I know the term “shopping spree” may have a bad connotation, but it doesn’t have to mean maxing out your credit cards and bringing home a shopping cart full of stuff you didn’t really need in the first place. No matter how much I budget, DIY, recycle and reinvent my wardrobe, at least once a year I find myself having to go on a major shopping trip, and I know I’m not alone in this. Be it getting ready for a new school year, taking advantage of the deals across the border, or replenishing a closet after doing a massive purge, shopping sprees can be inevitable but they don’t have to be un-enjoyable budget-busters too.
Having just come back from a weekend-long shopping spree in the U.S., I’ve realized that in order to pull off a successful shopping trip while staying on budget and still having fun, there are a few things to consider before heading out with your debit card:
DO make a list and stick to it – Just like when you go grocery shopping, never leave the house without a list. A list ensures you won’t get distracted and end up buying ten pairs of socks when you were actually looking for a new outfit for work. It can be hard to stay on course when there are signs everywhere that say “Sale Ends Today,” but if you want to avoid overspending or having to return everything the next day, then make a list and stick to it.
DO prioritize and create mini-budgets – Once you’ve created a list, make sure to number each item in order of importance. This way you can easily work your way down the list and if you don’t find everything in one trip, at least you will have brought home the most important items. Another good tip is to write down how much you are willing to spend on each item so you know what a good price for everything is. When you have a total budget of $200 but find a really nice jacket for $100, if there are another ten items to buy on your list then you might have to look for a cheaper jacket if you still want to get that new pair of shoes, gloves, and jeans too.
DO bring snacks and keep hydrated – There’s nothing worse than getting into a great shopping groove and being interrupted by some loud hunger pangs. Make sure to eat before you go and keep some snacks and a bottle of water with you at all times. I always keep a granola bar and some almonds in my purse, and if I forget to bring some water with me, there’s always a water fountain or Starbucks a short distance away.
DON’T go to the food court – Although it may seem like the best option instead of cutting your shopping trip short, the food court is full of unhealthy and overpriced food that will fill you up for an hour but put you in a carb-coma a little while later. Instead, I suggest bringing a homemade lunch with you and keeping it in a cooler in your car. If you are taking public transport, it might be worth it to leave the mall to find a healthier and cheaper alternative. You can never go wrong with a six-inch sandwich at Subway or a bagel and bowl of soup at Tim Hortons.
DON’T bring more than one friend – Personally, I shop better alone, but if you prefer to shop with a friend remember not to bring more than one person with you. Shopping with a group can mean going to stores not on your list and wasting time waiting for them in the changing room. Shopping sprees are not leisurely activities; they’re about getting stuff done. If you want to be in and out of the mall as soon as possible, don’t forget that three is a crowd.
DON’T spend all day shopping – I’d like to think that this is the most important lesson of them all, and it’s a lesson I know all too well. Sometimes when you get a bit of a shopping high you don’t want to ever stop! But spending ten hours at the mall is never a good idea, especially when your eyes start to glaze over and you feel an urge to just buy something to avoid coming home empty handed. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be and when you feel everything winding down, that’s when it’s time to pack up and leave the shopping spree for another day.
What do you do to ensure a successful shopping spree?
(Image credit: Ariaski)