Outlet malls and factory stores are an awesome tool to save money on just about anything — if you know the tricks to shop smart!
This summer, our family was invited to experience the San Marcos Outlet Center (they sponsored this post), which is actually two shopping centers put together: the San Marcos Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets San Marcos.
I had two goals for this trip:
- Get a lot of our back to school shopping done, while saving as much money possible.
- Have fun!
We dedicated an entire day to our shopping trip, including the drive. This was my first visit to the San Marcos Outlet Center, and I was blown away by the selection (over 240 stores!) I was also amazed by how many things on our shopping list we snagged, all while spending less than I’d planned!
One of my pet peeves is buying things at retail price (who wants to do that?!) So I’m excited to share my shopping secrets with you to save up to 65% off retail!
Keep reading for my go-to tricks for saving money at outlet malls, and making your shopping trip a success!
The Best Shopping Hacks for Outlet Malls
These tried & true tricks will help you to save money and time, and have fun doing it!
The most important part of a successful outlet mall shopping trip happens before you even start the car!
Planning your trip in advance allows you to shop efficiently and save even more money. If you plan out exactly what stores you want to hit, you’ll know the best place to park, and you’ll skip time wasted wandering around looking for stores.
Even better, many outlet malls post special sale information and coupon on their websites that might not be displayed in stores. So you can find additional savings!
Always visit the outlet malls’ websites before you go to:
- Download coupons and scope out current promotions
- Print a map and plan your shopping trip
Be sure to bookmark these links for your next trip to the San Marcos Outlet Center:
Read the tags
There are tons of awesome markdowns at outlet malls, but you always want to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Sometimes special promotions look like a steal, but it’s important to do the math before you buy.
For example, you might see a sign advertising “buy 1 t-shirt, get 2 free.” However, upon checking the tags, you find that the shirts are $24.99 at regular price. So in effect, each shirt in this “buy 1, get 2” promotion costs $8.33.
Not bad, but you may be able to find individual shirts on sale for less. I regularly find clearance shirts for a couple bucks apiece!
Shop clearance first
Speaking of clearance, many stores will place their biggest markdowns near the back of the store.
Start in the clearance section first, and try to find as many items from your list there first. Then branch out to the rest of the store.
This can help you stick to a budget and find what you need for the lowest price.
Use outlet malls to stock up on basics and fast trends
I’ve found outlet malls and factory stores to be most helpful in two ways:
- Stocking up on staple pieces (think: basic t-shirts, socks, etc.) — We all need tank tops and t-shirts, but who wants to spend a ton of money on them? Outlet malls are a great way to grab these wardrobe necessities at the lowest possible price.
- Rounding out your wardrobe with fashion trends that won’t last long — There’s nothing wrong with buying a fun and trendy item. However, if you know it’s something you’ll only want to wear for one season then you should look for ways to get it as inexpensively as possible.
Visit during big shopping weekends
You might have to deal with largest crowds, however, major shopping weekends like Black Friday are often where you’ll score the best deals of the year.
To draw shoppers away from traditional retail stores, many outlet malls will offer special sales or even bring in new merchandise.
Park in the middle or back of the outlet
If you’ve mapped out your shopping trip, you’ll have a good idea of where is most convenient to park (where is accessible to the majority of the stores you want to visit).
In any case, skip trying to park near the front entrance, as this is where you’ll run into the largest crowd. We usually cruise straight back to the middle or far side of the outlet mall where there’s less competition for spots. No need to waste time in the parking lot!
Wear comfortable clothes
Dress like you’re going to the gym. (Trust me on this one!)
Outlet shopping can be an all-day thing, so make sure you’re wearing clothing that’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time:
- Sneakers or walking shoes
- Loose, breathable clothing
- Extra hair ties to pull back kids’ hair if needed
Always take a lunch break & stay hydrated
Nobody makes sound decisions on an empty stomach! Always plan for a lunch break, and enjoy it!
Instead of grabbing fast food on the go, we always take an hour to sit down and eat. This lets everyone rest their legs, take a break from the heat (Texas summers are hot), and plan out the rest of the afternoon.
Staying hydrated is just as important as taking a lunch break, maybe even more so! A lot of outlet malls are outdoors, so if you’re shopping in the summer you’ve got to take care of yourself.
Drinking plenty of water and resting often will keep everyone’s energy levels up.
Take the scenic route
Outlet malls are often designed to be a shopping destination, so you often have to drive a bit to get there.
The San Marcos Outlet Malls are a 3 hour drive from Houston, and it’s an easy drive. However, we made sure to pack travel games to keep everyone entertained. (Like this homemade velcro road trip bingo for kids).
We also made sure to savor the view! It was fun to drive through a part of our state that we don’t get to see very often. You never know what you’ll find!
Plan your San Marcos Outlet Center shopping trip
Located off I-35 in San Marcos, Texas, the San Marcos Outlet Center is a convenient shopping destination for pretty much anywhere in Texas!
CLICK HERE to take a virtual tour of the San Marcos Outlet Center!
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