how to work in retail without spending your whole paycheque on clothes

 No surprise here that I’ve always loved clothing. My second job (at the age of 16) and nearly every one since has included some aspect of fashion and selling. No matter where you work or what you sell, when you spend all day getting people excited about buying things, it is way too easy to shop till you drop. Even if you don’t like something the first time you see it, once enough customers try it on and you’ve calculated how much it would be with your staff discount enough times, anything can become irresistible.

It is no small secret that those in retail tend to blow a good portion of their take home pay supporting the hand that feeds them, a running joke in a number of my workplaces. I still do shop at work quite a bit (as you can see on this blog), but I have learned to do so in a way that doesn’t impede my saving money or make me feel remorseful.

After spending almost 10 years working in various stores, here are my best tips to hang onto more of your hard earned cash!

1. Don’t give into peer pressure.

I know it sounds silly, but your coworkers can literally be your bank accounts worst enemy. I’ve worked at a lot of stores where everyone seemed to be buying new clothing every. single. day. This seemed especially true when I worked at more affordable stores where everything seems like a great deal until you find yourself spending more on clothing each month than food or transportation. Not sustainable!

2. If you must have it, be patient

If there is something you cannot stop thinking about or taking your eyes off of at work, put off buying it as long as you can. Never, ever, take a break early to buy something. Take time to think about it (and even better let it sell out in your size) before you get your boss to ring you up. Most workplaces have a no employee hold policy, which means when it’s gone it is gone…and you’ll probably forget about it in a few weeks anyways.

3. Don’t bring your debit/credit card to work

This one works great! If you don’t have any money with you, there can be no unnecessary purchases made, clothing or otherwise. If you’re finding it way too easy to rack up the credit card bills, just leaving it at home (or cutting it up!!!) might be the best solution.

4. Stick around long enough to reap the benefits

A lot of work places have great buy ins or even free merchandise for employees after they end their probationary period, 3 months in Canada. Some companies even reward staff on work anniversaries or each month/season with greater discounts, samples or straight up gifts for hard work. Stick around and see what your work has to offer more long-term! While I wouldn’t advise hounding your boss about freebies – it’s usually something your coworkers will discuss and a lot of places post incentives (contests, friends and family events, special discounted items etc) in the break room for all to see.

5. Ask yourself if you would still want that ______ if you didn’t stare at it for 8 hours at a time

If the answer is “maybe not” or “no” then take your own advice. The last thing you need is another top to wear once and then donate in a few months. I find clothing can become disposable when you work at a store. Like, “I don’t feel like doing laundry I’m just gonna buy a new dress” kind of disposable. Try to avoid this mentality at all costs! It’s even easier if you work at a fast fashion store where each item is relatively inexpensive, beware.

There was a time when my wardrobe was completely open to my friends. Since I never wore half of it anyways, I didn’t really matter what they borrowed or kept. In my experience it was a very unsatisfying and depressing way to spend my money. If I don’t care enough about something now to purge another piece of clothing from my wardrobe for it, I don’t buy.

6. Plan wisely if you need to wear currently selling pieces as part of your job

If you’ve been reading along you know I manage a shoe store – and I have definitely purchased my fair share of shoes. The photos above illustrate how you can make choices which are versatile as well as super comfy for a full day of work.

If you are required to wear clothing your store sells, do a bit of thinking and research so you can make good long-term decisions. Consider which pieces your store will have for the longest amount of time, or what items are basics they always carry. If you know a certain style has been brought back season after season, it’s a good investment over something brand new you may only be able to wear for a few months. Some places will only make you wear a current season top or clothing that *looks* like it came from your store – make sure you get the specific rules and ask questions if it’s unclear.

Has anyone else had these retail woes?

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