of you.

So, I just started using a new skincare line through a discovery kit I purchased. Since I liked the items so much, I decided to buy the full sizes. While placing my order, I started to get a little concerned because of the amount of money I was going to spend on the new products — and what if I didn’t like them once I got the full sizes. So something told me that before spending the money, that I should check the return policy — just to see how I would return the items if I needed to.

Now, as I said, I have ordered from this website in the past, all items I already used, so I never even thought to check the return policy.

After reading the return policy, I was absolutely shocked — this particular website only takes returns if the item has not been opened (or used). I thought that I must not be reading the policy correctly, so I called the company to inquire — and sure enough I read it right.

Needless to say, I did not place an order. I know that if I order anything from that website, I will only order items that I already use and have no intention of returning.

If I had ordered those products and didn’t like them, I would have been out over $100 — too big of a risk for me. From now on, I will always check the return policy before I place an order (even if I have already ordered from them in the past).

Shopping the Sale: How to Get the Most for your Money

When shopping a sale, it can be very tempting to spend more than you can afford. Here are some easy ways that have helped me so that I don’t end up with the dreaded ‘buyers remorse’ and the hassle of returning items that were out of my budget and bought on impulse:

  • Make a list of items you ‘Need:’ Using a list can help you decide which items you need to buy right now and which can wait for another time. When you stick with a list, it will keep you from making emotional purchases and spending more than you can afford.
  • Make a budget: Before you buy anything, make a budget so that you know how much money you have available to spend. Be sure to track all of the purchases you make to be sure you are on budget and not overspending.
  • Don’t buy anything without comparison shopping: Be sure to check 2 or 3 websites and even do a Google search for the item you want to purchase. With so many sales going on, you can often find a item cheaper if you just take a little time to comparison shop.
  • Always use coupons: It will only take a few seconds to do a Google search for coupons – and with so many stores offering coupons, it really pays to take the time. Also, be sure to sign up for your favorite store’s email list – I have found a number of them send coupons that you can use at the store or online.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to purchase: There will always be a sale somewhere, so don’t feel pressured to buy everything right now.

The Outlet Mall is a great place to find bargains – if you are planning to shop the outlets, be sure to read my article How to Save Money at the Outlets for tips on finding Sales Info and Coupons to use at the outlet mall.

Find more Shopping Tips & Resources »

How to Protect Yourself When Ordering Online

More and more people are doing their shopping online these days. I know I purchase more than I ever have on the Internet. Unfortunately, not all of my experiences have been positive.

Based on my past experiences, here are a few things that I have learned to check before making an online purchase:

Shipping Charge: before you spend your time finding products on a particular website, find out how much they charge for shipping. I don’t know how many times I have spent an hour or so researching and adding products to my cart only to find out the shipping charges are too high for my budget.

Return Policy: be sure to read the return policy before making a purchase. The first thing I check is the number of return days and the procedure for returning the item(s).

If the merchant has a store, see what their policy is about making returns to the store (instead of paying to return the item by mail).

You will also want to check to see if they offer free shipping on returns and if they refund the shipping charge you paid to get the item.

Warranty: if you are buying electronics or a pricey item, be sure the website is an “authorized” dealer for that particular product/manufacturer.

Be sure to read over the warranty terms and look for exclusions and limitations. Also, review the procedure for sending the item in to be repaired – some places will actually charge you shipping or repair charges.

Contact Information: check to see if the website has a customer service number or email address where you can contact them with any issues.

If you aren’t familiar with the company, you should try to call the number before ordering, just to see if it is a legitimate number and someone answers.

Security & Privacy: before entering your credit card or personal information, it is important to do 2 things:

  • check the website’s terms of use and privacy policy to see how your information will be used
  • be sure the site is using a secure server and you see the “https” in the address bar. If you aren’t sure what https is, you can find more information on https at wikipedia.org

Do a Google Search and/or Check with the BBB: if you are not familiar with the company or merchant, you can always do a Google search to find out if they have a good reputation. You can also check the BBB website to see if there have been any complaints filed against them.

Search for Coupons: I have a rule that I will not make a purchase online without a coupon. Almost every company offers some sort of coupon for a percent off or at least free shipping. If you don’t have a coupon, they are easy to find by doing a Google search.

