This month, we're exploring ways to combine shopping opportunities with winter travels. We'll cover both domestic and international.
As iVillage thrifty shoppers live in a variety of climates and environments, winter travels can take cold-climate dwellers to sunnier climes, or to ski mountains searching for crisp powder. However, we can only spend so many hours safely baking in the sun or on the slopes, so why not block out time for some serious bargain hunting? A few suggestions to start the ball rolling:
- Find those post-holiday sales in new and exciting places. Walk away with items specific to the area you're visiting for 20 to 50 percent off. Indigenous decorative items, local crafts and foodstuffs packaged for the holidays are great fun to bring home, especially when prices are slashed to anywhere from $5 to $15. (Also see if the area you visit has wholesale outlets you can't find back home.)
- Schedule an afternoon touring local consignment and resale shops (check the Yellow Pages). In both Florida and Southern California, I've discovered lovely shops offering women's cold-weather garments, which recent transplants from colder areas realized they no longer needed. I saw stylish sweaters for $20, fine wool or leather jackets and coats anywhere from $30 to $100, and hats, gloves, scarves and shawls available for 25 percent of their original retail price.
- For "snow bunnies," quaint ski resort towns are frequently great places to shop. Skip those overpriced retail stores and raid the consignment and resale shops. You may walk away with an outrageous ski outfit or equipment being sold by someone who can no longer handle the slopes, has decided it's just not her sport or is upgrading. Once again, discounts on fairly new items can be found for half their retail prices (which could save you hundreds of dollars).
Travelers to Asia, check out local flea markets. In China, I found fashion accessories (such as Pashmina shawls, running from $90 to $300 stateside) sold for $35 in Beijing's Silk Market. Beautiful silk scarves (retailing here for $50-$80) were available for $10-$15. Leather belts ($80) sold for $10. You can also find inexpensive reinterpretations of classic designer labels for men, women and children at a fraction of U.S. prices.
Mexico anyone? Try the open markets and small shops for leather accessories, embroidered blouses and shirts, straw hats, intricately woven baskets and so on. Don't forget the colorful costume jewelry or native crafts either. You can buy blouses selling for $50 in the U.S. for $18-$25.
The Caribbean boasts fantastic necklaces from simple shells to glorious (albeit high-end) pearls. You can find costume jewelry for up to one-third less than in U.S. stores. Several years ago I scrimped and saved for an exquisite 18-inch strand in the Bahamas for $600. It was appraised in the U.S. for $1,200.
For international shopping expeditions:
- Don't be afraid to bargain! In many open-stalled markets, or even small shops, it's expected. Ask the price, than counter with an offer of 50 percent less. This begins a series of offers followed by your counter-offers. If you don't like the "final price," say "no thanks" and slowly walk away. Sellers frequently make last-ditch offers to close the sale.
- Make certain you're familiar with the exchange rate in advance, as you won't want to fiddle with money and attempt calculations in the midst of intense "negotiations." If you say "100 shekels is all I have" and open a wallet stuffed with bills, you'll drive the price back up and appear insincere.
- Study up before you travel. Guidebooks and the Internet are often helpful in pointing out where and how to shop and what that area is known for (for example, cashmere products in the British Isles). If possible, ask the hotel to refer you to a local you can hire who speaks the language and knows the area. Tour guides and taxi drivers (hired by the day) are often excellent resources.
Most importantly ... have a blast, Shoppers!
— Sue, your "Thrifty Shopper"