Savvy shopping for a sweet life

Adorable on DVD, a nightmare in real life!With the recession in full swing every Tom, Dick, and Jane has suddenly become a “recessionista shopping” expert. Darlings, shopping savvy is nothing new here at DolceDolce. If you are regular reader you know we have always been about value for money. It just makes sense; the smarter we are about how we use our resources then the sweeter life can be.

 The problem is that much of the advice dispensed by these well-meaning, newly-minted shopping divas just doesn’t work. Many of them advise shopping with coupons and going to discount big-box chain stores for everything. Darlings, this may work for some, but not for anyone who wants a sweet life!
 
The key to stretching your budget these days is research and planning! I have been advocating packing a lunch and learning to brew good coffee and tea at home for ages. The savings per week are astronomical! The amount you can bank in a year is staggering, even if you still eat out with friends once a week! And think of the benefits to your waistline and health if you pack with an eye to lightening up! (http://www.dolcedolce.com/ns_aug052008.htm for lunch tips and recipes!)
 
To shop and live well on a budget, even a luxe one, you need to plan and research. Use the computer to search for items online. It is the easiest way to learn prices and to follow sales and specials. On Sunday it takes me about half an hour to look at my local drugstore and grocery circulars online. This is how I have determined that discount stores do not necessarily have the best prices on household necessities or beauty items. Drugstore specials are remarkably good value, especially combined with printable coupons for sites such as Olay and L’Oreal Paris.
 
Beauty sites from major manufacturers offer great coupons on their products and will send samples of most items. I often find samples a waste of time, but if you enjoy them go for it. I think coupons for a dollar to three dollars off are a great use of Internet time.
 
I am not a label snob and I have found some cute items at Target and K-mart over the years. Lately, the quality has been hit or miss. It is shame considering the economy and the fact the people really need a bargain now. But shoddy is no bargain. The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic are good for terrific well-priced reliable basics. The price range between the three is wide. But Banana Republic goes on sale like clockwork, so drop by and scoop things up at Gap prices. Best of all you can research all your purchase online.
 
I also like H&M, Joe Fresh and New York Connection for style on budget. You can grab an up-to-the-minute trend for a song at these shops. 
 
But darlings, a wardrobe built on cheap basics — even in a recession — is not sweet and does not make good sense. You will overspend because you won’t be satisfied. You will be like a dieter who overeats when she denies herself enough calories for a healthful life. You’ll be starved for the good pieces that make the fun cheapies work.
 
What’s a cash-strapped diva to do? Budget! First you save and then you spend wisely.
 
Learn to shop on the best online sites for the items you covet at deep discounts. Do not get carried away. Discount does not mean free. I am often asked how you can tell if it will fit or look good if shop online. This is my strategy: I only buy brands and designers that I would buy in shops so I know the sizing and quality. It works out 95 percent of the time. I also only buy from reputable sites. When I lived in Canada, I had things shipped to friends from sites that did not ship across the border. I had packages shipped to hotels up a week before a trip to the states. I called the hotel to hold my package. They did it gladly.
 
These sites are currently my favourites. I find incredible values on them all the time and have seldom been disappointed.
 
I also encourage you to visit your favourite boutiques and exclusive department stores. Cultivate sales resistance and friendships with sales people to alert you to the best merchandise and sales. Outlet malls can be great, but again they not free. Go with a list. I think TJ Max, Marshal’s and Winners are all fabulous. I have found incredible designer merchandise in them just doing a quick walk-through. You need to go frequently, but not unless you need something. Go with a list and if you do not see what you need, leave.
 
The upside of good budgeting is that you will also be better dressed. There may be exceptions, but most shopoholics are not chic. Gorgeously-dressed women may spend outrageous sums of money, but they do it strategically. Style is about editing. Budgeting is about planning. The Internet is your best tool. Even if you plan to shop locally, know your prices. 
 
Do your research. Choose the best and freshest you can afford. The best is not always the most expensive. Choose your splurges and economies where it makes sense. I buy vegetables seasonally for freshness and my budget gets a boost too. I also find there are many inexpensive brands of cleaners, beauty products, and other items that make me happy – but if they don’t they are not a bargain.
 
Here are some of my favourite shopping sites. Please share yours!
 
www.smartbargins.com Deep discounts for designer shoes, clothes, and house wares.
 
www.overstock.com and www.overstock.ca What don’t they sell? You can find everything from designer goods to electronics here. If you don’t look you will not find it!
 
www.ruelala.com Membership only – and they will let you in. This shopping site
offers short-term sales on coveted designer goods at deep discounts. Members are offered rewards for signing up friends and family. 
 
 http://www.ddpush.com/register.aspx offers multi-label names from 50 to 90 percent off the retail price at one day at member’s only members only sample site. free. Members also have access short-term of sales offering designers’ goods from 50 to 90 percent off the retail price. The membership is free.  Once you are a member, you can "push" or offer an invitation to your friends and family and earn DD Dollars, which are then deposited into your account once the friends you invite make their first purchase.
 
Membership also gives you access to the DD Push "Back Lot" sales, the "back lot" sales are the DD Push clearance sales.  When that happens, they send it to the "Back Lot" where merchandise is offered at prices up to 90 percent off retail.  This site is not associated with www.DolceDolce.com.
 
www.farecompare.com I use many travel sites to book luxe vacations at the price I want to pay. This is the site to use if you are buying airline tickets.
 
I also like the major department store sites such as www.neimanmarcus.com and www.saksfifthavenue.com. The selection is matchless, especially for top quality and style. Designers with their own sites can also offer great value and inspiration: www.DVF.com  is one of my musts.
 
Darlings, I love luxury and a sweet life. I also like to pay my bills. I find life without good food and wine flat. I also love the finer things. I am not ready to give my touch of Diane, Hermes, Chanel, or Louis.  I want it all.  I usually get it with my shopping savvy.  From designer goods to the front of the plane, as well as the freshest and the best, a sweet life takes planning, savvy, and making smart choices
 
You deserve the best, so invest some time and shopping savvy in getting yourself the sweet life you deserve.
 
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