Saving Tips

2 July 2013

The temperatures may be up this summer, but the prices are definitely down. At least that’s the case for some must-buy products.

Word to the wise: shopping at sales doesn’t make you a penny pincher or a bitterly frugal buyer — it makes you a well-dressed shopinista who’s financially savvy. And honestly, who doesn’t want to be labeled as such? Check out our list of the best things to buy for summer 2013 and then shop ’til you drop.


Have you ever been so bored it feels like the second hand on the clock has reduced to a fraction of its normal speed? So bored that you’d rather be back in Calculus 101 just to have something to do? That’s kind of how jewelry store employees across the nation feel right now. Very few people have incentive to buy, as the summer is smack dab between the “jewelry buying seasons” that are Christmas and Mother’s Day. In an effort to increase sales and get revenue rolling, you’ll find lots of drool-worthy sales at jewelry stores throughout the city and online. Stock up on gifts for the year or treat yourself to something fabulous. You deserve it after trekking through the hot smog.

Broadway Tickets

What better way to escape the hot outdoors than by cooling off in an air conditioned theater? Right now and through the end of summer, you’ll find Broadway tickets at up to half off the standard price. Why? There are less tourists in the city (they’re off splashing around on the beach) and no theater wants to put on a show for an empty house.

Hot Weather Clothing

From flip flops to bikinis to breezy maxi skirts, teeny tanks and beyond, July, August and even September are the months to buy summer duds. Anyone familiar with the fashion industry is all too familiar with the always forward-thinking sales floors. I mean, we’re already talking about summer 2014 collections, so anything that’s currently in-season is soon to be pushed out the door. Buy all your summer necessities now — and snag some goods for next year’s hot season — now that prices are reduced.

Office Supplies

OK, so this category may not qualify as a glamorous purchase, but everyone needs office supplies. As back to school specials go into high gear, start thinking about the items you need around your home office and load up. Post-It Notes, pens, notebooks and even high tech gadgets such as tablets, laptops and e-readers will go on sale through August.


While sunglasses should be worn year round, their peak buying season is undoubtedly early through mid summer. Starting toward the middle of July and through late summer (even into fall), though, you’ll find sunglasses from various brands hitting the “sale rack,” so to speak. I recommend shopping for sunglasses in person since you’ll be able to try them on and determine which styles work best for your face. However, if you find a killer deal online, swoop those babies up if you suspect they’ll be a good fit!


If you’re a vino lover, mid July through August is the best time to buy your favorite bottles — or to try something new — for a lower price. Thanks to the impending fall harvest and all those new releases that will hit shelves shortly thereafter, wineries run sales on this, and last, season’s harvested wine. Note that many wineries also offer discounts if you buy by the case instead of per bottle.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Posted by Wendy Rose Gould at 08:30 AM
Opinions , Saving Tips , SHOPPING |

11 April 2013

What to Buy in Spring: Hot Deals in April, May and June

It’s no secret that things go on sale. In fact, sales are a large portion of what this site covers on a daily basis. But here’s a little something I’ll let you in on: there’s a method to the sale madness. In other words, every brand and every store that hosts a sale has very specific reasons for slashing its prices.

The ultimate goal of a sale is to entice customers into buying products, moving product off the shelves (be they virtual or otherwise) at a much faster rate. This isn’t just a ploy to make money faster — it’s to help make room for new goods, which are constantly being created, purchased, shipped and prepped for selling. It’s also to help move products that aren’t exactly hot purchases at that time (e.g. sweaters are super cheap during spring).

Learning when sales happen is the best way to save yourself money. For example, luggage typically goes on sale during mid-winter, after the Christmas travel rush and before spring and summer getaways. As a result, manufacturers and retailers mark prices way down. So if you had a trip planned for this June and needed luggage, the best time to buy would’ve been a few months ago.

Anyway, today I’m helping you with your shopping research by highlighting a few smart buys for the months of April, May and June. Buy now, even if you won’t need the items until fall or winter.

Cleaning/Organizational Supplies

Okay, it’s not very glamorous, but cleaning/organizational supplies go hand-in-hand with spring. Because everyone and her mother does spring cleaning at this time of year (particularly in April and May), there’s some major competition for brands selling this type of merchandise. Check online for discounts and coupons and pick up your Sunday paper for the coupon inserts. You’ll find loads of high value coupons on your basic cleaning supplies, storage bins, shoe organizers and garment bags.

