10 Helpful Tips for a More Successful Shopping Experience

Last updated Aug 12, 2018 | Published on Sep 5, 2017 | Decorating, Organizing, Tutorial

Have you ever taken an online “What type of shopper are you?” quiz?

Well, I have.

According to Dave Ramsey, there are 6 types of shoppers. I fall somewhere between a ‘Researcher’ and a ‘Woman on a Mission.’ Other quizzes have pegged me as a ‘Reluctant’ or ‘Lone Wolf’ shopper.

Clearly, I’m not into ambling when I shop.

I waste no time, especially when looking for items for my home. I’ll search for ideas, laster in on what I want, then dig deep for the best deal.

For those reasons, shopping, for me, is a practice best done online.

Whether online or local, the truth is that I’ve shopped more in the last 2 years than in the previous 20.

So, I’ve accumulated a lot of information about what worked and what didn’t along the way. The following is a summary (all links are non-affiliate), and I’ve also included a list of my favorite vendors at the end.

I hope all the tips help you in your shopping expeditions!

By the way, if you are interested in exactly where I found everything (well, almost everything) for my own entire house, visit the Tour my House page. 

1. What's your Budget?

No, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know! Personally, I like budgeting probably because I have a love for spreadsheets. But I digress…

I am not here to preach or even teach you about budgets (that may come later, the teaching). But, the topic must be mentioned.

Before you shop, I suggest you have a good idea about how much you’re willing to spend.

10 shopping tips

2. Love it or Leave it

Don’t buy it unless you LOVE it, unless it’s a purely functional item.

And if it’s purely functional, be sure that you love how it functions.

Every time I’m waffling about a purchase, I stop and ask myself whether I LOVE it. I can’t tell you how many things I put back once I ask the question.

10 shopping tips

3. Look for the Best Deal

It’s surprising how often you can find the same thing, or almost the same thing, at a better price with another vendor.

But you have to look.

If you’re shopping online, you can search a few different ways

  • I use Google search if I’m looking for something specific.
  • I tend to use Pinterest if I’m looking for ideas.

Shopping by Image

Quite often, you can find the exact same item under different names at different stores. Go figure.

So, if you search by the item name you won’t necessarily find all the instances of that product.

It sometimes helps if you search by image – instructions on how to search by Google image are here.

This type of search doesn’t always deliver, but it’s worth a try if you’re searching for something out of stock or perhaps (in your opinion) overpriced.

Shopping by Text

You can do a VERY pointed text search for almost anything on your browser. Both Google and Pinterest search parameters are quite amazing.

Be as specific as you want, the more specific the better.

My most recent search was for a ‘dark pink and green throw.’ The browser came back with a number of items (granted, not all of them fit). But the search did eventually land me on a product that I thought was pretty much perfect.

This is incredibly helpful if I don’t feel like going from favorite store to favorite store.

It’s also a great way to get ideas and you won’t even have to leave your easy chair.

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4. Pay Attention to Details

Before you purchase an item, pay attention to all the dimensions and the color.

Honestly, there were times when I got so excited that I came across exactly what I was looking for that I didn’t take the time to check.

About those measurements

Sometimes I saw the dimensions, I even really thought about them but didn’t realize (for instance) how small 2 inches REALLY is.

Sometimes you need to break out the ruler and double-check.

The problem with color

Not everyone has a color-calibrated or even very accurate display so if you don’t know how accurate yours is, the color is probably not quite right.

Also, not everyone takes color-balanced pictures.

So it’s kind of a crapshoot.

For some items, this matters a lot. For others, not at all.

If color is important in a particular item you’re considering, you could read the reviews to see if there’s a glaring problem in this area. You can also ask the question in the Customer Review section (usually).

Or just be prepared to return the item in case you have to.

10 shopping tips

5. Returns

Check out a vendor’s return policies before you buy. The policies should be easily found and clearly stated so you can review them.

Most vendors are reasonable

But not all.

Some vendors charge re-stocking fees. Almost all vendors will charge you return shipping costs unless the item was damaged. Amazon is an exception, but I have a disclaimer about them further down.

My story: I ordered a number of items from the Container Store (I love this store) and had to return a bunch of them. Because of the bulk, it was going to cost more to ship them back than it cost to buy them.

Luckily they have a store within driving distance where I was able to return them or I would have been out of luck.

