Bagging a real bargain: The ultimate Black Friday shopping guide

  • by IMAGE

Sifting the deals from the duds on Black Friday is less about finding something at 70% off in your size and more about finding a piece that works for you, explains Louise Slyth.

We all love a bargain. Securing a new treat at a bargain price can be a great way to cheer ourselves up and support the economy (don’t forget to shop local if you can).

However, sometimes after the thrill of the sale haul has subsided, we are left with a prickly sense of buyer’s remorse and a sparkly cardigan that we will never wear. The fact that Black Friday is online-only this year adds an extra level of risk (can you really be bothered to stand in a queue for an hour in December to return something you bought in haste?)

The key to winning at sale shopping is to focus on a few basic principles.



Consider cost per wear

Cost per wear is a concept I have been dedicated to for a decade. It is the true barometer of any shopping success. This nifty piece of arithmetic will not only keep you honest with your purchases but may allow you to justify something slightly more expensive. Take the cost of the item and divide it by the number of times you will realistically wear it.

Let me repeat – realistically.

If you spend more to secure a classic bag that will take you from day to night across the seasons, then it’s likely to ultimately cost you less than something that gets relegated to the back of the wardrobe after one use. Equally, if your “bargain” coat costs €60 but you only wear it once, then it wasn’t the bargain you thought it was.


Buy for the life you live, not the life you want


This sounds obvious, but we often don’t consider if the items we want will complement our lifestyle. Last summer I succumbed to a sequined cape in Brown Thomas.  It was pink and sparkly and fabulous. It was also 70% off.  It seduced me with visions of myself flouncing around in it quaffing champagne.  I have worn it precisely zero times.  If you spend more time in the office or doing school runs than you do at gala balls, then spend your money accordingly.



Never buy something you can’t envisage wearing in more than one scenario.  If I buy a tea dress, then I need to know it will work with heels and runners.  My Spanx leather leggings will be worn with a chiffon blouse and a blazer but will also get mileage with a hoody and biker boots.  The one exception to this rule is occasion wear.



Will the item you are considering blend with things you already have, or will you need to make further purchases to make it work? Yes, that orange skirt might be a bargain, but if you need to invest in a top or shoes to integrate it into your existing wardrobe, then it’s more of a dud than a deal.



Would you have bought it if it were full price?

There is nothing quite like the thrill of 50% off, but it’s only really a bargain if you would have bought it anyway.


Focus on Staples

These are the evergreen items that will earn their keep in your wardrobe long after the shopping high has subsided. Think chunky knits in neutral colours, a good pair of jeans or flats that will go with everything. If you can secure your staples at a discount, then rejoice and put your credit card away.




Read the care instructions before you buy.  So many gorgeous tops and jumpers have been left languishing in the laundry basket because I’ve neglected to check the care instructions.  I sometimes risk popping a hand wash item into the washing machine on a gentle cycle, but I almost always regret it. Before committing to a purchase, be certain you can commit to its care.


Beware Repeat Purchases

I have a penchant for Breton tops and adore anything yellow.  If you look in my virtual shopping basket, chances are that something yellow will have “fallen in”.  The reason we re-buy is because we already know we are onto a winning formula, but it’s worth asking yourself if your wallet and the environment can stand to support another repeat purchase when you have something very similar already sitting in your wardrobe.


Finally, if in doubt step away


We have all been known to succumb to the thrill of it all.  Throwing things into your basket from the comfort of your sofa is a lot less taxing than carting 20 items around a packed store.  Queuing up to return 19 of those items – not such fun. If you are unsure, leave the item in your basket for 24 hours.  If you can’t sleep because it’s calling to you, then, by all means, buy it the following day.  If it’s gone, or you have forgotten it, then the shopping gods were smiling on you and it was not meant to be.

In a world where sustainability and provenance are becoming as important as style, we should all be thinking a little more before pressing “continue to checkout”.

Happy hunting!

Featured image: Jordan Nix on Unsplash

Read more: "Frenzied overconsumption": The dark side of Black Friday buying

Read more: 5 online vintage stores you should support for Black Friday this year


Read more: 50 Irish designers to gift this Christmas

The image newsletter