Are you a smart and happy shopper?

“I view shopping as a sport. I experience and enjoy some type of physical exertion in going to different stores and finding good deals,” says Melisa Hamilton, student services coordinator with the Kansas State University Upward Bound program, an educational enhancement program for economically and educationally disadvantaged high school students.

Although she’s thrilled by the compliments on her latest finds, Hamilton admits there’s room for improvement in her shopping habits. “I almost think it’s problematic,” she says. “I’d like to get to a point where I don’t purchase something whenever I see a red or pink sticker on a tag.”

While some consumers view shopping as a recreational activity, others become drained by the process. In her book, Shopportunity! How to Be a Retail Revolutionary (Collins; $23.95), author Kate Newlin explains that it’s the addiction to savings that has kept three generations of consumers strung out on the cheap—and void of true shopping delight.
“Once the consumer is taught that price is the only variable that matters, they become price loyal instead of brand loyal,” says Newlin, a consumer strategist. “They buy the cheapest, not the best, not even the better. Over time, they lose their ability to discern differences in quality,” because they’re not being educated or informed on quality differences, only price difference.

Schooled shoppers are sapient shoppers. Armed with zeal, they research a product and visualize a purchasing plan. When executed, this type of plan can generate a happy and productive shopping experience for any consumer. Just look at Jameel S. Canté, a pastor, family and marriage therapist, and avid fisherman in Fife, Washington, who determined it was time to upgrade his boat. “It was exciting that I was looking for a boat, but the process was very laborious,” he says.

Canté checked with several boat companies in the Pacific Northwest and conducted multiple one-on-one interviews with boat owners. He also researched boat features, styles, and brands. He finally purchased a 19-foot blue and white Bayliner at a discount. With expectancy, patience, and detective-like research, Canté reeled in the ideal boat. The bottom line: There should be a balance between the search for savings and enjoying your shopping experiences.

A New Opportunity to Shop!
Newlin says these 3 rules are essential on your next trip
Relearn anticipation. Get excited about shopping but stick to your list. “This is where real savings actually does accrue,” says Newlin. The joy lies in the anticipation of going to the store–even to purchase basic necessities such as toothpaste.
Browse above your budget. Go into stores that you do not think you can afford or are even intimidated by. Why? These stores offer well-trained staff that can teach shoppers the difference between fine quality and fair quality.

Look clerks in the eye and ask about their day. Clerks trudge through retail careers, often earning minimum wage. It doesn’t help that we “commoditize them—and they view us as hostile combatants, too,” says Newlin. “We need to break this cycle.” Why not say hello? A simple thank you is also polite.