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Sat, Jun 26, 2010
The Straits Times
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Sniffing out the bargains
by Jamie Nonis

“SHOPPING is part of my existence,” declares Ms Joy Tan (right). The 28-year old civil servant prides herself on being a disciplined shopaholic who knows where to get the best deals on anything and everything from clothing and accessories to toiletries, electronics, household appliances and even furniture.

The savvy shopper reveals that up to 70 per cent of everything she purchases are discounted items. “I will not buy anything that is not on sale unless I’m totally desperate or I really like it,” says Ms Tan. She has snagged a Christian
Dior long wallet for $350, down from its original price of between $700 and $900, Guerlain Meteorite Pearl Powder at half its price and a discounted Tag Heuer watch, just to name a few.

But she does not turn up her nose at cheap buys. While Joy believes in “sensible extravagance”, ultimately “it’s about finding the best value”. For instance, she buys basic tank tops from a no-frills heartland shop next to Jurong West Market
for about $5 per piece and does her express manicures at an “obscure place at Clementi” for just $9.

“But buying cheap doesn’t necessarily mean buying well,” cautions Ms Tan, who is very discerning about her purchases and far from brand-conscious.

“I appreciate and enjoy good design but I never believe in buying for the brand per se. I do not mind spending thousands on a luxury item but I will ask myself: ‘Would I still like it and buy it without the brand?’ If the answer is yes, then I know I’m investing in the product itself.”

Ms Tan uses a multi-pronged strategy to sniff out the best deals in town. Although she admits that shopping is almost second nature and she would likely be trawling the malls after work daily, she doesn’t buy on impulse. She often employs
a “cooling off period” that entails thinking twice before she parts with even $40 for a piece of clothing.

It helps that she usually shops alone so that she’s more likely to “think in a lucid manner” as she doesn’t need to deal with peer pressure.

“I shop everywhere but it doesn’t mean I have to buy things each time
I browse. I just make a mental note so I know where I can get things at
the best price,” she explains.

Ms Tan says, there is a Nine West outlet in Centrepoint that sells mostly discounted shoes. It is a gem of a find because Nine West does not hold sales that often. This particular store carries past season styles and it’s so low-key that you don’t have to jostle with other saleseekers.

She also plans ahead and buys in bulk during year-end Christmas sales or when she goes overseas. She recently returned from a trip to Japan and spent over $400 stocking up on eye cream at DFS. She also bought tons of H&M clothing
at around $15 each as well as a full leather Kate Spade bag for just $150.

Her husband, Mr Chong Chon Wee, 29, a financial advisory consultant with PhillipCapital, also got a Zegna bag for about $600, which was discounted from $900.

To gain “insider knowledge” and sharpen her shopping skills, Ms Tan also enjoys talking to people of all walks of life. She learnt about the various sale periods for the furniture industry throughout the year from a contact she befriended in the trade. “Once you know the cycle, you can time your purchases,” she says.

Ms Tan even takes advantage of stores going out of business. And she’s not just referring to the great deals one can find at closing down sales.

“When a shop at Marina Square was closing down, I offered to buy the chandelier and lighting that were mounted on the ceiling.” She walked away with them for $120 and believes she can “definitely” resell each for more than what she forked out.

During this Great Singapore Sale, Ms Tan’s “KPI” (key performance indicator) is to buy furniture for her balcony and one of her guest rooms, which the house-proud homeowner intends to renovate.

Her personal “shopping mantra” is this: “Buy less but buy well. In this age of consumerism, we have the tendency to satisfy our wants by overbuying. By all means shop but don’t hoard; spend less and you could always save the seed capital to buy something else of good value and quality.”

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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