Four years ago I discovered flash sales and was instantly hooked; I started shopping them for almost all of two my sons’ clothing. Then my husband accepted a new job with locally-based flash sale site Rue La La, so now flash sales are a frequent conversation-topic in our house. For any of you who aren’t familiar with them yet, flash sales are short-term online sales offering large discounts. Most flash sale sites focus on high-end women’s clothing, but many of them have branched out to include other categories including children’s sales. On flash sale websites you’ll find everything from toys to kids’ designer clothing and shoes to cribs and kiddie furniture and nursery decor. The downside of these sales is that they can be addictive! Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your flash sale shopping experience....


  • If you don’t like getting a lot of email, set up a special account just for online shopping. A hotmail or gmail account is good for this. You may not want lots of sale updates coming to your work email.

  • Check out multiple flash sale sites. Each will send you a daily email when sales start. Some, like Zulily, have a notification feature – they can alert you when one of the brands you love is about to go on sale. Watching multiple sites helps you get a better deal, because there's a lot of overlap – For instance, Tea Collection clothing has been featured on 6 different flash sale sites. If you don't want to invest a lot of time, join the SampleSaleMom facebook group. I post whenver there is a sale on any site on Tea Collection, Boden, Hanna Andersson, and many other high end favorites, as well as extremely discounted toys when the prices drop down.

  • Double-check prices & factor in the shipping cost. Yes, you can get a lot of amazing deals on flash sale site, but not everything is a bargain. As a baseline, check or the manufacturer’s site for comparison. Most flash sales charge at least $6 shipping. Zulily has it's optional "zulily unlimited" program, which gives you flat yearly shipping for $49. Amazon’s own flash sale site, MyHabit has flat rate $4 shipping. (Note, some of the above are affiliate links. If you make a purchase via my link I'lll be compensated a small percentage of your purchase price.)

  • If you want the best selection, check the site right at the time its sales start each day. Popular items do sell out quickly. If you see something you really want, do put it into your cart right away! In most cases the site will reserve it for you for ten to fifteen minutes.

  • Read the shipping and return policies before you buy. Some items will ship out the next day, but others may take a month to reach you. So it’s especially important to know the shipping timeframe if you’re buying for an upcoming event like a child’s birthday.

  • If you are unsatisfied in any way, complain. And be persistent. Some flash sale sites have incredible customer service. I’ve gotten my shipping costs refunded for calling to complain about long shipping-times. I’ve had my money refunded by several sites when an item I got was defective or the wrong color (this happens rarely, but I order quite often) – and in most cases I got to keep the item for free also.

  • Always look for a coupon code. This goes for flash sale sites, and for many other places you shop online. Sites like Coupon Cabin and Retail Me Not list many coupon codes. Flash sale sites often have particularly good incentives for first-time customers who use a particular code (20% off, $25 off, etc…) For instance, I wanted to buy a bag on Gilt, but I couldn’t find a working coupon code online. I called them and asked them to please provide me with a code and they did provide one for an extra 20% off! This saved me a lot of money and brought the bag down to 55% off its current price on! So if you’re making a large purchase, consider calling to ASK for a coupon code – you have nothing to lose.

  • Once you’ve found a flash sale site you really enjoy, sign up for their facebook updates by “liking” their page. This is a good way to see what’s coming up for sale next, and find out about any upcoming discounts or promotions.

  • Refer friends who also like to shop. Flash sale sites don’t usually do much print or television advertising. Instead they offer a merchandise credit (varying from $10 to $25) to you for each person you refer who ends up making a purchase on the site. Look for instructions on each individual site.

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