Penny-Pinching 101: Ten Tips to Shop Sales Smart

Hello fellow penny-pinchers!

Well, following on from my previous post outlining the facts of consumer spending, I thought that with the July summer sales rolling round now’s a good time to launch the series on budgeting/spending for real! Don’t start summer sale shopping without reading this! (ah, part of me always cringes when I use such obviously sales/marketing-tactics-type sentences….)


Sales are very tricky, tempting things (oooOoooOOo alliteration!), the reason why shops/brands have sales isn’t so they can give consumers something for less, it’s to increase their profits (remember, that’s always the bottom-line!). But why, then, would they let us buy something for cheaper than they could have sold it?! Because they couldn’t have sold it for any more. Seasonal sales are there to clear stock, if they don’t sell it now they sure won’t be able to sell it in Autumn/Winter, for both practical and trend-setting reasons. So clearing stock is kind of a way for them to cut their losses. Promotional sales are there for a different reason, they’re to make consumers buy what they otherwise wouldn’t have bought, by catching these outlying consumers instead of earning zero the store earns something (at least) for stock that would otherwise have just taken up space (which costs as well!). At least, this is the way I’ve always seen it, what do you guys think? Please note, I’m not trying to demonise shops or brands in anyway, I completely understand that they’re running a business and many of them do show their appreciation of brand loyalty in various ways.

Wait a minute, but if we’re getting something for cheaper anyway, don’t we ‘win’? Or at least, isn’t it a win-win situation? Well, yes! But if, and only if, we already needed/had been intending to buy whatever it is we bought OR the purchase really made us happy (which then means it’s money well spent in my book, but as detailed in my previous post the retail therapy high sometimes comes at a high cost-price later as well).

So how do we really regain this win-win situation for all? Here are my *drumroll please*

10 Tips to Shop Sales Smart!

1) Don’t Settle for Less – Be Critical

Often when I’m out shopping I tend to be far more lenient to the garment than I would be if I were putting an outfit together at home before heading out. I’ve no idea why this is but I have some theories; possibly, I’m out to shop and I just want to buy something so it feels like I’ve done something ‘productive’, or maybe we’re just on a ‘shopping high’. I’ve lost count of the number of times part of me knew a dress or a lip colour just wasn’t for me but I bought it anyway (why Penny why?!?!). We have to be super critical! Do you really like that? Does it really flatter you? You may be willing to forgive the way it hugs your thighs or tummy now but you won’t later! And for makeup/skincare, make sure whatever it is is suitable for your skin-type!

Related to this is the old adage ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’. Conversely, this means that if the shoe doesn’t fit, please don’t under any circumstances wear it! If those heels you’re trying on already pinch or toes or that tops is a little too tight, no matter how pretty they are don’t get them. Unless you’re willing to fork out for what will be personal torture instruments or expensive shoe-rack and wardrobe decorators because that’s all they’ll be in future.

2) Get a 2nd Opinion

Related to being critical is being having a 2nd opinion that you can trust. Imagine you’re at the doctor’s and he tells you some terribly important news about your health, you’d want a 2nd opinion, right? But not a 2nd opinion that you know will just side with the first guy for the sake of it, it’d be an opinion that you can trust would be honest. Same thing here, don’t get that friend who always only says nice things, you need something that’s close enough to you that they’ll always tell the truth!

For some people it’s their bff, for others it might be their mums, for me it’s my boyfriend. I always get carried away looking at pretty things online or in stores but he’s a lot more blunt and straight-forward. He knows exactly what he doesn’t like and because he knows me well and knows what my good points are he also knows what items would most highlight those good points and what items just completely don’t.

3) Take Stock

What do you already have in your wardrobe/bathroom cabinet? The answers might surprise you! Research does show that we only wear a 3rd of our wardrobe and use a 6th of our products, there’ll always be items with the tag still on or still in their brand new packaging. I’m planning to do a more detailed post just on stock-taking and list-making in future, watch out for that!

4) Make a List

Maybe now that you’ve taken stock and all, it’s time to make a shopping list!

Are you the type that finds yourself running through a short list of things you’ll want to be looking at in the shops today? Something along the lines of ‘oh I might need a new mascara, some summer sandals would be nice, maybe some sunnies to go with it, ah come to think of it I’m out of sunscreen’, well STOP and write it down! Why not? Or maybe just write it down while you’re on commute to the shops!

Especially if you’re heading out with an agenda (ie to get all your summer holiday shopping done or to buy some gifts), this will make the whole trip so much easier. You’ll be much more focused on what you need to get and won’t be tempted to stray off by a random item that you don’t really want.

