When I first started working out, I didn’t have “workout clothes.” I went out in a “polo” that I’d bought from Old Navy, and some capri pants I’d purchased from Rainbow. (You can hate on my Rainbow pants, but they were fly for a size 26.) I was so eager to just get out there and go, that there were nights I was out there walking with Mini-me in my pajama pants.

That’s right. I said it. Pajama. Pants. I was determined… your snootiness about my flannel pants be damned!

But, as with all things, this slowly came to an end for me. I even remember how it happened. Mini-me and I were outside, walking our little path, when all of a sudden I felt a cold breeze.

Um, it was a little TOO cold, though.

My pants, apparently, without my understanding (or even paying attention), had become a tad bit too loose and baggy over the weeks, and had finally given up the ghost. There, they rested… just chillin’ at my knees, leaving those cheeks of mine exposed.

I busted out laughing, grabbed my pants, and walked away in shock. That had never happened to me before! For once, my clothes were too big. Wow, how does that happen? I mean, yeah, it happens, but when it does? That first time? It takes a moment.

The reality hits you. You, eventually, have to invest in some workout clothes. You can’t work out in clothes designated for another activity – like “work” or “kicking it” (yes, “kicking it” is an activity) and, quite frankly, there’s something “official” about putting on my workout gear. It’s like I’m getting into the mind frame that says… it’s time to kick some ass. My own ass.

But, if you’re swapping sizes quickly, what do you do? You try to get the best quality that you can afford, as cheaply as possible. That’s what. But how? And where? I’ve got five spots that wll offer you the best bang for your online money management buck, and a bonus spot that’s just for the time being.

1) Your favorite sporting goods store… in the clearance section: Obviously, the most top of the line products are going to be sold, here. But just like any other store, they have to have markdowns in order to both still profit from the supply as well as move it out of the store to make space for the incoming supply. I was able to get a handful of Nike dry-fit shirts (green and neon pink, thank you very much) for under $20 a piece. Compression socks? $1 a pair. You have to make regular visits – just like how some of us saunter into Macy’s regularly to see what they’ve got, you’ve got to do the same at Dick’s (the place I got my socks and dry-fit shirts) or Sports Authority in order to catch the thriftiest of deals. It’s a lifestyle now, one we want to keep as cheap as possible. The sizing on this is usually location-specific: I couldn’t find anything beyond a size L in some cities, but the XLs were pretty plentiful in Indiana the last time I was there. (I’on know if they’re trying to say something about Hoosiers, but… )

2) Marshall’s / TJ Maxx/Burlington Coat Factory: It sounds counter-intuitive, but when large-name stores can’t “clearance” away the products that are going out of season, they give them to places like Burlington or TJ Maxx to sell. This includes things like workout pants, jackets and tanks. No word on sports bras, although the tennis shoe selection (and the prices for ’em) might make up for that. Sizes here, too, only tend to go up to an XL, but considering vanity sizing… anyone who’s uncertain about whether that XL includes them may want to give it a shot.

3) Target: Target has the hookup. I feel like I was the last person to figure this out, but they’ve got the hookup. They carry the C9 line from Champion, which is basically off-brand “Champion product. Consider this Champion’s efforts to get money from those of us not willing to pay the prices for the “on brand” product, and by selling C9 at a huge store like Target they can still make money and avoid advertising for it. Target also doubles down on this by offering lots of the products on clearance – moisture-wicking tees for about $5 a pop, sports bras in out-of-season colors (sports bras? out of season colors? what?) for $2.99, and listen – I cleaned up on those sports bras. They’re actually pretty decent quality for those of us lacking in the racks on racks on racks department. Not to mention, sizes go up to 3X for these in terms of shirts, pants and jackets.

I don’t know what size the bras go up to, though, and I try not to look. It makes me miss the wonders that were, on my own chest.

4) Old Navy: Old Navy is awesome. Slowly creeping into the fitness gear world, they’re released their own styles of shirts, running and yoga pants, fleeces – and don’t we all love an Old Navy fleece? – as well as sports bras. The stuff can also get a little pricey – $26 for a sports bra? – but, as always, Old Navy comes through in a clutch with tons of 30% off coupons and frequent sales. I actually scored three pair of workout capris for $7 a piece… and yes, they’re still holding up, a year later.

Now, while Old Navy may no longer offer their 20+ sizes in the store like they used to, they’re still available online (the sales are usually better there, anyway, and the shipping is pretty reasonable.) Before you do, though, check and see if your size can be accommodated in the store – their sizes are a little more, ahem, accommodating.

5) Forever 21: This one may be a bit of a shocker, but it’s true: Forever 21 finally dove nose-first into the workout gear realm of the fashion (?) and brought us cute and colorful camis and pants for both running and yoga. The prices are pretty awesome – starting at $3 for the tops, and $12 for the pants – even though the quality is a bit suspect (how are you going to put a logo on pants, and then your logo peels off?), they’re just sturdy enough to get the job done. Those camisoles are pretty cheap, so don’t expect more than a year’s worth of regular wear out of ’em. While I think Forever 21’s sizes stop around a 12, their website Faith 21 has a few – and I do mean few… their plus-sized section doesn’t even have an “activewear” tab like the non-plus sized section – pieces to help you get what you need.

Bonus: Victoria’s Secret also has an activewear line – coupled with the brand’s Pink line creating yoga pants, sports bras (padded, of course), shorts and tiny tops – called VSX Sexy Sport, with cute (and fitted, of course) jackets, sports bras (up to a 38DD, 36D) tanks and pants in blindingly neon colors. Of course it’s pricey, except…. it’s Semi-annual season sale. Not every VS store carried the VSX Sexy Sport, but some did and are using this as an opportunity to get rid of some of it. Those $60 form-fitting moisture wicking jackets? In some places, they’re $30 right now. You’re welcome.

What deals are you catching? How are you saving money?

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