Friday, April 4, 2014

Guest Blogger ~ Top 10 Ways to Satisfy Your Shopping Appetite on a Budget

Check out this great post from my guest blogger, Marci. She's a wife, a stay-at-home mama, a blogger, a lover of all things DIY and a Mormon.  She love shopping, Target, home decorating, creating (and sharing for free on her blog!) cute printables, instagramming, milkshakes, puppies and, most of all, spending time with her husband and two little boys! Go check out her adorable blog,             If These Wall Could Speak

If you were to ask my husband one thing he would change about me I bet he'd tell you it would be my shopping habits.
[I have a slight addiction to buying stuff.]
It's almost impossible for me to walk into a store and not leave with at least five things that were not on my list.
I think our bank account was starting to look pretty sorry so one day my husband put me on a strict shopping budget. I'm allowed to spend $20/month on myself. $20! Anything "fun" I buy goes toward my $20 budget. We never really set the parameters for what exactly "fun" items are so I set some myself - makeup I buy on a regular basis does not count and neither do clothes I actually NEED (like new nylons if all of mine have runs).
Somehow, I've figured out how to satisfy my shopping appetite on a mere $20/month. If you're lucky, you probably have a slightly larger budget than I do (ha!) but everybody has some type of budget, right? So here are my top 10 tips and tricks to satisfying YOUR shopping appetite on a budget!

1. Always bring pieces you love to the register for a price check.
Sometimes you see an item you love but the price just isn't in your budget...or isn't how much you'd want to spend for the piece.  But sometimes the price on the tag isn't the real price. Sometimes things have been marked down but the tag doesn't reflect that. EVEN on clearance items where there is a mark-down sticker bring it to the register for a price check before you pass it up because the price is too high.
Note: You should determine how much you are willing to spend on the item before bringing it to the register for a price check. If it's a dollar more than your determined price, it's a no-go!

Once I saw a skirt on the clearance rack at Gap Outlet marked down to $20. I didn't want to spend that (that's my entire month's budget!) but I was in love with the skirt so I brought it to the register just to be sure it was really $20.  When the cashier rang it up it was actually $9 plus an additional "30% off clearance" discount! I walked out with it spending just a little over $6.

  A few weeks later I was at the Banana Republic outlet and fell in love with a different skirt...marked at $34, it actually came out to $16! 

Sometimes you'll be disappointed that the price on the tag actually is correct but just TRY it because you might be surprised!

2. It doesn't hurt to ask.
-If it's your birthday month, ask if there's a birthday discount.  Lots of places actually DO have them.  For example, American Eagle gives you 15% off the entire month of your birthday.
-Ask if you can still use your expired coupon. Sometimes they say yes!
-Ask for a discount on an item that is dirty (but seems able to wash out). I once got an extra 10% off a pair of jeans at GAP because the hems had been hanging on the floor and were all dusty.  It washed right out :]
-Ask if a sale is still going on (that has supposedly ended).  If they say no, ask if there's a way you can still get the discount.  At H&M the cashier let me get the discount of "buy one get one free all kids sweaters" even though the sale had officially ended the day before.
-If you forgot your coupon, ask if you can still get the discount. This is especially true in Friends & Family sales. They often don't even need the coupon but just need you to mention the discount.

3. (Window) shop frequently.
This could be dangerous but not if you do it right.  Shop frequently for the purpose of finding the best sales - not for buying stuff every time you go.  I stop in at Target at least twice a week and often 3-4 times (I'm not kidding ha!).  Every time I go I check their sales racks.  The best discounted items go fast so if you don't go often you might miss them.  I also used to stop at our local outlets once a week and check my favorite stores to see if anything I loved had gone on sale or been discounted further (it's a little bit more challenging now with two littles!).

