Quick confession: I’m not a big fan of sales shopping.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a bargain as much as the next person – it’s just that I don’t really enjoy having to fight my way through hordes of angry shoppers (and they’re always angry, aren’t they?) to find it. I’m lazy, in other words. And not much of a people person, if we’re being totally honest. Crowded stores, long lines for fitting rooms, shop floors littered with trampled-on merchandise: it’s just not my idea of fun, really.
Even the online sales aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, are they? I remember when I was younger (I almost typed ‘When I were a lass…’ there: you can tell I’ve slipped seamlessly into ‘old fogey’ mode, can’t you?), it used to be the case that you could find something you liked at the start of the season, then wait a few weeks for it to go on sale, safe in the knowledge that it would still be available when you got round to buying it. These days, though, stores seem to have sales so often that shopping has become almost a competitive sport (I kind of wish it WAS actually: I feel it’s something I could be really, really good at…): if you don’t buy the thing you’re after the SECOND you see it, you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Well, at least, that’s how I justify all those impulse purchases, anyway…
So, why is someone who doesn’t often shop the sales offering tips on how to shop the sales? Because, despite everything I’ve just said above, I know only too well how easy it is to get swept along on a wave of “OMG, that’s less than half price: how can I NOT buy it?” madness, and end up with an empty wallet and a collection of … STUFF… that you’ve no idea what to do with. Here are some easy ways to avoid that cruel, cruel fate…
It isn’t a bargain if you’re not going to use it
Don’t buy things just because they’re cheap. No matter how deep the discount, if it’s just going to hang in your closet for years before being sent off to the charity store, it didn’t save you any money: in fact, it cost way more than it was worth. Trust one who knows.
If you have to buy something else in order to use it, think again
Ask yourself if you could build an outfit around that incredible sale item right now, using items you already own. If the answer is no, and you’d need to purchase something else in order to be able to wear it, it might not be quite the bargain you think it is.
Make a list, check it twice. Then check it again.
I love a good list, and they’re especially handy at sale time, because they help you focus on what you actually need, and stop you coming home with a pair of boots that are one size too large for you, but a TOTAL bargain, seriously. Not that I would know anything about THAT, obviously…
Shop your closet before you go
If you’re anything like me, the phrase “shop your closet” probably makes you cringe a little. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to do a “wardrobe audit” before a big shopping trip: that way you’ll know exactly what you have, and avoid coming home with ANOTHER plain black sweater, to join the 32 you already own. Again, just taking these examples right off the top off my head here…
Dress for comfort, not style
Sale shopping is one of those times when you need to put comfort first. Choose clothes you can get in and out of easily (i.e. no tricky zippers, and nothing with dozens of fiddly buckles), shoes you can walk for miles in (Because you WILL be walking for miles, as well as standing in long queues), and light layers that won’t make you over-heat in the sub-tropical temperatures most stores tend to favour.
But try to wear something that flatters you
If you can combine function with flattery, do it: maybe it’s just me, but I know that if I catch sight of myself in one of the many mirrors at the mall, and I don’t like what I see, I’ll be much more likely to buy things I don’t need, having convinced myself I need a whole new wardrobe. (I’m also convinced that stores do this deliberately, in much the same way that hair salons always have the harshest, most unflattering light possible on their mirrors so that, forced to confront your own reflection for the best part of an hour, you end up willing to spend as much as it takes to just make it aaaaalll better.)
Take an honest friend, or a camera phone
If you lack confidence in your ability to resist what seems to be a bargain, take a friend you can trust to be honest when you ask, “Can I wear this?” or, failing that, a camera phone: sometimes the camera picks up details the eye fails to see, and a mirror selfie is better than nothing in times of need. (Top tip: it might seem like a good ides to post those photos on social media in order to crowd-source opinions, but it’s only a good ides if you have REALLY thick skin. Or, er, so I’ve heard.)
Keep the receipts
Not all stores accept returns on sale items, but some do, so hang onto those receipts, just in case you DO end up with a bad case of buyer’s remorse!