sale spy: ditching those sale goggles

This week’s sale picks: Navy tweed jacket, J.Crew, $90 (from $268) / Strapless dress, Zac Posen, $417 (from $1,390)

Roxanna K.K. ~ Last week, I was perusing the very last of the summer clearance sales when I spotted it: an amazing silk tank dress (designer, natch) at 70% off! It was the last one. It fit perfectly. The shop assistant said it looked great on me. I had to buy it that very minute!

At least, that’s what my inner voice said. I’ve been in this situation more times than I care to count, and as an impulse buyer, my impulses usually send me swiftly to the cash register. But over the years, I have learned to (sometimes) control those impulses and make a smart decision about whether an item belongs in my wardrobe or back on the rack. Here are some of the questions to ask yourself if you, too, have a hard time resisting the almighty bargain:

  • Is this good quality? Does it need to be? If the seams are bumpy and the fabric is cheap, no sale price is going to justify it. But if it’s a trend piece, it doesn’t need to be made to stand years of wear and tear, either.
  • Can it be worn now or do you have to hang onto it until next year? (This is especially relevant if you are shopping the end of season sales.) If you do have to store it for a while, ask yourself if it’s worth hanging onto. Is the design basic and timeless enough to make it work a year from now? Is it really such a steal that it’s worth taking up precious closet space for that long?
  • Where will I wear it? This can be a tricky one. For most items, I like to think of at least three different occasions at which I could wear the item (e.g. Casual Fridays, Sunday brunch, hanging out with friends.) The one time I disregard this rule is when I find a cocktail dress on sale. It may be hard to come up with the specific occasion to wear that dress off the top of my head, but I know I will be thanking my lucky stars that I have it when I get an unexpected invitation to my husband’s work function or that fancy party. Nothing is less fun than shopping for a cocktail dress at the eleventh hour (unless it’s shopping for a swimsuit at the eleventh hour.)
  • Does it fill a wardrobe gap or does it add to a wardrobe glut? I have an inexplicable obsession with sweaters. I have over a hundred in my closet, ranging from cashmere cuddlers to whisper light wraps. But for some reason, I can always justify why this one is different. Because I know that sweaters are my weakness, I try to avoid them at sales – instead I go for the areas where I have gaps, like slim cut pants. I find that gaps in my closet are easier to identify after I’ve been wearing my seasonal wardrobe for at least a few weeks, so if you also suffer from wardrobe glut, you might want to hold off sale shopping until you’ve switched in your fall wardrobe to avoid 100 sweater syndrome.
  • Would I buy this at full price? (Also known as, Is the price the best thing about this?) This is a big one for me because I am such a sale hound. My gleeful response whenever someone compliments my outfit is to say, “Thanks! i got it at 70% off!” I have realized, though, that price shouldn’t be the reason I buy something. I should buy it it because it makes me look and feel good and it has a place in my closet and my lifestyle. Price is just incidental. (I repeat this to myself like a mantra.)

If I am really torn about a sale bargain, I will resort to two final tricks. First, I put it on hold. If the lure of the bargain lessens considerably the minute I walk out of the store, I know it’s not meant to be. Second, I phone a shopping-savvy friend. She will often be able to see the item with more objective eyes and tell me whether it really is as amazing as I think it is (or whether I’m sporting my sale goggles.)

What about you? Are there any tried-and-true techniques that you use to separate the wheat from the chaff?

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2 comments on “sale spy: ditching those sale goggles

  1. Danielle

    This is such a great list. I usually think of all these before I buy something…but not all at the same time. I feel I should print this and bring it with me whenever I go shopping.

  2. Wholesome Hedonist

    I’m so glad to hear that! Yes, as I was writing it I realized that I choose these pieces of advice selectively (usually to strengthen my case to buy something!) I’ll keep them in mind more from now on…

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