It’s now been a month since I moved and started my new educational program. Things have settled down enough for me that I will probably be able to post more often. One thing I didn’t mention in my last post is that I now live just a few minutes away from my favorite mall! Since it’s been a long time since I’ve written about shopping issues, I thought that now might be a good time to revisit this issue. Additionally, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS), which has been a big shopping occasion for me for many years, starts tomorrow. Since I started Recovering Shopaholic in 2013, I’ve approached that sale in a variety of ways, some of which were more productive and successful than others. In today’s post, I’ll share about my 2017 NAS experience, as well as what I plan to do differently this time around.
Blogging about my compulsive shopping issues was kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it helped me to stick to a shopping budget for the first time in my adult life, as well facilitated my paring down an oversized wardrobe and refining my personal style. However, it also kept my focus firmly directed toward what I was buying – or not – and what I was wearing. In the beginning, that was beneficial, but I later felt that blogging on these topics hindered my recovery in some ways. For that and other reasons, I took a hiatus from my last blog and decided to shift focus when I began writing again. While I no longer want to write about clothes and shopping all the time, I’d still like to delve into these issues from time to time.
Shopping Progress and Setbacks
So how am I doing with my shopping now? Although I have experienced some setbacks and challenges from time to time, I feel that I’m in a much better place with it all now. I don’t shop or browse nearly as often as I used to, and the buy and return game isn’t taking up a sizable chunk of my life any longer. Yes, there are still times when I let shopping get the best of me, but the damage isn’t as serious or long-lasting as before and I’m able to pull myself back to sanity much more quickly.
My shopping success percentage has also increased. I wish I could say that everything I buy becomes a wardrobe workhorse, but that’s not the case for most people. Some mistakes are difficult to avoid, especially since clothing quality has taken a nosedive in recent years. It’s hard to know how well particular items will wear or wash, but I’ve learned that certain brands and fabrications (I’m looking at you, cotton and modal t-shirts!) should remain in the stores instead of coming home with me. I still make some mistakes that I end up kicking myself for, but that’s not 50% (or even more) of my purchases like it was previously.
One thing I’ve noticed is that I still sometimes wear “sales goggles” and end up buying things on sale that I had no business bringing into my closet. If I look back at pieces that were quickly purged from my wardrobe, a large proportion of them were sales or consignment purchases. In short, I was dazzled by low prices instead of allowing my common sense to prevail. Although I don’t do this all the time by any means, it happens often enough to give me pause, especially on the eve of NAS.
NAS Shopping – Past and Future…
For the first time I can remember, I isolated my NAS purchases from the rest of my shopping tracking last year in order to clearly see the patterns that emerged. What I learned was that I bought a lot of items during the sale, but very few of them stuck around when all was said and done. Thus, I expended a large amount of time and energy on shopping the NAS, but I didn’t end up spending very much money in the long run.
Now, you might say that’s good because I didn’t blow my budget on the sale, but our time and energy are just as important as our budgets – and may even be more important. I visited Nordstrom stores more than a few times during the three weeks of pre-sale and the actual sale (I didn’t track that part of the equation, but I wish I had) and I placed a number of orders on their website, but the bulk of what I bought was returned, either right away or a bit later down the line.
I don’t want to waste so much time and energy this year! I know I could decide to sit out the sale like I did in 2013, but I’d like to be able to shop it reasonably and enjoy the process without it sucking up so much of my resources, both internal and financially. So here’s what I’ve decided to do…
Since summer weather only recently took hold where I live (and actually went way overboard with our recent heatwave!), I needed to spend some time evaluating my warm weather wardrobe now anyway, which I did earlier this week. I know that NAS is advertised as a sale on new fall and winter merchandise, but I’ve found that there are also lots of summer-friendly items available there. For example, I purchased three short-sleeved t-shirts at last year’s NAS that I was able to wear right away and have worn many times since. I made it a guideline (I don’t like hard and fast rules!) years back to primarily buy pieces for the current season when shopping NAS. When I allow for the rare exception, it’s generally for basics, replacement pieces (i.e. bras), or virtually fail-proof items, such as the black chenille cardigan/robe I acquired at the 2017 NAS (and have worn over a hundred times since then).
