Budget shopping is an art….not a science. There is no one way to score a deal. However, getting great deals is more about timing, diligence, and your own perception of value than anything else. Everyone likes a good deal, but you aren't necessarily getting a good deal just because you've bought the item secondhand or used a coupon. You have to be budget savvy to know the difference and there are levels to it.
It pains me to see the number of brides attempting to resale items they bought from big retailers for prices albeit less than what they paid, but still higher than what more budget savvy brides know the value to be. Many will use anecdotes about how they shopped every weekend for 9 months with one coupon per item in an attempt to sale you on the idea that you'd be getting a huge savings by buying from them. When in actuality, it only means they worked hard to get a discount off the retail value. And while they might offer these items at a rate lower than retail prices, you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting the deal of a lifetime. That assertion is only true if you planned to pay big box prices, which I suspect isn’t true because you’re a BSB, of course.
Why pay more for the resale of not-so-savvy shoppers when you can pay less?
Can you think of a reason? I can’t…but I can think of plenty of reasons why not.
Learn the Value of Your Dollar
Starting off, the most important part of being budget savvy and getting the best deal is knowing the value of the item you're purchasing. And this answer will vary based upon the work you’re willing to put into it and resources at your disposal. If you don’t know where to start, don’t fret. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Sign up for e-newsletters, sales notices, and updates from your favorite retailers and vendors. Signing up is easy. The hardest part is the influx of emails, but that can easily be remedied with filters on your email. Not only do the filters help keep your inbox clean, but it puts offers out of mind so you're not enticed to buy something you didn't “know” you needed until you saw it. When you're ready to shop, you've got a folder full of sales and coupons to browse through and it holds a record of the most recent best prices. Wondering if you got the best deal on that honeymoon lingerie–YUP! Need to find out if there are any savings to be had on those shoes you've just got to walk down the aisle in–FOUND IT!
I filter all sales related emails to a folder I named “Shopping Promotions”. This is what my folder looks like, and every time I'm ready to buy something, I check it before deciding what stores to go to.
Social Media is a growing marketing tool, take advantage of it. Like your favorite retailers and vendors on Facebook; follow them on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. You may be surprised how many deals or coupons you'll come across while perusing your social media networks. Internet-based retailers like CV Linens offer amazing weekly promotions. Sometimes the sale items can be a little specific, so do it early and you may luck up and find just what you're looking for.
Sites like Groupon and Living Social are pretty standard places to look for deals, and they are great tools for finding huge deals on services for your wedding like photo booths. If you haven’t used them before, you may be eligible for sign-up discounts within the first few days as bait to make your first purchase. Make sure to check out the reviews for companies before you make your purchase.
Before the excitement of saving money by using a coupon at a big box retailer overtakes you, check the price of wholesalers like Jamali Garden and Koyal Wholesale. Wholesalers offer great prices on fantastic products, and those who buy new from wholesalers and later resale are prone to offer even better deals than the wholesalers. I've used the wholesale prices as the standard by which I determine whether or not I've gotten a deal. And it's served me well.
I set my heart on having candles in tall cylinder vases line the aisle. One of the wholesalers I’d been eyeing sells 18″ cylinder vases for about $14 a piece before tax and shipping costs are added in—NOT in the budget. But guess what, I spotted a craigslist post offering those same vases for $5 each. I did a little research, and the retail value of those vases are anywhere from 2 to 3 times the wholesale price. But I got them on craigslist for almost a third of wholesale price–MAJOR SCORE!!! Because there are so many options to choose from, the best thing you can do for yourself is know the value of the item you're in search of (and make sure it fits within your budget).
Let this be a lesson that resale is your friend–sites like Craigslist are amazing! Also, don't discount Freecycle and a host of other communities where environmental responsibility and budget savviness is cool and encouraged.
Jessica has a more exhaustive list of reputable vendors to try for a number of things here. This list is just the beginning of what's out there. In my searching, I've found other vendors who might get passed over because they may be a regional based company or simply aren't as familiar as others. As with anything, tread carefully.
Overall, I found wedding boards such as Weddingbee and WeddingWire to be the best tools for vendor searching by far. Because I am planning our wedding long-distance, it has been invaluable to hear what other brides have had to say about vendors when I can’t see or feel it myself. As I was getting the hang of it, I’d spend a typical day performing Google searches like “weddingbee affordable wedding venues Atlanta”. I prefer Google’s interface better than navigating the complex search features on the wedding boards. And it worked! I found my venue from a poster who shared a link to Atlanta’s Request-For-Proposal (RFP) site—it’s designed to attract business to the city. Well, it certainly attracted my business.
The only drawback to using wedding boards is you’ve got do careful research to be sure the reviews were from actual brides and not vendors posing as brides. It’s a quite simple task. Usually each poster has a history of comments or threads started, and you can use your judgment in deciding. However, a dead ringer for imposters is a user that only posts about one company or vendor.
Now that you know how to spot a deal, the other equally important tip is to buy only what you need. You can save tons of money by not losing money on things you don't need in the first place. This is ALL about effective planning. There is a lot that can be said here, so I will save it for another post to come soon. Keep an eye out for “Budget Shopping is an Art: Part Two”.