A Guide to Savvy Shopping – Part One

I thought it was time to give you some tips on savvy shopping that I have found usual over the last few years and I really hope that you find some of it useful for your own living. So here goes, how to shop well on less.

Part One: Clothing

Those who know me will know that I am drawn to TK Maxx like a moth to a flame. I know that it can be a bit of a jumble sale and it’s not for everyone, you really have to commit to the rummaging. There are great bargains to be had in TK Maxx if you will but look, but don’t get carried away, before you make a purchase ask yourself a series of questions: Do I need it? Will I get a lot of wear out of it? Is it likely to date? Is it worth spending my money on? I find that asking myself these questions prevents a lot of foolish spending. For example, a month ago I was rummaging through my local Barnardos 99p rail when I came across a Diane Von Fuhrstenberg top, despite being DVF it was very 80s and I knew I couldn’t make it work so back it went, 99p saved.

I find that good purchases to make in TK Maxx are that of jeans, look out for Scotch Maison, Seven for All Mankind, Levi’s and Lee. All are good  brands that are hard wearing and you will find them at a much reduced price compared to the High Street. Other trusty brands to look for in TK Maxx are Whistles, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Reiss, Lulu Guinness (sometimes to be found in the wallet/purse section), House of Holland underwear, RayBan Sunglasses, Hunter Boots and Wellie socks, Converse, New Balance and Havaianas. Havaianas are always a good buy for summer, I am still wearing pairs that I bought in Brazil 10 years ago for the ridiculous price of £3.

In the TK Maxx Kids Department look out for No Added Sugar, Nautica, Beauty and the Bib and Hatley. I often pick up lovely baby gifts here.

I tend to buy all my basics in stores like Sainsburys, Asda or M&S, and usually during their sales. By basics I mean black and white tops and striped tops (both timeless and functional). Just this week I bought a striped George at Asda dress in the sale, reduced from £10 to £5, it is very boden-esc. You can find it here.

On the black top front, a friend of mine recently shared that she dyes her black tops and dresses every once in a while to keep the colour looking fresh, I’m going to give this a go before ditching any more washed out black tops.

I always purchase a new cashmere from Tesco (it’s as good as any) each Christmas. A luxury cashmere buy for the festive season has become a wee tradition of mine. Last year I doubled up my Tesco points and bought a long camel cashmere cardigan which was already reduced in a promotion, I think I only ended up paying £7! For cashmere!

You can’t go far wrong with the Supermarkets for childrens’ clothing also, my preferred stores being Asda and Sainsburys. They can give the higher end Boden and The Little White Company a run for their money. My advice is to wait until the sales and stock up for the next season for your little ones. Sainsburys frequently do 25% off all TU clothing, usually around half term holidays. Check out my finds from their most recent sale here. I love The Gruffalo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Guess How Much I Love You ranges from TU, so cute and again great for baby gifts.

When looking for an outfit for a special occasion I’ll hit the Peel Sale Shop on Bloomfield Avenue in east Belfast. The staff are really helpful and the clothes are fine quality. I believe you can tell when clothes are expensive by the cut of them, and when made well clothes stand the test of time. Years ago I bought a Hugo Boss silk dress and a Dolce and Gabbana puffball skirt (purchased in the old Ken Young Sale Shop in Coleraine), I fully intend to pass them on to my girls some day when they become vintage. My Mother-in-law kindly gave me two of her old formal dresses from over 30 years ago which I love and have worn lots. Lucky for me she has great taste, she reliably informs me that Lady Di, as she was known back then, owned one of the same dresses in pink, you couldn’t have got better endorsement than that.

Anyway back to script, quality items in the Peel Sale Shop. They stock beautiful brands, some of my favourites being Moschino Cheap and Chic, Marc Cain, Philosophy by Alberti Ferreti and Theory. I once bought a lovely pair of grey capri pants by Vivienne Westwood in this shop but alas I haven’t seen any VW in there recently. About three years back I bought a classic black Moschino Cheap and Chic dress there for £20, which I’ve worn to a couple of weddings, accessorised differently each time.

My advice when buying clothes is to buy good quality clothes every once in a while over buying average quality clothes regularly. Buying cheap clothes is a false economy, you can end up spending the same amount on lots of cheap clothes than had you only bought a few good higher end items over the course of the year. Nor do the cheap clothes last and you will end up spending more to replace them. I prefer to save in order to buy investment pieces as I call them. One example of this is my quilted vintage style Barbour jacket, I bought it four years ago and I wear it all the time. The quality is great and Barbour are one of the few companies that will stand over their products. I had an issue with my jacket within the first year of purchase and they replaced it, at no cost to myself, no questions asked. Good customer service goes a long way, I have raved about Barbour as a brand to so many people because of that experience and I have since bought a second waxed jacket from them. On that note I also wear a 30 year old navy waxed Barbour jacket that my Aunt gave to me and it is in perfect condition, I just rewax it once in a while. Proof that quality lasts.

When you are buying an expensive item of clothing, actually any clothing for that matter, be sure to price around. I use Google Shopping to compare prices. If money were no object I would buy from local independent retailers every time but budget dictates that we shop around. At Christmas my husband bought me a pair of black classic Doctor Marten boots (they make me nostalgic about my misspent youth), we ended up buying them on sale from Surfdome for £60 instead of paying £100 elsewhere. I knew my neighbour wanted the same pair and recommended the deal to her, she also bought through Surfdome. Check them out here, they have some pretty good sales.

Other investment pieces are my black Hunter wellie boots, a Guess Denim Jacket and a Kenneth Cole Black dress, both purchased in TK Maxx.

My final pearl of wisdom on clothing purchases is to hit the charity shops. You would be surprised at what people give away. I recently found a Paul Smith Black Label Italian Cotton shirt, with the labels still on it, in Oxfam. Last year I also found a Jaegar camel coat in the same Oxfam, it looked like new and I still lament that I didn’t buy it but I was pregnant and feeling fatter than usual on the day I tried it on, school boy error. Anyway, it’s always worth a look in your local charity shops and I certainly feel better about spending when I know it is helping others into the bargain.

If you have any top tips of your own please feel free to drop me a comment, we’d love to hear them.

Stay tuned for top tips on shopping for food, homeware and more.




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