One of the biggest thrills any bargain shopper can get is finding that one (or several if you’re lucky) amazing deal that no one else can lay claim to. Whether it is a great deal on that new buttery soft leather purse, a pair of sky-high stilettos, or that pricey little black dress you’ve been eyeing for the company holiday party, getting a good deal on something that would have otherwise been very pricy, is something many people strive for but don’t always know how to achieve. Meet the outlet fashion malls. The best thing to happen to deal hunters since the coupon.

As a haven for fashionistas (of the male and female kind), fashion outlets can be the best place to find both new and seasoned finds for everything from shoes, purses, and tops, to jewelry, lingerie, and makeup. Whatever your outfit requires is sure to be found at a fashion outlet. Although there is usually more good than bad to be found at these little pockets of joy, there are a few things to be on the lookout for to ensure getting the most bang for your buck and saving the most while you’re at it. Let’s jump into some of the ways and some of the key things you need to know to be able to save the most money when shopping at a fashion outlet stores.

Know where you’re shopping and the difference between stores
Outlet shops are usually found coupled together in one area that is collectively known as an outlet mall or maybe a strip of stores in the same vicinity. Big name brands, department stores, and higher-end shops are highlighted to draw foot traffic that smaller stores can often benefit from as well given their proximity. Here’s the catch though: just because a store is next to, under the same roof, or near an outlet shop, does not mean that they themselves are priced similarly. A couple of sale signs and some red letters does not necessarily mean the prices on their tags are discounted at the same rate as a true outlet.

Two types of stores can offer these discounts – the true outlet store and the factory store. The outlet carries merchandise that was once at the traditional retail level but that is now discontinued or phased out. They also carry merchandise that may have irregularities or slight damages. The factory store carries pieces that were made specifically for this type of store. The only difference between the factory and the regular retail site is that items at the factory level were made with lower quality materials or have fewer features. Both types of shops can offer unique finds at great prices though.

Amongst these outlets and factory stores can lurk traditional retailers that are merely taking up real estate and enjoying the perks of guaranteed foot traffic. The stores that will offer the best deals will have “factory” or “outlet” in their name so if not, they are regular retail shops with regular pricing. Make sure you know the difference before dishing out the cash.

Do your research

Even though outlets are known for having the lowest pricing, there are still deals to be found and coins to be saved. Do a quick online search of the shop, check their social media, and get your hands on any flyer or magazine they may be printing to check out their sales and coupons. They may have a sale going on or one coming up where you are sure to save the most. Don’t always assume that the price you see on any given day is the lowest you’ll find. There’s always room for more savings.

Set a budget for your shopping day

The appeal of a good outlet mall can make it tempting for anyone to swipe without stopping. With so many stores all offering low prices and all within walking distance of each other, it is easy to shop and then drop when you see your credit card bill at the end of the month. By setting a budget for yourself before even stepping foot in the parking lot, you can have a better grasp of where your limits should be. Carry cash and spend only what’s in your hand, load a specific amount onto a prepaid debit card, or set a spending limit alert with your credit card company for hard stops on your spending.

Check prices beforehand

The main goal of an outlet is to get you to shop and spend, spend, spend. Retailers know that customers are looking for that deal, but they also bank on the fact that many believe the best deal is to be found in the bins of an outlet. By checking prices at all shops nearby, you are sure to get the best deal. Today, there are many smartphone apps that help you scan all stores nearby and online to ensure you’re finding the best price. Although it’s tempting, you don’t always have to assume the red tag is the best deal even if it’s at an outlet.

Don’t always “make a day of it”

Have you ever noticed that outlet stores and malls are often located out in remote areas or in popular vacation cities? That’s no coincidence. Retailers position themselves in places where you won’t often visit or in areas that may take you some time to commute to as a way to lure you into spending more. If you think to yourself that this area is one you’ll only go to while on vacation or if you’re around the area, you may be more likely to spend more to make it worth the trip. While this may be true, be sure to check your spending. Purchase items that are truly worth the trip and not something you can find at your local shop. Be wary of the “but I’m on vacation” train of thought before you come back from your trip with a lot less money in your wallet.

Plan your shopping trips seasonally

Everyone knows that Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year with some of the biggest potential for major buck savings. While black Friday gets most of the attention, there are other holidays were retailers release deals and steals to get you in the door. Some of the biggest shopping days include Memorial Day weekend, The Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekend. Shop in advance for future seasons by hitting clearance racks at the end of the season. For example, get next year’s winter coat at end of winter sales or bikinis at end of summer sales.

Dig through the clearance bins

Outlet shops can oftentimes resemble a barnyard. With an immense amount of people coming and going, frantically looking for deals, and ready to do just about anything for a bargain, things can get a little messy. But don’t let that stop you! The term “sales rack” or “clearance bin” comes from actual racks and bins that are used to showcase rock bottom pricing for anything from undergarments to shoes and accessories. These are great places to find loose items that are marked down to their lowest in an effort to get them out the door. So dig! Get in there and search! You’re sure to find your size and your price point all the way at the bottom.

Armed with the best ways to find a deal and what red flags to be on the lookout for, you’re now ready to hit those outlet sales!