The Guy’s Guide to Shopping – How to Get What You Want, At the Price You Want.

If the thought of clothes shopping sends a shiver down your spine, you’re either doing it wrong or doing it with women – which means you’re doing it wrong. To wash the bad taste of “shopping trips” from your mouth, follow these tips to make sure you get in, get what you need, and get out with a full wallet and a full day ahead of you.

There’s hardly a word more emasculating than “shopping.”  That particular string of syllables sounds awful coming off a man’s vocal cords.  It’s verbal castration, thanks mainly to visions of the Sex and the City girls gleefully walking down the street carrying seven dozen colorful paper bags.

We are guys.  We just don’t do that.  Carrie and Samantha, we are not.

The result of this attitude towards shopping is a male population which largely has zero personal style.  They get too frustrated, and feel just too embarrassed every time they go into a store and spend time looking at clothes.  Everything is expensive.  Sales are hit and miss.  And the sales people just won’t leave you alone.  The entire experience is so terrible that the unseasoned male, uh… “retail hunter” will often end up buying something he flat out doesn’t like.  Just to get the hell out of there.  And that ain’t right.

You need a plan. A plan that will let you find what you want, get the best deal, and not waste time doing so.  This is that plan…

Prepare.  Know what you’re looking for.

Don’t go out looking to buy a shirt.  Get specific. What color?  What will it be used for?  Will you wear it tucked in?  Untucked?  Or both?  Know your size and what brands you like.  You get the idea.  Go online first and see what stores carry what brands.  Lots of retailers even offer their weekly catalogs in easy to flip through versions on their websites.  Don’t just go out because you need new clothes.  Make a list of what you think you want to buy, find out where it most likely is, and then get after it.

Know the Markup.

If you pay full retail, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re paying too much.  This isn’t about haggling, it’s about patience.  According to this article in Kiplinger’s most stores set the initial price on something about 20% higher than what they expect to get for it.  So unless it’s something you really want badly, and you’re a common size like a Medium, Large, 32×32 or 40 regular… wait.  It’ll go on sale.

Beware the Salesperson.

Many on the floor salespeople get paid bonuses or commissions, and thus… won’t leave you alone when you walk through the door.  If you don’t want help and/or the influence of a salesperson looking over your shoulder, politely say “I’m just browsing,” when they ask if you need help finding anything.  Look them in the eye, and they’ll know that you’re tactfully telling them to back off.  You’re not indecisive, you can’t be easily swayed, so their time is better spent on other customers.

Also, when it comes to buying a big ticket item like a suit, know that the sales person is a sales person because they’re good at selling.  They’re not a tailor because they couldn’t alter a suit to save their life.  So don’t trust their advice on fit, and don’t let them pin-you up for in-house alterations. Many department stores offer an alterations service and besides the fact that most are second rate, if the sales person pins you up wrong, it’ll look terrible once your purchase has been altered.  Always remember that most sales people will be trying to tell you what they THINK you want to hear.  And if they’ve got the wrong read on you?  You and your purchase are screwed.

Know when to make the purchase.

Timing, in this case, really is everything.  A trench that might be $225 one day, will be $135 the next.  Think of stores as bars.  When was the last time you saw the best happy hour in a bar on the weekend?  Never.  Right?  Because people will already be there.

The same rule largely applies to retailers.  Look for bargains, special sales, and coupon offers to hit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when hardly anyone is out looking to buy.  Use your lunch hour to go look for a new pair of jeans.  Besides, you’ve got better things to do on the weekend anyway.

Open one or two store credit cards.  Use wisely.

If you’ve got good credit, consider opening a store charge card at a department store like Macy’s or Nordstrom.  They’ll send coupons your way, special offers, and you’ll get rewards for the money you spend on those cards.  But use that card like it’s a debit card.  Do not under any circumstance run up a balance on those things.  The APRs are nightmarishly high, and your credit score will get slaughtered.  Before you ever leave the house, know how much you have to spend, and then deduct your exact total  from your check book once you get home.

Don’t have the credit or don’t want to deal with the extra plastic?  Get on an email list.  Plenty of retailers are more than happy to send you coupons with nice sized discounts in exchange for your information.  If you’re worried about spam, open up a separate gmail account and use that as your shopping deal dump.

With this plan shopping becomes less of a pain and more of an opportunity to strategize.  Almost (brace yourselves), kinda fun.  Not walking down the street arm and arm with your pals holding onto shopping bags fun, but on the positive side of tolerable.

And even if after you’ve hit the stores with this plan, you still can’t stand the experience?  Well there’s always online.

Joe Weber is the founder and director of Dappered.com. Focusing on affordable men's style, Dappered is a source for men who want to look good, but also value not going broke in the process. You can reach him at joe@dappered.com.

  • Jason

    Joe,

    Great article! I never thought about knowing what part of the week to hit up stores before. The happy hour metaphor makes a lot of sense.

  • Damon

    I’d like to echo the credit card sentiment. Used wisely, store credit cards can save you big, but if you don’t know what you’re doing or aren’t careful you’ll end up paying out the butt in fees. Keep up the great work!

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  • Gerard

    NO WAY!!! Stay away from store credit cards!!! Yes, you get 10-20% off but that’s only on your FIRST purchase. There are some (minor, IMO) perks like free shipping when ordering from the website or pre-sales but is that really worth the 20-30% APR? If you are planning to pay off the balance every month anyway, why not just pay cash in the first place?

  • http://www.abcneckties.com/how-to-tie-a-tie/ Jake

    Not sure about the open the credit card tip — if you open one and don’t use it, it will bring down your credit score, even if you have perfect credit.
    Other than that, good tips! My other tip would be shopping online. Often, e-commerce companies have great prices because they don’t have the overhead of physical stores. I like to shop online for things like neckties, socks, and accessories — things you don’ t necessarily need a perfect fit for.

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  • TJ

    Everytime I walk into a department store and a salesperson asks me if they can help me