What’s your shopping style?

There are a lot of ways that people shop.

Some people always have their eye out for stuff.  They’ll shop regularly and keep their eye on things that they want and wait until they’ve dropped enough in price to be worth buying.  They’ll know when the sales are and swoop in.

Similarly, some folks regularly visit yard sales and thrift stores and craigslist or ebay or facebook etc. to browse and buy.  Or they’ll browse freecycle or their local buy nothing group.

Other people will buy things strategically.  They’ll decide what they want and then shop for it.

Some people do a lot of research before buying, some people do enough research to satisfice, some people do no research at all.

Some people buy and return, others won’t return at all and will either hold on to a bad purchase or pass it along/donate it.

Some people are willing to pay full price if it’s what they need when they need it.  Others only buy when there’s a sale or a coupon or some other way of getting a deal.

A lot of these differences are differences about how money vs. time (and mental load) are prioritized.  If you’re really busy, comparison shopping and regularly browsing for sales and deals just isn’t going to be worth the time it takes.  If you’re strapped on money, you may be more willing to wait for a deal.

Another concern is ethics– it may be worth it to spend time shopping second-hand if you care about the environment.  It may be worth paying more for a high quality product from a country that does not exploit its workers.

And some people just enjoy the process of shopping.  Some people hate it!  Some people are fine with online shopping, others enjoy going into stores.  Some people have to see an item in person, while others are ok with buying online with limited information.

My shopping style is to put off buying something until probably after I should, and then buy a whole ton of stuff that I need all at the same time.  I don’t shop for fun except for books and fancy food shoppes in the city (including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s– if we had a Trader Joe’s in town it probably wouldn’t be enough of a novelty to make it fun).  When I was in college I hung out with people who shopped for fun, so I did do some of the waiting for dresses to drop below my price point, but these days I buy clothing at whatever price it is set during my every other year outlet mall trip.  (When I do try to buy something online without my colleague-personal-shopper it usually ends up being ridiculous, except for shoes where I go to a fancy european store and let a shoe salesperson talk me into whatever type of shoe needs replacing.)

What is your shopping style?  Has it changed over the years?

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21 Responses to “What’s your shopping style?”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    You left out “get drunk & buy on a whim”.

  2. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    I buy things as I need them, but rarely before (with the exception of toiletries which I buy in bulk). Secondhand is preferred for clothes and furniture, but the market is rarely saturated enough to buy anything else used. I’ll prioritize Seventh Generation and other eco-friendly brands/items (though I often worry I’m just falling for green-washing to pay more money). I don’t really pay attention to Fair Trade or ethical concerns based on worker’s rights.

    I comparison shop to determine quality, but it is rare for me to return something, even if it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I’ll spend some times researching pricing and figure out if I can maximize cash back rewards on my CC for a purchase (including applying for new cards before buying something big), but I don’t really save up coupons or religiously check for sales.

    I neither enjoy nor dislike shopping. However I will browse online stores to plan out what purchases need to be made to fill some “need” to quell my anxieties. I’ll rarely actually purchase though.

  3. Grace Says:

    I’ve never liked shopping. That hasn’t changed, but the way I shop and where I shop has changed since I had my daughter. I don’t have the time for my old process anymore.

    Old process was:
    * For groceries: wander around and buy the same things, few-to-no convenience prep foods (pre-cut vegetables, frozen meals, etc.)
    * For clothes: periodically go Macy’s, Target, REI, Banana Republic (for work clothes when I was an office worker), Title 9, and/or a fancy yoga clothes store whose name I forget. Look at everything, get tired of looking at things, leave. Occasionally find something I like, but don’t buy it. Think about buying it, don’t go. Eventually go and it’s gone or– rarely– get whatever it is.
    * For shoes: Zappos. I have plantar fasciitis, and Zappos was easier for finding the brands my feet will tolerate.
    * For books: Most reading was based on library wandering, but I did also go to a good used bookstore and a Barnes and Noble with some frequency. I generally bought at least 1-2 paperbacks per plane trip and almost never did ebooks.
    *For digital media: I never got anything I needed to pay for.
    * For anything not in those categories: Research whatever it is, get sick of research, put off making the decision. Repeat for several rounds. Eventually get it if it really wasn’t avoidable. When I was much younger, it took me about 6 months on an air mattress on the floor before I bought a bed. And about 4 years before I got health insurance. (I’m a freelancer so it didn’t come baked into my job, and it was before it became a potential tax penalty.)

