The Best Things to Purchase This Winter (for next winter!)

The beginning of a new year is by and large the worst season for retail sales and consumer spending in general. Most people overspend during the holidays, just to end up holing up all winter due to bad weather and tighter finances.

If you managed to keep some of your extra money this winter, there are quite a few items that are cheaper at this time of the year as retailers try to entice consumers to buy. If you are in need of any of these items, now would be a great time to start looking.

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Holiday Items. Now is a great time to purchase holiday decor, gift wrap, cards, and more. Anything remotely related to the holidays is cleared out at ridiculously low prices. I purchased a few packs of Christmas cards to use next Christmas for $0.75-2.00, compared to $8-15 that you pay in late November/early December. I also purchased a small Christmas tree for a ridiculously low price.

Electronics. Brand name televisions go on super sale in February when new models get released, so if you’re in the market for one it’s a great thing to watch for.

Cars. Who wants to start their new vehicle off in the dirty, slushy winter? Well I do, if it means saving money. Not a lot of people are buying vehicles in the winter for just that reason, which means you have more leverage when you are negotiating price and financing. Personally, I don’t mind my car getting a little dirty in the winter. Even if you purchase in the spring instead, you are just delaying the inevitable weather you will eventually have to subject your vehicle to.

A home. People don’t like house shopping in winter. Not only is it tough to get around to look in the snow, you also can’t assess the yard as well. If it means you can shave even a few thousand dollars off of the price of a home, it’s worth looking now.

Furniture. My mom, an interior designer, has always told me how terrible January-March are for furniture sales. Sales reps are trying harder to make sales at this time and with new 2014 collections being released to stores in February, stores are looking to clear out their stock. All of which leads to better prices for the consumer!

Clothing. After the amazing boxing week sales, clothing seems to stay at discounted prices until it’s cleared out. Even though it’s the middle of winter, stores are already preparing for the spring and have started to put their winter collections on sale. So if you need a couple of pairs of jeans, sweaters, or other winter wear now is the time to look.

So if you have a bit of money saved up and have been waiting to get one of these big ticket items, get out there before the spring thaw and see what deals you can find.

How to Deal: Annoying Salespeople

I may be sounding more like a social pariah every day, but I do really enjoy shopping alone. It can be nice to occasionally have a friend along to bounce ideas off of or give a second opinion on an item I’m not sure I can pull off, but when it comes to shopping I like to get down to business alone. This way I can get into the stores, try on clothes, make quick decisions, and get out of the mall in reasonable time.

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Over the past year I’ve noticed sales associates starting conversations with me. A lot. Shopping alone has made me a bull’s eye for sales people looking to well, sell crap to. As a former sales associate I truly appreciate a warm smile and pleasant greeting. I always politely return it, but often find myself getting hounded by a sales person that can’t read my otherwise closed off body language that is saying I would prefer to be left alone. 99% of the time I tell them I am just browsing, and that seems to often translate into following me around the entire store, telling me about every item I pick up and the newest trends in stock. I’m not sure if that’s because I look so hip and fashionable that of course I would want to rock the latest trends, or because my frugality has started to make me look like a before picture on What Not to Wear.

If you find yourself in a situation in which a sales associate is trying to upsell you, there are some things you can do without resorting to rudeness.

 

  1. Use closed off body language. Do not make more eye contact than necessary and keep your body turned away from the sales associate whenever possible.
  1. Politely tell the employee you are just browsing. If the employee continues to ask questions or provide “helpful” information, let them know that you don’t need any help, but will find them when you do. Now you have not only given them a hint, but spelled it out clearly that you would like to be left alone. And by adding that you will find them again specifically, any commission vultures will be assured that they will still get the credit for the sale.
  1. If the above methods do not work: start asking them personal questions, doing the Harlem shake, making awkward jokes or something else a little out there to make them feel too awkward to stick around.
  1. The fail-proof method to avoid the annoying sales associate is online shopping. Lately I’ve been shopping online more because the prices are usually lower, shipping costs seem to be going down for me, and there are often awesome bonuses that you don’t get in store. (Sephora, I’m looking at you and your 3-free samples with purchase.)

At the end of the day it is good to remember that sales associates are trained to be too helpful to customers, so patience and politeness is key, even when you find yourself growing frustrated with all of the unwanted attention. First world problems, am I right?

Do you find yourself feeling hounded by sales associates? Are we just becoming more accustomed to virtual shopping experiences, making traditional shopping methods seem more intrusive to us?

Shocking Spends Of 2013

With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would review some of my spending over the year. It’s funny how there were surprises even though I diligently tracked every penny. Every buy seems to make sense in the moment but then you look back and you’re like… ugh. Jk I wasn’t that bad.

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I broke down categories into per week or per month spending, and calculated it as a percentage of my gross income for the year ($65,000). I’m optimistically using my gross income here because even though I paid five-figures in taxes, I’ll be able to get a fat income tax return thanks to RRSP contributions and tuition credits.

