This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Consumption junction: the outlet mall

Posted by Matt

Did any of your mothers tell you that you aren't supposed to buy anything for yourself during the holiday season? Mine did, and it is a pretty good tip. If you buy everything you want, then people don't have anything to get you and you end up with generic gifts that you don't really need.

We all know how difficult it is, though, to put the blinders on when you are at the mall. My suggestion is to look and even try on, but keep your hands off of your wallet/purse. Keep a list of things that you like and let a close friend or spouse know about them. Chances are that others will be asking that person for input on gifts for you.

Okay, so hopefully that helps you limit your spending on yourself during the holiday season, but what if you didn't get everything you wanted, and now you have a handful of gift cards or cash from grandma to spend?

You can do what we did this year: head to the outlet stores. Not everyone has these close by, but if you are anywhere near a big city, you should have several. If you've never been, outlet malls are similar to regular malls and have most of the same stores, but usually bigger and more remotely located. In the past, it seemed that the outlet stores were dumping grounds for last year's styles, uncommon sizes and blemished merchandise. This can be true, to an extent, but these days so many people are looking for deals at outlet malls that the retailers started mixing in the new and good stuff, too (at full price). As a result, you have to be careful to make sure that don't end up driving 50 miles to buy a new sweater for the same price as you could have got it from a local store.

Here are the tips my wife and I came up with after our visit.
  • Don't go too frequently if they are out of the way (consider gas and time costs)

  • Look for deals as many prices are the same as at the regular retail store

  • Make sure that the inexpensive items aren't irregular or damaged

  • Check return policies...sometimes you have to return to the outlet

  • Comparison shop ....Leah found a pretty good deal on a pair of shoes at one store, but kept looking and found them at another shop for $10 less

  • Go with a list!

For me, the best of these tips is the last one. It is too easy to convince oneself to buy something because the price is just "too good to pass up." I passed up a $15 sweater that I thought I wouldn't wear nearly as often as the $30 sweater that I'm wearing today. My clothes shopping list isn't actually something that I write-up for each trip, either. I started a list last year of what I think constitutes a complete wardrobe for me and I'm still trying to fill it. Eventually I hope to get to the point of only having to shop for replacements when things wear out.

How did I do? I bought 2 nice new merino wool sweaters and 2 new polo shirts for about $80, all of which was on my wardrobe "need" list. Definitely a savings over what I would have spent locally.

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