I broke the first rule of thrifty fashion shopping yesterday afternoon. I share this with you to show you how easy it is to fall prey to impulse buying and how, even those who pride themselves on being thrifty shoppers, can fall victim. I stopped at Target to pick up some tuna fish and Crystal Lite. On the way out, I got a Starbuck’s iced coffee to drink on my way home. Then I noticed racks and racks of women’s new spring fashions. There were swimsuits, tanks, tees, dresses and more. Snagging a shopping cart, I walked slowly through the aisles, looking to see what was new and perhaps gain some inspiration. Then I saw it! There was a rack of lightweight sweaters, perfect to wear over almost anything, especially sleeveless tops and summer tanks. They were just what I needed to dress up a simple look or to add just a tiny bit of chill-chasing protection in air conditioned buildings. I tried on an open front ivory cocoon, looked in the mirror, and instantly fell in love with it. It had a linen look with texture and richness. I left the store with my new summer sweater and $24.60 less in my checking account. What did I do wrong?
Perhaps I did nothing wrong. I will likely wear the cocoon many times throughout the summer and feel good doing so. Yet, I fell victim to impulse buying. I shopped without a list, I didn’t compare prices before I shopped, I has no coupons to use and I bought something I hadn’t planned on. While I love the cocoon, I really don’t need it and could have lived very nicely without it. That $24.60 could have paid my monthly water bill, filled my car with gas, or paid for two prescriptions. It’s only human to fall into a trap once in a while, and all I can say is try not to regret it, especially if it happens only rarely. In view of my impulse purchase, it might be helpful to review the most important rules for thrifty fashion shopping this spring.
- Avoid impulse buying. Impulse buying is the biggest single cause of overspending and spending thoughtlessly. Buy only what you went shopping for and don’t fall prey to tempting displays and bright sale signs.
- Shop with a well thought out list. Plan your shopping in advance, considering what you really need and want to buy.
- Compare sales and specials before leaving home. Use newspapers, television advertisements and the internet to look for the best deals.
- Always try on clothing before purchasing it. If something doesn’t fit well and isn’t comfortable, don’t buy it. Even if it can be returned, you’ve lost time and travel.
- Keep receipts in case you need to return items. Most stores will not refund your money, credit back your credit card or even give you store credit with your receipt.
- Never remove tags until you are sure you will keep the item. Items without tags can generally not be returned and will end up being given away or lost in the back of your closet.
- Do not buy what you do not need and will not use. If an item will not be used, it isn’t worth spending your money on.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stores often have come-on sales and loss leaders to attract customers. One particular item may really be too good to be true, but its intent is to lure you to purchase other items as well.
- Use coupons and shopping passes whenever possible. Look through the Sunday newspapers, magazines and store fliers to clip coupons. Many department store websites have coupons you can print and take with you or promo codes you can use when you shop online.
- Use Walmart’s and other stores’ price match guarantees. If you find a lower price on the same item somewhere else, show them and they will match it. Bring the advertisement with you to prove your point.
- Use department store credit cards cautiously – it’s easy to charge items but sometimes difficult to pay the bill. Everything you charge must eventually be paid for. Shopping can be fun, but stretching your budget to pay a bill or paying only the minimum due can be discouraging.
- You may save by applying for a store credit card. This is usually a one-time only offer, so use it judiciously.
- Ask if a flawed item might be discounted. Generally you can receive a discount of twenty to thirty-five percent off an item that has fallen on the floor, has a pulled thread, or is missing a small piece. .
- Shop end of season sales for the lowest possible prices. If you need new fall and winter pieces, get them now while they are on final clearance.
- Always ask about senior, military and other discounts. You can often save 10% or more by shopping on particular days of the week or by showing your military, student or senior citizen card.
- Use Reward Points, store cash, and other store credits. These build up every time you shop and pay off cash or store credit that’s as good as extra money in your wallet.
- Shop smart as you transition into summer. Your wardrobe and budget will both improve and you won’t be left with items you never meant to buy or bills you can’t afford to pay. It may take a little practice, but will eventually become second nature and, the more often you follow these tips, the easier it will become.
As always, maximize your style and minimize your spending.