Shopping Hack: Shop the Wrong Department to Get the Right Price
The very act of shopping makes me feel like a sucker. Here I am at the mercy of a retailer, a helpless consumer who needs to buy things I can’t or won’t make. At the same time, I’m really glad I don’t have to spend my days shearing sheep, carding wool, spinning yarn, weaving cloth, and sewing clothing. That would suck. I hate sewing on buttons.
If we need something out of the ordinary, we wait to see if we can make do without it or fix what we already have. Next, we exhaust options like freebies, gifts cards, hand-me-downs, Craigslist, garage sales, or eBay (depending on the item).
But if I have to go the typical retail route, I avoid paying full price if at all possible. One strategy that has saved me a lot is shopping in the wrong department. This works particularly well for certain sizes of clothing and shoes, but also for some specialty items. Just think about it: you are in the clothing section, held captive to these awful prices because you need a bathing suit.
Here are some examples of discount finds I’ve made by shopping the wrong section.
- Kids XL bathing suit bottoms instead of women’s Small: $8 instead of $22. Same brand.
- Kids tennis shoes: $20 instead of $60. Same brand.
- Juniors undergarments instead of women’s: one quarter of the price. Same brand.
- Toddler clothes instead of little boys (for sizes 4-5T): $4 instead of $8. Same brand.
- Boys undershirts instead of girls’ camisoles: $1.50 each instead of $2.50 each. Same brand.
- Sunhat in gardening instead of fashion accessories: $10 instead of $20. Same brand.
- Baby Advil & sunscreen: in medication/personal care instead of baby: half-price generics available.
- Travel mugs: in dishes instead of travel or lunch box section: $8 instead of $20.
- Kids-size fishing pole in fishing section vs. one in toy aisle : $8 instead of $16 & way more durable.
- Pretty blank cards in stationary, instead of individual greeting cards: a box of 20 or even 50 can cost the same as a single greeting card.
A few tips:
- Look outside of specialty areas. If you are in a specialty section, you might pay more for the same item. If it’s an item only sold there, you’re out of luck. But if you can think of another area where it might fit, check it out. It might be half the price.
- I realize not everyone can fit children’s clothes, but if you or your children can span two departments, the smaller size section will usually be cheaper. Toddlers overlaps two sizes with kids. Babies overlap one size with toddlers. Kids’ shoes overlaps several sizes with adults’.
- Steer clear of end caps and seasonal displays. There are often less expensive, sometimes better quality options in the larger departments.
- When shopping secondhand, small women’s items are sometimes misplaced in the girls’ section. I don’t go digging through the entire thrift store aisle of kids’ clothes, but sometimes just walking by will notice an item that looks too grown up. Scored my last pair of shorts this way (J. Crew, $5), as well as a couple sweaters. Maybe this happens with boys’ clothing too?
If this sounds time-consuming, it isn’t. Glance through two departments and compare prices. If you live simply, avoid clutter, automate errands, and don’t shop as a hobby, these expeditions for non-routine items should be few and far between.
I hate feeling like consumer sucker. Don’t you? Brainstorming alternatives is second-nature to those pretending to be poor. It’s not extra effort. It’s only natural. We enjoy it. Seeking creative alternatives and solutions is fun!
Have you ever found a great deal by shopping in the “wrong” department? Tell us about it! What are your other thrifty shopping tips?