The Federal Trade Commission has two articles that I found very informative:

Basic Wardrobe Staples for Work

When building a work wardrobe it is important to buy wardrobe basics or key pieces that can be worn with a variety of items you already own.

In order for an item to be considered a key piece, it must be classically styled, neutral in color, with little embellishment or design accents so that it can match various items you already own.

Here are four classic wardrobe essentials that we have found will work for every wardrobe (and will not go out of style):

Tailored Suit
Everyone needs at least one basic suit in their wardrobe. I recommend buying a classic black suit that has 3 pieces: blazer, trousers, and skirt (find tips for purchasing a tailored suit)

You can separate the suit and wear each item with other pieces you already have in your wardrobe or pair the blazer with either the trousers or skirt, depending on what look you are trying to achieve.

Classic Button-Down Shirt
A button-down shirt can be worn with so many different pieces you already have in your wardrobe. You can go casual by pairing it with jeans or get a professional look by wearing it with your suit

If you purchase a wrinkle-resistant shirt, you won’t have to worry about ironing it every time you want to wear it (find tips for purchasing a classic blouse).

Cardigan Sweater
The cardigan sweater is the perfect layering piece. Your cardigan will look great with a pair of jeans, pencil skirt, or dress pants. If you buy a cardigan in a neutral color, you can layer it over just about anything you own.

Boot-Cut Jeans
A pair of jeans can be dressed up or down and can be worn with so many different shirts, blouses, and sweaters that you already have in your wardrobe.

I would recommend a dark-wash jean since it is easier to dress up than a light wash or faded jean (find tips for purchasing boot-cut jeans).

How to Wear Wardrobe Basics
The basic wardrobe pieces listed above can be mixed and matched together to create a variety of different looks. Using just the key pieces listed above, we have listed 5 different outfits and options for how you can wear the pieces together.

You can also pair any of the pieces with items you already have in your wardrobe for endless possibilities and many different outfits.

Option #1: Blazer, Skirt, Classic Button-Down Shirt

  • perfect for an interview or important business meeting

Option #2: Blazer, Trousers, Classic Button-Down Shirt

  • great for an interview or business meeting or to wear to work

Option #3: Trousers and Button-Down Shirt

  • a professional look that is perfect for a day at the office
  • wear to an important business lunch or meeting
  • adding the cardigan sweater creates a different look for a day at the office

Option #4: Skirt and Button-Down Shirt

  • stylish and sophisticated, a great look for the office
  • add the cardigan for a layered look, perfect for the office

Option #5: Jeans and Button-Down Shirt

  • great for running errands or a day at the mall
  • wear your cardigan to create a casual, layered look
  • go professional and wear the blazer for a casual day at the office

How to Save Money (and Time) at the Outlet Mall

The outlet mall offers so many opportunities to save money on popular designer brands, but if you are not prepared before you go to the mall, you could miss out on some great bargains.

Everyone knows that shopping at the outlets can save you money, but I don’t know if everyone is aware that many of the outlet malls offer printable coupons on their website that can save you even more money.

Last year, they built an outlet center about 8 miles from my home, so I have been shopping there quite often and have created a guideline that I follow to help me stay organized and to save time and money when I shop:

Join the Outlet Center’s Preferred Shopper Program:
Just about all the outlet malls have some sort of preferred or VIP shopper program. It generally doesn’t cost any money to join, all you do is provide your email address, zip code, and select your preferred outlet mall. Then you can get access to exclusive coupons that you can print and take to the mall. They also may send you emails with coupons, information on sales, and special events that is only available to shopper club members.

Make a list of all the items you want to purchase:
In order to stay organized while shopping, it is best to create a list of all the items you want to purchase. When writing out your list, you should separate all your items into categories (i.e. apparel, shoes, home good, children’s clothes, etc).

Decide which stores you want to visit:
Because there are so many stores at the outlet center, it can become overwhelming. It is best to decide which stores you want to visit before you get to the mall. To save time at the mall, go through the list of items you want to purchase and make a note next to each which store(s) carry the item you want.