A Sound Way to Plan for Any Sale
In evaluating my wardrobe – especially my warm weather items – and revisiting my shopping priorities list, I have identified a targeted list of things to look for at NAS and beyond. I was relieved to see that I don’t actually need a whole lot. When I peruse the website when the sale goes live, I will view the offerings with what I most need in mind. If I see something that jumps out at me, I will ask myself the following questions before even clicking on the item for further details:
- Is this type of item on my priorities list?
- Do I see myself wearing it within the next two weeks for a real-life situation or occasion?
- If not, is it a tried and true basic, a replacement for a wardrobe workhorse, or a “white whale” item (something I’ve been searching for a long time)?
- Is that wardrobe category already well-represented in my closet (e.g. striped t-shirts, long cardigans, straight-leg jeans)?
It goes without saying that I will take pricing and my budget into consideration, but I think that if I avoid reaching for anything and everything that catches my eye and instead employ a targeted shopping approach, I will take far fewer pieces home. I’m open to the possibility of one “wildcard” item that simply knocks my socks off, but I still need to foresee an actual occasion for wearing it in my near future.
I plan to review the website with my list at hand when the sale goes live and go to the store in the early days of the cardholder preselection period. Since some items are only available online, I may need to place an order if I’m interested in any of those. Once I have everything in my home, I will make return decisions and do just one store visit to process those returns. I’ve found that the more I go to the store, the more I get swept up in the NAS frenzy, which leads to my buying additional items. I want to benefit from the sale without it taking up too much of my life like it has in the past.
Additional Sales Shopping Tips
The above is my basic plan for shopping NAS this year, but I want to mention some additional tips for shopping sales (and shopping in general) that I do my best to use on a regular basis. If you were a reader of my previous blog, I’m sure many of them are familiar to you.
- Don’t buy something on sale that you wouldn’t purchase at regular price. Leave those “sales goggles” at home! Also, consider your expected price ranges for particular items when evaluating whether or not something is a “good buy.”
- Wear an outfit you love to the store and don’t buy anything you don’t feel as fabulous in as what you’re wearing.
- If you’re shopping for something specific, either wear or bring the types of accompaniment pieces you will be pairing with it. It’s much easier to envision if something will work for you if you can see it as part of a full outfit. It’s not always possible to find the right items to pull an ensemble together in the store, so consider wearing them or taking them with you.
- Remember H.A.L.T. and don’t shop when you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Bring water and snacks with you to the store and take breaks if you’re shopping for a long time.
- If you’re really worried about going overboard, schedule your shopping trip when you only have a limited amount of time available. That way, you will be more likely to only look for what’s on your list and not run astray. This is what I plan to do tomorrow, as I have two appointments with a relatively small window or time in between. Shopping with a supportive friend or family member who can rein you in can also be helpful.
- Use the “power pause,” a term coined by Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe. Take at least a few minutes – and ideally two hours or more – to step away from the point of purchase for a breather. This will allow you to more objectively consider whether or not what you’re considering buying will be a good choice.
- During your power pause, consider the six key shopping questions formulated by April Benson: Why am I here? How do I feel? Do I need this? What if I wait? How will I pay for it? Where will I put it?
More Tips and Your Feedback
I have written a number of other tips around sales shopping on Recovering Shopaholic, including this 2016 post about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. You can see all of my shopping tips posts HERE. Although I have written a lot on the topic, I don’t always follow my own advice! It’s helpful for me to revisit what I’ve written in the past, as well as view the many tips and comments I’ve received from readers.
In that vein, I’d love to hear what has helped you to navigate sales more effectively. I also welcome anything else you have to say about this post. I will share how I did with this year’s NAS in a future post and I’ll be back soon with other essays about living a fuller life in today’s chaotic world. For those who will be shopping NAS or other summer sales, best wishes and I hope you find this post helpful!