Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shopping Tips and Tricks

If shopping was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medal contender. As it stands now, I'm semi-retired--but not so long ago I was a serious pro. Sort of the Barry Bonds of shopping, but without the steroids. For some people, shopping is a nice pastime, a hobby. Not for me. It's all about the thrill of the hunt...and scoring a great deal. So here's a little list of how-to's should you want to up your game from benchwarmer to all-star.

1. Know your labels. It's not enough to get something cheap. Deep discount is what we're aiming for. Sure, those jeans you scored for five bucks might seem like an awesome deal, but if they were only worth ten bucks to start with then you haven't really nabbed a great deal. Much better is the $100+ pair of designer label denim that you find for $20-30 at Off Saks Fifth or Ross. How can you tell the difference? Research. Get thee to Nordstroms or Barney's or some trendy boutique and start learning about what's hot. Another resource is the internet--I get a lot of my fashion intel from fashion blogs like L.A. Story or Makeup Alley's Fashion Board. I've found Miss Sixty, Seven for all Mankind, Blue Cult, etc. at Ross. If I hadn't known what to look for, I might have missed out on a great deal.

2. Know your Closet. A great deal is a great deal--unless you already own six black cashmere sweaters. It also helps to know what you already own to make sure what you're buying will work with your current wardrobe. I have been known to buy outfit to coordinate with a pair of shoes I just purchased (instead of the other way around), but this is not optimum shopping behavior. Whenever you find something you like, try to think of at least three outfits you can create with it using items you already own.

3. Seize the moment. If you're looking for something specific, you'll never find it while you're bargain hunting. That's why you have to be on the lookout constantly. Maybe that hot little red party dress isn't the pair of leather slingbacks you intended to buy. But trust me, when you're in need of a cute party outfit, you won't be able to find ANYTHING--except for leather slingbacks. That's how shopping karma works. See it now, buy it now, wear it later. At the very least, hold on to a possible find as you walk through the store and ponder whether it fulfills tip #2. You can always put it back, but if you let it out of your sight someone else might nab it!

3. Save receipts and tags. Not sure if that cute red party dress is really you? Do NOT cut the tags off of it or any item that you purchase until you are ready to wear it out. Keep the receipts filed away in a safe place. That way you can always return it and get your money back. A bargain isn't a bargain unless you wear it. And wear it to death! The cute sandals that you bought for $20 and wore ONCE are more expensive than the pricey leather boots that cost $300 but you wore every day all winter. Cost per wear = price of the item divided by the number of times worn.

4. Never pay full price. Just about everything goes on sale, so hold out until that cute red party dress is marked down. There are some exceptions to this rule, but by and large if you're patient you'll be able to have your party dress--and still have money left over for shoes if you wait for a sale. And again, keep your receipt! Because even if the price is marked down, it may go down again. Many stores (Banana Republic, Gap) have a 14 day price adjustment policy, so keep your receipts it your wallet and on day 14 ask the sales clerk to check if the prices have dropped. What happens if it's day 16 and suddenly your $80 sweater is now $40? No, you're not definitely S.O.L. If they have the same item in the same color and size, buy it again at the sale price and return it with your old receipt at the higher price.

5. Buy in bulk. If you find the absolute PERFECT pair of jeans or a really versatile top, you might want to consider buying a spare to have in reserve. If it's something you know you're going to wear to death, having a backup may actually be more economical than trying to replace the item in the future--if you could even find a good replacement! I know there's been lots of times when I mourned the loss of a favorite article of clothing and could not find anything that came close to replacing it.

6. The internet is your friend. For wardrobe shopping, I prefer the in-person tactile experience in a brick 'n mortar store over the convenience of the internet--but the web certainly makes price comparisons easier. You can also sign up for sale alerts on your favorite designers via Shop it to Me or peruse discounts, sales and coupon codes at

And there you have it--let the bargain hunting begin!

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