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Frugal guide to shopping
Who doesn’t like shopping? Okay, many don’t. But it’s a necessary evil — it’s gotta get done. Whether it’s clothes or toys or even shopping for haircuts and cosmetic procedures, everyone is looking for a good deal. And for some, there’s no other way but to be frugal about it because of unemployment, low-paying jobs and expenses such as rent or food. Whichever category you fall into we have some great suggestions that will save you a buck or two and turn you into a shopping pro.
Recycle and reuse
Rumour has it that David Suzuki throws out one garbage bag a month! If that doesn’t impress you, nothing will. In this world of overconsumption, we carelessly throw out things that can be happily reused with just a little bit of effort and imagination. Look for sites like 10 Ways to Reuse Common Household Items or 13 Creative Uses For Household Items or check out DIY Pinterest for some fantastic ideas on how to make trash into treasure.
Try the barter system
Clothing swaps are a great idea to get rid of an unwanted sweater that’s been taking up space in the closet for the past five years while at the same time scoring a sweater that no longer appeals to someone else (but makes you very happy). You can organize a clothing swap at your workplace or where you live. You can post on Facebook to get friends with similar tastes in on the gig. On the online scene, you could become a member of SwapSity, which facilitates online exchanges of items, or The Swap Team or Dig’N’Swap. You can also exchange stuff online by joining a place like Freecycle.
Start at the lowest end
One of the cheapest ways of finding great deals is via garage sales. The big well-known secret is that people who put them on really want to get rid of the stuff. Check out the 4 Garage Sale Shopping Tips to Help You Score Great Deals article on how to master this way of shopping (writer Jaime A. Heidel warns readers, however, to not fall into the trap of buying something just because).
Buy discounted merchandise
Schedule appliance purchases during inventory clearance sales and buy linens and towels during "white sales" (traditionally held in January). Every smart shopper knows to shop for clothes at end-of-season or pre-season sales when stores sell their previous year's stocks to make room for new shipments. All you need to score a great bathing suit, for example, is to think ahead to next year’s endless summer. And in many cases, you can still buy end-of-season things before the season ends. You can also ask the salesperson if and when items you are interested in will be on sale. Oh, and don’t buy appliances, household products or big-ticket items before comparing prices online. (Remember to find out what the shipping costs will be before you purchase anything online.)
Avoid impulse shopping
Just as you wouldn’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach, it makes sense to make a list of the things you need before you set out on your hunt. And don’t shop when you’re bored or sad. Okay, shop when you’re bored or sad but only if you can afford it (or how about you just read about the phenomenon of retail therapy to see the pros and cons of impulse shopping). If something unplanned does catch your eye, give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it.
Ask about store policies
The Ministry of Consumer Services points out that stores are not legally required to offer refunds or exchanges — so make sure to get the policy in writing. (Often the policy is on the sales receipt.) Make sure you note the time limit for refunds, exchanges, etc. Most stores won’t refund or exchange personal clothing, such as a bathing suit. And, finally, no matter how much you love your new purchase, keep the receipt, warranty and packaging.
Whether it’s a stroller, a coffee maker or a couch that you need, there’s someone out there who’s selling it. This is when you head to classified websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Used Toronto to look for the things you need. And don't forget eBay, which describes itself as "the world's marketplace." Finally, keep in mind that this goes both ways — you can sell your stuff this way too and make some extra bucks.
Hands-down, second-hand stores are the mecca of thrifty young people everywhere. This is where the best deals happen — designer clothing at a fraction of the price you would have paid first-hand. Of course, it’s not just young fashionistas who benefit from second-hand. You can find some amazing deals on kids’ clothes and toys, and if you desperately need a two-piece suit for an interview, second-hand is the way to go. If you're hesitant about wearing already worn duds, check out The Simple Dollar blog post, An Argument for Second-Hand Store Clothes.
Here are some second-hand stores to check out:
- Value Village has won the hearts of Torontonians with its large selection and relatively low prices.
- Goodwill and The Salvation Army are the undisputed places to find some great second-hand deals: from furniture to toys to art and books.
- Double Take has a whole range of clothing including casual wear, interview and career apparel, and wedding gowns.
- Parkdale's Thrift Town carries beds, tables and couches in addition to clothing.
- Extoggery provides business, casual and dress clothes for women and men. This is where you can score some great labels too.
- 69 Vintage is everything fashion — from prom dresses to trendy coats to fur and cowboy boots. This is where you can find something for that Halloween party but also something uber trendy to wear to a fancy party.
- Black Market offers T-shirts, hoodies and accessories.
- Kensington Market is chock full of second-hand and vintage clothing stores such as Courage My Love or Exile. Take a stroll along Augusta and Kensington avenues and see what other shops you find.
For more top vintage clothing stores check out blogTO.
