Sports have their “silly seasons” when players field offers and consider where to play next year, well, holiday shopping season is silly season for us shoppers. Which starts…NOW (or already has started…)! And isn’t ending any time soon.
But this year, I am minimizing. Perhaps you are too? Maybe you are at least trying to shop more consciously, not buying what you don’t need, and adding only beautiful & meaningful things to your life?
Its hard though, when silly sale season starts. There are Friends & Family codes this way and that, sales on sales, clearance items, and flash deals. And that’s only just NOW! Wait until Black Friday…
I’m sort of fanatical about getting the best deal on things, which is a big reason why I started Grechen’s Closet & then Grechen’s Codes; so you could easily find all the places to buy a certain designer online, and then look for coupon codes before you buy. I still believe in that, in shopping around, and looking for coupon codes, but I don’t buy on sale much anymore. And even though I HAVE been known to wait for a code if I know/hope one is coming, I don’t go out of my way to buy at a discount either.
Why? Turns out almost all my purchases the last several years were made with sale goggles on.
Shopping is personal, individualized; everyone does it differently, and everyone has their own reasons for shopping – other than necessity. So, if you’ve not gotten yourself into trouble buying on sale, or if when you go to clean out your closet, most of the items you decide to get rid of don’t still have the tag on them with the purple sticker on it from Last Call which equals 70% off, then carry on. You obviously don’t have a problem.
Still here? Yeah, me too. One of the first things I noticed when I made piles and boxes full of stuff to get rid of, is that most of the things I chose to purge were things I’d bought with price as the FIRST consideration. What I mean by that, is that first, I saw the price, then I thought, oh! I must buy that, it’s so cheap! Finally, I considered how it would work in my wardrobe. Wrong order.
I also bought without recognizing MY value, and that I AM WORTH MORE.
I was buying because I could, and because I wanted to. I wasn’t buying because I needed things, and sometimes I didn’t even LOVE the things I bought, but I was trying to fill an emotional void that was easier to fill by shopping than by actually doing the work. I also bought without recognizing MY value, and that I AM WORTH MORE. So I ended up with a lot of stuff I bought on sale.
Now, things are very different. I’ve done some of the work to realize why I emotionally shopped, and also important, I have a budget that I must stick to. Also, I simply don’t want as much stuff, and have become incredibly particular about what I choose to add to my wardrobe.
Some of the “rules” I try to follow now:
- If I need it and it’s within my budget, I’ll buy it at full price – if I can wait for a code, then I’ll wait. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at making lists, but have become better. I am constantly shopping, so I always have a running list of things I need/want/would like. Most of the time, things drop off and I don’t miss them, but if I’m really thinking about something constantly, I’ll make an effort to buy it. Enter rule number 2:
- I try not to buy anything without a 24-hour waiting period – whether I saw it online or tried it on in the store, I try to step away for a day or so. If I’m still thinking about it after that, then I go back and get it, or at least add it to a “must-have” list. Sometimes I fail at this. Like when I bought these Lululemon leggings. I actually left the store, made it a few feet away, then turned around and went back in to buy them. They’re totally worth it (also sold out now).
In a comment recently Jen mentioned a 30-day rule: keep a list of the things you want/need and after 30 days if you still want/need them, buy them, whether on sale or not. I like this rule. For many items, they’ll either be on sale in 30 days, or there will be a coupon code, or some discount. Depending on the season, of course.
- I don’t shop at H&M, Zara, Target, TJ MAXX, Marshall’s, Nordstrom Rack, Saks off fifth, Last Call, Old Navy, or Gap unless I’m looking for something VERY specific. I lose myself when I walk into one of those stores and become blinded by the sale prices. And then when they would send those 40% off one item coupons? Dead.
- I also don’t shop thrift stores anymore. I used to, when I moved to Austin, and I found some cool things, but no, they weren’t me, and no, I don’t have ANY of them left. Same with the designer consignment store I used to frequent; I don’t have anything left that I purchased there.
