Friday, April 11, 2014

Top 10 Tips For Shopping Efficiently

Image via LouLou Magazine - read there article here
For some, going shopping is exciting, fun and generally enjoyable. For others, it is a dreadfully painful task which may rarely occur throughout the year. As a follower of fashion trends, I have grown to love the whole atmosphere and experience of shopping. This may sound superficial and all, but I am a controlled shopper and I stick to a budget, so that I can grow my savings while still indulging in the things that make me happy. The key element to my love for shopping is being comfortable. I hate carrying too much stuff, feeling constricted in my clothing, dealing with crowds, unkempt merchandise displays, and unnecessarily warm environments. I also do not enjoy paying full price for an item when I know that there could be an opportunity to save. Above all, I like feeling safe and happy when I am in a position of purchase to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Considering this list of (slightly high-maintenance) requirements, I have compiled my shopping tips for anyone planning on making some future purchases.

1. Time of day is crucial.
Tuesday or Thursday morning is the best time to go shopping. Right when the store opens, displays are pristine, sales assistants are helpful and stock is usually fresh. I especially love going to Sephora at this time since the testers and samples are clean, stocked and very inviting. For those who have regular commitments and don't have a weekday morning free, any day first thing in the morning is typically a safe time to hit up the shops.

2. Shop the sale.
There should be absolutely no shame when shopping last seasons markdowns, especially since that's where I find my best items. A word of advice? TRY IT ON. Final sale is a harsh stamp to get on a receipt, so be sure that you will actually wear it. Sometimes super trendy items are on sale because they suck, so don't fall into the trap of "ohhh well it used to be $2354395 now its only $1 so i neeeed it!" I've learned that the hard way. Stick to timeless basics that will take you from season to season. 

*Note: if you plan on hitting up smaller boutiques, remember to bring cash- if you're lucky, they might offer to cut out the tax. 

3. Keep a coupon pouch.
Couponing is a serious commitment, but it isn't as much of a drag as you may think. There are some situations where couponing can be so worth it, especially at the drugstore or grocery store. If you struggle to keep track of your teeny pieces of paper, be sure to print them all out (look for online coupons), keep them corralled into a small pouch, and bring a list of items they correspond to. Similar to the sale section, don't be persuaded into a purchase simply because you get $1 off... you still need to pay that extra $8 for the mascara you might not need. Be aware of the expiration dates for deals and always try to use coupons on sale items for super savings. 

4. Get store emails and coupons. 
It's frequently the case that when you sign up for a company's email service, they will send an initial welcome coupon of 10-20% off your first purchase. Score! If you're planning to shop online, sign up for the emails before checking out to see if you can get a nice discount. Important: If you're a student, always ask if the store offers a student discount. Some stores that do: J Crew, Club Monaco, Haartek a.k.a. my favourite hair salon ever.

5. Shop online with PayPal.
Many positive and negative experiences have come about after having done a fair amount of shopping online. I love the idea that I can do my christmas shopping in pyjamas, while listening to music in bed. I also don't love the idea of having items never arrive, or having to pick them up at some remote dropbox in the middle of nowhere, because I wasn't home to receive the package. 
Here are some stores that I would recommend to shop online from:
Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic
Amazon.ca
Club Monaco
Nordstrom
Vitacost
Sephora
Forever 21
Here are some online stores that I would highly recommend not wasting your time on:
Ebay (too sketchy and horrid customer service- choose Amazon)
The Bay (don't get me started. Worst customer service ever, thanks to new owner Lord & Taylor)
Sears (there's a reason they're disappearing..)
Walmart (hit or miss.. just go to the store)
Urban Outfitters (their images typically make the items look way too good to be true)

***Important Note: If you use PayPal instead of a credit card then decide to return the items (at the store), your refund will probably be placed on a store credit, as opposed to being credited back to your account.

6. Use Ebates <3 
Ebates gets commission from stores for referring shoppers to their websites. Then, Ebates shares that commission with you. Here's how it goes: log on to your account, search for the store you are purchasing from, click on the "shop now" button, make your purchase from that page, then receive your commission about 5 days later. The percentage of cash back will range from store to store, but they frequently have double cash back days for specific retailers. You'll receive the check either in the mail or via PayPal payment every 3 months. You have to rack up over $5 to receive your first check and you'll get $10 added to your account if you refer a friend and they make a $25+ purchase. Their Canadian office is right in Toronto and they are so helpful if you don't receive your cash back within a week. You just need to send them the required info in an email and they'll straighten it all out. It is such an incredible service with literally no flaws.

7. Use points cards.
Despite the fact that they're a huge drag to carry around, points cards can be very rewarding. Many cards can be added to Passbook on iPhones (Sephora BI, Scene, Starbucks, etc.) to avoid keeping the cards with you and fattening up your wallet. Also, the Shoppers Optimum program is fab, especially if you take advantage of 20x the points and bonus redemption days. If you're a student, look into the SPC card which can help you save at many different stores/restaurants.

8. Keep receipts.
Keeping a small box of receipts has saved me a lot of money and time over the years. Weather its an electronic that stops working, a jacket that rips at the seams, or a makeup product that causes a reaction, many stores will offer refunds or exchanges within a reasonable time from the initial purchase date. 

9. Shop second hand.
I am slightly obsessed with second hand shopping, which can get pretty overwhelming. When it comes to clothing, always be sure to pick up really unique items of high quality fabric, that will last and can be washed. Never put on second hand earrings or other jewellery without thouroughly cleaning them first. Also, factor in the dry cleaning cost when you are purchasing potentially dirty blazers and jackets- if the item is worth an extra $10, go for it. 
*Sign up for Value Village's Club Card and keep informed of their 50% sales- best days ever.

10. Wash things properly.
When you're thinking of purchasing that white blazer, a silk dress or leather boots, think about their practicality in comparison to your lifestyle. If the blazer is super expensive and will get dirty easily, you'll have to consider the hefty cleaning cost that comes attached. Something like silk pretty much can't be washed, and leather takes some specific products to keep it looking at its best (see my routine here). Always read the care tag on your clothes so you don't have to repurchase after your drier shrinks them to infant size. Here is an incredible picture to help better understand those wacky geometrical washing symbols. If you're still unsure, opt for hand washing or a cool gentle cycle in the washing machine.

Happy shopping!
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