Monday, February 23, 2009

Avoid the Common Pitfalls of Shopping

Do not be this person.

Shopping. We all have to do it sometimes—well, maybe not all of us, I suppose there are people out there whose mothers still shop for them—but never mind them. Some people hate shopping, others love it, and if you fall into one of these groups you're probably not getting the most mileage out of your dollar. Even if you fall somewhere in the middle of that continuum here are some tips to help you shop smarter.

Don’t Avoid the Inevitable
Haters only go shopping when they absolutely must, which doesn't sound like a bad idea when you're trying to save money. Except that by the time you absolutely must buy a new pair of slacks for work—because one of the two pairs you own has worn through in the butt and everyone can see your choice of underpants—you're not looking for a deal. If you had taken the time to start looking a few weeks earlier (be honest, you saw the rear-exposure debacle coming) you could have found a store with a sale, or browsed through some clearance racks, instead of buying the first pair of pants that remotely fit you. Part of being a good bargain shopper is being in the right place at the right time.

Don’t Need It? Don’t Get It!
Most people who like shopping invariably find that they buy something every time they go out. This behavior reinforces their love for shopping because having new stuff is nice. Stop it. You don't need that third blue sweater, or an extra set of Allen wrenches, no matter how well it matches your eyes. If you feel the need to shop all the time you have a bigger problem: oniomania, the medical term for compulsive shopping. Now assuming that you're not at that level, and if you are please seek help, try to remember that you're shopping for a reason, there is a particular item that you want or need and that is your objective. Don't settle for something that will pretty much do the job; only buy what you set out for. This may involve returning home with zero bags. Zero.

The Evil Lure of Sales
Sales can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You can save a ton of money if what you're looking for is on the sale rack, but you can also get sucked into buying things simply because they're cheap. Remember this rule of thumb: Don't buy something on sale unless you'd be willing to buy it for full price. No matter what.

Step Away from the Labels

Brand names are a myth. Except for the über expensive items hand-crafted by blind Italian octogenarians, most American goods are made in the same factories by the same people getting paid the same wages. Don’t get sucked in by the fancy marketing. You can find the same item in a discount department store for less, and the quality will be the same. When you pay extra for the brand names all you’re paying for is the glitz that goes along with it. If the glitz is worth it you can stay home eating processed foods high in sodium, but they’ll probably make you gain weight and then you won’t be able to fit into those “wicked awesome” jeans anymore anyway. The choice is yours.

The Moral of the Story
Think before you shop, or don’t shop. Look for deals but don’t get seduced by them, and don’t forget that it doesn’t matter who made your shoes if you have no money to go out in them.1

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