With Back to School and the new Fall season coming our way, I thought this would be a good time to share some of my tips for smarter shopping. Throughout my high school and college years I definitely blew a good amount of money buying clothes that ended up being donated. From my mistakes and wasted money, I’ve learned to be a smarter shopper so that the money I spend actually goes into building a better wardrobe. As the age old saying goes, less is more, and that can certainly be applied to shopping.
10. Know your Fit
When I was 18, I bought a bunch of ill-fitting clothes that I ended up donating within a year or two. The main reason I bought these clothes was because I didn’t know any better. The lesson learned here is that it’s important to learn how a piece should fit you before you buy it. If you’re new to buying a certain article of clothing, I recommend visiting multiple stores to try on different versions of it to learn how it should fit. Don’t assume that more expensive brands always offer better fits though – H&M suits fit me better than Banana Republic suits any day.
9. Love what you’re buying, not its price
My first job in retail was at an American clothing store where I got a steep 70%-off staff discount. I was an irrational teenager at the time, so I felt obligated to milk the most out of my staff discount while I could. As you can probably guess, I went nuts and bought a bunch of mediocre clothes that no longer exist in my closet. There is a fine line between shopping and hoarding, and now I make serious efforts to avoid making purchases just because of a good deal. One question I like to ask myself before a purchase is: Would you considering buying it even if it were double its price? If yes, then proceed.
8. Avoid buying too many similar items
I understand that some people lean towards buying a certain style of clothing, but too much of anything can be bad. Buying 10 cardigans in different colours makes your wardrobe bigger, but not better. I try to buy pieces that are distinctively different because I wouldn’t want to be coined as the guy who wears the same thing everyday. Don’t spend your money buying the same uniform over and over again!
7. Remember your experiences with products
I’m all for giving people second chances, but I’m not too big on giving products second chances. In the past I’ve come across items that change drastically after being washed or worn, even if I follow all the care instructions. Unfortunately there’s no way to really foresee this beforehand, but as a result I avoid buying similar items from the same brand again.
6. Keep an eye on key items during sale season
Despite how buying just for the deal is a bad idea, there are instances when eyeing for deals is a smart idea. For key wardrobe items such as suits, outerwear, and work bags that are normally a bit pricey, it’s totally worth picking them up when there’s a sale. You’re sure to use them and planning ahead can save you some big bucks.
5. Invest in pieces that can be worn in many ways
Other than money, owning a new piece of clothing also costs you closet space and the effort of maintaining it. You can have a lean but expandable wardrobe by owning pieces that can be worn in multiple ways. For example, in my previous post I talked about 3 ways to wear Oxford shirts just in the summer. I also like this parka of mine that I can change up by detaching its hood. Pieces like this are worth investing more money in because they open up your closet without requiring more physical space and effort.
4. Be aware of return and price adjustment policies
Although I have friends who are not keen on this, I am always mindful of these policies at my regular stores. Having the option of returning your purchase is important just in case you come across something better within 30-60 days (a long time in the world of retail). What most people don’t know is that most stores offer a 1-2 week price adjustment period which comes in handy if anything you bought goes on sale. The price difference may not always be steep or worth the effort to ask, but $20 here and $10 there can add up to quite an amount in the long run. Oh, and always keep your receipts.
3. Spend less on trends and more on staples
Avoid spending too much on trends because they may go out of style quickly. You don’t want to spend hundreds on a piece just to only wear it a handful of times. For trendy items I usually go to H&M, Asos, and Zara because shopping there doesn’t cost an arm or a leg.
2. Shop for your Lifestyle
If you’re a student, there’s no need to own a weeks’ worth of suits. If you work in an office, there’s no need to own ten pairs of jeans. Different lifestyles require different wardrobes, and recognizing your lifestyle’s needs can save you from buying a lot of unnecessary clothes that won’t be worn.
1. Spend within your means
This goes without saying, but don’t shop if you can’t afford it. We all have the months when car insurance is due or we have a wedding to attend; during these months, cut back on shopping. At the end of the day, shopping is a luxury and new clothes is the first thing that should be cut out if money needs to go elsewhere. But in case I need to make a purchase on a tighter month, I like keeping a “disposable savings” fund at all times.