Style for the Ages: Smart shopping

It’s the oldest cliché in the book: Men hate shopping.

Ominous warnings circle men from every direction: Treat any clothing store like it’s filled with poisonous gas — just get in and get out as fast as possible!

And never, under any circumstances, get caught shopping with your significant other. If you do, hightail it to one of those random couches in the corner of the store. Doing otherwise will mean certain death … or worse, you might (gasp) realize that shopping — when done efficiently and smartly — can actually be a fun, rewarding experience.

Shopping — well, let me be more specific, smart shopping — isn’t easy. Sure, you can dart into [insert clothing store here] and walk out with a decent wardrobe, but I almost guarantee that your bank account won’t be the better for it, and, honestly, you probably missed a better piece of clothing for far less money somewhere else. Smart shopping requires planning, patience and practicality. (I know, three “p’s.” Let’s just avoid the cheesiness for now).

Planning is the first step. Pick a few key stores that you like, and start browsing. What fits you well here? What don’t you like so much?

Talk to the staff. When are their big sales? Are there any coupons or special promotions available?

Make a note of favorite pieces from different stores, and keep your eyes open for sales on these items. Heck, you don’t even have to go into the store these days. Once you’ve figured out what generally fits you, make a beeline for the company’s website and check for sales there, too. Make a list of items you need and items you want, with the “need” items taking precedence.

This is where patience comes in. I think too many people wait until the last minute, and then just go and buy something full price when they need it. This is by no means the end of the world, but if you’re on a budget like me (and have tastes, unfortunately, far beyond your budget), patience can make a huge difference in the quality of product you end up with.

I’m constantly buying things out of season for a fraction of their usual cost, or waiting for something to fall in price before I snatch it up. As I always say, everything will go on sale eventually. You just need to be there when it does, which I’ll admit takes some work but can pay dividends.

Finally, you have to be practical. Getting too entrenched in the “find-a-deal” mindset can be a dangerous thing. If you’re not careful, you’ll start buying clothing pieces you don’t need — that you don’t even really like or want, when it comes down to it — just because they’re “too good a deal to pass up.” Don’t let sticker shock sway your reasoning. Even if a sweater is down from $1,000 to $100, it’s still $100. It’s not a good deal unless it’s something you actually need and like.

I could go on and on about smart shopping, but space is limited. I’ll probably address some more facets of this ongoing effort in the future, especially the treacherous (but sometimes rewarding) world of outlet malls. Even though smart shopping isn’t easy, if given a little effort, it can be a rewarding and budget-friendly experience.

— Vaughn Scribner can be reached at


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