How to become a capsule shopper

How to become a capsule shopper

Although this guide is helpful at any time of the year, I think it’s especially important to think about our spending strategies now that the holiday season is upon us. I know I can’t be the only one waking up to Black Friday deals right now!


 SALE! 50% OFF! BUY, BUY, BUY! We’re only human, so of course we occasionally fall victim to these marketing strategies. But let’s call a spade a spade—it’s psychological manipulation. These messages are tailor-made to entice you. Since you most likely signed up for them or bought something to land on the mail list in question, it’s something that you’re likely interested in.


When so much time and effort is made to encourage you to part with your hard-earned cash, what’s a gal/guy to do?


Put on your capsule shopper hat, of course! This post is aimed at the savvy shopper trying to make the most of their purchases, without overstuffing our homes and closets or making our wallets cry.


Avoid impulse buys


This is a hard one, especially when the holidays are approaching. We’re likely to be in malls/stores more often anyways, and, as I mentioned above, we’re also more likely to be inundated with enticing deals. But avoiding impulse buys can be done! One way I like to do this includes keeping a running list of things I REALLY need. As in, I write down when I actually need item X because it’s a present or it will improve my home/life because I don’t own one and I say every day how great it would be. I use an app called Wunderlist for this, but you can certainly just use pen and paper. I suggest actually creating a physical list outside of your mind, however, because our minds tend to not be so reliable for holding this information long-term.


I have two lists, things I NEED, and things I WANT. The Need list I refer to more often, because I also include things like groceries 🙂


In terms of the Want list, I try to let items sit on it for a while. After an item has been on it for a long time (months), I consider the price. If it’s something I need to save for, I decide whether it’s really something I want to start saving for. If I’ve wanted it for months or years (yes, that’s happened), then I start making plans to buy it.


Stop. Breathe. Put down the card.


So, this is another tricky one, but it’s been life changing for me. If there is something AMAZING I see online or in a store, I try to actually wait before running to the check out. I walk around. I go to another store. I wait a few hours. Or days, if I saw it online. Once reality sets in, I guarantee that there will be many items that you will choose not to buy.


Rule of three.


So, this rule applies to clothing mostly, but I imagine it can apply to accessories or home décor as well. If there is an item I’m pining for, I do a mental review of what I own. If I can’t come up at least three outfits, then I don’t buy. Why? Because I once owned a bright yellow shirt that I bought four more articles of clothing trying to match. I finally just donated the yellow shirt, because I didn’t like it on my skin tone. Nothing I want to repeat, so learn from my mistakes!




This recommendation ties in with the previous rule. In addition to making sure you can already make outfits with it, it’s worth thinking about it actually on you. Does it fit your style? Does the shape complement your body? Does it fulfil a purpose in your wardrobe to support your lifestyle? Polyvore is a great way to visually assess whether something fits your wardrobe, and, if you’re not very visual (like yours truly), it can be very effective in giving you a fuller picture.


If you’re considering something for your home, it’s good to ask:


  • Where will it go?
  • What will it do?
  • Do I really need this? (really)




I know this goes without saying, but determining if something is truly a part of your budget is extremely important. When I was younger, I made many silly purchases that made my life more difficult because I wasn’t properly budgeting. So make sure you have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you really have the money for something. That being said, there is also something else I’ve discovered ….




No, seriously. I’m not a bargain queen (but, shout out to my cousin who actually leaves stores without paying a dime). However, I have learned over the past few years that companies are so desperate for your money that you can actually call them and ask for a discount code. This applies mostly to Internet shopping of course, but yes, I’ve done this. I first learned this by accident when I called a company to return something that I didn’t like. The sales representative was very polite, and she closed the call by asking if I wanted 20% of my next purchase (no expiration date, either). Of course I did.


Since then, I have learned that you can get a discount code for anything. You can sign up for a company’s mailing list for guaranteed discounts. Or, just go to a website and put an item in your cart. If I let it sit there long enough, I have never NOT received at discount code to my inbox. It’s usually for either 15% or 20%.


I just tested this with a new skin care company I am interested in trying. The items have been sitting in my cart for two weeks so far. I’ve received 10%- and 15%-off codes so far. Hopefully a 20%-off code is on its way to me soon!


If you don’t want all the inbox spam and are serious about saving, then open a new email account. It can be your shopping account, to which all of your retail accounts are directed. No more retail spam to your main address!


If you don’t feel like employing these more “active” tricks, you can also just wait for a sale. It will happen. They always do. And if you’re thinking, but what if it’s gone by that time?? I can only think of one or two instances in which I actually didn’t get an item I really wanted by waiting.


And you know what? I got over it. It’s just stuff.


Lastly, I know it’s tempting to be drawn in by huge sales, especially during the holidays in America. But, just remember: unless it’s a HUGE discount (like, 50% or more), I still recommend avoiding impulse buys. Because the fact of the matter is that if it’s something you really want, you can probably recuperate in other ways (think: no Starbucks, eating in more) the 10-30% you would have saved during an impulse buy.


This page will be updated occasionally to incorporate new tips and tricks, so check back from time to time!

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