A Practical Girl’s Guide to Value Shopping

As a fashion-conscious female, I find that clothes are a necessity. I find myself emotionally inclined to ‘invest’ in a good pair of shoes, a particularly versatile cocktail dress, or an everyday handbag. Although it isn’t healthy to be materialistic, one may find it necessary to purchase nice-to-own things every now and then.

Back in high school, I was monetarily limited by a modest allowance; hence I was inclined to find items that only fit my budget. Window shopping became a habit and my shallow pocket forcefully kept me from being spontaneous and easily drawn to spend, unlike most of the girls my age at the time. I eventually appreciated how it shaped me and made me economical, perhaps for the rest of my life.

Intuitively, teenagers are prone to social pressure and easily want what their friends have. Needless to say, I’d be a completely different person if I were spoiled at childhood. Because I didn’t have that ‘privilege’, I wound up being the bargain-hunter / quality-loyal shopper I am today. Let me share with you a few of the things I’ve picked up about shopping along the way.

1. On trendy items: do not buy fresh-off-the-rack. What is being sold at full price can easily be sold at 70% off in a few months. Unless your being up-to-date is a matter of life and death (to which you’ll end up looking like everyone else), delayed gratification may save your pocket a buck-load.

2. Do not buy when you’re on a high. An emotional one, that is; especially on an item that’s on trend. I couldn’t begin telling you about the many times I found two items of the same type and quality in two different stores—one selling for 30%-50% more than the other.

3. Pay attention to detail. A number of factors determine the price of an item—cost of material, labor, and overhead are given, but consumers might be unaware of a major variable: demand. Trends give brands the liberty to charge more than usual, all because people are willing to pay to look good and feel great with the season’s picks. Again, I could recount the many times I’ve seen a risqué cropped top (with no fancy detail / stitching, whatsoever) cost more than a long-sleeved chiffon dress, despite the latter being of more value at cost. I’m a firm advocate of the ‘one doesn’t need to pay TOO much to look good’ philosophy and I know there are some stores out there that do too, therefore charging more reasonably than most.

4. Shopping is capitalistic. At the end of the day, retail stores are running a BUSINESS. They have the ff. factors in place: persuasive & emotional advertising, display & promotional tactics, optimal pricing, etc. From a sales perspective, it’s all about delivering value in the eyes of the customers. Notice: a t-shirt from this this global streetwear giant might look exactly the same as the one on the department store, yet people choose to purchase from the former because it carries a brand. People buy status, not the shirt.

Have a business psychology. Don’t be fooled. (I’ll be honest, I still find myself caught off guard at times.)

5. Invest in classics. You probably know this already: your crisp white shirt, flattering denim jeans, black pumps, red stilettos, LBD, LWD, and the rest of your basics. They are your babies—those that stick with you through every season. These you shouldn’t mind spending on.

6. Your quality checklist: uniqueness, functionality, versatility, fit (probably the most underestimated) and most but not the least, that confidence boost when you wear it. 😉

7. State of mind: you don’t have to have everything. Learn to let go. Give yourself a budget and reason out whether something is truly worth it or not. Emotion and reason are friends; not food.

8. Clearance sale reads SPLURGE. It is when my left brain gives the green light; then my heart races; then comes a paper bag full of happiness for under $50. I don’t entirely lose my reason ‘cause I still manage to opt out items at the till. But there is plenty more room for shopping, for the sake of shopping. 😉

Today, I pay homage to my thrifty parents and conservative Chinese roots (cue in mommy Huang from ‘Fresh Off the Boat’). More than anything, I am grateful to God for His principles inspire me to live a life grateful for the simple things, and to not measure worth with material riches.


“19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

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