Second Hand Shops

Whether you shop at high end consignment stores or scrounge through the mass of apparel and home necessities at thrift shops, spring is definitely the time to buy second hand goods. Because people are cleaning and organizing, they’re unloading a lot of the items they just don’t use anymore. Let their “trash” become your treasure. Case in point: I found a pair of Gucci strappy sandals for $25 at my local boutique consignment shop a few days ago (sadly, not my size). Also try eBay if you don’t mind playing the bidding game.

Athletic Apparel

Many serious athletes (and those who vowed to lose weight at the new year) have already purchased their athletic apparel for the year. That means it isn’t moving off the shelves as quickly as many manufacturers would prefer. Slow sales translate to hot deals on sneakers, sports bras, yoga pants and fitness equipment over the next few months.

Last Year’s Summer Necessities

There may be slim pickings, but if you’re willing to sift through last year’s summer necessities, I highly recommend doing so. Last year’s summer products — including garden supplies, lawn furniture, grills and even 2012 summer apparel and shoes — are seriously discounted right now because they simply have to go. Keep an eye on fliers from stores such as Home Depot, Lowes and Target for door buster prices on these items.

Spring/Summer Hosting Goods

If you’re planning any sort of dinner, spring fling, neighborhood grill party or similar, shop now for items such as napkins, condiments, dressings, plastic wear and even serving trays or dishes. I recommend buying bulk on the items you can (napkins and plastic utensils, for example) while prices are low. You’ll save money and have items to last you through the hosting season.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Posted by Wendy Rose Gould at 08:00 AM
Opinions , Saving Tips , SHOPPING |

28 March 2013

What’s a Mystery Box?

Not to be confused with beauty boxes, which send you sample or medium-sized products via a monthly subscription, mystery boxes are exactly what they sound like: “surprise me” packages.

Essentially, you pay $X for a “mystery box” or “mystery bag” and the company sends you one or more items valued at more than what you paid. The items included are typically excess inventory that the company wants to move off their virtual shelves, creating a sort of win-win for both parties. In short: the buyer gets a good deal and the company makes way for new stock.

Companies That Sell Them

For example, ModCloth recently offered up a “mystery shoe” and “mystery garment” option on their website for $15 each. Instead of adding a specific item to your cart, you added the “mystery item,” specified your size and headed to check out. A week or so later, buyers got a package at their door with absolutely no idea what was nestled inside. All “mystery bag” buyers know is that the item is worth more than what they paid for (the ModCloth item retailed between $30 and $300, for example), which definitely makes for a fun mail day.

Of course, ModCloth isn’t the only company participating in the mystery bag bonanza. Companies such as Old Navy, Burt’s Bees, Julep Maven, JewelMint and BaubleBar — even sellers on Amazon, eBay and Etsy — have offered their own renditions.

Sometimes it’s a mystery item they’ll throw in with $X spent on other items. Other times it’s an actual gift card. For example, Victoria’s Secret is currently offering a “free secret reward card” with every $10 online purchase that’s valued between $10 and $500. These are essentially incentives to spend more.

Victoria's Secret $75 Secret Reward Card

Personal Experiences

I’m not going to lie. I find the whole thing very enticing. There’s something about scoring a good deal and getting a surprise in your mailbox that makes me want to jump on the “mystery box” train trend and never get off. And yes, I did buy the ModCloth mystery garment box offered last week.

The day it showed up on my doorstep was an exciting one and I could barely wait until company left to tear the box open. Inside was an adorable dress, titled the “Helsinki Prom Dress,” with a black tulle bottom and stretchy black top. Perfect for an evening soiree. The only problem? When I tried it on it was too small. I had specified a size medium and received a size small.

I spoke to another woman, Chicago resident and lifestyle blogger Michelle Shea Walker, who partook in the ModCloth mystery bag surprise, as well. Her results? “It was a dress that just wasn’t really my style, so I gave it away on a contest on my blog,” she told me. She also said the fit wasn’t flattering to her coloring or her figure. “I’d do it again just for the fun if budget allowed. It’s kind of exciting waiting for the surprise.”

It’s not always a sour experience, though. For example, a blogger at TheSwatchingSprite (a nail polish blog), purchased a mystery box from Julep Maven. “You’d pay $19.99 for a box that could contain anything from $60-$200…worth of products,” she writes. “I thought it would be fun to participate. I ordered my box within a couple of hours of them announcing it.” The verdict? Amazing, according to her. “The first thing I saw was the $120 gift card jumping out at me! Before I could look any further, I was running into the other room to wave my certificate in front of my husband’s face.” She also received a plethora of satisfactory products.

