8 Frugalista Shopping Tips for the Holidays
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CBS News recently reported that Americans saw their incomes rise by an average of $500 per household. Did this translate into more spending? Nope. In fact, the average household's spending went down by $11. That's because consumers are still in a recession mood. We have "fear of buying"--not a good way to greet 2012's holiday shopping season.
Go ahead and squirrel away your savings for a rainy day. You can still enjoy an opulent, stylish holiday season without depleting your savings or spending your end-of-year bonus. (You have much better things to do with that money, anyway.)
Here are eight frugalista shopping tips to help you get through the holidays without fear of buying--and with your wallet intact.
1. You don't need friends in high places to be considered "friends and family."
To get the "friends and family" discount, sometimes you can just ask. Some stores will let you snag the coveted friends-and-family discount even if you forget to bring the special coupon with you. Don't be shy about asking a nice salesperson when the friends-and-family days are. Then, show up. Remember that "half of life is just showing up"--hopefully with a 20% discount.
2. Not all "presales" are equal.
A true presale means you'll likely need to go back to the store to pick up the item at the reduced price. Or if you prefer, the store may ship the item to you at the lower price once the sale "officially" starts. Beware of salespeople who talk about a presale when what they really mean is a gift card (worth a certain amount of cash to be spent in the store) instead. If you're not allowed to use the gift card to offset the price of the original purchased item, you may have to buy a second item to enjoy the savings--and end up spending more than you intended.
3. Know a fabulous fake from a hideous forgery.
When it comes to designer knockoffs, know what you're getting. Sometimes, if a price seems too good to be true, it's because the fabric or material isn't genuine. Read labels and ask questions. What's the item made of? What's the lining made of? With today's synthetic materials looking more and more like genuine leather, sumptuous silk, and plush velvet, it pays to really examine any clothing item before buying it. A well-crafted fake could save you a fortune, but a poorly made forgery is always a waste of money.
4. Share your clothing, share the wealth.
Do you have a friend whose taste you admire? Of course you do. Agree in advance to pick out two scarves that you both adore, and then "swap" them with each other midseason. Just when you tire of your own neck warmer, you can move on to hers. This tip is guaranteed to save you both at least 50% off.
5. Beware of hidden alteration charges.
Tailoring an item through a department store's high-end tailoring operation may end up costing a lot more than you bargained for. Don't be surprised. Discuss the likely additional charges before the in-store tailor raises the hemline or shortens the sleeve length. You don't want to lose an arm and a leg along with that half-an-inch off. You may be better off buying the item "as is," and then bringing it to an upscale drycleaner who has a good tailor on staff.
6. Don't be seduced by trends.
Asymmetrical closings, uneven hems, and deconstructed clothing (with seams showing, for example) have a certain "Wow!" factor, as in "Wow, I can't believe I was stupid enough to buy that." Do you have a lot of "What on earth was I thinking?" garments collecting dust? Today's hottest trend is tomorrow's unworn item, hanging forlorn in your closet. Instead, look for classic items, and if you must buy a trendy one, make sure it's cheap enough so you can discard it when you realize it looks better on the hanger than on you.
7. Friend your favorite stores and designers.
Friends don't let friends get gouged. That's why it pays to do some online research. Does your go-to designer have a Twitter feed? Follow her! Does that cute boutique around the corner have a Facebook page? Be sure to "like" it. You'll be the first to know about sales, presales, trunk sales, and friends-and-family days. While you're at it, tell your real friends about items you're looking for. While they're out shopping, they may spot a great sale for you.
8. Host a swap-till-you-drop party.
For exponential discount power, host a "swap till you drop" party before the holidays, so great "gets" can be worn or regifted. Invite 8-10 stylish friends and ask them to bring clean, unwanted clothing, accessories, jewelry, or shoes in great condition. Swap all the clothes you've grown bored with for all of the clothing your friends have. You'll all be "dressed to the nines" for free!
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Vicky Oliver (www.vickyoliver.com) is the author of five bestselling books on personal branding and career development, including her latest, The Millionaire's Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even If You're Not (Skyhorse, 2011). She's a career adviser and image consultant in Manhattan.
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