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Avoid Buyer's Remorse: Tips to Shop Smart

Trust us—we know how easy it is to walk into a store, pick up every shiny item that catches our eye and convince ourselves we absolutely need it now. Impulsive shopping is an adrenaline rush, and in today's fast-fashion world, it's hard to shop smart. Follow these tips and tricks to avoid the dreaded buyer's remorse.

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Take Inventory

Before you head to the mall (or hunker down on the couch for an afternoon of web surfin'), go through your wardrobe and take note of the items you already own. Buyer's remorse is easily avoidable if you know your wardrobe. Knowing what you already have will not only keep you from buying duplicates, but it will make your purchasing decisions easier because you'll know what outfits you can create. In addition to keeping a list, clean out your closet every season. Create a resell and donate pile to get rid of old clothing you know you won't wear again. Not sure how to decide what to keep and what to purge? Check out our tips for cleaning out your closet.

Own the Basics

Keep your staples that are in good shape. Emily Cholakian, the style blogger behind Stiletto Beats, thinks every girl's wardrobe needs a great fitting pair of jeans, a white cotton T-shirt, a well-fitting black blazer, and a pair of classic pumps. Keep these items on deck at all times. Once you've purged your closet, make a list of any gaps that may need to be filled. Are you missing any staples? Do you have a ton of jeans but no blouses? Make note of the items you want to focus on purchasing, and go from there.

Set a Budget

It's easy to spend money on sale items, but a purchase here and there can add up. Take the time to sit down and go through your budget at least once a year. Once you have the necessities covered—rent, utilities, gas, food, etc.—decide how much you can afford to spend on clothes and accessories each month, and stick to it. Using a budgeting app, like Mint.com, helps keep you within your budget and even alerts you when you're close to maxing out. Lauren Felix of La Petite Fashionista recommends divvying up your budget into seasons. If you have cash leftover from summer, say, then you might use the excess to buy clothes for fall. But remember: Once you've spent your budget, cut yourself off.

Be Mindful

Always, always, always try clothes on. If you're shopping online, be sure to double-check the store's return policy before checking out and try on your purchases before removing any tags. When assessing whether to buy an item, Lauren and Emily recommend asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I already have at least two to three other outfits I could imagine wearing this with?
  • Does it fit my figure well?
  • Will I wear it more than once?
  • How does this item fit into my budget? How much is it worth to me?
  • Is it a classic you'll wear for years to come? Invest. Fast-fashion trends? Stick to stores like Forever 21, H&M and Zara for trendy items that you'll wear only for the season.

Quality vs. Quantity

Looking for quality items doesn't have to mean spending big bucks. You can find quality at every price point. Save the splurges for classic pieces that have been and will be around for years to come, such as a camel trench or a pair of skinnies in a dark wash. Sure, quality and price go hand in hand, but by simply searching for certain fabrics and inspecting seams of items before you purchase, you can find some quality pieces at lower prices. "Quality is everything, especially with shoes and handbags," Emily says. "I always find that Made in U.S.A. products have a longer life span and are much better quality. Quality is all about the details, the feel of the leather, the stitching, etc. Spend some time comparing products, and you'll see the difference immediately."

Hunt For Deals

Subscribe to newsletters and emails from your favorite stores and brands so you'll be among the first to know when sales occur. Most stores put on huge end-of-season sales. Summer items are marked down as early as July and August, and fall sales begin before the holiday season in late November and early December. Though huge markdowns are tempting, it's important to keep a clear mind. "I've seen it on the corporate side, and I know from working in fashion that just because a company says it's the biggest deal of fall or it's the biggest sale doesn't mean that [an item isn't] going to be cheaper a month later," Lauren says. Stay strong and think about what works within your own needs. Track items you know you really want, and wait for them to go on sale. That way, you know you would purchase them at the regular price, but you're getting a better deal in the end.

Before purchasing a product or heading to the store, scour the Internet for coupons. Websites like Retail Me Not and Groupon offer a plethora of coupons to save you cash, and many stores have their own coupon apps, such as Target's Cartwheel. Additionally, many stores offer student discounts, so always be sure to ask. Thrift stores are great places to look for deals, especially on one-of-a-kind jewelry. "It's kind of guilt-free shopping," Lauren says.

Beware of Trends

One final thought to keep in mind is what fits your personal style. "What's important to know about trends is that not all trends are meant for all people," Emily says. "If you're a tomboy, you shouldn't feel forced to wear floral. If you're girly, maybe sneakers aren't your thing. Narrow down a few trends you really like for the season, and purchase those items at fast-fashion retail stores." Never spend your hard-earned cash on trendy items. Shop sites like ASOS and Piperlime that are fashion-forward, decently priced, and always having sales.

Abby Gilman

Iowa State University alumna class of 2014. Writer at DivineCaroline.com. Go 'Clones.

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