Save big or go home: introducing Swat shopping basics

If there is one thing I like in this world, it is knowing that I got the best deal possible on anything, be it clothing, shoes, or accessories. When faced with a college student budget, I realized that this would come in handy. For myself, leaving home in Astoria in New York City and coming to a college in the suburbs meant not only leaving behind sidewalks, crowds of people and a convenient transportation system, but also huge fabulous stores, stunning holiday window displays and, of course, sample sales. Instead, strip malls now welcome me with open arms.

I would consider myself an expert bargain shopper, at least in New York. There, I constantly read fashion blogs describing the latest sales and informing readers three weeks before anyone else exactly when the bi-annual Barney’s warehouse sale would be. When looking for deals I urge anyone to make sure that the return policy doesn’t only include store credit, to double check final sale items, to use store coupons for extra discounts when possible, and to wait for when that high priced item finally goes on sale. Any store can be a shopportunity, you just have to have the right timing.

Now, I’ve come to share a few tricks with you. This week, we’ll stay local: the Springfield Mall. Then we’ll expand, keeping in mind that we’re barely on a three figure monthly budget.

The Loft
A division of Ann Taylor which caters to those seeking women’s ‘relaxed and casual’ clothing. The Loft is located on the upper level.

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Visit the sale section of The Loft. Enough said. It might seem obvious with other stores, but sometimes we are simply pulled away by a brand new dress from the latest collection and sucked into a world where full-price rips you off. Why bother paying so much when you can get the same thing for 25 percent off, if not half-off? For starters, the sale section in this location of The Loft is frequently set up in the far left corner of the store. If possible, run there.

First off, all the sweaters and cardigans were $12.99. This weekend I managed to purchase an olive cardigan with a sequin neckline which was previously $79.99. I also scored big with a thin mustard suede belt which was previously $20.99 but was now on sale for $5.99.

What I admire the most about this location is the availability of sizes. Frequently, sale sections mean getting disappointed when greeted with only the extremes of the size spectrum, but The Loft certainly surprised me by having a myriad of sizes.

Cons: The Loft, although similar in size to most stores in Springfield Mall, is nevertheless small, and if you don’t know when the store has sales, your budget-friendly options become very limited.

A Dollar & Deals
A pleasant ninety-nine cent store located on the lower level. It offers anything from birthday decorations to placemats and plasticware.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pros: If you ever need plates, aluminum trays, disposable cups or stain remover, this is the place to go. I kid you not. It’s a well-kept secret that everything you can use for parties, gatherings and cooking that is disposable can be bought at a ninety-nine cent store for cheaper than your local pharmacy or Target. You can save a few dollars every trip if you switch from Solo cups to lesser known brands found here. Aluminum trays, which you can use for baking, can also be found here for $0.50 each. A Dollar & Deals also sells other necessary objects such as plastic pitchers, non-disposable plates and can openers for around a dollar.

Also, if you ever had a tough stain on your clothing, please get Amazing, which will, as its name claims, amaze you. I learned about this product from the owner of the laundromat back home and was in shock when I realized that a product with a $1.08 price tag could work better than other big brand products like Shout. I can’t guarantee you that it will take off every stain you ever had, but it certainly works well for its price.

Cons: Finding items in this store can be overwhelming. The shelf layouts have way too many things so that when you walk by, you can miss what you’re looking for. When in doubt, make sure to ask the cashiers, who are very friendly and waiting to assist you.

Pac Sun
A men’s and women’s clothing store located on the upper level. Pac Sun sells clothing and accessories from California lifestyle brands such as Roxy, O’Neill and Billabong.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pros: I always hated Pac Sun until discovering their sale section. This past weekend I snagged a new tulip back blouse from Kirra which was previously $34.99 for only $10.50. Getting a new blouse for a weekend event or party doesn’t seem so bad when you get it for around this price. For those of you who adore graphic tees, this is the place to go. The graphic tees on sale range from $9.99 to $14.99. There is also a men’s section which is just as big as the women’s and has bottom, tops, and jackets on sale, unlike the women’s section which mostly has tops. The best part of the Pac Sun sale section is that there is frequently an extra discount on all of its sale items. This week there is an extra 30% off sale items.

Cons: What is disappointing at Pac Sun is that half of the sale items don’t change. For the past two months, the sale rack has included the same sweaters from Check & Stripes, whose prices currently range from $15.99 to $24.99.

And with that, this is all the advice I can provide you with this week. Soon we will learn how to conquer King of Prussia. Until next time my lovely shoppers!

Dying for me to visit a store before you give it a try yourself? Need me to go on a hunt for a store with a particular style of merchandise? Shoot your suggestions via email.

Gabriela is a first-year. You can reach her at

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