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The Art of Shopping on Sale

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Sale. Upon sighting these four letters painted on a window some cannot resist exploring the discounted merchandise, while others sprint in the opposite direction. The latter group generally falls into one of three categories: shame, "trend complex" (the need to own something first), or fear. For those who are ashamed of shopping on sale or must constantly sport the latest trends, I can only advise you to reconsider. You may be pleasantly surprised. For those who are afraid, hopefully I can provide some assistance. When approached in the correct manner, shopping on sale can be easy; it may even be fun. And I promise, no fistfights required. I have bought almost everything I own on sale -- without even breaking a nail.

Sale shopping differs greatly from shopping in general. It requires more thought than just walking into a store and looking around. Many of my friends love exploring different boutiques and perusing the plethora of full-priced merchandise, but they become easily flustered at a sale. Instead of neat rows arranged by size or color, teetering piles of unorganized clothing cover the tables and bulge out of the shelves. Additionally, it takes a lot of self-control to avoid the impeccably displayed full-priced section. So yes, this can easily be a daunting scenario. But that's why I developed a strategy.

I know. What kind of kid loves shopping, and why would she care about shopping on sale? It all began when I was about four years old. I was at a toy store with my mom, and I wanted all of the Barbie dolls. Shocking, right? A girl like me loving Barbie? Finally, my mom had enough. She said that unless I needed it, if something was not on sale, she would not even consider buying it. If I wanted a full-priced item, I would have to use my own money. I would earn or lose money based on my behavior. And that was it. Instead of a new outfit for every activity, Barbie had to (gasp) adapt to the scenario. And so did I. I taught myself how to shop on sale and developed a very simple method.

But before I delve into the specifics, I have a few general pieces of advice. First, because sale items are generally from previous seasons, make sure to purchase items that reflect the current trends but do not exclusively follow them. That way, the item lasts for more than one season. For example, this past fall, flannel button-down shirts (lumberjack shirts) were very popular. However, because flannel would quickly go out of style once the weather warmed up, I bought a cotton shirt with a similar pattern instead. Additionally, jeans and sweaters are two of the best items to purchase on sale. Because designer jean brands constantly manufacture their classic styles, you can always find them at outlets or stores that purchase overstock merchandise. Granted, the washes may vary, but because they only slightly differ, it would be very difficult to identify jeans from different seasons. Furthermore, because sweaters that provide various degrees of warmth are sold each season, they are frequently discounted during sales. Lastly, remain calm. Just because a store has significant amount of apparel on sale, does not mean you have to purchase a new wardrobe. Try to find a few pieces you like. If you don't, you didn't fail. Maybe there was just a bad selection.

With those hints in mind, you only need to follow a few simple steps. First, know when the sales start. Logically, the earlier you are, the more options you have. Sign up for the mailing lists at all your favorite shops. They will notify you about upcoming sales.

As you enter the store, take a breath. Scan the room. Start at one end of the racks and gradually weave your way through them. At large sales (department stores or warehouses), taking the time to examine each individual piece of clothing would irk even the most patient shopper. You do not need to touch everything. Simply systematically scan the rows of clothing as you meander past each one. However, because small sales (boutiques or specific departments within a store) have less merchandise displayed at once, you can spend more time sorting through each item. If you like something, or think you may like something, grab it. You may not see it again. Then, take a closer look at the surrounding items. Stores display similar items together.

After selecting a few pieces, ask the salesperson if he or she recommends any additional pieces based on the items you chose. Sometimes, stores keep additional apparel in the back. Once you establish a connection with the salesperson, remember to ask him or her to contact you about further reductions or future sales.

Even though shopping on sale may be considered an art, it's an easy art to master. I promise, no magic tricks necessary. Although more intuitive for some than for others, with patience, practice, and a little luck, anyone can master it. However, I will admit it; luck plays a major role. But when you find something you love and it happens to be on sale, it just might be magical.