Thursday, October 07, 2010

Uncovered: Expensive Taste on a Student Budget

It's no news that Toronto is an expensive city but there's no sense in spending all of your OSAP on staying stylish. It's simple to shop savvy with these four rules...

Buy it New

First and foremost, be aware of sale cycles. Stores like Zara, Urban Outfitters, H&M and Anthropologie have really high turnover rates. They bring in new stock biweekly, weekly, and even daily. To make room for these new items, “old” merchandise is marked down. Keep an eye on that shirt you love and you're almost guaranteed to find it on sale in a week or two.

Industry heavy hitters like The Bay and Holt Renfrew have great end of season sales on designer goods. These sales usually see the best markdowns. Stock for the next season needs to come in and so stores will keep lowering prices until everything goes.

Don’t forget mid-season sales. Check flyers and store windows for sporadic deals to avoid buying at full price.

Buy it Used

Cliché or not, thrift stores can be your best friend. If you have no desire to sort through all the clothing flotsam and jetsam, big secondhand stores like Value Village and Goodwill, can be great for finding shoes, bags and accessories.

My favourite Value Village in Toronto is on Bloor at Lansdowne. It's huge and is always filled with goodies. Additionally, if you head east on Bloor from there, you'll come across a great Salvation Army store – where I scored a great navy Michael Kors blazer for $7 not too long ago – and a slew of privately owned vintage stores. Take a peek at my top ten favourite secondhand stores in Toronto.


Buy it Cheap

Let me repeat myself, be aware. It’s easy to get great deals on your favourite merchandise if you know where to look. Find out when your favourite stores are having offsite sales (annual American apparel warehouse sale, anyone?).

Check the websites for and/or contact your favourite designers. Sample sales and trunk shows happen shortly after buyers have made purchases for the following season. These are also great places to get sweet deals on high end merch.

Speaking of sweet, if you're lazy like I am, websites like and will email Toronto specific deals right to your inbox! They have awesome newsletters notifying you of sales, offering coupons for assorted products, services, and – the best part – free stuff!

Buy it Smart

Last but not least, be smart about your purchases. Avoid buying things you'll never wear – they are a waste of money and take up precious space in your closet.

Try things on, window shop, make mental notes and sleep on it. Impulse purchases will be the death if your wallet. My favourite trick is to take a photo of the item you're thinking of buying and compare it to things already in your wardrobe. Make sure you have coordinating pieces, appropriate accessories, and that you DON'T already own something similar. After all this if you're still into it and you feel it's worth it to take the trip back to the store, make your purchase.

Another tip is to make a note of each store's return policy. Try things on at home in your own mirrors, under your own light. Leave tags on until you actually wear the item. If you haven't worn it within a week of your purchase, you probably won't wear it often enough to justify your spending so take it back! Even if a store only offers credit, at least you'll have the opportunity to buy something you love instead of adding a dust collector to your collection.

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