How to Shop Smart!

I am addicted to spending money, but then again, who isn’t? I am constantly finding myself desiring more and more materialistic goods as I get older, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. One good thing is that when I get new items, I give the old ones away to thrift stores or friends so others can benefit from my spending! One bad thing is that I am spending money I should be saving to pay off my student loans, buy necessities, and for my move to Chicago, Illinois. Another bad thing is that I would rather spend my money on traveling or experiences, but for some reason, I just can’t get away from buying materialistic items.

With my never-ending desire to shop but also to save money, I have come up with five steps on how to shop smart/save money. If you follow these like I do, then you should have no problem buying a lot while still saving money. It is a win-win!

1. Shop at local thrift shops and consignment stores

Before I go anywhere near online shopping or retail stores, I check my local thrift shops and consignment stores for the item(s) I am seeking. For example, I am on the search for a slim fit jean jacket and an ironing board/iron, but before I go onto Levis.com and drop $95 on a new jean jacket, or go to Walmart and spend $50 on an iron board with an iron, I will first head to the local Goodwill and see what I can find for $10. You will be amazed at the hidden treasures you find in a thrift shop. The old saying “one man’s [or woman’s] trash is another man’s [or woman’s] treasure” is definitely applicable when it comes to thrift shops and consignment stores. In fact, just last weekend I went to the local thrift shop in my hometown and found a simple gray crew neck and a gray t-shirt. Two pieces of clothing that I have been contemplating getting, and instead of spending $30 for both at either Walmart or H&M, I spent $2 at the thrift shop. They only needed a good wash and then they were good as new. One person’s trash was my treasure. I truly cannot emphasize how fantastic thrift shops and consignment stores can be when you are in the market for something (especially clothing).

Also, just imagine the treasures you will find in a city’s thrift shop or consignment store where thousands upon thousands of people take their old clothing or items. The possibilities are endless. (I cannot contain my excitement to go thrift shopping in Chicago every week when I move there!)

Honestly, before you go online or directly to the retailer for something, check out your local thrift shops and consignment stores, you will be amazed at what you find.

2.  Check out the Facebook garage sale sites.

If the thrift shops and consignment stores fail, do not resort to online shopping or retail stores just yet. There is one more place you can look: the Facebook garage sale sites. If you have never used them, you just search “garage sale sites” on Facebook, request to join one or more,  wait a day or so to be approved, and you’re in! Just make sure to follow the rules and the guidelines because people take these sites seriously. Like, no joke, there are some dedicated sellers and buyers on these pages (a.k.a. my mother and grandmother). Once you join, you can search for the item(s) you want, e.g., a couch and see what pops up. I actually furnished my whole dorm room and part of my bedroom from the garage sale sites. I got a black leather chair for $20, two coffee tables for $5 each, four Keurigs ranging from $3-$5 (yep, you heard me right.), a glass TV stand for $15, and a ginormous bookshelf for $15. In total, I saved probably $400-$450 dollars just from checking out these sites. Also, the people on these sites are very friendly and pretty professional because, like I said, they take these things seriously.

3. EBAY!

If you have no luck in the previous two steps then check out eBay.com! This is a fantastic online source to shop for items because you will get phenomenal deals from real people. EBay is like Amazon, except most of the sellers are average people like you or me looking to make a quick buck, and you can (most of the time) get free shipping without paying for a membership. Last week I was looking to buy a new phone case, a Milanese Band and a screen protector for my Apple Watch, and a laptop sleeve. With success, I purchased all four for $40 with no shipping or handling. Outstanding deals.

What is more, if you are looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind item, then eBay is the place to go. Looking for a Japanese-inspired bomber jacket that is hand-stitched? EBay will have just that. You can find virtually anything you desire on eBay, you just have to find the right price or outbid the other customers looking to snag what you want. All it takes is a little time and some luck, and you will have your item in no time.

