image source: alina senchuck
I didn’t do boxing day sales this year, walking to the gym via Pitt st really set it in my head that I made a good choice for my sanity and although I have been on a self imposed sale shopping ban for the last few months a few keen friends asked me for some sale shopping tips and I thought I’d share them. Don’t get me wrong, I love sales and had I the financial freedom right now I’d be on a 48hr hour shop-crawl fending off all competition. The truth is, I get most of my yearly wardrobe volume from sale periods. My serial need for great basics and such, far outweighs my need for on trend pieces lately, not that I’m not prone to the second but they just don’t happen as often for a grocery list full of reasons. So many years of wasted dollars, getting up unnecessarily early, sharpening my nails to a deadly point, hours of learning prime parking locations and many many many tears of regret later I can bravely say that I can walk away from a sale fairly happy (and most importantly still be happy a few weeks later). I’d like some great shopping competition in Sydney when I return to the scene (in no particular order):
1.Know what you need. Go to the sales with this mantra, possibly one of the most important things you can do. Do your presale homework on christmas eve when you’re working your way out of the family food coma and fine comb your wardrobe. A pair of expensive never worn but wouldn’t dare to throw out shorts you need a particular cut of shirt to go with? You need that shirt! In a neutral or black shade, that covers all the right bits.. Because you need to wear this shirt again, this is not a once off shirt.. This is THE shirt that fills your wardrobe gaps, bonus points if it fills more than one gap and super bonus points (aka permission to spend a little more) if you can wear it with three or more of your favourite pieces. That’s a bit of general example but others include more specifics like simple black jackets, comfy flat shoes, basic cotton shirts/tops in all your favourite colours (and a few bright colours or prints), lingerie (the fancies and the basics) and any other classic pieces you felt you had those “dammnit if only I had a beige trench right now” moments repeatedly. The point is, you know what you need the most, find it. Only buy those life changing things.
2. Make a list of things you always use and run out of frequently to restock up on. For me, these are usually foundation, moisturisers, moleskine notebooks, plates, perfume and gym basics. They’re always on sale. Why would you spend more on them if you’re gonna use them everyday and can stock up on them now?
3. Set yourself a money limit. Even if you have money to boot, even if your relatives gave you a large sum you have no plans for, set yourself a limit. Because technically you could buy A LOT of things. Start with a small list, make it written if you need to but remember the bigger this list gets the more you allow yourself to buy things you don’t really need, all those excuses like “but it could possibly in some round about way be used, or gifted, or worn around the house or thrown out” start to creep in. Once you start thinking that.. Your list is too long. It’s ok, it happens to every single person I know. Stand in the middle of the store, yell at the top of your lungs “My list is too long!!” take a deep breath and start culling. Bonus points if you scare away anyone standing close by.
4. Be super weary of EVERYTHING you chose. Check for any holes, smudges or loose stitches. Nothing worse then picking the item of your dreams only to have it split in the seams when you put it on again. And being super redundant in the name of saving time, ask yourself do I REALLY need this? Go through your mental (or written) checklist of things you need, and make sure this item is exactly how you want it. I am extremely annoying to go shopping with, I'll see a great garment, I'll agree with friend or who ever I'm shopping with that it's no doubt great and then I'll list on about how the stitching is the wrong colour or this bow could be a little more centred or that the panels of a hat aren't perfectly straight and just annoy the hell out of the person I'm with and not even buy the item. Do it, be super picky and you will find less and less unwearable crap in your wardrobe.
5. Choose quality over quantity. If you don't already employ this mentality in everyday shopping, try this when sale shopping. It works to help you not over buy and knowing that you can control the "omg i need this polyester shirt in every colour" now will help you later as well. Chose natural materials like silk, cotton, linen, wool, leather etc because as we all know they wear better, last longer and are generally better for the environment. This really doesn't have to be about being able to "afford" higher quality materials. A lot of people I know fall into the trap of buying a viscose shirt because its cheap and easy, and you can go into any old store and wear it TONIGHT. But hold out for as long as you can, wait until a great sale you can buy some fantastic cotton and linen shirts for cheap.. they come free with longer wear life and heck of a lot less of those annoying little lint balls that gather in places that rub. Back to point two, stock up on essentials before you need them.