Determine the order of the stores you are planning to visit:
It is best to shop at stores that sell the heaviest items last. For example, if you are buying items for your home, you should stop at that store last; otherwise you will get stuck carry those items all day.

Based on personal experience, I have found that it is better to visit the most expensive store last. If you spend a lot of money on a luxury item, like that fabulous designer handbag you have always wanted, you might not have enough money to spend on the items you really need.

Print out Coupons & Special Sales Offers:
Use your list of stores you are planning to visit and print out all of the coupons and special offers. Be sure to make a note on your list that you have a coupon for that store so you don’t forget. You don’t want to buy a number of items only to get home and realize you had a coupon for that store.

Decide where to park:
Once you have decided which stores you want to visit, use the outlet center map to determine where you are going to park. I would recommend that you park near the last store you want to visit – it is much easier to walk a longer distance when you first arrive at the outlet mall, than when you are carrying all those shopping bags.

Stop at the Visitor’s Center:
When you get to the mall, you should stop at the Visitor’s Center before you do any shopping. You can get a map of the outlet center and check to see if there are any coupons or promotions that were not on their website. I have found it is helpful to talk to the customer service person at the visitor’s center to ask if there are any stores that are having a special sale. Sometimes you can get the inside scoop on a new sale or promotion. Also, if you have AAA, you should ask if the outlet center offers a special discount or free coupon book to members.

Now that you are prepared, you can enjoy your time at the outlet mall.

One last tip I have for shopping the outlets, is to Shop the Back of the Store First
From experience, I have found that stores usually have their sales racks (and lowest prices on clothes) in the back of the store.

Find more Shopping Tips & Resources

Previously titled: “Tips for Saving Time & Money at the Outlet Mall”

How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget

Before going out to the mall and spending a lot of your hard-earned money on new clothes, here are some easy ways to help you build a great wardrobe on a budget:

Make a list of clothing items you need in your wardrobe
Decide what articles of clothing you want to wear on a daily basis (don’t forget shoes, handbags, and jewelry). For example, if you work in an office where you have to dress professionally, you may need to purchase a suit or at least dress pants, skirts, and blouses. Also include clothes for the weekends, evenings out, and casual events.

Buy Wardrobe Basics
Wardrobe basics will match a variety of items in your closet. Some basic staples everyone should own include: a tailored suit, pencil skirt, white blouse, boot cut jeans, trench coat, just to name a few; these items are great because they can be worn a variety of ways. We have a list of Wardrobe Essentials everyone should own.

When purchasing basic wardrobe staples, it is a good idea to spend a little more money and purchase clothing that is of good quality. Even though you will be paying more, you will be wearing it often, so you can justify the expense.

Only buy clothing that will match at least 3 items you already own
Before you buy anything new, make sure it can be worn with at least three other items you already have in your wardrobe. That way, you won’t have to buy more clothes to match what you just purchased.

Fit is Everything!
There is nothing worse than having a wardrobe of expensive clothes that do not fit you well. When buying clothing, it is very important the fit flatters your body shape. It doesn’t matter how much you paid or the designer name, when you buy something that is too big or too small, you look sloppy and unprofessional.

Take your time and buy clothing that complements your body shape. Keep in mind that sometimes you will need to have certain items tailored in order to get the perfect fit.

Don’t be in a hurry to purchase a lot of items at one time
Sometimes you will get lucky and find everything you need for a great price at one store, but you can save money by doing comparison shopping at various stores. You might even want to check online. – there are quite a few website that offer discounts on designer clothing.

Always Shop the Sale!
Eventually everything goes on sale – before you buy anything anywhere, make sure you find out if that store is going to be having a sale. Some stores have a preview day, the day before the sale, where you can shop and avoid the big crowds.

Sign up for Shopper Programs and Store Mailing Lists
Also, you can save money by joining shopper programs and signing up for the mailing list for your favorite stores. Along with notifying you of upcoming sales, some stores will email you coupons that you can print out and use to save money. If you have a store where you love to shop, go to their website and see if they have an email list you can subscribe.

Don’t forget about the Outlet Malls!!
You can find some really amazing bargains at the outlet mall. Before going to the outlets, read our article: How to Save Time & Money at the Outlet Mall.