Hitting the Mall: Spend Less, Regret Less

We’ve all been there.  A trip to the mall that results in spending way too much.  And what’s worse is that the next day you’re wondering why you bought what you did, and regretting nearly every penny spent.  But believe it or not, there is a way to go to the mall, spend very little, and not have buyer’s remorse the next day.

Make a List
Avoid going to the mall just to aimlessly shop.   Instead, before you head out, figure out exactly what it is you’re looking to buy and how much you’re willing to spend total.  Make a list for yourself of the items you want to buy and make sure you stick to it.   Having a few specific items in mind when you head out will give you some focus, and having a set budget will keep you out of stores that are out of your price range.

Draw Up a Game Plan
Once you’ve got your list, take a look at the mall directory and figure out where your best bets for finding those items are.  Set a time frame for yourself, and avoid spending all day at the mall; plan to get what you need and get out.  Lessening the aimless wandering and being on a mission with a deadline will help reduce needless spending.

Deal in Cash Only
With debit cards and credit cards, using plastic is so easy.  But that means that so is overspending.  Leaving the plastic at home and, instead, carrying your maximum budget in cash makes it you less likely to overspend.   Before you hit the mall, take your credit cards out of your wallet and leave them in a safe place at home.  Then, hit up your bank and withdraw the maximum amount of money you’re willing to spend that day.  Do not use your debit card for anything at the mall, and only buy what you have the cash for (drinks and food included).  Using just cash, and just what you have on you forces you to be more budget-conscious and make less impulse purchases.

Try It On & Move Around
Avoid buying clothes and shoes you can’t try on.  Chances are, you won’t try it on right when you get home, and by the time you realize it doesn’t fit and decide to take it back, you won’t be able to return it anyway.  That means you’ve wasted your money, and even if you can manage to sell whatever it is that doesn’t fit, it’s not often you’ll back what you paid.  So make sure you always try before you buy.  And when you do, don’t justify buying something by telling yourself “I’ll be able to squeeze into this with Spanx on” or “I can have it taken in”, because it might not fit properly (even with Spanx) and chances are, you’ll never bother taking the item to the tailor.  Save the money and put it back.

But don’t just try it on, look in the 3-way mirror, check out your butt, and buy it if it fits.  Take a few minutes to move around in whatever it is you’re trying on.  Sit and walk in pants and skirts.  Raise your arms in shirts and jackets.  Put your shirt on over a bra and check the lines.  Walk around in shoes and make sure you don’t slide forward or out of them.  You get the idea.  You need to make sure that the item fits and that you can move in it.  You’re not going to wear something that you can’t move in.

Ask Yourself 3 Things
While trying stuff on, or even before you get to that point, ask yourself three things about what it is you’ve decided you want.

  1. Can I wear this with anything I already own?  If the piece will integrate into your existing wardrobe seamlessly, give it a try.  If the answer is no, and you’ll need to buy stuff to go with it, put it back and spare yourself the frustration of never having anything to go with it (or the money to buy a bunch of stuff to match).
  2. Do I already own something similar?  If you do, think seriously about putting the item back, especially if you don’t wear the item you already have a lot.  But if it’s something that’s similar to a piece you adore, it might be worth buying.
  3. Do I have someplace I can wear this?  If the item is something you can wear to work, excellent.  But if it’s, say, a formal gown and you don’t have any black-tie events coming up, reconsider it.
Taking some time to seriously think about the answers to those 3 questions will help save you some money, because it’ll prevent you from buying a lot of stuff you’ll never wear.

Not Sure? Put It On Hold
If you’re not sure about something, instead of buying it, put it on hold.  Most places will hold something until they close, which gives you until then (or until you leave) to make a decision.  If you find yourself still thinking about the item during the rest of your shopping trip, chances are, it’s something you should buy.  But if you forget about it, well, clearly you saved yourself some buyer’s remorse (and closet space).

Shopping Online?
A lot of this can be applied to shopping online as well, but that’s something I’ll touch on at a later date.  Until then, happy saving!

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