Another sad story: In the case of my copper sink (read all about it here), I had to pay $262 for shipping and restocking fees. 😥

I return about 35% of my online purchases, most because the item looked different in real life than online, or the quality was different than I expected.

If your experience is similar to mine, expect your chances of having to return something are about 1 in 3.

Of course, you could be luckier than me, or maybe just a better shopper, but forewarned is forearmed in the case of ordering online.

Be careful with Amazon

Amazon, itself, has a great return policy for their own items, but there are a lot of vendors who ship through Amazon who do not.

I had a nightmare experience returning a couple of pillows to an Amazon vendor. It eventually worked out but I wished I had read their specific return policy. It was there, I just didn’t see it.

I assumed incorrectly that all Amazon vendors had Amazon’s great return policy. Not true.

So, my best advice about returns is

  • Be aware of your vendor’s policies.
  • Don’t purchase online items on speculation unless there’s a great return policy.
  • If you’re iffy about an item and the return policy isn’t a good one, skip it. There are other fish in the sea.
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6. Check Customer Reviews

There’s no great science here.

I’ve purchased items that had some bad reviews (almost every product has at least a few). But, I always check them out because there are things you can spot:

  • If the reviews are all or mostly 5 stars, you probably have a winner.
  • If there are more bad reviews than good, that’s a sign.
  • If a product is anything but a 5 star average, I’ll check the bad reviews to see if there’s a trend. Another sign.
10 shopping tips

7. Join Email Lists

Sign up for newsletters and email lists on sites where you’re interested in a product.

  • They will often send you a discount off your first order (Pottery Barn), or first 3 orders (Jet.com).
  • You’ll be the first to hear about sales and discounts.
  • They may offer other freebies that you’ll be interested in.

Hey – have you signed up for my freebie yet? Please do – click here.

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8. Etsy Tips

Not all Etsy vendors are created equal.

I love a lot of the vendors on Etsy (click here for my favorites), but some are very easy to deal with (I call them Professionals) and some are not (I call them Hobbyists).

Professionals turn everything around quickly.
Hobbyists tend not to be as responsive and are much slower with shipments and delivery.

To spot a hobbyist, or someone who may not be very responsive: first check how many reviews they have (and how favorable they are). Then check out how many products they’ve sold. If it’s not a lot, or if there are bad reviews, that’s a sign.

Another option is to ask them a question (Etsy makes this easy). If they don’t get back to you within a reasonable timeframe, they probably won’t do anything else in a reasonable timeframe, either.

The other warning about Etsy is that you will almost always pay all shipping (and handling) charges. There are a lot of other attractive free-ship alternatives these days so that can be a detraction.

But, there are times when only an Etsy product will do!

Again, click here for a list of my favorites.

10 shopping tips

9. Local Coupons

When shopping locally, especially at a big box store, Google the store before check-out to see what discounts or coupons they are currently offering.

I can’t tell you how often I have been standing in line at Michaels (for instance) and, while waiting checked and found a coupon online (just type ‘Michael’s coupons’ or ‘Hobby Lobby coupons,’ etc. into your phone’s browser).

If you miss the coupon at checkout and realize it after?

This just happened to me.

I was still in the store so I hustled over to Customer Service (Christmas Tree Shop) and they reimbursed me. If I had discovered it after I left the store, I would have had to decide if it was worth it to go back in. But, it would be a choice for as long as the coupon is valid.

I am decidedly not a coupon clipper by nature but I sure can Google.

So, the  next time you’re hanging around in the checkout line, Google the name of the store and you may just get lucky.

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10. Stay Organized

Vendor Wish Lists

Many vendors have ‘wish’ lists or favorites that help you to keep track of purchases you are considering, if you sign up for an account with them: Amazon, Wayfair, Joss & Main, Etsy, to name a few.

Evernote

I keep track of my favorites in Evernote, which I can’t say enough about. It’s my one-stop-place for ANYTHING I want to remember, whether it’s a screen grab, a picture I took with my phone, a stray note or an email.

I’m in organizing heaven with this tool.

Receipts

Don’t forget to hold onto those receipts. Keep them in a central place and you’ll be able to find them readily later.

TIP: For small ticket items, I keep all my receipts in boxes by month. When a box is older than 3 months I just toss the whole thing, no need to go through it.

10 shopping tips

Bonus Tip - Some Standard Discounts

These vendors offer discounts on a regular basis, some are all the time and some intermittent.

