8 Ways to Buy Jeans on the Cheap

There was a time — mostly when I was in high school and college — that I would drop serious coin on new jeans (ironic, because I had no money in those days). The average cost of my jeans back then was about $70 a pair, but I’ve spent upwards of $120 on premium denim in the past. As I’ve gotten older, however, my affinity for the trendiest clothing has waned. Now I try to shop smarter, buying long-lasting, classic pieces that neither go out of style so quickly nor cost an arm and a leg. (See also: 10 Steps to Update Your Look on a Budget)

The jeans I buy now are more function than fashion (although the latter is still important to me). With that in mind, I have to scour every sale, clearance rack, and bargain bin to find jeans that suit my budget and my taste. Cheap jeans are out there, for sure — you just have to know where to look. Thus, here are eight places that I frequent when I’m on the hunt for new jeans.

1. Warehouse Sales

I’ve been to two warehouse sales — one at the legendarily expensive Barney’s New York, the other at Housing Works, which is essentially a high-end thrift shop.

Barney’s annual warehouse sale runs for about 10 days and begins with already steep discounts on designer clothes, but if you wait until the tail end of the sale (this goes for any warehouse sale, by the way) you can score normally expensive duds for up to 90% off. The pickings will be slim at that point, but there’s still a little something left for everyone who doesn’t mind digging through a chaotic mess of clothing. Personally I enjoy it, and my passion and dedication awarded me a pair of $400 jeans for $40.

The Housing Works sale wasn’t focused on designer clothing — although there are lots of great items in the mix — but rather a hodgepodge of second-hand items. This sale provides customers with big brown paper bags that they can fill to the brim for $25. I got mine for $10 with a Groupon, however, making my takeaway even better. I found an amazing pair of jeans at that sale that I looked up online afterward that originally retailed for $150. Not bad for an hour’s worth of work. If you’ve ever been to a warehouse sale, you know what I’m talking about.

2. Discount E-Tailers

As someone who likes shopping but also saving money, I’m always looking for new ways to save. I frequent discount e-tailers like JackThreads and Gilt Man because of their diverse selection of items, but I’ve recently discovered 20Jeans, another discount site (primarily for men, mind you) that sells designer jeans (and shorts, too) for $20. I recently copped a pair of dark denim that I fell in love with upon first wear. An amazing fit at the right price is the recipe for making me a return customer.

3. Thrift Shops

I’ve been a fan of thrift shops since my early teens, visiting my local shop almost weekly with my friends to nab newly added items. What I love most about thrift shops is that there are a wide range of sizes and styles from which to choose, which is not always the case if you’re shopping new clothing. I can’t say that I’ve purchased jeans from a thrift shop (I may have — just can’t remember for sure), but I have purchased pants including corduroy, camouflage, and snow pants at thrift shops. I didn’t spend more than $7 on any of them.

4. Outlets

Outlets are already discounted fairly steeply compared to their full-price retail counterparts, but there are two tricks that I like to employ to land even better deals. The first is visiting the customer service center and picking up a coupon book — most outlet malls have these — and the second is timing my shopping trip to coincide with a holiday or end-of-season sale. I see this tactic as three times the savings, which means that I stock up on three times as many new jeans.

5. Clearance Racks

I don’t mean to be biased against other retailers, but I think the Gap always has a good selection of jeans in its clearance rack. So I can personally recommend that store. Otherwise, any store I go into, I head straight for the back where I rummage through the clearance racks to find a new pair of pants, the price of which has been dramatically slashed.

6. Yard Sales

It’s a bit harder to find the perfect pair of jeans at a yard sale because of the limited selection, but if you do stumble upon a pair that you have to have, you can be sure that this will probably be the cheapest pair you’ll buy. I’m talking $5 or less. Depending on your area (city folk drive harder bargains), you may even be able to walk away with a new pair of old jeans for less than $1. Schedule a ride around in your town on a Saturday and Sunday and see what you can find.

7. Friends & Family

Did somebody say free jeans? That’s right — if you have a nice friend or family member getting rid of clothes, you can score new jeans at absolutely no cost.

I clean out my closet twice a year, and before I send my clothes to charity I always give my friends and family the first look. Usually they take my whole stash, which I prefer. Not only am I giving the items to those I love, but the process saves me a trip to the thrift shop to drop off my donation. You can also consider a clothes swap with your friends or family where you each clean out your closet and offer up the unwanted items to each other. Everybody wins in that situation — as long as you like each other’s style and wear similar sizes, of course.

8. eBay

If you really have a passion for designer jeans — and I know some of you reading this do — eBay may be a good option for you. Selection runs the gamut from top-of-the-line trendy denim to classic faves to vintage finds, but in theory they can all be snagged for the lowest bid. Some of the listing have "Buy It Now" options, which may or may not be a good deal, so I recommend sticking to traditional bidding while minding your budget. There’s no point in going bid-crazy and paying top price for a pair of jeans you could have bought for less at the mall, after all.

Have you scored great deals on jeans? How did you do? What suggestions do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

TJ Maxx often has designer jeans at greatly reduced prices, and if you're really lucky you can find them on the clearance rack to boot. Also, second hand stores like Buffalo Exchange or Arizona Trading Company lets you trade in old clothes (provided they are somewhat in fashion and re-sellable), so you can often do a trade and get new jeans or other clothing items for free. :)

Guest's picture

I've never paid more that $15 for a pair of jeans or dress pants, and I have brands like DNKY and Tommy Hilfiger in my closet. I just stack sales and haunt the super discount racks. :)

Guest's picture

We make a killing on Black Friday sales on jeans!

Guest's picture

I love Old Navy's jeans and always wait for the $19 jean sale to pick up new pants.

Guest's picture

I've found that secondhand stores like Plato's closet and Buffalo Exchange to be a great place to find jeans. You can find and try on many different styles and cuts and versions of your size, it seems like all designers have a different opinion on what a size 8 really is. So it is perfect for those college and recent grads that want to be stylish but don't have the funds.

Guest's picture

Thrift shops are an amazing place to find cheap jeans. I can easily find premium jeans for pennies on the dollar. Plus if they look a little torn or used it doesn't matter - as that's the current style anyway.