6. Avoid your sportsgirls, forever news and portmans like the plague. This is not to say that you can't find some fab things here or that they don't have their own little niche, BUT many a time I've been walking home post sale only to have a peak inside just because I could and walked away with an armful of bangles I'd never wear, just because they were on sale and kinda shiny and merchandised really well and the sales assistants were just chatty and lovely and I COULD NOT RESIST! Unless you've had your eye on a particular piece prior the sale, save yourself the heartache. At best you would have wasted your time on neon-weirdly-cut-and-not-so-flattering tank tops and at worst you'll spend $80 on costume jewellery you'll never even reach for after you bought it.
7. Know your favourite brands/stores. I've found it much more rewarding to only go into a few stores, ones I already know to carry lines that I love or in terms of flagship stores, clothes that fit and things I use. I learnt this from my mum and it may sound like a "duh" type moment but I would always be amazed when I was younger that she could go through a rack and find a great piece. Random at first but after I took notice I realized that she did this at her favourite stores. While I had no patience to go through an entire rack of clothing (especially those hideous over packed racks at sales) she would meticulously feel her way through and find something great. Quality materials feel great, just to be a little bit more captain obvious. Me on the other hand, well lets just say if it didn't jump out at me from 3 meters away, I really didn't bother and would assume there was nothing there and move my hyperactive butt onto the next store.
8. Eyes on the prize, be prepared to be zen and vigilant. This kind of carries on from the last point. Be sure to check fitting room return racks (that thing that used to resemble a rack of clothing outside the fitting room that's now overflowing with clothes other people have tried on) for any cool stuff. Firstly because if you're not at a sale super early and didn't manage to snag the special pieces, it's entirely possible that the person who did pick it up, tried it and realised it wasn't their size or "them" in the first place. Due to the fact that retail is always understaffed and especially so at sales, these pieces are probably still near the fitting room (or even on the fitting room floor if you're at a warehouse sale). It's totally ok to help yourself to looking through the rack, be sure to be tidy and efficient as to not piss off the change room assistant who has probably already seen their fair share of assholes this day. This generally varies from store to store, but it's also possible that not all sizes are hanging out for you to see, this is usually due to the vast volume of stock, vm rules and other random company policies. Be prepared to accept that your size has probably sold out, but ask the sales assistant to double check for you regardless.
9. Be up early and be ready. In my honest opinion you have to get to these things within the first few hours of the first day or don't even bother until a few weeks after the start of the sale. The cool things usually go fast, the quality pieces go even faster then that. So if you missed out, save yourself the crowd surf and wait a few weeks until things get reduced further or more styles are added to the sale. For warehouse sales, line up early, get in within the first 45minutes or just don't go. Also this may seem a little common knowledge-y but years of going to Sass&Bide sales have taught me otherwise.. it's not a good idea to wear any of the following (or anything that resembles the following) high heels, platforms, thigh high boots or any form of fancy footwear, your feet will hurt and your shoes will get ruined.. corsets, tight jeans, lots of fiddly tangly jewellery and a full face of makeup should also stay at home. Have a comfy and easily removable outfit planned, you're here to work! If you can, take some food with you (or eat before hand) nothing sucks more than waiting in line to try on clothes and feeling like you're about to pass out because you forgot to eat in all the excitement of a 75% off sale. Getting food in food courts during sales time needs its own blog post full of hateful words. Try not to bring any bags, you want all the free hands you can get, here's where pockets come in handy, aim to be armed with cash in one pocket and credit card in the other. If you really need a bag a tote with long soft handles slung over the shoulder works best. Pretty much think utility when you go to sales, this is not a first date and this is definitely not cocktails at the Ivy Pool on a Saturday night.
10. A few other simple things that have helped me have less shopping regrets.. buying things a size up; polyvoring/photoshopping (my friend sketches, but my drawing abilities stop at stick figures) outfits together before actually going to sales, it helps with filling in wardrobe gaps; if you want to take full advantage of the sales but don't feel like shopping for yourself shop for family members or your partner, it's a lot easier to make objective decisions about what someone else wears; keep cost-per-wear somewhere in your head, it's not a be all end all factor but let it help you make decisions; trust your gut instinct, if you think it doesn't work it probably doesn't, if you've resisted purchasing something and can't stop thinking about it you should probably run back, push small children aside and get your mits on it.
This list is by no means exhaustive but these things definitely helped me and the only way to be an amazing shopper is to go out there and see what works for you, and if this has helped you save even a few dollars I'm more than happy to hear stories or your tips.