- I know the sale/coupon code cycles like the back of my hand. If you read here and/or at Grechen’s Codes, you probably do too. F&F codes happen twice a year, in the spring and fall, there’s black Friday/cyber Monday of course, and always sales/codes around EVERY FREAKING HOLIDAY here in the US. So, yeah, you can pretty much find a code/sale for anything if you can hold out long enough and pay attention to sale cycles. Also, Tuesdays. Online sales usually start on Tuesdays…
If I know a sale or code is coming up, I’ll try and wait for it, but stick to a list and only buy what I need/want to add to my wardrobe.
Out of everything I have left in my wardrobe, less than 10% of it is made of up of things I bought on sale. It’s a pattern with me; the things I wear and love the most are the things I paid full price for (or with a coupon code). I don’t love or wear them more because I paid full price for them, but I think I do because I loved them enough and recognized their value in my wardrobe over time FIRST, before considering price. AND they are usually same season items. Sometimes that doesn’t work out, of course, but over the last 5 years, I’ve noticed that in most cases, I wear and keep the things I’ve NOT bought on sale.
I know now that the value of an item isn’t reflected in it’s price. The value is in what it adds to your life, how free it makes you feel, and how much pleasure you derive from it.
Tips for Sale Shopping:
- Figure out what you are willing to pay full price for and what you are not. I will always pay full-price for good basics, because those are the things I wear all the time; they are the foundation of my wardrobe. I buy those first, and get them “out of the way” so then I focus on getting other things with a code, or on sale
- Keep lists and stalk sites for markdowns or codes
- If you’re good at shopping out of season, then take advantage of the Nordstrom anniversary sale. If you’re NOT (like me), then avoid it completely. It will be too tempting…
- Black Friday: I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything during black Friday/cyber Monday sales, I think I’ve been pretty shopped out by then with the F&F codes. It’s a fact that now, these sales aren’t much better than sales/codes retailers have throughout the year (unless you’re crazy enough to go to Wal-Mart on Black Friday), so it’s not necessary to wait all year for them – you can generally find just as good, or better deals throughout the year
- Consider buying with codes rather than on sale – the friends & family codes usually come in spring and fall and are valid on new items, in-season items, so you’re not buying out of season (which I can’t do). I use F&F codes to stock up for the new season on basics and items that won’t make it to sale.
- Do not let yourself be swayed by price or discount amount – none of that matters in the end, the only thing that matters is that you love the item and that you will wear it happily (as long as it’s within your budget of course). Do not add something else to get free shipping, do not buy more because the site is offering 30% off $1,000 and only 25% off $500…
I’ll end with this gem from Janice at the Vivienne Files recently:
Just a loving reminder to think for yourself…
Take a step back, remember what you are looking for, what you need, what you don’t need, and your budget. Don’t be swayed by the price, the discount, or the rewards; they will mean nothing in the end.
What are your tips for surviving sales? Are you a list-maker? Sale stalker? When you purge your closet, how many things do you get rid of that you bought on sale?
See The Minimal Closet in the WSJ! Then read more in The Minimal Closet series (new posts on Thursdays):
I completely agree with you about avoiding the sales. I’ve never been a sale shopper, as I get overwhelmed too easily by all the choices. And those times I have dived in? I wind up giving the items to my family members:). The only good thing about my dumb sale purchases is that I spent less on them than on my dumb full price buys!
These are all really good tips which I’ll have to implement when I eventually leave my job.
This year my goal is no – black friday – shopping. Like you said above, I have items in my closet from these sales with the tags on .. (sigh). Such a waste of money. If I’m going to buy something, I want to really wear it.
