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Shopping Tips for 2009

Monday, 12 January 2009 | Tags: , , ,

The holiday decorations are put away, the tree has disappeared (thanks to Kristina's boyfriend and his pickup truck, bless him), and 2009 is upon us. I spent a great deal of time last year worrying about the apparent doom and economic gloom that lies ahead.

Then in December I actually started looking at my RSP statements, which I had been ignoring for a few months prior. Ick. Not pretty.

Yet as I set off to work today, I felt a sense of optimism. Not normal for a girl who, even in the best of times, worries about becoming a bag lady (and not the smart shopping kind. Yes, I see the irony). Starting in July, I was having those old recurring nightmares about eating cat food for dinner and eventually winding up living under a bridge.

So why the spring in my step today? Perhaps it’s because I love a good fight.

When I worked as a news reporter I was better at my job when I was freelance, as opposed to staff. Union, no less. When you have to fight for every day of work, to prove yourself again and again, people have the tendency to try that much harder. Or at least I do. And that’s certainly how we work now. In the world of television there are never any guarantees! (So please, dear viewers, keep watching.)

While I do not profess to understand much more than the basics about the economic catastrophe the world faces (it is so complex, does anyone, really, honestly understand??) I do know that we all have to get back to basics. And is that such a bad thing?

I had been planning to buy some new china this year (my current stuff WAY outlasted my marriage), but when I checked my December bank statement, I decided that the old stuff is just fine (and still reminds me of a happy time in life, not that I’m bitter). And I find I’m paying closer attention to prices at the grocery and drug store for things I often ignored. Is that bad? No! I’m getting back to my Shopping Bag basics.

We can’t hide inside forever. We all need to get dressed, go to work, make lunch, visit friends and live life. And that means you’ve got to shop. And we need to shop to get the world moving again. Yet it’s more important than ever before to shop smart.

So Shopping Bags, as you hit the malls and the markets this year, don’t forget to abide by our 10 commandments of smart shopping:

1. NEGOTIATE!! Now is the time. Make a habit of asking for a better deal, on everything. Look for opportunities, like buying bread at the end of the day that almost counts as day-old or requesting free delivery on that new sofa. And remember not to ask for a specific amount off as you don’t want to leave money on the table. Just ask for a better deal.

2. MAKE A DATE. Every line of merchandise has a season so get out your calendar and create your own version of an almanac. We all know clothing goes on sale in June and December/January, but you can also look for deals on board games in the summer, used vehicles in the winter and interior and exterior paint on summer long weekends. It’s easy to figure out the sales seasons yourself –- just think off-season. Winter can be a great time to nab a deal on a BBQ.

3. KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. We all want quality. But defining quality is different for different people. Every toaster makes toast, but how many settings you need and what you’re willing to pay differs from one shopper to the next. Always spend a little time realistically analyzing what you’re really paying for and what you really need.

4. DON’T BE A SUCKER. Time and time again our tests show there are some products that just aren’t worth paying more for. And if you know what to look for on the label, you can find great alternatives at lower prices for everyday items. Learn to read and understand ingredients lists on everything from beauty products to food.

5. BE A SMARTY PANTS. Do your research! Not just here, but talk to the professionals in your life. Your doctor, plumber and gardener can help you know what type of pain killers, drain cleaners and fertilizer will do the job.

6. BE NICE. It’s a simple rule, but one that can make or break your shopping success. Be nice to salespeople!

7. KICK THE TIRES. Before you take home any new product, always give it the once over to make sure all the parts are in place, that there’s no damage and the entire item is in good working order.

8. STAY ON YOUR GAME. A salesperson’s job is to sell. When you go to a store for a new snowboard, salespeople will also try to sell you the boots, socks and goggles. So before you shop, make a list of exactly what you’re looking for and refer back to it regularly. It’ll help keep you focused.

9. KEEP YOUR COOL. Nothing ruins a fun-filled day of shopping like bad service. So when you have to complain, remember to stay calm, be clear about what you want (a replacement? An apology?), talk to the right person and be prompt.

10. WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES. And carry snacks. We’ve got to stay strong Shopping Bags!

Read more about our Ten Shopping Commandments.

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