Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Make the Most of Bargain Hunting

I recently had an occasion to go clothes/accessory shopping: a job interview. (Woot.)

Actually, I wore clothes I already own to my first interview Friday with a Maryland newspaper: black slacks, a black blazer with subtle blue stripes and a dusty blue camisole (read: juniors tank from Target). Several hours passed before I realized the tank was inside out during my interview and most of the day. Good thing it was cotton and the faux-paux wasn't noticeable from the front...plus I never took off the blazer.

I figured if I another place called me for an interview this week I could wear the same outfit. What I didn't anticipate was that Friday's publication would invite me back Monday for another interview, this time with the publisher. Thankfully I keep a plain black blazer at my boyfriend's apartment in case/with the hope that I'll be in D.C. when a potential employer contacts me for an interview on the fly. Unfortunately I didn't bring any other interview-worthy items to Washington this trip to match the black jacket and pants.

Thus, shopping. Which helped me realize three valuable bits of knowledge when it comes to bargain shopping, which is the shopping I like to do.

First, you're not saving money by buying a sale item you will never use. Common sense, but it is sometimes easy to be swayed by big price reductions. That's why when I go shopping I look for things I know I will use now or for which I have a pretty clear idea about using in the future.

Deep sales can be a great time to test the waters of a new style with not a lot of financial risk, and in that case go for it, try something new you've been dying to try! But a sale might also just make an item you normally wouldn't find attractive seem appealing...the worst is when this is an item that doesn't quite fit or isn't of decent quality. Watch out for temporary appeal! Would you give it a second look or admire it if it wasn't on sale? Are you buying it because you like it or because it seems like a good deal? What are you going to do with it when you get home? Will it collect dust in a drawer somewhere? Keep these questions in mind as a guide.

Trying to keep a level head around yellow and red discount stickers helped me be judicious in my purchases...and I was, and I picked up something I absolutely adore! These earrings by Cousin Claudine with little pinkish pearls and gold-colored rounds that say "love" on them. Cheesy, perhaps...but so dainty, so feminine. I was subconsciously craving something girly as a change of pace from my serious journalism ways. Just over $8 on sale - yipee! And I got a nice pair of trouser socks for a dollar which I wore to the interview.

Second: You can stretch your dollar further in the long run by spending money wisely on long-lasting, high-quality products instead of poorly-made crap that is super cheap at the register. This is especially true when buying things you will have for a while: a comfy but stylish pair of jeans, a business jacket, shoes you wear all-day at work and walk a mile in on your commute home, etc. Nicer fabrics will drape better on your body, hold up better and look more attractive. That does not mean it has to be expensive -- you just need to look for quality in the material and the way it is put together. Michele Phan has a great Xanga entry elaborating on how to select quality pieces that won't fall victim to fads and won't break your budget.

For me, this meant not shooting straight to the clearance rack to find clothes for my interview. I shopped at Loehmann's and Filene's Basement - already discount department stores - and purchased a $16 red shell in a viscose/silk/nylon blend, a $14 dark gray peal necklace and a $10 set of matching earrings. Quite the outing for someone who mostly wears $10 tees rom Target. It was definitely worth it, though. Getting the right pieces for a good price was better than getting ill-fitting things for less money...especially since these clothes fit perfectly with my black pants and jacket and made me look very professional at the interview. Being a recent college graduate doesn't mean I can't look like a pro. Which gets me to the last point...

Think 'inexpensive,' not 'cheap.' Perhaps they are the same by definition but you all know they can be worlds apart. 'Cheap' looks like it didn't cost a lot, feels like it didn't cost a lot and starts to fall apart in your washing machine the second week you own it. It's okay to own, especially when it comes to casual and lounging stuff, just know what you're getting into. Fortunately there are an increasing number of stores that sell decently made, 'inexpensive' clothing - items that don't cost too much but don't totally skimp out on quality. Think Loehmann's, Filene's, even Target and Kohl's, etc. (At Target I usually go to the misses section since it usually has a dependable selection of well-made tees in many colors and styles. Juniors can be a bit iffy, but if you're very small it might be the only option size-wise. I'm 5-feet-tall and busty and a misses XS is sometimes a bit big...maybe if won't be if you're taller.) Inexpensive fashion can look great and feel great without breaking a budget. In fact, it probably looks more expensive than what you paid.
So it fits well, looks nice, is your new wardrobe staple and didn't cost a lot? Now that's a bargain!
Most importantly...did I get the job? I'll let you know when I find out.

1 comment:

IchigoBunnie said...

i sooo agree. It really just doesn't make any sense to buy something "on sale" that you'll never use. My perspective is that you're saving yourself more money but not buying anything AT ALL than to spend the money and supposedly "save" with the deal. Definitely, never buy something you don't need or would only use once--just isn't worth your time, money, or gas to drive there. great post as a reminder to people to save some money!! =)