Shopping Effectively

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Over the weekend I went shopping to a large outlet mall with some friends visiting from interstate. During the shopping trip, which lasted about 2hrs, they spent close to $1000 on clothing and other merchandise. I was a bit flabbergasted that they could spend so much so fast, with little apprehension. I asked my friend, whom I knew was not particularly rich and quite frugal, how they afforded this expensive and rapid shopping trip.

He laughed and told me, “Andy, simple. I saved for 3 to 4 months before this trip, made a list of things we needed and most importantly only brought the budgeted amount of cash for the shopping trip so that we don’t spend what we cannot afford. So it felt good to buy the things we had researched and not worry about finding a better deal elsewhere”

I thought about this a bit more and was surprised how simple and straight forward a solution to effective and stress free shopping this was. I’ll be trying this going forward based on the above strategy with a couple of variations to increase my purchasing power.

1. I’ll start saving about $200 per month ahead of time for my big “clothes and other merchandise” shopping trip planned in 4 months. This will give me $800 by then. However rather than just leave this money sitting around I’ll stick in my high interest saving account which pays 3.5% interest. This will return about $10 or so. Not much, but it will cover lunch during the shopping trip.

2. I will try and avoid going to shopping malls for buying “stuff” prior to the 4 months leading up to trip, but during that time I will make a detailed list of what I need based on a personal inventory. To ensure I have an idea of what I should pay and for good coupons I will let my fingers do the walking on-line via Google searches for the item name to find potential savings. From past experience I reckon the coupons will save me around 10% when shopping. Most outlet centers also have coupons if you go to their websites. For example, Premium shopping outlets (a national chain) has a VIP club which give you tons of coupons to brand name shops, and you can easily save 10 to 20% in various stores. Unless you want the latest fashion or have specific size requirements, discount outlets can provide great deals.

3. Use cash on the big day. Using the allocated amount of cash on the trip will mean that I don’t spend what I cannot afford. In fact to be doubly sure I don’t overspend I will leave my credit cards at home. If I have any cash left over at the end, I’ll keep it for the next trip in a few months.

4. Sticking to the list. This is the simplest yet hardest thing to do when so many choices are available. However having a list of the things you want with an estimated price range will ensure your trip is effective. It is worth setting aside some fun money to get unplanned things you find along the way. This should be around 10% of your total budget.

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