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How To Survive A Shopping Trip

“Shopping is my cardio.” – Carrie Bradshaw

Ah, shopping – the sport of champions! Browsing the extensive high street or a brightly-lit shopping center, fondling beautiful garments, trying things on and finally making a purchase or two – who doesn’t love to shop? Unfortunately, what would otherwise be a blissful afternoon at the shops can often descend into chaos thanks to bombing energy levels, snooty sales assistants and weary boyfriends. Here are ten steps to help you make the most of your spree!

Plan
It’s always best to go shopping with a plan. Knowing exactly what you want to buy before you’ve left the house will ensure that you come back with things you actually want and need, rather than a collection of inappropriate impulse buys! Do a bit of research prior to your trip. Look in magazines and on the net to determine what’s in the shops at the moment, and whether or not you’re likely to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes it can be better to wait until the sales, or scour online boutiques instead, as things can be found cheaper online. Shop Style round up thousands of new items every week to make finding what you want a little easier, and Look has masses of information for high street shoppers.

Dress
Trying on armfuls of clothes in each and every shop on the high street can be quite tiring, and will be particularly exhausting if you’ve adorned yourself with too many layers and a ton of accessories. Dress for the occasion – that means clothes that are easy to get in and out of! Start with good underwear, then throw on something fuss-free, like a dress with an oversized cardigan and comfortable slip-on shoes. Don’t forget to stash any specific items – say, a particular pair of evening shoes if you’re shopping for a party dress, – into your bag, and make your bag a practical one, such as a cross-body bag. This will leave your hands free for rummaging through the rails!

Time
It’s hard to have a stress-free splurge when the shops as busy – Saturday afternoons in particular are an absolute nightmare! Do a little experimentation and determine when your local shops are at their quietest. Weekday lunchtimes can be busy with office workers, and at the weekend, high streets up and down the country are taken over by families with small children! Some cities and shopping centers offer late night shopping – often up to 9 or even 10pm – which is always a great option. If you can, try not to make any plans for the rest of the day – you could be out for a while and you don’t want to be rushing around if you have somewhere to be that evening. Put aside the whole day for a shopping trip whenever possible!

Eat
Before you go, eat a light but filling breakfast that will provide you with slow-releasing energy – something like porridge, a banana, or Marmite on toast! There’s plenty of walking and heavy lifting (of carrier bags!) to be done today. It’s important not to overeat because when you’re trying on clothes, it’s absolutely crucial to get a good idea of how they will fit and buy the correct size. If you’re planning an all-day trip and want to look for lots of different things, hunt for clothes first, then you can break for lunch, and do shoes and accessories afterwards when you’re full. You just can’t try on jeans or dresses with a bloated tummy! The sizing won’t be right and you’ll have to give up your mission only to return another day. Sad face!

Company
Some people like to shop with friends, but others absolutely need to be alone, with no distractions. (I’m part of the latter camp!) Shopping alone means you don’t have to feel guilty about going in one particular shop but skipping another, and you can go about everything in your own time. And when it comes to your boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other, I say: leave them at home! I often see hapless men dragging their heels as they trail along behind their partners, and it seems so pointless to me. If they really don’t want to be there, why force them?! If you simply can’t bear to shop alone, take someone who you know will have time for you and whose opinion you really trust – your mother, your sister, or a good, honest friend.

Budget
You’ve put on your most comfortable pair of shoes, made a list of what you’re in the market for, decided who to take with you (if anyone), and you’re ready to hit the shops! There’s just one last thing to do before you go – make a budget! I think all of us know how easy it is to walk into a shop full of colourful, tactile, beautiful things that we decide we absolutely must have, only to return home and realise that we’ve blown our budget on things we didn’t really want or need. Set yourself a spending limit – either as an overall total or per item – and remember that you get what you pay for. Although it’s not always true that expensive = better, it is definitely worth checking the fabric content and craftsmanship of each piece.

Fit
Try on everything! I cannot stress this enough. Even if you’ve been a size 10 in Topshop for the past five years, all clothes are cut differently. It’s essential that you try on each and every garment – no excuses! Also, there’s a reason why they put stools in changing rooms, and it’s not just for somewhere to balance your handbag while you undress. Sit down a few times in what you have on and see if it’s still comfortable. Trousers and jeans in particular can feel fine when you’re standing up, but too tight around the middle when you sit down. Take a bit of a wander round, stride up and down the walkway of the changing room, and see how it all feels. Stand far back from the mirror and observe the clothes as best you can.

Photograph
A lot of people seem to be doing this now that smartphones and digital cameras have become so widely available – throw a camera into your bag before you leave the house, and then take photographs of your potential purchases in the changing room mirror. That way, if you’re really unsure about an item, you can go away and think about it overnight, or for a whole week if you need to. And if you didn’t take a friend shopping with you (as per step 5!), you can simply show them the picture to get an all-important second opinion. It’s also handy for documenting product codes, so that you can look something up on the shop’s website when you get home – or straight away, if you have wi-fi! Magic!

Beware!
Fashion brands want your custom and have many clever ways to entice you into spending your hard-earned moolah at their store – “get it before it’s gone” sections which lead to panic buying, slimming mirrors and flattering lights that make you look like a goddess in every single garment you try on, and spectacularly styled mannequins sporting looks that you immediately want to emulate. Remember what it is that you’re shopping for, stay focused, and watch out for consumer traps. Also, beware the crafty shop assistant! Though she may be showering you with compliments and talking to you as if you’re her BFF, her only job is to sell. Graciously soak up the praise, but make up your own mind at the end of the session.

Buy
You’ve steered your way through the crowds and tried on something that caught your eye – at last, it’s time to make a purchase! Remember to only buy the things that you love, not just like! There’s a big difference between picking something up and going “Mmm, it’s oh-kay,” and slipping into something fabulous, looking at yourself in the changing room mirror and gawping at your reflection! Ask yourself if you’re just being drawn in by neon lights, elegant mannequins and smiley salespeople, or whether you really adore the item in question. If you’re unsure, make a mental note of what you’ve seen, wander round some other shops, and if you still want that lustworthy garment at the end of the day, you can go back and buy it. Yay!

What are your tips for having a stress-free shopping trip?

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