As a budget fashionista living in Boston, Filene’s Basement is my personal shopping mecca. At its flagship store in Downtown Crossing, where bargain hunting is practically an extreme sport, my favorite finds have included a powder blue peacoat for $38, a four-pack of martini glasses for under $10, and Calvin Klein underwear for $0.99. Still, the lack of organization and varying level of quality can make the Basement a little overwhelming. Here are a few pointers for navigating this urban jungle:

  * Snatch up the goods when you can find them. Filene Basement’s discount tag system (25% before X date, 50% before X, etc.) is, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.” But don’t wait an extra few days to get the higher discount, because you’ll never find that cashmere cardigan or Ralph Lauren comforter again.
  * Bring cash. The Basement accepts credit cards on most purchases, but if you luck out and find a DVF-inspired wrap dress for 75% off, you’ll have to pay cash. Any discount over 75% is cash only, because they donate the money to charity. (TBF Note: I DIDN’T know this tip).
  * Wear your good underwear. The Basement’s fitting rooms are normally communal, so you may not want twelve strange women to see your stretched out Target-brand granny panties or see-through La Perla thong (no shame in either one, I have several pairs of both, but I try to save them for other occasions).
  * When in doubt, try it on. Because the Basement’s merchandise comes from a variety of sources, sizing varies widely. You may be surprised at how tiny a size 10 can be or how huge an “XS.” Plus, items often get returned to the wrong rack, so you might strike gold in the petites section even if you usually wear plus sizes (and the less trained eye would miss that fabulous cocktail frock).
  * Do NOT go within five blocks of The Basement during the Running of the Brides unless you are a budget-minded bride-to-be or one of her brave bridesmaids. Bridezillas and discounted Vera Wang are a scary combination, so check the dates in your city or you could get more than you bah-gained for. Trust me.

Susan’s Favorite Cause: Arts USA-  http://www.artsusa.org.