1. Buy now, gift later
When you see a steal that you know someone will love, buy it now. You’ll save money, and they’ll appreciate the gift when they receive it from you. I have a goodie closet at home and at work where I stash great deals that I snag year round with a person or occasion in mind. This means I always have hostess or just-because gifts for close friends at my fingertips. Since I buy it when I see it, not just when I need it, I make smart, guilt-free choices without being under pressure to simply buy anything.
2. Buy what you love, not just what’s cheap
When you buy on bargain alone, you risk winding up with a closet or shelves full of unused stuff. Great value should mean you’ve paid a fair price for an item you love. Sadly it’s taken me quite a few mistakes to finally learn this lesson. I couldn’t pass up a bargain-priced brightly-colored leather jacket, but since I never veer from black, it hung with the tags for two years until I donated it. I bought my husband a sleek snow suit because I couldn’t resist the clearance price, but he’s not a skiier so it’s never been worn.
3. Look for free shipping — or free shipping incentives
Both offer great savings on purchases. Sometimes it’s a better value to buy an extra item or two to reach a free shipping threshold instead of paying high shipping costs. If I am just under a spend hurdle, I always take an extra minute to add something else to my cart. I love treating myself to a fresh lipstick or new mascara if it means that shipping is free.
4. Understand the return policy before buying
Retailers hope you’re happy with your purchase, but if you’re not totally satisfied, you should be entitled to hassle-free returns. Knowing the fine print before buying from any merchant can save you from disappoint–and money lost–down the road. I was burned a year ago when I bought new bedding for my daughter from an unfamiliar website. When the fabric wasn’t as soft as the description portrayed, we were stunned to discover the site didn’t allow returns or exchanges. It was my own fault for failing to read the fine print. Purchasing from well-known sites with clear return policies is a must.