Sunday, March 9, 2014

My blog, my rules: Shopping

I went shopping for the second time in a week today. To be fair, I've earned it--I found out a couple days ago that I'm more than $200 under my projected quarterly budget. While I pride myself on my good spending habits, this is particularly impressive. To celebrate, I've decided to share how I make my $40 a month shopping budget work so well.
As I've mentioned before, I find most of my clothing at consignment shops (Crossroads has locations all over the U.S. and RESCUE is my favorite local store) or thrift stores (Goodwill and Value Village are some personal favorites), which is how I'm able to afford so much on such a tight budget. Today, in lieu of providing you with links to often more expensive items, I've decided to share some of my personal rules for shopping.

  1. Set a budget. I grew up in a budget-centric house, and have adopted the lifestyle myself. While I would encourage a quarterly budget for all expenses, I advise all fashion try-hards to at least put a price limit on how much they're allowed to spend in a month, a quarter, a year; whatever works best for you. I'd recommend taking a month to see how much you spend on clothing, and fashioning your budget from that. I exclude gift cards and money earned from consigning from my shopping budget, which gives a little more wiggle room.
  2. Don't try on things you can't afford. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Say Yes to the Dress knows that letting yourself fall in love with something you can't afford only leads to tears, heartbreak, and/or some major debt. An easy way to avoid one (or all three) of these outcomes is by not even considering something you can't take to the register. Stay out of higher-end stores--unless you're only shopping for inspiration--and check the price tag before adding anything to your armful of treasures. This may be a bit rough, but you'll thank me when you see your bank statement at the end of the month.
  3. Don't buy things just because they're on sale. When it comes to clothing, I thoroughly believe that more is more--but only to an extent. I give you this piece of advice because I've found myself buying four or five things that I kind of like instead of getting the one item I adore. I'll end up wearing the sale item a couple of times, but eventually I end up feeling guilty for having yet another sweater hanging in my closet that I don't wear. On the other hand, when I make sure to evaluate whether or not I like the item simply for its price, I end up happy with my decisions for months to come. I know a $5 price tag seems tempting, but ask yourself this: would you even try it on if it was $20? If not, put it back and wait until you find something completely to die for (see #5). However...
  4. Don't be afraid to make a cheap impulse buy. I know this seems to contradict my last rule, but I promise, there are situations for each. Some of my favorite items of clothing have come from a blind grab in a $1 sale or something I got simply to take advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free deal. If the deal is impossible to walk away from or if you need a quick fix of cheap retail therapy, I'd say the purchase is worth it. 
  5. Only buy things you want. Okay, this seems like the most obvious rule of shopping that it's stupid of me to point it out-- but trust me, it's necessary. As I mentioned in #3, it's important to decide whether or not you want something for the price or for the item, but that's just one thing to consider. I know a lot of people who end up buying something because they feel like they have to to have a successful shopping trip, or who get pressured into making a purchase by their companion or an overly enthusiastic salesman. The bottom line: stick to your gut. If you want to buy it, buy it. If you don't want to buy it, don't buy it. It's better to feel embarrassed in the moment than guilty every time you see the unworn purchase in your closet.
  6. Head straight to the sale section. Even consignment stores have them; they're usually in the back, and can offer up to 75% off an already awesome deal. Try to go there before looking around elsewhere so you can find stuff for cheaper that you might have found on a regular rack.
  7. Map out your shopping trip. It doesn't need to be anything close to an itinerary--unless that's the only way you can go shopping without getting sidetracked--but at least look at the stores in the area of where you're going. Wandering into stores that look cute can lead to an expensive (and exhausting!) day of shopping. By knowing which stores sell reasonably priced items, you're more likely to find something you like without busting your bank account.
  8. Sketch it out. If you're looking for something specific, try drawing the image in your head, or look for an example online before going shopping. Knowing what you want to buy--especially if it's something big, like a prom dress--can save you the stress and cost of later figuring out it's not actually what you wanted.
  9. Make a grocery list. I've often heard that you're not supposed to shop for groceries on an empty stomach. This same rule applies to shopping for clothes. The solution is also the same: make a list. Going into a store without any idea of what you're there to buy (whether you're "hungry" or "full") can lead to unnecessary purchases. I know whenever I don't at least have an idea of what I want to get out of a shopping trip I always end up with three more flimsy tank tops to add to my already bloated collection. I don't need those tank tops, nor do I need to spend the money to buy them.
  10. CONSIGN. I can't believe I almost forgot this! This is one of the biggest reasons I am able to shop as much as I do and only spend $40 a month: I consign my clothes at local consignment stores. They give me 50% of how much they sell my old clothes for, which I then use to buy new clothes. It can be hard to get certain places to accept your old items--especially if they're out of season--but I've found I can bring the same item back and they usually tend to accept it after a certain period of time. I like to think of it as trading in something I'm done with for something I'm excited about. It's a great system.
I know these are a lot of rules, but they're just suggestions that have worked for me. Do you do anything that makes you a good shopper? Let me know!

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