1. Sales are your friend.
Sales are usually held when a shop cannot get rid of its excess stock. For this reason, you're likely to get a couple of good deals, especially in the major ones (hello, January sales!)
However, it's worth bearing in mind that other people will be thinking the same thing. It's all too easy to forget about the sales until it's too late, which will mean only the unpopular (and usually ugly) designs are left, or uncommon sizes (dress sizes 6, 8 and 16 and 18 will be less common). So it's best to try and get in on the action early, but be prepared. It's still gonna be reaaaaally busy.
It's probably a good idea to go to the smaller shops first, because while you're grabbing what you want, others will be in the larger, busier ones. By the time they get to the small/independent shops, you'll have taken all their stock (mwahahaha). Then, upon getting to the bigger, more varied shops, they should still have plenty left.
Alternatively, if you get there early, you could go to the back/top of the shopping centre (mall) and work your way forwards/down. Everyone else will be starting at the entrance, so you'll have less queues to deal with at first-however if you don't arrive early, there's probably no point, other shoppers will already have reached the back.
Often shops just have a bunch of sale items laid out on a surface with no organisation. Sometimes they will be separated by sizes, sometimes not, so try and determine if they are. That way you know anything you like in that pile will (probably) fit, otherwise you will have to work through the piles to find your size.
Don't be put off by dull fabrics or uninteresting colours, have a look. Sometimes clothes will look really ugly until you try them on. Search in corners, where others may not have bothered to look. Big shops have big sales, so if you see a piece you love that's well out of your price range, wait till the next big sale-it might be reduced later.
2. 'Affordable' fashion shops can be your friend, but not your best friend.
Affordable' clothing shops like Primark (Pennys in the US) have boomed in the midst of the recession. Selling cheap, yet trendy pieces appeals to teens, young adults, and anyone who likes to look good for excellent prices. But while 'affordable' translates into 'cheap', 'cheap' does not always translate to 'good quality'. In this section I'll go over a few ways to make budget fashion affordable, wearable and reliable.
Okay, here's the sitch. You're in [insert affordable clothing shop here], and you see a pretty dress. It's exactly what you were looking for! So you try it on, and it fits just fine. Perfect. You buy it-it's only £5 after all! Upon getting it home, you want to try it again to see how well it will go with your favourite shoes-and then you notice it. The flimsy seams have began to pull apart at the waist. The threads have unraveled. There's no fixing this. Great, a dress you'll never wear.
Maybe that's exaggerating a little, but the basic principle still stands. It's easy enough to think you're getting a great deal when you find a fashionable piece at a brilliant price. But by keeping retail prices low, shops have to keep production costs down-that means cheap labour and cheap materials, i.e flimsy, thin fabrics that don't sew easily.
It's not all bad quality though. 'Cheap' may not always translate to 'good quality', but there are plenty of pieces made with decent material and stitching. Primark, for example, has a lot of rubbish pieces that fall apart or tear easily, but there are plenty that are sewn well, affordable AND on trend. So, what to do about budget fashion?
1. CHECK the piece. Tug it gently. It should feel firm and go back to its original shape. Look for loose threads and pull them. If they come off easily, fine. If they begin to unravel, leave it and move on. Scan for unfinished hems, slack seams and sloppy sewing. If you find any faults, leave it. It's not a slightly faulty bargain, it's a broken item you'll never wear.
2. DON'T be fooled into buying something you have no use for. Sure, it's a cuddly tiger onesie, but you never wear your current onesie, and just because it's only £5 doesn't mean it's worth it. If you will never wear an item, any amount of money, no matter how small, will be a waste. If you keep on wasting £1, eventually you'll have wasted £100, and that's a decent amount of cash.
3. REMEMBER, there are other shops selling very similar things. High street shops often sell similar trends, and if you still have a little money, pass on those £1 fake eyelashes that look like caterpillars, and wait till you get to a drugstore where they'll have better quality ones for not too much more.
3. Shopping is a sport, and like all sports, you must prepare for it.
Sports are usually tiring, difficult, but leave you feeling pleased with yourself in the end. Guess what? Shopping is exactly the same. It drains your energy totally. So now you've read about it, it's time to prepare for your big broke shopping trip. You need to know those little independent shops that always have reduced prices, that one shop that has your favourite eyeliner cheaper than everywhere else. It's a good idea to shop in the same place every time, so you know the ins and outs.
What to take-you may want to show off your fabulous new nine-inch heels, but they're simply not practical. Shopping is no fun if you're not comfortable, so by all means wear stylish shoes, but it's best to opt for flats. Go for layers, so you can add/remove when it gets too cold/hot. Try to keep your bag small, so you don't strain your arm. Obviously, you'll need your purse, but try to set aside money for each thing, e.g £10 tops, £10 new skirt, £10 makeup, £5 for hot chocolate afterwards, £2.50 for bus home. That's way, you won't end up with loads of clothes but no ride home. Chewing gum or a snack might be a good idea.
Know your shops-work out in advance which shops you want to visit, so you don't end up wasting time deciding while you're there. See if you can find any sales, and put them on your list. Keep track of anything you need so you can grab it when you're next out, e.g make up wipes, soap, facewash. Compare prices so you don't waste your (minuscule) allowance when you could have got it cheaper elsewhere.
Think about your company-shopping is much better with friends. They help you make decisions, lend you money, and it's safer with more than one shopper. But choose your companions wisely-it's best to have someone who knows your budget, is aware of your style and tastes, and will be honest with you, especially if you are a bad decision maker. It may be nice having a pal tell you EVERYTHING looks good on you, but it will make it much harder to make up your mind and you may end up with a load of pieces which you don't actually like.