#3. "Don't wait for an invitation to buy an evening dress.
When you see something you love, buy it!"
—Isaac Mizrahi in How to Have Style
I don't have many occasions to wear fancy dresses, but when I spot one I love for a price I can afford, I always pick it up.
It's a lot harder to find a great affordable evening dress than you might think (or hope); heck, it's hard just to find a great evening dress that fits well in the first place. So when you do find one that works, you should snatch it up.
Inevitably, we all wind up attending a wedding, dance, charity dinner, or other formal event over the course of a year. (Or, if you're lucky, your guy takes you on a really nice date!) And such events are often the ones where cameras are out in full force, so you don't want to wear the same fancy dress every time you go to a formal event. Who wants it to look like they've only ever been to one fancy event? Or to look like they only own one dress? Not me!
But if you wait to buy evening dresses until you're invited to events, you'll have a much harder time finding one that you love and can afford, and you'll often wind up settling. (I know; it's happened to me more than once.) To save yourself the frustration, buy dresses you love and can afford when you find them, especially if they're versatile enough that they could be worn for a wedding, dinner, or charity event. Then, keep them safely tucked in the back of your closet, and you'll be ready to pull them out at a moment's notice.
Who knows, maybe having some beautiful dresses you love stashed in your closet will inspire you to create more occasions to wear them.
#2: Always bring your own bag(s).
There are 4 main reasons you should always bring your own reusable shopping bags:
- You'll help cut down on unnecessary waste.
- They're sturdier than the standard plastic bag, so your new goods are less likely to spill out in the middle of the parking lot.
- They have a larger capacity than the standard plastic bag, which means fewer bags for you to carry.
- You'll save money.
Probably the main reason I always try to bring my own bags is to cut down on clutter around my house. When I do get plastic bags while out shopping, I try to save them and reuse them, which is better than just throwing them in the trash, but they inevitably wind up taking over the closet or cabinet where I stash them, exploding out at inopportune moments. Plus, the fewer plastic bags I take, the fewer plastic bags eventually go to the landfills.
The sturdiness is another major factor, especially at clothing stores where they leave the clothes on the hangers. I have had so many plastic shopping bags rip from hangers, sharp plastic packaging, books, etc., which can be quite inconvenient if you're carrying 6 bags and your purse through a large parking lot when everything tumbles through the bottom of a ripped bag.
Likewise, the capacity is a huge help, especially when buying lightweight items. Things like pillows, fleece throws, dog beds, plastic storage boxes, and even clothes can take up a large amount of space without weighing a lot. By bringing my own large capacity reusable bags, like the ones I get from IKEA, I can fit way more items per bag, decreasing the number of bags I have to carry but not usually making the weight per bag unbearable.
Finally, while it's not one of the reasons I bring my own bags, getting a little money off a purchase for each reusable bag I fill isn't a bad perk. Stores like Target and Giant will give you a set amount off per reusable bag filled; I believe it's $0.05/bag at those two stores. So it's not a huge savings, but it's not bad, either... every little bit helps!
Read through to learn where to dispose of your plastic bags and where to get great reusable bags.
#1. Always know the return policy.
This is the absolute number one thing to make sure you always know about a store or sale, especially if you shop like I do. I tend to shop alone and buy large quantities of clothes at one time, which makes it difficult (and time consuming) to try everything on in the stores, since most have a dressing room limit between 5 and 8 items at a time. I try to narrow it down as much as possible, then take everything home to try on. As a result, at least some returns are inevitable.
Most "normal" stores have fairly generous return policies, allowing up to 90 days to return items. (During the winter holiday shopping season, they often allow even longer.) Even those that have shorter policies usually allow at least 30 days. Hang on to all your receipts, because you frequently can't get anything other than a direct exchange or store credit without one. (And, if you don't have your receipt for the return, you'll only get back whatever the item is currently selling for, and not necessarily what you paid for it.)
On the other end of the spectrum, most secondhand stores and "As Is" sales don't allow any returns, practicing an "all sales final" policy. (This, of course, also extends to library book sales and yard sales.) This doesn't mean that you shouldn't shop at these stores and sales; you just need to be aware of the situation. When returns aren't possible, you either have to be 100% certain of your purchases before heading up to the register, or you have to be willing to accept some losses if not everything works when you get it home.
Personally, even at no-return stores, I never try on in the store. I've gotten very good at knowing what will fit me without trying it on — if you hold pieces up to you properly, you'll be able to accurately know if they will fit at least 90% of the time. I also know that if I buy something that winds up being too small for me, I have 3 other people (my mom and two sisters) in varying smaller sizes who may fit into the item; if it's too big, I can have it taken in.