12 Ways to Save (And Survive) At The Outlet Center

We go shopping at the nearby outlet center twice per year.  For us, it happens to coincide with our birthday months, due to a chicken dinner at a world renowned restaurant that is given for free during the month of your birthday.

We have usually scored pretty well at the outlet mall, so I thought I’d offer up a few tips on how to save money at the outlet centers:

  1. Have a game plan – If you’ve not been to the outlets before, think about taking a ‘stakeout’ trip where you don’t shop.  If you’re a seasoned veteran, you probably know your way around, but you should have a plan from parking to stores you know you want to hit, etc.
  2. Have a shopping list – Just like when you go grocery shopping, it’s important to have a list of things you know you might need.  How much you stick to that is up to you.
  3. Have a budget – Know the upper limit of what you are willing to spend.  If you have no self-control, then get cash out for that amount and leave your credit / debit / ATM cards at home.  If you’ve got self-control, you should still have a budget number anyways.
  4. Know when to go – Outlets, just like other stores, will have better deals around certain times of the year.  We usually go around Memorial Day and Labor Day (back-to-school) so there always seem to be extra deals.  You will have to deal with larger crowds, but if you have your game plan sorted out, it’s a small price to pay for some big savings.
  5. Search for coupons – If you know particular stores you want to go to, see if they have any coupons available for printout online or through the website.
  6. Sign up for deals – Many outlet stores will have sign-up sheets in the store to get you on their mailing and e-mail lists.  It might seem like junk mail, but if you’re suddenly being delivered coupons for 30% off your purchase at a store you plan on shopping at anyways, it’s definitely worth signing up for.
  7. Stay hydrated – Doing effective shopping most likely means you’ll be doing a lot of walking.  Make sure you bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid too much coffee or soda as the caffeine will work against you in efforts to stay hydrated.
  8. Eat – Don’t be that cranky shopper that gets that way because your stomach is growling.  Be prepared with some on-the-go snacks that you can use for a quick boost.  Granola bars, apples, carrot sticks, and crackers are easy to carry around, wont’ spoil, and will give you a much needed pick-me-up.
  9. Leave unwilling participants behind – My wife and I (along with Little Boy Beagle) go twice per year.  That’s my limit.  Any more than that would drive me crazy.  My wife will usually go at least one more time with her mom and sister.  If kids or spouses are going to mope, complain, drag, otherwise, either plan for a shorter trip if they must be there (back to school shopping) or have them find other arrangements.
  10. Comparison shop – Keep your eyes open for deals, even on stuff you’ve already bought.  You might love the pants you got at Store A for $20, but don’t stop looking even if you made the purchase.  You might find a different / cheaper option at Store B, and returns are usually easy, especially if done the same day.
  11. Know return policies – Make sure that you know the return policy for every item you bought, so that you aren’t surprised if you want to return something and can only get store credit or if you lose a receipt.
  12. Be patient – Outlet shopping can be overwhelming and a big task, but if you’re patient and keep a cool head in the midst of other crazy shoppers, you can have a fun day filled with savings.

Happy shopping!

7 thoughts on “12 Ways to Save (And Survive) At The Outlet Center”

  1. These are some great tips beagle. I know how you feel with all this. I (sometimes) go out the day after thanksgiving. Im mentally preparing for it now, but usually my family goes in 2 groups. The women get up early and stay for a long time, and the guys do what we call "surgical shopping" we go with a list, make a beeline for the items and get out. We also dont go at the crack of dawn, making the experience much more pleasant.

  2. I didn't know I could get a free chicken dinner on my birthday! Can you believe I have never been outlet mall shopping? Maybe I will make it a trip with my daughter this fall, and go get that chicken dinner (today is my birthday, so I have 28 more days to cash in).

    Thanks for the info!

  3. @Jeff – Guys definitely shop differently than women. I am the same way, I want to go in, find what I want, pay for it, and leave. Women want to go in, look at everything, make sure it matches their list, change their mind, look at everything again, etc.

    @Tips – The free chicken dinner requires you go sign up online for their birthday club. They'll send you a card that you can then present to redeem it. Unfortunately, you can't just walk in and ask for it. If memory serves, you can't sign up the same month you want to use it, but if you sign up now, you'll have it ready for next year.

  4. Huh. I must be a guy then, and my husband must have a second X chromosome I wasn't aware of. Generally when we shop I leave him deciding about one item on the list and get the rest of the items on it myself before he's done.

    I wonder how I managed to give birth.

    Maybe your gender difference here is just that when women are shopping they're not taking care of the other 80 zillion things that women tend to have to do when they're at home. So it seems like a break, whereas men are actually allowed to relax at home. If you want your wife to spend less time shopping, I recommend doing more dishes.

  5. *sigh* I thought it was fairly obvious that I was referring to the common thought that women like to shop more than men. I understand this doens't apply to every man or women, and it certainly wasn't meant to be insulting which is how Nicole must have taken it. My apologies if any offense was taken, because I didn't think I was putting it out there in a way that was offensive.

    Oh, and by the way, I do plenty of dishes in our house, but I guess the generalization must automatically be put out there that I don't because I'm a guy? Shouldn't not making generalizations work both ways, you think?

  6. It's kinda funny… the wife just goes NUTS at the outlet center and places like Target…. and is scared to go, but I have no desire to spend anything. Weird how we both clash this way!

  7. I leave my credit cards at home and carry only a certain amount of cash on me. This way I can't spend more than what I have on me.


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