personal shopping advice

When to Pay Full Price

Recently, I spent a day at the mall with a good friend. She has been rapidly moving up in her company and just got another promotion, and desperately needed a wardrobe that matched.

She had a lot of shopping to do. The first few hours we walked out of store after store empty-handed and increasingly discouraged, then we took a break and grabbed iced teas at Teavana (yum) and then somehow our luck turned. By end of the day, she ended up spending over $2000 on clothes, accessories and cosmetics – and that was after the 15% discount for opening up store charge cards at Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom.

On the way to dinner, my friend started feeling guilty about how much money she spent and feeling disappointed in herself for buying everything full price. Everything she bought was a wardrobe staple – and a necessary investment for any executive woman, but she was raised to be price-conscious and to wait for things to go on sale.

I totally get the guilt. I too grew up in a spendthrift household with a triple coupon-collecting mother and a do-it-yourself home and auto-repairing father who instilled the importance of being a good saver of hard-earned money. But experience has taught me that WHEN YOU FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE AND WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO USE, YOU ARE ACTUALLY BETTER OFF JUST BUYING IT FULL PRICE THEN WAITING FOR IT TO GO ON SALE – assuming you have the money at the time of course.

Was that a mind-blowing provocative statement? It was to my friend – at first, but then it sunk in and started to make sense.

TO FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE (LOOKS GREAT ON YOU) WHEN YOU ACTUALLY NEED IT IS VERY RARE – SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL, so you have to be willing to seize the moment and pay the price premium whenever stars so perfectly align in your favor. And if the item is also well-designed, high-quality, versatile and of limited quantity, expect it to be in high demand by others as well, and as a result, will not need to be sold at a discount. And if this wonderful holy grail item does go on sale, then chances are your size will be out of stock or you will be out of town that day so that you end up having to settle for something you like less. This has happened to me many a time on wardrobe essentials – little black dresses, winter coats, suits – that are only available within a season. So I have learned to get over the emotional sticker shock and pull the trigger.

But what about an item you LOVE but don’t really need immediately? The decision to pay full price should depend on your specific work and lifestyle (how often can you use it/wear it), price (can you afford it), and how likely it will still be available in future (will it go on sale). For me, paying full price makes perfect sense for things I wear often and will always need to replace over time – for example, nicely tailored business suit for work or another cute tops for the weekend. For others, like my TV exec friend who goes to a lot of fancy upfront parties, that logic might extend to cocktail dresses and evening gowns! Ultimately, if you love something enough, you will find a way to wear it. Guaranteed.

So what is your opinion about paying full price? Let me know below!


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