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A closeout store like Big Lots is not the first thing that springs to mind for, er, fashionable shopping. Or the second. Or twelfth. But let’s change our mindset for just a moment, shall we? We like to save money. We like the thrill of finding a hot deal. We pride ourselves of being financially savvy. And it helps if you know the definition of a “closeout”—which is actually first-quality, brandname goods at discount prices because the manufacturer needed to get rid of them.
Yes, we know the stores can be, well, kind of gross. But, being the commando budget shoppers we are (and in this economy, we can’t really afford to be any other way), we know that Big Lots (which boasts prices 20-40% under other discount stores, and 70% less than conventional retailers) is worth venturing into, assuming you know the best approach. So here it is:
How to Shop big Lots
The BuzzClub. Big Lots actually does have an online presence at BigLots.com, and it doesn’t look like much to begin with but if you scroll down to the bottom and click on the teeny tiny print that says “Buzz Club” you can sign up—for FREE—to have access to all their online merchandise, exclusive “members only” discounts, first looks at ads and clearance, and more. See? You can be exclusive even at Big Lots. Who knew.
Check the Weekly Ads. If you don’t relish making the trek when you don’t even know what you’ll find—and don’t want to sign up your overworked inbox up for yet another email list—you can still log on to BigLots.com and view your local weekly ad to plan the deals before you go.
Shop for the Basics. Let’s just say it—apparel is not Big Lots’ thing. But, if you need some basics—like socks and underwear—you can get packs incredibly cheap, for all members of the family. It might not be the types of undergarments you’d want to shimmy into for, say, your big anniversary night, but for the daily grind? Perfectly acceptable.
Clothing is Limited. The clothing is limited to mostly basic tees and leggings, haphazardly displayed on shelves. Discontinued lingerie ($5 bras) and three-packs of panties are available in limited sizes. You will have more luck (and fun) with accessories. “Famous brand” handbags really seem to actually be no-name bags, but for $12, it doesn’t really matter. We’ve found Crocs ballet flats ($15), slippers for the whole family ($8), Izod flip-flops ($10) and American Apparel scarves ($3). Costume jewelry ($5), watches ($5 and up) and sunglasses ($10), seemed truly disposable, which are great buys, if you’re prone to lose trinkets.
Think Beauty. Stylish clothing may just be out of the question at Big Lots but our number one love at this particular store? The beauty section. It’s sooooo not glamorous—usually a mishmash of brands, packages, and cheesy plastic tubs of random items—but we have rarely left without something we couldn’t wait to get to the car to try out. The caveats: check expiration dates closely—VERY VERY important—and inspect the items with a critical eye (if that bottle of nail polish looks like it’s been in the warehouse for six years and counting, step away). But dig around, and you’ll find perfectly good beauty items—from tools to make-up to moisturizer and hair products—dirt cheap. Like a Rimmel mascara for 99 cents, value packs of two e.l.f. lipglosses for a buck (and you don’t have to mess with ordering online), Oil of Olay moisturizer for $3 . . .
If you’re the type to try teal eyeliner once and then move onto aubergine, then you’ll have blast in the cosmetics aisles. Tons of brand names (Almay, ELF, Maybelline and Revlon) discounted to well below Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price. You might even come across your favorite shade of discontinued CoverGirl Continuous Color for $1.50. There are tons of bath products (puffs for $1, soaps for $2) and hair tools (Conair dryers and flat irons for $19). Make sure to check the expiration dates to make sure the cosmetics are still safe to use.
Style for Your Living Room. Many folks don’t seem to be aware that many Big Lots stock furniture—and not just the pressed “wood” do-it-yourself dorm-tastic bookshelf variety. We’re talking sofas, kitchen tables, bedroom sets, mattresses. This is not the stuff you’ll want to hand down as family heirlooms mind you, but pretty cheap prices and decent looking stuff if you need to furnish your nest for less. Just to be on the safe side, we’d look for dings, dents, and the like—but for the prices you just might decide it’s worth it anyway.
Embrace Change. Big Lots is one of those stores—being a closeout retailer and all—that often doesn’t carry the same thing twice. Which, if you are a creature of habit, is bad; however, on the upside, if you don’t see anything you like this trip, next time there’ll could be something new and great. The fact of the matter is that while regular retailers stock seasonally, a closeout store like Big Lots changes inventory constantly as they acquire new merchandise, so in this case, change is good.
Bonus for Teachers. Big Lots is a great store for teachers anyway, with super cheap supplies (great for back to schoolers too), but there’s also a “Teachers” section online (it’s in the teeny tiny letters right below “Buzz Club”) where they’ll feature teacher-only deals (and if you join the BuzzClub and indicate you’re an educator, you can get the deals sent directly to your inbox).