Stylish musings with a side order of apple chunks.



I'd first like to wish a very happy holiday to all of you who have spent the past few weeks fretting about gifts and cards and food and parties and... well, unfortunately weight gain. But now, we can take a collective sigh of relief. Christmas is over, and while the holiday season isn't over just yet, the brunt of the storm is.

And if you're like me and slightly overwhelmed with the kindness of family and friends (or, at least with their gifts), the idea that there is still more shopping- some great shopping, at that-left to do doesn't help to calm the Christmas Jitters.

I'm going to NYC for the next few days. I've gotten several gift cards that I'm almost certainly going to use during my stay. My justification for over-indulgence after the holiday? EVERYTHING'S ON SALE! Everything! I mean, walk down any street in your town and look for a store that DOESN'T have a big "x% off" or "SALE SALE SALE!" sign hanging flashily in the window. Storeowners want to make money, and the chances that people who have gotten money for the holidays will spend that money and more if the word SALE screams at them from every wall are quite good.

The sale is really a psychological attack on your wallet. Granted, I usually keep to my budget whilst shopping, I know that I can be tempted (and seduced) to the dark side of overspending. And I don't have a job, so... yeah. I need that money. And I'm sure many of you are in the same position. So, how do you deal with sales? And also, how can you keep rational during the Post-Holiday Frenzy?

Never pass up an in-store sale, especially if there is shipping online. When I purchase things online, I try to go at or above the minimum total for free shipping. A general rule I use when I'm going to pay sale prices online is to look at the total prices both in-store and online. Say the total of the shipping cost plus the total of the purchased items on sale equals or is greater than the price in-store. I'm obviously going to take a trip to that store, unless I don't have one nearby me.

I have several great malls near where I live, including the most distant King of Prussia Mall, which houses everything I could ever want or need to purchase. It is about an hour away from where I live, so I tend to buy from online stores when those particular stores aren't anywhere else near me; Urban Outfitters is a good example, but I do think they're getting one in the mall I go to most often. Almost everything I buy from Urban I get from the online store. It is easier that way, but also because crossing the free-shipping threshold is relatively easy when making an order. That's the great exception.

And businesses have free-shipping options on purpose. Let's say I want to spend $300 at Urban Outfitters. The online store wants me to spend more than the minimum of $150 because for them, the benefits of giving free shipping on, say, a $300 order outweigh the cost of shipping they must then pay. It's just good marketing, and it really doesn't benefit me any more than in-store shopping does, because although I might not be paying a shipping fee, I'm still paying significantly more than I would be if I did have to pay for shipping. However, I will be paying exactly what I would be paying in-store, which is a good thing, considering I'm not also paying for gas and resources to get to and from the store.

Basically, crossing the free-shipping threshold is only truly worthwhile on large orders of items that you would almost certainly buy in-store for the same price. I would rather go to a store for small orders rather than pay shipping and handling. And in-store sales are almost always beneficial, unless, of course, they lead you to impulsive shopping, which can be a real burden...

Don't let the shiny, exciting 50% Off Everything! signs push you into debt. Naturally, when things are on sale, it's easy to purchase more, because things cost less. However, this should mean that that little number at the bottom of your receipt should be lower than it would have been originally, not higher. Even though it seems worthwhile to stock up when things are on sale, if you have a budget to stick to, you need to stick to it regardless of how excellent the deal on jeans is.

The easiest way to combat impulsive shopping is to make a list of needs (or wants) prior to entering the arena. That way, your mind is clear of provocative signs and images seducing you into evil, dark alleys where they rape your wallet. Put that list on paper, stick in safely in your purse or better yet, in front of your credit cards in your wallet, and rest assured knowing that you have one more weapon to use against the deep-seated psychological urges you may feel when let lose in the wild, er... store.

This really helps me think about whether or not a purchase is TRULY necessary. Obviously, nothing besides the vitals (water, nutrients, shelter, oxygen) are actually necessities, but maybe a pair of pants has finally worn itself out, or a blouse just doesn't fit well anymore. These are the kinds of necessities I'm talking about. For the sake of not preaching, I'm just going to make up a quick list of things I need right now.

  1. Pair of earbuds to replace the faulty pair - stay in the $15-30 range.
  2. Bra/panties - 1 nice black bra, 5 panties. Normally Victoria's Secret has that great 5 for $25 sale on underwear, so I'll take advantage of that most certainly. Also, I have a gift card which will help.
  3. Make-up - Right now Sephora is having a decent sale, so I will probably go there to restock on mascara, eye-liner, eyeshadow and an eye-liner sharpener from Urban Decay (I love their products!) with my gift card for Sephora.

I have a good deal of money to use, but I would like to keep some for later. So I always conclude my list with a DEFINITE budget, which in this case happens to vary from store to store, so that isn't too easy to do. It's always good to have a budget that isn't the ultimate make-or-break limit; keep it a good amount under your "true" budget. Naturally I don't need to meet that budget, but if I do, that's fine.

Also, it's good to keep in mind this little fact: many stores have similar, if not the same, products in stock. And often, there can be quite a discrepancy in prices between those two products, especially during sales. So this is my final tip: do your research.  Figure out what you want to buy ahead of time and plan out money-saving strategies by browsing the websites of potential sellers and calculating the best values. This might be more time consuming than simply winging it, but in the long run, this is just another tactic to prevent impulse spending.

And I lied: I have another. Remember that there will always be more sales to take advantage of, but there won't always be more money on that card. Shop wisely, be rational ALWAYS, and let's hope that I follow my own advice in New York.

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