Story last updated at 12/17/2008 - 4:40 pm
For the same reason recovering alcoholics should stay away from their old drinking buddies and reformed convicts aren't allowed to associate with former partners in crime, an erstwhile shopping fanatic should avoid after-Thanksgiving retail therapy with her old mall-hopping gang.
Of course, I'm referring to myself.
I went back home to Omaha for Thanksgiving and fell right back in with my mother, aka the credit card queen.
We started at 5 a.m. and hit the smallest of what my family refers to as "the big malls." Two of my aunts were waiting for us when we got there with a new member of the gang, my 18-year-old cousin. Her birthday was a few days prior and she had a wad of money burning a hole in her pocket.
Although I spent more than I planned to, (I really hadn't set out to shop at all so any amount was more than I'd budgeted.) I realized that there was a method to their madness.
Aunt Shelagh had scanned the newspaper the night before and knew about all the giveaways and deep discounts. We each got a $5 debit card for doing something holiday-related on camera, i.e. sing a carol or share an item on our Christmas list.
A few stores were handing out free tree ornaments and others had drawings for big-ticket items such as TVs, cars and trips as well as gift cards.
Everyone had specific gifts in mind and we coordinated so that we didn't retrace our steps.
But the youngest member of the group had the best advice.
She'd stumbled upon a Web site called The Budget Fashionista that offers tips on bargains, fashion, etc. I checked it out and found a pal. Who doesn't want to look good for less?
According to the site, Kathryn (no last name) has been doling out advice on how to achieve high style at low prices for five years. Her top five budget shopping tips:
Know what looks good on you. Just because it looks great in a magazine doesn't mean it will look great on you. Be honest with yourself about your body. It will save you time and money.
Know the names of sales associates. Sales associates are a great source of information on upcoming sales and have access to Friends and Family coupons, which offer up to an additional 25 percent off store merchandise. Some might even let you use their employee discounts.
Leave the debit and credit cards at home. Paying with cash gives you an instant visual indication of how much you're spending.
Head to the outlet malls. Shopping at the outlets of your favorite stores and designers can save you a bundle.
Remember the 70/30 rule. Fashionistas with limited budgets should follow the 70/30 rule: 70 percent of your closet should be classic pieces, 30 percent trendy pieces. Go as cheap as possible on trendy items because they have a short closet lifespan; purchase these pieces at stores such as Target, Forever 21, Bluefly, Urban Outfitters, etc. Go designer on classic pieces such as black suits (Tahari, Donna Karan), coats (Burberry, Max Mara), evening (Armani, Tim and Linda Platt, Carmen Marc Valvo) and purses (Coach, Longchamp, Marc Jacobs).
Arlinda Smith Broady is business editor of the Savannah Morning News. She can be reached at 652-0314 or arlinda.broady@ savannahnow.com.