It’s no secret that I love clothes and accessories; I studied fashion journalism at university and have worked in retail for most of my life, spending my days messing about with displays and dressing mannequins. I’ve been someone who frittered way their student loan in H&M, and someone who spent the last of their wages on a vintage dress rather than buying sensible food for the week but now, in a rather stark contrast, I’m someone who prides themselves on getting as much as possible for as little as possible. So in celebration of my clothes-loving-penny-pinching ways, I’ve dedicated today’s Frugal Friday post to shopping on a strict budget.
The Wonderful World of eBay
My love affair with eBay began when I was seventeen, and bought a Gucci messenger bag for the princely sum of £56 plus p&p. Fourteen years later, I’m a bit more COS and Urban Outfitters than I am designer brands, but I’ve picked up a wealth of tips and tricks along the way that have helped me enjoy quite a lot of bargain hunting successes….
1. Use Smart Search Terms
Using the right terms can be the key to finding what you’re looking for, rather than having to sift through loads of stuff you don’t want. Be specific, and rather than just typing ‘winter jumper’, try things such as ‘chunky winter jumper’, ‘cable knit jumper’ and ‘aran knit jumper’ – people call things by different names, so it’s worth trying more than one phrase. Another good tip is to add a well known high street brand to the end of your search terms; for example, looking for ‘chunky winter jumper Topshop’ will find more current styles than just ‘chunky winter jumper’, so you’ll eliminate all the old, misshapen woollies from 1986 in one go.
2. Save Searches
I don’t know whether this is just me, but I’ve got a list of things that I’m always looking for when it comes to clothes and accessories; until recently, I was desperate for an acid wash pencil skirt, and I’m constantly on the prowl for vintage knitwear, retro t-shirts and brightly coloured coats. I started saving searches after Hannah from Seeds and Stitches mentioned it was a great way to keep track of anything that might appear on eBay, and now I don’t know how I lived without it – you can save all the settings; size, colour, brand, everything, and once you’ve ticked the little box, they automatically send you notifications when the good stuff comes in. So easy, it’s like having a second-hand personal shopper!
3. Use the ‘Auction Only’ Selection
Choosing to only search amongst items that are for sale under an auction automatically removes all the expensive items, and the things listed by businesses. For me, this is more about shopping ethically, as one of the reasons I use eBay is to reduce my consumption levels – yes, I want a pair of jeans from Topshop (they do the best fit for my pencil-like bottom), but no, I don’t want to pay £45 and no, I don’t want Phillip Green to be running off with my hard earned cash in his sweaty little paws. So by searching amongst the auction listings rather than the ‘Buy it Now’ items, I’m going to find myself faced with lots of pre-loved jeans in good condition for bargain prices, rather than brand new ones listed by companies who by in bulk and sell for a profit. Hurrah!
4. Check Sizes
When it comes to buying online, you can never be too careful when it comes to checking sizes and measurements; sizes vary from brand to brand, so what’s a twelve in one shop might be more like a ten in another, and vice versa. There’s also the fact that if you’re buying something that’s been worn, it’s fairly likely that it’s been washed (hopefully!) so the item might have shrunk slightly – and there’s no telling whether they’ve had the waist taken in or let out. The best idea is to ask for specific measurements, especially when it comes to chest, waist and hips, and clarify shoe sizes as well; there’s a lot of debate over whether a size 6 is a 39 or 40, and I’ve ended up with beautiful leopard print boots that flopped around like nobodies business before because I didn’t think to check.
5. Query Postage
Postage fees can range from incredibly reasonable to hugely eye-watering; to save money, ask to combine postage if you’re buying multiple items from the same seller, and if they’re local, ask if you can pick it up at a time that’s convenient to them.
6. Be Patient
I never, ever bid on anything until the last ten seconds or so – bidding before only pushes the price up, and makes competitors aware that you’re interested. You need to take them by surprise so they don’t have time to counter your bid – this is also a good idea because it allows you to enter your maximum bid without leaving you enough time to bid again and go over your budget. I used to be a nightmare for increasing the price, simply because I didn’t want to be beaten!
Buying New on a Budget
Sometimes, mostly for the kiddos birthdays and Christmases, I buy them things we wouldn’t usually be able to afford, such as clothes from places like Boden – this is also true when I’m looking for something specific and can’t find it second-hand. Buying new doesn’t always have to mean spending a fortune, though….
1. Sign up for Newsletters
Signing up for newsletters might seem like a one way road to junk-mail city, but from my experience it’s definitely worth it. Admittedly, you do get sent information that you probably won’t care about, such as new store openings and whatnot, but you’ll also receive money off codes, exclusive access to flash sales and you’ll be first to know about in-store reductions. My personal favourites are Boden and Beyond Retro, who regularly hold special events and price reductions on their websites.
2. Look for Discount Codes
There are sooooo many sites which list discount codes that you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about them; from percentage discounts to free delivery and returns, it’s a pretty safe bet that a quick search will turn up something to save you some money.