Frugal Friday: Is a Personal Shopping Service Right for You?

I know personal shopping can work. One instance worked for me. I know a shopping service can work for some people. It works for my friend. But does it work for you?

Is a personal shopper worth it? I know personal shopping can work. This instance worked for me. I know the shopping service can work for some people. It works for my friend.

Yesterday after I got my hair cut, I stopped at a department store outlet to do a little shopping. Since I have two book signings this weekend in 90+ degree heat, I thought it might be good to have a light and breezy summer dress to wear.

Oh my! Now I finally understand Cathy. I grew up reading that comic strip faithfully every day, back when newspapers were the norm on the kitchen table and I looked like this. I just didn’t “get” that dressing room defeat. Six babies and perimenopause and I now get it. Oy!

I tried on ten dresses and brought home one. I’m not quite sure about the colors in the dress (pictured above), but the style is right to help disguise my pooch a bit.

(I also bought a spanx-style slip that I will be returning. I tried it on at home and it didn’t really do what it promised, except for make me feel unbelievably uncomfortable.)

Finding the right clothes can be really trying.

How many times have you wasted time flipping through the racks or clicking page after page of an online store, only to come away empty-handed? How many times have you tried on a stack of clothes only to sheepishly hand them back to the dressing room attendant: Sorry I made all that work for you. A savvier fashionista might have known it wouldn’t work on me, but there we are.

Clothes shopping can be costly in more ways than one.

If we’re not overspending, overbuying, or buying things that don’t fit quite right, we’re spending time to find the right thing. That’s time we could spend another way. One solution is to get some help.

Girlfriends are awesome people to shop with — if they will be honest, have a little fashion sense, and know your style. That can be tricky.

Salespeople can be uber-helpful, particularly if they don’t work on commission, but genuinely want to help. My favorite pair of jeans is one that a salesgirl at Kohls helped me find. She went back and forth from the dressing room to the sales floor until I had a pair that looked and felt right. She had good fashion sense and a desire to help me.

Paying someone is also another option. I’ve noticed this trend of personal shopping services or trunk deliveries online. Pay a few, fill out a survey, and receive a box of clothes that may or may not work for you.

Is a personal shopper worth it? I know personal shopping can work. This instance worked for me. I know the shopping service can work for some people. It works for my friend.

When I saw the first such service come down the pike, I got really excited. It looked like great fun. I have a friend who’s had tremendous good fortune buying clothes this way. My friend is also tall, thin, and blessed with a bigger clothing budget than I have.

I gave it a go — three times — thinking that it would be worth the higher expense if it was an item I really, truly loved.

I ended up purchasing one blouse from the initial box, but subsequent boxes were duds, despite the fact that I retook the survey each time and carefully curated my pinboard. In the end, I was extremely frustrated.

I am short. They neglected that fact that I had reported to them and sent me pants that were a good seven inches too long. How is that petite? I asked for nothing low cut, and whaddya know? Several low cut blouses.

I would say that this was an isolated experience, but I tried the service out three times. Bummer. Bummer. Bummer. Plus, the prices were much higher than I normally spend. I came away with one blouse for all the time and effort.

Is a personal shopper worth it?

About three years ago I had the chance for someone to do personal shopping for me. It was a complementary shop, so my cost was my time spent answering questions and buying clothes. I still spent a fair amount of time clicking through online catalogs, but at least the field was already narrowed somewhat. Hallie had already vetted things that wouldn’t work for me.

The clothes that Hallie chose for me are still in my closet. I still wear them. I still love them.

One piece she chose for me was from LOFT, not a place that I would typically shop due to price. But the blouse has held up amazingly well. I bought it on sale and its value has far surpassed the cheaper stuff I’ve bought before or since. I’m ready to shop there again.

However, the cost to engage a personal shopper can be extremely high, too high for me to swing in this season of life.

I know personal shopping can work. This instance worked for me. I know the shopping service can work for some people. It works for my friend.

Some questions to consider:

  • Do you know what you like so you can communicate it well to someone else?
  • Do you have an average size that is easy to fit?
  • Do you have more money than time?
  • Do you feel okay being surprised and/or letting someone else choose for you?

I am not well versed in high fashion. I don’t have a natural sense of style, so I lean toward frumpy by default. I want help, but I can’t really afford it. I don’t mind spending the money on a long-lasting garment, but finding the right one is challenging for me.

I don’t have enough time or patience to shop myself, so I love the IDEA of someone shopping for me. It’s just a matter of finding that right someone who I can afford to pay to do the work for me. Sounds a lot like life, eh?

Is a personal shopper worth it? I know personal shopping can work. This instance worked for me. I know the shopping service can work for some people. It works for my friend.

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

What do YOU think about personal shopping services?

Is the value there for you?

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Comments

  1. Hey, just wait until your girls grow up. I have two very talented fashionistas among my four, and I learn so much from watching them…and they love helping me find clothes that work. There’s free, loving help coming your way in a few years!

    • My two are so funny. Today for a book signing, I put on eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. The elder complained that I didn’t look like myself and the younger was full of smiles and said I looked really pretty. Such different tastes!

  2. I have never tried a personal shopper. Its not for me.

  3. I’ve never tried a personal shopper either, although I’d love to if I could afford it, but I’ve learned a lot by reading online style blogs like Putting Me Together and Musings of a Housewife, and feel like I look more put together these days. And BTW, I think the dress you picked out is great!

