Shopping in New York is truly a classic activity. As someone who is pretty budget-conscious, but who loves a nice statement piece, I went big when I visited my parents recently. I went to a lot of my favorite places to shop in New York as well as some new places that I hadn’t yet been to.
I’ve tried to only discuss limit this post about the best budget shopping in New York City to places that have quality items for a reasonable price, e.g. designer clothes/shoes for 50-70% off retail and stores that simply carry good quality without charging you insane amounts. I also include secondhand shopping, which is a passion of mine. I also include some money-saving tips!
Note: I focused this guide to affordable shopping in NYC on Manhattan, but you’ll find many of these stores in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx as well as independent boutiques worth visiting in the other boroughs. Brooklyn is a huge hotspot for vintage shopping, especially Williamsburg. You can book a shopping tour of NYC here if you’re looking for a guide to show you some other great spots!
A note: If you are not living in New York, it is possible to get some of the NYC sales tax back, which will give you a discount. Most major retailers will ask for ID and have a booth available, so be sure to ask if you’re making a big purchase!
I love Century21 department store! This discount department store in New York City specializes in discount European and American brands. The items are new, but the prices are generally 40-60% off retail prices! Booyah! I ended up getting a beautiful Emily and Fin dress for 70% the typical retail price. I saw lots of Levi’s and European brands for those looking for a steal. Be sure to go to their flagship store in Lower Manhattan for the best selection of accessories, clothing, and shoes!
Vintage-lovers and basically anyone who loves a deal will have a field day in New York City. Although I’ve done vintage shopping in a lot of cities, I’ve found some amazing finds at NYC vintage stores. You need to be patient, but luckily there’s a number of great vintage/thrift stores in Manhattan that will presort the best clothing and accessories for customers. Pretend you’re at a department store with top designer brands, except the items are at a significant discount…
You don’t need to go exclusively to these vintage stores as you’ll find the major secondhand stores in New York (e.g. Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent’s) that also will carry quality goods. The nicer the neighborhood, the nicer the secondhand shop.
When I was recently in SoHo, I stopped by Housing Works to browse their collection of vintage clothes. I was really impressed by the selection of well-laid-out dresses, thoughtful picks, and authentic vintage. It’s nice yet not overwhelming. (Afterwards, you can head to their bookshop next door for books!) I saw so many great finds here.
I like Buffalo Exchange a lot. This thrift store in New York City (and other locations) is a great place to browse for vintage and designer clothes second hand. Even if you’re not designer crazy, the selection is surprisingly decent for a thrift store.
Beacon’s Closet is a great place to look for a specific item. This thift store buys and sells vintage and (occasionally) new clothing. They sort their clothes by color, which makes it easy to shop if you’re someone like myself who generally sticks to a set palette. They are quite particular with what they take, so stop by the location in union square or Greenpoint for a larger selection.
What goes around comes around
This is the creme de la creme of vintage shopping in New York City. If you’re after an authentic 1920s flapper dress …for reasons, this is where to come. Many stylists come here for sourcing fashion for TV shows and it’s always a delight to browse this store for designer and authentic vintage fashion.
Macy’s is still one of my favorite stores to shop at in New York City. I grew up going here regularly and their sales are killer when they happen. Most sales usually occur close to major US holidays although there are sometimes sales on random weekends. I recommend checking their website as well as local newspapers for ads regarding sales. (We usually buy Newsday.)
At Macy’s, you’ll find major brands for perfume, jewelry, luggage, handbags, kids’ clothing, women’s clothing, and menswear. Don’t be intimidated by the price on the tag as there are often really good coupons and customers often share extra coupons (if they have any) with those in line in my experience. Similarly, the clearance section is seriously killer. Yours truly just got a $100 Vera Bradley bag for $24 on the last trip to Macy’s by digging through the clearance rack.
I usually don’t recommend getting store credit cards as the interest rates are often high, but the Macy’s one does provide some amazing discounts (sometimes up to 40% your total purchase on top of clearance). Just pay it off in full immediately after and read the coupon terms carefully!