Of course, if you can be bothered it’s best to pair this up with research (next on the list!) and have a quick look on what’s on offer or what’s trendy now of the things you want, then you can head out with a clearer picture of what you’re looking for!

5) What do you use/wear daily?

While you’re stock-taking, you can make a note of what it is you wear/use most often. Do you see a pattern in the types of clothes you prefer to wear or the types of makeup/product you use? If you’re looking to shake up your wardrobe, you can make sure you steer clear of buying the same things over and over again. If you’re just looking to be a little more on-trend then go for things that are slightly different but similar to what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not looking for a big change but get something too far from the norm, chances are you just won’t wear it as you have your regular pattern set down for a reason!

Another plus point of noting this is that you can stock up on things you always use! Do you always use the same makeup remover and never want to change? Always out of black cardigans? Then stock up now while it’s on sale! It’ll cut back on your future monthly spend.

I know what I need and I know what I wanna get, I a wabbit on a mission!

I know what I need and I know what I wanna get, I a wabbit on a mission!

6) Do Your Research!

This is incredibly important, if you’re thinking of getting some new summer clothes or on-trend eye colours for example, don’t just head out uninformed! Spend just 10 minutes on google to see what the reviews say so you can decide what’s best for you for the budget you have.

And if you’re already in the store and spot something interesting, don’t worry! It’s the information age, a quick search on your smartphone will take no time (I do this a lot, if you ever spot a girl in London who spends half as much time looking at her phone as she is looking at the product, that’s probably me). I think this has saved me many, many unnecessary, potentially disappointing purchases.

7) Do you really need that?

Ah, the all-important question! There are many ways to answer this and I think it’s so important to keep this in mind without taking the fun out of shopping!

For example, if it’s a beauty product and you’ve taken stock and know that you already have 2 cleansers you haven’t used/tried or dozens of nail polishes already in that shade, the plain, simple answer is ‘no, you don’t need that’. But if you’ve already considered it and it really, really makes you incredibly happy to have 20 nail polishes in bright red, say, and that happiness always far out-weighs the cost, go for it! Just make sure you ask yourself the question first and how you answer it is always up to you.

8) Don’t be Dazzled by the Discount

There’re some stories these days of retailers marking up discounts erroneously but even if the discount were genuine don’t be tempted by something just because it says ‘BUY IT NOW’ or ‘LIMITED TIME ONLY 70% OFF’, even if the letters are in caps, red and have such a multitude of exclamation points following them that it would crash any decent spell-checker.

Take a deep breath, calm your beating heart and go through everything else you’ve learnt. Even the cheap stuff adds up. If you got something at £5 but never ever use it (for whatever reason) that’s still £5 that could have gone to something else. I don’t really buy the ‘oh well, I got what I paid for’ line because I know I could’ve done my research and found out the product wasn’t good without having paid for it to find that out, or to put it more positively, I’m sure there’s lots of budget, value-for-money products out that there truly deserve to be bought!

9) Crunch the figures

Don’t avoid the figures! Before you head out it might be good to keep in mind any budget you have for yourself and at the end of the day crunch numbers and see if the total makes it worthwhile. If you do this regularly it’ll become like 2nd nature.

10) It’s OKAY if you didn’t get anything

I know it feels incredibly disappointing to come home empty-handed after a long day out shopping but that’s okay, think of it positively, think of all the money you didn’t waste on items you honestly didn’t need or want!

On this note, also know to let go of any ill feelings. If you missed out on a deal or something, that’s fine, don’t hold the regret in and obsess over it as that’s really not worth it. The whole point of learning how to shop sales smart was two-fold, one to give us more power as consumers and two to stop us from suffering those feelings of guilt after we come down from that retail therapy high! If we end up being obsessed over making every deal worth it, then it defeats the purpose. Which is always why I’ve stressed that if buying something truly makes you happy, it’s worth it. If after considering EVERYthing you still want to get it, go ahead. You’re a big girl/boy (I’m assuming my average reader isn’t 2 years old) and no one can judge the way you choose to spend your money. I’m just trying to make sure we can all be more informed about it =)

Right, that’s it! I’ve love to hear from you if this post was helpful in ANY way at all so please let me know in the comments below what you think and anything you have to add. Am always happy to discuss.

Much Sales-Love,


What are your sales-shopping tips?

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4 thoughts on “Penny-Pinching 101: Ten Tips to Shop Sales Smart

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