They are worth watching for.

Know of any others? I’d love to hear about them!

  • Hobby Lobby has 50% off frames, every day.
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond used to have 20% off any SINGLE item, every day. They were moving away from this, but still offer 20% off if you join their email list. They also now have a deal to get 20% off your entire order every day for a year by joining their yearly discount club for $39. Good deal!
  • Overstock has discounts from 7% to 20% almost every day. Hold onto the bigger discounts, sometimes they will still work in a week or two.
  • Pottery Barn has a 15% off discount (from full priced items) if you sign up for their email list and they offer 10%-30% off your order quite often.
  • Pier 1 has discounts on a regular basis. Just wait for it and one will turn up.
  • JC Penney has amazing discounts on a regular basis. If you sign up for an account with them they keep all current coupons right in your account and will select the one that best works for you when you check out.

Favorite Vendors

Online vendors

Anthropologie – SO expensive but some amazingly different items. Check out their room decor and their pillows

Pottery Barn – I just can’t help it, there’s so many things I find at PB that I love and can’t find anywhere else. I don’t always buy them but I covet.

Wayfair – lots to choose from, free shipping, great customer service

Joss & Main – sister store to Wayfair, same deal but I don’t use them as often

The Container Store – I had the opportunity to visit one of their physical stores and I was seriously in love

Overstock – lots to choose from, always an additional discount, great customer service

Hayneedle – prices are usually a little cheaper than Wayfair, always free shipping, they also give you reward points just for buying from them that you can apply to future orders

Photo Barn & Canvas Discount – when I need to buy a canvas or print and I’m not overly worried about matching color (such as a printable) these guys are great and offer great prices

Ballards – Pricey but some unique, very nice items and great return policy

Select Blinds – great cellular shades with lots of choices, quick shipment and the blinds are easy to install

Magnolia Market – pricey for some things, not for others, worth looking at

Smallwood Home – very good prices for signs

Society 6 – check out their art prints and pillows, everything you could possibly imagine

Bits of Vintage & Decor Steals – lots of unique items but you have to be quick (you need to be on their email lists) because inventory is very limited

Personalization Mall – great custom signs, lots of different sizes, really fast shipment, great prices

Plum and Post – somewhat similar to Wayfair

Etsy Vendors

All of these vendors were super quick to respond to any question, offer wonderful products and quick shipment.

My Fairy Garden Shoppe – all things for your fairy garden

LA Koerner – super cute art prints

A Literary Surprise – vintage books for your home decor

Cherellelynne – custom wood pieces

I Want it All Design – creative home decor

Kashturana – handmade vintage & rustic items; she’s in Bulgaria but she is good and shipment is super quick. So quick that I got her product in some cases weeks before others I ordered at the same time that were pretty local.

Cottage Home Decor – farmhouse and rustic home decor

LilaxLola – Adorable printables, instant downloads. I purchased this one for my new downstairs bathroom.

Lisa Russo Fine Art – Beautiful art for your walls. I turned to Lisa when I was looking for some farmhouse art for my new breakfast nook and hallways. Her art and her customer service are AMAZING!

Local Vendors

I do occasionally shop locally, especially when my sister is in town and we’re cruising around. Usually I point shop and then wait at the front of the store for her to finish, but sometimes I browse for ideas (until my head hurts).

All of these vendors also have online websites so I included links.

Christmas Tree Shop – if you’re looking for spices or condiments they have amazing prices, and then they have amazing prices on everything else, you just have to get there right after they stock up to find the best stuff

Home Goods – a little bit of everything, sometimes I shop here for ideas

Hobby Lobby – for all the little bits of home decor; frames especially are a really good deal here. There is so much in this store that I get a little overwhelmed just walking through it.

Kohl’s – I don’t know how they do it but I can buy almost a new wardrobe for my husband and walk out of there paying less than $200

JC Penney – curtains & drapes

Michaels – all things crafty

AC Moore – all things crafty

TJ Max – a bit of everything from clothes to home decor

Pier 1 – I go here when I’m looking for things that are a little different that I don’t mind paying a little more for

Home Depot – almost everything you need to fix or clean your house

Bed Bath & Beyond – such an amazing store, I come out of there with so many things that I didn’t think I needed!

For more information

To see where I shopped for (almost) everything in my house, visit our Tour My House page.

How about you?

Got any great shopping tips? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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