The 10 commandments of Shopping Well, Well within your Means
- Hit the Sale Rack: While I was in grad school, I worked retail, and that was where I learned that almost everything that starts at full price will be on sale at some point in the near future. Unless you NEED something IMMEDIATELY, wait a bit before you buy. Waiting for an item to go on sale can save you between 25% and 75% of the original price. Most stores hold well-advertised annual or semi-annual sales, but another way to snag your desired items once they’ve been marked down is to learn what day your favorite store does their markdowns. Most retailers receive shipments of new items and markdown current items on certain days of the week.
- Stealing Jewelry (Metaphorically): No, I am not recommending putting jewelry in your purse and leaving the store without paying. What I am recommending is buying jewelry on sale or buying jewelry at price that isn’t going to make your head spin. Obviously this tip is geared towards everyday jewelry. Earrings and rings get lost, bracelets and necklaces will break—unless you are splurging on a major statement piece, it’s okay to skimp on jewels and baubles. I recently got a pair of earrings that were originally $10.00 for $1.00 at Nordstrom Last Chance.
- Buy in Multiples: When there is something that works really well for your body and personal style, and there is a great deal going on—stock up! I used to tease my mom for doing this when I was younger (not financially responsible for my own survival and probably at an age where just about anything looked good on me), but she was actually a few steps ahead of me. Tank tops, comfy tees, running shorts, and yoga pants are my favorite multiples because I wear them often and can stock up on my preferred style of each when specials/deals are happening.
- Look at the Whole Picture (of Your Wardrobe): When you are making purchases or considering making purchases always, always, always think about how your purchase is going to fit into what you currently have in your wardrobe. Do you already have a dress/shirt almost exactly like that? What do you already have (jewelry, tops, bottoms, shoes) that you will be able to pair with it? How many different ways can it be worn?
- (Post) Seasonal splurges: I usually do my two big closet clean-outs and reloads at the end of summer and towards the middle/end of winter. I have staples that stick with me year in and year out. You can save a lot of money and get quality and quantity simultaneously if you shop one season behind instead of one season ahead. The key to doing this well is to own several transition pieces, keep an eye out for classics that will be in style at all times, and stay away from tired trends.
- Be your own Personal Stylist: Learn your fashion identify and nurture it. If you know yourself well, you will wear your clothes well. Know your body type, your favorite fit, what colors look good on you and what colors don’t, what jeans flatter you best, what is your signature jewelry? Once you figure out what your style is, you need to stay current on what you have plenty of and where your closet is looking weak. Shop when you need it, don’t when you don’t. I recently had a revolution about dressing myself. I have A LOT of jeans, but I dread “jeans day” at work. I realized it is because I don’t have any that I feel really good in. Most are (high end) hand-me-downs, and most are too long for my 5’2’’ legs. Obviously it is time for me to get rid of the clutter I don’t enjoy wearing and save up to invest in a couple pairs of jeans that I will wear because I like them and they way I look in them.
- Location! Location! Location! Know where you can shop to find the clothes you like at a price that fits into the budget that you have set for yourself. If you need a starting point, here are some of my personal faves: Nordstrom rack, TJ Maxx, Piperlime.com (Girl on a Budget section is awesome and every piece is under $100), Zappos, Ruelala, Anne Taylor Loft, TopShop, and Zara. I am also a BIG fan of Anthropologie and Madewell, but I try to limit myself to their sale racks, special occasion purchases, or give myself a predetermined budget and stop purchasing when I get to that number—regardless of the number of items I end up with.
- Conquer Emotional Shopping: You know those studies where science proves that smelling the foods you want to eat helps you feel satisfied without actually eating them, thus avoiding emotional eating? I have a similar strategy when it comes to retail therapy. I will go to my favorite online websites, put items in my cart, and then close my browser without making a purchase. It works for me. If that’s not your cup of tea, find a strategy that stops you from making impulsive/emotional purchases, and you will save yourself a lot of money and buyer’s remorse.
- Sale ≠ Good Deal: Yes, sometimes a sale can get you a really good deal, but sometimes the promise of a “sale” is actually a ploy to get you buy an item that has hardly been discounted at all. Be aware of how much the original price has been reduced. Saving $5 on a $50 purchase isn’t a very good sale.
- Classics: If you see a classic and timeless item for a good price, you would be wise to grab it. Some things never go out of style, and some things can be worn many different ways. Jeans, LBDs, coats, blazers, riding boots, or the perfect shirt will always be wardrobe necessities, and investing in them is a solid move on your part. If you are going to splurge on an item, make sure it is a classic and timeless piece that you will be able to wear for a long time. Don’t splurge on something you might be ditching during your next closet clean-out—I’m looking at you, crop top.
Come back tomorrow to see how Sam’s shopping habits have improved and even increased since she started making a budget and sticking to it every month!