Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Champagne taste on a Pabst budget

A smart and chic guide to holiday e-shopping


Like most college students my age, I have currently found myself in the awkward financial situation where my part time job can afford me a bit of luxe, but unfortunately cannot sustain the impact of numerous pricey Christmas gifts for my family and boyfriend.
90% of the time I never pay full price for anything, whether it be weekly groceries or a new Marc Jacobs bag. This is because I cannot click "purchase" without knowing full out that what I am about to spend my hard earned money on, is not available cheaper someplace else. You may consider me a cheapskate or a bit OCD, but I like to think of it as a part of the "smart shopping sense" that has been engraved into my soul since childhood, by my frugal-to-a-fault mother. 
For the next two weeks or so, I know I will be bombarded with a myriad of emails titled something along the lines of, SALE SALE SALE from all my favorite online shopping haunts. I also know that both the lure of these supposed amazing deals, paired with the guilt I will be feeling about purchasing the perfect holiday gifts for my family will begin eating away at my strong will (and wallet), thus I will indeed be buying something(s) in the near future. 
To cope with the eustress and regular old stress this time of year's shopping almost always brings forth, I have set aside a few ground rules and gift ideas that will hopefully keep this Christmas budget friendly and bountiful at the same time. 

1) Technology is your friend (and foe). If your find yourself ogling over, let's say, a Kate Spade iphone case for your sister at Bloomingdales, don't hesitate to use Google's shopping engine to see if there is a better deal available someplace else. Once in a while, third party coupon sites offer valid discount codes but these primarily are not the most reliable. ShopStyle.com is my favorite site to do designer shopping comparisons on. This site is basically the holy grail for finding specific designer items at the cheapest price possible, but from reputable stores only. Reputable is key, because while Amazon and Ebay may claim to have that same Kate Spade phone case for $5, most of the time if you read into the buyer comments, you will see that many come from disappointed shoppers who seriously doubt the legitimacy of their item. No one wants a knock-off under the tree!

2) Get the most bang for your buck. You cannot go wrong with gift sets. For two reasons; one-gift sets make the recipient feel like they have received multiple gifts from you (bonus points!), and two-because gift sets contain multiple items, there is a better chance that at least one of those items will be to the liking of the recipient. The major down side to gifts like these, however, are that they sometimes can be a huge rip off. To avoid this, I suggest inquiring about the value and general user satisfaction of the individual products before buying. Also, when it comes to the ever popular cosmetics set, always check out the size of the products first, to make sure you are not paying out the nose for sample sized cosmetics. The set I am thinking will be a great gift to my fashionable friend is this gift set from Sephora.com that offers three very wearable Stila cosmetic staples, as well as a basically identical full-sized clutch from designer CC SKYE. The clutch is sold out all over the web and retails for upwards of $175. So paying $50 for the clutch makes the Stila makeup seem like an amazing added bonus. 

3) Make it add up, for you that is. These days, to get consumers in and buying, many large retailers have begun to use point programs or purchase based coupon incentives as a part of their holiday marketing strategies. These programs allow you to receive a little bonus yourself for making the purchases you probably planned on making any ways. Sephora has its own point program, called Beauty Insider that allows members to rack up points for every purchase that can eventually be traded in for a pretty decent present for yourself. Sephora offers this all year long. For the holiday season, Saks Fifth Avenue is offering a program where for every $250 — $499 purchase, you can receive a $25 Saks gift card. You can earn up to $400 in Saks gift cards. All you have to do is enter the code "DEC2012" at checkout with qualifying purchase. These are just a few of the many offers out there right now that do not require a store credit card to be taken advantage of. This way, you get a little something in return for all your hard shopping work and research!

Don't let holiday shopping get the best of you, with these tips in mind, you can now shower your loved ones in luxurious gifts without landing your self on the naughty list for doing so. 
Happy Holidays! 

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