MonicaP´s last blog post ..NYDJ, Sheri Print Stretch Skinny Jeans in Caribou
While I am a sale shopper and a thrift store shopper, I do agree with the basic premise that it can be easy to be swayed by price and buy things that you would not buy at full price. I’m fortunate that we do very few holiday presents – handmade gifts for immediate family, maybe some stuff for the kids – so I’m not in the stores shopping and unnecessarily tempted this time of year. I’m almost congenitally unable to pay “full” price for anything, yet at the same time I realize that many stores never sell items at “full” price because they’re always running a sale of some sort. So it works better for me to consider the value of the item (some combo of quality, price & wearability) and figure out what I am willing to pay for it, rather than looking at full/sale price as the metric of interest….Great thoughts from you today, as always!
Kathryn Fenner says
As a long-time clearance rack/TJ Maxx/eBay shopper, I find I agree with you. I am avoiding “sales” and “clearance” at any rate. I have far less specific desires than you, so I might want another lightweight cardigan or v-neck, say, and then I am trying to search for the right one at my local consignment store, eBay (but at the higher price points), Nordstrom Rack (which only opened a week ago in my city). T J Maxx is still good for filling in gaps for base layer stuff, and I do pick up some nice deals on shoes there–I can try on the few 11s and see if they are big enough. I am also not buying end-of-season, pre-season, etc. I buy to wear NOW.
Another pertinent post, thanks! I usually avoid sales, but today at T.J. Maxx bought two tops. They’re both linen (I know, I know…), but it’s hard to resist Vince when it’s 75% off.
Grechen Reiter says
haha. yes, true…true…
Grechen Reiter says
yes…see, i would like to do that, i guess, try to figure out what i’m “willing” to pay for something, but i’m not sure how. i mean, obviously, i’m willing to pay $50 for a t-shirt, and $200+ for pants or a dress by james perse, so what does that say? i guess i’m not willing to pay $800 for a cashmere cardigan though. i have my limits 😉
and so far, i’ve not been able to buy any other eileen fisher pieces besides my harem pants, because i feel the price is too high. there it is right there…i value JP more in my wardrobe than EF…
Great post – something I need to take to heart. I do wander a bit at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s although I am getting better at buying things I will actually wear (at least to work out). I admit that while reading your post, I thought 40% off coupons? Gretchen gets 40% coupons?” and then I thanked the stores and online shopping sites for not sending me any : )
Grechen Reiter says
haha!! last call used to send 40% off one item coupons pretty frequently, and of course, i would always go look and see what i could find…
i used to go into nordstrom rack, tj maxx, last call, etc., and just buy as much james perse as i could because it was “on sale” – i mean…the price was too good to pass up. and the coupons, of course, were just a good reason to go out shopping just to see what i could find. and of COURSE i found something to buy.
Grechen Reiter says
i think i’ll shop at sale shops or wherever if i’m looking for something specific and i know i’d rather not pay a lot for it (or can’t). but otherwise, i do find them much too tempting. but i do think they’re good resources generally…just not for me – based on past experience anyway 😉
Yep, you’ve been doing a really good job (based on your posts 😉 at figuring out what you value and what should be in your closet. Minimal or not, that’s an important lesson.
(another thing I was thinking as I just got out of my closet this morning is that sometimes the sale price stuff I buy is a practice run to see if I like a brand – maybe the pants I bought at Goodwill aren’t the most recent version of the brand and the style isn’t the most current,, but does the brand fit my shape, are they well made, do I like the fabric etc.)
Also, those OffFifth 40% coupons are dangerous but I was able to restock my basic cashmere sweaters last year (smaller sizes) because of it! Also, when Sierra Trading Post does the 40% with free shipping, I can buy the goretex shoes for hiking & Eagle Creek suitcases I love.
75% off!!! On VINCE? I would’ve been doomed if I had been there, and I certainly don’t need more linen. But those 40% off coupons at LastCall and Saksofffifth always get me. Even if it’s not necessarily the exact VINCE item I want, I convince myself that I’ll be a better person if I own it. As Spock would say (Mr., not Benjamin), “Not logical.”
I’m going to use the “waiting” rule, and I think it will combine nicely with my “list” rule (I can only buy things that are on my list, but like you, Grechen, items drop off all the time).