Waste Not, Want Not – How To Shop & Not Overspend

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photo courtesy of jewelsfablife.com

It’s that time of the year with clearance sales galore. If you’re one of those people who gets a rush from buying things on sale, see if you recognize yourself in this scenario: You head to the mall to score a great deal, and find something that works well enough (hey, it’s on sale!). You quickly buy it, take it home, and save it to wear soon. Then when you put it on – the rush is gone. It doesn’t fit right, or you can’t make an outfit with it, or it’s not as great as you thought it was. And then you just never get back to the mall to return it – it sits in your closet, taking up valuable real estate, and eventually ends up in the ‘giveaway’ pile.

If this has happened to you, you’re probably spending more than you intend to on clothes (a few things on sale = something you really wanted at full price), and/or buying items that you don’t wear. If you want to break the cycle and stop wasting your efforts and hard earned dollars, check out my five simple tips to spend the money you intend to, get what you need, and be happy with what you bring home.

Your wardrobe can be a significant investment over the course of several years – so it’s definitely worth it to have a budget. This doesn’t mean a detailed spreadsheet – but it does mean thinking about what you can afford to spend BEFORE you spend it:

  • Have an idea of what you want to spend this season, or this month, or even just this shopping trip – but know what it is, and stick to it.
  • Recognize your ‘thresholds’ – specifics on what you’re willing to spend for each type of item. Are you a $50 jeans gal or will you pay $250? Can you afford $300 for a new pair of shoes, or is $100 your limit?
  • Write down your overall budget and/or your item thresholds, and then put that in your wallet – preferably near your credit card. Then pull it out when you’re shopping to give yourself a reality check as needed.


You have a list when you go to the grocery store, so why not have one when you’re shopping for clothes? But how do you create a list?

  • Put a pad and pen on your dresser, and when you’re getting dressed and think, “I wish I had _____”, write it down!
  • Think through occasions coming up in the next several months – weddings, vacations, work trips – and see if you have what you need already in your closet. If not – it goes on the list.
  • Remember times that you didn’t have what you needed – a cute cardigan to wear over that sleeveless dress, a pair of neutral shoes to wear with that colorful outfit – these are probably holes in your wardrobe that need filling.

the podolls store


So you have a solid list of what you need – but when should you go shopping? For the same reason you don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry – you shouldn’t go clothes shopping at the last minute. That is when bad decisions happen!

  • Be proactive – bring your list with you when you’re shopping, and shop with intent. Find that special dress a month before the party, not the weekend before. Start buying your vacation wardrobe once the plans are made, not the week before you leave.
  • Keep your eye out – when you have time, you can watch out for deals and recognize sales on items on your list. Isn’t that great?
  • Realize that the worst decisions are often made out of desperation – you’ll bring something home, and then never wear it again.


If you’ve bought something and thought, “I don’t have any cocktail parties that I’m invited to, but it’s such a cute dress!”, then you may have spent money on something you don’t really need.

  • Shop for the life you have – if cocktail parties are part of it – then, great! Buy that dress or those heels and enjoy the many times you get to wear them. But if your life is more pizza and beer than caviar and champagne – then you might have just wasted your money.
  • Think through cost per wear – you may not think that those expensive sandals are worth it, but if you wear them once a week all summer, they’re a better buy than the sky-high heels that you wear once a year.

fitting room


You’re spending your hard earned dollars – so do your research, devote the appropriate amount of time, and be sure you’re happy before you leave the store.

  • Set aside the time you need – to look through your favorite stores or even to go through online sites. If you don’t have time to try it on, you don’t have the time to shop (or else you’ll find yourself back at the store returning it). And when you’re shopping online – buy two sizes if you’re not 100% sure. Then you’re more likely to get what you need (and accept that returning is par for the course when buying online).
  • Try things on – things that are just okay on the hanger may look great on you. And things that look amazing on the hanger may not appear as amazing on, so try them on in the store before you bring them home.
  • If you take it home, you’re more likely to keep it – even if you don’t love it.
  • Be aware of store return policies, and use them to your advantage – returns aren’t a bad thing.
  • It’s okay to do research – an hour of shopping with the express purpose of trying things on (and not buying anything) is time well spent. You’ve learned what stores/brands/styles work and don’t work for you, and you’re more informed for next time.

When you’re going shopping – it pays to be prepared, and to shop with intent.  And don’t forget – shopping can be fun, and it’s especially rewarding when you get what you need, spend what you can afford, and love your purchases!


1 Response

  1. Marie Arpante says:

    Love the article, “How To Shop.” You “hit there nail on the head” as far as my shopping habits. I can get caught up in the moment. Must remember that my lifestyle has changed…older and single.

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