This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Shopping Rules

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Shopping Rules

This might seem like a little turn from my typical post, but I'm doing it anyway... Having lived on a student and resident income for the past few years we've managed to learn to live on a budget.  While I may not be the guru of all things frugal,  I like to think I've learned how to make an Anthopologie gift card stretch...or whatever currency you happen to use.  I think I started to hone these rules back in high school when I worked in retail at The Gap.  I'm not a fashionista by any means but I do enjoy style and clothing and I definitely believe that looking good helps you feel good.  So again, I'm no expert but I do have some helpful rules when it comes to here they are:

1.  Only buy stuff you love.  Yes, LOVE.  I personally don't think it's enough to just buy stuff you like (except for basics like tank tops, socks, etc).  I'd rather have fewer clothes I really like, than a lot of clothes I'm not that into.  Sometimes it's love at first sight.  Other times I'm not sure how deep my feelings run for a particular item so I simply place it on hold.  If I'm still thinking about that item later and really want it I know I can go back and get it.  More often than not I forget about it and then I know I didn't really like it that much.  

2.  Don't be afraid to exchange or return.  This goes along with number 1.  When I buy something I always make sure to keep the receipts in the same place.  When I get home if it's something I can't wait to wear the next day or two, I know I really like it and want to keep it.  But if it's something that sits in the bag for a few days, and I try it on again and still can't quite figure out if I love it...then it goes back.  I'm pretty sure every Anthropologie I've ever shopped at knows me as the girl who's always returning stuff.  I'm OK with that.  

3.  Don't be afraid to spend a little more if it's something you really love.  As I mentioned above, I worked at The Gap in high school.  Since I worked on a pretty regular basis I could keep an eye on my favorite items, wait for them to go on sale and then use my discount to score some great deals.  The down side was that I got in the habit of buying things because they were super duper cheap, rather than because I actually liked them.  Therefore I occasionally found myself the proud owner of clothes I got a killer deal on, but never actually wore.  Which is one of the main caveats of're supposed to wear them.   Sometimes we can get so caught up in a good deal that we don't really stop to think if we like the item as much as we like the price.  At some point I decided that it was OK to spend a little more on something if I was actually going to wear it, vs. spending much less on something I wasn't going to wear that much.  With that being said I've had items I've LOVED that cost $5 and items I've loved that cost $100.  It doesn't have to be expensive to love it, but my point is if you have the money and you're debating between 3 shirts for $50 that you kinda like, vs. 1 shirt for $50 dollars that you really like....I think the second option is a better investment.   

4.   Shop at stores with all different price points.  Now I keep mentioning Anthropologie because it's a favorite, as is J. Crew.  But I also love Old Navy and Goodwill.  No matter my budget I pretty much don't count anything out.  Partly because like I said I'm willing to spend more sometimes, but also because you can still find great deals at stores that you might think are out of your price range.  One of my favorite pairs of jeans right now came from J. Crew.  I got them for $20.00.  (I was actually pregnant at the time and wasn't positive they'd fit me when I was done being I made sure to keep the receipt...but lucky me they fit.)  

5.  Watch for items to go on sale.  I know this is obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway.  I almost never pay full price....I don't see why you would.  And with the internet it's easier than ever.  If an item is sold out at the store, be sure to go online.  And if it's sold out on line too here's another little trick:  Try to get the item number online (not a problem if the item is still listed in other sizes and colors than the one you wanted.)  Call the company's customer service number and ask them if they can find any stores with that particular item in the size and color you want.  Start with stores in your area, but if it's not in your area the person can give you the locations of the stores where the item is still in stock.  Then you can call around and buy the item over the phone and have it shipped to you.  Sounds extreme, but I do this all the time.  I once did this once for a coat I really wanted and eventually found it in Arizona.  That was like 8 years ago and I still love and wear this coat.  

6.  Stick to a budget.  I like clothes as much as the next girl, but they're only clothes... and at the end of the day if I can't afford it I just feel worse about the purchase than if I had passed it up.  Sometimes you have to save up, but it's a much better option than buying things you know you can't afford.

