If you want to save money, you need to be a smart shopper. Smart shopping takes planning, some product knowledge and a lot of patience. You can find everything you want for a good deal if you’re willing to save up money then pay cash and take the time to do your research. Plus, you can't get sidetracked by sales. (You heard me!)
Whether you're heading to Diagon Alley for back to school or browsing Hogsmeade on the weekend, these smart shopping tips and tricks from Mrs. Weasley will help you stay on budget.
This is the first blog post in a 25-day series I'm doing called “Mrs. Weasley's Shopping Tips and Tricks for Saving $$$.” Click this button to sign up if you haven't yet! Then you'll get emails right to your inbox letting you know what that day's blog post is about.
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DO Read Reviews
No matter what you want to buy — a cozy cardigan or some sexy lingerie — I guarantee someone, somewhere, wrote a review about it. Your best bet is to check the store's website. Torrid, for instance, has reviews of their clothing pieces right on the page; just scroll all the way to the bottom. Of course, the item has to have been out for a while to read reviews. An item that was just released this week probably won't have any reviews yet.
Did you know you can compare items on different websites by using Pinterest? Uh-huh. Pinterest lets you search for something by snapping a picture of it. Here's how to do it.
#1 Open Pinterest on your device. Then tap the little camera icon in your search box.
#2 Snap a picture of whatever you want to search for. (This is a great feature for when you fall in love with a design or logo.) Pinterest will serve up anything that looks like your pic. (I snapped the Captain America shirt I was wearing when I wrote this blog post.)
#3 Sift through Pinterest's search results to see if you can find the same item at a better price. (Pinterest will also give you other items that are similar. Check out my Captain America shirt search results.)
Then, when you pull up an item's page on a website, scroll up and down and look for reviews.
You can also do some smart shopping by comparing prices for different stores right on your smartphone, and then reading the reviews. For instance, when I'm in Barnes & Noble, I use the Amazon app to scan a book's bar code. Then I can see how much the same book is on Amazon. You can do that with clothing, too, depending on what you're looking at. T-shirts are especially easy to compare prices, because a lot of stores will carry the same t-shirt.
Use one of these comparison shopping apps recommended by PC Magazine.
DON'T Buy Something on Impulse
No matter what you do, it’s best to avoid impulse buys. If something isn't on your list as an item you need, either for yourself or as a gift, then don't buy it. If you haven't thought about how you'll really use something at home, then don’t buy it.
Try not to browse the store. You'll be sure to see something you just have to have, even if you've never even thought if it before. (In other words, you don't need it.) And when you hit the checkout line, put on blinders. More and more stores are packing their checkout lines with cheap stuff that screams “impulse buy.” Keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak.
DO Make a List
Keep a running list of the items that you need and want. The list should include brands that you have researched, or bought before, and know are the best. Then, if you see one of the items on sale at a price you’ve determined is good (assuming you've saved the cash for it), you can buy it.
We use Alexa on an Echo Dot for this purpose and it has changed my life. You can read about it on my other blog. These apps are also great for keeping running lists.
DO Set a Budget
Smart shopping means looking at more than just the sale price. It also means looking at your income and other expenses. For each item that you plan to purchase, set a budget. Base that budget on what you can afford and how long the item is going to last. Plus, make sure it’s less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. No one wants to pay full price!
DON'T Use Credit Cards
Studies show that people spend about 50% more when they’re using plastic, whether it’s a credit card or a debit card. That’s because we don’t really see what we're spending as money. (It's magic!)
That’s why Amazon is so successful. They collect that information up front. Then, when people go for their “one-click” purchase, it's like they're not even spending money.
You’ll spend less when you use cash. Of course, when you shop online you’ll have to use a debit card or credit card, but always pay off your purchase immediately within five minutes of making the purchase. Don’t wait for the payment due date. Don't know how? Go to the card's website to pay the balance immediately or give them a call. The number is usually on the back of the credit card.
DO Set a Time Limit
Set a time limit for each smart shopping trip. You don’t want to get off track and start looking at everything. (Remember, blinders!) Go shopping with the intent to buy something specific from your list, after you’ve done some reconnaissance via the web first. If you have a time limit, you're less likely to browse.
DON'T Shop Tired
This is like grocery shopping when you're hungry. Be well-rested before you set off on your smart shopping trip, especially if it’s just a comparison shopping trip where you may not actually buy anything. This can be tiring, and if you’re already tired, you might make a purchase just to get it over with. Don't! Go when you have energy (morning? lunch time?) and you're more likely to wait for a better deal.
DON'T Take Friends
Surprised? Yes, it’s fun to shop with friends, but it’s also dangerous. If you want to shop smart, go alone. You'll be able to focus better on the task at hand. And I don't know about you, but when I shop with friends, it's more like a party. And when it turns into a party, you're much more likely to buy on impulse because you're “having fun. When your friend starts pleasure shopping you won’t be tempted to jump ship and join her.
DO Get Help
When you’re in the store, ask for help. That’s what that woman rockin' the maxi dress and wedges is there for.
A retail store's customer service is there to help you, whether it’s online or offline. Often, they know about coupon codes and other information to help you get a deal. They'll tell you about the deal, because they want to make a sale. Sometimes salespeople who sell on commission can change the price too. If your sales person doesn't mention a deal, just as if there are any sales or promotions going on.
DON'T Shop Hungry
Remember when I mentioned going to the grocery store hungry? It applies to the mall too.
One of the biggest shopping expenses you’ll incur when you're out and you're hungry is eating at restaurants. Everything will look good to you. Instead, eat well at home before you go and set the time limit to be done by next meal. And it never hurts to carry a healthy snack in your bag.
DON'T Buy Off List
This is like avoiding impulse buys. When you create your list, that’s it. Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list or that you’re not specifically shopping for. If you’re shopping for a new dress, don’t buy a new coat. Even if it's on sale and it seems like you’re getting a good deal, impulse buying is almost never a good deal. (Trust me. You'll get home and wonder why you bought a coat when you already have four. And who's going to take it back? Um, not you. You're tired from shopping.)
Hopefully, these do’s and don’ts will help you make smart shopping choices. You’ll spend less money, buy fewer things that you don’t need, and focus on value when you do make a purchase.
What's your smart shopping tip? Tell us in the comments!