    New process is:
    * For groceries: go quickly, buy targeted things including convenience prep foods, get out. No wandering.
    * For clothes: Target for shirts, underwear, and socks. Amazon with ethics qualms for yoga skorts and yoga pants for me and most toddler clothes.
    * For shoes: Zappos.
    * For books: I’m not really buying books anymore. And the only part of the library I’m visiting is the kids’ section. I read a ton of library ebooks while breastfeeding and ran through everything I wanted to read, then everything that I didn’t particularly want to read but was willing to read, and was left with “this looks awful but I’ll try it.” Results in that category are about 80% unfinishable, 20% bad but I’m willing to finish. I do keep checking the library’s ebooks for things I’d like and join waitlists, but: sigh. The dip in book consumption is entirely based on having time to go places when they’re open and on an unwillingness to spend money on untested authors.
    For digital media: I started paying for a Youtube subscription before I first took my toddler on a plane– the subscription allows me to download songs for her and also provides no-commercial viewing. I’ve also bought a couple of iPad alphabet/number games for her, also for the couple of flights we’ve taken. I do let her access those things at home now, too, generally when she’s sick but sometimes at random, too. I’m not a fan of Youtube without the subscription for her. I keep the iPad disconnected from WiFi if I let her use it, which keeps her from even seeing sidebar thumbnails of things I haven’t vetted and downloaded. I’ve also started paying for NYT and WP subscriptions for myself in the last couple of years. Paying for journalism felt like a way of standing by my values.
    * For anything else: Research for about 1-2 hours max, less if it’s mission-critical. (In the last 3 years, I’ve dealt with replacing a hot water heater, a dishwasher, a washer, and a dryer.) For less critical things, get whatever looks best after brief research or decide it doesn’t matter enough to think about it again for a while. Research again as needed in about 2 months.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      any plantar faciitis recommendations? Right now I’m living in tennis shoes and a pair of Finn Comfort sandals, but when the school year starts…

      • Grace Says:

        I’ll preface this by saying that none of these are cheap shoes. But they do last.

        I wear Naot sandals in the summer, and used to wear some of their more Mary Jane-looking closed-toe styles in cooler weather. I no longer need custom orthotics (physical therapy for some other things helped lessen the foot issues), but I was able to make Naots accommodate orthotics back when I did–a number of their styles have removable footbeds. Naot was a brand recommended to me by a podiatrist, and it’s still mostly working for me. I don’t wear orthotics with them, but do make sure to stick to flats.

        For cooler weather, I’ve been wearing Danskos–not the heavy clogs, but something like this: https://www.zappos.com/p/dansko-hennie-black-suede/product/9149178/color/106. The exact style I’ve been wearing for the last few years looks to have been discontinued, unfortunately–it was cuter, with a zig-zag strap. What I like about them is that they’re comfortable with no orthotic, and I can also wear them with everyday kinds of pants, skirts, and dresses. What I dislike about them is that the sneaker styling is so strong and it looks like it’s stronger in the current incarnation. I haven’t had to be business formal for a few years, but I wouldn’t be able to wear them to a client-facing meeting. They would’ve been fine for professors/grad students in front of classrooms when I was teaching, but that was in the late 90’s, in an English program, at school in the northwest. (Norms may have changed or may be different for wherever you are.)

        For business formal, I’ve never really been happy with what I’ve done. In the past, I’ve gone with a black Mary Jane Naot in suede/leather and long dress pants to try to keep my shoes from being particularly noticeable. I wish I could wear heels or even more stylish flats, but I haven’t found things that don’t hurt almost immediately. I kind of gave up on really looking a long time ago. Every few years, I’ll take a stab at trying something different, but it hasn’t worked out.

        For working out, I’m wearing Mizuno Wave Skies with an off the shelf orthotic. I got them after visiting a fancy sneaker shop on my physical therapist’s advice– one where they did a gait analysis. I don’t know how magical the gait analysis really is, but the shoes have been fine and that’s what I care about.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I do have Naot Maryjanes… My previous black sandals were Naot, but they are too worn down now and have been replaced with the Finn Comfort. I have always worn fancy European shoes and I don’t know why suddenly my foot is hurting (was it very occasionally wearing canvas with no arch support? was it the even more occasional wedge tevas? are my pikolinos no longer supportive enough? What went wrong?).

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Ugh, sorry it’s still bothering you! Definitely endorse the Danskos recommendation below, but particularly the Professional Clog, which has more arch support than the standard clog. https://www.dansko.com/professional-black-cabrio

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m mostly ok, just fearful about the future when the summer is over and I’m back to business casual.

