Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cardinal Rules of Clothes Shopping

Frugal shopping does not mean following every trend, but it shouldn't mean dressing like a frumpy old lady either. Buying classic, well-made items even if they cost a little more actually saves money in the long run because you're not replacing your clothes all the time due to wear or dated appearance.

Wardrobe Inventory--
Before you set foot in a store, know what you already have so you don't buy the same thing over and over again. Have you ever looked in your closet and realized that you have five white shirts, or six pairs of black pants? Unless you wear a white shirt every single day of the week (and you should probably mix it up a bit), there is no reason to own that many. Knowing what you have means you know what you need as well, and you won't be buying just for the sake of buying. You may inventory your wardrobe and realize that your work pants are getting a bit worn out--then go shopping for new work pants that will match the tops you already own. If you don't have any casual weekend clothes, go shopping for those. Having a plan in mind before setting foot in the store helps you reign in spending by making shopping and errand rather than entertainment.

Buy Outfits--
This is not always possible, but it's a good rule to keep in mind. Stacy and Clinton abide by this as well. If you are buying separates to mix and match (and you should because it makes a few pieces more versatile) make sure that you have in hand an entire outfit to avoid buying pieces that you can never wear. Say you're in a store and you find a skirt that you love but you know that you don't have anything at home (because you've done your inventory) to wear with it. Unless you are 100% confident you will be able to find something to wear with it, don't buy it. I can't count the number of times I've bought something, and been unable to find anything to wear with it, and then left hanging in my closet for years until I no longer like it or it doesn't fit.

The problem with not buying an entire outfit in one go is that it becomes much more work to create one later. Often you buy a lot of things thinking that they will go with the magical skirt, only to get home and realize that they just don't. Then you either waste time going back to the store returning things, or have a bunch more clothes to find things to match to. You could be one of those people (and I never am, but I know I should be) who bring the item back shopping with you and try to find other pieces to go with it. This is a good strategy, but if you wait too long to find that missing piece, you may be unable to return the initial item.

Shop online first--
Before I set foot in the mall, I often go to the website of the stores I plan to visit and shop there first. This helps me see the clothes and get some ideas before setting foot in the loud, chaotic and overwhelming store. I know myself, and I often buy things just for the sake of buying something. I feel weird if I leave a store empty-handed and have made ridiculous purchases because of it. If I shop online first and see nothing I like, then I either skip the store, or make a quick lap though reminding myself that I probably won't be buying anything. This keeps that impulse in check and also gives me an idea how much I'll be spending before I go.

Browsing & Returning--
Frankly, I hate shopping, but sometimes shopping with a friend is fun. However, I have that problem where once I'm on a store, I feel obligated to buy something--anything--I trick myself into thinking I like something and then I get it home and am baffled about its appeal. So in the interest of not repeatedly turning down requests to go shopping, I've forced myself to get better at both browsing and returning.

This seems like a total no-brainer, but when it comes to frugality, but a lot of changes are really that easy (in theory). I've forced myself to be much pickier about what I buy through regular inventorying of my closet. If I slip into the "must purchase something" mindset, I bring it home, leave the tags on, and re-evaluate after a little time has passed. If I don't love it, I bring it back. If I'm on the fence, I wear it around the house for a little while (tags still on), and see if I continue to love it. There is nothing worse than cutting the tags off a new pair of pants just to realize that there's huge gap in the back of the waistband, or that they're uncomfortable to sit in.

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