You might think outlet stores and off-price shopping is the way to get the better goods for a cheaper price. "But manufacturers and retailers have figured out it's actually cheaper to just make lower-quality merchandise specifically for these stores (think outlet malls, Marshall's and Ross), and that's 90 percent of what you'll find there," says Vicky Oliver, author of "The Millionaire's Handbook."
"That Coach handbag at the outlet is not the same one sold in a department store," Oliver says. "It's a completely different caliber of an item. Its full-price cousin is sturdier, has superior stitching and softer leather. The outlet merchandise is less costly, but lower in quality, too. And if it is the real thing, the only reason it's there is because people with money didn't like it enough to buy it."
Oliver suggests spending time in the upscale department stores to train your eye and hand in the look and feel of the higher-quality designer items. "Try them on, and notice the drape and superior fit. Examine seams, pockets and buttons in the light so you can recognize high-quality versus low-quality when you are shopping on a budget," she says.