      • FF Says:

        I also like the Dansko Professional clogs (in my case, the Professional Narrow). But don’t think I found the soles comfortable when I had plantar fasciitis and felt like there were nails being driven into my soles. I did find my Munro booties (https://www.munroshoes.com/products/RILEY/M592081) pretty comfortable (they come in multiple widths, too), especially with Dr. Scholl’s plantar fasciitis insoles (https://www.drscholls.com/products/pain-relief/orthotics-for-plantar-fasciitis/), which are pretty inexpensive and you could also try them with the shoes that you already own. But there were no shoes that were truly comfortable enough for me to wear all day, other than New Balance walking shoes. Do you have to wear dress shoes in your faculty position? Would black leather walking shoes (the athletic kind, but fairly unobtrusive) work for school?
        Also, since you seem to have had plantar fasciitis for a while, if what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be helping, you might consider seeing an orthopedist who specializes in foot/ankle problems. And maybe a physical therapist. My orthopedist told me that when you’ve had it for a long time, it can take twice as long to completely recover, which was pretty accurate for me (although it did improve pretty quickly with PT).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, it’s fine now, but I’m worried about a relapse when I’m no longer in new balance.

  4. Candi @ minhus Says:

    I used to like shopping and the boyfriend and I went quite a bit, but after decluttering a bunch of stuff I don’t have much patience for it and shop as little as possible.

    I buy stuff only when needed or later. I don’t like buying clothes or shoes online unless I tried them on first. Things often fit me weird or are too short. I always do research, even if it’s just checking to see if my usual stores are having a sale, if not I wait because there are sales all the time. For expensive items I do a crazy amount of comparison shopping.

  5. monsterzero Says:

    I tend to look at reviews and/or Consumer Reports before buying a new thing and then stick with that brand/model forever.

    I’ll put my Wants into the Amazon shopping cart and then a couple of weeks later, when I have a Need to order, I’ll look at then and decide if I still want them.

    Returning things is too hard so I hardly ever do it.

  6. Steph Says:

    My shopping habits have changed over time; I will definitely overbuy if I’m not careful, so I’ve been focusing on trying to cultivate purchases a little more carefully. For clothes I do a lot of pinteresting, and then try to buy complete outfits. I’ve gotten more and more picky about fit and style, so I return at least 75% of what I buy online (and maybe 25% of what I buy in stores). I do my best to shop sales, but I have to work hard to keep myself from buying stuff *just* because it’s on sale. I’ll buy full price if it’s something I really want and there’s no sale in sight. My size goes out of stock pretty fast and is almost always online-only, so sometimes I just have to suck it up and pay full price and/or do a lot of returns.

    I used to thrift a lot of clothes and really enjoyed it – there was one great place that I was near a few times per week, and would just walk in, browse the new dresses, and walk out. Thrifting in my current location requires a lot more effort, and the selection in my size is even worse that my old city, so I don’t really bother :(

    Nearly all my book and hobby purchases continue to be impulse buys. I try to control that with cash budgeting (and I literally do not bring my credit card to the game store or the yarn/fabric store) but sometimes the internet gets the best of me. I try to soothe the book-buying monster with the thrifting approach above – I drop by the used book section at my favorite store if I’m nearby, check on about a dozen specific authors/categories, and leave if there’s nothing new.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I like lists and researching. I put my grocery list on the back of a used envelope magneted to the refrigerator and keep coupons inside the envelope. I also keep price lists, though I let them get out of date. I greatly prefer thrift stores to both malls and yard sales. Now that I’ve been a grown-up for some time and have stopped growing and acquired everything I need, there’s very little that I need to buy quickly, so I can easily wait for a good deal.

    For clothes, I used to go with a friend who was a similar size (different friends during different periods of my life), and we’d use adjacent dressing rooms, and we’d try on crazy stuff as well as stuff we thought we liked, and we’d try on each other’s rejects, which sometimes worked better on us. Now I just go by myself. I rarely buy online (except LLBean) because who knows how it will fit (though I have a friend who will just buy multiple sizes and colors and styles and then return most of it).

    For books, I only read new-to-me books for free or super cheap (borrowed from the library or friends, sometimes bought at the thrift store). I only want to buy books I already know I like and want to read over and over and/or lend out to other people. So once I know I want something, I add it to a list and try to get it used. If I can’t, I try to get it directly from the author, and if I can’t, then a local bookstore. I’m annoyed with Amazon, so I try to find an alternative even if it costs more. But I love Amazon reviews, so I don’t mind occasionally caving in and buying something from them (usually not a book). I have the same strategy for DVDs and board games. (I have a friend who was always late returning DVDs, so finally she started just buying them and then reselling them. I think she has switched to a modern more digital strategy since then.)

