Finance – Sarah’s Financial Fitness – How to Shop Better!!!!!

I love shopping. Bargain shopping, window shopping (not kidding), second-hand shopping. How do I even begin to describe it? The sights, the smells, the endless possibilities… aahhhhhh. I may have little to spend but I don’t have a problem spending it! At the same time, believe it or not, I try my best to be clever about it.

Shopping can actually be fairly complicated if you are trying to make the most of your money. Here are some things that may help if you like shopping too or are just curious. I’ve split it into three parts: Before, During and After. (I will use clothes as the shopping item of choice but it can be translated to other objects-of-weakness.)

Before You Hit The World of Mall (or similar)

  • Figure out when you are at your weakest. For example, I love shopping alone and with time to spare, so if I don’t have the funds to be doing this, I try to avoid it or only go to malls with a friend, then I know I will not be as tempted. On a serious/side note: If you suspect you have an issue on a deeper level, like buying things makes you feel good because you feel ‘in control’ or it is a way of escaping areas of life that are difficult, etc… talk to someone you trust about it. This may not be bad if it is one-off or a short-term thing, but may be harmful in the long-run.

  • Every year or half-year, write down what you think you need in the months coming up. (Something fun to do when you are bored or waiting around.) This list helps you strategise when you are wandering in the stores, so you don’t just spend on random things. For example, a special wedding coming up or new basics, etc. This also helps when you hit end-of-season sales racks. Look through that list now and then, be honest and keep this list as practical as possible.
  • Staples or major buys are worth a think-through.

Items like winter coats, boots, jeans and special dresses need to be carefully shopped for so you focus and don’t overspend.

    • Questions like:
      • What is my budget?
      • What do I want this for? (Everyday wear, evening wear, special event wear, etc.)
      • What sort of style coat/jeans/boot do I want? (Short/long coat, straight-cut/skinny jeans, scrunchy/thigh-high boot, etc.)
      • What weather will I be wearing it in?
      • What colour do I want/will suit my other clothes?
      • What shoes do I already have to match?
    • You may not have to answer all these questions but answering a couple of them will help.
  • Set limits or wait.

If you know you tend to be a new-season buyer, where you see a new lot of clothes come out and you go into a frenzy over the fresh colours and fantastic styles of Spring, or simply see-and-want-now, then anticipate this and set aside a limit OR anticipate and tell yourself to wait for a sale. For example, I know I go crazy for summer dresses, so I may try to think beforehand that I will get one if I find one under $40 (if I have $40) and that will be my summer buy…

  • Narrow the options.

Figuring out your own sense of style, colours and what suits your shape can be really helpful because these will help you narrow your choices.  This involves time and effort to look through your closet with a critical and truthful eye. You may need help from someone else (like a friend who knows what they’re talking about or an actual style expert) but you will need to be prepared for them to say things you may not want to hear. However, this is a good long-term strategy as you will then be spending on things that look good on you instead of wasting money or random items you end up hating. Plus, when you like an item you will probably wear it more times over- which is value for money.

During: When You Are In The Danger Zone

When you are in the shops and have found something you like, here are some things to do.

  • TRY IT ON (YOU MUST)

Note: Unless you are can’t figure out how it is supposed to fit, avoid asking the shop assistant what they think, they usually will be able to convince you to buy it- somehow.


  • BREATHE. Give it some time and thought.

For example, leave the store and come back later. I personally like to look through other stores before I come back. You may find the ‘need’ for it has lessened. Sometimes I even leave it for days and that can be a good judge how great the item is. Some of us may need to go home and stare at the bank statement first too.

  • ASK QUESTIONS

Now that you have tried something on, emotions are running high. Wait! Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

    • Do I have the money for this? (You may want to write this on your bank/credit card with a Vivid..
    • Will this actually match something I have? (Make yourself come up with at least 2-3 things you already have that will match.)
    • Will I wear really wear this? (Picture yourself in it, next to your friends, walking around the house, at the cafe, whatever… stuff often looks better in the World of Mall, than in real life where you may run out of the house with your hair wet and ketchup from your takeaways may not look great on the white shirt)
    • Can I move? (Watch for space to eat, butt crack when you sit, too much cleavage if you had to lean over, etc.)
    • Hello, what exactly is this for? (How many ‘nicer’ dresses do you need when you work Monday to Friday at a gym, Sarah?)
    • Do I already have something that looks SIMILAR? (How many black cardigans do we need people?)
    • Will I need to buy a couple more things for this outfit to work? How much will that cost?
  • Don’t settle for less. If it doesn’t fit great, the colour doesn’t totally suit you, and isn’t really fabulous, then NO. PUT IT BACK. Having high standards also helps you save money.
  • If you are just having a bad day and need to buy something/anything, STOP! Put that top back on the shelf. Go and buy a thing of soap, toothpaste or toilet paper. There is also always scotch-tape for gift-wrapping. Those are necessities that are super irritating to run out of. Or go have an ice-cream cone.
  • SALES- My fave!

These days, sales are going on all the time, not just at end-of-season. Personally I often only consider buying things if they are below original price. But don’t be led astray. Apply the same questions as previously mentioned, and:

Have a strategy. For example, as a visual person, when I approach sales racks I look for the right colours first, so it is less of a waste of time than looking at everything.

    • Go back to point 4 above- is it great? If not then say, NO.
    • If it wasn’t on sale, would it be an item I would look at?
    • If it is at the end of a season, consider seriously if the item is a style you will wear next year, etc.


Aftermath: Back To Reality of Home


  • Try it on again.

    • Response A: If you still like it and spent your money well then feel free to rejoice in your wares!
    • Response B: If you now don’t like it and feel uncomfortable or know that you overspent, RETURN IT or EXCHANGE it for store credit. (Exchanging it for credit may not always make sense but it could work if it is at store you can buy a future items or Christmas presents at.)

OKAY, so some of you may be laughing at how hardcore (and long) this post is or how serious I am about shopping! I don’t do this as often as it sounds haha… but I do enjoy it, as you can see, there are also other aspects of shopping we can expand on another day, like how to buy the right things and how to shop if you have shopaphobia. Meanwhile, let me know if you ever need any help.

Thanks for reading!

Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff


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