Clothing for the cause
There are many life events where clothing plays crucial role. One of the major events like that is a job interview. We keep telling you here how important your image is when going for that first meeting with a potential employer. Here are a few services that can help you look your best on the job hunt. (And one extra service for girls that helps them with fabulous prom outfits.)
- Dress Your Best provides male clients a complete wardrobe for job interviews and ongoing employment. Clients must be referred by a nonprofit job training agency. (Read this blogTO post for more on this organization.)
- Dress for Success operates a similar program for female clients.
- A young girl can go to the prom in style. This thanks to the Corsage Project which provides girls with new (not second-hand) graduation gowns and shoes along with hair and makeup consultations.
Every parent will tell you that kids cost a lot of money. With new strollers costing anywhere from $200 to upwards of $900 and more, having a child makes a huge dent in the budget. Unfortunately many new parents aren’t aware of the fantastic deals where you can save a lot of money on furniture, clothing and strollers. This is where second-hand (gently used) stores come in to make that dent a little smaller.
- Once Upon a Child sells second-hand children's clothing, furniture, toys and strollers at several locations.
- Twice as Nice sells used cribs, prams and toys.
- Ages & Stages stocks kids' clothing from newborn up to size 16.
- Play 'n' Wear stocks discounted designer clothing for children.
- Bumbleberry Kids carries gently used children's clothing (this is a semi-annual event — check the site for exact details on dates and times).
- The Great Kids Stuff Sales sells high-quality items for newborns and kids up to six years old.
Playing sports may be considered an “extra” (as in you probably don’t need it) but let’s face it, it’s part of our everyday life and it there’s nothing like physical activity to keep you healthy. Also, try telling a little boy that you can’t afford his hockey equipment. Here’s how you can afford it.
- The Toronto Hockey and Sports Store deals in new and used hockey gear and repairs and refurbishes equipment.
- Play It Again Sports buys, sells and trades used and new sports equipment.
- In addition to selling shoes, Circle Shoes and Skates Exchange sells new and used skates.
Charitable and nonprofit organizations
Besides clothing, sporting equipment, furniture and appliances there are many other items that make life easier (and more fun). Like this stuff:
- You can't beat Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for building materials. It carries faucets, tiles, doors, cabinets — just about any item used in home building. These materials are often used but the ReStore also carries overstocked and older items.
- The Community Bicycle Network (CBN) repairs bikes, refurbishes and sells donated bicycles, and sells new and used parts. CBN also rents trailers and bikes at affordable rates and offers space for cyclists to learn bike mechanics and cycling skills.
Get beautiful on the cheap
Now that you’re dressed and your house looks decent it’s time to pamper yourself a little bit. Haircuts and beauty treatments can be famously expensive but there are ways to save money and still look great. Here’s where:
- For a professional haircut, go to Vidal Sasson salon all the way to ... Yorkville! “And while students here might just be learning the ropes, there are few better places to stop by when money is tight and salon quality (or something like it) is what's desired.”
- Check out haircut reviews on Yelp for a range of places that are star-rated based on service and $-rated based on affordability.
- Canadian Beauty College offers a menu of aesthetic services for discount prices — from manicures to waxing to facials.
Trends and labels
You can find excess merchandise, end-of-lines and clothes worn at runway shows and fashion shoots in near-perfect condition. Check out the I Love Samples site for events where you can get fantastic deals much cheaper than what you’d pay retail. Also, check Red Flag Deals for all the upcoming discount events around the city. A great place to find discounted designer labels is Winners, and Payless ShoeSource is where you can get the latest in footwear trends for low prices.
Clearance and discount
As with sample sales, factory outlets offer products for discounted prices. True, you won’t have the poshest shopping experience but you’ll have the best scores so it’s totally worth it. Here are a few outlets in the GTA area.
There's lots of outlet shopping to be had on Orfus Road such as Le Chateau. Check out other places such as Shoe Warehouse, located in the queen (king?) of outlet malls, Vaughan Mills, which also houses outlets for big chain stores such as the Gap and Banana Republic. Another source of outlet stores is Mississauga's Dixie Outlet Mall. Sears, Jacob, Ali Baba Shoe, McGregor Socks and Levi's are some of the outlets you'll find.
Other outlets in the city:
- Au Lit Fine Linens Factory Outlet sells top quality linens at amazing discounts.
- Clearance Warehouse offers discounted health, beauty and household products and more.
For mega discounts there are always stores like Dollar Store and Dollarama where you can find all kinds of deals on health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, kitchen items, storage containers, and more. Dollar stores are also great when it comes to buying seasonal items such as Halloween or Christmas decorations.
An honorable mention goes to Toronto’s legendary discount emporium, Honest Ed's, where you can get bedding, kitchenware, health and beauty products and clothes (and more!).
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