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Bargain shopping is more than dumb luck

My best score ever? • A pair of Michael Kors platform sandals, gloriously bone nude, towering stacked heel, leather ankle strap. Beautiful foot art poised to change lives and break hearts, retailing for a whopping $150. • But being a good Deal Diva, I'd have none of that. No, sports fans, I walked out of Nordstrom Rack in Tampa with my new best friends, for . . . drum roll? • Ten dollars!

Was that luck? Or was it something else?

People think shopping means picking up the first thing you see and hoping for a magical blockbuster sale to rain down at the last minute. But it doesn't happen like that. True bargain shopping takes a little bit of education and some effort.

I found the shoes on sale at Nordstrom Rack, marked down to $50 after about two rounds of discounts. For one, they were summer sandals in a sea of winter boots. For two, there was a slight nick in the heel, which I had to weigh against the awesomeness of the rest of the shoe.

Weeks before, I had bought a Groupon for Nordstrom Rack good for $50 of merchandise for $25. And since it was my first Groupon, I took advantage of a promotion and got $15 off of that. Walking out of the store with expensive shoes for practically nothing was elating. And every time someone compliments them, I gladly share the story.

To drop some Bruce Lee on you, it's time to make your own luck. Next time you go shopping, keep these tips in mind.

• Put on the proverbial blinders and go directly to the back of the store. Stores want you to fall in love with pretty ensembles and buy the whole thing on impulse. But if you're smart and creative, you can find better options in shadows. In Target, for example, check baskets on end-caps for cheap cosmetics and accessories.

• Find coupons and special promotions. I'm admittedly terrible at using grocery store coupons. Seriously, I'm that person who blindly grabs jars of sauce and dumps them in the cart. But when it comes to clothes, I do better. Macy's coupons are always in the newspaper, especially on big holiday shopping weekends. Dillard's has massive sales with 40 percent off clearance prices at least a few times a year, usually around the end of the season. Check the paper on Fridays for the latest.

• Shop off-season. This one is a no-brainer for Floridians, since summer clothes work most of the year. Big chain retailers still rotate out their summer stock when the temperature cools down in the rest of the country, so take advantage of their snowy misfortune and get your tank tops for peanuts.

• Embrace secondhand. Some of the coolest finds are just a bit dusty, so get over your creeps. Plato's Closet and Off the Rack are great for name-brand stuff, especially jeans. Revolve Clothing Exchange in Ybor City and St. Petersburg has an awesome mix of vintage and new. On my last trip, I snagged a brand-new teal studded hobo bag for $18. And I spied a sequined majorette costume behind the register which I kind of wanted, but that just seemed silly.

• Think Thursday. Some of the big chains stock their shelves for the weekends on Thursday evenings, so stop in then for freshly moved sales.

• Outlets, duh. I got my favorite pink chiffon cocktail dress at the Bebe outlet in Orlando for $14. Sale on top of sale, of course. And Coach bag fiends know that the Ellenton Premium Outlets are ripe with opportunity. The Coach outlet periodically offers 50 percent off clearance bags, so call before and see what information you can glean.

• Keep an open mind and be patient. Sometimes, nestled in the racks, you will indeed find a bit of luck.

Visit the Deal Divas at tampabay.com/blogs/divas for the latest shopping and fashion news.

Bargain shopping is more than dumb luck 03/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:50pm]

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