4. Don't judge a store by its cover.
...or more like its clientele or prices.  AKA don't be a brand snob (try telling that to my teenage self).  This goes both ways.  For example, in my opinion, Abercombie & Fitch is WAY overpriced for the quality of their items (not that I've shopped there since high school anyway but it's a perfect example!).  Just because the prices are high does not mean the quality is good.  Similarly, just because a store sells items at a low cost does not mean they are bad quality.  I think a lot of people cringe at the thought of buying clothes at Walmart but see Exhibit A:

The flats at the top and on the right of the pictures are by Steve Madden (at DSW) and were marked down to around $40.  The flats at the bottom and on the left of the pictures are mine (from WALMART!) and cost me $11.88.  When I saw these Steve Madden's at DSW I was so shocked! The Walmart shoe is seriously almost exactly the same! And honestly, I prefer the color of the Walmart shoe.  I've had these Walmart babies about a year and wear them several times a week and they're still in great condition.

5. First stop: sales rack.
PS know the mark-down schedule.
Always stop at the sales rack FIRST.  You might find several things you love and then you won't feel the need to browse the full-priced items.  If you do it the other way around you risk falling in love with a full-priced item that you just can't put back even if you find several sale items.

Also be sure you know your favorite stores' mark-down schedules.  Most stores clearance out their items on the same day every week.  Then you know which day to go to get the best price.  You can find out a mark-down schedule by Googling it or asking a store employee if Google doesn't have the answer!

6. ALWAYS carry your coupons with you!
I used to make the mistake of keeping my coupons scattered around the house in an envelope at home.  Then I'd go to purchase a piece at a store and suddenly remember I had a coupon for it at home!  So frustrating. Remember rule #2 and ask if you can use your coupon if you happen to forget it BUT it's better to just avoid this problem since some stores will not honor coupons not in-hand.  I now always carry all my coupons in my wallet. It makes my wallet a little more bulky but I just make sure to go through it on a weekly basis and remove any expired coupons.

7. Use coupon apps.
Okay, I am not an extreme couponer in ANY way. It's just not my thing.  But I DO use coupon apps where people do the coupon clipping work for me.  I love SnipSnap because whenever I'm about to purchase something I do a quick search for that store to see if there are any coupons out there.  If there are, SnipSnap is sure to have it right there on your phone for you.  You just click the coupon and they scan it right off your phone! It's marvelous.

Also take advantage of store-produced apps like Cartwheel for Target. If you do NOT have Cartwheel, please do yourself a favor and get it immediately.  I've had the app for about 6 months and I've saved $118.71.  It has discounts on everything, it's amazing.

8. Know the rules and exceptions of your coupon.  Ask for a manager if the rules aren't being respected.
Example A: I once got an email about the GAP Friends & Family discount. It said in the fine print that it was 40% off everything, including items at the outlets. When I went to purchase some items at the outlets the cashier said this Friends & Family sale was for GAP stores only (not outlets). After talking to a manager (who was also not informed by GAP of the sale) I did get the discount.

Example B: I had a coupon for $10 off any purchase at Express. Nowhere on the coupon did it say you had to spend $10 or more. No amount was specified.  When I tried to purchase a pair of tights that were $9 the cashier told me I had to spend at least $10 to use the coupon. After a conversation with the manager and explaining that the coupon does not say that, I was allowed to use the coupon and left with the tights for free. YAY.

PS If the store still refuses to honor your coupon be sure to contact customer service.

9. Sign up for emails and mailers.
I know getting one million emails a day is really annoying but it's the best way to find out about deals & sales! I get daily emails from Gap, Old Navy, LOFT, Carter's and H&M and weekly emails from several other stores.  I also sign up for mailers and often get coupons mailed right to me...I love not having to hunt for coupons!

10. Be a pleasant shopper!
-Don't ever lie.  If it's not your birthday month, don't say it is just to get a deal.  First of all, it's really embarrassing if you do that then they ask for ID for proof (I don't know this from first-hand experience...I'm  just assuming that would be embarrassing!).  Second of all, it's just tacky.

-Ask nicely...don't argue.  Like when you are trying to get them to respect the rules of your coupon.  If you're rude about it they are much less likely to give in.  If you're ridiculously sweet and say "please" you'll get your way (and save money) more often.

Good luck and happy shopping!