$3,000 on Dining Out ($58 per week, 4.6% of my income)

Uh? I figured we’d get the worst out of the way first, so this is how much I spent at restaurants in 2013. The fact that I ate $3,000 is a bit hard to swallow (ha!) but when I see it as $58/wk I have a better idea where my money has gone. I officially regret every day I was too lazy to pack my lunch and bought $7 mac & cheese instead.

$1,172 on Alcohol ($23 per week, 1.8% of my income)

I freaked out when I first saw this number until I calculated on a weekly basis. I went out most Friday and Saturday nights in 2013 (and some Wednesdays and Thursdays too) so an average of $23/wk of alcohol spending is more a testament to frugality than excess. Or at least emphasizes how cost-effective pre-drinking at home truly is. Some alcohol spending, like wine with dinner, is rolled into the “Dining Out” category above. Whether that’s for better or worse is hard to say.

$465 on Coffee ($9 per week, 0.7% of my income)

For how much it feels like I spend on coffee, this figure was much lower than expected — though Christmas 2012 did start me off with over $80 of Starbucks gift cards. I should feel bad about this because of the latte factor and all, but… I just don’t. Would I rather have $465 in the bank than 2-3 coffees per week? No. No, I would never want that.

$3,600 on New Clothes ($300 per month, 5.5% of my income)

Well, I hope I enjoyed this because I am essentially banned from clothing spending for at least the first quarter of 2013. I don’t really have any justification for why I dumped $3,600 on new clothes in 2013, frittering away $300 per month is a little bit insane. I know where all this is though: when I open my closet, almost everything was purchased in the past 12 months. I have no idea why I felt I needed an entire wardrobe overhaul this year, but apparently I did. However, I cannot afford this idiocy year after year so I’ll be wearing everything until it wears out.

$400 on Make-up ($33 per month, 0.6% of my income)

This is about what I expected. I have narrowed my make-up spending down to a collection of favourites, and I just buy them as they run out. Since every item I use (primer, blush, mascara) is roughly $30 apiece, replacing one per month seems right on track. Proportional to my income, my vanity is hardly a drain on resources and I’d like to keep it this way.

$850 on Car Rentals ($71 per month, 1.3% of my income)

I included this one because it’s so shockingly positive! I’ve been car-less for nearly a decade and I’m so happy to see the payoff! This represents both rental fees and fuel costs. I almost can’t believe how low this figure is, especially since I’ve been hopping in a car2go 2-3x a week since moving to Calgary. I’m really pleased my transportation expenses are this low, when some people are spending even more than $650 every month for their vehicle.

Other Surprising Numbers:

 

iTunes took $305 from me in 2013! $80 of this was movie rentals, the rest was music and apps.

 

Of my total clothing spending, $538 of it was at Anthropologie. And despite my enthusiasm for American Apparel, I only spent $150 there this past year.

 

In all of 2013, I only spent $68 at McDonald’s (and since $35 of this was me treating 4 friends the day after my birthday party, I REALLY don’t spend anything at McDonald’s)

 

$350 of my coffee spending was at Starbucks =x

 

I spent less than $150 on books for the whole year!

 

$750 of my hard earned dollars went to concert and event tickets.

 

And I spent $600 on gifts for other people.

 

So that’s where my variable spending went! Other costs this year included debt repayment, tuition, and furniture for my new apartment, but there was nothing “shocking” about any of those — especially since they’re essentially one-time expenses, whereas every other spending category here is recurring.

Any surprises when you looked back on your spending for 2013? Anything you’ll be doing differently in 2014?

Frugal Fashion: bundle up on a budget considering cost-per-use

I think technically the first day of winter is December 21st, but if you live as far north as me, you know that the cold has already been here for awhile. I make a concerted effort not to break out my winter jacket until November 1st — it’s a mental game I play so the season feels shorter than it really is — and I kind of love that moment when I finally put it on and get to be so toasty and warm again. This happiness last through the holidays until about the second week for January, at which point I kind of feel done with winter and want the cold to stop (4-5 months later, I get my wish).

This year I’m happy to report my Burton snowboard jacket I purchased 6 years ago is still going strong. I did, however, buy some winter boots this year. I thought I could get away with some really thick socks in my Hunter wellies. However, now that there’s snow on the ground again and temperatures are dipping below -20C (-4F), my feet were freezing in rubber boots. I lasted all of two really cold days before purchasing a pair of Sorel Joan of Arctic boots. My quality of life has literally improved ten-fold as I am no longer risking frostbite for each of my toes on a daily basis.

As far as winter gear goes, my advice would be to splurge on a quality jacket and snow boots, and then save on everything else.

