7 Strategies for Shopping Smarter

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I enjoy shopping in my off-duty life, but the nature of my job also means frequent shopping for weekly outfit shoots and outward-facing events. I've come a long way since my early days of blogging, and am continually evolving in terms of how I shop and what I buy. Now that I'm steadily into my 30s, my new shopping philosophy is to focus on quality staples like chic trousers and shift dresses that withstand the test of time and wear, and serve as building blocks to endless outfits. But regardless of what I'm buying, I employ a few strategies to make sure I'm making smart choices both for my wardrobe and my wallet.

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Don't write something off just because you only see mediums hanging and you're a small. The fact of the matter is that sizing can vary wildly from brand to brand, and even more specifically, item to item within a brand. You may miss out on something you really like and want if you walk away when they "don't have your size," on the rack - when what was there might have fit you flawlessly. It's always worth it to try, and even when you do see your usual size, it's a good practice to grab at least one other size for fit comparison. On many occasions, I've purchased an item in a size that's not my usual one after comparing a few options on and simply liking how the larger size looked better.

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Sure, it's true that a salesperson's job is to make a sale, but forming a genuine connection with someone who works at one of your favorite or oft-frequented stores is hugely helpful. They can offer little perks like 10-20 % off your purchase, just because; grant you the sale price of something before it goes on sale; and bring you items that are just in and not even on the sales floor yet, or that have been removed to make room for new stock but are still in the back, as covetable as ever. Alina has made countless relationships with salespeople like this who send gift cards at the holidays and birthdays, throw in freebies for fun, give access to cool pieces other customers don't see, and grant voluntary discounts on things you were already going to buy - just because they like you. Be friendly, be real, strike up a conversation, and ask for help with whatever it is you're looking for. A salesperson you like and trust - and vice versa - can become like a [free] personal shopper/stylist, learning your taste and bringing you items you may have looked over, that suit your needs perfectly and enhance your style game.

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Keeping a well-edited and organized closet is key for smart shopping - and not making duplicative purchases. There were times in the past where I'd buy a great black dress or slouchy sweatshirt only to get home and realize, sometimes weeks after the fact, that I already owned three of virtually the same thing. Shopping without a sense of your closet landscape can become a free-for-all of unnecessary purchases - so it's important to regularly take inventory of what you have.

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But it's not enough to stop there - you have to take it one step further and identify the holes: what are you actively missing? Assessing what's in your closet will help you to see what's not. You may realize you have a great silk blouse collection but no bottoms to wear them with; or plenty of elevated outwear but no casual layering pieces. When I recently reorganized my closet, I realized I needed to put an immediate moratorium on purchasing sweatshirts, but desperately need casual dresses so I have something to wear on weekends that's not denim or athleisure.

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It's the worst feeling when you purchase something full price and later see it for half or more than half of what you paid. Before you buy anything, you should consider whether it's a brand or item (sweaters, dresses, and denim especially) that's sold at larger retailers and/or will go on sale later that season. Even if the specific item you're after doesn't get marked down on one site, places like Nordstrom and Shopbop offer regular site-wide sales and code discounts for your whole shopping cart. Through some trial and error, I now have a pretty good sense of which brands/items will end up on sale so I don't waste money. 

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If something already is on sale, you probably already know it's critical to ask yourself if you'd buy it at full price. You don't want to spend money on something just because the sale price is exciting and it's cheap - you want to buy it after you've asked yourself if you love it, need it, can see yourself wearing it, and would buy it if it wasn't on sale. This thought process has stopped me from buying items that tempted me with their alluring sale price - but really didn't carry much merit beyond that. 

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Last but not least, it's important to be realistic and honest about the person you are. If you never get around to taking things to the dry cleaner - and when you do, you forget they're there for months at a time, buying a top that's dry clean only really isn't a wise purchase. If you love comfort and hate feeling constricted, don't purchase a fitted dress you'll always skip past when getting dressed in favor of palazzo pants.