The Prudent Gal - Shopping til Dropping

One of my favorite days of the year is the day after Christmas. It's traditionally the day that I spend with my girls with an early start, bagels and coffee at the fresh market at Neiman Marcus. Then we shop. That's when some of the best sales of the year can be had. Oh, and on one day in January, the sales are good too. But you have to be careful to not wait too long so that the selection is still good. I generally find that sweet spot is somewhere between the January 6th & the 14th. I really like beautiful things and that requires shopping, although it (the shopping) gets me in trouble (credit cards anyone?), so I haven't been doing much of it this year. However, with the whole holiday season, I've been getting out more and I've come to realize that I have a few shopping tips I can pass along as my gift to you, Dear Reader.

1. Keep all your coupons, gift cards and such in your car so you'll always have them with you. Actually, keep the gift cards in your wallet. And another important point on gift cards, if your balance falls below $10, in California, the retailer can give you the change back in cash (check your state for their laws, but then again, I do live in an awesome, if not broke, state). Of course, most cashiers don't know this, so you have to ask. I do this without fail, because I refuse to leave cash on the table for the retailer or spend more than I want to in order to "eat up" the balance. Skinny Gal thinks that you should be able to consolidate different gift card balances onto one card. And I have to say I agree. Retailers & credit card issuers, are you listening?

2. Shop early. Try to make the week night preview days for sales. Lunch hour excursions work too. And park at the not so popular side of the mall and walk to your destination. Finding a place to park can be a time sucker.

3. Figure out what your style is, what color schemes you like. Once you do that, you'll be able to zero in on groups of what pleases you on a rack and skip over the stuff that you know you won't like. Also, pick out the lines and designers that you like (I like Burberry, Alfani, INC, Jones New York, Missoni, Faconnable) and that fit your body type and taste. Look for those lines on sale.

4. Go larger. It's better to get a really good piece of clothing larger and have it altered down rather than buy smaller hoping you'll lose those pesky 15 pounds. Besides, you'll look slimmer in the larger size. Smaller sizes just make you look like a stuffed sausage.

5. Shopping the really good sales at department stores (think 50% off lowest marked price) is better than starting off at cheap stores. Have you seen the clothing prices at Sears? They are ripping off poor people! They oughta be ashamed! Tip: TJ Maxx, Marshalls & Ross are great places to shop for kids clothing and toys.

6. Look for the no interest, no payment deals for big ticket items. Divide the total cost in whatever the free term (12, 24 months) and pay that amount each month. Credit for free. It's like cash and well...

7. Develop your peripheral vision, then you can spot items, racks, and interesting stores that you might not see otherwise. I saw three stores, a stairwell, one dress and one restaurant that my sister and niece just did not see at all.

8. Don't be afraid to spend for sturdy, timeless pieces. And jewelry is almost always a good buy, especially when marked down.

9. If you are drawn to something, get it. Easier to return it, then go back and find it gone.

10. If you like it a pair of shoes, shirt or sweater, get it in multiple colors. Especially if the fit is good.

11. Do a little research before (The Google!) to figure out where the item you want is and about how much it costs. Better yet, the item just might be cheaper online. Although, I am one of those people that likes to see check out the quality of an item before I buy and that's impossible online.

12. If you come across something that you think would be perfect for a friend or family member, get it, no matter the time of year. Oh, and give it to them right then. If it's perfect for them, they'll forgive you not getting them gifts at other times. This one comes via the Best Friend, Amber. We never get each other birthday or Christmas gifts, but when we see something we think is perfect for the other, we give it.

13. You can't take it with you; money or things. So enjoy life. Besides, love is free to give and receive. Well, sometimes.


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