I love the flagship Macy’s in Herald Square. Especially in December, it turns into a winter wonderland with Santa, incredibly reasonable and gorgeous NYC Christmas ornaments (a great souvenir!), and windows decorated with a theme. Even if you don’t buy something, I always love coming inside Macy’s.
DSW Union Square
DSW is the greatest shoe store in New York City for anyone looking for well-made shoes on a budget! This is where I shop for my shoes. The DSW Union Square is one of the best stocked DSWs in the city and I strongly recommend finding the clearance section in your size. I’ve found countless pairs of shoes 40-80% off what I’d pay elsewhere here. (My dad is also a fan!) DSW credit card members get additional discounts and coupons.
If you’re visiting New York in winter, I highly recommend stopping by Uniqlo if you’re feeling a bit undressed. This Japanese department store is where I’ve often bought lightweight sweaters of great quality (that have lasted YEARS) as well as lightweight jackets.
I also love their affordable yet cheerful t-shirt collection, some of which are inspired by NYC, which can make for a fun souvenir that you’ll use every day. They occasionally have sales, but the prices are quite good for the quality compared to fast fashion brands like H&M.
I grouped together TJ Maxx and Marshall’s as they’re owned by the same brand and it’s essentially the same chaotic shopping experience. I often shop both stores for affordable designer clothes in New York City. You really have no idea what you’ll find and I always love browsing.
I consider TJ Maxx and Marshall’s one of the best places to buy designer luggage on a budget in New York City. I did quite a bit of shopping recently and ended up getting a Samsonite bag for a really good price (50% off!). I also love the handbag selection at both stores, which include many Italian brands at a significant discount.
Old Navy is where I always shopped when I was younger, but it’s actually stayed up to date with the latest trends. I love Old Navy as they have comfy dresses, cotton clothes, and clothes that work for people who are plus-side as well as slim! It’s always pretty affordable and their sales make it even more appealing to shop at Old Navy. I bought a number of dresses full-price that I’ve been wearing every day this summer.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, I ended up buying a cheap New York tote bag here. Similarly, they have a number of decent looking American flag and New York inspired prints on clothes and accessories without an insane price tag.
Empire Outlets (Staten Island)
One of the newcomers to New York City’s discount shopping world is Empire Outlets. For years, New Yorkers and tourists have been taking the bus up to the expansive Woodbury Commons for outlet shopping for designer brands. Luckily now, you just need to take the incredibly scenic (and free) ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island with a view of Lady Liberty to get to the Empire Outlets. I peeked inside when I was last in Staten Island and I was impressed with the selection of outlet stores from Brooks Brothers to Levi’s to Guess.
One of the best affordable stores for discount items, especially shoes, is Nordstrom Rack. The selection actually can be quite overwhelming, but it’s always fun to browse if you’re a shoeaholic. The newer location near Herald Square is huge and you’ll find tons of top designer brands on significant discount here. (They sell the majority of the top brands that Nordstrom sells at their department store.)
Looking for the basics? JCPenney’s is a well-known American department store chain known for good prices. I definitely recommend checking out a local newspaper for their advertised sales as they sell big-name items, including Levi’s often at a discount. If you’re looking for brands like Nike, Levi’s, Adidas, and Samsonite, it might be worth swinging by here if you spot a good sale!
If you’re after the real thing, be sure to look up upcoming sample sales in New York City! 260 Sample Sale is a good place to check, but for a full schedule, check ChicMe and other blogs about sample sales in NYC for more info. You can nab high-end designer items easily for less than $100, so don’t be afraid to try.
Are you picturing yourself saying Target the French way? Target is one of America’s great treasures and it’s my favorite place to look for collaborations with designers, cute household items, and accessories. It’s also a fantastic place for make-up without spending the kind of money that you can easily spend at MAC. Despite being cheaper, a solid portion of my current wardrobe was purchased 4 years ago at Target.
I always love browsing the various accessory and clothing stores on Main St. in Flushing (Queens) for the latest Asian fashions and accessories. This is a great place to pick up cute accessories on a significant budget whether it’s Korean cosmetics or just cute skirts. Bring cash and have a blast. (A warning: the clothing sizes generally run on the smaller side.)