Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: The Sample Sale


budget shopping fashion on a budget bargain hunting

I am a HUGE bargain shopper, but that doesn’t mean I only shop at Forever 21 and thrift stores (I wish I had the patience/attention span for thrifting!). Most of the items that I purchase are designer brands (Lilly, Kate Spade, Jack Rogers and even Jimmy Choo), but I almost never pay retail price!

If you’re on a beer budget, but like me, you have champagne taste keep reading!

I started my obsession with bargain hunting in 2010. I had the summer off and had just discovered Netflix so after I finished all of Grey’s Anatomy and the Vampire Diaries (I had questionable taste, I know), I discovered Gossip Girl. Until then I knew pretty much nothing about style, I was still wearing the Abercrombie outfits from my Senior year of High School when I worked there.

About 2 episodes in I was hooked, I also had this overwhelming feeling that my closet was severely lacking. Being an incoming Sophomore in college, I had virtually no way to change that. My budget didn’t include Chanel bags and shopping sprees at Bergdorfs.

So here’s what I’ve learned since 2010 about fashion on a budget:

The sample sale is your best friend.

What’s a sample sale? It’s a flash sale on higher end products, usually from one season prior (but sometimes they have current season items!), with prices marked down between 50-80% off. Practically my entire work wardrobe comes from these sales.

These are my favorites (click the image for a link to the site and a special offer!):

budget shopping fashion on a budget bargain hunting

budget shopping fashion on a budget bargain hunting

RueLaLa has more budget friendly options, while Gilt has the more high end brands. Don’t get me wrong, Gilt still works for a budget and has budget friendly brands but you’re more likely to find Jimmy Choos and Prada bags on sale there.

It can feel a bit intimidating to navigate some of these sales at first. I use the filters on most sales (sort from low to high and filter certain sizes)  to help weed out the items I’m not interested in.

I use my calendar for certain sales. If I’m in the market for a new pair of Jimmy Choos (I wish!) and there’s an upcoming sale for them on one of those sites, I set a reminder in my calendar

With online sample sales sizes and quantities are limited and the sales only last two or three days. For brands like Jimmy Choos or UGG boots, you need to log in exactly when the sale starts. I recommend that for any brand you’re really interested in.

When you’re shopping through these sales know what brands you’re interested in (I’ve had to research multiple brands, that’s okay, learn as you go!), know your sizes (I go to retail stores and try on brands I’m interested in) and been mindful of return policies as some items are final sale! Both of these sites do have really generous return policies and are extremely customer service friendly. Anytime I’ve had to call them they resolve the issue ASAP

For huge markdowns these sites are my favorites:

Nordstrom Rack

Neiman Marcus Last Call

I like to browse these when I’m looking for something specific, like if I needed a pair of black heels. Neiman’s sale site frequently has Kendra Scott jewelry marked down like crazy! Last Call frequently does additional markdowns on their sale items, so it’s a good one to sign up for emails from!

What’re y’alls favorite ways to save money while still looking fashionable?

  • i LOVE RueLaLa! They have great stuff!


      YES YES YES! They have literally ruined me for shopping elsewhere. Such amazing deals.

  • tabithablue

    So cool!! I need this in my life, haha!

  • All of these sites are awesome! I need to start stopping them again.

  • Tram-Anh Tran Poprik

    Gilt is one of my favorites!!! Also, if you are in the NYC area, they always have “live” sample sales too, which I absolutely adore!

    • YES! I just moved to NYC so I’ll definitely be there! I’ve heard a lot about their in store sample sales! How is it compared to online?

  • I’m so happy when I score an amazing deal. I love thrift shopping! I also love Gossip Girl. 🙂 I want everything in Blair and Serena’s closets. lol Great tips!
    xoxo, erin |

    • Rue La La and Gilt have really ruined shopping for me because the deals on there are so fantastic!

  • I am always shopping on a budget when it comes to myself. Finding deals always gets me excited, only because I feel like they are rare. Maybe I should look harder 😉

    • I love Rue La La and Gilt for that! Also signing up for emails from some of your favorite stores is helpful! It makes my inbox a little crowded though, but it’s worth it!