Is It Worth Your Money?

This all brings me to my next point. These mystery boxes are a gamble. If you don’t like the item or it doesn’t fit, in most cases you’re S.O.L.

You buy. They ship. End of story.

In my specific case, because ModCloth had sent the wrong size when I specified a medium, I did get a refund and got to keep the dress. If they had sent the right size and it didn’t fit, though, I would have a dress that didn’t fit and a bank account with a $15 debit. That’s not the kind of surprise I like.

When it comes down to it, is the element of surprise worth it to you? You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love surprises, but there’s always the argument that you could spend the same $15 on a discounted product you picked out yourself. And is the reason these items are being sent off for at least half their price because they’re bad sellers? Or off trend and out of season?

If you’ve had any mystery bag experiences, please share them in the comment section here or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear both positive and negative experiences.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Posted by Wendy Rose Gould at 09:00 AM
bargain news , Insights , Opinions , Saving Tips , SHOPPING , Shopping News , Tips Guides |

12 February 2013

You are An Actor on Life's Stage: Don't Just Buy Clothes, Invest in Your Brand

How many times have you gone to your favorite retailer to try on clothes? And how many times have you wondered to yourself, “Is this a wise purchase?” Now, how many times did you go ahead with the purchase, despite your better judgement, only to have said garment(s) linger in the murky depths of your wardrobe, tags still attached?

Any woman who enjoys shopping has likely been in that predicament, myself included. And the same old tune plays over and over again. You keep telling yourself you’ll put it on; that you’ll finally wear it out of the house. But every time you throw it over your head or zip it up, it just doesn’t “feel right” and back to the closet it goes.

The biggest culprit of the “dress destined to gather dust in your closet”? The discount rack.

Getting a killer deal feels great, but understand this: Even if you’re saving 75% on that Michael Kors pant or DVF frock, you’re actually wasting money if you never wear it.

So how does a bargain loving fashionista amend her ingrained shopping habits? By understanding — and investing in — her personal brand.

Think of your closet as actors’ garb. Who are you? What is the message you want to convey to the world? Once you can answer those questions (which does require thoughtful, inward contemplation), you’re better equipped to plan your wardrobe.

The clothing and accessories that a business woman in her late 40s wears should reflect the fact that she's an established, successful woman who's self assured.

Take, for example, “Sarah,” a figurative business woman in her late 40s who works in a corporate setting and recently back in the dating market. The clothing and accessories that “Sarah” wears should reflect the fact that she’s an established, successful woman who’s self assured. Because she’s single and hoping to meet a winsome partner at the cafe, happy hour or otherwise, “Sarah” would benefit from wearing clothing that’s (tactfully) inviting.

A single, early 30s woman would do well with a wardrobe full of fresh patterns and prints.

“Maggie” serves as another illustration. She’s a single, early 30s woman who makes roughly 75k a year and lives in a Manhattan studio apartment. She works in a fast-paced, new media setting and devours fashion blogs (alongside garden fresh salads) on her lunch break. In order to convey her spritely spirit and passion for fashion, “Maggie” would do well with a wardrobe full of fresh patterns and prints, the season’s hottest colors and enough statement accessories to sate her style needs.

See how both women can still be on trend and in the style know, but each have their own distinct personal brand?

Planning a wardrobe does take time, but the effort pays off both financially and in terms of your personal brand. Start by accumulating a set of wardrobe must-haves (basics you know you’ll wear often), along with accessories that speak to your personal aesthetic. Then, whenever you shop, ask yourself the following questions: Does this convey who I am? When and where will I wear this outfit? Do I have the appropriate accessories/pieces at home to create an outfit with this garment?

If you can answer all those questions easily, buy it. Buy it because it speaks to your personal brand and not because it’s on sale or because you feel like spending money.

By following the above steps, you’ll create an enviable wardrobe that ensures you’ll have something to wear for all occasions. The best part? You’ll save money along the way, even if you do make a few big splurges.

Tip: go through your closet to get rid of anything you haven’t worn — or will not wear — in 18 months. Donate these items, sell them or return them to the store if possible. Designate that money to your “new purchases” fund.

You are An Actor on Life's Stage: Don't Just Buy Clothes, Invest in Your Brand

By Wendy Rose Gould

Posted by Wendy Rose Gould at 07:30 AM
bargain news , Opinions , Saving Tips , SHOPPING , Your Style |

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