You know that friend you have who always looks fabulous? No matter the weather, day of the week, circumstance, or personal crisis she may be going through, she always looks like she just stepped off the runway? Jealousy of that fact alone aside, what really grinds your gears is when you find out her oh-so-chic shoes were under $50? Or her totally on-trend trench was half off? Girl, I feel you. I have those friends. We all have those friends. But lately, I’ve found myself being that friend– the friend who knows about the best deals and where to buy the hottest items.
Want to finally be that friend? Well, look no further. I talked to those friends of mine and collaborated on universal habits we have. I chatted with my personal style icons to get the dirt on what they do when it comes to shopping, thrifting, and looking down right fabulous all the time.
7 Habits of Highly Effective Shoppers
1. We Shop Around
If there is something we could all agree on, it’s that we don’t shy away from shopping around. Although I have my favorite go-tos, when I’m looking for something specific, I shop around. Fellow Midwest Blogger Jessi of The Stylish Print always shops online first in order to read reviews and find the best deal. “I fell in love with a pair of Steve Madden shoes… but they were $80. So I shopped around and found a pair exactly like them at Target for $25.”
I did the same thing with a pair of heels from J.Crew. I hopped on Pinterest to find something similar since I was not about to drop $198 on a pair of sandals and ended up finding the next best thing for only $24 on Zooshoo. No, it doesn’t always work out quite as well as it did for Jessi and myself, but exploit your resources (Pinterest, word of mouth, or even a simple google search) and you’ll be amazed at what you find.
2. We Plan Ahead
At the beginning of every season, I start to make a list of “need to haves” and “nice to haves” for the upcoming season. Amy, a fashion buyer in the Midwest, takes a similar approach. “Before I go on a major shopping trip, I go through my closet to see what I need to get rid of, what I already have, and then make a list of things I think could be added. . .this helps so I don’t end up buying stuff I already have a version of.” This is truly key to ultimately saving you money and time. If you want to even go the extra mile, take your wish list online and see what’s out there. You can buy online, or pre-shop online before going to the mall to try your finalists on. Ali, an incredibly fashionable middle school teacher, points out that before a shopping trip, she’ll look online not only for what she wants to buy, but also for coupons and discount codes to get a better deal.
3. We Know Timing is Everything
If there is one thing that I’m notorious for preaching it’s that timing is everything. Knowing when to shop is just as important as knowing where to shop. In general, January and July are markdown months and the best time to get a low sale price. These sales are comprised of end of the season merchandise that usually is at least half off (depending where you shop, of course). For me, this is my favorite time to shop, as I normally keep an eye throughout the season on items that I’ve been wanting, and as long as they seem to still have plenty of inventory, I wait it out until the end of the season to get a stellar discount. Since it’s the end of the season, in theory, you’re buying the clothes for the same season, following year– so it’s good to buy versatile basics at this time that you can wear year after year. Believe me, you’ll be happy you did it come 6 months from now.
Can’t wait for the markdown? Totally fine. Ali and I never pay full price for anything. We’ve become sticklers about it too. At J. Crew, we won’t just buy sale items– we’ll wait until those sale items are an additional 40% off. Even items that aren’t on sale quite yet, you’re more than likely going to find a promotion or coupon code within 2-3 weeks if you’re willing to wait. The key is patience and knowing that if you don’t want to pay full price, you certainly don’t have to– but you do have to be willing to wait.
4. We Focus on Fit
Although this may seem like a no-brainer, I feel like this has tripped up even the smartest shoppers over the years. For me, I used to buy shoes too small because they were so cute and they didn’t have my actual size– but I naturally never could wear them. This also goes for vanity sizing. We may want to buy a shirt in a small instead of a medium, when the medium truly fits better. And honestly, if you’re someone who has ever struggled with body image, it’s hard to accept the number/letter on the tag really doesn’t matter. But I promise, it doesn’t. I always grab a few sizes at the store and just pick whatever I feel best in.
