Shopping for me is all about the visual. There is temptation everywhere, due to strategic product placement and pretty displays. Instead of wandering through the mall, being enticed by every pretty thing you see, start by going to your favorite stores, or the stores you normally have the most luck at. If you tend to spend more money when physically going into stores, stick to online shopping where you can shop by category or color instead of being able to browse through every item at the mall. If you are familiar with the fit of a particular store and are know their return policy, you may be more successful at sticking to your wishlist and your budget.
Don't get too caught up in labels. Tons of celebrities and bloggers alike have said the key to their style is mixing both high and low end pieces. Don't shy away from Forever 21, Old Navy, or Target because of their low price points. You can find some real gems in there! Its more important to buy something that you love and will wear than what brand is on the label.
Look for the items on your wishlist first. Its easy to get side tracked by all the other pretty things in the store, but if you stick to the pieces you have already decided you need/want and know you will wear, you will feel better about the purchases you make.
Try things on. I know it can be annoying, takes too long, whatever, but this will ensure that you won't go home with anything that looked better on the rack than it did on your body. This is especially important if you are the type of person who doesn't like the hassle of returning things.
These are the questions you should ask yourself in the dressing room:
1. Do you love it?
If you don't love it, don't buy it. You will find something better.
2. Does it fit?
If yes, great! If the answer is no, don't put it back on the rack just yet. If its an item that can be easily tailored, like a new hem in a pair of pants or skirt, it may be worth it. But if its something that will take a lot of work and could potentially be expensive, you may want to reconsider. Check out this post for the story of my $35 sale dress that ended up costing $135 after tailoring. If I had realized it would cost that much to get the proper fit, I probably would not have bought it in the first place.
3. How often will you wear it?
You can probably bet that a black pencil skirt will get a lot more wear than a pair of hot pink stiletto sandals will. Fashion magazines support the "cost-per-wear ratio", and while I think there is some value to it, I don't think you need to break out your calculator in the dressing room. Nor do I think that just because you will wear that black pencil skirt once a week for the next year, you should make it a splurge purchase. You can buy a really nice pencil skirt for $60 at The Limited that will do you just as much good as the $150 J.Crew version.
I think the real answer to this question is if the item will be a practical part of your wardrobe. Maybe you love those hot pink stiletto sandals, but you know you will only wear them once. In that case, you may want to settle for a more practical pair of heels, something you can wear to work and out on the weekends.
4. Do you have something to wear it with?
I've read that you should be able to come up with three ways to wear an item of clothing before you buy it, and I really love that theory. I think we've all found ourselves buying something really eccentric just to realize that we don't have anything to wear it with after we bring it home. Just be realistic about items like this, realizing that you may have to purchase more to make a complete outfit.
5. Is the price right?
Just because something is on sale, doesn't mean you should buy it. Would you buy it at full price? If not, you may want to rethink the purchase. If the price is too high, wait for a sale or coupon code, or shop around to find a similar item at a lower price.
After you get your items home, keep your receipts, and don't remove tags until you have worn something. This way you can return the item if it doesn't look as good hanging in your closet as it did in the store.
If any of these tips just don't work for you, don't follow them, or rethink them to make them fit your needs. I've frequently heard the advice, "If you like something so much that you are still thinking about it the next day, go back and buy it." That would give me license to buy everything I see! It's really easy for me to fall in love with something quickly, only to forget about it after I buy it, so I don't follow this bit of advice. For me, it is more practical to wait a longer time period before buying something, like two weeks to a month. By waiting, it helps me to decide whether I really like something and will wear it, and gives me time to find something I may like even better!
For those of you who have followed my recovering shopaholic mini-series, I sincerely hope that some of the tips and tricks I presented are helpful! I will be following my own advice as I get into the habit of shopping smarter, and doing less of it. If any of you needs an accountability buddy, or want to discuss smart shopping habits, feel free to contact me! I'd love to help.
Check out the other posts from my Recovering Shopaholic series!