The title of this post might sound a little silly: 'How to shop? But I know how to shop? You just walk into a building, pick up an item, exchange money for said item, and leave. What more could there possibly be?'
When I say 'how to shop' I don't just mean popping into the city for a browse and maybe picking up a thing or two. I'm talking serious, planned out, full on, bank busting shopping. This is just a couple of tips and tricks for how to get the most out of an intense shopping trip - they're just things I like to do, and if you've got any of your own shopping mantras then leave a comment below or tweet me @VickiMaitland. I'm always looking to get new ideas!
1) Write a list of the things you know you want. This can be as vague as 1xJacket, 2xTee etc etc; as rigid as 1xTopShop Jacket - leather sleeves, burgundy fabric, belted waist; or anywhere inbetween. Not only does this stop you from being swayed from impulse buys, but it also helps you...
2) Budget. Once you've written a rough list of the things you want, tot up roughly how much it'll cost (and err on the side of more rather than less so your bank balance doesn't get any nasty surprises). Be honest: you can get a coat for £20, but be prepared to spend £50 on something with a bit of quality, or up to £100 for a nice brand. Once you've figured out roughly how much everything on your list will cost, you can begin to cross things off. Maybe you don't need that extra jumper or that new underwear?
3) Browse online first. Honestly, I don't tend to do this one very much, but if I'm going on a serious spree or I have an exact image of something I want I have a look online first. Not only does this narrow down the shops you need to be walking into, but it can give you a clearer idea of cost too. Make a note of this cost (and shipping charges), as you might notice a difference in store. You might find that doing all your shopping online works out cheaper than getting into town and back. Generally, unless I've bought from the place before, I don't like shopping online as I'm a big believer in rule number 4.
4) Try it on. I always try things on where I can, particularly shirts and jeans. Every style and every shop will give a slightly different fit, so to save yourself a trip back in try it on first. Don't worry too much about the look of the item when trying it on - just focus on the fit. Often things look very different under natural light as opposed to the (often unflattering) changing room bulbs, but lighting doesn't change the way a dress fits! For makeup, always do a swatch test, leave the store, and return in a couple of hours once the swatch has had a chance to settle into your skin. Not only will this make sure you like the colour but it also means you've seen how durable the makeup is. The only down side is forgetting which swatch is from which makeup, so if you can take a photo of the product next to the swatch, or simply jot down a name of the brand in order that'll help you out.
5) Keep receipts. Either in the bag they're in or in a separate compartment in your purse, always keep your receipts. Even if you've tried something on in store, you might not like it once you're at home and stood in natural lighting (although the same is true in reverse). Check out a stores returns policy before you assume you can do this though. Some places will only offer exchanges or gift cards, particularly on sale items, whilst others will do full refunds. Keep the receipts at least until you are no longer able to take the item back (usually 28 days) and go through your receipts once a month so you don't end up having years worth of them. Some items will have a warranty, and you'll need to keep the receipt till that runs out too.
6) Take a friend or two. Not only is in nice to have some company, but its great to get a second opinion on clothes. Take a friend whose style you admire as well as someone who knows you inside out. This may be two different people. Friend number one will draw your eye to things you might not have noticed, and perhaps encourage you to try out something new, whilst friend number two will be able to give an honest opinion on clothes and whether or not you'll actually wear them.
7) You're not allowed to buy it. If you're shopping on your own (or even with some friends) you can use this as a way to determine whether or not you really want something (particularly if its an impulse buy). Tell yourself you're not allowed to buy the item, and if you're gutted then you probably really want it. If you're not that fussed then don't buy it. You can always come back and pick it up later if you can't stop thinking about it.
8) The Sale Rule. Sometimes going away to think if you want an item or not is great. Unless it's in the sale. Provided the shop have a decent returns policy, buy the sale item. I totally disagree with the 'if you wouldn't buy it full price, don't buy it in the sale' because there are loads of things I own that I wouldn't have spent £30 on but did happily spend £20 or £15. The only thing I never buy from the sale rail are the damaged items. I've bought trousers where the zip has broken, intending on fixing it, and have never got round to doing it. Unless its an easy fix, don't buy it.
9) Bargain with faulty items. If an item is in the sale for a fault, you won't get any extra money off, but if you spot something on the shelves which is a bit plucked or puckered, or has makeup marks round the collar, always ask if you can get a bit off. Sometimes it won't work (in which case put the item back and try to get it online), but some shops will offer a decent discount. Be reasonable, though, if an item is badly damaged you won't wear it anyway, and the more minimal the damage the less the discount.
10) Student cards. If you're a student ALWAYS ask if the shop does a student discount. Sometimes they won't display their discounts, and sometimes they'll need to see your student card before scanning your items, so ask as soon as you put your clothes etc down on the table. Some shops (like Miss Selfridge) will swap between doing a 10% and 20% discount, so check which one is on or if they store assistants know when the change will happen. For online shopping, use UniDays or similar sites to get student discount codes.
There you have it, those are my ten golden shopping rules. What are yours?