Banana Republic on a Budget: Tried & Tested Tips for High-Priced Goods on the Cheap

Great quality clothing in modern fits and colors...priced too high for men on a budget. One Primer reader shares his techniques for shopping smart.

Why Pay $250.00 for a sports coat when you can pay $85.00 for the same item? The trick is having a strategy, a little patience, and a touch of junk e-mail. Retail stores like Banana Republic have premium clothes at premium prices but the watchful consumer can get a great deal.

Last fall I was reading Primer and taking notes on the Getups so I could refine a style for my new job at a classical elementary school.  I also seemed to have aged out of my previous wardrobe and wanted to communicate “I am a 31 year old professional that is a happily married father of 3.  I found a bunch of great pieces but working in education doesn’t usually afford such luxuries while also supporting a family. The budget was set for what I could spend and I just so happened to get lucky on my first visit.

On Memorial Day, the associates were giving out coupons for that day only. You could get 30% or 40% off. I was fortunate enough to get 40% off, but then I started reading the signs about 15% off if I opened a charge card. As a Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, I always told my students to avoid those cards, but I figured I might frequent this place so I gave it a shot. (I would really only recommend this if you can pay off your balance monthly.)

I think I had one of everything in the store but was rather nervous about paying. My initial total was ~$1,600.00. My 40% off coupon took me to $960.00, and the additional 15% off with the charge card took it to $816.00. The store credit card has a point system, so for so for every $1.00 I spent at a Gap, INC store, I got 5 points. For every 1,000 points you get a $10.00 certificate. On my first visit I got 4,080 points which gave me $40.00 off another purchase when the billing cycle ended. (Out-of-store purchases give you 1 point for every dollar spend.)

It gets better! Because I spent at least $800 in a year (on my first visit), my card was automatically upgraded to the Luxe status, which has a few additional benefits. January and February had 3x points on outside purchases, but they also have a few special days where you can get triple points in store. On one of those days, I spent about $800. It was another 40% off day, which took me to $480, plus Luxe cardholders get a special 15% off shopping pass, so that took me to $408, but it was also triple points so I got 6,120 giving me another $60.00 on a future purchase.

I thought I hit a once in a lifetime sale at 40% off, but then I signed up to get e-mails about specials and realized that 40% off something happens almost every week. When you see something at 25-30% off, just wait a few days for an e-mail (it is usually Wednesday) and get your 40% off two items. It makes Black Friday a little less frantic knowing you can score deals almost every week of the year. Although Black Friday through Christmas has several triple point days not to mention bonuses for buying gift cards. This past Christmas you could earn $30 certificates if you purchased $100 gift card (with some exclusions).

Banana Republic sends e-mails about new products and sales, usually before they happen, so you can plan accordingly. The fine print on these great deals is that it usually does not include special lines like their Performance line or their suits. If you’re in the market for those items, keep reading the fine print and ask an associate when the next sale is that will include suits (this might take a little sweet talking but the store local to me looked at a chart outlining the promotions for the next several months).  I learned the hard way that sometimes not everything in the store is included, like my $250.00 jacket. I was bummed but the associate told me to wait until next week because that sale would include jackets. So my jacket went from $250.00 to $150 then I had $65 in certificates so it landed at $85.00 plus tax. You’ll also receive mail the old fashion way with coupons or promotional events. This week I received 30% off the new Mad Men line that came out at the end of February (cardholders only).

I wish I could afford to go spend a few hundred dollars every month but I can’t. The great thing about a store like this is that many of the pieces are classic so I don’t have to spend a ton of money to update a look. If I could quit getting stains on my ties, I’d be set! In fact, a few times I haven’t spent any money because I’ve had my reward certificates paired with one of their weekly promotions.

To the family man: My wife now loves shopping at Banana Republic and The Gap and we are able to get some great clothes for our kids at The Gap Kids and Old Navy. Watch the points add up at all these stores!

So the next time you’re at the mall or you see a great piece on a Getup and it isn’t at least 40% off, wait until the following Wednesday and save. You can also anticipate their clearance cycles to save money. It seems that they have 3-4 new waves of clothing for each season. By the time the third wave is on the floor, the first wave is on clearance (although usually not more than 30% off or less to start with). You can wait until the last minute when the sales go up to 40% off plus an additional 25% off that, but you also risk not getting what you want. The only other way to save money is to get a job there and you’ll get a discount of 50%… I’ve been offered jobs twice now.

Store photo credit.

Dennis and his wife, Heidi, live on the Near East Side of Indianapolis in a beautiful neighborhood called St. Clair Place with their three children, Edmund, Mildred, and Frederick. His spare time is spent playing with and reading to kids, taking family walks, and having a lot of coffee with his friends. He is a Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher by degree but now is the Director of Operations at a classical elementary school called The Oaks Academy. Follow him on Twitter @dennisswender.