Sunday, October 2, 2011

How To: Big Lots

It's been awhile since I've had a "How To" post here but with the questions I got on my last post, I would share my tips and tricks for shopping at stores like Big Lots (Dollar Tree, Christmas Tree Shoppes, Family Dollar, etc). Actually, some of my advice will be similar to what I recommended on my How To: Ebay post but since you can actually see the products in stores like Big Lots, you are actually at an advantage.

1. Learn Packaging You are likely not looking out for fakes in stores like Big Lots but before buying your favorite body moisturizer, do a bit of research and make sure you are buying something in current packaging. Both drugstore and higher end lines change their packaging every few years and so it should be fairly obvious what is current stock and what you should pass over.
2. Check Expiration Dates For items that tend to put expiration dates on their products, check them before buying! This includes non-cosmetic items as well. However, I also want to point out that I check expiration dates everywhere, not just at stores like Big Lots. Plenty of regular retail stores accidentally put expired stock on the shelves, or accidentally keep stock that doesn't sell well past the expiration date.
3. Nail Polish Is Safe Unless you are worried about wearing nail polish with the Big-3, you can safely buy nail polish at practically any discount warehouse type of store. Nail polish doesn't expire and if it is thick, can be easily restored with nail polish thinner (not remover!). Scrangie has an excellent post about restoring nail polish which is a must-read.
4. Is It Really A Deal? This is a big one. I think there's always the likelihood to overspend at places like Big Lots because you may think you are getting an amazing deal just because the product is in a store like Big Lots to begin with. But often times, items are not priced significantly below drugstore sale prices and really aren't worth buying. Take a Maybelline mascara, for instance. It might be priced at $4 at Big Lots but the same mascara was just on sale at the drugstore for $4 and you can likely use a manufacturers coupon (manufacturers coupons aren't allowed at Big Lots) bringing the price down further. And recently, I saw a Wet n Wild trio in Big Lots for $2.80 when they retail for only $2.99. Wait for any sale and you'll pay less at the drugstore.
5. Powder Products It takes much longer for a powder product to expire, so I rarely decide not to purchase something I'm interested in if the price is good. Obviously use common sense and make your own guidelines when it comes to taking chances with products that don't have expiration dates. It could have just been overstock from a local drugstore that was recently made or it could be past its prime. If something smells funky after you bring it home, throw it out.
6. Manufacturers Packaging If you see a display (for instance the Epielle wipes I buy come in a display from the manufacturer) rather than random scattered bottles, the products may have been newer or packaged appropriately to keep them fresh. To be honest, not every stores or company is great about packaging or storing products to keep them at the best condition. I've had dried up eyeliner from Sephora and mushed together chocolate covered pretzels from CVS during the summer. Always check before purchasing to make sure things weren't sampled, opened or tampered with. This is true in the cheapest of stores and the most expensive!

I think of places like Big Lots as treasure hunts. You won't always find fabulous bargains and will walk out of the stores empty handed or you may find awesome deals. Either way, make sure you do your research and purchase carefully. I've rarely had to throw products out from these type of stores that have gone bad, but then again, I usually stick to items following the above rules. I'll admit, having an iPhone is handy to do quick google searches regarding packaging and prices but it's not absolutely necessary. And if you bring it home and figure out it's old before opening and using it, you can always return it.

Any other tips you'd suggest?