So there it is.  I've given away all my secrets.  
I won't be surprised if I'm nominated for the nobel prize in shopping.  
Any tips you'd like to share?      


  1. My favorite trick is to use the rewards program on my credit card, and also to use store credit cards. Ack! Credit cards! Naughty words, I know.

    I have a platinum credit card from a regular bank, and for every $5,000 I spend, I can pick out a $50 gift card to one of quite a few places (Gap, Banana Republic, Macy's, Bloomingdales, TJ Maxx, etc.). I use that credit card for every single purchase I make, and just pay it off weekly so no interest accrues. Obviously this doesn't work without a little self-discipline, but it works great for us. (And when you use a credit card for things like furniture, medical costs, car repairs, school tuition, etc., the points stack up fast.)

    Also, because Gap is one of my favorite stores (I'm kind of boring), I have a Gap card that I use. Being a cardmember gets you lots of extra rewards like discount coupons, $10 gift cards, etc. Again, pay off the balance regularly. If you can do that, you can store some sweet perks from credit cards.

  2. I also use the #5 tips--calling around to other stores, getting the best deal possible.

    If you really fall in love with something and you can't find it in any store, troll eBay. I've found a coat and a pair of shoes that I fell in love with but missed their time in the stores. Be persistent!

  3. Oh! And get to know your favorite brands and how they fit you. I know that I can always order certain brands online and be assured of the lowest price and the best fit.

  4. When you shop online, before you checkout, open a new tab and google "discount codes for ____". sometimes their having a secret 20% off or free shipping. Especially at plces with email lists.

    Also, I always read reviews when I shop online. Sometimes I've loved something, and almost bought it, but the reviews said "not for tall torsos" or something like that. And suddenly I don't need it so much anymore!

    Last, one time I was about to buy a shirt at urban outfitters, but it was like 60$, so I went home and checked online for some was in th sale section for 19.00$! I bought it online of course, and even like a month later they were still selling it full price at the store!

  5. i keep a running list of items i would like to incorporate into my wardrobe. that way i am always shopping with purpose and not just aimlessly wandering. (but that does have it's own benefits.) also, sometimes i'll secretly take pictures of outfits i like on other people. i'm sure it looks creepy, but it pulls me out of my style comfort zone and makes me try new things. and i'm NEVER afraid to ask people where they bought something. i always follow up with a compliment.

  6. Loved this post. Really makes me want to go shopping right now!

    I'm also trying harder to buy things I love, not just because they are a good deal. Easier said than done.

    p.s. Gap Give & Get starts Thursday -- 30% off!

  7. I'm loving these other great tips. Keep 'em coming ladies...

  8. Perfect post....I agree with the one shirt for 50 rather than three for 50. I need to do better at that!!!

  9. I'm really good at #2...just ask my husband.
    #1 I need to work at more.
    #3 is hard for me to come to terms with...I just can't get it through my head that it is best to pay more for something better if that's what it takes.

    Interesting me to thinking...

  10. I so remember when you were searching for your blue JCrew jacket, and when you found it. That was a great piece.

  11. My other trick is to buy giftcards off of websites like pastic jungle. You get them for a percentage off the face value which is like having your own private sale on top. An additional 8% off just for me b/c I was smart enough to think ahead? Why thank you, don't mind if I do.

    My only caveat to this advice is to ONLY buy giftcards that you know you'll use. So since I'm sure to spend a giftcard anyhow sometime in the next 6 months at Ann Taylor, I will buy it if I find it on Plastic Jungle. Same goes for my regular grocery store (that one I'll buy at any amount b/c I'll certainly use it). But my splurgy stores? Or stores I only sometimes find stuff? I'll go peruse their websites and look at my monthly finances or think about whether I could use the giftcard to buy a practical gift (i.e. is my sister's birthday in the next few months?) before I click purchase.

    Oh, and I'd love to come to your awards dinner for your Nobel prize in shopping. Very deserved by the way. Very. (and while we're at the awards dinner, could I hold that adorable little Lamp of yours? I've fallen in love with her but I of course promise to give her back by the time we get to the dessert course)