We love practical and easy, don’t we? I don’t know about you, but I am drawn to 3 steps to do this or 5 steps to do that books. Somehow, knowing there is a fairly short list of things I need to do in order to have the desired result, feels encouraging. So, in the spirit of getting right down to it, here are my 10 simple steps to becoming a smart shopper.
But, let me warn you right off the bat. If you are looking for quick and easy, step 1 might seem a bit daunting. If I’m being honest, it’s a bit OCD, but I am totally convinced it will make your life so much simpler, I want you to spend the time doing it. The “it” I am talking about is organizing your closet. First, go through your clothing and separate everything you haven’t worn in a year. Take it out and put it some other place for a short time. Next, seperate your tops, pants, skirts and dresses into different areas of your closet. Then, seperate your winter tops from your summer tops and then do this with your pants, skirts and dresses. At the end of this step, you should have all your tops together, all your pants together, all your skirts together and all your dresses together. Within each of those sections, you should have your summer items seperated from your winter items. Last, organize each section by color using the ROYGBIV acronym for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Complete the rainbow by putting your greys and blacks after your purples and your whites and creams after that. No, go back to the items you removed in the beginning. Put all your classic items like black blazers, white blouses and black pants back into your closet. Donate the rest. Whew….sit down and rest a bit.
Why, you ask, did I have you go through that process? Because now you can clearly see what you have. If you have 20 short sleeved shirts and only 2 long sleeved ones, you know you need to balance out your wardrobe a bit in this area. If you have 8 hot pink tops and no neutrals, you may want to shop for some great basics that will work with more things in your closet. Make sense?
This leads us to step 2: make a shopping list. Once you know what you need to shop for, write it down on a list that you keep with you all the time. Shopping trips happen at unexpected times like while you are waiting for an appointment or when you have a few extra minutes. Keep that list with you so that no matter when you shop, you can check it and stay focused on what you need rather than wandering aimlessly through the store waiting for something to catch you eye.
Step 3 also requires some work, but not to worry, I have a handy video that will give you a great start. Shopping with a color palate will focus your shopping in amazing ways. It will help you say “no” to items that you love but are in a color that is not flattering on your skin. It will also help you have the confidence that when you get that item home, it will go with something else in your closet.
Step 4 is to know when the best sales happen at your favorite boutique or store. For most of the industry, January and February are sales months for winter and July and August are sales months for summer. Early markdowns happen in December and June as well. Start checking back frequently in late December and late June to get the first chance at the best items. If you wait to the end of the sale season, most of the great buys will be very picked over.
Step 5 is to use the store perks. If your favorite stores have a layaway program with no fees, this is a great way to shop early in the sale season and put the items on layaway so you can pay for them a little at a time. Does your store of choice have a rewards or loyalty program? Make sure you are utilizing it and maximizing your shopping budget.
Step 6 is to shop for quality and not quantity. Nothing is a great deal if you never wear it! Don’t buy just because it is on sale. In fact, when you consider the cost per wear of an item, in many cases you are better off to spend more on something that is higher quality and will last longer than less on something that is poor quality and will fall apart. Check out my blog about cost per wear to learn more on this topic. To determine quality, look at the button holes; they should be bound and not raw with clean edges and no hanging strings. Next, examine the seams; they should lay flat with no ripples or bumps. Then, look at the stitching; good quality items have 8-12 stitches per inch. If the item is patterned, look at where the pattern comes together at the seam. Does is match or is it askew? The higher quality items will match the pattern all the way around the garment. Last, look at the hems; a quality hem will be double stitched and will not be visible from the outside of the garment.
Step 7 is to shop alone. I know, I know….you’re thinking that you need that teenage daughter or friend to tell you the truth about how something looks. Who can trust a sales associate, right? Well, speaking from personal experience, you can trust a good sales associate, especially one you have built a relationship with and who knows you and what styles and brands you like. The problem with your teenage daughter or friend is that oftentimes their advice to you is based upon what they feel is a good style for them. It is difficult for them to disassociate what they feel is stylish for what actually looks good on you. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to wear what you take home. Shouldn’t you be the one to decide if its right or wrong?
Step 8 is to buy or the body you have and not the body you want. We get ourselves into trouble when we do one of two things: buy a size smaller than we need because we are going to loose weight or avoid buying anything until we loose weight. The problem with both of these lies in the same basic principle: when you feel good about how you look, you feel more motivated to do better in other areas of your life.