4. Amazon.

If eBay doesn’t work out for you, then turn your attention to Amazon.com because this website also has literally anything you want for a decent price. My only issue with Amazon is the shipping. If you’re not a prime member, which I am not, then you’ll be expected to pay a hefty price for shipping. For example, I was going to purchase a book from Amazon for $12, but shipping alone was $8… two-thirds the cost of the item itself. I decided to not buy it for that reason. But, if you do pay the $50 (as a college student) or $100 (as an average Joe) annual fee for Amazon Prime, then you are set because of that free two-day shipping! Go you!

In all, Amazon is a safe bet to find any item from a retailer or a manufacturer. Also, you can feel relaxed making expensive purchases on Amazon because many of the order are fulfilled by Amazon themselves, and they will quickly get you your package(s) without any issues.

5. Visit retailer stores directly.

When all else fails, you’ll have to head to the retail stores. The issue I have with this is that you will be charged full price – or maybe even a little more – for your item(s). Personally, that does not fly with me because I am a college student on a tight budget. Because this is the case, I refuse to purchase anything for full price. Honestly, the last time I paid full price for something was in August for a pair of white sneakers from Steve Madden (check out Sneaker Review: Steve Madden’s “Ringwald”!). Otherwise, it is deals, sales, and thrift shops or consignment stores for me. Why pay full price for something when you can either wait (refer to number seven) for it to become cheaper or find it somewhere else?

But, the retailer store is almost guaranteed to have what you are searching for, so if you do not want to wait to buy your item(s), want a for-sure purchase, and prefer to pay full price, then go ahead and skip the two steps prior to this one. It is all up to you, really.

6. Retailer websites.

If the retailer store may be sold out of your desired item(s), they do not carry the item(s) in that particular establishment, or they simply are not in your area (like H&M, JCrew, and Topman for me), then you will have to go on their website and make the purchase there. With any luck, they will give free shipping if it is your first time using it! Quick tip: Many retailers will offer you a discount or free shipping if you let your item(s) sit in the checkout for a few days or a week. They want you to make the purchase so they will do all they can, so why not wait?

One time I let a shirt sit in my cart on hm.com for close to three weeks, and eventually they offered me 15% off for that shirt. What a time to be alive, right? I wasn’t complaining because I forgot the shirt was even in my cart, so I saved some dollar bills from waiting. And right now I have two pairs of chinos in my cart on jcrew.com, and I have received an e-mail every day with a discount and free shipping code, but I am waiting until I have enough money to buy them!

It is a safe bet that retailer websites will have your desired item(s), and you may get a discount or free shipping if you are lucky! The only problem is staring out your window every day, all day praying for your delivery to arrive… even if you ordered your item(s) thirty minutes ago. Trust me, we all have done it/do it.

7. Be patient. 

The final step is applicable to every previous step: BE PATIENT. You will not walk into the first thrift shop or consignment store and find exactly what you want. In fact, you may have to check four to five stores and wait weeks before you do. In time, something will cross your path. Also, you won’t find the greatest deal on eBay or Amazon right away, but be patient, look at options, wait a few days, and something will show up. Finally, be patient about making purchases from the retail stores or websites. Without-a-doubt there will be pop-up sales and random discounts, so wait for the one you cannot pass up and take it.

I am always patient when it comes to making purchases from retailers and their websites. I can think of two examples immediately. The first one is when I wanted a $75 pair of 484 gray chinos from JCrew. Instead of jumping the gun right away, I waited two weeks, a random sale came up for around 40% off all items, and I purchased them for $45. I saved $30 for being patient… you CANNOT beat that. The second example occurred just over one month ago. I wanted an Apple Watch, and after weeks of looking on eBay – where I did buy one off someone but had to return it because it was “Activation Locked,” I just gave up my search for a while. However, every week or so I would look on Target.com because they always have killer deals, and after three weeks of being patient, they had a sale I could not pass up: 38mm Apple Watches for $200 instead of $270. Within ten minutes I was leaving for Target to buy my Apple Watch. Again, my patience saved me a significant amount of money!

To conclude, if you are a shopping fanatic like myself, follow these seven steps to save yourself some money. It may seem like a monotonous task to do every time, but I promise you – and your bank account – will be thankful in the end. If you have any more tips or tricks to saving money leave a comment! I would LOVE to know!

-Kyle Majerus

 

 

 

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