March 13, 2011

"Try to get yourself a bargain, son. Don't be sold on the very first one.

I have a shopping habit. I'll admit it. It's not a secret and I am not ashamed. But do you want to know what is a secret? In spite of my love of clothes, shoes, and accessories, and my rampant shopaholism, I have never had a credit card and I don't know that I will be getting one any time soon. That's right, everyone. Everything I have ever bought I have paid for in cash.

I realize that I will probably not be able to go through my entire life without ever having a credit card, but in terms of extracurricular spending on items like clothing and entertainment, I think that my lack of access to credit has given me a unique insight into the world of budget shopping. I thought I would take this opportunity to share my tips on how to build a fabulous wardrobe without spending every dime you make (or borrow with various sources of credit.)

1. "One step at a time, there's no need to rush. It's like learning to fly or falling in love." 
Lyrics from "One Step at a Time" by Jordin Sparks.

I'm sure that you have heard the saying "Rome wasn't built in a day" and I think it applies perfectly to a person's wardrobe. If you have decided to update or change your style that is fantastic, but there is no rule that says you have to do it all in one fell swoop. One thing I have learned from my own wardrobe and by watching the style choices of other bloggers is that fashion is fluid. There is always going to be a new trend, there is always going to be a hot new item, and like a pirate trying to go down in infamy you are always going to want to seize that booty (bwahahaha) for your collection, but you know what? You don't have to latch onto every new trend to be stylish so if you don't have the money to buy the latest fad, it's okay to wait to buy it later when you can afford it or to hold out for the next trend altogether. Most trendy items don't stay trendy for very long anyway. I'm sure there were people who thought hammer pants were  the bomb diggity back in the day but I bet they're trying to burn any photographic evidence that such a time ever existed if their children aren't already using the pictures to blackmail them.

2. "Slow down sister cause I just can't love you, but I just can't get you off my mind." 
Lyrics from "Slow Down Sister" by Lady Antebellum.

This title is from a Lady Antebellum song called "Slow Down Sister" and I chose it because my next piece of advice is to make a "grocery" list of items that you need or desperately want and stick to that list.   I know that there are other bloggers who have given this advice in the past (I think that Kendi of Kendi Everyday and Sal of Already Pretty are two of them) but it is such sound advice that I will repeat it here. I hardly ever go shopping unless I'm on some Charlie's Angels style mission. 

If I know that I need or want a red ballet flat, then red ballet flats are the only game in town. If I go in a store and don't find a pair of red ballet flats that does not mean that I can buy a cute pair of royal blue ballet flats instead because royal blue ballet flats were simply not a part of the mission. I like to walk into a store (or start internet searching) with a clear goal in mind so that there is less of a chance that I will get distracted by all the shiny pretty things. 

3. "Thank God it's Friday night and I just, just, just, just, just got paid." 
Lyrics from "Just Got Paid" by NSYNC.

I have been told in the past that you should never go grocery shopping when you are hungry because you end up buying things you wouldn't normally buy like those Keebler grasshopper cookies that taste just like Girl Scout Thin Mints Cookies. Oh, it's just me who buys those and eats half the package before they even make it home you say? Well, that's a pity. I feel like an epic failure now. *sigh* Okay, well... Moving on. 

I don't think you should shop right after you get your paycheck because at that point the money is burning a hole in your pocket and it might make you a little crazy with spending lust. This suggestion is particularly important if you have a lot of bills that you need to pay and a savings account you need to maintain. One of my aunts has been telling me for years that when you get your check you need to pay yourself first (put money in savings), pay your bills second, and then and only then are you allowed to shop with the money you have left over. I'm sure she thinks I ignore her when she buys me every book Dave Ramsey has ever written and forces me to listen to his radio show on long car rides, but I am her niece and some of her good financial sense has rubbed off on me. Save when you need to, and shop when you can afford to.

