Surviving sale season on a budget

shoptip-2It’s that time of the year that I both love and dread! The Summer Sales! Twice a year the UK High Street experiences a strange phenomenon during, which time department stores slash their prices to a drastic version of their former selves. Across the country, these stores are in a frenzy with fashionistas, displaying those rare moments of uninhibited emotion as they scramble for that last pair of bargain Gucci sandals reduced by 50%.

Traditionally, this fashion calendar highlight ensures that there are no losers – the stores make a killing, getting rid of unwanted stock before the next season’s arrivals and the fashion-hungry consumers grab a serious bargain or two.

This year, however, the situation is a little different. Gone are the days when we can rationalise the vast expenditure with the notion that you would normally have bought that pair of purple, suede knee-high boots for double the price – but now that they’ve been discounted you can buy another pair in red as well. The harsh reality is that we can no longer fool ourselves into frivolous purchases.  The truth is that if it weren’t for that brief moment of euphoria that caused us to go a little giddy at the sight of a drastically reduced item, we would never have considered buying  it in the first place.

This season, my dear Recessionistas, we need to practice some restraint (that’s not “constraints”… although I know I certainly need them at times). In these trying times we must avoid the pitfalls and insanity that surrounds sales.  If you, like me, are cursed with an unfortunate bank balance in the midst of a sale then repeat after me: “I cannot. I must not. I want not!”

This is not to say that we have to avoid the sales altogether… with a little preparation and a strict limit on your credit card it is entirely possible to turn a moment of sale stupidity into sale serendipity.

Here’s how.

  • Remember last week’s column about the ideal 60/20/20 wardrobe balance? Let’s start there. Open your wardrobe and take a look at what you still need in order to get the balance right. Create a list of what you need and keep it handy while rummaging through those bargain bins. Sales are not ideal for bulking up on the trend component of your wardrobe, as the items on sale are normally end-of-season so look out for items that may have more longevity.
  • Budget, budget, budget! Buy what you must, but do not go over the limit that you set yourself, no matter how great the bargain. I find that carrying cash instead of swiping my card helps me control my spending, as seeing the real thing dwindle before my eyes is a harsh reminder of the real value of the items.
  • Spend some time online before you hit the streets. Making the purchases from the calm environment of your home can help you avoid the frenzied spur of the moment purchases. Many stores also have exclusive sale items online that aren’t available in store.
  • Shop around before making your final purchases. This certainly requires that you wear comfortable shoes, but if you find a similar item at an even lower price it’s worth it. And make sure that your purchases fit – it’s not really a bargain if it doesn’t fit well or if you don’t look fabulous wearing it…
  • Don’t forget to take a Sales Sidekick – your ever-rational and honest shopping buddy who will stop you from making a disastrous sales purchase. It’s important that this person is just as enthusiastic about the sales as you are and has enough stamina to last the day, he or she must also have a sense of your style and be able to make completely objective opinions about your potential purchases.
  • Avoid the crowds at all costs. The mob mentality isn’t good for anyone. Unfortunately, that means no shopping on a Saturday morning. Instead, try and pop into the stores during unconventional shopping hours – a Sunday afternoon or during your lunch break perhaps.  If you can get exclusive pre-entrance to a sale, that’s even better.
  • Lastly, but not least, the thrill of the hunt can be incredibly tempting, but it’s not worth bailing yourself out of jail for. No matter how lovely the purchase, or fabulous the discount please avoid hair-pulling, eye-gouging or face-scratching – remember, we are all sisters in fashion!

* Photo by T. Tulic courtesy PhotoXpress

Francine Higham
Francine Higham

Francine is a lover of designer flare and originality, but addicted to finding the look for less on the high street. She’s a sucker for a bargain, but willing to spend where quality counts.