Has it ever occurred to you just how much outlet shopping has in common with drinking diet soda or gambling? You may be surprised just how similar these activities can be. In all three cases there is a certain amount of initial benefit, but in the long run overuse can result in the need to take drastic measures. They can all turn into costly and addictive nasty little habits.
Fortunately, it is possible to lower the costs of outlet shopping to a point where it is actually worthwhile to do it. The key is in a three part approach.
Audit what you have before you go
The first thing you need to do before hitting the outlet mall is tidy up and purge. Make sure you do all your laundry (and put it away) and put away or throw away any clutter. This is the only way to figure out what you already have and make sure that this information is fresh in your mind so that you don’t end up buying duplicates of what you already own because you forgot you had it.
It is also a great way to figure out what you actually need and help narrow down what to avoid because it won’t match anything in your existing wardrobe.
Develop a budget
This may sound silly, but paying your bills and anticipating what your spending will be in the next two to three months will go a long way in determining what your disposable income actually is. No matter how much you got off that really sweet new bag, if it was over your allotted budget, it isn’t worth it. Not this month anyway. Just like potato chips and diet soda, the more you consume the less it matters that they were baked and not fried or that the calorie count was reduced. Just like the folks at the lottery corporation like to say: know your limit, play within it.
Do your research
Ugh, who likes homework? But in reality this is exactly what you need to do. Not all outlet malls are created equal and they all publish which stores they have. If a mall does not have the types of stores you shop at then it will be a wasted trip and whatever you saved on in them will not come close to the cost of getting to them.
Once you know what stores you are looking for, be sure to time your trips with when they tend to get their stock and when the really good sales come up. Outlet shopping has become so popular that often the stores charge just as much as their non-outlet counterparts. They take for granted that people simply assume they are getting a good deal because they are at an outlet store. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you have favorite stores, register on their websites and check your spam folder. This is the best way to stay on top of sales and special promotions. Also, be sure to visit the customer service desk as they often have some sort of coupon saver book for the mall. Many times, a CAA or AAA card entitles members to special promotions. That should be you first stop.
Watch what you buy
Sometimes, a more costly item ends up being cheaper than buying junk that needs to be replaced after a limited run in your possession. Quality does count. The other thing that counts is the realization that if they thought it would be a hot seller at the stores then the outlet store wouldn’t have it. Their stuff is really not in anymore. So, why not leverage this information by sticking to staples such as that little black dress rather than going for anything short of avant-gard.
The bottom line is that outlet shopping is still shopping, and if you get carried away, you will buy more than you need and spend more than you have. Being organized, and disciplined is the best way to get more out of the experience and actually manage to save some money.