6 Questions for the Savvy Shopper

I recently read an article on Forbes on The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits that makes a really good point on some of our terrible shopping habits. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an eye for pretty things and these things usually came in the form of clothes, heels, or simply cute little accessories (think Hello Kitty). While I don’t think I can really ever eliminate shopping for clothes all together (affordable fast fashion is just to too convenient to not at least play with a few pieces every two seasons while you’re still young), I’ve definitely became a more conscious shopper throughout the years.

I’ve also prioritized experiences over things in the last two years and traveling has taken a front seat in my life, therefore budget re-allocation was also necessary.

Over the last three years, I’ve somehow made more practical shopping choices by asking myself these six questions. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to come to a final answer if a product is worth it or not, but other times I can really feel like I’m missing out on a good deal. Some call this the fear of missing out.

I’ve read many other blog articles that puts emphasis on cost-per-wear and investing in timeless, classic pieces and while I’m very much onboard with these ideas, I’ll like to shed another light into this topic– that doesn’t involve those two points above.

1. Is it love at first sight?

I pretty much apply this rule to everything I buy or everyone I meet these days. It streamlines life and builds on the saying, “quality over quantity.” The great thing about fashion is that it’s a visual experience and when you pick up something on a rack, it either strikes you as “wow” or it doesn’t. Anything in between isn’t “wow.” If you have to find reasons to justify your purchase, it isn’t “wow.”

Only then, do I check the price, quality, and it’s level of maintenance (machine wash vs. hand wash). I dislike anything that needs to be dry cleaned. I might make the occasional exception for a winter coat, but where I live, I don’t even need one.

In this case, it’s okay to shop like a diva. (insert *flips hair emoji)

2. Can I get it somewhere else with a cheaper price without compromising quality?

A stroll at many night markets and boutiques will make you realize that everything can be bargained. At night markets, besides well-made big designer knockoffs (that I don’t recommend), there are also good-quality unbranded handbags and cute accessories at a negotiable price. Most of the time, the quality is above H&M while the prices start at around the same. When I shop at small vendors or boutiques, it’s more about the style, color, functionality, and durability of the product.

I’ve wanted this lace bralette I’ve been eyeing at Urban Outfitters for two years, but found the same style and quality bralette at a small boutique in a mall for $6 compared to $24. And I wasn’t shopping a sale at the boutique either. In another scenario in the same stores, the same reversible leather tote was $60 at Urban and only $30 at the boutique. For many fast fashion pieces, they are probably bought from the same wholesaler.

3. Is it more functional or more aesthetically pleasing?

When I was in high school and even college, I’ve always made the mistake of buying things that were cute and pretty even though I didn’t end up using it frequently.

Try This Instead: Making lists and writing a few words on why you need or want the item prior to shopping can be therapeutic. It will make you more grounded overtime when it comes to spending.

If you are handbag shopping, make a list of all the things that you’ll put in that bag before you head into the store. What’s the occasion for the bag? How often does that occasion happen? Even if one thing doesn’t fit, it’s time to move on.

If you are clothes shopping, make a list of the five trends that you love most or basics that you need to replace before you go into the store. Buy only those. Everything else is a distraction.

excelgeek

But it’s okay to window shop and gawk at all the cute things. I still do.

If you are skincare shopping, you have to keep reading to find out. 😉

4. Do I have a similar product that serves the same function at home?

Unless I’m traveling and have done my research, compared prices, and know that products are cheaper overseas, I forbid myself to buy a similar product of the same function. For example, if I’m already using a moisturizer but just want to try another brand, I won’t make the purchase until I have no more than one week’s worth of product left.

If you buy most of your products from the same 1-2 large (Target, Walmart, Sephora, CVS, etc.) retailers, the products aren’t going anywhere. Unlike small boutiques where fear might get in the way of not finding the item again, retailers make the shopping experience smooth and easy because that’s how they make you go back. 😉

Try This Instead: I keep and organize a list of products on an excel sheet that I look forward to trying once I’ve emptied my current product. This keeps my home space minimalistic, minimizes my expenses for that month, and gives a more accurate picture of how much I really need to consume each month.

5. Am I buying this because I need it or because it’s on sale?

Sales aren’t a good enough reason to go shopping. (Of course, it’s different if you are only going for window shopping.) It only means that the store is trying to get rid of last season’s items to make room for new merchandise, but that’s their problem. This process will constantly repeat itself season after season. That’s how you get looped into a rhythm of shopping sales. Plus every store has sales, there’s nothing so special about this or any particular store. That’s simply how retail works.

Try This Instead: As ironic as this sounds, I’d admit I shop sales more so now than I was younger. I do this for more cost-effective reasons than because I truly enjoy going through messy racks of clothes. I’d get the item if it follows this rule of thumb: it’s on sale and it’s something on my to-buy list that I’ve been wanting to add to my closet so I can wear it with this, this, and this outfit.

6. How long have I dreamed of owning this?

With e-commerce on the rise these days, it’s too easy to shop from bed. Therefore, if we wanted something, we have the option to get it the next day.

shop from bed - asian girl

Try This Instead: I keep an excel spreadsheet called a “Wishlist” every year (and I’ve been doing it for the past 2 years) where I list everything that I want, need, or comes to mind that goes, “Oh, this is nice to have!” I usually add any items that are greater than $30-50 to that list, but there isn’t a limit of how low you can go, of course. The columns for my excel sheet are:

  • Item/Brand
  • Price
  • Date added (In other words, when did you start wanting this item?)
  • Notes (Can I get this item somewhere else? Does it have a chance to go on sale? Do I have store gift cards that I can use?)

I set a 3-6 months mark and see how long I can go without the item. If it’s something that repeatedly comes up in your daily life, it’s something that you need. Most of the time, when I look back at my spreadsheet, I can’t even recall why I added the item in the first place. That’s when you’re glad you started this spreadsheet. 😉

At the end of the year, add up all the times you didn’t buy something.

What do you think?

Do you already follow these rules before you make a purchase?