How to Navigate the Pitfalls of Sale Season

And emerge from it with your wallet intact, wardrobe enhanced, and the environment relatively unscathed.

woman looking in shoe shop window

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Despite inflationary pressures, U.S.-based shoppers spent a record $9.12 billion online on Black Friday, with online spending increasing by 2.3%. Similarly, Cyber Monday hit $11.3 billion in purchases.

While everyone loves a good deal, especially with the threat of an impending recession, shopping during sale season because of FOMO can end up in buyer’s regret. Here’s how to navigate sale season without ending up with products that you can’t use, don’t need, and that are likely to pickle in the back of your closet.

Do I Really Need It?

It is reported that, as a result of impulse buying, consumers spend $5,400 per year on average on food, clothing, household items, and shoes. While you might be hunting for a specific shade of lipstick, you might just end up buying that cute winter jacket or the latest sneaker drop, whether you really need them or not. Research shows there are a number of triggers that contribute to buying spontaneously, such as having the trait of a sensation seeker, being flush on resources, and failure of self control.

The best way to get around this is to make a list of items that you really need. For instance, if you’re looking for new sneakers to replace your tatty ones, survey the market for options a few weeks before the sales and shortlist the best possible options in budget for you by trying them on. This way you know exactly what you’re looking for, instead of spending 10 hours online in a mad hunt on sale day, getting distracted by other doodads on the way.

Is It Great Quality?

In an age of planned obsolescence, it is up to us to choose well when the odds are stacked against us. Consider cheap and abundantly available clothing of questionable quality. The "True Cost" documentary reveals that the average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year, which amounts to more than 11 million tons of textile waste.

Before buying any item, research the brand, check the piece in person if possible, consider the material, and read all tags and labels to understand how it was made, its wash and care requirements, etc. If it’s something that you can wear and use for years to come, then consider it a great addition to your wardrobe. It’s great to be an #outfitrepeater.

Support Small Businesses

While it is tempting to drop all your dough on a big ticket retailer, consider smaller eco-friendly, responsible, and ethical retailers and brands. It’s good to support companies that are transparent about their supply chains, use environmentally-friendly materials, produce goods responsibly, and treat employees and workers fairly. That way you will not only feel good wearing or using the items, but also make an impact with your purchase.

Is There Any Alternative to Purchasing? 

Can you get preloved items or swap or borrow instead of buying? Another option is renting, but not all commentators consider it to be a green option. A majority of my fast fashion pieces are preloved, owned previously by family members and passed on to me. And whatever I outgrow I pass on to friends and colleagues. That keeps inactive clothing in circulation which are otherwise dumped at the back of our closets, never to see the light of the day. Plus, this helps refresh your wardrobe with a different sense of style and sensibility.

Size Up Correctly to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

While I’m perfectly okay in floating around in oversized shirts and tops bought without first trying on, it is tricky while buying items such as trousers, shoes, intimate wear, and bathing suits. These items are best to try in person, instead of buying online and returning them, or worse, being stuck with granny-sized knickers with no recourse to return.

It is said that 30-50% of returned items don’t end up getting restocked and go to waste. Many a time these items are shredded, incinerated, or dumped in a landfill. If you absolutely have to return an item, ensure it is not worn, dirty, or stained, and has all its tags intact. In fact, retailers are beginning to charge consumers for returns now, as customers have been abusing liberal return policies. It is reported that, in the U.S., 2.6m tonnes of returned goods end up in landfill every year, which generates an estimated 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. So, if in doubt, try it before you buy it. It’s foolproof.