5 Ways to Rock the Clearance Rack

You know you’re rocking it when you’re teenage daughter says, “Wow, Mom, you look awesome!” It’s a rare thing, to be sure, but, let’s face it, it’s nice to feel validated by this most judgmental subset of humans. I consistently get compliments on some of my favorite looks and people are always amazed when I tell them how little I paid for certain pieces. For instance: my lacey blazer from Banana Republic Factory (the outlet version of BR). It was originally almost $200 at the regular BR, went down to $150ish at the outlet store, and I still only paid $30. Even that much is a splurge in my book. Or my $88 Express floral, tie-front pants: $10! I never pay full price (unless it’s in my Stitch Fix, which is another post altogether).

So how do I find these deals? Am I stalking my favorite stores? Do I spend every weekend scouring the racks for deals? Not really. Over the years, I’ve figured out a way to almost never pay full price. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Know your cuts and sizes. I hate trying on mounds of clothes. Especially since clothing store lighting tends to highlight every flaw in my face and hair and even create new ones. So, on a day when I’m feeling more fierce than usual (good hair, pimples at a minimum), I’ll go into a store and spend time trying on a few pieces. This means that I can go into Express, for example, and know that the Editor pant in 8 Regular will work perfectly. If it’s on the rack, I don’t have to try it on. And their Portofino blouses, which rotate colors and patterns every season? I’m a medium. I can grab whichever one strikes my fancy and I don’t have to spend a half hour in the fitting room waiting for attendant to bring me a small in yellow, a large in orange, etc. Stores often have the same line and cut and simply rotate the colors they offer. By knowing what suits you, you can zip through the racks and not spend time debating if a certain thing will look right. One caveat: because cuts vary per store, you may be an 8 at one store, a 6 at another, and a 10 at another (or maybe it’s just me, whatever). This is why knowing what works can save you time and money.
  2. Know WHEN to buy certain pieces. I won’t buy a winter coat in October. That’s just crazy talk. Wait until mid-to-late season to buy season-specific items. Shorts and flip-flops flood stores starting in March (for Spring Breakers getting ready to pack), but are you really rocking that look during April showers? Well, maybe if you live in the South, but you’re still better off waiting until June or July. If you stick to basic pieces and cuts, they’re pretty timeless. I’ve had the same shorts and tees for years because classics never go out of style. (That’s why they’re classics.) This particular piece of advice is also applicable to household items and electronics. TVs go on sale right after the Super Bowl to make room for next year’s models. My hubby scored a 49″ HDTV for $200, down from over $800, because he waited until late February (I still got mad about the purchase, but I was at least proud of the deal he got).
  3. Save up and do your research. Semi-annual sales run sometime around New Year’s and in mid-to-late June. Sign up for emails from your favorite stores so you know what deals will be coming and when. If you don’t want your inbox flooded, consider setting up a free, separate email just for this purpose. That way, you only need to check it when you feel like it (this also saves you from temptation when you can’t afford it). Also do everything you can to get on Friends & Family lists for stores you love. Yankee candle has a secret sale once a year that I get to enjoy (to my hubby’s chagrin, but he got that TV soooo….). I can get up to 70% off discounted prices just because the store I frequent knows I only shop when there’s a deal, and then I take full advantage of that deal. Many stores also have points programs that earn you free coupons. Shopping the clearance racks means you earn points on inexpensive items so you can get deals on full price items later (or use them to get even better deals on the clearance).
  4. Don’t be tempted to fix it. How many times have you seen a piece marked down due to a teeny stain or loose thread and thought, “No biggie, easy fix”? Guess what? If you have to work in order to wear it, it’s not worth it. Unless you are a tailor, a dry cleaner, or a seamstress with expert-level speed, just pass on it. If you can’t live without it, try it on so you know your size and check the website or ask the clerk if they can order it for you. (Bonus Tip: if you order an item in-store, you can often get free shipping that you wouldn’t get if you wait until you get home).
  5. Know the numbers and be prepared to walk away. Many stores code their discounts using certain numbers on the tags. Don’t be afraid to ask what that code is. At Old Navy, for example, .99 means it just went on clearance. Wait until it ends with .97 or .47. That means it’s probably the best discount you’re going to get and you should snatch it up before it’s gone. If you’re paranoid you might miss it and don’t want to go online, snatch it up, but keep your receipt. Some stores will refund you the difference if the price goes down within a certain amount of time after your purchase but you need to do the work to figure that out and keep track.


I often share my favorite finds on Instagram. Be sure to follow for more deals and ideas for saving!



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