Saturday, November 16, 2013

Confessions of an Internet Shopaholic - Part One

I am a shopaholic.  More specifically, an internet shopaholic.  I like online shopping so much that I've had to turn this blog entry into multiple parts!  But seriously, I wasn't always an online shopper.  I used to enjoy the flexible hours of a college student and then a law student, where I could go shopping any time I wasn't in classes, which meant pretty much whenever I wanted.  Since classes were usually 15-18 hours a week, even with taking time to study and do homework, I still had way more free time than with a full time job.

When it was time to enter the real world of working at least 5 days a week for 9 or so hours a day, spending a few hours at the mall on one of my precious days off to look at clothes and makeup and whatever else, on top of driving to specialty stores like Barnes & Noble, Petsmart, Ulta, or Bed, Bath & Beyond for other items, became extremely unappealing.  So slowly but surely, I went from making just a few purchases online over the course of the year to making almost all of my purchases online.

Coming out of 6 years straight of school, I had an admittedly awful, poor student wardrobe, consisting of maybe one purse, a couple pairs of heels (mostly flip flops and other lazy shoes), little makeup, a lot of t-shirts and hoodies, and a bunch of cheap-o jewelry.

Exhibit A: No make up, awful hair, if you could see the whole outfit, it would include jeans and flip flops.  Also, drinking.  Because you're not doing law school right if you're not drinking.  It was practically an accessory.
Since I was a shiny new lawyer though, I really wanted to up my game and look fashionable.  But as I mentioned, I was coming off being a poor student, so I was still poor (if I'm being honest, I'm still not some badass wealthy lawyer, the concept that lawyers are all making bank is a big fat myth these days).  Also, I didn't know what fashionable meant, all I knew is that I moved to Dallas and people my age looked way more put together than me.

So how does a gal look to rebuild her wardrobe on a budget and do it without having to drive around to a bunch of stores and price compare?  Why, by online shopping at the right stores.  What are those stores you ask?  Read on!

To begin with, there are a group of websites that sell designer label goods in limited quantities, for a limited time, but at *usually* pretty great prices.  My favorite of these type of stores is Rue La La.  You join the website, and every day at 11 a.m. EST/10 a.m. CST, a new group of "boutiques" selling different types of wardrobe items, travel deals, and sometimes home goods open.  For instance, you might get a David Yurman boutique, a Dress Boutique, a travel deal to a fancy resort, and a Purses Boutique showcasing Louis Vuitton and Chanel along with more affordable brands.  There are boutiques with wardrobe items for men as well.  Rue La La also has another group of boutiques that open every afternoon, which generally sell home goods only e.g. linens, furniture, art.  While not really something I'm interested, Rue La La has some boutiques for babies and children too.  There really is something for everyone on this website.  The average boutique on Rue La La lasts for 2-3 days.  Right now they have holiday and gift boutiques that are open for significantly longer time periods though.

It costs nothing to join Rue La La, and your first purchase will charge $9.95 for shipping, but then you get unlimited free shipping for the next 30 days.  You can also buy into their other shipping program (Rue 365) which gets you unlimited shipping for a year, and is worth investing in if you shop there a lot.  Both HauteLook and Gilt are my two other designer go-to stores.  They operate along the lines of Rue La La as well, with different but comparable inventories.  For instance, HauteLook sells good beauty supplies regularly, which you don't really see on Rue La La.  Two of the best beauty deals I got on HauteLook were super cheap OPI nail polishes, and Urban Decay Eyeliner (usually almost $20) for $4 each.

Some tips for shopping with these websites: they usually provide a list of upcoming events where you can see what boutiques will be opening in the coming days so you can plan for something that you've really been wanting.  In addition, for hot items that seem to be selling out fast, try scrolling from the bottom up (since most people scroll top down) to have a better chance of snagging some goods.  On Rue La La you have the option to "Buy It Now" which skips the checkout process.  This is useful if you're positive you want something and are concerned it will sell out while you are looking.  You have to have your payment information saved with your account though for this option to work.

Adding items to your cart on Rue La La does not prevent someone else from buying what's in your cart first.  It's really disappointing when you have your heart set on something and then when you go to check out it's no longer available.  You have the option of getting on a "wait list" for sold out items, but this definitely does not guarantee that you'll get the item you want.

HauteLook "reserves" whatever you add to your cart for 15 minutes.  This means that nobody can purchase what is in your cart for those 15 minutes; a timer appears next to each item in your cart to let you know how much longer each item is on hold before it is released for anyone to purchase.  You can easily "re-add" an item in your cart when the time runs out by clicking the re-add button.  Furthermore, you will know when something is in another shopper's cart rather than sold out because it will says "On Hold" across an item.  If you want an on hold item, you basically need to wait and see if it will be bought or come out of that person's cart.  The longest you'll have to wait is 15 minutes so if you're in love with something, it's worth the wait to try to snag it.

I do not shop on Gilt as often simply because I spend so much on Rue La La and HauteLook AND Gilt seems to have even smaller inventories than the other two websites so it can get frustrating with how quickly things sell out.  Unlike Gilt, HauteLook and Rue La La have a featured item each day that ranges from bedding to shoes to watches to purses - really anything, which is usually pretty deeply discounted.  However, Gilt does feature some really great designers, so it is definitely worth checking out.

IMPORTANTLY, always always always look at the size charts for any attire you are interested in purchasing.  This is important for two reasons: 1) designers tend to follow their own ideas of size rather than the "typical" size you might be used to at department stores and other off the rack clothing stores; and 2) frequently on these websites, items are FINAL SALE and you cannot return or exchange so it really sucks when you get something that doesn't fit.  I'm a curvy size 12, which sometimes means a L is just right for me, but sometimes a designer runs really small and not even an XL will come close to fitting me.  Knowing your measurements is kind of a hassle but also helps.  And as I previously stated, frequently items are final sale.  Always read the print regarding an item, it takes a few quick seconds to see if something is returnable or not, which might really affect your decision to purchase something.

Exhibit B: OH EM GEE I look like I know what I'm doing!  I know how to use eyeliner and mascara and brow powder and not dress like I just rolled out of bed!  And what's that?  A hair cut?  Yay!
So now that we've covered the trifecta of designer boutique stores I love to shop at, I'd like to know: where do you love to find goodies online?

P.S. store discussions to come include my take on Ideeli, MyHabit, the "Mint" stores, Zulily, and more!

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