4. "Got money and you know it. Take it out your pocket and show it." 
Lyrics from "Got Money" by Lil' Wayne.

Unless you've got money and you know it, having a realistic budget that includes all of your expenses is paramount. I won't pretend to be an expert at making budgets, but I am pretty good at keeping tabs on how much money I have in my bank account and I am always aware of how much money I need for upcoming expenses. These two factors directly affect how much money I can devote to shopping and I would guess that this is true of most people who aren't Bill Gates. 

I find that the online banking features that my bank offers work well for me. Since I make most of my purchases through debit or cash transactions which means that I can go to my online statements and see how much money is going into my account and how much money is coming out. For the most part, my debit transactions register in my bank's online system immediately so it's really easy for me to keep tabs on where my money is at all times. 

In my opinion, you should build your shopping expenses into your monthly budget. If you know that you can't spend more than $50 on clothing for the whole month or you will overcheck your bank account, you are much more likely to shop responsibly and not make frivolous and unnecessary purchases that will get you into trouble. I'm not saying you have to restrict every penny, but you should definitely be aware of how much you can reasonably afford to spend on clothes.

5. "I came in here for that special offer.  Guaranteed personality."
Lyrics from "Lost in the Supermarket" by The Clash.

As a kid I used to watch my mother clip coupons. She used to get them from the Sunday paper, from friends and family, she even got this magazine in the mail for coupon lovers that had articles on how to get the best coupons. It was her hobby and I thought it was weird as could be until I got older and realized that those coupons saved a lot of money.

I'm not quite as into coupons as my mom was growing up (at one point she earned herself the nickname "The Coupon Queen") but I do frequently use coupons when I am shopping for clothes. I buy a lot of items from New York & Company because they frequently have coupon deals for $70 off $150, $30 off $90, and other great deals. Just to give you an example of one of my recent New York & Company orders, consider this:

After my birthday I placed an order on New York & Company's website for the following items: 

The Chambray Camp Shirt in Rinse for $29.95

The Chic Solid Tote in Optic White for $39.95

The Large Shell Cluster Loop Earrings in Gem Green $5.48 (B1G1 50% Off, Originally $10.96)

And the Three Strand Bubble Bead Necklace in Dark Green for $16.95

The order came to $92.33. Before I checked out I went to google and searched for "New York & Company Coupon Codes" and took a few minutes to see if RetailMeNot or Dealigg had any coupons that I could apply to my order. And they did. I found a coupon code for $35 off any $90 purchase and on top of that the store was offering free shipping on all orders at the time. I entered the coupon code and it brought my $92.33 order down to $60.77 after tax. Not a bad piece of bargain hunting considering all I had to do was run a quick search on google and enter a code. 

Before you buy anything ask yourself if it's something that you have to have right now or if it would be the death of you if the item sold out in your size. If you don't and it won't, I recommend waiting a while to see if it goes on sale or if the store will run some sort of promotion that will at least allow you to get free shipping on your order. Coupon and sale shopping isn't for everyone, but if you can risk waiting to see if the item goes on sale it might save you a bundle of cash.

6. "My momma told me: you'd better shop around!" 
Lyrics from "Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

I have mentioned this before, but just because you love that $300 bag like a fat kid loves cake does not mean you have to buy that exact bag. It might behoove you to think about what it is about the bag that you love so much and ask yourself if there are cheaper bags that possess the same qualities. For example if the main thing you like is the color, it is possible (even probable) that you can find a similar item for a lower price. 

Also, don't be afraid (or ashamed) to look in places like Walmart, Target, thrift and consignment stores, and on Ebay for inexpensive options. Often you can find stylish, fun, and functional items in these places and no one will be any the wiser if you don't want them to be. Not ready to venture into your local thrift store? That's okay. You might want to get started online by trying Ebay and Shop Goodwill Online. You might be surprised to find a multitude of new and gently used items that need nothing more than a good washing before they will fit seamlessly into your wardrobe.

*Post title from "Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

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