My Essential Winter Gear:

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 1. TNA Dalles hat, Aritzia $40 / 2. Canada Goose parka, Amazon, $650 / 3. Knit scarf, H&M $13 / 4. Talula Fulton mittens, Aritzia $12 / 5. Sorel Joan of Arctic boots, Amazon, $112(I paid $200 retail from a local store because a) CAN/US exchange rate, b) shipping c) needed them IMMEDIATELY)

The Talula mittens pictured above may be the best thing that’s ever happened to my hands in winter. At $12 a pair, they’re super affordable, but their quality is also outstanding. Knit on the outside, they’re fleece-lined inside so they are SUPER warm. Furthermore, they’re really easy to take care of: I spill coffee on mine probably every day, so at the end of the week I throw them in with the laundry and they come out good as new. Love! As for the other items pictured, I’ve amassed an excellent collection of scarves from H&M in my time (I’m also partial to circle scarves from American Apparel) and my TNA knit cap (different than the one pictured) is a staple in my hipster wardrobe. I’m not warm unless my head is covered! Long live the toque!

 I realize I’m going to get some trouble for calling this a “frugal fashion” post, then listing expensive items, but I don’t think spending $850 on a good jacket + winter boots is unreasonable.

(maybe I just really don’t like to be cold!)

When purchasing good winter gear, you should be doing so with the expectation that you will get a few years use out of it. Like I said, my Burton winter jacket (valued at $600 new) is on its sixth winter. If you divide the purchase price over the number of years of use, the price becomes a lot more manageable. For example, I don’t see any reason why my new Sorel boots won’t last at least 4 years. At $200 over 4 years, that’s a cost of only $50 per year. Since I will wear them daily for approximately 5 months per year, that’s a total of 600 days of wear which makes their cost-per-use only $0.66.

Am I willing to pay $0.66 per walk to the train station at -20C? You betcha.

On the other hand, opting for cheap winter gear — say $80 boots or a $150 jacket — that you need to replace annually will ultimately cost you more over the long run. Not to mention cheap stuff can generally be relied upon to wear out faster, defeating the purpose of owning it in the first place.

How To Save Money on Winter Clothes:

- buy accessories like mittens and toques during big sales like Boxing Day. Because these items are small and usually add-ons to big purchases, they end up super-discounted to entice buyers.

- coupon! The main reason I was able to score a high-quality expensive winter jacket is because I found a 25%-off coupon for the store. I went on a sale day and my discount was doubled. My Burton jacket had a $600 price tag but I actually paid half of that!

- buy online. As you can see, the Amazon US offers some better deals than Amazon Canada, like my Sorel boots. If you can find something at a great price on the internet and can wait out the shipping, it’s a great buy.

Stay warm out there, guys!

Is Pinterest a Consumerist Trap?

Pinterest is one of those super popular social media platforms that can be a complete time suck if you allow it to be. You were supposed to be at your friend’s house five minutes ago but you logged in to check out the latest pins and black-out browsed for the last hour and a half. Truthfully, I enjoy a good Pinterest spree every once in awhile. My mother has developed a full-fledged Pinterest obsession which I feel partially to blame for since introducing it to her last year.

Beautiful travel photography, delicious cake recipes, cosmetics, interior design, and trendy fashion photography can be easy to get caught up in and stare at for much longer than is probably healthy.

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I’ve been wondering for ages if Pinterest is really a healthy place to go for someone trying to stick to a budget.

There seem to be two camps of thought about Pinterest. On one side, there are people that believe that Pinterest pushes consumerism in a society already chock-full of people going into debt to buy themselves a lot of stuff. You seen an awesome mullet dress (Short front, long back. I just love the term.) that you didn’t know about until two minutes ago but CANNOT live one day longer without. I don’t purchase magazines anymore and I find myself so out of the fashion loop that Pinterest is now how I learn about what’s hip with the young folks these days. Pinterest teaches you what you should want to buy. Only the strongest of wills can stand steadfast in the resolve to stick with a reasonable clothing and decor budget for the month.

Conversely, others think that Pinterest is an anti-consumerist tool that can stop people from making unnecessary purchases. This is done through choosing images, brands, items, products, etc. online, instead of in-store. You can create a Pinboard of designer sunglasses you love, for example, and through pinning them feel you have acquired them in some way. You still get the feeling of excitement of choosing an item without the act of purchasing it.

Both arguments could have some validity, but an anti-consumerist tool Pinterest is not –

although Pinterest potentially stops you from purchasing some items, it doesn’t exactly stop the consumerism, just reroutes it to a digital form instead of physical.

You may splurge and break your budget, or feel very deprived. I live in the middle of nowhere, so shopping isn’t much of an option for me. Pinterest is something I use mostly as a virtual recipe book while I browse the internet. I try not to go onto Pinterest itself too much, because that is where the temptations seem to be. If you are a current or former shopping addict that finds it hard to resist purchases, maybe Pinterest isn’t the best platform to use. If you love Pinterest too much to say goodbye, here is a brilliant solution: surf anti-consumerism Pinterest boards exclusively.

Do you think that Pinterest makes people spend more money, or less?