  4. I’ve never had a personal shopper. Honestly, the cost per item is just out of my range and I guess I feel that I am not in the “more money than time” camp. My sister and my best friend both know and understand my size, style, and shape well and I love relying on them to fill in my wardrobe with pieces I might not have chosen when my birthday rolls around. That’s as close as I get to personal shopping! :)

  5. If a personal shopper isn’t in the budget, I’d say look to a fashionable friend for help and advice. I’m lucky enough to have a sister-in-law who LOVES fashion and is always willing to help. She’s helped me clean out my closet, put together a wardrobe, and accessorize different outfits. Naturally, I’m a pretty “plain Jane” kind of girl. Fashion just really isn’t my passion and part of that might stem from my limited budget. But, after living in the same town as my sister-in-law for the past 5 years, I’m finally starting to think more about what I wear. I’m in the middle of reading Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad: A Style Guide for Every Woman by Shari Braendel, and I’ve found some of her tips to be helpful. It makes a lot of sense to learn what colors and styles work for your body so that you don’t waste money on things that don’t make you feel your best. No matter how cheap an item is, if you don’t like wearing it, it’s a waste of money.

  6. Annette says:

    I have a very small clothing budget so a personal shopper wouldn’t work for me but I would do it if I could. I don’t have a great sense of fashion either and I also have a small mommy pouch from 5 children that I would like to hide better. I bought 2 shirts from an Ann Taylor outlet a few summers ago and they are still my all time favorite shirts and have held up well so I’m with you that maybe I should invest a little bit more money in clothes I really love. Those 2 shirts actually hide my mommy pouch very well. I also don’t enjoy spending a lot of time shopping so most of the time I’m just in t-shirts and jeans. At least my husband likes me this way :)

  7. Jennifer Hoffman says:

    Check out fashion meets faith.com…and her book “good girls don’t have to dress bad” easy read, they do have personal shoppers but the book teaches you to do it on your own. I think you will love it fishmama!!

  8. I’ve done Stitch Fix once, and I’ve gotten more compliments on the blouse I kept than on most of my other clothes. I’m doing it again, but I can’t create an entire wardrobe this way. Even “cheap” there is too expensive. I understand your frustration. I have the mommy pooch that will not die, and it’s so sad to try on five different styles of t shirt that all cling to it. :( I’m trying to pay more attention to style blogs and get an eye for style. I’m also learning about having a variety of different colored cardigans in my closet and about accessorizing. I’ve bought a few statement necklaces cheap, and I now own more earrings. It’s amazing how you can dress up a plain t shirt with a cardigan and a necklace.

  9. Amen! Not much to add but wanted to comment that I so agree with you and I like the inspiration to make a little more effort style-wise.
    I’m not quite 4 weeks post-partum with #4 (and 39) – want to address how to get rid of the pooch? Looking in the mirror right now is super depressing.
    Also I remember shopping on a weekday morning while babywearing #3 – I desperately needed clothes for a business trip and I encountered some super helpful sales associates. I’m willing to pay more for help.

  10. Theresa says:

    A number of department stores offer free personal shopping services – I know Macy’s and Nordstroms both do. No obligation to buy, but it probably works best when you need something specific. For example, I needed civilian work and interview clothes when I was leaving the military and 3 months postpartum – it was a life saver to have a whole room of clothes ready and waiting as well as the personalized advice. They even had an onsite tailor. I don’t think I’d bother for regular every-day clothes, but for something like that, it probably saved me 3 or 4 trips to the store and it didn’t cost anything except the clothes. They also asked for my budget up front, so that everything was affordable.

  11. I would love some kind of service. I think about it from time to time but just can’t bring myself to spend the money.

  12. Stephanie says:

    A lot of times you can call online companies and tell them your shape, and size and they can help you choose what would work best for you.

  13. Vanessa B says:

    How does one become a personal shopper? After assisting a close friend in purchasing a new professional wardrobe I know I have a knack for it.

  14. Vanessa B says:

    Also, your dress is great! All you need is a scarf or chunky necklace in one of you complimentary colors to brighten it up and make a simple dress into a chic look. Have you done color analysis to find you most complimentary colors?

  15. I like the classics – sweater sets (summer & winter – just different weights), khakis that make me feel good when I put them on, and pearls. I know what I’m comfortable in, and I know what colors work. I also have a husband with a lot of honesty who knows what makes me look good and confirms when I already know something doesn’t.

    Personally, I would never use a shopping service. How can someone who doesn’t know you or your lifestyle know what’s going to work on your body? I just don’t see it. I LOVE being a personal shopper for my eldest sister, and she likes knowing that I’m not going to put her in something that doesn’t look good on her.

    If I lived closer, I’d offer to go shopping with you… although after the experience you might never ask me to do Booking It again! ;) Does one of sisters live close enough to do a day of shopping? Or do you have a friend whose style you like (who also lives close)?

    Bottom Line: Pick 5 things in your closet that you LOVE. Things that make you feel good (and not frumpy) when you put them on. Use it as a guide and if you’re shopping and nothing fits within your own guidelines, try again later. It had been over 5 years since I found a dress (or really any kind of clothes) that I liked, and suddenly, last summer, I could have taken home everything at Talbots. I think that’s the other thing… if you really like that LOFT shirt, try them again. And again. Talbots is my GO TO store, but it doesn’t mean I can always find something there. But when I do, it’s always a winner.

    • Belinda says:

      Carrie, I love that idea of using the things you already love in your own closet as a guide when you go shopping!
      Jessica, that dress is gorgeous – maybe a lightweight scarf to accessorize it, if you don’t like chunky necklaces?

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