California fashion intern, Mary, stresses the importance of knowing your body and what fits. Like most smart-shoppers, Mary is aware of what things to look for in a garment in reference to her body. For example, when shopping for blazers, she is very particular– “I don’t like them too long because I am short and I don’t like them boxy because I am broad shouldered. How something relates to my height is very important.” It takes awhile to really know your body and what needs you have in relation to fit. I know I have the most trouble fitting pants in relation to my hips and tops in relation to my shoulders. The specifics take some time to realize, but no one knows your body better than you. Make sure you buy clothing that flatters and you feel confident in. If you don’t feel confident, you will never wear that item no matter how cute or on-trend it is.
5. We Know When Quality Counts
For me, there are few things more important than quality when it comes to selecting a new item for my wardrobe. When I love something and need to own it, I want to keep it for years. Because of this, I am willing to pay for quality. But in most cases, quality equates to a higher price and I realize that we can’t pay a high ticket on everything. When you don’t have an unlimited shopping budget, you have to begin to pick your battles. A rule of thumb is paying for quality basics and items that you carry from season to season and skimping a bit on trend and “fast-fashion” items. For example, I would never skimp on shoes, jeans, or sweaters. These items are critical for fit and are worn season after season. On the other hand, the midi rings you’ve been obsessing over can easily be picked up at Forever 21. And speaking of Forever 21, the quality is so non-existent that you only can get a few wears out of their apparel items before they begin to snag/shrink/stretch/warp/fall apart. There’s a reason it’s called fast-fashion, so be weary of buying anything that you plan to wear more than 4-5 times from a fast-fashion store.
6. We Embrace Individuality
There is nothing worse than going to a party/work/school/gathering and feeling on-fire until we see someone else wearing the same top. Even when we know we styled it 10X better, the sting is still real. As fashion and style enthusiasts, we crave individuality and desire to be completely unique. Some of my favorite pieces I have are vintage or from thrift stores– where you’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone who has the same thing. Eileen, current New York fashion intern and menswear enthusiast, invests in one-of-a-kind pieces. “Even though it may be expensive, you know that no one else will have it.” Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy designer luxury pieces in order to be unique. Like I previously mentioned, I love thrifting and going to vintage shops. You can find some real treasures that span across multiple decades. Eileen also suggests supporting local businesses and brands, rather than mass-chains. “You’re less likely to have the same purchase as someone you know.”
7. We Stay Connected
Lastly, the habit that relates to each of the other 6 is staying connected. Smart shoppers stay connected to brands, their favorite bloggers, other shoppers, their friends, and trusted style authorities through a variety of channels. Pinterest may be one of today’s most popular avenues when it comes to trend and ultimately deciding on your wish list. Jessi uses Pinterest to help further inform her style decisions. “If I know I want a specific item, let’s say a black blazer, but I don’t know what style I want, I usually go to Pinterest and search “black blazer.” This allows me to see all the styles of black blazers and how different people styled them. . .Pinterest is my best friend when it comes to shopping.”
Ali is the coupon queen and signs up for everything online. She participates in any free rewards programs retailers offer and always looks up discount codes before heading to the mall. Websites like retailmenot.com and groupon.com compile any promo codes that are out there for individual retailers. One great way of staying connected to your favorite retailers is following them on social media. They often do exclusive promotions for their followers and let them in on sales first. Nearly every retailer has a Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter account– so pick your favorite channel and stay involved. You’ll love having the scoop on the best deals at the palm of your hand.
Another way to stay connected is to follow a few fashion blogs. Many bloggers, such as Tracy’s Notebook of Style, are constantly posting the best deals and promotions they’ve found and sharing their inside information with fellow fashionistas. Not only do these blogs provide sale and promotion information, but they also offer a wealth of style advice and inspiration to give you new ideas for the upcoming season.
It definitely takes some time, but with a bit of practice you’ll be that friend in no time.
Until next time–