How I Shop & Not Break the Bank
Updated: Aug 2, 2018
I consider myself a masterful shopper (toot of the ol' horn!). I cherish quality and value, and having been in manufacturing and retail for years, I know the time and money that goes into the process, what to look for, and what price I am personally willing to pay for a product I want.
Generally speaking, clothing and beauty products retail with a considerable markup. If it's designer, the markup is even larger because their overhead is much higher (advertising, storefronts, payroll, model hires, etc.). So while I know the expenses involved, there's also a lot of wiggle room and I very rarely, if ever, pay full-price for fashion. I will always have a discount code, wait for a sale, or buy it pre-loved (except for beauty products).
So today I'm sharing with you how I shop smartly.
1./ Make a Hit List.
Know what you want to purchase per month or per season. I like to make a note in my phone of 2-5 things per month – specific pieces or products that have really caught my eye and that 100% fit into my routine or collection (see #2 for determining what fits into your lifestyle). I will also write down things that might be missing from my wardrobe or skin care routine. Making a hit list also prevents me from buying things that aren't on the list just because it happens to be on sale.
2./ Narrow It Down.
My wish lists usually start out pretty lengthy (that's why it's a wish list), and then I curate them over the course of a few weeks or even a few months. I no longer purchase anything that doesn't absolutely fit my lifestyle, so I edit my lists down based on a few important criteria:
Will I actually wear/use it? Seriously. I used to buy clothes based on what I thought I would maybe/eventually wear, or whether it was just too pretty to pass up. After wasting plenty of cash and donating those clothes over the years, I've come to realize that I can admire a beautiful design without buying it, if I have no practical application for it. Same goes for skin care – if I won't actually use it, I'm not going to buy it just for the sake of having it and taking a picture of it on my counter.
Is it high maintenance? I am not into dry cleaning or delicate clothes, and I'm not a fan of skin care that takes forever to put on or forever to take off. I have a giant ass dog and I live in a pretty outdoorsy-oriented place, and I have a limited attention span. I will only purchase pieces that will not snag or rip easily, and are easy to clean by hand or in the washer. For skin care, I know myself well enough that a charcoal clay mask probably won't get much use because I won't want to wash off that mess – but a new vitamin C gel mask or serum? Yes, that I will gladly incorporate.
Do I have to get tan to wear it? Okay, so I'm hella pale and some colors or cuts simply look better with a bit of a tan. Even though I can get tan pretty readily, I don't like baking in the sun, so I use a self-tanner. But I'm often way too lazy to do the whole shaving and exfoliating and applying and waiting and rinsing thing. So if I spot a gorgeous mini skirt and it's more than $75, I won't get it because I just know I won't get the wear out of it. Which brings me to the next question...
Is it worth it to me? Know your price threshold. I have price points that I stick to for everything I buy, and it's not difficult because it sort of comes naturally. For instance, I am willing to spend $100 on an effective anti-aging face serum, but only up to $30 on a cleanser. That aforementioned mini skirt? Maybe up to $75. But a pair of high-quality jeans that fit me perfectly? I will spend up to $250. Your price points may be higher or lower, and you may get the occasional outlier if it's something you've been coveting for ages.
Can I get something similar for better value? A great example of this is the classic cashmere sweater. This past winter I caught myself eyeing a $600 oversized cashmere sweater. After some research on cashmere and shopping around, I found the same (if not better) quality sweater by another brand, for $195. Yes, there are brands and pieces where the quality and design is unmistakable and unique and outstanding, yet for basics like sweaters and t-shirts, I find it best to get the highest quality I can for the lowest price at that quality. And remember, just because it has a designer label does not mean it's automatically higher quality or worth a higher price.
Does it pass the cart test? Sometimes I like to get all the things in the cart and then log off before checking out. Letting a cart marinate for a few days allows me to stop and think "do I really want it?". You may even receive a promo code via email if you wait a bit (make sure you're registered with the store in that case).
3./ Shop Around.
Google the specific item you want. Check out all the retailers that are carrying it and figure out the best place from which to purchase it. This is my criteria, especially if the price for the item is the same across the board:
Do they charge sales tax? Especially if you're buying high-end, this will easily add a few hundred dollars to the item cost. The only time I will purchase from a retailer that charges sales tax is if they are having a 30%+ off sale, in which case that price reduction negates the sales tax.
Are duties included? There are many excellent international retailers, and a few include shipping and duties (customs fees), all while keeping the cost of the item the same (or even a little lower) than everyone else.
Is there an active promotion? Always check for a discount code. Most retailers offer a lovely 10%-20% off code for first-time purchases or for signing up for their newsletter. This is worth it, because you will also be notified of future sales and codes as well.
Do they have a third-party rebate? I've consistently used Ebates since 2011 and love them. Many retailers offer a percentage rebate (it's usually 1-5% for high end retailers and 10-30% for high street) through Ebates. If I'm torn between purchasing from two retailers that meet the above criteria, I will then pick the one that offers Ebates or has the higher rebate (hey, 3% back is better than 0%, right?!).