    For big purchases, I try to do research to get something durable and low-care. I also try to remember to check the cost of maintenance items (hello, printer cartridges).

    For art, I used to think I wasn’t into art, but sometimes I meet people who make art I actually like (drool, watercolor). I will keep an eye out for something awesome to lure me into paying full price.

    Sometimes kickstarter grabs me. Mostly games and movies-from-cancelled-TV-shows.

    As far as ethics, I have a list of goals so long that it is impossible to achieve all of them. Since it’s impossible, I don’t have to do it! But I could do better. I’m best at checking used first and buying only shade-grown cocoa (only shade-grown cocoa can be organic, fair trade, or rainforest-certified). I keep looking for good vegetarian and low-meat recipes, but still eat meat, especially at restaurants. When I buy meat at grocery stores, it’s organic (polite) or at least grass-fed and anti-biotic-free (healthier). I try to stay away from GMO (even if it’s safe, I hate to support those slimeball companies), but still get corn and soy at restaurants (and parties) and there’s corn in my gas. I bring my own tupperware to restaurants and my own water bottle (and sometimes dishes) to parties, but still generate loads of trash (and recycling). I also do not pay extra to buy in bulk (with no packaging) very often. I researched a place with polite shoes but haven’t tried it yet. I don’t compost much.

    I’m getting better at returning stuff. By which I mean I often actually do it now.

    Here are two other shopping strategies I’ve heard of that sound interesting:

    1) It’s called a “store” because they will store it for you. You don’t have to buy everything you imagine ever needing; you can wait until you actually know you need it. (This doesn’t work for me. Things disappear from stores all the time. But I do like the philosophy that my house doesn’t have to be a museum of every cool thing I’ve ever seen.)

    2) One lady loves shopping but can’t afford to so she goes to a store she loves (Target) and walks all through the store putting everything she wants in her cart. Then she goes through the store again and puts everything back except one item. Throughout the trip she is negotiating with herself what that one item will be. When she leaves, she has all the satisfaction of a luxurious shopping trip, but at a small cost to her budget and clutter. I love when people find ways to work with their weird brains.

  8. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    My style is all mixed up: I’ll periodically keep my eye out for sales, monitor the prices of things online for bargains, like for Christmas presents for the niblings, but only seasonally and for a couple weeks at a time.

    For the expensive stuff or stuff I’ll keep a long time, I research the heck out of things (backpack, robot vacuum) partly to put it off and to not spend the money.

    I do a lot of buying and returning, particularly with clothes since most things don’t fit me well. I’ve bought full price clothing five times. Second hand clothes don’t work well for me (fit, again) so instead I try to buy and make things last forever even if it’s not high quality.

    I hate spending time and energy on shopping, except for food, so I resent having to buy shoes regularly now instead of wearing the same pair for ten years.

    BUT I struggle with not buying all the cute stuff we see at SDCC.

  9. Donna Freedman Says:

    I pretty much hate shopping, so I wait until I absolutely need something. First stop is thrift store, where I do the absolute minimum looking and try to get out as quickly as possible.

    I can get away with this because I work at home. Most days I wear sweatpants and a T-shirt (and in the winter, a heavy bathrobe). Thus a “new” pair of jeans from the thrift store will still look pretty skookum a year later.

    Recently went to a movie with my friend and we were waaaaay early. We went into a Kohl’s and I wound up buying two pairs of on-sale shorts for the Financial Blogger Conference in D.C. When I think about it, that’s the first non-thrift-store clothes I’ve bought in almost a year. And that purchase, in Phoenix last summer, was a pair of light cotton slacks for FinCon18. They were on the clearance rack at Old Navy and cost less than $8, if I’m recalling correctly. More to the point: light cotton, drawstring waistband and DEEP POCKETS. Actual pockets that would hold lots of things! Loved them so much I bought two pairs.

    The year before that, I bought some grownup-looking sandals to wear to FinCon17, instead of my usual Teva knockoffs. The experience was like retail porn for women. Walked in and saw a style of sandals I’d actually hoped to find on the clearance rack — and they were the Naturalizer brand, providing real support as well good looks. Walked around the store for a bit to confirm that these were the ones — and at the cash register found out that an additional 25 percent discount applied. I almost needed a cigarette afterward.

    Oh, and speaking of shoes: I wear basic black running shoes from Rockport pretty much all the time (even to the symphony). When they go on sale, I buy four or five pairs at a time through a cash-back shopping site. Then I don’t have to think about it for a couple of years.

    Have I mentioned that I hate shopping?


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