Four Tips to Keep You From Buying Useless Crap During the Winter Sales

When shopping, I use these rules to help me get the most amazing, inexpensive pieces for my wardrobe.
Publish date:
December 18, 2014
clothes, shopping, Christmas, gifts, sales

For better or worse, shopping is a particularly popular activity this time of the year, with Americans spending more than the citizens of other countries. And it’s especially easy to buy whole lot of things you don’t need around now, when excessive marketing and a plethora of products make you want to get all kinds of crap you don’t really need.

When I moved to New York about five years ago, going on shopping sprees wasn’t as easy anymore. For one, living in this city is expensive and I don’t have the expendable income I’d have in other cities, and for another I have nowhere to put stuff! My closet is about the size of an extra-long coffin.

These confinements forced me to adopt a few guidelines so I don’t end up penniless with my closet and dresser bursting at the seams. Below are the rules that I always keep on hand, but are especially useful this time of year.

1. Don’t buy anything full price.

OKKK, you might recall that my first post for xoJane was a story about a pair of exorbitantly priced boots I bought myself as a present for landing this job. But that purchase was an anomaly, and it falls into one of the other guidelines below. Adding to this defense, I tried to buy them on sale last year, but by the time they got marked down, there were none left in my size and the color I wanted.

Retailers build sales into their pricing, so they don’t even really expect you’ll pay their first offer. I’ve asked sales people on the floor at stores like the Gap and J.Crew about when something will be discounted, and they’ve told me when to come back -- sometimes in just a few days -- for the goods. Sample sales and outlet stores are great for this, because everything is already heavily discounted!

And when it comes to online shopping, with all the promo codes and extra discounts you can find through various channels, you have no excuse to be paying top dollar!

2. Don’t buy anything you don’t love.

How many times have you regretted not buying that one perfect find you discovered while not even looking for it? And then how many times have you settled for a substitute for what you really want because you’ve given up on your search? It’s like dating: If you hold out for the right person, your relationship will work better and last longer.

In my own closet the random pieces I bought in lieu of another (usually the ones with poor quality fabric that quickly withered or faded in the wash) are long gone. And the ones I fell in love with are still around. For example, I wear a pair of tall chocolate-colored leather boots ALL the time on the weekends. I’ve had them for three years. Even though the soles have by worn out and the stitching has frayed, I’ve spent the necessary cash to keep them running. They are so comfortable and I wear them so often that even if I spent a decent chunk of change on them long ago, they’ve already paid for themselves in use.

3. If you take public transportation, don’t buy anything that’s not subway-proof.

And by this I mean: If you would get an STD from sitting on a subway seat with your ass cheeks showing when wearing the item, put it back on the rack. OK, I admit, this is a very New York–specific rule. But it’s generally good to keep you from buying ill-fitting clothes. From shorts to dresses, I test this out in a fitting room by sitting down on a chair or bench. I’m tall (5’10”), so this guideline tends to weed a lot of things out for me. Regardless, it’s helped me identify stores that offer more long sizes and find things that work better for my body type.

4. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t make a statement.

As safe as I am with the length of my clothes, I go all out with bold accessories and other pieces. I’m in my 30s in a managerial position now, and I don’t want to look 24 anymore. (That's my personal taste, however. You do you.) Also, because I tend to look younger in certain outfits, I was constantly picking up men in their early 20s, and that's not my thing. But dressing older doesn't have to equate to boring, drab clothes. By getting pieces with more interesting patterns and textures or bold colors, you are conveying a more evolved fashion sensibility, therefore coming off as more mature.

Do you have any fashion rules you've come up with to keep you in line when shopping?