AS AN avid shopper and bargain hunter, it never ceases to amaze me the number of clients who tell me how much they hate shopping. Shopping phobics experience painful symptoms such as confusion, frustration and exhaustion – and that’s on a good day!
With the task of Christmas shopping and perhaps the challenge of buying a new party dress ahead of you, on top of the ever-increasing economic pressures, I hope I can help you this month by setting out a few golden rules for hassle-free shopping.
• Plan – I know it’s obvious, but make a list of what you need to buy and don’t deviate from it. Work out who you need to buy for and list any gift ideas you already have.
Try to think in advance of which shops you need to head for.
• Budget – Work out how much you have to spend and, again, stick to it. If possible, try not to use credit or store cards unless you are able to pay them off straight away as, of course, you will eventually end up spending more.
• Venue – It’s always easier to shop in familiar shops; don’t be tempted to make an annual trip into London or try a new shopping centre to do your Christmas shopping. You will feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Local shopping is also best in terms of supporting our local economy and saving you time, petrol and parking costs.
• Company – Some people prefer to go shopping with a companion, but unless yours is a very selfless person, it is generally best to go alone if you have a big list. However, if you are shopping for a party outfit for yourself, the honest opinion of a valued companion can be tremendously helpful.
• Dress for the occasion – If you’re going to an indoor shopping mall, don’t wear a bulky overcoat; you’ll only get hot and bothered. Always use a shoulder bag rather than a handbag so your hands are free. Empty your purse of heavy loose change and your bag of all the usual junk you carry around, so it is as light as possible.
Comfortable shoes are essential; your feet will swell as you walk around the hot shops.
If you are looking for an evening dress, take your heels with you and wear suitable underwear – no dress will look fantastic with an old baggy bra and pop sox!
• Parking – Try to get a parking spot near the entrance to the shops so you can nip back easily to drop bags back to the car. There is nothing more tiring than carrying round heavy purchases.
Give yourself plenty of time if you need to buy a ticket in advance; rushing to a time limit will hassle you.
• Method – Start with the shops furthest away from where you are parked and work backwards, trying not to retrace your steps (unless you do a car park drop-off). Going backwards and forwards is exhausting and inefficient. If you have huge items to buy, such as toys or large electrical goods, pop into a food store to borrow a trolley. Better still, buy bulky presents online and have them delivered.
• Take a break – When you feel you are flagging, take a coffee break. Sit and relax for 20 minutes (but don’t take your shoes off – you’ll regret it, I promise).
Cross things off your list as you buy them, and plan where you need to go next. Don’t shop until you drop, however. Better to quit while you’re ahead – the chances are, you will still have loads to do once you get home, so save some reserve energy.
• When you get home – Do a final audit of your shopping list and then tot up what you have spent. Check you are still on target with your budget.
Make a new list of presents you still need to get, but don’t think any more about it today. Have a glass of wine and put your feet up!
There is nothing I like more than a good bargain; the feeling that you have got value for your money and the item you want for less than you thought you might have to pay. Here are some hot tips for keen bargain hunters:
• Research - do it before you go out so you know what price is reasonable.
• Offers - they are everywhere at the moment; 3 for 2, buy one get one free, percentage reductions. However, buyer beware – a bargain is not a bargain unless you actually need it and will make good use of it.
• Don’t be a label snob – The high street shops buy in bulk so can offer good quality for fair prices. The supermarkets have some great clothes now, which you can pick up with your groceries. If you like designer names, TK Maxx has amazing cut price designer labels for men, women and children’s clothes.
• Sale rails - these are great places to find cut-price gems, especially underwear (who really needs this season’s trend in bras anyway), out of season holiday clothes and end of lines.
• Clothes swapping – Your wardrobe is probably full of things you don’t wear any more, which someone else would be pleased to own. Why not get some girlfriends round one evening after Christmas to have a clothes swapping party.
• Charity shops - these have a great range of books, CDs, ornaments and clothes and we are fortunate in this area to have an array of such shops offering top quality merchandise and supporting wonderful charities.
• Trainee evenings – Most hairdressers and beauty salons have evenings when trainees can get practice in cutting and colouring hair. They are fully supervised by experienced stylists and are always on the lookout for models. You can get a great new style for a snip of the full cost.
• Promotional/discount codes – If you are shopping online, don’t forget to look for websites that offer discount codes to add to your order at the ‘checkout’. Codes can give you free delivery or a discount. Just Google ‘promotional voucher codes’.
• Don’t be afraid to barter – Not very British but worth a go, especially for large electrical items. Give it a try; you might surprise yourself!
• Don’t impulse buy – you will regret it. Planning and research is the key to being a savvy bargain hunter.
• Invest in good advice – A personal style or colour analysis consultation will arm you with knowledge on which styles and colours best flatter your body shape, colouring, lifestyle and budget. It will not only boost your self-confidence but also save you a fortune from shopping mistakes and show you how to make the most of clothes you already own.
NICE AND EASY
You can simplify your Christmas shopping by buying a Colour Me Beautiful gift voucher from me for a colour analysis or personal style consultation or make-up lesson.
It’s so easy; just call me on 01753 882 636 or email me your gift voucher request at Juliacumming@afreshimage.co.uk.
My website at www.afreshimage.co.uk has details and prices of all my consultations and you can select the one that will be just right this Christmas for that special person (men and women of any age from 12 to 112).