Press "Enter" to skip to content

Shopping tricks for broke college kids

Photo by Kyle St. John

For me and other self-proclaimed shopaholics, shopping brings unparalleled joy to our lives. It also leads to incredible despair when we reflect on our poor financial decisions. However, retail therapy can be sustainable, if you do it right.

I have been an avid shopper for most of my adult life, but I’ve also been a retail employee since I graduated high school. Here are my five biggest tips for saving money while also getting the clothes you can’t live without.

1. Ship to store

Almost every major retailer has an order-in-store option. Most stores use this to promote online items, using free shipping as a bargaining chip to get people to buy in-store instead of online. However, this feature also benefits you.

Here at Bradley, we are six minutes from the closest mall. While brick-and-mortar stores there are dwindling, they still have the most basic options: American Eagle, Aeropostale, Hot Topic, Pink and Zumiez. When shopping online, check your shipping options. Nine out of 10 times, there will be a ship-to-store option. Instead of sending merchandise to your campus address, ship your clothing to the mall.

Not only does this cut down on the time it takes items to ship, but it also eliminates a shipping fee. Sure, driving to get your clothes is annoying, but this can easily save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

2. Never pay full-price for what you can get on sale

Whenever I worked the register at Hollister, I would cringe at the people who made full-price purchases. Oftentimes, these people would pay $120 for two pairs of jeans that they could have purchased for $50 the week before. Sales are always happening; in fact, I would say that there are probably only four weeks worth of non-sale days every year.

Be patient and always check deals. If there’s something you really want, wait for it to go on sale, and just check again at that time next season if it sells out. A lot of stores re-release similar items that sold well in previous seasons, so it’s likely you’ll get another chance.

3. Join the rewards programs

Joining a store’s rewards program is about the smartest decision you can make. Over the course of my employment at Hollister, I racked up over $200 of in-store credit because of Hollister’s “Club Cali” and never paid full-price for a single item.

If you stay on top of managing your rewards account and spend your points in conjunction with sales, you can save some major cash. Plus, being in a rewards program often gives you early access to sales and exclusive promo codes.

4. Check pricing online

I don’t know of a single retail store that doesn’t price-match for online items. If you’re in-store and like a full-price item, look up its SKU — the number under the barcode — on the store’s online site. Occasionally, stores will have “online exclusive sales” but will honor those prices in-store when asked.

This trick has never been easier; in fact, Hollister’s app allows you to scan the item’s barcode with your phone and will pull up the exact item and size you’re looking at.

5. Make friends with the employees at the stores you frequent

If I ring up a regular customer who’s always nice to me, I’m going to give them a deal if one exists. Most times, online promo codes are posted at the register, so employees can simply type them in and apply the sales.

I’ve seen totals drop by over $100 for some people before — people who previously didn’t know they were even going to save money. Being nice to employees pays off, literally.

Copyright © 2020, The Scout, Bradley University. All rights reserved.
The Scout is published by members of the student body of Bradley University. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University.