3 shopping mistakes I never make — anymore

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Online Shopping

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Lauren Caruso is an In The Know shopping contributor. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for more.

I don’t exactly get paid to shop, but as a longtime market editor, I do get paid to know what’s out there, as well as how to weed out bad deals, low-quality items and purchases that just don’t make good sense. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few shopping guidelines that I try to stick to, and some of them may be familiar to you, too.

They are: Don’t buy it just because it’s on sale, avoid shopping when you’re sad and stop buying poorly made duplicates of the pieces you already own. Some have even sworn off shopping for hyper-trendy pieces altogether.

Still, some of my smart shopping rules might be brand new to you — and they may even help you avoid buying clothes or beauty products that’ll just sit in your closet or on your shelf, unused and forgotten. (Or worse — practically mocking you in plain sight.) Of course, these aren’t hard and fast statutes: While the 22-year-old version of me would have enforced a rule against dry-clean-only clothing, lest it sit in a pile in the corner of my room for months alongside my “get tailored” pile, the 34-year-old me is a regular at the seamstress. Plus, now that I spend hours on Instagram and TikTok, I have platform-specific rules for social media, too.

Ahead, find three shopping mistakes I never make now that I’m well into my 30s.

Not Finding Three Distinct Ways To Wear It

I’m not talking about nebulous outfit ideas — I mean concrete, written-in-stone clothing combinations that I know for certain will look good. In practice, that means knowing exactly which pair of jeans I’d pair with a certain crop top or confirming that I have a pair of heels the exact length for a prospective new pair of trousers. Then, I multiply that by three: If I can’t come up with three detailed outfits on the spot, I don’t buy it. The only exception to this rule is a black-tie event, though I like to buy something I think can work for other extra-fancy evenings in the future.

Not Unfollowing Retailers on Social Media

This one’s controversial, but hear me out: I used to follow every single big-box department store and fast-fashion chain on Instagram, which means I’m opening myself up to be marketed to — for free. At least a few times per week, I come across a photo with an item I can convince myself I “need” if I try hard enough. I especially fell into this trap with fast-fashion chains. Instead, I only search those stores when I know I’m in the market for something specific, and if I happen to find an interesting styling tip or a different item I think I might like in the future, I save it to a folder on Instagram so I can find it later — if I’m even still thinking about it.

Not Honoring the Waiting Period

For any purchase that’s over $400, I have to wait at least 48 hours to buy it. $400 may seem arbitrary, but it’s important to pick a number that feels reasonable for you. (In my 20s, the number was $250. I almost upped it to $500 after losing out on a vintage Gucci skirt on The Real Real that I’m still kicking myself for, but I don’t think I would have worn it much.)

Sure, this rule is self-imposed and therefore flexible, but I make sure I abide by it as best I can. There’s only one exception: If I’m in a foreign city, and there’s no way I’d be able to purchase it later, I revert back to rule number one.

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